Written by Kyle Messick
Here’s what I’ve been jamming this week. It’s a good mix of old and new – descriptions below!
Babylon Sad – Kyrie (1992). Here’s the only release by avant-garde death metallers Babylon Sad. At times they sound plenty old school death metal with Asphyx-style vocals (and a more traditional death guttural too), but over the course of the album, there’s a lot of twists and turns. There’s a lot of moving into atmospheric, keyboard driven doomy parts, which are sandwiched between the more death metal parts. It’s also an impressive lineup of musicians on this, featuring members of Messiah, Sickening Gore, and Mekong Delta, among others. The album is front-loaded with better songs, so be sure to check those out first. This band goes well with a side of Dark Millennium and Phlebotomized.
Krhomadeath – Grating into Corpse (1994). Musically this is a lot like early Obituary, both in terms of the simplistic riffing style and the guitar tone. I’m not sure what exactly it means to get grated into corpse, but the only full length album from this death metal band active from 1988 until sometime in the late 90s is a decent example of the genre. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it is a great listen, especially when they nail some of those slow Obituary grooves. The vocals are more of a traditional death metal guttural, rather than anything like Tardy, and so it maybe isn’t as impactful in that regard. Just to clarify, this band doesn’t sound like Obituary, but some of the guitar parts have some nods to them.
Our Place of Worship is Silence – With Inexorable Suffering (2018). This two-man project out of California sounds a lot like a darker, more dissonant, and more hateful Morbid Angel pushed into almost war metal territory as a result of the guitar tone and unorthodox riffing style. Both members provide vocals, which makes it for a more dynamic listen as a barked style of vocal sometimes trades off with a more haunting blackened style guttural. Give this a go if you like your death metal to sound like nightmare fuel.
Cryptic Revelation – The Truth Is Our There (1999). This EP is some incredible death metal with a brutal edge out of Japan, and sadly this was their only release other than demos. The album is unique in its lyrical content which includes aliens, paranormal stuff, and conspiracies. It doesn’t sound like Wormed or anything like that. It’s just a ridiculously crushing, really good death metal EP that bridges the gap between 90s OSDM and 90s New York brutal death. It’s certainly some of my favorite death metal to come out of Japan.
Obsidian – On the Path of Others We Feed (2000). This EP is the only thing that this death metal band out of London released. There aren’t any native species of gators or crocs in England, so I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I think it’s a cool album cover for doing something different. It’s quality brutal death with a bit of technicality, plenty of groove, some solid leadwork, and occasional atmospheric bits that feel more blackened. The fifth track on this album has a guest appearance by Dani Filth, who opens the doomier closing track with one of his signature falsetto howls before taking on lead vocal duties for the first part of the song before it transitions into a more straight-forward brutal death jam that has their vocalist resume his role. It’s a cool little death metal relic from England even if it’s not quite at the level of many other death metal bands from the area.
Alchemy of Flesh – Ageless Abominations (2021). Do you like Morbid Angel? If your answer is yes, then there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy this solo project out of Georgia. It is pure Morbid Angel worship, both Dave Vincent and Steve Tucker era, even down to the guitar tone and the vocals. Remarkably, this is a better Morbid Angel album than the last two Morbid Angel albums.
Afflicted – Prodigal Son (1992). The debut by Sweden’s progressive death metal titans is a stellar album that sounds unlike any other death metal album of the era. It’s death metal that uses all of the strings, has bass lines that remind me of Steve Digiorgio’s work in Sadus, and it has some experimentation too, like how the album opens with sitar. You might also recognize the lead guitarist in this band as being the guitarist in the Carcass-worshipping goregrind band General Surgery. There isn’t any goregrind on display here, but there are an abundance of labyrinthine riffs that aren’t down-tuned into oblivion. This is some wild, challenging, and even psychedelic sounding progressive/technical death metal that still sounds unlike any other death metal album. Parallels can be drawn with bands like Disharmonic Orchestra, but this is still very much its own thing. An underrated gem.
Crystal Age – Far Beyond Divine Horizons (1995). Other than having a cover that reminds many of the second Nocturnus album, this is another unique death metal album. This Swedish death metal band was formed by Ceremonial Oath frontman Oscar Dronjak (check out their 1993 death metal gem The Book of Truth if you haven’t). Crystal Age sadly only put out one album before some of their members left and formed Hammerfall, one of the most well-known power metal bands. So what does this sound like? It’s technical and melodic yet aggressive death metal that’s plenty brilliant, but you can definitely hear the power metal influences that were to come too, mostly because of the neoclassical solos that absolutely rule on this. There’s also a bit of cheese on here, like an audio sample of Darth Vader, but mostly this is a pretty serious death metal endeavor. The vocals are a howled guttural, not unlike what was heard from Obscene’s 2020 debut, but here they sound almost black metal in parts.
Dark Millennium – Acid River (2022). Germany’s Dark Millennium put out an incredible debut in 1992, and after breaking up in 1993 following their sophomore, they reunited in 2016 and have been back at it ever since. This is their fifth LP, and I’m loving it. At this point, this music is still vaguely death metal in that it has gurgled, harsh vocals, but their musical palette now is very much progressive and avant-garde. There are other influences including doom and black metal, but it’s still hard to describe what exactly this sounds like. If you like challenging stuff that doesn’t still to rules like The Chasm, Phlebotomized, and the Babylon Sad that I’ve also been jamming this week, then you should give this a try. I think it’s brilliant in what it does. It’s kind of like a spacey, more atmospheric Cynic. It’s one of my favorites from this year so far.
Infernal Seer – Blackened World (2022). This is a band out of New Mexico with an interesting story, because despite forming in 1997, they didn’t release their first full length until right now. I don’t know what happened during that time, but taking 25 years to release an album is quite a wait. It’s challenging death thrash with a technical edge and a lot of energy. The guitar and bass playing on this is sick, and there are plenty of great solos. Perhaps one of the most surprising differentiators about this album is the vocals of bassist Chris Mirabel, who sounds exactly like Angela Gossow. It’s a really great album that deserves more love. Cheers to the band for signing it for me!
Axis of Despair – Contempt for Man (2018). This is the only full length so far from this grindcore band out of Sweden that features members of Coldworker, Nasum, and Necrony. Just mentioning those bands should give you an idea of how good this grind is. This is some crusty grind with actual riffs, an organic style that isn’t afraid to change tempos, and a mostly harsh guttural vocal. Fans of Napalm Death and Nasum should definitely check these guys out.
Schizophrenia – Recollections of the Insane (2022). I loved the debut EP by this band out of Belgium, which was some really solid Demolition Hammer worship. This album takes on more Swedish death metal influence while also being a darker, more technical, and more melodic album. There is still some thrash influence, but they’ve certainly left the thrashier sound of their EP behind for a much more mature and nuanced death metal approach. You might be disappointed if you go into this expecting a continuation of their EP, but if you go in looking for death metal, then you’re in for one of the best releases so far this year.
Feretro – Deathsolation (2019). This is a great old school death metal EP out of Chile. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, both because of the nostalgic qualities and because it’s always throwing new tempos and groovy bits at the listener. It sounds like atmospheric death doom with some brilliant leadwork in one part, then will sound like some fun and catchy 90s death in the next.
Necrobastard – Massgrave (2021) / Deadly Ressurrection (2009-2021). This is another great death metal band from Chile (and another couple of great releases from Diabolical Summoning Records). Necrobastard proudly proclaims their 90s Swedish and American death metal influences, and they really nail it. This is great death metal with a dual vocal approach not unlike Glen Benton in that mostly gutturals are used, but occasional screams add great contrast. This isn’t that cavernous stuff that is so popular right now; this is the real deal.