Written by Kyle Messick

The return of recommendations!

Grotesque – In the Embrace of Evil (1989-1996). This is great early blackened death metal featuring Tomas Lindberg from At the Gates on vocals. The guitarist here is famous metal cover artist Necrolord, who created timeless covers for Amorphis, At the Gates, Atheist, Cemetery, Dark Funeral, Dissection, Emperor, King Diamond, Necrophobic, and many more. Grotesque were one of Sweden’s earliest acts to walk that line between black, thrash, and death. The focus here is on killer riffs, which are accompanied by some loose drumming, plenty of atmosphere, and great guttural howls that include a couple of chill-inducing screams. It’s a classic well worth a listen from all fans of extreme metal.   

Golem – Eternity: The Weeping Horizions (1996) / The 2nd Moon (1998). These are two of my favorite and rarest albums. Golem are a death metal band that formed in Germany in 1989 and are still around today. They sound a lot like a raw, more old school death metal version of Carcass. Both of these albums are incredible and are criminally slept on.

Dawn of Decay – New Hell (1998). Dawn of Decay was a Swedish death metal band that formed in 1989 and split after releasing this, their only full length. It’s death metal because of the vocals, but musically there’s a ton of traditional heavy metal and NWOBHM influences. It’s one of few bands where you can hear both Bolt Thrower and Motorhead mixed together. That might sound weird on paper, but it’s a good listen in practice, as it makes for jumpdafuqup up-tempo death metal with plenty of galloping drums and great solos. It’s a really fun album that deservers more ears.

Ar’lyxkq’wr –  Ss’unnhl (2022). This is an uncomfortable listen that won’t be for everyone, due to its mix of death metal, industrial, noise, and Portal-isms. It’s a dark and chaotic release that is unnerving in its layered dissonance and lack of structured musicality, a bit like a more atmospheric Effluence. If you like music that makes you feel like you’re slowly being pulled apart by cosmic forces, then definitely give this a spin. And if you’re someone into collecting physical albums, you’d better grab one soon, because they only printed 35 of them!

Ripping Flesh – Conqueror of Cosmos (2020). Following an unsettling, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum-esque classical intro track, the latest EP from Ripping Flesh from Colombia is an old school brutal death endeavor that reminds me of Disavowed and Severe Torture. It separates itself from its contemporaries by focusing on mid-paced drum patterns instead of drowning everything in gravity blasts. The breathability of it gives it more of a 90s early brutal death vibe, which lets the great and sometimes intricate riffs really shine through. It’s awesome stuff. Cheers to Camilo for hooking me up with this!

Massacre – Mythos (2022). Despite their latest full length not really sticking with me, their latest EP, which is taken from the same recording sessions of the aforementioned, feels more focused and has some strong tracks. The opening track is a groovy ripper with vocal exchanges that help mix things up, and others maintain a pretty high standard too. It’s still a bunch of Lovecraftian mid-tempo death, but everything from the leads to the vocal performances just seem to work a little better here than on the full length.

Inhuman Condition – Fearsick (2022). Following their excellent 2021 debut, the Floridian death metal band that spun-off from Massacre has put out a similarly great sophomore album. It includes another album cover by Dan Goldsworthy that reminds me of the classic thrash and death metal covers of Ed Repka. Musically, it’s about what you’d expect: just solid, Tampa Bay-style, mid-paced death metal. The riffs feel a little bland and uninspired, but vocalist (and drummer) Jeramie Kling does his best to keep the listener engaged with powerful, well-enunciated vocal patterns.

Shuriken Cadaveric Entwinement – Constructing the Cataclysm (2022). Despite originally being intended as a live project, Shuriken Cadaveric Entwined from North Carolina recently played their first live show at this year’s Chicago Domination and just released their third album. All the instruments on album are performed by Jordan Varela of Lust of Decay, In-Conquered, and formerly Cesspool of Vermin, and vocal duties are handled by Jordan’s Lust of Decay and Cesspool of Vermin bandmate Jay Barnes. Musically, there’s a sense of melody throughout and the album avoids relying on downtuned chugging, but I can’t help but feel that this material would be even stronger with a bit more experimentation, or by utilizing Eastern influences more in the compositions (which are mostly only nodded to in a couple of intros and in the art). The vocal performance is great, with plenty of drawn-out gutturals mixed with occasional highs, and it’s all complimented really well by Jordan’s great use of cymbals. It’s out now through Comatose Music!

Obnoxious – Twilight of Autumn Past (1994). The debut by Germany’s obnoxious is a fun raw but progressive death metal album. The band use a duel-vocal approach from frontman Harald (who passed in 2015, RIP) and guitarist Marco. It’s mostly mid-range gutturals with occasional highs, but they also throw in some unorthodox touches like occasional clean vocals, some black metal-esque vocals, and even some Asphyx-style gutturals. The guitarwork occasionally goes into progressive territory with a few more intricate riffs and thoughtful song structures, which surely was a carryover from their earlier progressive thrash years, but mostly it feels like adventurous mid-paced death. It’s enough to make it sound especially fresh for a mid-90s death metal album, but not so adventurous that it would turn off all death metal purists. It’s the kind of stuff that fans of Quo Vadis and Canada’s Martyr should enjoy (two bands I adore, btw).

Emasculator – Depraved Disfigurement (2022). Emsculator is a new brutal death metal band featuring Mallika of Nidorous and Unfathomable Ruination (formerly of Abnormality) alongside Teresa Wallace from Cartilage and Morgehenna of PoonTickler. Serge Rhino of Nidorous and Epicardiectomy also contributed to the songwriting. This two-song demo is a promising start for the band, with “Age of the Goddess” being my favorite of the two tracks. It’s a good mix of quickly exchanged fast and mid-paced parts, with my only minor gripe being the programmed drums. For programmed drums they’re pretty decent and organic sounding, but I hope they go with a live drummer for their next release, as a live drum performance could push this project to the next level.

Order ov Riven Cathedrals – Absolute (2022). This is the fourth full length from this mysterious Italian technical death metal band. Musically it feels somewhere in-between Gorguts and Hour of Penance, but much faster. The instrumentation is really impressive in its technicality, both for the riffs and the drumming, but it manages to keep up a brutal intensity without going into tech death sterility. The touches of dissonance and experimentation work really well with their heady lyrical themes. The booklet doesn’t include lyrics, but rather, it poses philosophical statements or questions under each song title (e.g., Is man merely a mistake of God, or God merely a mistake of man?), so I’m unable to comment further on the lyrics. Cheers to Mallika for hooking me up with this one!

Neurosis – Mas Allá De La Demencia (1991). Colombia death thrash metal band Neurosis, not to be confused with the popular American band, have been tearing it up off and on since 1987. This was the first demo they ever released. The album title translates to roughly “beyond dementia”, and this 2005 pressing of it also includes live tracks from 1988 that included Destruction, Venom, and Slayer covers. It’s fun, aggressive, death-thrash with some intense, fast-paced vocals sung in Spanish. There’s even some of those high-pitched Tom Araya-styled howls. It’s ferocious material that’s much stronger than it has any right being, with plenty of tempo changes, wild solos, and solid riffs.

Concilivm – The Veiled Enigma (2018). The debut EP by Chilean death metallers Concilivm is a haunting album that finds itself somewhere in-between dissodeath and cavernous death. It’s death metal dense with an oppressive, dark atmosphere that can engulf the listener. Albums like this are easy to get lost in as they take you on a journey through dark sonic abysses, and although many bands tap into this sound (Mitochondrion, Krypts, Cruciamentum, etc.), this is certainly a strong representation of the style.  

Chaotian – Effigies of Obsolescence (2022). The debut full length by Denmark’s Chaotian is an incredibly promising full length from a newer band that features members of Phrenelith and Sequestrum. Bands that sound like this often choose to go a more cavernous route with their production, and although there’s a bit of that, the band wisely go with a more raw, in-your-face production. It makes the album all the more ferocious, and it helps highlight the stellar drum patterns and exciting compositions. I especially enjoy when the bass is given time to show through their raw, murky death metal darkness. The band brings the riffs and they nod to many of their 80s/90s influences, varying from Celtic Frost to Suffocation, while creating something all their own. It’s available now through Dark Descent!