written by Kyle Messick

I was itching to talk about some death metal this week, so here’s 15 fresh recs – descriptions below! Lots of variety in the death metal this week!

Defiled – Defeat of Sanity (1994). Following a demo, the first release from one of Japan’s most celebrated death metal bands was this EP. It has a pretty cool lofi mix that lets the bass cut through, which is especially great because the bass has its own leads and some different runs that rule. The sound of this is a good mix of old school death, brutal death, and technical death that nods to the likes Cryptopsy and Suffocation. Their sound has evolved since this first EP, but they continue to be a consistent and quality death metal band to this day.

Mortal Decay – Incarnated Souls Rebirth (1998). Many death metal fans are familiar with the incredible band called Mortal Decay from New Jersey, but this week I want to highlight a lesser-known band with that moniker. Mortal Decay were a death metal band from Germany that only put out one full length before disbanding. Even nowadays, this is an unusual death metal band, because most of the music is old school death, but all of it features keyboards as a prominent instrument, and more specifically, it’s the harpsichord sound used throughout. To my ears, it makes for a refreshing and original album, but it certainly won’t be for everyone.

Evoke – Dreaming the Reality (1998). Evoke are a lesser-known English death metal that formed in 1993 and put out two albums, some splits, and an EP before disappearing. This was their first album, which is heavy meat and potatoes death metal with a thick production compliments of a mix from Dan Swanö. The drums are especially punchy and they feature a lot of cool moments. The sound feels very Swedish in its almost buzzsaw distortion, and the cover art has a classic feel thanks to Kris Verwimp, who also did covers for Absu, Acheron, Angelcorpse, Caducity, Centinex, Marduk, Visigoth, and many more. Sadly vocalist John Redfern, who also spent some time in Desecrator, passed away in 2019. Rest in peace.

Blood Rage – Welcome to Crimson Pines (2022). This is some pretty savage, groovy new horror-themed brutal death metal with Tom Hughes from Maimed and Crypt Rot behind the guitars. You might also notice that I provided some guest vocals on the third track, which is a fun Jason Voorhees-themed song. It’s no-nonsense brutal death that has a bit of Mortician influence in there. Pick it up from Cavernous Records!

Smashed Face – Human: Earth Parasite (2004). Despite having a name that would suggest Cannibal Corpse worship, this Czechia band put out a really challenging, brilliant brutal death metal album with their debut. They’d go an increasingly deathcore direction later, but this first release rips. It’s a smorgasbord of riffs with a really satisfying mix.

Invasion – Conquered (1999). Invasion are a long-running death-thrash band from Indiana. They formed in 1989 and are still active today. This was their debut album, which has a thrashy, Swedish-inspired sound with higher-pitched gutturals that remind me of Jeff Walker from Carcass. It’s a fun jam with plenty of blasting, grooves, and tempo changes. It’s a cool, lesser-known gem from my home state.

Torturer – Oppressed by the Force (1992) / Kingdom of the Dark (1991). Torturer are one of the longest running and sickest death metal bands from Chile. Oppressed by the Force was their debut album, which is fierce, rapid-paced death-thrash that quickly alternates between riffs and has incredibly high energy throughout. It’s packed with stop-starts, tempo changes, grooves, epic moments, solos, and basically anything else you could want in an extreme metal release. The 1991 demo included keeps up the same intensity. It just absolutely rules and would be a far more widely celebrated band if more people were familiar with them.

Embodied Torment – Liturgy of Ritual Execution (2015). I’ve been obsessed with this album lately from dudes that play(ed) in the likes of Brodequin and Orchidectomy. To me, this is basically a perfect brutal death metal album. It’s diverse, it’s challenging, it has some crushing grooves, and it also knows to let the music breathe. It’s an album that gets better with every listen, as the listener becomes increasingly familiar with their labyrinthine song structures and special little touches that turn great moments into masterful ones.

Excruciate – Beyond the Circle (1990-1991). Before Excruciate from Sweden put out a classic split with Epitaph in 1991 and a full length in 1993 that many would regard as a death metal classic, they put out some incredible demos. This compilation from 2003 spans that material, and it all rips. The remastered sound makes them all thicker, which lets the energy and aggression shine through. It feels like a band really tapping into all of the magic that made early death metal so great. If you’re a fan of death metal demos, this is definitely a stellar collection to jam.

Crusher – Act II: Undermine! (1993). I mostly only see Crusher celebrated for their 1992 debut, Corporal Punishment, which is justifiable because the doomier tempos of that French death metal gem make it an absolute classic. The EP that they put out a year later is worth a listen, but it has a more Entombed – Wolverine Blues feel than their debut, and it’s honestly not nearly as good. The vocals feel somewhere in-between Dave Ingram, Barney Greenway, and LG Petrov. It’s a heavy old school ripper of an EP, but some songs are stronger than others. If you’re new to Crusher, you should start with the incredible reissue of their debut that Repulsive Echo put out earlier this year. That one is essential, unlike this follow-up.

Last Sacrament – Maniacal Meditations / Enantiodromia (2013). Last Sacrament are a sick Floridian band that are unique in that they utilize microtones in their death metal, which is basically unheard of in death metal. I’ve always been fascinated by microtonal music, but don’t worry, this is very much uncompromising death metal. It doesn’t have a mechanical or technical sound that sterilizes it. Maniacial Meditations feels more orthodox and well-written outside of the use of 16-note scales. It has great leads and solos, and moves along at fast tempos. Enantiodromia, in contrast, feels more stripped down, and it hits the listener with ridiculously crushing riff after crushing riff with the bass guitar really filling in that bottom end. Both releases rule, and I love that the microtones infused into this music are used to make for a really uncomfortable, otherworldly atmosphere. If anyone knows of other microtonal death metal, please let me know!

Internal Suffering – Supreme Knowledge Domain (1999). The debut by initially Colombian technical brutal death metal titans Internal Suffering is a classic that matches the intensity and raw primitiveness of early Suffocation and Disgorge. It manages to be challenging in its incorporation of more technical playing but without ever leaving behind the overwhelming heaviness that brutal death is capable of, and a lot of that is due to the polarizing production of the release.

Vulnus – Vessels of Throe (2015) / Lost Beyond Retrieval (2006). Vulnus from Greece play a fun, catchy, and groovy form of brutal death metal that features the former bass player from Inveracity (at least on the full length). They manage to be consistently fun and groovy without just playing a bunch of caveman riffs. The second release here is a split, which has some solid goregrind tunes on the other side. I’ll let you look up their band name.