Written by Kyle Messick
I’m back with another 14 sick albums to check out! Here’s what I’ve been jamming lately, hopefully you find an album or two worth a spin!
Scalpture – Feldwärts (2022). Whereas most bands that start out as Bolt Thrower songs never stray too far from that iconic sound, Scalpture from Germany’s third album sees them fully become their own musical entity. Any Bolt Thrower influence has stepped into the background, and in the forefront is now a mix of influences that include avant-garde black metal, dissodeath, grindcore, and proto-bands like Celtic Frost, but it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. This album is Scalpture’s magnus opus; it is their masterpiece. It is the breath of fresh air I’ve been seeking in a sea of death metal clones. The drumming is inspired, every moment is calculated and impactful, and the album is diverse enough to always be exciting. I’ve been listening to this on loop for weeks, and it’ll be a tough one to top this year.
Invocator – Weave the Apocalypse (1993). Invocator are an incredible technical thrash metal band that formed in 1987 and are still active today. Their sophomore album, Weave the Apocalypse, is an absolute gem, and it’s heavy and technical enough to appeal to death metal fanatics despite being resoundingly thrash. The vocals might be the toughest pill to swallow, but with music this good, it goes down pretty easy. You can grab this reissue from Hammerheart Records, which includes an extra disc that includes live tracks, promos, and some great covers from the likes of Macabre, Artillery, and Dark Angel.
Apophis – Down in the Valley (1996). The sophomore album from Apophis in Germany feels especially epic in its layers of clean guitars, tremolo picked riffs, and raw atmosphere. It’s unique in its mix of melody and brutality, with the melodic parts sounding like a more creative Amon Amarth before that band had even come into their sound. It also has plenty of great neoclassical solos. It’s creative and takes chances in its incorporation of multiple influences, but it also makes for a really satisfying death metal album that still sounds original today.
Disgusting – Shapeshifterbirthblues (1995). Despite how much people love Scandinavian death metal, I very rarely hear Disgusting from Norway mentioned. They recently reunited, but prior to that, they were active from 1992 to 1997 and during that time they put out a full-length, an EP, and two demos. This was their debut LP and their only to date. Although this album isn’t as widely celebrated as many other 90s death metal albums, it still has plenty worth checking out. Uniquely, all four members contribute vocals, but not all in the same songs. Musically there’s a good bit of OSDM, but they throw in plenty of other musical influences, including a beautiful, bluesy doom passage in the opening track. The vocals might polarize some listeners, as they’re mostly a higher-pitched shouted guttural. One of the guitarists here, L.J. Balvaz, is also known for his work in Cadaver.
Sedimentum – Suppuration morphogénésiaque (2022). Following their incredibly promising 2019 demo, Sedimentum from Canada have dropped their debut full-length through Memento Mori. It has a sufficiently raw mix that is ripe with dark atmosphere. Its skeleton is OSDM that reeks of filth, but when they turn down the tempos and throw in those sinister leads, it taps into something otherworldly that is sure to make hair stand on end. It’s as ugly as death metal comes and is one of the best death metal releases so far this year. Also love the Brad Moore album cover.
Ancestral – The Unforgotten Years (1993-1994). This great new compilation from Memento Mori chronicles the 1993 and 1994 demos from Canada’s Ancestral. These were the only two releases the band put out before disbanding, so it’s awesome to see these buried gems see the light of day again. Despite being demos, the sound on this is great. The drums are a little towards the front of the mix in the 1993 demo, but everything can be heard well. The 1994 demo is more lofi, but it’s also similarly crisp. Both demos are great, but the 93 demo has the edge for me, as the more wet, more guttural vocals combined with the savage songwriting really deliver more than the lofi, more melodic songs with higher-pitched vocals in ’94.
Repugnant – Hecatomb (1999). Many know that Tobias Forge fronted and played guitar in a death metal band prior to creating the spooky rock powerhouse that is Ghost. Their only full length, Epitome of Darkness, is a pretty widely celebrated death-thrash gem, but the band largely kicked off with this EP a number of years earlier. Hecatomb sounds a lot more like a proto-death album, with blackened vocals and thrashy music that make it sound like Celtic Frost or Venom with a bit more death poured in. It’s pretty sick stuff that still holds up despite whatever Scooby Doo chase music Tobias is writing in his current musical project.
Nembrionic – Psycho One Hundred (1995). The debut by this grindy death metal band is all over the place musically, but when it’s at its blasting fiercest like on the brief handful of opening tracks, it has few superiors. Other songs slow it down and get a bit thrashier, and the raw, punchy production make those fun too, but they don’t get the blood flowing like the full-on deathgrind bits.
Cenotaph – Thirteen Threnodies (1994). Not to be confused with the prominent Mexican and Turkish bands, this Italian band was a band only active from the late 80s through the late 90s. This was their only full-length album, which has a great organic mix. The album tries a lot of things, and at times feels more OSDM, others more groovy and thrashy, others more atmospheric. The vocal stylings also change a good amount, mostly alternating between a death metal guttural and a more howled, higher-pitched vocals.
Insidious Decrepancy – The Inerrancy of Profanation (2005). Programmed drums usually ruin death metal for me, but the riffing, songwriting, and gutturals on the sophomore release by Insidious Decrepancy are all so good that I can struggle through the drums. The compositions, thoughtful riffs, and wet, guttural vocals are all so good. It’s such a good album thanks to the incredible talents of multi-instrumentalist Shawn Whitaker, but I still can’t help but imagine an alternate universe where there are live drums on each of Shawn’s albums. That’d take these from being incredible albums to masterpieces.
Castrator – Defiled in Oblivion (2022). I loved the demo/EP by Castrator that came out 7/8 years ago. With all the misogynistic imagery and lyrics that have been commonplace in brutal death metal, it was so refreshing to hear a group of women push back against that and write memorable death metal songs that don’t celebrate rape and misogyny while expanding their criticisms to historically widespread abominable acts like honor killings. Since that release, vocalist Mallika (from Nidorous, Unfathomable Ruination, and Abnormality) left Castrator and formed Emasculator, a band name presumably taken from an early Castrator song. Castrator have now put out a full-length album, and it’s well produced and has memorable songs, but I do miss Mallika’s lower, more guttural registers. New vocalist Clarissa has more of an Angela Gossow range with her vocals, which I’m sure many people will dig, but I never enjoy mid-to-high gutturals as much as lower ones. Either way, it’s a great debut.
Outre – Ghost Chants (2015). When I first heard Outre from Poland, someone had put up a song on Youtube that was listed as a leaked new Deathspell Omega song. It was probably an internet troll, but I was still blown away by the song that I heard, which turned out to be a song by this band off of this album. One can certainly hear plenty of overlap between the sound of Outre and Deathspell Omega, but Outre’s sound is more sinister and organic, due partly because they use a real drummer. It’s a masterful black metal release that really hits on an affective level.
Fleshrot – Unburied Corpse (2022). The debut by Texas death metal band Fleshrot has been released through Desert Wastelands and Me Saco un Ojo Records, both versions of which have unique album covers (as you can see in the image). Musically this is some ugly, sometimes doomy and always haunting sounding death metal. It’s the kind of grimy, filthy OSDM that I’m a sucker for. The album really takes its time to let each riff absorb you into its funnel of raunchiness until the album leaves you glistening with putrid scum. And the wet, gurgling vocals appropriately froth out to match.
Captor – Lay It to Rest (1993). The debut by Captor from Sweden is a death-thrash classic. The album is packed with strong, groovy compositions that avoid the trappings of thrash by including some occasional melodic parts and leads, emotive solos, and by using scales that aren’t always heard in this style of music. A lot of thrash can grow stale quickly, but this band keeps you on your toes with different tempos, different music stylings, and engaging compositions. It’s an essential album for an extreme metal collection.