Written by Kyle Messick

My recommendations will be more sporadic as work gets busier, but here’s what I’ve been jamming over the last week!

Pneuma Hagion – Demiurge (2022). I love the dark form of blackened death metal that Pneuma Hagion create. The new release from this Texan band is an especially raw release that wisely doesn’t drench everything in excessive reverb. This release feels different from their earlier works in that the tempos are much slower. It feels darker and doomier, and it feels especially striking on the first listen, but I can already tell that it’s an album that will need many spins to properly digest. I love the rawness of it, but I’m not yet sure how I like it compared to their earlier works.

Defilementory – The Dismal Ascension (2014). I love anything that takes inspiration from Gorguts, and this brutal death metal band from Denmark is an especially fresh application of that dissodeath sound. Gorguts always had breakdowns, but it’s fun to hear the brutality of death metal really shine through and use that dissodeath sound to make for an incredibly brutal album that manages to incorporate the unsettling atmosphere that dissonance brings in a way that has more Gorguts influence than a band like Disentomb (who are also great). Defilementory are if Gorguts, Suffocation, and Thantifaxath had a baby, and I mean that as high praise as someone that loves all of those bands.

Vaticinal Rites – Vaticinal Rites (2021). The debut EP from this London band is an incredible death metal release with neoclassical solos and a heavy 90s sound inspired by Floridian and Greek bands. Disincarnate fans especially will find plenty to love. The band throw in tons of riffs and solos, which always keeps things fresh. They’re a band well worth watching for what they do next.

Ectopic Malignancy – Submerged in Urban Decay (2019). The debut EP by this newer international band is ridiculously raw and brutal death metal that sounds like it bubbled up from the sewer and has vocals that appropriately sound like toilet noises. The dual-vocal attack helps diversify the sound, but there isn’t anything on here that doesn’t reek. One surprising bit of info about this band is that the bassist is Michael from Monstrosity and Serocs, so it’s fun to hear him play in a more brutal act than his usuals.

Nocturnus A.D. – Paradox (2019). Acting as a continuation of Nocturnus, the debut Nocturnus A.D. debut was appropriately a continuation of the 1990 classic sci-fi death metal album The Key. The Key was well known for its virtuoso and continual onslaught of guitar shred and symphonics over an Altars of Madness-esque take on death metal, all complimented by former Morbid Angel drummer and vocalist Mike Browning. Mike’s drumming and immediately identifiable vocals return in A.D., and all of it feels like a natural spiritual successor to The Key despite having an almost entirely new lineup of musicians. From the guitar shred, to the synth, to the catchy vocals; comeback albums don’t get much better than this.

Grave – You’ll Never See (1992). Grave get a ton of praise for their classic Swedish death metal debut, Into the Grave, but for some reason their similarly great sophomore doesn’t get nearly as much praise even though it came out only one year later. It’s one of the grooviest and catchiest Grave albums, and it has no lack of Swedish buzzsaw guitar tone for those perpetually craving that Boss HM-2 sound.

Necromantia / Varathron – The Black Arts / The Everlasting Sins (1992). Here’s one of the most celebrated black metal splits of all time from two of the titans of Greek black metal. It’s got a lot of charming occult atmosphere in how well the mixes breath. The Necromantia side utilizes leads really well and has an almost 70s death rock feel in parts, partly because of its warm, fuzzy tones. The Varathron side sounds a little more lofi, similarly has great leadwork, and feels like the more traditional black metal of the two. Both still sound great 30 years later.

Necrophobic – Satanic Blasphemies (1990-1992). This compilation includes the 1990 and 1991 demos and 1992 EP by Necrophobic, one of Sweden’s most celebrated black and death metal bands. The sound of all three recordings is very different, but all of them sound great (especially considering what black metal recordings of the era sounded like). The 1991 demo and 1992 EP sound the most death metal, largely because of the deeper, more guttural vocal used on those recordings, but the 1990 demo rules for its rawer black metal approach too.

Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell (2021). I’ve admittedly slept on this Finnish band’s mix of death and doom, but I picked up this, their sixth album, and have joined the bandwagon. There’s a lot of rock and roll influence on this album which gives it a more stoner doom feel in parts, but mixed with a 90s death metal sound that feels like a distant relative of Edge of Sanity. It all makes for a pretty unique and memorable death metal experience.

Hetsheads – …We Hail the Possessed (1991-1994). Hetsheads were an early Swedish death metal band from Stockholm. This compilation includes their two 1991 demos. The first is incredibly high energy death metal with a guitar tone that is fuzzy and big, upbeat grooves that work really well with it, making it a refreshing sounding release even today. The second demo sounds darker in atmosphere and has a more blackened sound in its use of more tremolo-picked riffs that were a farcry from the chugging downstrokes of the first demo. It also has some synth that makes it sound epic and folky. It’s wild how different the two demos from the same year sound, but they’re both pretty awesome despite sounding like two different bands.

Cryptic Enslavement – Perverse Hallucinatory Descent (2018). The only full-length album from this Canadian brutal death metal band is a peculiar brutal death metal effort. Yes, it has plenty of indecipherable growling and squealing, crushing riffs, and some ignorant slams, but it’s also surprisingly technical and even jazzy in many parts. I hope they lean even harder into the mathy and more experimental bits in any future material.

Grace Disgraced – Enthrallment Traced (2012). The debut album by this Russian band is technical death metal with a brutal edge. I hear a lot of late-era Death influence in their sound. Vocalist Polina Berezko primarily uses a higher, more Angela Gossow-sounding harsh vocal, but she’ll also go into lower, more traditional death metal lows on occasion. The guitarwork here is really enthralling and all over the place, and the bass occasionally cuts through with some cool moments too. It all makes for a really cool debut from a band that have released three more albums since. It’s surprising this band isn’t more popular considering how many other bands they could play circles around.

Datura – The Amplitudes of Pacification (2018). Datura from Ukraine is a brilliant nod to Deeds of Flesh sprinkled with a healthy assortment of pinch harmonics. This is their latest full length, with is equal parts technical and brutal, and has some great performances by everyone involved in the band. The drums are creative, the bass cuts through with plenty of sick parts, the guitarwork is exception, and the vocals rule too. It’s an inspired and challenging album that plays with tempos, silence, and preconceptions, but while also always being rooted firmly in brutal death.

Vile Rites – The Ageless (2022). The debut EP by Vile Rites from California is progressive blackened death metal of the highest caliber. The immediately memorable songwriting reminds of incredible bands like Stargazer and newer greats like Cryptic Shift. Every riff feels like a crucial part in something momentous. It’s incredible to hear a band coming out of the gate this strong, and it makes for the one of the strongest releases this year.

Cranial Decay – Ov the Darkest Magic (2021). This death metal debut out of Iowa goes all in on the fun magic concept with songs about witches and phantasms (or at least as far as I can tell without the insert including lyrics), but without making things feel overly cheesy. It’s surprisingly astute music, featuring multiple neoclassical solos, crushing breakdowns, and a great mix. Riffs sometimes drag on for a little long for my taste, but the creative drumming by Adam Estabrook compensates and elevates the material throughout, making it all the more impactful. A solid debut!