Sometimes, this particular scribe finds it useful to glance backward and spend some quality time with an album defined by good memories, high spirits, and the sweet taste of familiarity. In that spirit, we post a lot of brief retrospective reviews over on our Instagram, but said pieces seldom make their way here to graze in greener pastures. Here are eight brief write-ups of death metal albums that we have revisited over the past few months--a veritable death metal menagerie. Enjoy! - Ed.
GOJIRA - From Mars to Sirius (2007)
There are few albums that remain so influential in my indoctrination into the chrvch of riff-centric music. Mastodon's essential Remission, perhaps, tops the heap, but Gojira's multiple efforts cycle through rotation on a remarkably consistent basis. From Mars to Sirius is a monstrosity of an album, demonstrating the heaviest of riffs within the confines of a striped-bare (yet progressive) mentality. Here, Gojira's trademark conceptual and thematic underpinnings are on full display--not preachy, but immediate. And never have whale sounds sounded so utterly massive. In short? If you've missed this album in favor of their more popular releases...you should probably get on that.
HOODED MENACE - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (2018)
Although this was released early on, no other album impressed me in 2018 with such a finely-tuned ability to straddle the line between death’s crushing riffage and funeral doom’s dismal gloom. Harrowing and heavy, the layers of grotesque yet melodically lofty leads form a near-tangible environment for these Hooded Menaces to dwell. Despite these leanings,“cavernous" remains an apt description for the atmosphere. I mean, just look at that album cover. Precision and restraint in the percussive department-- and a killer vocal tone--further delineate Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed as a masterful album, easily their best (and most ominous) to date.
GORGUTS - Obscura (1998)
Another day, another retrospective revolving around a revolutionary death metal outfit. On this fine evening, my haggard compatriots and I (read: the mice nesting amongst our mildew'd stores of parchment) are spending some time with this untouchable and influential gem of an album--Gorguts' seminal Obscura.
Frankly, I don't possess the capacity (or vocabulary) to do a convincing deep dive, so I'll keep this short and sweet. This album is what I imagine people who aren't familiar with death metal hear when they listen to death metal. It is chaos incarnate; a bewilderingly odd application of atonality dissonance, and uncomfortable technicality. It is impossible to follow, impossible to replicate in all its weirdness--although a great number of have tried. Obscura remains a classic in the tech death scene because it is so alarmingly unique. For this reason alone, it is always worth revisitation.
OUTER HEAVEN - Realms of Eternal Decay (2018)
We talk a whole damn lot about doom and gloom 'round these parts--but doom and gloom is getting stale. Hence: time, methinks, for some well-deserved filth.
This ravishing album artwork paints a pretty clear picture. Diaphragm-imploding vocals. Blast beats. Filthy (albeit surprisingly technical) riffage. The kind of breakdowns that dismissively shatter spines. This is a prime example of forward-thinking brutality--Outer Heaven is a band that plays to their strengths & shows few reservations. If you're in the mood--or need--for some brutality, I wholeheartedly recommend giving this one a spin.
HORRENDOUS - Anareta (2015)
Horrendous are, no bones about it, certified death metal legends in the making. While each album feels utterly unique and individualistic in its making, Horrendous consistently provide the perfect package: graceful and progressive composition, punchy and lead-filled riffs, and a world-class dynamic range. Equal parts manic and precise, Anareta--is, like, everything else these guys touch--a lil' stroke of brilliance.
While not audiophiles per se, we Sleeping Villagers like our death metal soundtrack to sound like the stuff of dreams when it smacks us in the face. To that end: mission accomplished.
INFERNAL COIL - Within a World Forgotten (2018)
Infernal Coil has three things going for them. The 1st is appealing album artwork, coupled with an intriguingly undecipherable logo. The 2nd is their affiliation with Profound Lore, a label that but consistently signs forward-thinking death metal bands such as Artificial Brain, Portal, and Chthe’ilist. The 3rd is their sound itself: more like a pillow over the face than a blow from a sledgehammer. In short, this is death metal at its most intense, its most forward-thinking.
Infernal Coil’s brand of death is comparable in many ways to old-skool black metal, with heavy emphasis on creating an impenetrable and evocative atmosphere. The vocals & guitar work to create an underlying layer, acting as intertwined agents, weaving through each other without ever falling into patterns of repetition. The drums are chaotic and exceedingly present, often layered on top of the guitar and howling vocals. The result is intensely dense, but isn’t a wall of sound. Subtleties in tone and tempo provide the barest of spots to breathe, and a doom-like application of downtuned sludge adds interest in an otherwise suffocating forest of briars. Much like Infernal Coil’s logo, complexity and an undulating asymmetricality remains central.
Like being lost in an unfamiliar forest, beset by wind and rain and grasping branches, this track is a challenging experience. Rather than the mechanical feeling associated with more extreme ends of the death spectrum, Within a World Forgotten is arrestingly organic.
IMMOLATION - Atonement (2017)
Here's a band that is regrettably oft-forgotten in best o' death metal discussions: the one and only Immolation. In my mind, Immolation have approached (but not quite achieved) the top of the death metal heap--but please don't take that as criticism. Far from it. Their talent and influence are unmistakable and undeniable, and thus, I try to pay respect where respect is due.
While their discography is deep and remarkably consistent throughout, 2017’s Atonement is a particularly well-conceived epitomization of that beloved Immolation sound. Twisted discordant leads, layered to perfection. Trademark-edly massive grooving riffs. Behemothian and monotonous vocals, spewed forth from the malevolent Godhead. Thunderous blastbeats aplenty. It’s been Immolation’s recipe for success for a very long time, and here, they present a surprisingly lush and all-encompassing foray into their monolithic sound. In sum? Truly powerful death metal. This album is always worth a revisitation.
CARCASS - Surgical Steel (2013)
While there were several hard hitting albums from 2013 that certainly have the chops to make this list--chief among them Skeletonwitch's Serpents Unleashed and Gorguts Colored Sands--Carcass takes the cake. As verified masters of their craft, they often do.
In the aforementioned year, as I was an aloof undergrad, the calculated aggression, academic leanings, and surgical provision of Carcass' masterful comeback helped pave the way for exploration into the far-flung extremities of the metalverse. Carcass are seemingly always at the forward-thinking forefront of technical and thematic application. Death metal, which frequently fosters in stagnation, relies on stalwart leaders such as these. Across the decade, this album has consistently been an absolute joy to revisit--and, all told, truly an album for the ages.
Thanks, dear reader, for witnessing our Death Metal Menagerie! We'll undoubtedly be returning to this format again sometime in the future. Stay tuned! - Ed.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!