|50 Great Widely Understood Death Metal Blips|
I've spent a good chunk of the past decade dredging up death metal obscurities because why not. Here are 50 cool things I've bumped into over that time frame, some riding the very outskirts of what even qualifies as death metal, a lot of it at least a bit weird. Noticeable doom/death bias as that's my jam, nonzero amount of releases controversial among the purists as they're actually awesome for what they are. Alphabetical order.
Whilst there's plenty of moments on the EP where the band attempts to fit in (on its own terms) with the brutal death crowd, the music really takes off when that posturing is stripped and bludgeoning, doom-laced riffs spiffed with insane chord shapes are allowed to roam free. Pity they seem to have went their separate ways before the promised follow-up materialised.
|2||As Autumn Calls|
There's something extremely catchy about the beautiful, plodding melodies of the opening track. The huge dose of musicality and laid back, doomy delivery makes the EP easy to appreciate for just about anybody who can stand their guitar sound distorted. It's a bit of a bummer that none of the two full-lengths that followed truly stood up to the quality of the material on here, but they're still solid and enjoyable releases. Plus hey, the stuff's free on Bandcamp.
In all honesty, I'm surprised why more acts haven't tried blending doom/death with crust punk, as Bruxers and the handful of other practitioners reveal it to be a very potent combination. These guys have it down to a science, and make sure to kick off every tune as glacially as possible to really let the resulting heaviness sink in. It's a pity they seem to have faded into obscurity some time over the past half decade.
I don't think that the band's later day output gets enough recognition. Screaming Machines is one of those interesting examples of how far a band can move away from its initial death metal starting template. If you look for parallels with its immediate predecessor, the outlandish harmony has been pretty firmly hinted at, but there isn't all that much in common that this psychedelic workout has in common with the demo days.
Obeisance to Vanity
There's just something about the way in which the central European melodic death bands of the mid/late 90s phrased their melodies that's innately satisfying. Why, oh why couldn't this have been the default melodic death metal sound? It's a pity that only one of these guys' demos made it online, the lush, tasteful instrumentation has me wanting more. Just to emphasise how much I cherish these guys, when my hard drive crapped out this was the first piece of music I re-obtained.
Probably Finland's best kept secret, the band evolved musically so quickly that I can't help but wonder what could have been if they hung around for a bit longer. Frantic, madly technical, there's even a bass solo tucked into one of the tracks. My favourite bit would have to be the transcendent hovering clean vocal over a simple yet effective cosmic melodic ostinato that kicks the demo off.
Whilst the debut is promising, but reasonably standard doomy Dutch fare, the follow-up is where the band takes some cues from some of their proggy contemporaries, with the one of closest geographical proximity being Pestilence. However, this is far removed from a Spheres clone - Chiaroscuro loses a bit of that uncanny catchiness, but makes up for it with some distinct, delightful jazziness.
|8||Crypt Of Kerberos|
The Macrodex of War
The life and times of arguably Sweden's finest death metal ensemble are handily documented on one compact disc, and you can hear the godfathers of the petite Eskilstuna doom/death scene discover how to rip it, subsequently get encompassed by the shred on their neoclassical-tinged full length and go off the prog deep end with the guy from Pain of Salvation providing clean vocals. A fascinating journey, but there's something so imminently listenable about the first demo that keeps me coming back.
If forced to pinpoint the pinnacle of doom/death, I'd probably choose the indescribably morbid and hollow opening riff of the lone proper demo tape of this completely obscure Bulgarian act. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking on display at any point here, but the wheel doesn't need to be reinvented every single time and the execution is stellar.
Ascend Saturnine Nebulae
A late entry to the Dutch doom/death scene, the band's lone full length is a marriage of drawn out structures with simple, ear-catching ideas that wraps up the loose ends left behind by its predecessors and serves as a perfect epilogue to the more melodic side of the country's death output. The dynamic shifts, whilst following well-trodden paths, feel particularly satisfying.
A Life Less Necessary
In spite of the moniker, this is a perfectly listenable death n' roll brigade, with some of the most depressing lyrics ever penned. Their swan song should be viewed as their crowning achievement, as once one looks past the claustrophobic production and forced follow-up to their "hit single" off the previous album, the dabbling with more complex structures and musical ideas becomes apparent and redeems the more immediate flaws.
Their silly name is not the only legacy from their thrash roots, as the thick and meaty riffing pays a good degree of homage to them as well. In spite of the slight retro crossover, there's something extremely ahead of its time in here that the metal world still hasn't fully caught up to. The riffage is some of the most entrancing to be committed without using a good degree of drop-tuning.
Demonstration Cassette 1995
The band's debut demo feels like it missed its designed target by a few years and a few thousand miles, as their 1995 offering feels quite akin to Nespithe. Descend are not quite a Demilich clone, feeling more like another band formed by the same species of aliens with the nigh irreplicable catchiness, bizarre vocals and outlandish musical content. It's a huge pity they veered off course with their next releases and became a rather by the numbers act.
A similarly geographically misplaced band, with a good dose of Swedeath planted on US soil. The thing that sets them apart from the competition is the evolving song structuring, with basic riff ideas undergoing arrangement tweaks to present them in a different light ("The Freezing Dead" lives this out to the fullest). The compilation features a handful of non-demo tracks showing the band veering off towards black metal, a direction they've kept pursuing after reuniting.
Manifested Apparitions of Unholy Spirits
Whilst the whole EP is stellar, the pinnacle is hit when the entire universe grinds down to a halt in the middle of the second song. That moment is probably the sole greatest bit in the history of east coast death metal. I hugely regret that a full length failed to materialise due to label issues, as the eventual debut LP nearly thoroughly drains the songs of any semblance of kick.
A forgotten blip from the Finnish scene with next to nothing known about them, the only tape currently in circulation is tagged as Demo II. Whilst the music within is far from life-changing, it is a good listen with some welcome atmosphere. Things really click right at the end of the tape with the masterful arrival of a flanger, and the modulation adds a wonderful depth to the sound that I wish more death bands would utilise.
Whilst the majority of the band's career showed them playing petroleum-soaked, rollicking punk rock, Disgrace started out as a death metal act and only got to their destination through a death n' roll phase. Their debut showcases some of the tracks from their demo days interlaced with dabbling in their middle-ground style. Whilst a case can be easily made for the demos being superior, this album is an interesting example of stylistic evolution as the old sits together with the new.
Beauty, Tears and the Setting Sun
The main thing that differentiates these fellows from other doom/death bands of a melodic persuasion is that they can really kick a proper riff. The distorted sections pack a good wallop, further exacerbated by the inevitable acoustic passages. The first two tracks are probably my favourite opening sequence of any death-related record.
Another representative of the extremely minuscule Eskilstuna death/doom scene, these guys stayed true to their roots - the furthest they strayed was the inclusion of a dead-on minimalistic guitar solo in the final track of their ill-fated mini-LP. There's just something special about the sound of that small handful of bands that can't be found anywhere else.
Probably the greatest manifestation of "screw you I do what I want" on the list, the sole full length from this restless Ukrainian collective sees them eschew any semblance of traditional structuring or harmony and plunge headfirst into a tritone-laced realm of bird chirps, modulated instrument bleeps and downright insane guitar production. You may want to wear a helmet, or two for good measure, but it's worth the journey.
Consumption of Human Feces
A wonderfully filthy example of proto-slam, you probably know what's up from the moment the bass emerges from the sewer, dragging the opening riff along with it. The rest of the demo doesn't disappoint, delivering consistently thick riffage through the duration of the tape. The only moment of respite comes when the guys decide to have a tongue-in-cheek moment and blow raspberries into the microphone, reminding anybody who might have been taking things too seriously that it's all just for kicks.
The Last Day Begins?
Ever wondered what would happen if you took a riff'y, mid-paced death metal base and sprinkled it with happy, summer'y sounding clean guitars, occasional electronic shimmers and traces of female vocals on top? Surprisingly enough, it's actually super enjoyable, and if you stripped away the orchestration flourishes you'd be left with a bland record that would be far from worth writing home about.
Stigma of Soul
Remember what I said about Carrion? Trim some of the orchestration and dial up the speed in places. The scene's probably the best at handling hyperactive tempos, as the minimalistic melodic guitars provide a lovely counterpoint to the breakneck drumming underneath. On top of that, things get really beautiful when the tracks slow down and the melodies are brought to the forefront.
Maybe it's the fact that Korpse were stuck all alone in Scotland, far away from anybody to tell them what to do, but they managed to cook up a style all of their own. You can definitely taste the death roots in the monolithic, wah-drenched grooves, but it's just one of many ingredients. It's surprising how well the general musical style holds its ground when the band decides to back down from the distortion in sections of the instrumental.
Sometimes magic just happens. This is an example of such magic, as the standard Finnish template, leaning on the brooding side in execution, gets augmented with some superb, poignant melodies to create something truly special. The cavernous, reverb-drenched production job helps push this to another realm. Not altogether unexpectedly, the band hasn't managed to reach similar heights since. Somehow this is free on Bandcamp now.
|26||Lycanthropy (WI, USA)|
The tape seems to take some cues from another, more renowned funeral conducted by Autopsy in the same year. However, there's something magical about song two on here, with its alien-sounding straight interval harmonising being incredibly ahead of its time. The rest of the content of the tape is pretty tight as well, but gets eclipsed by this moment of awesome.
Demo #1 91
Probably the greatest one-tape wonder to hit the death metal scene, Maimed swaggered in playing incredible, distinctly modern-sounding riffs with tons of old-school groove and promptly dropped off the face of the Earth. If I wasn't explicitly told by multiple sources this came out in 1991, I would have probably placed it at least five years later.
Another example of how to evolve, using death metal as your starting template. Mind Riot piled on all sorts of influences from the widely understood rock realm, creating their own take to something akin to death n' roll. I'm surprised this isn't more popular, given how pleasant a listen it is while retaining some heaviness.
Feel Sorry for the Fanatic
Ever wonder what the hybrid of Killing Joke and death metal would sound like? Wonder no more and get the very aptly titled 1996 Morgoth disc to answer the query. It's immensely enjoyable, with the increased heaviness and occasional lop-sided chord shape complementing each other quite superbly. It's a pity that they didn't follow through and have been ploughing their prior generic field since regrouping.
The Unbearable Wretchedness of Existence
Assuming you can penetrate the godawful recording quality (might just be my rip), you're in for a treat. The riffs possess a delightful, innate melodic side all the way through the tape, and things really come together in the final track as the distortion is stripped away and a very enjoyable mellow passage emerges. It's not much of a surprise that the guys dropped a generic female-fronted melodic metal record five years after this.
Shadows of the Unknown
Wonderful, distinctly Dutch sounding death doom. They may not have the most pulverising production on the block, or even bother tuning below a D, but some smart riff modulation and fourths use makes this a surprisingly heavy listen. Also, the collective was one of the female-fronted trailblazers, and you probably wouldn't be able to tell it's a woman providing the vocals without checking the credits.
Sweet and to the point, one of the most quintessential releases to come out of the death n' roll wave of the nineties. The foundation of this delightful, succinct EP lies in thick, groovy, yet distinctly metal riffs, but the band is not afraid to flirt with other stylings. This offers up wonderfully composed segues that lead them to bleak black metal, doom/death solo sections or a brief thrash outburst.
One of the first experimental kids on the block, the band started out playing a tame blend of death/thrash before progressively veering off towards the stranger and doomier. The harmonising in the later songs is ridiculously ahead of the curve. It's quite interesting to have the material laid out in reverse chronological order, somehow makes it easier to notice the evolution and parallels.
Strange Transmissions from the Neuralnomicon
Slightly similar in spirit to the experimentalists of the demo days, but blessed with the studio technology of the twenty first century and two decades of instrumental technicality developments. Orbweaver know how to rip crazy meter riff patterns with the best of them, but not only are the riff patterns demented, they are often followed by bursts of psychedelia that somehow make sense. Eagerly awaiting a wave of followers.
Selected Works (demo)
The world's most listenable experimental metal band, it feels like Paraxism stumbled upon a metal subgenre with mainstream potential that never took off. A lovely mesh of heavy metal melodic sensibility with death metal ferocity, orchestrated with some moog and electric violin for good measure. I've been singing their praises for years and this isn't likely to stop any time soon.
Healing By Festering
This oddball Russian collective chose to lace their music with industrial flourishes and bizarre time signatures. The results are a peculiar proto-djent hybrid tuned down into oblivion that retains a hell of a lot of listenability. These guys have a knack for making their departures from 4/4 sound fluid and natural. Plus, that ultra simplistic three-note chug in "Baptism of Fire" is my favourite riff ever recorded.
Part of the same experimental cohort as Pestilence and Creepmime, Perpetual Demise managed to carve out a little niche of their own by keeping things simple, groovy and tritone-laden. At times you least expect it, the riff will toss in an accidental, and just to rub it in slap the tritone on top. It's a pity the band fell apart before their sophomore effort crystallised, especially as there were rumours of pushing their sound by flirting with samples...
The Human Burden
High tempos, relentless technicality, but also a surprising dose of musicality, something often absent from the more showboat'y side of the genre. Well placed stabs, or even just accents, among a steady tremolo flurry really make a number of phrases stand out from the rest of the crowd. This was free on Bandcamp for quite a while, but now both these guys' albums require a monetary investment.
A tiny two-track Japanese oddity is built on a relatively straightforward death metal base, but with bizarre discordant clean guitars slapped on top. Why? Hell knows. The two somehow manage to co-exist, resulting in a surreal listen usually reserved for outsider music. Pity that the demo is their only piece of output, would be interesting to see what ground they'd cover.
Crystal Tears Of Silence
Another one of those one-tape wonders, this time around it's a bunch of Greek kids (nobody was of age when tracking this) laying down some lovely, atmospheric doomy stuff with a subtle, tasteful tinge of black metal in some of the harmonies and tremolo use. This is anything but your standard black/death though, the proceedings are distinctly melodic and even make use of some clean guitars in the arrangements.
Sometimes bands take time to develop - Sceptical Schizo started off as a borderline unlistenable thrash ensemble before finding their footing in the doom/death realm. The stuff on here is breathtaking, seamlessly walking the line between lush melodic sections with extra orchestration and menacing, bass-driven riff thunder. The sound feels cloaked in an ethereal mist, further blurring the borders between everything.
Purple Dreams and Magic Poems
It really feels like we got the short end of the stick in terms of melodic death metal reality - why would Gothenburg become the most prevalent sound when all sorts of stuff brought up in this list exist? The riffs are nothing short of spectacular, somehow being both inspired and accessible. Toss in a dash of magnificent lead work and some of the least imposing harsh vocals ever tracked and you get a stellar listen regardless of how entrenched in death metal you may be.
Another one of those tapes where probably not even the band knows what's going on. For some reason both songs start with ambient intros, have occasional chord shapes that seem to come from 60s/70s hard rock, and routinely get hijacked by a toneless female vocal drone that forces the riffs to follow her around. Yet, in spite of that, it's still oddly listenable and even starts making sense after repeated exposure.
Death is the Crown of All
German experimentalists Incubator booked too much time for the tracking of their second studio album, so half the band hung around afterwards and tossed this together. The album is driven by weirdly bouncy riffage that's on the bleeding edge of the curve for 1992, and the occasional modulated clean guitar part or keyboard passage pushes this into realms uncharted. Like I called out many times for alternate universe versions of melodic death, this could well serve as the blueprint for a similar alternate version of death n' roll.
Take a slightly amorphic doom/death core and sprinkle in some witty lead work with varied harmony to bring out all sorts of moods from the riffs underneath, along with some monolithic clean vocals not unlike what Fear Factory offered a year prior. The way the acoustic intro segues into the first track proper is finger-lickin' good. It's a bit of a pity the guys veered off towards the more electronic realms of S.U.P. and never recaptured the magic they had here.
My favourite demo tape of all time finds this Finnish collective hitting the high point of their craft, seamlessly weaving bizarre time signatures into chunky, groovy riffs held together by brilliantly minimalistic drumming. Don't even get me started on the massive, evolving interludes... or how the band decided to maim each of the tracks beyond recognition when tracking their second full length two years later.
While many bands offer up serpentine structures with a ton of attention to detail, nobody does this quite like Timeghoul. The music feels composed in the most serious meaning of the word, every last transition is ironed out to perfection and makes absolute, unquestionable sense. Add in the fact that the band liberally coats everything in an extraterrestrial vibe and you have a true winner on your hands.
From the Shadows
While From the Shadows may sit firmly in the doom/death realm, there's something off about what's going on here. Is it the harsh guitar tone, that makes every tritone rip like a fierce transistor razor? Or the oddball plodding riffs and song structures that make the tritones show up in the first place? Your guess is as good as mine. Years of repeated exposure to the album haven't revealed all its mysteries.
Talk about an accidental masterpiece! Forgotten Sunrise feels like chunks of wet plaster haphazardly held by chewing gum that somehow come together to form a smasher of an album. Opening the record up with rolling slap bass triplets, or having an acoustic guitar duel a distorted complement within the same riff, or the constantly uneven drumming, none of this should logically work. Yet it defies everything and results in a bizarrely mesmerising listen.
First & Magical
The godfathers of a ridiculous chunk of Finnish metal first introduced grind to the country and then casually invented death n' roll before veering off towards more casual rock realms. This is the pinnacle of their death n' roll era, and as always they're way ahead of the pack, seamlessly weaving in the occasional burst of ruthless grind aggression or whatever else they feel like to maximum benefit.