-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon
Death metal had such a huge year in 2011 that for the first time ever the subgenre has its own category separate from other forms of extreme metal. It goes without saying that death metal isn’t for everyone, but anyone who likes their music as brutal as possible had a lot to love about the past the year.
Asylum Cave opens with what may be the greatest intro to any metal album ever. From the first 30 seconds, it becomes clear that this French band has a great sense of humor and knows how to make some insanely heavy music. Benighted have all but perfected their form of deathgrind, and it’s amazing to listen to incredibly brutal extreme metal that is this fast and heavy without being sloppy. Asylum Cave does start to lose steam near the end, but the first half is some of the best and heaviest music death metal has to offer, and even at its worst it’s still heavy enough to be entertaining. This is hardly a work of high art, but it’s the rare album that can satisfy any metalhead’s lust for brutality.
Fleshgod Apocalypse released a promising debut with Oracles in 2009, an album that combined some solid brutal death metal with light symphonic elements. On Agony, Fleshgod Apocalypse have upped the symphonic parts while still keeping the brutality intact. It’s a very good death metal album at its core, and the more prominent symphonic elements make it more chaotic and even heavier. The thing is, symphonic music is a natural fit with death metal, as the sound is heavily influenced by classical music to begin with. Adding keys, operatic vocal sections, and string instrumentals make sense and fit better than one might expect. The way they’re used is not as powerful as on Septic Flesh’s The Great Mass, a symphonic death metal album released earlier in 2011, but Agony is still great on its own merits and definitely worthy of any death metal fan’s time.
The Sum of All Fossils
Flourishing’s debut album is one the more varied albums in the death metal genre. The band plays with tempo exceptionally well, creating an album that works when fast or slow. There are times when The Sum of All Fossils sounds like sludge metal with blackened growling, but just as often they are play fast and technical death metal with typical vocals for the genre. What remains consistent though is the brutality of the music, which is aided by some strong atmosphere and spot-on lo-fi production. This is a very solid album, and one that can recommended to any fan of extreme metal. If their debut is any indication, Flourishing are definitely a band to watch for in the future.
Kartikeya’s Mahuyuga opens with a short intro that goes from ambient music to death metal to Middle Eastern folk. When the actual songs start, it seems at first like the intro was a tease. The death metal is high quality, certainly, and sounds like a cross between Behemoth and Strapping Young Lad, but 3 minutes into the second track the real genius of Mahayuga starts to show itself. That solid death metal song turns into Mongolian folk with chanted vocals, and the album just gets crazier from there. Kartikeya have very strong Middle Eastern influences, and they put it to great use. There are plenty of pure death metal moments, all of which are great, but much of the music has their oriental influences fused directly into it. The songs here are heavy, unique, and even beautiful at times, and it makes for a very interesting listen. Mahayuga ends with an epic four-part closer that ranks among some of the weirdest and overall best music I’ve heard this year. If you like death metal, oriental metal, or avant-garde music in general, Kartikeya have crafted an album that you should absolutely check out.
Mitochondrion’s Parasignosis has its flaws, but when I look back on the most memorable albums of 2011, it’s hard to ignore this one. The band’s raw blend of atmospheric death metal is sometimes too raw for its own good. It can be like listening to an early black metal album, only with death growls and more technical instrumentation. Parasignosis is completely overwhelming in parts, as the technicality of the instrumentals and the raw production and atmosphere are often at odds. Still, there are parts of the album that make up the rough spots. This is just a ridiculously heavy album, and even while it may take a few listens to absorb all of the different parts, what’s here is unlike anything else I’ve heard in the death metal genre. Parasignosis may be the heaviest album released in 2011, and with the ridiculous amount of great extreme metal albums from the year, that’s no small accomplishment. With its problems, it’s somewhat hard to fully recommend Parasignosis, but it also needs to be done. The highs are just too good and the album is just too heavy for it to be ignored.
Technicality is one aspect of death metal, but it’s far from the only thing that makes the genre appealing. Most technical death metal albums forgo the brutality, and more importantly, the passion that comes from it, in favor of technical wankery. Obscura’s Omnivium is an exception to that rule. Here is some technical death metal with awe-inspiring musicianship, but a great deal of passion to go along with it. Everything here is heavy, and the way that complicated instrumentation works with the varied songwriting is nothing short of brilliant. Obscura take their cues from jazz and progressive metal, and in a way Omnivium feels like a modern update to early Atheist and Cynic albums. It needs a little more variety before it truly belongs in the same category as those, but it’s the closest tech death has gotten in some time. It’s rare and oh so satisfying to hear a death metal album be technically complex while still having great songwriting around it. Parts of it are even melodic, and certainly accessible compared to most other death metal albums. Omnivium is an exceptional release, and absolutely essential for metal fans.
A stunning original debut album, Owl’s self-titled release is one of the best metal albums of 2011. Owl play atmospheric death metal, similar to the popular “blackgaze” or atmospheric black metal that has become popular of late. However, the difference between the black and death metal is key, and a very difficult one to pull off. This is an incredibly dark and raw album, and it’s sometimes hard to believe that the death metal riffs and growls work so well in such a dreary atmospheric setting. The music is technical, epic, and depressing all at once, and while the last track goes on far too long (30 minutes), the first four are near-masterpieces that are unlike anything else in contemporary metal.
The Great Mass
Heavy, brutal, and unapologetically crazy, Septic Flesh’s The Great Mass is one hell of an album. This symphonic death metal masterpiece contains some of the heaviest metal imaginable, and blends it with strong progressive and symphonic elements. There are brutal death vocals and instrumentals, as well as violins, flutes, and some help from the Filmharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Prague. It should be overwhelming, but the way that Septic Flesh build their music is chaotic yet never random. This is the soundtrack to going mad, and the music remains unpredictable throughout. What more is there to say about The Great Mass? This is an incredible tour de force of death metal, and it’s a masterpiece that absolutely must be listened to.
Sonne Adam is a new band with an old sound. Transformation is an impressive traditional death metal album, complete with raw vocals, lo-fi production, and dark and heavy instrumentation. It’s sort of a throwback to early 90’s death metal, but it manages to stand out. Even two decades after this style of death metal surfaced, it’s impressive to hear a death metal band be so heavy, so raw, and so enjoyable. The riffs are slower than in modern death metal, and there’s certainly a case to be made that “slow and heavy” is the way to go. Transformation is certainly for fans of old-school death metal, but with the possible exception of Bloodbath there hasn’t been a band in the last decade who’s re-created this sound in such a powerful way. It’s raw, it’s heavy, and it’s great.
The Destroyers of All
Listening to Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All can be an overwhelming experience. Much like Meshuggah, Gojira, and other all-purpose extreme metal bands, Ulcerate throws just every form of heavy metal into their sound and somehow makes it work. Through the course of each 6+ minute track, Ulcerate plays incredibly technical and brutal metal with elements of death, black, sludge, and thrash mixed in. It’s an all out heavy metal assault, but it’s also the type of music that just begs to be headbanged to. Few albums pull off metal as heavy as this, and for fans of heavy metal The Destroyers of All is a treat.