6 Great New Albums to Kick Off Death Metal Season

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Horrendous best new death metal albums

It’s death metal season!

Yeah, I know, it’s always death metal season. Or at least it can be if you want it to be. And why wouldn’t you want it to be? Though admittedly a lot of my favorite metal records this year have either been somewhere along the fringes of heavy music in general (Big|Brave) or just straight-to-the-gut thrashy good times (Drain), with various degrees in between, which is a pretty broad spectrum, admittedly.

But now we’ve reached a part of the year, perhaps influenced by seasonal changes (or the illusion or simply mere suggestion of said changes, anyhow)—as well as what’s undeniably a killer batch of amazing death metal releases—that makes me want to listen exclusively to every variety of death metal: Tampa, Gothenburg, Denver, upstate New York, whatever. If it OUGHs, count me in. (Oh, and now that Tomb Mold is returning? Forget about it.)

The past six weeks have brought a deluge of death metal that’s knocked me on my ass in the best way, comprising a range that spans from raw and brutal to dazzling and progressive. Every color of the death metal rainbow (you’d be surprised at how many gradations of blood and vomit there are—you really would!). This month I pick six of the best new death metal albums to binge listen as we head into a season fit for horror movie marathons and

best new death metal albums Celestial Sanctuary
Church Road

Celestial Sanctuary – Insatiable Thirst for Torment

In this month’s edition of hilarious Bandcamp tags: “Caveman shit.” Which is one of the ways in which Cambridge, UK group Celestial Sanctuary classify themselves. Which is partially apt; to play death metal in general, a band needs to be able to tap into that primitive brutality, that urge to bash away at something with a crude bludgeon shaped somewhat like a turkey leg. But if Celestial Sanctuary manage to capture that overall feeling successfully, they certainly have a lot more to offer on their sophomore album than mere primal grunts and “must destroy!” single-mindedness. The group’s pinch harmonics and guttural growls are bridged by deep and intoxicating grooves on Insatiable Thirst for Torment, and on standout moments such as “Meandering Stream of Foul Fluid” (amazing title!), they crank up the drama and grandeur, only to pull everything back down to earth for a grimy and nasty set of percussive pummel. Yeah, that’s that caveman shit.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best new death metal albums Rannoch

Rannoch – Conflagrations

Another great band from Great Britain, Rannoch mostly forgo their most guttural urges in favor of something more progressive and textural—they are part of the Willowtip roster, after all, which often leans in favor of such forward-thinking permutations of extreme metal. But Conflagrations isn’t death metal in the same way that early Opeth was. The heat and the scorch of death metal at its most volcanic is present throughout the album, not merely an accent but the focal point of the band’s knotty compositions, which merely bend the aesthetic of death metal into less conventional shapes. The group look beyond convention even as their aesthetic remains intact, delivering an experience both visceral and labyrinthine. But when they break into a gallop on standout track “Prism Black,” they make it perfectly clear on which side of the line they fall.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Crypta Shades of Sorrow

Crypta – Shades of Sorrow

How often do you find yourself getting a hook from a death metal song stuck in your head? It happens to me often enough simply because I listen to enough metal that my brain will find something to take hold of and loop around its dark corridors for days on end. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that death metal is catchy per se. Brazil’s Crypta most certainly are, however. The songs on Shades of Sorrow contain the requisite intensity and fury that death metal requires, but this is a band that understands better than most how to translate that into actual melodies. I hesitate to lump them in with bands you might otherwise call “melodeath”—the more streamlined and polished of the bunch. But credit where its due, these songs are close as death metal ever gets to producing something that sounds like a hit. But you needn’t ask whether or not the album rips—it wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

best new releases Outer Heaven

Outer Heaven – Infinite Psychic Depths

Pennsylvania’s Outer Heaven started off strong. The band’s 2018 debut album Realms of Eternal Decay essentially offered everything you could want from old-school, North American death metal, namely a propensity for playing with speed and focus amid atmospheres of dread, decay and impending peril. All of their songs feel like a descent into a monster’s inner sanctum—or perhaps an escape from it—which is more or less always a plus when we’re talking about death metal. Infinite Psychic Depths doesn’t change anything in that regard, but the riffs are sharper, the arrangements even more nimble, and the urgency amplified. Outer Heaven sound tighter, sharper, more powerful—exactly the sort of record you’d put on to, say, I dunno, try and outrun a beast. Queue it up and try and improve your best trial times.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Dead and Dripping
Transcending Obscurity

Dead and Dripping – Blackened Cerebral Rifts

I very nearly chose two albums by bands with “Dripping” in their name this month, because that’s just the kind of genre that death metal is: goopy, glorpy, oozing, disgusting. Which is in part why we love it. Dead and Dripping is the project of New Jersey musician Evan Daniele, whose own take on fetid and festering death metal is coursing with the alien horrors of Demilich and a reverence for all things harsh and vile. At once technically proficient and chaotic, Blackened Cerebral Rifts is the kind of death metal that that real heads in particular have a jones for—the bass slaps might remind you of Atheist, the low-end roar might remind you of Autopsy, and when things go completely bonkers, a little Gorguts too. But more than showcase his influences, which are sprinkled throughout if anything, Daniele simply showcases a perverse joy in taking death metal to its weirdest and murkiest extremes. Enjoy responsibly, and please wash your hands before returning to work.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best new releases Horrendous
Season of Mist

Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium

Horrendous is among the top tier death metal bands in the U.S. in the past decade, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting every move they’ve made since 2015’s incredible Anareta. Which has required a little patience; it’s been five years since 2018’s Idol, but you can’t rush something as brilliant and elaborate as their latest, Ontological Mysterium. Easily the most prog of all their albums, Ontological Mysterium is a stunning showcase of how far the Philly group has progressed in the past decade, wound with labyrinthine rhythmic and melodic creations that feel like a hellbound roller coaster ride from the explosive surge of “Chrysopoeia.” A masterfully crafted and melodically innovative set of epics, Ontological Mysterium is as thrilling as both death metal and progressive metal gets, rife with moments of sheer, righteous pummel (“Neon Leviathan”), menacing mysticism (“Cult of Shaad’oah”), and pure instrumental showmanship (the title track) alike. In a year that’s already delivered a few proper metal-album-of-the-year candidates worth considering, here’s another one to add to the pool.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

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