Death Metal Underground’s Best Albums of 2015

It took some time, but despite the deluge of content constantly bombarding us and aspiring metal fans worldwide, we’ve been able to reach some level of consensus on 2015’s worthwhile metal music. Not to say that we’re in perfect harmony (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that there’s some room for dissonance in our musical language), but the hope is, like what our recent reinspection of 2013 revealed, that some of this material remains interesting for more than the year it was released.


 

Album of the Year
Kaeck
Stormkult

A wrathful reminder of what war metal should have been: a melodically-structured, chromatic holocaust to the god of this world. Jan Kruitwagen’s leads awe listeners and are optimally placed to hold attention just as each rhythm riff runs its course. An impenetrable mix rewards repeated listening to an album that may surpass Kruitwagen’s work on Sammath’s Godless Arrogance. March to Kaeck’s martial heartbeat or revel in shit.

Reviews:

 

Recommended Albums

 

Desecresy
Stoic Death

Bolt Thrower meets ritualistic black metal. Rather than cathartic bending into climactic oriental leads, Desecresy diffuse tension by methodically varying into bizarre melodies with carefully placed, otherworldly leads to a steady metronome.
Mid-paced riffing in the style of Bolt Thrower builds tension with melody and drifts off into space with variations and well placed leads. Where Bolt Thrower themselves shoot a rifle at the ballon using rhythmic change to introduce another riff or dramatically bending the riff into a climactic, oriental short solo, Desecresy insert ritualistic blackened leads for dramatic contrast with the rhythmic, power chord riffing.

Review and Interview:

 

Tau Cross
Tau Cross

Rob Miller returns from blacksmithing to his previous metallic occupation with an album of catchy post-punk in Motorhead and Metallica song formats. Thankfully free of the Godsmack and other MTV influences present on Amebix’s swansong.

Review:

 

Worthwhile releases

 

Cóndor
Duin

An effective album of mid-paced death and heavy metal riffing. There is no psychedelic rock pretending to be Black Sabbath “doom” here. Highly structured; the opposite of the random tossed riff salads of most modern metal. This band takes an approach more like that of classical guitarists toward melding death metal with progressive rock, blues, folk and other influences: it mixes them in serially and adopts them within the style, rather than hybridizing the two styles.

In other words, most bands that try to sound like progressive death metal try to act like a progressive rock band playing death metal, or a death metal band playing progressive rock. Cóndor takes an approach more like that of musicians in the past, which is to adopt other voices within its style, so that it creates essentially the same material but works in passages that show the influence of other thought.

Reviews and Interview:

 

Morpheus Descends
From Blackened Crypts

This vinyl 7” single features two new, well constructed death metal songs from one of from one of the few truly underrated bands in the genre. Those foresighted enough to purchase the identically-titled CD boxed set version received the band’s entire catalog in one of the rare remasters that sounds better than the original releases.

Interviews:

 

Motorhead
Bad Magic

One last Motorhead album of mostly Motorhead songs. Nothing “new” is introduced for those in the non-metal audience who disdain metal and wish to feel intellectually superior to the common headbanger. The final work from a relentless machine of a band.

Review:

 

Reissues

 

Grotesque
In the Embrace of Evil
Immolation
Dawn of Possession (Listenable Records)
Order From Chaos
Frozen in Steel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Carbonized
For the Security
Sammath
Strijd
Arghoslent
Arsenal of Glory and Galloping Through the Battle Ruins (Drakkar productions)
Blasphemy
Fallen Angel of Doom (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Gorguts
Obscura

 

Those Left Behind
Zom
Flesh Assimilation

Crusty death metal of the better than braindead Benediction but worse than Cancer category.

Satan
Atom by Atom

I’ve possibly heard too much but Hanger 18. I know too much. Although not as degradingly vulgar as Surgical Steel, Atom by Atom results in a pretty tacky affair. Vocals are as emotional as in the first album, except that in here they seem even more disconnected from the music as the music veers into some sort of progressive speed metal akin to Helstar’s. (Editor’s note: I liked it, but David Rosales was critical)

Sarpanitum
Blessed Be My Brothers

The band shows promise with their Unique Leader-style rhythmic riffing and soaring heavy metal leads. While being above par for technical deaf metal, aping a different one of your heroes every few verses doesn’t make for particularly enjoyable repeated listening.

House of Atreus
The Spear and the Ichor that Follows

Fredrik Nordstrom’s Arghoslent.

Denner/Sherman
Satan’s Tomb

Technical power metal carnival music.

Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls

Nobody is allowed to edit themselves or turn on their bullshit filters in Steve Harris’s band anymore (Read a full review here).

Kjeld
Skym

Kvist meets the randomness of metalcore. Indistinct riffing and songwriting mix with pointless shoutout verses to past greats that makes listeners wonder why they aren’t just playing Sodom and Mayhem in the first place.

Malthusian
Below the Hengiform

Where are the riffs?

Throaat
Black Speed

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Ares Kingdom
The Unburiable Dead

The band has no need to repeat half the song just so the guitarist can get over his refractory period and play another solo. This is also an extremely distracted riff salad in which the individual riffs can be brought in from sources as different as galloping power metal to thrashy death metal to alternative nu and groove “metal”. This is headbang-core for beer metallers and other social metalheads. This recording received two reviews in 2015.

Obsequaie
Aria of Vernal Tombs

A collection of interesting renaissance faire riffs written into songs that quickly wear out their welcome as metal, becoming RPG background music.

Sarcasm
Burial Dimensions

A few strong songs on a demo do not warrant a two CD set of Swedish death with limpid keyboards anticipating the steps black metal took towards mainstream goth rock in the late nineties.

Mgla
Exercises in Futility

This is the type of black metal as repetitive rock music that ignorant hipsters will praise as “ritualistic”. The album’s title sums the quality of its musical content: futile. (Editor’s note: I wanted to give this album a chance. It didn’t age well.)

Horrendous
Anareta

Gothenburg cheese and Meshuggah licks are less appetizing than a lead-laced Mexican lollipop.

Cruciamentum
Charnel Passages

Grave Miasma returns. This time with 1993’s atmosphere.

Crypt Sermon
Out of the Garden

Candlemass meets Soundgarden.

Vorum
Current Mouth

Every Teutonic speed metal band gone Voltron.

Exhumation
Opus Death

Solid underground metal in the spirit of Sarcofago that is perfectly well-written but does not amount to more than the sum of its parts; does not conjure up any long-lasting message.

27 Comments

Arghoslent’s Arsenal of Glory and Galloping Through the Battle Ruins reissued

galloping through the battle ruins

Article by Daniel Maarat

Arghoslent’s  Arsenal of Glory demo and their first album, Galloping Through the Battle Ruins have been repressed on CD and made available for lossless digital download on Bandcamp by French underground metal label Drakkar Productions. The original mastering is intact with no signs of excessive dynamic range compression. While lacking lacking the overt pop rock influence of the Gothenburg scene, Arghoslent’s catchy songs and riffs were heavily influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and classic speed metal bands Mercyful Fate and Running Wild. A new generation of headbangers may now easily purchase the prime material of this politically incorrect melodic death metal band in spite of the Kim Kelly, No Clean Singing, and MetalSucks social justice “metal” gestapo.

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Pureblood Albums – A 2013 Recap

office-space-machine-beating

Article by David Rosales

As another year ends and a new one begins, many “best of” lists pop up here and there, among them our own here at DMU. While others may be eager to know about what is ever new, we are more interested in what stands the test of time. Today we will look at some albums that were highlighted here as the foremost products of the year 2013, which was a year of renewal, great comebacks, startling discoveries and a general wellspring of inspiration. In the opinion of this writer, 2013 has been the best year for metal in the 21st century.


To start off, we shall pay respects to long-lasting acts with a black metal background, namely Graveland, Summoning and Burzum. While the last has left the metal camp for good, its approach and spirit is still very much enriched by the essence of the deepest metal infused with transcendental values. Summoning is still doing their thing, ever evolving, trying a different permutation of their unique style. Fudali’s project has become the warrior at the frontlines of the strongest nationalism grounded in music that uplifts the heart with an authentic battle feeling (as opposed to those other bands playing funny-jumpy rock and acting all “dangerous”).

burzum-sol_austan_mani_vestan

Sôl austan, Mâni vestan is an ambient affair that uses short loops which revolve around clear themes in each track. The approach is a little formulaic, thereby limiting the experience with a feeling of repetition. However, as with many good works of art, this self-imposed canalization serves to speed the result in a direction. As with a lot of Burzum’s work, this is a concept album that must be listened to as a whole. When this is followed and one stops looking for novelty and instead concentrates on the details that bring variation within the familiar landscape, the somewhat arduous experience brings great rewards once the summit is reached and the journey is taken more than once.

summoning-old_mornings_dawn

Something similar can be said of the slightly pop-minded Old Mornings Dawn. This effort by Summoning certainly lacks the density of their masterpiece, Dol Guldur, but is no less effective, although perhaps shallow. But what isn’t shallow when compared to that masterpiece? As with every Summoning album, Old Mornings Dawn has a very separate personality, and in this case, it is one of heroism, light, regeneration and hope. Something that will never leave the band’s trademark sound is the deep feeling of melancholy and longing for ruins.

Thunderbolts_front2013_

Graveland materializes in Thunderbolts of the Gods one of their most warlike efforts to date in a smooth trajectory that has gone from rough-pagan to long-winded and epic to heroic war music. What raises this offering above others in Fudali’s current trend is the awesome bringing forth of destructive energies mustered in the imposing drumwork. Gone are the clumsy rhythms of Cold Winter Blades and the redneckish tone of the (nonetheless great) album Following the Voice of Blood. This is the technically polished and spirit-infused summit of this face of Graveland.

black_sabbath-13

One of the most deserving releases of 2013 was Black Sabbath’s 13. More expectations could not have been placed on anyone else. Yet the godfathers of metal delivered like the monarchs they are: with original style, enviable grace, magnificent strength and latent power. Along with the last three albums just mentioned, this album shows itself timeless in the present metal landscape. It encompasses all that it is metal, and brings it back to its origin. This is an absolute grower which will age like the finest wine and is, in my opinion, the album of the year of 2013.

profanatica-thy_kingdom_cum

In 2013, Profanatica finally achieved amazing distinction with Thy Kingdom Cum, which can be considered the fully developed potential of what Ledney presented in the thoroughly enjoyable Dethrone the Son of God under the Havohej moniker. To say this is the natural outcome of Profanatica’s past work is as true as it is misleading in its implications. This is not just a continuation of what the band was doing before, but a deliberate step, a clear decision in the clear change in texture quality that means the world in such minimalist music where a simple shift in technique or modal approach defines most of the character of the music.

condor-nadia

Cóndor’s Nadia was probably the hidden pearl of the year. Never mind the metaphor of the “diamond in the rough”, there is nothing rough about this. It is polished, but it is hidden. The shy face of this beautiful lady is covered by a veil that turns away the unworthy, the profane! This is immortal metal artwork which to uninitiated eyes and ears seems but like the simple, perhaps even amateur, collection of Sabbathian cliches and tremolo excuses of an unexperienced band. The knowledgeable and contemplating metal thinker recognizes the Platonic forms under the disfigured shapes.

imprecation-shirt-satanae_tenebris_infinita

Imprecation’s Satanae Tenebris Infinita and Blood Dawn by Warmaster draw our attention to the strong presence of a more humble but profoundly (though not obviously) memorable album and EP. These will stand the chance of time, but will not necessarily remain strong in the mind of a listener in a way that he feels compelled to come back to them often.

von-dark_gods_seven_billion_slaves

Dark Gods, Seven Billion Slaves by VON seemed more enticing at the time. It’s definitely a solid release, but it is however a very thinly populated album with more airtime than content. Whatever content it has is also not particularly engaging. The enjoyability of this one is a much more subjective affair and like a soundtrack is more dependent on extra-musical input from the listener’s imagination.

argus-beyond_the_martyrs

As delightful as the three heavy metal albums Argus Beyond The Martyrs, Blitzkrieg Back From Hell and Satan are, the intrinsic qualities of their selected subgenres makes them a difficult candidate for long-lasting and profound impact. That is not to say they have no lasting value. If anything, these are albums one can come back a thousand times and perhaps they will not grow that much, but they will never truly grow old.

headless_ritual_large

Autopsy’s Headless Ritual is one of the strongest yet most understated albums of the year. The extremely rough character of the music may contribute to how it carelessly it can be left behind. Fans of brutal music will find it little different from the rest and will quickly forget it. Fans of wider expressions and deeper thoughts will pass it by with little interest. Such is the tragedy of this very respectable album.

master-the_witchhunt

A few stragglers in this group; Master’s The Witchhunt, Centurian’s Contra Rationem, Derogatory’s Above All Else, and Rudra’s RTA proved to be more impact and potential than manifest presence. These will remain fun and quaint for a very occasional listen, perhaps even a sort of throwback feeling, but lacking the long-lasting impact of others in this list.

empyrium-into_the_pantheon-cover

A special mention is deserved by Into the Pantheon, the essential synthesis of Empyrium, being their most revealing, powerful and clear release. While not outwardly metal, this live recording everything that is to be metal at the level of character and spirit. As such it is the perfect closing note for this recapitulation and reevaluation of past selections.

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Master to release An Epiphany of Hate

master_epiphany

It’s hard to browse DMU without finding at least one reference to Master’s influence (and more generally Paul Speckmann’s projects) on death metal. DMU’s ability to follow Master’s evolution has generally been better than my own, but I’m hoping that their upcoming albums will change that. An Epiphany of Hate will release on January 29th, 2016, presumably making it a superior purchase to other metal albums releasing that day, like Dream Theater‘s latest. Without any known teaser material out, I’d guess this album will follow up on the style of Master’s previous full length (The Witchhunt), but regardless of substyle this will be one to keep an eye on.

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Aborted to release Termination Redux in 2016

termination redux

I hear that Aborted is flat. I don’t know if it’s true, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that installment of Sadistic Metal Reviews was correct about the band. No matter how flat Aborted is, though, they do seem to be one of the more commercially successful death metal bands as of late, and their commercial legacy continues with the Termination Redux EP. This EP will release on January 8th, 2016 in a vinyl pressing, and will make its way to digital retailers a week later. There’s no sign of an upcoming full length album to follow this EP, but Aborted will follow this up by touring Europe with Kataklysm and Septicflesh.

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Behemoth to enter the studio in 2016

Behemoth-EP

Nergal of Behemoth recently conducted an interview with Rock Sverige in which he revealed his plans for the band and other musical endeavors. So far, a new album from Behemoth isn’t confirmed, but Nergal claimed that the band would enter the studio in 2016 and that he thought “…it would be really smart and good to have a new album out in 2017”. He also mentioned some side projects outside of metal and an interest in the works of David Bowie. Needless to say, if the band releases further confirmation for a release, it’ll probably go on our radar. Behemoth has apparently sold enough albums to live quite comfortably, and that’ll probably continue for many years.

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Tranquillizer – Des Endes Anfang (2015)

Tranquilizer-Des-Endes-Anfang

Sold to us by a promo company as “melodic” death/black metal, Des Endes Anfang by Tranquillizer (sic) is an ungainly fusion of In Flames type melodeath, Pantera flavored brocore grooves, and maybe a slight hint of extreme metal writing at times… by mistake. It occasionally amuses me to see a long-abandoned style of pop metal get some attention after years of neglect, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this album is simply terrible. It’s so bad that I’ve decided to explicitly label it a bad album, in spite of my tendency to pass off most of the review subjects here at DMU as mediocre (medio-core?) and forgettable.

The songwriting here, admittedly, is only weak in a pedestrian fashion. If you were to strip away all the references to past forms of mainstream metal, you’d end up with just another set of random, generic metal riffs like so many albums before this; nothing actually worth discussing. To be fair, Tranquillizer’s “varied” influences give them a wide set of material to pull upon, similar to something like Children of Bodom‘s latest. I Worship Chaos is actually a decent comparison; Tranquillizer doesn’t have the neoclassical backing that helped contribute to that band’s popularity, but they do replace it with slightly more varied (albeit stupid sounding) vocals. In this reviewer’s opinion, that’s not a great trade, but it’s not like either point of comparison has any real merit.

While the substrate of this band is hollow at best, most of what I find contemptible in Des Endes Anfang is its immediately apparent, surface level stupidity. A clean, dry, sterile production allows the panderingly simplistic rhythms of this album to burst forth, as well as a dual vocal system of generic shrieks and vomited grunts. For our purposes, it should suffice to say that this is, at best, a modern rehash of older substyles. You could make the case that none of this is innately bad, despite its similarities to previous bad metal albums, but even if you did, it seems apparent that Tranquillizer doesn’t have the musical knowledge or aptitude to make this album come off as more than half-hearted worship of a warmed over god. Not that I should be raising our old whipping posts to the level of divinity, but the analogy is sound, and Des Endes Anfang isn’t exactly worthy of more precise flogging.

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Fleshgod Apocalypse releases first single from King

Today sees the release of “The Fool”, which is definitely the first single from Fleshgod Apocalypse’s upcoming King, and apparently the first time they’ve ever released a promotional single. It certainly seems to cast the band’s music in a poppier light than you’d expect from the rest of the marketing material; consonant orchestral sections and generic melodeath progressions alternate in rapid succession with occasional clean choruses making for an especially basic experience. It seems as if Fleshgod Apocalypse’s modus operandi is to shock and awe potential customers with the novelty of their sound and the clear technical and organizational aptitude that it takes to perform it. If you end up converted and purchase the entire album (which you should be able to starting on February 5th, 2016), don’t be surprised if you tire of it after only a few tracks.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Dark Symphonies Special

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Many lost “gems” have been reissued to capture undiscerning millennial money. Most never found a market as they weren’t up to par. The Death Metal Underground hopes that readers were not gifted any of these on the Unconquered Sun’s birthday.

hydra vein
Hydra Vein – Rather Death than False of Faith (1988)
Raining blood, from a lacerated sky! What? This isn’t Slayer. What the hell is this? Did Tom Araya have too much to drink? Wait this idiot’s British and doing drunken Motorhead karaoke and Kerry King air guitar solos at the pub. The cover looks like a ten year old’s Clash of the Titans fan art. This album is a fifteen year old’s Slayer fan art. Maybe if I drink half a bottle of whiskey my  brain will think Hydra Vein is actually Slayer. I could just turn it off and play Slayer.

morpheus son of hypnos
Morpheus – Son of Hypnos (1993)
Morpheus (no relation to Morpheus Descends) was an early nineties musical project put together by four residents of a Stockholm group home. The vocalist sounded like Sylvester Stallone imitating Glenn Benton, the guitarists idolized the Hoffmans, and everyone attempted to cover Kreator. During the recording sessions, the band members expressed situational homosexual behavior by prostate massaging one another with their genitalia. The orgasmic screams of these disturbed sodomites echoed jungle fowl being rended by monkeys. Son of Hypnos makes for an amusing pornographic soundtrack.

bloodstone
Bloodstone – Hour of the Gate (1996)
Hour of the Gate was produced by Tomas Skogsberg and Fred Estby at Sunlight Studios. I hit play and instead of crusty Swedeath my ears hear Incantation’s “Profanation” breaking down into Necrophobic riffing. Then Gothenburg leads and more Profanation. That lick’s from Megadeth. How many salads were tossed here? The shit-buttered anus of death metal was licked right well and clean. I need to get a drink. I blacked out listening to this turkey. This CD was not repressed as history wanted to black it out too.

sacrifical - forever entangled

Sacrificial – Forever Entangled (1993)
The sound of groove riffs ‘cross the glade,
Heshers cover your ears in horror.
This death trash is rather staid
Chugging along into the gutter.

Sacrificial, Sacrificial
Pantera meets Destruction
Sacrificial, Sacrificial
What a horrible production

Vocals are just way too loud.
Matti Karki would not be very proud.
Many metal songs are raped.
Their holes torn apart and gaped.

Sacrificial, Sacrificial,
Watched Blackadder the Third.
Sacrificial, Sacrificial
Another reissued turd.

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Asphyx working on a new studio album

Martin van Drunen may be out of Hail of Bullets, but he still apparently has time to dedicate to Asphyx. After releasing a demo compilation on compact cassette earlier this year (Embrace the Death) and touring throughout South America (see the silly attached video), the band is now working on a new studio album. The band’s Facebook page claims the band will spend January 2016 working on the new album’s material, and furthermore that this will be their first album to feature Stefan ‘Tormentor’ Hueskens on percussion. No official release date has been set yet, and the band’s previous album (Deathhammer) didn’t go over well on the DMU forums back in its day, but that this upcoming album is planned is at least relevant to our interests.

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