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.

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.

RIP Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015)

lemmy
Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister of Motörhead (and formerly Hawkwind) passed away today. According to Motörhead’s Facebook page, Lemmy died after “…a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer”; one that he had only found out about two days before his death. More information may be released in coming days. This death follows the recent death of Phil Taylor and puts a unfortunate note onto the band’s 40th anniversary. It is worth noting that Motörhead remained strong up to the very end, touring despite instances of bandmember illness and even releasing a quality studio album a few months ago.

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Dark Symphonies Special

top

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.

Upcoming tours – Venom Inc, Necrophagia

VENOM-663x1024

According to the folks at Earsplit PR, the “Prime Evil” lineup of Venom is joining Necrophagia on a tour of the United States this January. This tour was initially planned for fall of 2015, but was apparently postponed. Venom Inc. (as the lineup is called) is to be distinguished from the current official line up of the band, which revolves primarily around Conrad “Cronos” Lant and spends its days touring and releasing the occasional forgettable album. Band bashing aside, if you’ve ever felt the need to see one of Venom’s more polished and mainstream lineups touring with god knows what Necrophagia is up to (outside of promoting 2014’s WhiteWorm Cathedral), then you’re a far more specifics driven person than I am.

Upcoming release: Voivod – Post Society EP (2016)

voivodpostsocietyep

We got a hint of Voivod’s upcoming plans a while back. Post Society may or may not be building up to Voivod’s next full length, but it still might be of value to fans of the band; it will release on February 26th. Besides compiling the tracks Voivod released as part of their recent splits with At the Gates and Napalm Deaths, this EP will also feature two original tracks and a cover of “Silver Machine” by Hawkwind. At least going by “We Are Connected”, it seems that Voivod is continuing the path set forth by their previous full-length – an accessible mixture of of their signature late ’80s sound with more modern alternative and progressive rock influences.

Frank “Blackfire” Gosdzik releases new solo album

frankblackfirebackonfirecd

It’s technically been out since November 20th, but whatever. Frank “Blackfire” Gosdzik is best known in the metal world for performing with Sodom and Kreator – both of which managed to exert a major influence on death and black metal despite not technically belonging to those genres. His tenures with each seem to have pushed both bands into periods of improved musical technique and more conventional songwriting (Agent Orange is to In The Sign of Evil as Coma of Souls is to Pleasure to Kill). Since then, we haven’t heard much from him until now. Interestingly enough, the samples provided for Back on Fire suggest a simpler approach more reminiscent of the former than the latter.

Megadeth releases music video from Dystopia

I mentioned Megadeth’s upcoming studio album a while back, and Dystopia is still on track to be released some time in 2016. The buildup continues, as Megadeth just released a music video for “The Threat Is Real”, a single that they admittedly pushed out about a month ago. This track reinforces my hypothesis that the upcoming album will be an “adequate facsimile” of previous Megadeth; it’s certainly appropriate given the band’s legacy, although the band would have to bust their collective asses (and brains) to displace their older works from your mind for more than a few months. The actual visual content of the video could be interesting as well, at least if you’re not put off by the odd style of animation employed.

Destroyer 666 unveils new album

d666
The guy who went to Black Flames of Blasphemy VI seems to have liked them – Destroyer 666 is returning with a new studio album after 7 years of inactivity on that front. They’ll presumably continue to be a partial throwback to ’80s first-wave black metal on Wildfire, which is currently set for release on February 26th. The band’s frontman, K.K Warslut commented on the artwork his band has procured for this album, saying that he “…was after something very simple and very metal, being sick to death as I am with pseudo-occultniks dressing everything up in the garb of mysticism.” It’s probably not just him, although the local occultists here at DMU might take issue with that. After this album’s release, the band has a few tour dates lined up in Europe for 2016.

Anthrax sets release date for For All Kings

Anthrax has always been vaguely relevant at best – selling not quite enough albums to be huge, but never really going away and always drawing some amount of media attention. Perhaps it’s lower expectations, but they seem to have aged more gracefully than most of their famous speed metal counterparts in recent years. 2011’s Worship Music must’ve paid the bills for a while, since the delay between that and the upcoming For All Kings is quite lengthy (albeit not as lengthy as the wait between WM and its own predecessor). So far, Anthrax has released the track “Evil Twin” as a single, which makes for an accurate if unnecessary imitation of the band’s past work. Anthrax has also promised that For All Kings will be “heavier” than its predecessor, perhaps due to the presence of Jon Donais from the metalcore band Shadows Fall. I wouldn’t stake any important bets on it, though.