Best Death Metal of 2021

As the socialized world of love and trust winds down in revealing its own incompetence and corruption, we turn toward the dead genres of underground metal, hailing the few who carry on a message no one understands for the sake of speaking clarity into the howling void of sense that is human activity.

Fortunately, among all of the bean-counters and latecomers, a few works of vital importance stand out and give us a decent chance at having a few satisfying listens in the age of all the illusions crashing down around us.

Nuclear Revenge – Dawn of the Primitive Age

Imagine that someone went back to that brief period of time when music like Merciless, Devastation, and Sarcofago hovered between speed metal and the underground metal to come, and then approached it with the high-intensity styles of war metal and black metal.

SolarCrypt – Rot in the Multidimensional Sewer

SolarCrypt sees no need to “innovate,” and this forces songs to develop internally instead of screwing around with style, instrumentation, and production. Expect lots of riffs in an interesting order that sometimes recurses to reintroduce ideas in a new context, and a steadily building mood of oppressive melancholic aggression, even if through simple power chord phrases.

Flesh Pit – Monolith of Flesh

Showing influence from later Immolation blended with early thunderous Florida death metal, this band attempts to reinvent a genre by going back to its roots and carrying forward instead of changing paths. Flesh Pit know how to bring songs to a point of focus on the clash of their themes and from that, to bring out a triumphant synthesis that allows the initial theme to shine forth afterward in a new context.

Death Reich – Death Camp

Death Reich brings enough grindcore, black metal, and death metal riffcraft into war metal to liberate it from the tedium of too many thudding lower-five-frets chromatic riffs, but keeps the uptempo intensity and use of a simple theme to organize all of its riffs and drive toward a satisfying conclusion.

Excruciation – Repent, Sinners!

Swiss depressive onslaught Excruciation work funeral doom pacing and grindcore riffing to the doom-death genre, removing excess to leave a plain and sub-lingual mood of futile antagonism and existential anomie. This uses slow riffs to build a mood only to tear it down and restart it, each time wearing away the outer soul like erosion so that the inner motivation can celebrate despair, destruction, and eventually, rebirth.

Pharmacist – Carnal Pollution

Pharmacist comes more from the school of a technical version of later Carcass that integrates the heavy percussive aspects of mid-1990s death metal. Each song approaches its development strategically, with earlier riffs having an introductory feel and riffs in the middle focused on cultivating momentum, while later riffs expound on the contradictions between the chain so far, leading to a collision and decay. Songs chain together riffs in pairs, then rotate through these, working outward toward the earlier riffs after the halfway point.

Imperishable – Deathspawn

Imperishable begin songs with tightly-socketed riffs that correspond directly to each other, then build up to melodic riffs that are equal parts Iron Maiden and classic death metal, adding an air of mystery and a shifting ambience of emotion to their songs. Riff patterns both deconstruct and augment themselves with swelling melodic riffs at the same time percussion slows, creating a space for atmosphere that complements the initial energy and builds on its inertia in the style the Swedes perfected.

White Nights – Solanaceae

Punk-style repetitive strum power chord riffs guide industrial-like spacious percussion frameworks, with keyboards and lead guitars injecting melody periodically, while vocals provide less of a rhythmic role than a textural one. Take stoner doom, add in Sisters of Mercy and Killing Joke, then modulate it with small amounts of black metal, shoegaze, and atmospheric punk music and you get a spacy style that reduces focus on vocals to let guitars dominate but aims for ambience more than “message.”

Sépulcre – Ascent Through Morbid Transcendence

In the vein of early Demigod and Sinister, this music adores a good brutal and primitive riff to bludgeon us, then extending the idea of that riff into theme and ultimately massaging it into melody. This vertiginous tactic causes a suspension of disbelief, and we drop into a world of similar rhythms and tempi but varied expression.

Pazuzu – Oath of Unholy Sacrilege

Pazuzu alternates between the time-honored language of death metal and grindcore riffing and its own vocabulary of elaborate but not predictable architectures, sort of like the ruins of an ancient civilization draped in the vines, moss, and foliage of the forest swallowing them from without. Frequently the band deviates unpredictably from its main riff pairs in each song, venturing down dark pathways in which a subconscious order hints at itself rather than gesturing clear tokens, producing a wonderfully ambiguous if sometimes uneven experience.

Putrid Offal – Premature Necropsy: the Carnage Continues

Putrid Offal makes grindcore which leans toward the tremolo strum more than the slam, and therefore whips up a powerful inertia which it mutates to develop each song. Crepitant vocals, heavy distortion, and hardcore-influenced riffs round out the package. This wrests expression from a flood of chromatic riffs that signal contrary motion, bring out conflict, and sculpt a structure out of a few contorted power chords played like a puzzle in different formations.

Biosphere – Angel’s Flight

At the core of this Biosphere utilizes its most powerful tool, namely the unnervingly incomplete melodies that gesture at something lost or unfound, creating a profound sense of displacement and mortality. Sampled classical riffs and longer melodies elaborating on previous themes add layers to this central pulsing ambiguous and seductive atmosphere.

Grandeur – Aurea Aetas

Grandeur builds songs around melodic riffs over constant and featureless drumming, but sandwiches those between more traditional heavy metal riffing adapted to black metal modalities and use of drone. This band explores lengthier melodies and uptempo oi/punk inspired choruses, but keeps a sense of the darkness, mystery, and most of all sense of nocturnal possibility and untapped potential of existence that kept black metal multi-dimensional.

Hasufel – Exaltation

Hasufel present us an aesthetic experience that is its own message or absence thereof, more of an emotional tuning in which thought can develop within the listener. The mood veers away from somber into more of a meditative appreciation for the aesthetics of decay and renewal. This presents atmospheric industrial music that drives itself with sound samples and gently intermingling keyboard riffs at a glacial pace, perfect for creating an enduring mood but perhaps not the jarring expressions that metal refines.

Album of the Year:
Kaeck – Het Zwarte Dictaat

In its blend of war metal, doom-death, and black metal, Kaeck runs the gamut of tempi and rhythms over the course of this album, transitioning from the primitive to the almost reverentially mood-driven. With use of precise riffs, this album creates atmosphere in the classic underground metal style that contrasts loping hypnotic riffs with bursts of fury, allowing the song to emerge from a smoldering inner conflict like a car shooting out of a darkened tunnel into the light, looking for clarity within a shifting landscape of ambiguity and violence.

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34 thoughts on “Best Death Metal of 2021”



    1. Please, no more topics about The Irish.

      1. Borzoi to Men says:

        What are your thoughts on Boys 2 Men?

        1. Sounds a lot like Ulver.

  2. Melissa Moore's Daily Dilation says:

    TFW “Proscriptor McGovern’s Tranny Bashing Apsu Extravaganza” is left out. Whose side are you on Brett? AND WHERE’S THE NWN TRANNY RAPIST WHEN WE TRULY NEED HIM??

    1. A nobody says:

      Sadly, he died from HIV complications


      1. These transsexuals seem to be committing suicide faster than we can remember their deadnames.

  3. tiny midget says:

    Hey Brett so Wombbath didn’t cut it into this best of list ?

    That’s weird.

    1. NWN TRANNY RAPIST says:

      No one cares about Wombbath…..

    2. Lots of things didn’t, some deserved and some undeserved. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not here just to defecate profligately on bad music, but to hold up the stuff that I did find. It’s hard to catch it all, since there’s a flood of metal and almost all of it sucks the ass of Christ.

  4. Serenade says:

    So no “Burzum sha Ghash” I see… not into LEADER’s 88 blackened ultra-black metal from the basements bunkers?

    1. Until far-Rightcore starts making music as good as Skrewdriver, Graveland, Burzum, and Absurd again, I’m just going to wait it out.

      1. T Malm says:

        It might mean I’m gay but I liked Xurious.

        1. Me too. It’s solidly spirited music with a good sense of melody, even if kept relatively restrained.

          1. LGBT Ally says:

            “Me too”, thanks for coming out brett

        2. Also, it’s OK to be gay.

          I don’t give a shit about personal choices. People are different and trying to force them to be the same is insane-retarded.

          I favor eugenics, or removing the retarded, criminal, perverse, insane, promiscuous, and incompetent, but that’s for civilization perpetuation.

          What you do in your bedroom should be private, if you keep it private. That includes whatever you’ve been doing with that Vietnamese spin-fuck chair and the 55 gal barrel of duck lard next to it.

          1. Ryan says:

            The slippery slope brah.

          2. Beyond parody says:

            But its their choice to be retarded, criminal, perverse, insane, promiscuous, and incompetent.

            1. No, I don’t think so. People are as they are born. Some are born to sweet delight, and some to the endless night, with many different variations.

              1. Free Will(y) says:

                Can’t just aloofly shove two contradictory concepts into a single reply like that.

    2. NoJoggerZone says:

      Everything from this record label sucks and sounds the same and about as generic as it gets, yet keeps being hailed as revolutionary and deep. Am I missing something? Do I need to listen from within an African prostitute’s anus for optimal acoustics while huffing jenkem? Phantom, Sewer, this shit…they’re all the same chord progressions and crap production…

      1. I fucken love Jenkem

        “The Greater Pointless Anti-Semitism Theory”

        Given time, the probability that any thread will devolve into a debate about gassing the Jews becomes one.

      2. T Malm says:

        This stuff always sounds to me like it’s aping Ildjarn, but whereas he seemed to be expressing something that couldn’t be put any other way, Phantom, etc. are using the style and production to make a simple statement that’s been made a million times before and the musical structure isn’t necessarily related.

  5. Fanboy says:

    I was afraid we would never see a DMU best of the year again, now you need to bring SMR back

    1. The problem with SMR is too many targets, and they’re all doing the same thing. It’s easier to say “I shot ten thousand Cherokees or other Mongols, but you don’t need to read about them here because they were just third world NPCs from failed civilizations trying to attack one failing slightly slower.”

      1. Brown Oyster Cult says:

        I was a big fan of SMR, if only for the counterweight it presented against the mass appeal marketing of popular albums. Occasionally, it offered an insightful dissenting opinion against the shilling. Most of the time, it was good for a laugh.

        Between and Voices From The Darkside, there isn’t much left for any reasonably insight into the genre anymore.

        1. With a few exceptions, the genre died back in 1994. We carry on for the exceptions, mainly because if they got some focus, the quality of the genre would improve. It’s still too trendy, which makes all sorts of hipsters, vloggers, and influencers join in to try to be “part of something big, man.”

      2. AAAAARGH! Bloody 2-handed Chainaxe Blow says:

        I liked the direction SMR was going with destroying cult favorites in the mainstream metal and underground audiences

        There were so many metal albums that are generally praised by metal and underground audiences, that I could never get into, even though they were hailed as one of the “greats”. These articles’ analysis hit the nail on the head on why these albums never stayed long in my music rotation, other than I just thought they were boring.

        1. I agree. I think the best role of SMR is to take down falsely-praised bands, not new bands. Most people have never encountered the idea that Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, and Krallice among other bands are merely inferior crowd-friendly imitations of something better.

  6. sedsu says:

    Where is the new Bode Preto album?

  7. Blackcat says:

    @Brett – I would have added Necromantia’s “To the Depths We Descend,” and Mefitis’ “Offscourings” to this list.

  8. Charlie H says:

    Considering how highly praised Emberdawn was around here, I am surprised Mefitis’ Offscourings got so little notice.

    1. Sam says:

      Offscourings is extremely overated

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