(We present the first part of a massive multi-part year-end list by Austin Weber. Today’s selections are organized under the heading “Life Metal“.)
I’m not even going to write a winded introduction and re-cap of the year. If anyone reading this hasn’t seen my prior year-end lists here at NCS, I try to bring you an alternative list of some of the best music of the year. Which means I won’t post a lot of releases that you see on other lists. Not because I didn’t dig a lot of them, but because you already know about them and will be seeing a lot of the same names being repeated elsewhere.
In addition to this massive year end list, I also did one at Metal Injection, but my objective for this one is to focus on lesser-known groups and show you more jams from the year that not enough people heard. Just as important, this list is a reflection of releases that I’m likely to want to put on frequently for years to come. Since we all have different listening tastes, I also wanted to provide a big batch of music and let you decide what you enjoy the most.
Quotes that appear below the following records were pulled from my reviews, multi-band articles, and song premieres, and more than 20 are from my posts over at Metal-Injection for releases that I didn’t cover here at NCS. But you’ll also find some new mini write-ups for releases I didn’t get a chance to cover anywhere this year, but loved as well. Some of these are EPs, since good music is not determined by the quantity but by the quality! Also this is an unordered list as far as “ranking” goes. Hope you find some nu jamz!
Hypermass – Clouded Visions
“Hypermass play a unique blend of complex death metal with a strong melodic and thrash influence in its deathly bones. There is also a blackened and jazzy tint to certain parts of their songs as well from time to time. To sum up the many different sounds presented on their debut full-length, Clouded Visions, think of Revocation. If Revocation were to flip their formula and played technical death/thrash instead of technical thrash/death. That is a slight simplification of what’s going on here, but fairly accurate, and not at all a knock against Hypermass.”
Serocs – And When The Sky Was Opened
Do you like mid-era Cryptopsy? Does the idea of being steamrolled over by a tank sound interesting to you? If so, this is your jam. And When The Sky Was Opened is a brilliant effort forged by a multi-national line-up of some of the very best metal musicians around.
Cerebric Turmoil – Neural Net Meltdown
“If you’ve never heard these guys before, they’re like a weird crossbreed between Wormed and Cephalic Carnage — volleying between unreal brutality and quirky lightning fast leads at a moments notice. To sum up what that means, it’s brutal minded death/grind with a hint of slam and jazzy inflections to it. Absolutely mind-obliterating and spastic stuff.”
Zillah – Serpentine Halo
“As for where this falls on genre lines, well it’s a amorphous beast that is a technical feast of elastic and spastic riffing, stuttered and frenzied drum beats, gritty bass lines, and howling shouted growls– but it doesn’t really gel with the typical idea of technical death metal. It definitely embodies the bombastic approach to assaulting your senses common within the genre, though delivering that experience from a much harsher Gorguts type angle, if Gorguts were far noisier and chaotic than they are.”
Sutrah – Effervescence
“Canada has long been recognized as the mecca of all things technical death metal, it’s insane how many of the very best bands in the genre reside in Canada. And not only that, but they continue to have wave after wave of new bands pop up with something fresh to add to their take on tech-death. Very recent upstarts Sutrah from Sudbury,Ontario definitely fit that criteria.”
Repulsive Dissection – Church Of The Five Previous Wounds
“I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of slam oriented brutal death metal, at all. It’s usually about as cookie-cutter in execution as deathcore is. And the reason I say that is not to bash anyone that personally enjoys slam, but merely to point out that the new Repulsive Dissection record is the exception to the rule. Church of the Five Previous Wounds is bizarre unorthodox madness, sort of like a more chaotic take on the kinds of deranged and technical death metal that Malignancy and Origin play. It definitely helps that the slam breaks are sparse, and used to great effect as a force of tension between the relentless racing nature and blasting throttle of their music overall.”
Atlas Entity – Enceladus
“As for where this falls on the tech spectrum, it’s hyper-melodic, with thrashy undertones, and the occasional blackened serpentine twists. It almost sounds like a progressive melodic death metal band put into a tech-death body. This makes for a very interesting listen that’s quite catchy while being incredibly complex.”
Lever Of Archimedes – Triptych Disentanglement
“Triptych Disentanglement is the band’s first release, and in just three songs and a a brief 13 total minutes the band proves themselves to be a technical tour de force in the vein of Archspire and Beneath The Massacre mixed together with a Conducting From The Grave melodic feel and grit at times.”
Sleep Terror – Unihemispheria
“I remember way back when Sleep Terror was a big deal, and the fact that the scene hasn’t seemed to catch on that a new full-length Sleep Terror record called Unihemispheria just dropped is a big deal!”
Gods Of Eden -From The End Of Heaven
Yet another late-entry favorite of mine I didn’t find the time to write about. Gods Of Eden are a progressive death metal band from Australia and From The End Of Heaven is their debut record. The band made a big splash in the metal blogsphere in 2012 with their self-titled EP. Which makes it all the more puzzling to me to see From The End Of Heaven not getting the coverage it deserves. It’s an ambitious record that attempts to meld orchestral overloaded power metal tendencies to technical death metal, cybernetic grooves, and progressive sweeping heights. While it can sometimes feel disjointed, you’ve got to give these guys credit for really going for it. My feeling is that their best release is still ahead of them. But for now, check out From The End Of Heaven and see if you dig it.
Khariot – Esoteric
“Khariot have gleaned many good ideas and influences from groups such as Ulcerate, Gorguts, and Deathspell Omega in spots, yet they transcend mere carbon-copy status. Give it a listen and you’ll agree. In spite of being flooded with things to review, I can’t put this record down.”
Pyrrhon – Growth Without End
“After last year’s outstanding album, The Mother Of Virtues, I had no expectation of hearing new music from Pyrrhon for awhile. Yet here we are a year later and they’ve already churned out an impressive new ep called Growth Without End.”
Epitasis – Decimation Of Gaia
“On Decimation Of Gaia, they stitch together an intriguing mix of the modern hyper-active tech-death sound melded to dissonant black metal chords, brutal slam oriented breaks, and atmospheric entrenched passages. The resulting blend as a whole comes across as quite fresh, mainly due to the compositional prowess of the band than the actual originality of the music on display. But that’s not a knock against the band, as their advanced songwriting skills gives them a considerable edge over many technical death metal bands that aren’t as adept at writing varied and diverse technical music.”
Continuum – The Hypothesis
“Continuum traffic in a highly technical form of death metal, comparable to Deeds Of Flesh, on crack, in space. As well as some influences from The Faceless and Necrophagist. Also, if you were a fan of the guitar and drum style present on the first Son Of Aurelius record, The Farthest Reaches, some sonic elements riff and drum pattern wise pop up on The Hypothesis that fans of that record will love. There are a few things about this record that I believe help put it in a high-tier quality wise than many of their peers. The first and most important of which is the lean just over 30 minute run time of the record, which is actually a plus for this style of near impenetrable full-throttle death metal. The Hypothesis is composed largely of 3 minute or less tracks that offer a succinct experience of death and horror, in doing so they eschew repeating the same parts over and over in favor of cycling through a rapid-fire barrage of new riffs at passages at a moments notice.”
Scalafrea – Opposites In Polarity
I premiered two songs off this here at NCS before it was released, so that should tell you how I feel about it. Hybridized technical/prog. death metal from Colorado.
Gaijin – Gaijin
“While Gaijin consists of only three songs, each of them in just over 4 minutes packs in a bevy of ideas from both older and newer technical death metal acts for a composite vision that’s quite unique. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sweep picking and hyper-blasting focused tech-death though to be clear. Gaijin create music more in line with progressive tech-death icons Atheist, Martyr, and Gorguts. It has a certain old-school feel to it at times, but the non-linear song structures have a clearly modern value to them that balances things out nicely. Beyond Diskord, few bands come to mind for me that are doing anything close to this hybridized style between the original technical death metal crowd and the modern sound with it’s ever more cramped songwriting style that’s developed.”
The Ritual Aura – Laniakea
“To my ears, their colliding mass of many different tech-death influences sounds similar to Decrepit Birth-style progressive melodic death metal mixed with The Faceless, Beyond Creation, and Necrophagist. It’s very pissed off, yet frequently abounding in gorgeous melodies and spidery slithering riffs amidst sci-fi key/synth flourishes and interludes that help lend a sense of balance and space-like texture to their music.”
Acrania – Fearless
“A number of you have certainly heard Elements, the final album by Atheist before they broke up in the ’90s. It was a record on which the band tapped more strongly into their fusion, Latin, and jazz influences. I’m as much a fan of it as the other Atheist releases, but even if you aren’t, imagine that sound Atheist went after on Elements mixed with a mid-’90s to early-2000’s death/thrash alongside a ripping melodic death metal influence.
“The band certainly draw from the native sounds of their home base in Mexico City, which translates into the prominent funk and Latin jazz elements in Fearless that really give the record its head-scratching yet smile-inducing sound.”
Ad Nauseam – Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est
Yet another record I failed to cover even though I really liked it. That probably happened because it’s a super-dense record that takes a lot of listens to fully appreciate. Like Ulcerate and Gorguts? You’ll dig this then.
Pronostic – An Atomic Decision
“If you’re a fan of The Black Dahlia Murder, then you’ll really love this one as An Atomic Decision has some certain sonic parallels with TBDM, and with melodic death metal in general as well. Though the bulk of their music lay more in a sound along the lines of progressive-minded death metal acts The Faceless and Death.”
Sickening Horror – Overflow
“Overflow is a prime example of how easing back on the throttle can create a refreshing experience after blast-beat-overloaded records have started to burn and bore your ears. Sickening Horror have once again delivered a ‘weird’ death metal record that combines the best of the past and present of the genre, conjoined to an almost black-metal usage of dissonant riffing.
“If you’re looking for a different death metal experience, one more like quicksand enveloping you than getting perpetually struck by lightning, then Overflow is a record you need to tune into.”
Exovoid – Psychotic Shift
“On their EP called Psychotic Shift they deliver a soul removing blend of ideas that combines the fury and barreling nature of Cryptopsy, the brutal and shred heavy edge of Dying Fetus, and wrap it up with a proggy bow of Death influences. Psychotic Shift is made up of three songs that twist and turn unpredictably, delivering an interesting form of tech-death I hadn’t heard before.”
AbouT:BlanK – AbouT:BlanK
“Overall, AbouT:BlanK largely falls on the melodic and proggy end of the tech-death spectrum, yet rarely feels like anything I’ve heard before when taken as a whole. There is a nice balance in sound between various styles to keep you interested from song to song and moment to moment.”
Xenosis – Sowing the Seeds of Destruction
“For those unaware, Xenosis are a Connecticut based technical/progressive death metal band and Sowing the Seeds of Destruction is their second album. I’ve really grown to enjoy this release since it sounds pretty unique. More cerebral than evil, this is a prog-focused death metal record.”
Vitiated – Promo 2015
“If you are a fan of Archspire and Beyond Creation, you’ll dig the three songs on Promo 2015 a whole lot. All three songs carry that aggressive and over-the-top feel mixed with a brutal edge that Archspire do so well. Yet all three songs are equally balanced out by a gorgeous melodic and progressive focus that fellow Canadians Beyond Creation are adept at.” Keep an eye on these guys in the future.
Dystrophy – Wretched Host
“Wretched Host is definitely ‘weird death metal’ in the best way possible. It’s frequently dissonantly focused, with obvious nods to Gorguts and Deathspell Omega, yet their is a chunky old-school element to it that helps make this a thing all their own — not to mention how incredible the lead guitar is and how well it’s juxtaposed with the overall creeping and bludgeoning rhythm guitar work.
“I can’t say I’ve really heard a record like this before, though the closest to it would be last year’s The Dismal Ascension by Defilementory that I wrote about at NCS. Like that record, Wretched Hostsuperbly blends a love for old school/brutal death metal with a modern dissonant complexity, and in the process, Dystrophy have created a sub-niche within the avant-death realms as of yet unexplored.”
Archaic Decapitator – The Catherine Wheel
“ …they show that they’ve got the melodic death metal stomp and glory down pat, better than most in fact. But the technical and progressive aspects of their sound are used with purpose to help them ascend the trappings of both styles.”
Kossuth – Mictlan
“For those who missed my prior post, the band has several current/former members of Dawn Of Dementia in their ranks, which is reason alone to check it out. While a sonic comparison to the technical-meets-melodic stylings of Dawn Of Dementia can easily be made, beyond the current/former members’ connection, Kossuth have more of a progressive mindset to their songwriting on Mictlan than the first Dawn Of Dementia EP had.
“There are a lot of different influences and stylistic variety coalescing and converging here. But, when taken as a whole, Mictlan sounds like a mix between the first Son Of Aurelius record, Decrepit Birth, and shades of Spawn Of Possession from time to time, all thrown in a blender with the end result a highly enjoyable and complex sound you’ll want to come back to.”
Escher – The Ground Is Missing
“It’s been very interesting to witness the influence Between The Buried And Me has had on the scene. Because of their eclecticism, few if any have tried to truly copy them, but instead have taken cues from their songwriting style and their ideas about how to make aggressively focused yet complex, progressive-minded metal. Joining the pack of new-school prog metal in this vein are the Raleigh, North Carolina band Escher.”
Defect Designer – Ageing Accelerator
“If you haven’t heard of these guys yet, you really need to. They are in my estimation one of the finest modern death metal acts, combining far too many influences to count into a formula that generates numerous deadly riffs alongside numerous unique, non-repeated segments per song.” Members of Cryptopsy, SepticFlesh, and Diskord play on this record.
Fractal Universe – Boundaries Of Reality
“Their new EP Boundaries Of Reality is a very diverse and interesting take on progressive death metal. It’s fairly groovy, frequently atmospheric, yet always massively heavy and loaded with killer riffs and leads.”
The Abstract – The Abstract
“The Abstract don’t just punish the flesh unto the brink of death, they also weaken the resolve of one’s soul. The Abstract is a feral effort paired with a fierce creativity. This is a bludgeoning you’ll be pleased you endured.”
Radang – Konsorsium Intelegensi
“As for what Radang sound like, it comes across like the mentally deranged offspring of a radioactive marriage between Origin and Deeds Of Flesh. Konsorsium Intelegensi is over-the-top and endlessly frenetic in the best way possible.”
Theory In Practice – Evolving Transhumanism
“Theory In Practice are in many people’s estimations one of the finest progressive-minded technical death metal acts ever to exist. Between the late ’90s and 2002 they put out three highly influential, ahead-of-their-time records. Then the band sort of went poof sometime shortly after releasing 2002’s Colonizing The Sun and have been listed as “on hold” ever since.
“…Well, the wait is finally fucking over, as yesterday the band dropped a new two-song, nine-minute EP called Evolving Transhumanism.”
Hath – Hive
I recently found this album in early November but sadly didn’t find time to cover it this year. Damned impressive death/black metal that strips the flesh from your bones in an instant. Hive rips and tears its way across a murder music highway of death’s design.
Disillusionment – The Grand Illusion
Disillusionment are a technical death metal band from Michigan who I covered recently over at Metal-Injection. These guys have a pretty proggy take on the sound with The Grand Illusion, which clocks in at just over 10 minutes. They’ll have a full-length coming in 2016. Keep an eye on these guys.
Eye Of Minerva – Blackened Kingdom Forged In Flames
“This is balls-to-the-walls technical death metal that hits you like a bad car wreck or stepping on several land mines. Blackened Kingdom Forged In Flame merges the maximum speed, maximum brutality framework of bands like Internal Suffering and Cryptopsy, and melds that to a spastic hyper-technical focus akin to Origin and Cephalic Carnage.
“Every time I put this on I start to envision all the awful and horrific things that it reminds me of like catastrophic train wrecks and endless apocalyptic carnage. Eye Of Minerva do an excellent job at putting a lot of thought and attention into the rhythm guitar-work and riffs in a way totally different than modern technical death metal. While there are flashy guitar leads and laser-fast sweeps throughout, it’s never overdone and always just popping in for a second to up the intensity of the music or used to change gears with.”
Ending Tyranny – Evolution Of Deceit
“It’s important to note that in spite of the obvious Beneath The Massacre influence throughout Evolution Of Deceit, the band does a lot more to craft their own sound than other well known Beneath The Massacre clones such as Hedonistic Exility, Neverending War, and others. Ending Tyranny do this by incorporating razor sharp riffage in lieu of mechanical chugging, and by featuring a melodic emphasis in the lead guitar-work alongside a Necrophagist styled technical flair at times. There is also less emphasis on lengthy breakdowns in their music than Beneath The Massacre has sometimes placed in their songs. ”
Burial In The Sky – Transcendence
“Consider them a fine addition and peer to the recently growing horde of tech-death coming from Pennsylvania such as Rivers Of Nihil, Black Crown Initiate, and Alustrium. The sort of technical death metal Burial In The Sky traffic in on Transcendence has a strong atmospheric and ethereal focus layered within its punishing depths. Fans of Fallujah and Rivers Of Nihil are strongly urged to jam Transcendence. I have no doubt that whatever Burial In The Sky releases next will blow us all away.”
Heaving Earth – Denouncing The Holy Throne
I feel like this record went massively under the radar, and it’s definitely one of my favorite death metal records of the year. In fact, I helped premiere a song off it here at NCS before it dropped because I dig it so much. Check this out!
Fractum – Gravitous
“Gravitous is the group’s first release, and offers a lot more than your typical flashy lead-guitar-driven tech-death sound. There is a hard-to-place but evident old-school feeling to the rhythm-heavy riff focus to the songs that helps this really stick out. Fractum do an excellent job at not only writing catchy, memorable riffs that jump out at you, but also making sure to subtly return to those riffs a few times in each song, while never writing songs that revolve around verse/chorus/verse structures. This lends Gravitous a catchy feel due to the chorus-type nature of the riffs, yet pairs it with a more non-linear and proggy approach to songwriting. The end result is a best-of-both-worlds situation that offers a satisfying experience for tech-death fans, yet does so in a way that’s surprisingly fresh and all their own.”