The first installment of this list orbited the cratered moon of black metal, and in this one I decided to chart a course through the death metal asteroid belt, sustaining destructive collisions along the way. These three songs differ significantly in their stylistic inclinations, which is just one small sign of how diverse death metal is, but of course what they share is a significant degree of… infectiousness. All three bands also happen to be from the U.S.
BURIAL IN THE SKY
This Philadelphia band’s 2021 album The Consumed Self made at least three of the year-end lists prepared by NCS writers. One of those (Andy Synn) also gave the album a thorough and nuanced review (here), another (DGR) also included a review when he put the album at the No. 15 spot of his YE list; and a third (Gonzo) anointed it as his album of the year, writing (here): “In a year with so many incredible technical death metal records, Burial in the Sky have created something that shakes itself loose from the rest of the pack. Their brilliant musicianship and airtight songwriting is a sonic killing machine that just puts them squarely into elite territory.”
Although I don’t make year-end lists, other than the one you’re now reading, I was also very taken with The Consumed Self. I had the chance to write up a song premiere for the album in the run-up to its release, and coincidentally it’s that song — “Mechanisms Of Loneliness“ — which I found to be an obvious and enthusiastic pick for this list. I’ll repeat what I wrote when I premiered the track:
“The opening riff is so immediately electrifying that it could carry the song all by itself. Of course, it doesn’t have to. The heavy-grooved, bone-bruising rhythms, the bursts of jolting syncopation, the monstrous gutturals, the rabid screams, and the magically swirling and flickering leads are damned thrilling too. Clanging chords and head-butting drumwork contribute a dimension of primitive, bludgeoning brutality to the song, and by contrast the multi-instrumental soloing that closes the track is hypnotic”.
Portland’s Decrepisy seemed to come out of nowhere with their excellent 2021 debut album Emetic Communion, but the members weren’t newcomers, having played previously with a slew of formidable West Coast bands, including Grave Dust, Bloodsoaked, Ascended Dead, Hell Strike, and Acephalix, just to name a few. Looking at their resumes, it was much less of a surprise to discover how good the first Decrepisy record turned out to be.
The whole album is well worth your time, but one song in particular — “Embodied Decomposition” — stuck in my head from the first listen and it has stayed there. I already spilled some frothy words about the track after first hearing it, and I’ll repeat those here:
“This is a diabolical song that pounds with the force of massed cannon fire, scampers like an armored lunatic, erupts in bullet-spitting blasts and chaos-zone guitar madness, and oozes gruesome pustulence as it drags through a charnel pit of horror. It also serves up gargantuan, cavernous vocals and a plethora of otherworldly soloing. Reminds me of Acephalix, which is intended as high praise”.
I didn’t discover this L.A. band’s 2021 EP Skull Throne Inheritor until three months after its release. I don’t usually spend my time writing about records that have been out in the world that long, preferring instead to comment on music from forthcoming releases. But this EP made such a powerful impression on me when I finally heard it that I promptly included a review in one of my August Seen and Heard collections. As an inducement for you to listen to the EP, I’ll give you this excerpt from what I wrote then:
“Inspired by Lovecraftian themes, the EP is a frightening but intensely memorable combination of raging violence, tumultuous upheaval, absolutely harrowing (but intelligible) vocals of utmost savagery, and sweeping waves of melody that are grim and grand, heartless and heart-breaking. At times there’s a ‘pagan/folk’ influence that emerges in the rhythms and the melodies, but there’s equally a feeling of towering, ominous grandeur.”
In the course of that review I identified “Towers of Fire“ as probably my favorite track (though it was a close call), and after listening to the EP again recently I think it’s still the best choice for this list, though it had some serious competition within the bounds of the EP. I hope it gets stuck in your head too.