Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Via Kerrang Magazine : "Before it became the genre every non-metal fan uses to imitate what extreme music sounds like, death metal was beautifully weird. When the art form officially broke off of thrash in the very late ’80s and swelled dangerously in the early ’90s, it was a strange and experimental genre, in some ways more resonant with the disgusting extremism of punk than metal’s sword-and-stone fantasy. But like any musical culture, the outlandish pioneers gave way to bands wanting to sound just like them, and so eventually death metal became a body of music with discernible and at times cliched boundaries.
But if the past 10 years have proved anything, it’s that death metal still has fertile soil in which to dig a shallow grave. A new wave of crashing, creative, and most of all diverse death metal bands has crashed onto the scene in recent years, making the genre once more a place to find unique and insane talent. To celebrate this creative resurrection, we cataloged 50 bands who are championing the genre’s various foul and brutal niches right now. The rules for inclusion were that a) the bands had to be specifically death metal (we love you, Rivers Of Nihil, but you’re your own weird beast), b) the bands had to be active, c) their first full-length albums had to have come out in 2010 or later, and d) they had to have at least one full studio LP out (sorry, Oxalate!). Here are the 50 bands who best remind us that death conquers all…
It’s as though Vitriol are wearing armor forged of contempt and disgust. The Portland outfit’s debut, last year’s To Bathe From The Throat Of Cowardice, is about as enraged as they come, and though its technicality presents itself immediately, it’s the underlying sense of menace that makes Bathe so powerful. According to vocalist/guitarist Kyle Rasmussen, the band are just fine with that. “I don’t view it as a part of my responsibility to have that conversation with the listeners of Vitriol — to reconcile our approach with them,” he told Kerrang!
Given that Sweden’s LIK features members of Witchery, Katatonia, and The Ugly, it would be downright surprising if they sucked. Instead, the band are vehemently rad, performing the melodic death metal of old with added doses of noisy modern production and merciless wrath. 2018’s Carnage was a masterful cyclone of buzzsaw-edged violence, while their latest single, last year’s Revel In Gore, was as in-your-face as anything they’ve ever done. A perfect example of how much fucking fun you can have listening to death metal.
48. ZEALOT CULT
Drop a human kidney into a tank of piranha and you’ll have an idea of how Zealot Cult sound. The Limerick, Ireland-based metallers move at a frenzied pace, blasting speedily through one riff after another amidst a sea of flickering cymbal and double bass. This puts them in a separate league from many modern bands, trading the rumble and strain of Autopsy for the writhing fury of acts like Morbid Angel and Death. 2018’s Spiritual Sickness is a ripping listen, so long as you can keep up.
In many ways, Ossuarium sum up the Pacific Northwest’s currently booming death metal scene. The Portland quartet’s sound has a cavernous thunder and a creepy-crawl vibe that exemplify the region’s foggy sense of morbidity. Last year’s debut full-length Living Tomb was a grand success, showing the world just how dedicated this band are to sounding like exactly what their name suggests: an ancient church of rotting bones.
Plenty of bands rip off Death inadvertently; only one does so with shameless abandon. Helmed by Exhumed frontman Matt Harvey, Gruesome’s MO is to pay homage to a different era of Chuck Schuldiner’s genre-defining band with each album. That the result is extremely fucking cool shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the extent to which it’s entertaining is impressive given how easily a Death not-quite-tribute band could suck. Sometimes, you just want the Reaper you know.
Wisconsin doesn’t usually stand out as a place to inspire relentless beatdown metal, but Micawber makes you wonder if it should. The Two Rivers brutal death metal quartet play a polished, abrasive form the genre that’ll blow the cheese hat off of the average listener. At the same time, the band’s right-at-the-surface sound doesn’t mean they lose atmosphere points, as their more dissonant stomping riffs keep them good and menacing. Interestingly enough, they also do an absolutely punishing King Diamond cover, proving that pure sonic warfare can still feel theatrical.
44. BEYOND CREATION
Beyond Creation continue to remind fans that Quebec is home to some of tech death’s most versatile minds. The Montreal four-piece’s music is baroque in its incorporation of long-form emotion, nimble progressiveness, and ten-ton guttural punishment. While 2018’s Algorythm might be a little flowery for some old-school basement dwellers (no shame, who doesn’t love a basement?), Beyond Creation’s ability to keep fans hooked throughout their intricate song structures speaks to their dedication to the genre at its heshing core.
43. TORTURE RACK
Sometimes, death metal can feel a little obsessed with the clammy hand of the zombie and loses its pure, seething anger. But Portland’s Torture Rack have thankfully cast off such shackles of over-thought, propelled first and foremost by a fury you can really hear in their music. 2018’s Malefic Humiliation is powered by its spleen, never dropping below a stampede and gnashing its teeth all the way. If the crypt gets a little dull for you, these Americans will throw you kicking and screaming back into the pit.
How furious can one band be? New Jersey’s Hath seem to be testing that hypothesis, creating brutal, throttling death metal that sounds inherently angrier than that of other bands. Last year’s Of Rot And Ruin was an absolutely punishing debut, with aspects of black metal’s arch-hatred coloring the quartet’s otherwise bludgeoning profile. It’s good to know that as so many death metal acts move towards the moldy, OSDM edge of the spectrum, there’s still a band out there just trying to hate you to death.
41. CADAVERIC INCUBATOR
Just, madness. Cadaveric Incubator are a solid reminder to metalheads the world over that while Europe is often credited with the genre’s more melodic side, their propensity for blistering grind is ever-present. The Finnish trio’s monumental 2017 release Sermons Of The Devouring Dead is a tour de force of sonic horror, bringing all the unholy hell that old-school Euro-death fans crave (and, oddly enough, containing one of the most compelling songs about Dracula in years). Though the band have been around since 2005, they’re only hitting their stride now, proving that sometimes you need to let a cadaver fester a bit before it’s ready to eat.
40. COFFIN ROT
When the opening track of an album is titled Copremesis (look it up), you know what you’re in for. Portland’s Coffin Rot definitely bring the gore metal, but their incorporation of elements from throughout the genre give them a sharp, exciting edge. While some bands go full cesspool, these guys are thrashy as fuck, galloping through the muck with tireless rage. Of course, their reverb-drenched vocals still add that lo-fi horror element to their stuff, coupling with their speed and anger to place them just between Impaled and Mortician – a solid area to dwell for sure.
39. CREEPING DEATH
Naming one’s band after Metallica’s most epic anthem takes balls, but Texans Creeping Death are happy to back up their moniker. The band’s full-length debut, last year’s Wretched Illusions, goes absolutely huge, with a hardcore-tinged bulk that will have listeners throttling along (and is just a damn pleasure to witness live). The band’s earlier material certainly slays, but even they agree that their new album is their greatest triumph. “We’ve become a much more solid, cohesive unit, and it really shows on Wretched Illusions,” told Kerrang! in September. Amen to that.
You can say this for Sewercide: they’ve got visual representation down. The horrific guts-monster on the front of the Melbourne duo’s 2016 album Immortalized In Suffering is a solid representation of what you’ll hear on the record. Clunky yet deadly, unpolished and irritable, Immortalized proves that death metal doesn’t need to be a non-stop barrage of riffs and BPM to sound absolutely deadly. Delicious even if it isn’t always easy going down.
37. UNFATHOMABLE RUINATION
Calling Unfathomable Ruination’s completely destructive 2019 album Enraged And Unbound ‘jaunty’ may not be totally accurate or fair. It’s more that the London-based quintet have a spring in their step that is sometimes missing in the groan-and-growl world of modern death metal. But that just makes the record old-school on a rolling basis, hailing early material by acts like Origin and Dying Fetus in its ability to mix up the tempo and vibe. Of course, all that really matters is that it fucking rips, and continues to cement these guys as one of the must-hear acts of the current scene.
36. CASKET HUFFER
Don’t let their name fool you – Casket Huffer aren’t all about blood, guts, and rotten corpses (though they certainly enjoy those topics). Instead, the Wyoming four-piece add a sense of panicked black-metal grandeur to their grinding take on modern death metal. This injection of the left hand path makes them a refreshing listen where many modern bands are content to trundle forward. A young act who can cross genre boundaries, provided all listeners are down with leather and medieval torture devices.
Naming your Italian death metal band after zombie horror’s infamous Italian director is pretty ballsy, but Fulci back it up. The Campania three-piece play thundering gore metal that combines the hum and punch of classic Mortician with the updated rhythms and gang vocals of later genre legends like Nile. The result sounds inherently gross and old-school but never like something you’ve ever heard before. As satisfying as the wood-meets-eye scene (you know the one).
In a way, ‘weird’ is the appropriate words for Krypts’ music – not just ‘weird’ in that it’s unusual, but ‘weird’ in the old, literary, Lovecraftian sense of the word. The Finnish four-piece’s music adorns its steady, echoing steamroll with guitar harmonies and dissonant riffs that community images of arched insectoid legs and too many eyes. As such, they are one of the more convincing occult death metal bands, draping their music in a misty atmosphere that’s genuine in its far-flung terror.
33. GLACIAL TOMB
While plenty of contemporary death metal bands incorporate doom into their sound, few utiliize as much of that scene’s nastier contributions as Colorado’s Glacial Tomb. The band’s 2018 self-titled debut incorporates aspects of Arkansas sludge and modern experimental groove (think Gojira), thus birthing a brand of death metal that throbs with pervasive-if-unnamable darkness. That the band is led by Khemmis’ Ben Hutcherson only further elaborates on how they’ve created such a beautifully ugly sonic bastard.
32. GENOCIDE PACT
Listen to Genocide Pact’s 2018 release Order Of Torment, and you’ll be unsurprised to discover they hail from Washington, D.C. The four-piece’s music is undoubtedly death metal, but there’s an element to the breakdowns and charges therein that smacks of old-school hardcore. Not that the band were too entrenched in one scene or the other back in the day, with drummer Connor Donegan telling us, “We didn’t necessarily come from hardcore backgrounds, it was just where we ended up. It was the scene that we got involved in.” With music this good, we’ll take it.
With 2018’s Matricide, Cognitive proved themselves one of modern death metal’s most riveting acts. While the band’s previous efforts had been far more focused on technicality, this latest album goes heavy on the groove and atmosphere, and as such feels as ominous as it does furious. Meanwhile, the Jobbstown, New Jersey, quintet’s live show has shown that their sonic barrage translates into an awesome spectacle. Further affirmation that nothing’s more brutal than being from Jersey.
Out of the gate, Pissgrave accomplish what death metal was always meant to do: gross out the squares. The covers of both of the Philly-based band’s albums – 2015’s Suicide Euphoria and 2019’s Posthumous Humiliation – feature the kind of crime-scene imagery that’ll give even weathered fans a taste of their own bile. That said, Pissgrave’s music follows through on that gut-punch, with frenetic chainsaw riffs and muddled vocals that sound like the brainwaves of a serial necrophiliac. If you’re gonna spew, spew into this.