Here in this blog we don’t hold back when it comes to venturing into the meanders of extreme metal, especially because in the bubbling cauldron where burn the heaviest and most brutal pieces of contemporary music we can typically find a good number of exciting records.
For the first issue of the death metal radar I’ve selected five death metal records among those published in the first five weeks of the year. Clearly this list doesn’t aim to be exhaustive: the objective is to highlight the most relevant events which happened during the period of interest.
As far as geography is concerned, we have one entry from Netherlands (Legion of the Damned), two from Sweden (Carnal Forge and Megascavenger), one from Finland (Festerday), and one from the United States of America (Malevolent Creation).
As a side note, I didn’t record yet any interesting debut, if we except the fact that Festerday’s LP is formally their first full-lenght album in twenty years of career (!).
Introduction is finished, let’s see now what’s new in death metal and stay tuned for the future issues of the radar.
“Slaves of the Shadow Realm”, by Legion of the Damned
The beginning of the year started with an exciting release from Legion of the Damned, the influential death metal band from Netherlands. Slaves of the Shadow Realm, their newest record, in some way represents the perfect fusion between the two main elements that have always characterized their sound: old-school blackened death metal and thrash. Slaves of the Shadow Realm is the seventh full-lenght album of their discography, if we don’t count the material that the band had published before 2005, i.e. when they were playing with the name of Occult.
Already from the first listenings it’s easy to realize that Slaves of the Shadow Realm is a solid and powerful record, full of passion and also good ideas. I’ve reviewed the LP in a dedicated post of the blog.
“Iihtallan”, by Festerday
Finnish Death metal band Festerday was formed as early as 1989. The name of the band was borrowed from a Carcass’ song and this pretty much underlines the direction where their music was pointing since their initial steps in metal. Twenty years later, the band is still active and their sound is always influenced by the style of the legendary English band.
Iihtallan, their new release, is apparently their first proper full-lenght studio album in a discography that’s plenty of demos, EPs and split discs. This album offers 50 minutes of traditional death metal, hard and compact, which will be certainly appreciated by all those who loved the first records by Carcass, both musically and as regards the subjects of the songs.
After so many years of preparation for their first LP, I would have expected more personality and variety in their songs, which soon tend to become relatively monocord and predictable. Anyway, many like to stay in the comfort zone of what has been already heard and played, and for these kind of metalheads Festerday’s record can be a faithful companion for the coming months.
“The 13th Beast”, by Malevolent Creation
Another historical death metal formation has decided to wait for the first weeks of the year to publish their new material. They are Malevolent Creation, from the United States. The band is active since more than 30 years and they have published to date thirteen studio LPs. Their new release, named exactly as The 13th Beast, has generated however mixed reactions from fans and critics.
Some have appreciated the compactness and the vehemence of the new album: The 13th Beast provides in fact the fans of death metal with uninterrupted 50 minutes of blasting riffs and pulverizing rhythms. No pauses, no compromises, that’s nothing less than a ruthless sonic attack which leaves no prisoners. Others, however, have highlighted that the extreme linearity of Malevolent Creation’s death metal inevitably produces, as side effect, that tension and attention gradually begin to diminish as we proceed in the listening. Honestly, I’m among this second group of critics.
Anyway, nobody can deny the impressive work done for The 13th Beast by Phil Fasciana, the group’s historic guitarist. In the album there is an amount of riffs that presumably could be mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. In the long run, however, this effort is likely tobe lost into the unidirectional flow of violence and brutality of the LP. In this respect, The 13th Beast should be maybe listened song by song, picking up a single track and then moving to something else.
As a last comment, it’s absolutely appreciable the effort spent by Fasciana to keep alive the band after last year’s death of Malevolent Creation’s original vocalist Brett Hoffmann and all the other changes that occurred in the line-up.
“Gun to Mouth Salvation”, by Carnal Forge
Curiously, there is another death metal band which is named after a Carcass’ song (like Festerday) and that released a new album having a brand new singer in the line-up (like Malevolent Creation). They are Carnal Forge, a well respected formation from Sweden, which have just released their new LP, called Gun to Mouth Salvation, the seventh of their discography. This album interrupts a gap of more than 10 years since their previous released (2017’s Testify for My Victims) but their style remains almost the same: death metal with heavy melodic influences and a notable thrash metal component.
Despite being on the scene for a long time, Carnal Forge have never managed to gain the reputation of a top-band. In true honesty I don’t think that Gun to Mouth Salvation will significantly change the situation. On a personal level, their music never caught me as it happens with many other bands that play the same style of metal. That’s mostly because their songs, although of a fine workmanship, were always far from being memorable, and I feel that their new work suffers from the same problem. At first glance there is everything you would expect: huge doses of power, articulated riffs, a lot of melody and a good production (except perhaps for the recording of the voice, which doesn’t convince me in full), but in the end the songs remain just on the surface, and you can hardly remind a few riffs after that the stereo plays the last song. A good album, but nothing more.
“Boneyard Symphonies”, by Megascavenger
I’m concluding this first episode of the radar with a little touch of madness, which is offered to us by the death metal project Megascavenger. The man behind this project is Rogga Johansson, a musician who has founded and participated in a number of musical groups that’s probably greater than the quantity of death metal albums that you usually listen in a entire year.
In all of his projects, the Swedish metalhead has always tried to consolidate and spread his particular vision of Death Metal, which is dark, hard like cement and not very inclined to romanticism. Clearly high quantities of projects and collaborations are not a guarantee of quality, and in fact Johansson’s large discography is filled with exciting records but also a few less impressive works. In the case of the last and fourth LP by Megascavenger, named Boneyard Symphonies, I would say we’re almost in the middle, but still close to the top.
The sound, the style and also the lyrical themes of the album are clearly reminiscent of the early Carcass, but the coolness that we feel in the songs is absolutely original and it also reflects the quality contributors that supported the recording. As usual for Megascavenger, the list of guests is extremely rich: Sven Gross (Fleshcrawl), Ralf Hauber (Revel in Flesh), Jonas Lindblad (Putareon), Michael Andersen (Thorium), Mattias Parkkila (Blood Mortized), Tommy Carlsson (Entrails), Adde Mitroulis (Birdflesh and General Surgery), Dany Deranger (Dead), Jens Johansson (Mega Slaughter).
If you don’t expect from Boneyard Symphonies to be the album that will revolutionize the world of death, you will be in condition to enjoy a thrilling ride in the crazy and demonic world created by the prolific Swedish musician.
I’ve started to collect the most interesting death metal releases of 2019 in a dedicated playlist on Spotify. Check it out and follow it: now it contains only the songs from the five albums that were introduced in this article but it will going to grow with many other bands.