Death by Metal #1

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Death metal still excites me. It’s not hip now like black or doom metal, and it’s beset by technical wankery on one side and retro fetishism on the other. But as the oldest extreme metal subgenre in my consciousness (thrash relegated itself to museum status long ago), it’s still important to me. Sifting through the piles of it left at my digital doorstep still yields gems. I still get the “fuck yes” feeling I got as a kid when I discovered Carcass and Entombed. Here are 10 bands (spanning 37 minutes) that give me that feeling: blood, dirt, ugliness, death. Only death is real, indeed.

— Cosmo Lee
Woodcut by Hans Holbein

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DOWNLOAD: DEATH BY METAL #1 [70.73MB .zip]

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Death – “Death by Metal”
from Death by Metal demo (Self-released, 1984)

It’s appropriate to start this series with Death’s 1984 Death by Metal demo, featuring Kam Lee on vocals. I love the rehearsal room atmosphere of this demo. (Downloading it is left as an exercise to the reader.) You can keep up with Lee’s zillion bands at his blog, aptly called Kam Lee Rants.

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Witchrist – “The Cauldron”
from Beheaded Ouroboros (Invictus, 2010)

Deep, dark, and deadly death metal from New Zealand. “The Cauldron” retains its doomy vibe even during its fast parts. I plan to visit New Zealand sometime and take in the obligatory Lord of the Rings scenery. But maybe I can get away and catch a Witchrist gig while I’m at it – assuming I’m single at the time!

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Necros Christos – “Necromantique Nun”
from Doom of the Occult (Sepulchral Voice, The AJNA Offensive, 2011)

Doom of the Occult is incredibly frustrating. 14 out of its 23 tracks are interludes, a hip hop album level of absurdity. The interludes are pleasant organ and ethnic instrument ditties, but Nile went there first and left the listener wanting more. Here we must wade through endless “Temples” and “Gates” to get to actual death metal – which is fierce and oddly groovy. Check out “Necromantique Nun”, with magnificent Melechesh-esque bends in its outro.

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Goreaphobia – “The Attractor”
from Apocalyptic Necromancy (Dark Descent, 2011)

If you get one record from this batch, Apocalyptic Necromancy should be it. It’s an actual album, complete with varied feels and songs one can tell apart. Sometimes thrash is the engine; at other times black and doom metal take the controls. At all times a high level of detail is present. “The Attractor” is a Celtic Frost-esque d-beat pounder with subtle but atmospheric chord movement.

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Witchrist – “The Cauldron”

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Cianide – “Forsaken Doom”
from Gods of Death (Hells Headbangers, 2011)

Speaking of Celtic Frost, Gods of Death is a 40-minute death metal exposition on Tom G. Warrior’s nasal guitar tone. You can hear the pick digging into the string, a detail usually lost in this age of over-production. “Forsaken Doom” is really a beefed-up version of “Procreation (Of the Wicked)” – a perfectly acceptable result.

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Disma – “Spectral Domination”
from Towards the Megalith (Profound Lore, 2011)

Hello, low end! The guitars are way down-tuned, the growls are subterranean, and the lyrics of “Spectral Domination” nicely sum it all up: Sinking into fillllllth!

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Entrenched – “Anesthetic Death”
from Preemptive Strike (Horror Pain Gore Death, 2011)

This is a can of whoop-ass disguised as a death metal record. It harks back to old Bolt Thrower, but with modern chops hidden amongst the dirt. Thankfully those chops are invested in meaty riffs and solos. The payoff is a no-frills battering, refreshing in an age of metal bands with gimmicks.

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Zombiefication – “Anthem to the Death March”
from Midnight Stench (Chaos, 2010)

Mexico’s Autopsy, perhaps, but with a healthy dose of the atmosphere that made the bridge (remember the movie sample?) of Entombed’s “Left Hand Path” so memorable. If these guys were from the States, they’d be huge. Chaos, the Mexican label, has been putting out good stuff – also check out Warfield and Omision.

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Zombiefication – “Anthem to the Death March”

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Goregast – “Puerco de Dinero”
from Desechos Humanos (F.D.A. Rekotz, 2011)

Germany’s Brujeria – which is friggin’ weird. Masked German dudes with death/grind songs sung and titled in English and Spanish? I guess if the Japanese (Corrupted) can do that, then so can the Germans. Hell, I’ve encountered Germans that speak English better than Americans. Don’t get me started on America’s educational system!

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Apocryphon – “Synaesthesia”
from EP 2011 (Self-released, 2011)

Apocryphon is the death metal project of Shelby Cobras, head of Illogical Contraption. Like the blog, the band has, ahem, epic riffing, psychedelic tendencies (not as much as, say, Gigan, but enough to be noticeable), and a short attention span. So songs toggle between punching your face and smoking a bowl while listening to lo-fi avant-jazz downloaded from Cosmic Hearse. If that sounds sweet, download this EP for free from Apocryphon’s Bandcamp.

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