It may have taken thirteen years to follow-up their sole release, but with a cast that includes Misery Index, Cattle Decapitation and Scour alumni, the trials of time can be forgiven with Cast The Stone, and new EP release Empyrean Atrophy (Agonia) shows that this band has a lot more worth than simply being a side dabbling for them. Taking its cues from a hybrid of styles, Empyrean Atrophy marries the muscle and groove elements of American death metal with the melodic and blistering nature of the likes of At The Gates with even a brooding, near gothic darkness of early Amorphis for good measure; offering a short six-track EP that still provides plentiful dynamics, paces and hints of a progressive element throughout. With a short duration, this flies past all too quickly and leaves with the hope for more soon. [7.5/10]
The words “Slam Death Metal” will either grab you or turn you off at this stage and Annihilation Of Mankind (Unique Leader) by Stillbirth won’t be the album to convert the naysayers but will offer plenty to the already converted. Striding between full throttle grindcore, massive breakdowns and over the top brutality, Stillbirth are hardly on the path to innovation on this album but quite simply pull the formula off better than most. Surprisingly, even with its around forty five minute playtime, Annihilation Of Mankind never loses its charm; being pummelling throughout and never once being anything less than pure, albeit a little silly, fun. [8.0]
With former and current members of Asphyx, ex members of Hail Of Bullets and the great Chris Reifert of Autopsy on vocals, Siege Of Power should have been an absolute (excuse the pun) powerhouse, but ultimately Warning Blast (Metal Blade) is a massive disappointment.
Predominantly it’s the Asphyx-ian style crust punk influenced take on death metal at the helm on this album, with the sense of groove of old school American death metal creeping in; but somehow this combination offers a serviceable concoction here at its best. There are a couple of stand out moments such as ‘Torture Lab’ which opens with such a strong and dirty riff that it makes the forgettable nature of the rest of proceedings all the more disheartening. Reifert is on excellent form and his performance elevates this so much, despite the occasionally lyrical cringe moment, but otherwise this is a distinctly average affair that should have provided so much more. [5.0]
Death metal legends Monstrosity may have become an afterthought to some when talking about the all time greats, but The Passage Of Existence (Metal Blade) shows that they can more than match up to anyone from their peer group and arguably sound fresher and more vital today than ever. Masterfully blending that old school style with a contemporary production sheen, this is a blistering effort which is continuously fast paced and laden with hooks and a technical prowess that is both abundantly clear and yet restrained enough to not bog down its song craft.
Armed with an impressive cannon of songs that hits the balance between immediacy and depth and with a pristine production which makes this sound massive, it will be criminal to overlook these stalwarts yet again. [8.0]
On a vastly different end of the spectrum, Ireland’s Malthusian are a much more abrasive and challenging entity which channels the avant-garde side of death and black metal, and their full length debut Across Deaths (Invictus Productions/Dark Descent) is an expansive void which is as mesmerising as it is harrowing. Opening track ‘Remnant Fauna’ avoids the tropes of atmospheric intros by unleashing instantly into intense, fury from the blackest abyss and rarely gives respite. Through its labyrinth style wall of noise however, Across Deaths does reveal a layers and recognisable passages with further listens, dodging the potholes of needless pretension yet remaining undeniably evil at heart. [7.0]
On their first album in five years, veterans Pyrexia strike up a return to their roots whilst not simply making a throwback in Unholy Requiem (Unique Leader). A somewhat raw but un-muddied production gives proceedings a bit of a modern edge, whilst their full throttle, Suffocation esque death metal pummel is back in full effect. Far from ground breaking by any stretch, this is simple but highly effective, grin inducing death metal which, at shy of the half an hour mark, is a quick as a flash barrage of blows. [7.5]
Returning with their first piece of new material since 1991, and following their sort of return in 2012, are the iconic and purveyors of Finnish death metal Abhorrence with the excellent (and hard to spell) Megalohydrothalassophobic (Svart). Although a short EP, this veers from early, murky death metal through more atmospheric black metal and even doom to give a horror like aura which portrays oceanic and Lovecraftian terror lurking. Sprawling and esoteric in nature, Megalohydrothalassophobic [copy and paste much? – Ed] twists and turns through paces, with closer ‘The End Has Already Happened’ proving the highlight with an ominous crawl and a tone which invokes a sense of being stalked and the fear of the unknown. It may have been a long wait for a short EP, but its impressive demeanour shows exactly why they are still held in such regard. [8.0]
Tech-death often gets bog down with style and overzealous virtuosity over substance, but Minsk based Irreversible Mechanism hit the balance with aplomb on latest release Immersion (Blood Music). Immersion masterfully veers between dynamics, from clean atmospherics to thrashier territory and brutal death metal with the occasional, almost post like serene passage. ‘Footprints In The Sand’ in particular journey’s through such aspects successfully and is reminiscent a more brutal Ne Obliviscaris in part, in its progressive and entwined nature. They may be relatively unknown at this stage, but Irreversible Mechanism are already showing they can more than match up to many in the tech-metal/tech-death sphere. [7.0]
Despite Spawn Of Odonata (self-released) being their debut album, Californian tech-death metallers Anisoptera have been a relentless touring machine and have shared the stage with many a legend of the game, so it is little surprise that Spawn… shows a tonne of potential. With a particularly muscular take on tech-death, Spawn… is all about predominant hammer force heaviness and fury which is still balanced by a sense of technicality, and the conceptual idea of Dragonflies that belies a proggy intent. The presence of an acoustic, near bluegrass like instrumental to close the album feels a strange way to close the album, but shows an ambition and dexterity that hopefully gets embedded more fluidly with further releases. Definitely ones to watch out for. [6.5]