It had been coming for a while… the underground has been festering and bubbling under for the last few years. A new breed of leaders, including Blood Incantation (who have definitely already influenced many of their peers), Tomb Mold, Gatecreeper, Necrot and Undeath, among others, have taken on the mantle from the old titans; the lava has been flowing molten and in 2021 the subterranean erupted. Barely a week went by without at least one brain-melting addition to the pile of bodies…
While veterans Cannibal Corpse stormed the Top 3 of the Ghost Cult Albums of the Year for 2021 (and are mentioned below) there was a whole host of lesser known names oozing and seeping into our depraved and defiled conscience that are more than worthy of infecting your brain with.
Join us now, as Senior Editor Steve Tovey trudges through the fetid slime that makes up the Ghost Cult Top 30 Death Metal releases of 2021…
Frozen Soul Crypt of Ice (Century Media) This Texas quintet opened the year by setting Death Metal Twitter alight with their glacially themed Bolt Thrower riffage as they followed their renowned demo Encased In Ice with an impressive debut album.
Gatecreeper An Unexpected Reality (Closed Casket) “Seven tracks of grinding power-violence, averaging around a minute each in length, and one epic expansive doomier beast of an eleven-minute closer… An Unexpected Reality is both a welcome extra and an unexpected delight”. GC Review
Asphyx Necroceros (Century Media) “There is no better way to celebrate a legacy spanning thirty years than with a storming riot of violence that continues to sound invigorated and invigorating, with riffs chunkier than an actual death rhino.” GC Review
Epiphanic Truth – Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species (Church Road) An anonymous collective producing intriguing, involved and expansive avant-garde Deathly Metal that refuses to stay in one space, sprawling across a range of sub-genres, and at all times complex and high quality.
Celestial Sanctuary Soul Diminished (Church Road) Leading the charge of a new wave of UK Death Metal comes Celestial Sanctuary and their blend of the slightly unsettled old school DM embellished with grooves and some unhinged vocals in the very best of traditions.
Memoriam To The End (Reaper) “The crisp production and concise song-craft suggest that this is a young hungry act looking to earn its spot at the table. They’re not playing the death metal standards either as there’s a mighty Doom vibe on ‘Each Step (One Closer to the Grave)’ and summon Godflesh on ‘Mass Psychosis’.” GC Review
Cannibal Corpse Violence Unimagined (Metal Blade) “Some will probably argue that Cannibal Corpse is merely continuing to reinvent the wheel, but when the wheel is covered with spikes, wrapped in barbed wire, and crushes skulls into dust then that surely can’t be a bad thing.” GC Review
Alterage Succumb (Season of Mist) A divisive fifth record for Spain’s most eminent Death dealers as the nightmarish crawl of post-Portalian wretch steps further into the murk, offering swathes of suffocating layers of the most un-natural horror.
Universally Estranged Reared Up In Spectral Predation (Blood Harvest) Integrating synths and deviations into a Morbid Angel-based Sci-fi Death Metal opus that is a natural evolution from Nocturnus’ The Key (Earache), but that takes things into even darker and more twisted galaxies.
Ageless Oblivion Suspended Between Earth & Sky (Apocalyptic Witchcraft) Tense, dark, progressive, discordant and a mature yet spiky follow-up to an incredible debut, Ageless Oblivion have returned without dropping a step, and managed to create something aligned, but different, to that which has come before.
Morbific Ominous Seep of Putridity (Headsplit!) Utterly disgusting mucus-swollen Death Metal straight from the off-cuts of the Autopsy operating table (and with a wonderfully hand-drawn logo to boot). With vocals from beyond the deepest slatherings of Hell and churning mid-paced dirty chuggage, Morbific add another ominous, oozing quality offering to this years disgusting releases.
Grave Miasma Abyss of Wrathful Deities (Sepulchral Voice) Having sharpened the razor in the five years since their last offering, Grave Miasma still live in the darkest atmospheres, with torturous epics their calling card. With one bone fide classic under their belts in Odori Sepulcrorum their 2021 offering more than holds it’s own in that company.
Portal Avow (Profound Lore) “Claustrophobic, murkily atmospheric, and utterly inescapable, Avow – like every other Portal release to date – is an uncompromising and non-conformist challenge not meant for the faint of heart. A discordant clangor of abstract static, repulsive soundscapes”. GC Review
Ghastly Mercurial Passages (20 Buck Spin) Punctuating tempestuous, pacy aggression with doomier and more progressive elements, Ghastly work in psychedelic spaces in a way that makes the nastier moments even more powerful. Yet, the deviations are no trick for the sake of dynamics, these are integral elements of a truly horrible journey.
Alluvial Sarcoma (Nuclear Blast) A more modern take on the heaviest form of music than most of the rest of this run-through, none-the-less Alluvial, with their deathcore meets technical Death Metal fury – enhanced by the addition of vocals on top of their previously instrumental fare, more than earn their place as one of the standouts in their field.
Cerebral Rot Execretion of Mortality (20 Buck Spin) From the mid-point of the year, 20 Buck Spin started to lay the Smackdown, and Washington’s rotten core vomiting onto vinyl helped kick start the label’s run of smashers with its dense sludge-filled black heart of vile putridity.
Lorna Shore …And I Return To Nothingness (Century Media) ” [Lorna Shore] are doubling down on their spooky sound. What you definitely want to check out is the title track as guitarists Andrew O’Connor and Adam De Micco put in a hell of a shift… if you enjoy your deathcore particularly in that Slaughter to Prevail mould, then you’re going to have a good time here.” GC Review
Alchemy of Flesh Ageless Abominations (Redefining Darkness) Coming very much from the Morbid Angel school of Death Metal, fuelled by febrile intensity and with jarring, serpentine riffs and the ante very much pushed up; Ageless Abominations is powered by a tour-de-force of drumming and mixes technicality with neck-bothering.
Ænigmatum Deconsecrate (20 Buck Spin) Another creative force spawned from Portland’s fertile, if disturbed, womb, Ænigmatum brush their Death Metal with a blackened hue, and blunt their technicality with twisted, obscure hooks, never letting up the intensity while exploring a gamut of extreme options to mix into their aggressive pot.
Wharflurch Psychedelic Realms ov Hell (Personal) One of my personal favourites in this list, Wharflurch don’t like to sit still. Rooted in slimy old school Death, this serves only as a base from which to stride out boldly, as the deviations of Doom and Space Prog add a real interest and nearly as much colour as the garish (and brilliant) neon album cover.
Atræ Bilis Apexapien (20 Buck Spin) Cutting-edge technicality, skull-crushing slabs of chunking groove, intense vocals, all pulled together with coherence and power, this is Death Metal of the ultimate fret-dancing heaviness. With melodic deviations, and some skull-crushing mid-tempo chunk, Apexapien is a shining example of how to play the modern game.
Apparition Feel (Profound Lore) Wallowing in the doomier end of the subterranean, LA’s Apparition are all about uncomfortable atmospherics and ugly, horrible ideals. As with most of its rancid cousins on this page, Feel refuses to sit and stay in one space, stretching caustic wings, adding in melodic lead moments, but excels when it comes back to the dirge.
Worm Foreverglade (20 Buck Spin) Magnificently crepacious with its stately, substantial hulk, predominantly residing in the doom circle of Death, Foreverglade gloriously references early Peaceville in its morbidosity, with splashes of guitar virtuosity to brighten the gloom. A devastatingly crushing quagmire of underground excellence.
Archspire Bleed The Future (Season of Mist) When Atheist set the bar in the early 90’s, even they couldn’t have predicted how high the mix of technicality in extreme music, while still producing identifiable and utterly impressive songs, would rocket, and with their fourth album Archspire have pushed themselves to pull everything together, with every element of their sound ramped up to eleven.
Burial Inner Gateways to the Slumbering Equilibrium at the Centre of Cosmos (Everlasting Spew) Not only does Inner Gateways have a truly stunning album cover, the fare within backs it up in spades; with references to the seminal dISEMBOWELMENT, Italy’s Burial are equally adept at miserable, gut-rumbling doomed moments as they are at lurching back into the field of Death.
Mortiferum Preserved In Torment (Profound Lore) Ooof, ooof, and more ooof… another disciple of the school of dirge, Mortiferum succeeds by building an oppressive atmosphere of unrelenting, yet steady pressure, as funereal tones and influences wrestle with the Death Metal power.
The Lurking Fear Death Madness Horror Decay (Century Media) “And there does appear to be an inverse proportionality in the relationship: the further At The Gates deviate from the expected meloDeath left hand path into more blackened and progressive territory, the more The Lurking Fear hold the centre ground and provide the Death Metal”. GC Review
Abcession Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity) Oh, this is a fun little beastie! Schooled in the dutty dutty buzzsaw realms of the Old School, Rot of Ages puts its foot to the floor and keeps it there with a relentless greatest hits of OSDM that gets in, gets out, and leaves a bloody good looking corpse.
Phrenelith Chimaera (Nuclear Winter) Having pricked ears with their noted debut back in 2017, rather than open things up, Danish devastators have opted to double-down on the nastiness. Opening up with OSDM of the Dismember variety (with a nod to Dissection in the tremelo guitaring), while the rest of the album seeks to add layers of impenetrable Incantations to their sound.
Malignant Altar Realms of Exquisite Morbidity (Dark Descent) And the shits keep rolling… with the year ending as it began and another high quality release. Born from the murky underground spirit of Blessed Are The Sick with added ooze, the Texans with a penchant for pushing the chaos, close things out with an impressive debut.