By this point, it shouldn’t surprise too many people to hear that Death Metal is stronger right now than it’s been since the 90’s. The renaissance – for want of a better word – has been going on for years now, and the renewed quality and focus has spread to most pre-existing subgenres as well as made some new ones. Among the slew of Old School-, Post-, Blackened-, Progressive- and Abstract Art Tentacles-Death Metal, however, the 90’s American style of DM characterised by bands like CannibalCorpse has been largely absent.
On their debut Lamentia (Tridroid), Obscene Entity combine this currently underrepresented style with a touch of Ulcerate’s atmospheric, ambient approach. The combination of crushing, rhythmic Death Metal with more progressive passages is reminiscent of fellow Brits Ageless Oblivion, but much tighter and more focussed. Unlike some of their peers, OE understand that a short and concise album is often preferable to a longer one, and Lamentia makes it points quickly and effectively. Some thought has also gone into the structure, with an instrumental separating the more progressive tracks at the end from the more straightforwardly brutal first half.
Lamentia may not offer anything particularly original in terms of its musical elements, but they’ve been combined effectively to make an album with both instant catchiness and lasting depth. Another example that the current health of Death Metal is not entirely linked to the success of a couple of “big name” bands, and another name to add to the list of bands to watch out for.
This multinational bill covered three continents and crossed several extreme sub-genres, which may have accounted for a disappointing attendance. A mere dozen witnessed Hampshire quintet Ageless Obliviontake to the stage but a Death-Groove explosion, orchestrated by the phenomenal drumming of Noah See, steadily roused the populace. The brooding, savage ‘Penthos’ displayed the band’s versatility, a pensive progression offset by bone-crushing main sections, and was the high point of a dramatic and technically superb performance.
The intensity with which Bell Witch drummer Jesse Shreibman leant over his kit whilst studiously watching bassist Dylan Desmond, accurately portrayed the belief and intent with which he subsequently laid waste to it. Desmond’s huge 6-string bass towered over the bewitched throng as he softly intoned into the mic, his fingers caressing the fretboard and producing notes usually out of reach to mere mortals. ‘…Awoken (Breathing Teeth)’ was harrowing, omnipotent and bewildering: Desmond’s mournful strings weighing on Schreibman’s bowed head until he pounded back in with the force of a fucked-off juggernaut, roaring to the sky like a wounded musk ox. The track’s frame-shuddering and impossibly moving finale sent more than one person to the benches, overwhelmed by emotion.
Bell Witch. Star & Garter, Manchester, 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Michael Hoggard, Ulcerate. Star & Garter, Manchester, 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Auckland Technical Death purveyors Ulcerate displayed every element of their undoubted proficiency with urgency and muscular action. Guitarist Michael Hoggard and frontman / bassist Paul Kelland jerked lithely in almost reptilian fashion, their heads pouncing on the buckling beat like raptors. Jamie Saint Merat, meanwhile, considered one of the best sticksmen in the world, danced around his kit with the dexterity of Nijinsky whilst pounding the crap out of it. Involving yet brutal, the groove of ‘Soullessness Embraced’ was pushed through every bone by a wiry frontman wielding his bass like a demanding lover; while Hoggard, his freakishly long, flexing neck moving with the articulation of a Bosc Monitor, flung his instrument around like a toy in a kid’s hand. ‘Weight of Emptiness’ meanwhile, its sinister clashes and clangs shot through with brutal portent, highlighted again the incredible work of Merat who hypnotised all by slamming perfected, multiple rhythms down our throats whilst appearing to do nothing.
For a New Zealand band to perform 11,000 miles from home with this intensity to a room of 50 people was both criminal and admirable. An eclectic bill in many ways, Bell Witch just about stole it but every band played their part in a remarkable show of strength.
Paul Kelland, Ulcerate. Star & Garter, Manchester, 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
After their triumphant set at Bloodstock 2015, Ghost Cult grabbed Ageless Oblivion’s David Porter and Gareth Nash for a few words about the show itself, the festival, plans for the near future and the new sound in death metal. Oh, and why camping is shit.
The significance of Bloodstock Festival as the biggest genuine metal festival in the UK by some margin, cannot be understated, but despite it’s growth it has never lost track of those in the underground and the cutting edge, truly giving a bit of everything for everyone.
With their festival debut early Saturday afternoon on the Sophie Stage, London based Ageless Oblivion are representative of this notion as they bludgeon the packed tent with their brand of death metal which is thought provoking, and even quite prog, but is still as vicious as the swarms of wasps on site (well, almost). Catching up with the band afterwards and guitarists David Porter and Gareth Nash both seem very happy.
With Bloodstock in its 10th year, many of the UK’s younger metal bands have more than likely been a part of the festivals audience at some stage, and Ageless Oblivion are no different with Gareth stating he has been coming since 2008.
“It’s awesome to be able to play here,” Nash opines, “especially on the Sophie Stage. I just like the atmosphere here, good bands, just a lot of good times to be had.”
David Porter continues: “Bast were amazing. They are good friends of ours and live, everytime we see them, like when we toured with them back in November they were kick ass then, and they are fucking amazing now.”
Nash: “I checked out Enslaved, we watched Hang The Bastard, Conan…”
Porter: “I think one highlight for me was Raging Speedhorn. When I was 14 they were my band, they were the ones that introduced me to the heavier stuff. Through them I discovered the likes of Iron Monkey, Charger, Will Haven,and then I ended up getting in to death metal, so to see them live again after so long was, for me, quite a lot of fun.”
Not that festival life is all sunshine and roses for Porter… “I will say this, I think camping is one of the most overrated things in life. I don’t know, if you enjoy going to bed in a fridge and waking up in a fucking oven, being dirty and dehydrated for four days then that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to what they like.”
With the lineup changes that saw drummer Rich Wilshire out and Noah See join the fold, and now Bloodstock under their belt, it seems things are once again settled. Having the salivating prospect of touring with New Zealand’s underground heroes Ulcerate (alongside Bell Witch) on the horizon clearly excites both of them.
Porter explains how it came about, with a huge grin. “That was a surprise actually. I opened up the band inbox one day and there was an email from Jamie Saint Merat (drummer and founding member of Ulcerate) just saying “We are touring the UK in November, do you fancy joining it?”
And we were like “What?! OK!” Ulcerate for me are a big influence, and Bell Witch as well are just filth, so looking forward to seeing them as well.”
With one of the most tantalizing tour lineups of the tail end of the year, it also highlights a seemingly growing trend in death metal; bands that focus on creating haunting, nauseating atmospherics along with sheer heaviness. Ageless Oblivion are definitely a part of, and share aesthetics with, that group. “I think there is a bit of a movement going on now. There are a lot of death metal bands that create that absolute dread, that complete oppressive, super dark sound. It’s amazing we get put in the same bracket as the likesof Gorguts and Ulcerate,” Porter enthues “but I think the trick is that we just want to create an atmosphere. We play death metal but we are influenced by the likes of Cult Of Luna, Neurosis and on the death metal sideDecapitated and Nile.
“We want to create that feeling like when you watch Neurosis live and they are all encompassing. You cannot ignore them, they have that atmosphere and that’s what we are trying to achieve but through a death metal format.”
The upcoming Ulcerate tour also represents a new thing for Ageless Oblivion; a tour where they don’t stick out like a sore thumb, unlike in the past. “This is our problem – we don’t fit in. We can tour with a bunch of fucking, full on death metal bands and some nights you play a show and people love it, other nights they are waiting for that traditional death metal sound which just doesn’t happen with us.
“On the reverse when we tour with Bast we are playing to a lot of doom fans, so when we do the death metal bits it gets lost on people. But again I think that’s one of our strengths, we don’t fit in; it means we are doing something a bit different.”
In fact it is pretty clear how unique a place Ageless Oblivion take on the UK extreme metal scene that they can take such tours with the likes of Bast to straight up death metal bands like Dyscarnate, Hate Eternal and Aeon in their time. Penthos is a prime example of where they take death metal to different, hypnotic and terrifying realms, and is a groundwork that Nash states they are working on further on the under progress third album. “I think by the time this will come out, Penthos would have been out a couple of years so people would have been able to digest that enough to expect something a little but different, and just from the ideas we’ve got. It will be a lot heavier and more diverse and vile.”
With the Sophie Lancaster Stage headliners finishing late into the night, as well as other forms of entertainment in the arena or the Serpent’s Lair VIP Area (or for the less brave of course, beers at the tent), you’d be forgiven for thinking the atmosphere would be a little subdued on the Saturday, especially considering the scorching heat the day before. Far from it however, as Saturday greets all with even hotter weather (thankfully there are plenty of water stations and surprisingly small queues) and another day of some of the best and most exciting bands the metal world has to offer.
A relaxed and lazy morning means the days viewing kicks off in the Sophie tent with British death metallers Ageless Oblivion, whose dark atmospherics try to detract from the sunshine outside. Pulling in a strong crowd, they prove why they are one of the most exciting bands on the UK extreme metal scene, complete with unpredictability structures and relentless viciousness with hypnotic majesty.
The small size of the festival arena proves a blessing as Ageless Oblivion wrap up their set just as prog/tech metallers Xerath take to the main stage within seconds. With a large, attentive crowd Xerath prove that they are more than worthy of the upgrade from their last time here on the second stage, as their progressive tendencies hit the mark alongside a tonne of fat grooves, perfectly catering for all. The stage size does not seem to daunt them as they give a confident and crushing display.
Korpiklaani, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal
Normally benefiting from people wanting to shelter from near monsoon conditions, its truly heart-warming to see masses of people supporting those bands that have come from far climes, especially when they are as good as the first of two Indonesian bands on the bill today, Jasad. As they take the stage they are greeted with a near packed tent and a euphoric response which clearly humbles them as the band can hardly contain their smiles throughout. Combined with brilliant death metal and frontman Mohammed Rohman’s sense of humour and this proves one of the most fun and triumphant sets of the weekend.
Napalm Death, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal
Very few bands are as consistently brilliant both live and on record as Napalm Death so its unsurprising that they are consistently great form today, and the huge response they get from the crowd makes this a no surprises but incredible set.
It has to be pointed out the diversity that, appropriately, the Sophie Lancaster Stage presents over the weekend, brings some of the weekend’s greatest moments. Right near the top has to be the second Indonesian band of the day, Burgerkill as once again a packed out tent and the chaos that ensues proves truly heartening. The massive grins that adorn each member tells the story as the moshpits almost takes over the entire front of the tent. As Oaf’s Dom Lawson makes a guest appearance the importance of today for the band is abundantly clear, and they took it by storm.
Opeth, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly
Opeth are no strangers to the Ronnie Jamies Dio (main) stage, having headlined twice, once in the place of Heaven & Hell who cancelled due to the sad passing of the man for whom the stage is now named. They could play in a nightclub car park and still exude the same amount of beauty and brutality as they do co-headlining a festival. Love their progressive direction or loathe it, Opeth never fail to impress as ten thousand mesmerised fan sway to ‘The Devils Orchard’, then moments later headbang to ‘Deliverance’, showing symmetry with the bands diverse back catalogue.
Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly
To quote the mighty Taylor Swift – “haters gonna hate” – and those die-hard Bloodstockers who scoffed or spewed ignorant and hateful babble when Within Temptation were announced certainly did. They can be spotted a mile off, standing with their arms folded waiting for the Dutch symphonic metallers to suck harder than Lars’ drumming. But they don’t – so ha! Each song is performed with heart and soul, with the set culled mainly from the more recent Hydra (BMG/Universal) and The Unforgiving (Roadrunner) albums, and the unity the crowd feel with the band is a testament to their longevity. Sharon den Adel, who seemingly has danced in the blue flame of eternal life, rallies the crowd so that even when technical difficulties plague their penultimate song, the baying masses hang on her every note. Within Temptation bring a touch of flair and class to Derbyshine; utterly sublime.
A bit of kitchen sink album, this one – prog, power, death, bits that sound like Extreme (the band), a concept that makes Demanufacture look like a children’s story (OK, it is hardly the most developed story anyway…) and part 1 of a trilogy I’m keen to see if it can keep up with the level of this first one.
The album I wanted ‘At War With Reality’ to be, but with a metric tonne of breakdowns (or possibly beatdowns – I still get them confused) on top. Blistering with Gothenburg tinged spiky riffing, dual guitars flying, full on vocals and some good old fashioned metal aggression, Old Wave of Swedish Melodic Death Metal style. No remorse, no repent, no let up, no problem!
I have always had a very strong dislike of Opeth. Then they released an album that doesn’t sound like Opeth. Now loads who did like them, don’t, and loads who didn’t like them, do. Not normally a massive prog fan either, but this album is really good. AND somehow I’ve now started to get into the older stuff I’ve never liked before like Blackwater Park and Still Life. Weird, innit.
21, Overkill– White Devil Armory (Nuclear Blast/eOne)
Continuing their brilliant run of form that near matches their classic first 3 albums since signing for Nuclear Blast with another energetic, full-on, thrash classic. Really loving the vitality but above all the quality of the tunes. Always had a soft spot for Overkill and well chuffed they’re still flying the flag louder and harder than any other “old school” thrash band. Proud to review this one here.
Set your HM-2 pedals to kill… Really enjoyable old school Death Metal romp. Plenty of Dismember, plenty of Entombed, bit of Morbid Angel in places, and just sounds like a bunch of guys who know what they’re doing having fun with metal they love. ‘sGot big riffs. And I like Nick Holmes vocals on it, too. More cookie monster than cookie cutter and add a distinctive edge.
So, I split the two albums out and Dark Matters was in the ‘Not Quite…’ list. It took me a little while and a few listens to forgive Sky Blue for not being Epicloud. But seeing as Epicloud is probably my favourite album released in the last 10 years it was always going to be difficult. Sitting very much in the Addicted, Epicloud pop-metal end of the DTP arsenal, it can’t help but be a great, enjoyable listen. I just think he perfected it last time around, so this has a touch of diminishing returns. Still think it’s bloody good, like (hence it making the top 20).
‘im from Mastodon, ‘im from Dillinger, another ‘im from somewhere else (can’t be bothered to google it, sure someone will say below) and a Max Cavalera relegated to side-man all pulling off (tee hee) a bloody great album of riffs, grooves and big old tunes. Lovely stuff.
17, Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade)
The first track is possibly the greatest chest-beating Heavy Metal track of the year, resplendent (I’ve always liked that word) in its’ Bathory meets Manowar glory. After such an blinding start the album could only struggle to live up to expectations. It is bloody good though, and the last track is also amazing. Does what Primordial do, and does it well. One I reviewed, too, so you can check that out here if you like
OK, still haven’t fully gotten grips with this one – it’s not long been out, there were other albums to cram in before end of year, reviews, life, all that, plus it’s a pretty long album and there’s a lot of music going on (contrary to popular belief, your average Machine Head track isn’t as bone head as many think these days), so sticking this one here. I know it’s good, I know I like it, just not lived with it enough to know how much.
Still, I know it brings the riffs, diversity, some intelligent song-writing, some really cool choral and non-metal touches, and I know I’ll like it more once I spend some time with it and the songs separate out.
No, it’s not as heavy as Painkiller, but it does sound like a mix of everything they’ve done til now. Just lashings of good, solid, classic Priest with plenty of nods to their 70s and early 80s stuff (though no Turbo, unfortunately)
And, you know, songs and shit. Good job all round and damn fine album.
The one where they brought it all together, tying up all the threads that make up Fen and producing their best material to date with every track. A sound of a band with confidence and making a statement about who they are. More focused, more “metal” than the last and their definitive release to date.
Note this is MY albums of the year… and by that I mean favourite not “best”. The perception that most people don’t give a monkeys about post-Colony In Flames is completely overridden by the fact that they’re loads more popular now than they were then (though popularity isn’t a measure of quality etc, I know…) It’s just the undergroundzz innit.
According to itunes, this was my most listened to album of 2014, and, yep, I dig it. It doesn’t do anything particularly different, amazing, new or unexpected, but is a step up on everything post-Come Clarity, for me.
Above all I just think it has a load of good songs. And I like good songs. Even more than I like spazzy-jazzy tech metal. Much more than I like spazzy-jazzy tech metal, to be honest… I dig it. Most of you on here will scoff. The band won’t care either way. And neither will I…
Excellently crafted “serious” metal, with a great album dynamic that moves through and between post-Black Metal, UK Doom and post-metal, but doesn’t sound inconsistent or forced. I have Steve Patton of Sea Bastard to thank for bringing these to my attention. Really glad he did. I reviewed here.
This album still intimidates me. I probably could (should?) have this higher in my list, but I very rarely want to listen to it cos it’s hard work. Rewarding, but horrible hard work to listen to. Probably the most extreme, all out clusterfuck of the modern-tech “jazz” Ulcerate/Gorguts/Deathspell Omega influenced death metal albums of them all. This was the highest mark I’ve given anything in a review since I gave Insomnium‘s demo 10 back in the late 90’s (and the only time I’ve had an online slagging for giving a band a great review!). Takes death metal almost to the point of not being music any more.
Just don’t call them free-form… (which I actually didn’t… You can read what I did say here)
10, Edguy– Space Police: Defenders of the Crown (Nuclear Blast)
I really like this. It’s dumb, cheesy fun, yes, but it’s well put together, catchy – I still have a fair few of the songs and riffs bouncing around in my head – good, enjoyable entertaining rocky power metal. Cheesier than the stuff that’ll be on the board that will come out with the port at my folks an hour after Christmas dinner, and I love it for that.
Also, it has the best song Van Halen have(n’t) written for 20 years. Reviewed this one here.
Came to this late in the year as was unsure about its mammoth length (fnarr etc). Atmospheric black/death cleverly sprawling over 85 minutes, it certainly doesn’t drag, filling every one of those minutes with quality.
Was very impressed with these at Bloodstock, the discovery of the weekend for me, so couldn’t wait to check out the album particularly once you hear they’d chucked in a concept to it. Wasn’t disappointed, indeed they exceeded my expectations. Discordant and unsettling and well worth a checking if you haven’t already.
And for the record, I’ve never checked Akercocke beyond seeing them live at the LA2 as a support band 15+ years ago, so no fanboying from me.
Not much to say, other than a massive return with a massive batch of massive songs.
As I said in my review for Ghost Cult: “The Gray Chapter is a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best.
All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since Iowa. Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six. ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ is an album of some significance.”
It’s a close run thing, but I think I love the classics of black metal more than those of death metal, yet, other than those 90’s gems, I have very little time for black metal – mainly because it tends to involve the aping of the same 5-10 albums again and again (ad infinitum). It’s not a hard and fast rule, there are bands / albums of BM nature I’ve picked up on and very much enjoyed over the last 15-20 years, and this year brought forth a couple of beasts. I’ve already mentioned Fen, but there was also this British classic that brought joy to my ears. Running a gamut (good word) of sentiments and feelings, being more human than a lot of black metal dares to be, ‘Divination…’ excels dynamically, melodically and emotionally. Distinctively Winterfylleth, this is their best yet.
The most hotly anticipated modern death metal riff-fest of the year did not disappoint in any way shape or form. Power, grooves, and, well, riffs. Riffs that came armed with big meathooks. Some cool Slipknot-y and industrial touches here and there, but this was all about great *heavy* metal. I like the overall sound on it, too, dragging them out of the “death metal” pack and making them sound more in a field of one. Which, I guess is where they now stand…
Another band I’d never been massively bowled over by in the past who impressed me this year. Something to do with the fact they actually have songs with hooks and interesting things going on in them. The album gets better as it goes on, peaking in a brilliant crescendo of ‘O Father! O Satan! O Sun!’.
Added to the music, aesthetically this album is great (cover, production, photos, the official vids as well) and can see why it’s wracked up a number of album of the year awards, including the Ghost Cult Magazine official writers AOTY.
Paul Alan Ryan spun me a couple of Revocation tunes way back at the start of the year, and I was impressed, so had my eye out for this release. Once it hit, the mix of intelligent thrash, Death (Official) and definite lashings of Mastodon in the melodies and approach all wormed its way under the brain to become one of my go to albums in the second half of the year and one that I’ll keep going to into the new year. Really good modern, technical thrash with a touch of (when they were good ‘Rust In Peace’ era) Megadeth in there too. You’ll do me.
Was late to the Mastodon game, arriving some point around 2009 and ‘The Hunter’ was their first “new” album for me. Despite loving a bit of Leviathan and a bit of Crack The Skye (but not so much Blood Mountain), for me, their simpler, rockier stuff definitely suits them and they’ve really come into their own recently as OMRTS picks things up where Hunter left them off. Just tune after tune after tune after tune with swagger and hooks galore and distinctively ‘Don. Also, they have a song called ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ which does it for me in spades.
Two in a row for Sólstafir. Hats off! Svartir Sandar romped it for me in 2011, and by golly, Iceland’s finest have only gone and bloody gotten even better! Last time around it could be argued the album went on a touch too long and the vocals weren’t quite up to the level of the rest of wares on offer (though only by a smidge), well, those minor gripes have been consigned to the bin.
Now, post-rock isn’t exactly my bag of gravy, but Sólstafir delivers atmosphere, emotion and deep feelings, while the dynamic journeys of each track on Ótta pull you along for the ride.
A beautiful, magical album. As I say, it’s not my usual bag. Scroll through my ipod and there’s little similar on there, but Sólstafir have a way of speaking to me. Truly. Deeply.
The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 continues. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.
In our second installment we bring you albums 40 through to 31
40. JOB FOR A COWBOY – Sun Eater (Metal Blade)
“Evolution from deathcore to a more compact, yet technical, death metal… complex and melodic structures accompany a diversified approach” DIOGO FERREIRA 7/10 Full review here
39. AGELESS OBLIVION – Pethos (Siege of Amida / Century Media)
Marrying both technical and atmospheric forms of Death Metal, Ageless Oblivion create their own brand of chilling yet punishing aggression, presented in a show of impressive progression.
38. KILLER BE KILLED – Killer Be Killed (Nuclear Blast)
“Cavalera, Puciato, Sanders, and Elitch put their stamp on this recording, making a memorable, political-flavored, heavy album that certainly lives up to the hype” KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 8.5/10 Full review here
37. AEVANGELIST – Writhes In The Murk (Debemur Morti)
“If you’re able to get past the initial disorientation and look inside, you’ll find an album that follows its own perverse ambition flawlessly, with not a shred of compromise, dilution or failure” RICHIE HR 10/10 Full review here
36. FEN – Carrion Skies (Code666)
“Fen are the rawer, rockier, more achingly human cousin to Tombs’ Neurosis-driven thunder, and among the richest and most emotionally expressive Metal albums of 2014” RICHIE HR 9/10 Full review here
35. JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer of Souls (Epic/Columbia)
“Judas Priest has released a retrospective that nods to their career, recalling everything that has made them genuine legends of our metal world, Redeemer Of Souls has a beautifully warm and classic Priest feel”. STEVE TOVEY 8.5/10 Full review here
34. COFFINWORM – IV.I.VIII (Profound Lore)
The phrase “Doom” doesn’t do justice to the ugly, polluted, measured sludgy bludgeon of IV.I.VIII; a beautifully horrible record of nihilistic malevolence, that dissolves doom, death, black and sludge in its fetid path.
33. TRAP THEM – Blissfucker (Prosthetic)
“My advice? If you have never listened to Trap Them, get on this bandwagon before these guys run you over with it”. TIM LEDIN 8/10 Full review here
32. YOUNG AND IN THE WAY – When Life Comes To Death (Deathwish Inc)
The hardest of hardcore punk fused with the blackest of Darkthrone’s black metal offspring, creating a crusty hell in aural format.
31. AGAINST ME! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)
The gutsy pop-punk outfit release a cathartic biographical concept album of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s experiences for their sixth album.