Label: Avantgarde Music
The self-titled debut album from Wode was good, if maybe a little too in thrall of its influences. The follow-up, 2017’s Servants of the Countercosmos, was an improvement in practically every way possible. The sense of grandeur is still there, but a sense of celestial violence and other-worldly disdain was much more to the fore, as if channeling the spirits of Dissection, Deathspell Omega, and English heritage black metal in to some demonic form. It also contains the catchiest song the band have written to date, a greater sense of variety, and the kind of charisma that could see the band go far.
Label: 20 Buck Spin
I think by this stage, it’s safe to say that we’re living through a golden age of underground death metal. Consideration the quality of bands like Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Chthe’ilist, Ritual Necromancy, Of Feather and Bone, Necrot, Undergang, Our Place of Worship is Silence – and so many others! Any such list should surely also include Tomb Mold, as their latest album, Manor of Indefinite Forms, is another highlight for death metal in an era that is stuffed full of them. Dirty, dark, and irresistibly heavy, full of incredible riffs, this is something special.
Label: Nuclear Blast
I confess, somewhere along the line, I lost my faith in later-day Sepultura. I have soft spots for Against and Nation, but from Roorback onwards, nothing had grabbed me. It’s not that they’re not the same band as Max-era Sepultura – they might as well be different entities completely now – and I’m longing for the old days. It’s just that the albums weren’t that, well, good. So, imagine my surprise when Machine Messiah didn’t so much change that streak as it did grab me, shake me around, and realise just how great their prog/thrash/groove combination can be. Their best album since Chaos A.D? As far as I’m concerned, yes.
Label: Bridge9 Records
Prepare to be Let Down? Hardly. The debut album from American hardcore band Ruiner might have had a self-effacing title, but far from letting the listener down, this is one of the most urgent, emotionally devastating, and ultimately excellent records you could possibly listen to. Moving with a desperate pace, self-destructive urges, and sense of nihilism, this is the soundtrack to an emotional breakdown; uncomfortable, bleak, but oh-so cathartic. Bridge9 have a stupidly strong discography, but Prepare to be Let Down is one of the best things the label have ever released.
Label: Deathwish Inc
The final album from Punch was the band’s best, and a highlight for modern powerviolence / fastcore. They Don’t Have to Believe is a short (less than twenty minutes!) blast of righteous feminist rage, that circumvents many of the conventions of powerviolence by actually having intelligent, mature lyrics, as well as songs that are actual songs rather than 5 second blasts (aside from, erm, the 5 second long title track). It’s an album that has lost none of its power since release, and that the band is no more is a real shame – though at least they went on to form other great bands.
Label: Blackened Death Records
One of the earliest releases put out by Blackened Death Records was Alien Nation by Redacted, consisting of Jon Stormbeard (also of Petrichor and Stormbeard) and The World Controller (aka Pope Richard, of about seventeen squillion bands). Though a touch crude compared to the music the two individuals would go on to record, Alien Nation still remains a killer slice of thrash. Taking lyrical influence from the likes of The X-Files, conspiracy theories, and horror, it’s an album filled with a lot of fun, and lots of killer riffs.
Label: Regain Records
Two seemingly contradictory statements that I consider to be true: as good as they are, Behemoth are one of the most over-rated death metal bands of our times; and Demigod is one of the best death metal albums of the past fifteen years (oh god has it really been almost that long since it came out?). The band’s later albums have been robbed of their power by a too-clean production, rendering their death metal onslaught a shadow of what it should be. But on Demigod, everything fell into place just right. The production allowed the intricacies of the band to come through strongly, whilst also ensuring the music hit with all the power it was intended to. The band have gone on to become a legitimate almost-mainstream proposition now (at least, as far as death metal goes), but Demigod still remains, to me, their best album.