Maat – As We Create the Hope From Above (2014)
Maat play excellent Egyptian-themed death metal, largely in the vein of Nile: multi-tempo, very demanding technical death metal riffing combined with Eastern-flavored thematic rhythm guitar work and leads, both of which are often played over drumming that is running at a very different tempo, creating a distinctive epic-feeling tension that is periodically resolved by utterly destructive passages of crushing brutality. Maat eschews Nile’s hyper-technicality and regular use of atmospherics and other non-musical components, instead balancing out the technicality with a commensurately heavier dose of more traditional brutal/tech death metal. Production is similar to Nile: a big, fairly crisp, fairly clean sound that does justice to the weightiness, grandiosity and complexity of the material. Vocals are reminiscent of Vader as much as any thing else.
Standout tracks: Shards of Osiris, Sobek, Preservation of My Immortal
Inert – Vermin (2019)
Vermin is the first LP from international death metallers Inert, and it is eight tracks of blasty/d-beat death metal and a ninth track, an Anímic cover, that has a very anomalous feel and actually acts as an effective counterpoint to close the album. Mostly up-tempo, with weighty, crushing mid- and down-tempo thrashy sections for tempo/feel breaks, as well as the occasional bit of groove; a significant old-school Swedish influence shows in a penchant for tremolo picking and d-beats. The chassis is largely built from fairly traditional verse and chorus structures, and the production, overall, is cavernish but not cavernous, falling somewhere between cavernous and the 90’s Sunlight Studio sound, with an OSSDM buzzsaw guitar tone and rough, ghoulishly-croaked mid-range vocals.
Standout tracks: Murderer in Me, La Malura, Vermin (New Breed)
Ribspreader – Crawl and Slither (2019)
This year’s LP Crawl and Slither from Ribspreader— their eighth— is actually a combination of two previously unreleased EPs: Crawl and Slither and Blödarsjuk. Tracks 1-5 are from the former and tracks 6-9 are from the latter; the transition shows plainly as the record levels are a bit lower on the second EP, and the drums are lower in the mix.
Crawl and Slither sees Ribspreader doing what they do: short, straightforward mid-and-uptempo verse/chorus barnburners that fuse old-school Swedeath riffing, d-beats and blasts with a healthy dose of thrash in the rhythm riffs and a more than a bit of death’n’roll influence… except for the last track, which is stylistically-pure old-school Swedish death metal dirge worthy of Entombed. The production on both EPs is in keeping with the classic Sunlight Studio style.
Standout tracks: Breeder of the Dead, Cauterized and Lobotomized, Blödarsjuk
Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance (2019)
The third full-length release from Tomb Mold in as many years, this year’s Planetary Clairvoyance is a fat slab of crushing multi-tempo, chug-laden, cavernous death metal rooted in the old US style: traditional death metal riffing augmented by technical Suffocation-style riffing and leads, all on a bedrock of traditional and thrash drumming (although some old-school Swedish influence is seen periodically in the drumwork and the guitar leads). There is nary a verse or chorus to be seen; the longish songs are all completely asymmetrical free verse with zero traditional structure, which is as old-school as Hell itself. Production is vile and cavernous. Kicks ass as expected, may be their best.
Standout tracks: Planetary Clairvoyance, Accelerative Phenomenae, Cerulean Salvation
Enforced – At the Walls (2019)
At the Walls is the debut release from Richmond’s Enforced, and it is a twenty-six-and-a-half-minute-long ass-kicking blend of blitzkrieg thrash and crossover, with the occasional Bay Area riff. The riffs are invariably lethal, and are effectively assembled into short verse-and-chorus-based rockets propelled by traditional and thrash drumming and hardcore d-beats. Songs are chock-full of über-chugs, sick mosh parts and delicious musical exclamatories: pinch harmonics, falling and rising held notes and sweet tremolo abuse. Vocals are 100% crossover shouts, and production is consistent with the best of classic crossover: a sense of aural distance, big cymbals, and a dry, crunchy guitar tone. For the style, you can’t ask for much better than this; outstanding debut! Will wreck your neck.
Standout tracks: All of them.