Cruel Fate – A Quaternary of Decrepit Night Mares (2019)
Great straightforward debut from Canada’s Cruel Fate. Nothing fancy; eight tracks of mostly short-to-midlength riff-heavy verse/chorus meat-and-potatoes death metal: crushing chugs, meaty power chords, and some tremolo picked riffing over tight, mostly traditional drumwork. Taken as a whole, the album has great flow. Production is consonant with modern brutalish death metal: clean without being polished, with a bit of grit remaining. Guitar tone is nice and crunchy, except for the tremolo-picked lead-work, which has a throwback Sunlight Studios sound. Drums sound big, really good for this style of production where the drum sound sometimes suffers. Think Jungle Rot with a dose of old-school Swedeath.
Standout tracks: Decanting Death Under Leaden Skies; Humanity’s Cruelty, Humanity’s Fear; Skinning of Life
Cianide – Unhumanized (EP) (2019)
This 5-track EP from Chicago death/doom gods Cianide is everything you could want from them in a tidy little package, although at 25 minutes it’s not far off from a short LP. Filthy, cavernous old-school death metal that blends multi-tempo Autopsy-style death/doom, bits of old-school Swedish-style tremolo-picking and d-beats, and an extra heaping helping of crushing chugs and megalithic power chords for maximum devastation. Other than the crusty burner Traitors (2:50), the songs are all in the five-to-six minute range, grinding steadily forward with relentless purpose and destructive inevitability, rather than sprinting with determined dispatch. EP of the Year 2019?
Standout tracks: The Weapon of Curse, Serpent’s Wake
Midnight – Rebirth by Blasphemy (2020)
Midnight’s fourth LP, and first on Metal Blade, cedes no ground: Cleveland black/speed master Athenar baptizes Metal Blade with ten tracks of filthy, sleazy metal born of Motörhead and Venom, performed with his usual aplomb and swagger; as always, the songs are shorter verse/chorus-driven affairs that leave nothing but carnage and a whiff of brimstone in their wake. The album flow accelerates like a rocket-ride to Hell and then fetches up against the mid-album bulwarks that are Rising Scum and Warning From the Reaper, as speed metal chugs, power chords and tremolo-picked notework vie for dominance with the wickedest leads this side of Satan’s titty bar. Uptempo, stripped-down, and gleefully depraved… do not miss!
Standout tracks: Escape the Grave, The Sounds of Hell, You Can Drag Me Through Fire
Red Dead – Forest of Chaos (2020)
The second LP from French old-school death metallers Red Dead, Forest of Chaos is a delightfully effective blend of Deeds of Flesh-style brutal/tech death metal and black/death, plus plenty of thrashy bits, tempo changes and chugs to keep things nice and lively, and to provide a nice counter-point to the techish syncopated riffing and odd timing changes. Ten 3-4 minute verse/chorus bulldozers, plus an intro and an outro, packed full of great riffs and some superlative drumwork, all with that brutal Deeds of Flesh production.
Standout tracks: Butcher’s Pray, Black Valley, Wind of Chaos
Total Annihilation – …On Chains of Doom (2020)
The third LP from Switzerland’s Total Annihilation is eight tracks of great Scandinavian-style death/thrash in the vein of Legion of the Damned: crushing mid- and up-tempo thrash-based riffing and tremolo-picked sections played against down-tempo passages (thrashy mosh parts or more dismal death metal pieces), all expertly welded together into verse-chorus structures with death-inspired flourishes— multi-part verses and choruses and complex extended bridges— driven by a blend of traditional and thrash drumming buttressed by double-bass runs and the occasional d-beat-like pattern. There are plenty of sick chugs, tempo shifts and dialog samples to go around. Song length ebbs and flows between mid-length and long, with peaks at tracks 1, 4 and 7 and valleys at tracks 2 and 6, but none of the songs overstay their welcome. Production is consistent with the style: that blackish, slightly top-heavy sound with extra crunch on the guitars that characterizes Scandi death/thrash.
Standout tracks: …On Chains of Doom, Tunnelratten, Black Blood