Suffocation: ...Of The Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)
It's been four long years since one of the most consistent and brutal death metal bands, Long Island's Suffocation provided us with Pinnacle Of Bedlam. Their eighth album has been worth the wait, 35 minutes of absolute filthy death metal which stands alongside their contemporaries Immolation and Cannibal Corpse as exemplars of the genre.
The album is the first to feature rhythm guitarist Charlie Errigo and drummer Eric Morotti who acquit themselves well, with Morotti's pounding blast beats particularly intense. Vocalist and founder member Frank Mullen's vocals remain as guttural and growling as ever, whilst the rapid fire technical approach complete with multiple complex time changes and welcome break downs which have long symbolised the band's approach remain in situ. Veteran guitarist Terrence Hobbs continues to deliver most astonishing work with scalar runs and palm muting a plenty.
Mullen's roars, for example on the volcanic Return to the Abyss are quite horrifying. It's been a long time since Effigy Of The Forgotten helped set the blueprint for the grind core fused death metal. Suffocation remain a vital part of a burgeoning scene. Their assault on the Bierkeller in Bristol in August is going to be unmissable. 9/10
Artificial Brain: Infared Horizon (Profound Lore)
This is technical death metal at its most intense. Artificial Brain, coming at you from Long Island, New York was formed in 2011 by Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo and vocalist Will Smith of Biolich. Infrared Horizon is the band's second release following the intensity of 2014 debut Labyrinth Constellation. Crammed full of astonishingly intricate and technical death metal with some of the most astounding guitar work heard for many years, tracks such as Synthesised Instinct and Floating In Orbit pulse and snake around you, pulverising yet at times so detailed you have to stop and listen again.
Technical death metal is as extreme as I can take and Artificial Brain push to the limits. Their cosmic sci-if themes mesh fantastically with the relentless pace and Smith's brutal growl which is so sinister at times you think about hiding out of aural range. With some brilliant artwork to match the sheer velocity of the band, this is an album that is well worth getting hold of. Blisteringly good. 8/10
Azarath: In Extremis (Agoina Records)
2017 has been flooded with top quality death metal releases. Storming output from legends such as Immolation, Memoriam, Obituary, Hour of Penance and Suffocation. All rightly revered as leaders of the genre. Alongside the bigger names come a slew of lesser known outfits who can deliver just as intensely and heavily. Formed in 1998, Polish death metal outfit Azarath's sixth release, In Extremis sits comfortably next to those bigger guns. Unsurprisingly the themes focus on satanic and anti religious topics, with The Slain God, The Triumph Of Ascending Majesty leaving little to guesswork.
Azarath are as brutal as any on the scene with machine gun level intensity drumming from founder member Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski and the technical excellence of guitarists Bartlomiej "Bart" Szudek and Marek "Necrosodom" Lechowski repeatedly slicing your face off. Lechowski's vocals are immense, guttural and intimidating. With no let up from start to finish, the band throw everything into a quite blistering album which demonstrates influences such as Nile, Behemoth, Vale and Marduk whilst still forging a unique sound.
For absolute nut crushing death metal commit to the five minutes of Into The Nameless Night with its high pace, huge groove in the final section and overall battery which will leave you broken. This is good stuff. 8/10
Foreseen: Grave Danger (20 Buck Spin)
Helsinki outfit Foreseen have released a mighty slab of thrash which gets better on repeated plays. All out blasters which on occasion veer closely to death metal sit comfortably alongside thrash stomp grooves and a hardcore approach combining old school with the current fresh thrash style. This is their second full release following 2014's Helsinki Savagery.
With the twin guitars of Lauri Martiskainen and Erika Korpi duelling like crazy, it's down to Marten Gustafsson on drums and bassist Tatu Kuisma to bring the noise which they do with aplomb. My only negative thoughts about this album is the slightly ragged vocals of Mirko Nummelin which sit comfortably within the assault but do detract slightly from the overall songs. Still, the all out thrash of Downward Spiral and political observations of Government Cuts and Suicide Bomber along with monstrous Fearmonger more than compensate in an album well worth bouncing around the room to. 7/10