2020 was exceptional in many ways. Not going to the germ side of things here, but one of the anomalies this year was the amount of solid releases coming out in December. Usually, the month of good ol’ Satan Claws has been a bit quiet in the field of new album releases, but not this time around. Not the least.
Due to the overall hassle with lists, gifts and the mythological content around the most famous walking Coca-Cola Company advert, our time here in the TMW headquarters has been on the short side. Therefore you’ll get my three favourite Death Metal releases of December 2020, all in one cluster. This way, the year will not end before they are mentioned, as they really do deserve it!
DEEDS OF FLESH – “Nucleus“
Deeds of Flesh have been an absolute Death Metal juggernaut throughout their 27 year career. Without flirting with any other musical direction, they have been balancing in between the technical and the brutal on each of their releases, often being a sheer synonym for quality. Their 2003 album “Reduced to Ashes” aside, each of the remaining full-lengths have offered a lot for a devoted Death Metal fanatic. Never flirting with melodies, or format song structures, they are a Death Metal entity of the highest order.
The band was struck with tragedy when the founding member Erik Lindmark passed in 2018, leaving the future of Deeds of Flesh pretty much hanging in the air. The last album he contributed on, “Nucleus,” was released posthumously this year, with pretty much all of the most important names in the North American Death Metal scene doing guest appearances on it. Luc Lemay, Corpsegrinder, John Gallagher and Frank Mullen are all listed on the musicians paying their homage to the true torchbearer of underground brutality, Lindmark.
Musically, “Nucleus” continues with the winning formula of their previous release, “Portals to Canaan” (2013). An epic Death Metal battery that is both technical and brutal, but arranged in such a manner that none of these traits become overkill. Memorable, but never in a mainstream manner. Due to the limited amount of listens I had on this one, and also the admirably challenging structure of the material itself, I will not try to tell you where this particular record lands in the list of personal favourite’s from the band. They have been champions for me for quite some time and many of their albums are highly respected by yours truly, so comparing the new one with the albums I’ve listened to a lot more over the years quite is difficult. But rest assured, this is nothing short of the quality of their very best ones. A future classic, most likely. With an outstanding combination of sound and performance that will surely have you hooked as it did me.
Rating – 4/5
WOMBBATH – “Tales of Madness“
Swedish Death Metal. Now, there you go. From now on you all know exactly what we are talking about here.
Wombbath have gone all Kiss and Uriah Heep and are already releasing a second album in the same year. Just like the 70’s greats used to do! If the “Choirs of the Fallen” (released earlier this year) was their best album since the mighty, but rather underrated debut release “Internal Caustic Torments” (1993), Wombbath have somehow manage to pick up the pace even more with their second 2020 release, “Tales of Madness.”
Musically, “Tales of Madness” is a 30th anniversary work. It features reworked music from their very first demo, “Brutal Mights” (1992) along with new compositions and everything in between, re-recorded and modernized to the point that it all comes across as a brand new Wombbath release. And it is marketed this way too. It sounds fantastically authentic, but all powerful at the same time. A perfect balance of the old school way and the modern day recording technology. Being weak in sound for the sake of old times alone does not make any bloody sense and these guys know it.
On the album, Wombbath have managed to strip everything that is not essential for them and have traveled to a place in the time and space continuum where the year of the composition does not seem to matter at all. Here, floating in the solar system of HM-2, each of these songs travels across your view as a timeless pieces of art, all making a lot of sense in the concept of the recording. You get all the typical adjectives thrown to Swedish Death Metal here, but you can also easily notice the slight difference Wombbath have always had in their music, when compared to the majority of their Swede peers. Somehow, and especially with their earliest of works, they had a slightly more eerie way to produce those melodic, yet brutal riffs to a point they bear as much resemblance to early Demigod and Amorphis, their eastern neighbours, as they have similarity with Grave and Dismember. This, the odd Finnish twist if you may, has set Wombbath a bit apart from the Swedish scene and maybe made them a bit harder to categorize than your average Nihilist worship. But then again, here lies their secret too. They offer a solid viewpoint to an angle of the things rarely heard. If the second track from the album, “Brutal Mights,” is not the best old school Death Metal tune you hear this year, I will be hugely surprised.
As the album bears towards closure, modern Wombbath raises its head and the song writing becomes a bit more familiar to what we have gotten used to expect. Yes, it is a bit more smooth in delivery and arrangement, but then again, it might not possess that same type of raw splendour of the first part of the album. Still this is a minor complaint, as the material here is on the line with the very best they have EVER released.
“Tales of Madness” is first and foremost a potent storm warning – We have not heard the best of Wombbath yet. On the album we can hear a band that is very confident in what they do and know how to do it. If and when they manage to collect the raw and eerie from the first part of the album and mix it together with their compositional talent of today, the 666 Entombed clones that exist in the the world will not know what hit them.
Rating – 4/5
UNDERGANG – “Aldrig I Livet“
Okay, I saved the best bit for last. The most gory mess at the bottom of the bucket – Undergang. If there is a classic name in the modern day field of Death Metal, they are it. Heads and shoulders above your average caveman sluggers, this Danish rampage of old school Death Metal mayhem has improved with each and every record they have released and their latest, “Aldrig I Livet” is no exception.
Undergang are a band that has managed to raise above the average Autopsy worship to a point where they stand on the pedestal of their own and are now influencing others as they go. Actually, when you think of it, no other band has influenced the overall aesthetic of Death Metal as much as Undergang have over the previous decade. You simply need to check their album cover art and have a brief listen to their tunes of over this period of time, and know instantly what I mean here. Instead of following others, they have lead the pack.
If their previous album ventured to a bit more of the advanced side of riffing, bearing even a slight Demilich resemblance, “Aldrig I Livet” takes a step back to a more straightforward direction. There’s the stampede of D-beat, the guttural and these days the often copied trademark vocals of David Mikkelsen, plenty of dynamics and ah, those fantastic creepy and melodic guitar patterns! By melodic we are not talking of anything In Flames -ian in direction, but the original spark of Scandinavian Death Metal, where the nocturnal graveyard anthems were decorated with horror filmesque patterns. Like with Wombbath earlier on, the riffs here are hummable, but pretty damn obscure too. Ramming a down tuned riff from the first three frets alone was never what Scandinavian Death Metal was about. The direction was about riffs, riffs, riffs and song writing. And then some more riffs. Undergang have mastered the very subject with their latest album. The sound also deserves a mention. Powerful, but muddy. A perfect combination of underground essentials and the fine-tuned effect of a sledgehammer. This is the best Scandinavian Death Metal record for decades and it is almost a crying shame it came out this late. Many will most likely sleep on this as their albums of the year are already settled, but nevertheless – This is how it stands from now on: The official PCO list of legends (c.) from this day on goes as follows: Sentenced – “Shadows of the Past,” Xysma –“Yeah,” Edge of Sanity – “Unorthodox,” Demilich – “Nespithe,” Amorphis – “The Karelian Isthmus” AND Undergang – “Aldrig I Livet.” At least in the cave paintings of the ProgCave, in the ritualistic wall decoration of Scandinavian greatness.
As Greenland belongs to Denmark and it is more or less 50 times larger an area than the actual kingdom itself, this is the ratio how much better Undergang are on their latest album, when compared to your regular Death Metal, retro and copycat band. A new decade and new kings on the throne, it seems as in 2020, Undergang are the best Death Metal band around.
Rating – 5/5