The 2020s has been a flippin’ smorgasbord of delicious death metal. Maybe it was the hellish start to the decade or the existential uncertainty which continues to fill every waking moment, but no matter the reason, death metal has answered the call with brilliant and brutal masterworks.
Look, we all know that Arch Enemy’s Deceivers is filled with massive metal anthems and The Black Dahlia Murder’s Verminous was awesome, but we’re delving just a little further underground for this list. So let’s get into the cult classics and subgenre-defining works of the decade so far.
Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still (2020)
Shortly after the pandemic took hold of the globe, Ulcerate blessed the metal world with arguably the best dissonant album since Gorguts’ Colored Sands. It’s a vicious hour of brutal atonality, gripping listeners from the very first seconds of “The Lifeless Advance.” Stare Into Death and Be Still remains the crown jewel of Debemur Morti Productions’ catalogue, which is no small feat, and it's one of the best metal albums of the decade so far.
Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville (2020)
Did we just say best dissonant album since Gorguts’ Colored Sands? If that title doesn’t belong to Stare Into Death and Be Still, it’s absolutely the property of Alphaville. As much death metal as it is free jazz, Imperial Triumphant’s fourth album is almost too bizarre to wrap your head around. From bending guitar strings all the way off the fretboard, to terrifying big band sections and chord structures from hell, Alphaville is an extremely challenging and rewarding piece of art.
Black Curse – Endless Wound (2020)
When members of Blood Incantation, Khemmis, Primitive Man and Spectral Voice joined forces to form Black Curse, an album like Endless Wound was almost destined to happen. What a unique cross section of brutal death metal, atmospheric chaos, black metal and avant-garde hellscapes. Each twist and turn on Endless Wound keeps the listener both enraptured and fucking bewildered. It’s a total banishment of predicability.
Archspire – Bleed the Future (2021)
With the rise of modern deathcore, metallic-infused hardcore, and back-to-the-cave death metal, tech death seemed to go under the radar in recent years. The subgenre needed a Necrophagistic kick in the teeth, and in response came Archspire with Bleed the Future. This thing is just an all-out assault of sophistication and light-bending speed for 30 minutes straight. This album left even tech death aficionados scratching their heads wondering how something so insanely fast could be so tight. It’s truly a noteworthy achievement for the genre.
Diskord – Degenerations (2021)
Diskord sounds like if you dosed a group of circus musicians with ketamine. Listen to “The Endless Spiral” if you wanna get straight to that part of Degenerations. There’s something so unhinged about this record, whether it’s all the bizarre guitar tones or the drummer’s seemingly random use of a cowbell. It’s head-scratching in the best possible way. I dunno man… just be careful with this one if you’re under the influence of powerful substances.
200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scalpel (2021)
We could go on and on about atonal and avant-garde works from the 2020s, but let’s shine a light on a band giving new energy to classic death metal. 200 Stab Wounds’ Slave to the Scalpel is raw, filthy and gore-obsessed… if you couldn’t already tell from the artwork. It’s a loving throwback to the Florida scene in the ‘80s, but fresh enough to give you that “just smelled a fart” face when a big riff kicks in.
An Abstract Illusion – Woe (2022)
Let’s get some of that Swedish goodness in this list. More brutal than your typical melodic death metal album and far more influenced by prog, An Abstract Illusion’s Woe walks a similar tightrope to Opeth while sounding nothing like Mikael Akerfeldt’s iconic project. The beautiful moments are stunning, the soft moments are sophisticated, the epic moments are huge… it’s just a feast for any red wine-drinking, piano key-stroking metalhead with an hour of time to kill.
Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise From the Grave (2022)
Wait… this isn’t a long lost Suffocation record? Seriously, you could throw this on between Effigy of the Forgotten and Pierced From Within without breaking the mood. Undeath’s It’s Time… To Rise From the Grave is so damn true to old school brutal death metal that Frank Mullen himself could dust off his chopping hand, grab a chainsaw and start killing people again. Undeath's got the sauce.
Ulthar – Anthronomicon / Helionomicon (2023)
If you love your death metal on the blackened side, Ulthar’s duo of 2023 albums should be heavy on your rotation. We can’t possibly choose between Anthronomicon and Helionomicon, so just carve out 80 minutes of your day for these pieces of cosmic horror. Give these albums a little time and they could rise to the S-tier of 20 Buck Spin’s stacked catalogue.
Ὁπλίτης – Ψευδομένη (2023)
If you went to college to study history, this album is for you! Ὁπλίτης is a one-man blackened death metal project from China that writes about ancient Greek history and Chinese social issues while using the Greek alphabet. I mean… I think that’s what’s happening here. Anyway, Google Translate says the band name means “soldier” and the album title means “I lied.” All we can personally confirm is that the album is a furious listen… and that’s universal.