Not only is Trevor Strnad the frontman of the excellent melodic death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder, he also pens a monthly column for Metal Injection called "The Obituarist," where he recommends the best of underground death metal. View his previous columns here.
Oh boy! Another year end list. The only difference between mine and the rest here is that mine is good (haha). I personally thought it was a fine year for the underground… I had a genuinely hard time narrowing down my list to something reasonable. I’m sure many of you were expecting a list 100 entries long like last year, and for that I am sorry… this is what I’ve got for you. I will however be posting various songs on my Twitter (@TrevorTBDM) highlighting EVERY release I took notice of this year. And that’s a LOT of stuff. Get your ears ready to be filled with blood and sewage, it’s gonna be an exhausting undertaking. In the mean time, here are my 15 favorite releases of 2016.
15. Wormed – Krighsu
I am all about Wormed 2.0. Some folks long for their messier Planisphærium days but I am definitely feeling the professional vision of the resurrected Wormed. Krigshu is slick, technical as fuck and absolutely unrelenting brutal death metal of the highest order. You may recall that I had their last album, Exodromos at #1 a couple years back. I suppose Krighsu would be higher on my list if it had been as just as huge of a quantum of a leap forward as Exodromos was at the time. This is indeed a great record but it just wasn’t as much of a shock to the system this time around. Get sci-fi with Spain’s sickest brutal export!
14. Nucleus – Sentient
Speaking of Sci-fi, these dudes Nucleus must have been abducted by aliens at some point. A ship flew over Chicago, sucked them up, and played Nespithe by Demilich backwards to them for 6 weeks straight. Upon returning to our beloved earth, these young talents conjured Sentient; a warped, sideways beast of an old school death metal album dripping with cosmic creativity.
13. Unfathomable Ruination – Finitude
Fresh is the word… Finitude sounds like something new to these jaded ears. They possess insane technical prowess and are masters of that run-away-train-just-about-to- derail feel that I liken most easily to that of sorely missed Massachusetts miscreants The Red Chord. This is forward thinking stuff and you just can’t say that much about the realm of brutal death.
12. Neurogenic – Ouroboric Stagnation
Now this is fucking brutal! Ultra brutal, to be exact! There are few bands out there this extreme… that Putridity level of insanity is not one easily achieved. International murderers Neurogenic are a super group of sorts, home to a talented spread of musicians with connections to Indecent Excision, Brain Drill, Anomalous, Fleshbomb, Derogation, and Posthumous Blasphemer (to name a few). If you like whirlwind blasting, disgusting gutturals and pinch harmonics up the yeah, you’d better get on this.
11. Omnipotent Hysteria – Abattoir Of Slain Deities
I was not ready for how great this is. I absolutely love the New Standard Elite catalog and this has proven to be one of the best entries yet! Omnipotent Hysteria play a menacing brand of technical and brutal death metal from the Disgorge school of thought (although this is a good bit more digestible). This is about as high in the quality department as brutal death has gotten up to this point. It’s fucking stellar. Don’t miss it!
10. Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom EP
Dead Congregation are the evil bastard child of a nun who was double penetrated by Immolation and Incantation. These Greek death gods can do no wrong. Following the monstrous Promulgation Of The Fall LP was no small feat, and they’ve done well to honor their flawless track record in these two mammoth dark death tunes. If you want to feel the flames of hell licking the bottoms of your bare feet, this is a quick way down.
9. Our Place Of Worship Is Silence – Embodiment Of Hate
Goddamn do I love this album! The Embodiment Of Hate is just incredible, artful stuff. OPOWIS play a style of creative black/death somewhere between the pitch black approach of Archgoat and the entrancing majesty Bolzer. It’s dark and demonic yet slightly refined… intelligent, even. I can’t help but feel like these young Californians have tapped into some kind of real ancient wisdom here with this scorching debut. Listen now and be privy to one of the USA’s most crushing new bands.
8. Cloak – s/t 7 inch
Cloak are a band of vampirically rockin’ death metallers from Atlanta. They play a brand of that new-fangeled death-meets-70s rock stuff that is all the rage these days (T.O.A.D., Tribulation, Entombed A.D., Horrendous). Over the course of these two long winded, creative tracks, Cloak display a lot of confident style and a huge level of professionality. I am not surprised that they were immediately snatched up by Seasons Of Mist. Kudos to both parties involved! I played these two songs endlessly… I wouldn’t be surprised if the full length Cloak are hinting at for 2017 lands even higher on my year end list when the time is right. Get ghoulish with the new masters!
7. Scorched – Echoes Of Dismemberment
Scorched have been one of my favorite bands in recent times. I’m glad to see these guys getting some love during list mania 2016. They deserve the recognition. For the uninitiated, Scorched are an old school flavored death metal band out of Delaware unfurling horror-inspired tuneage to die for. If you like it catchy, low and nasty with huge, bellowing vocals, give these sick pyromaniacs a try… but don’t forget to bring the aloe.
6. Blood Incantation – Starspawn
These dudes definitely increased their profile 1,000 fold this year with the incredible Starspawn. They deserve the hype. Blood Incantation have brought forth a truly magical offering of twisted, alien death for the thinking extremist that won’t soon be forgotten. It’s dense, warped, weird death metal that sucks you in like a massive black hole.
5. 4 Doors to Death – Ectovoid / Sabbatory / Trenchrot / Cemetery Filth
This is just perfect… a modern Projections Of A Stained Mind style compilation of pure death glory. I certainly played the shit out of this incredible disc earlier this year. These four bands open a rift through time to the ancient days of old school death metal, and their combined might is just ridiculous. The artwork and packaging is worth a mention, too. Each band has their own separate two page booklet… pretty cool idea. Check this out and get with four of the finest death metal bands North America has to offer.
4. Mithras – On Strange Loops
Mithras have finally arrived. They’ve been slowly inching toward greatness over the years, and On Strange Loops should finally see them getting their dues. This is incredibly ethereal stuff. It demands your attention and remains gripping until the last drop. The scope of this continuously flowing album is just huge… each song is seamlessly connected to form one giant tentacled monster from planet Xarxoo. What an undertaking this must have been. Color me seriously impressed! If you like the Steve Tucker era of Morbid Angel, do not miss this cosmic offering.
3. Gatecreeper – Sonoran Deprivation
I told you so. There, I said it. I knew this band would be huge from the moment I heard the first song of their ep back in 2k14 and here we are, buying their Relapse debut and anticipating their massive tour with Nails and Toxic Holocaust… the kind of stuff a young band dreams about. With a formula this potent, it was simply a matter of time. Gatecreeper play HM-2 fueled oldschool Swedeath with a muscular hardcore twist and they do it better than anyone out there. It’s powerful, fist pumping, headbanging stuff that doesn't reinvent the wheel, but instead crushes it to dust. Grab this now and get stomping.
2. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy Of Molten Bones
Deathspell Omega returned out of nowhere this year with this surprise slice of fucked up black metal damage forged in the flames of Hell itself. This incredible disc shows a violent return to the full on intensity of releases like Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice and Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum and I could not be happier. It may take a few more spins to decide but all in all this might be their best output yet. Take a listen to one of the most impressive extreme forces on planet earth.
1. Chthe'ilist – Le Dernier Crépuscule
Freakish. Bizarre. Otherworldly. Chthe'ilist is difficult outfit to describe (and even harder to pronounce) but what Pat Tougas and his crew of merry French Canadian men have done here is just superb. This is nightmarish, experimental, shapeshifting death metal music heavy on dread-filled atmosphere. Tougas is a brilliant young musician, and he stews a rich melting pot of his influences ranging from left of center death metal classics, most prominently legends Demilich and Timeghoul are the core of Chthe'ilist’s Add twenty shades of murky, suffocating darkness and you’re headed in the right direction. I love the dripping interludes… it’s small attention to detail like this that help sell the whole unearthly experience. The atmospheric climate of this album is so welcome… it is truly like none other I’ve ever heard. The watery vocal approach here is pretty fresh sounding and downright horrifying… dude sounds like a formless being from beyond our limited human comprehension. Just as he should. The bizarro alien trilled growls are fucking putrid, there’s simply nothing like it! Le dernier crépuscule puts any other musical tributes to the tentacled one that I can think of to shame… this is as weird and appalling as HP Lovecraft would demand. Also, for you Zelda freaks out there, the epic closing track Tales Of The Majora Mythos Part 1 borrows from musical themes of (you guessed it) the beloved Majora’s Mask and incorporates them into a hellish musical journey in the way that only Pat Tougas (First Fragment, Zealotry, Serocs, Ex-Vengeful) can. Hit play now and get wet with The Great Old Ones.
Nightkin, Sewercide, Defeated Sanity, Dehumanized, Funebrarum, Cobalt, Phobocosm, Zhrine, Fleshgore, Atrocious Abnormality, Rotting Obscene, Sentient Horror, Cropsy Maniac, Ripper, Bekëth Nexëhmü, Mystik, Recitations, Voidspawn, Dawn Of Disease, Dehuman Reign, Wormhole, Virvum, Vektor, Virulency, The Dead Goats, Spice Mutated Corpse, Wormhole, Nuke.
There you have it folks… the best of the best! The most brutal of all! Now I must get back to poaching new tunes from other people’s year end lists from around the net (the Nuclear War Now message board always has some scorchers). This is one of my favorite times of the year for this reason… I love attempting to get caught up and I love finding out how much great stuff I missed… it’s proof that I’ll never be fully on top of it (who could?) and that there will never be a shortage of excellent output from the deep underground. I have high hopes for next year in the form of a new Disgorge album… that’s the one thing I was really hoping would excrete this year. Better late than never.
As I mentioned earlier, I will spend the rest of the year highlighting EVERY release I liked on my Twitter (@TrevorTBDM). Follow me to be bombarded with more underground tuneage than a mortal could possibly handle. Until next year, stay dead!!!
View all of our Best of 2016 coverage here.