20 Underground Death Metal Albums You Missed in 2017

Death metal is as worn out and mutilated as any other sub-genre of metal but that isn’t to say it doesn’t continue to be an inspiring medium for many of extreme metal’s most talented visionaries. In the past decade we’ve seen an incredible rise and fall of “retro” old school death metal trends and countless old bands reforming for cash-ins and excellent fan service. 2017 wasn’t all that different from 2016 in terms of bands continuing to focus on atmospheric death metal records that are influenced by progressive rock, post-punk, and noise rock with varying levels of success. Brutal death metal has gone far out of fashion as deathcore and djent style riffing are far easier to market compared to sheer, gore burping brutality. More and more bands are vying for progressive, technical or atmospheric as their genre modifiers because frankly those tags sell to a lot of fans online. So, you’ll see just as much variation here as on my other lists with the caveat that black/death was not my focus here. You’ll find a few albums but the morass of occult black/death metal is not going to require a long list of entries as most of it is shapeless and devoid of personality outside of some fun blasphemy and great album artwork. I’m looking out for you guys when trying to find albums with riffs and memorable songs here, but a few of these will just be weirdos for the sake of showing the out-of-the-box thinkers active in death metal today.

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of death metal in 2017 but rather to illustrate what death metal is/was in 2017 and where I think it was most interesting yet overlooked. From my experience these albums were overlooked, underrepresented, and/or passed by quickly by media outlets. Thanks to streaming sites like Bandcamp, Spotify and Soundcloud you’ve got instant access to hundreds of independent death metal band discographies the world over and hey! I’ve done it for you all year, scouring those sites and a few databases that catalog most every release (Discogs/RYM). So, here are some bands that stood out to me as I dug through death metal’s innards throughout 2017. There are a ton of great bands to pimp here that I’ve already reviewed or put in my Top 50 for this year so don’t think I forgot: Death Yell, Heavydeath, Temple of Void, Venenum, Degial, Inquisitor, Necrot, Scaphism, Blood Oath, Mass Burial, Morbid Angel, Fuoco Fatuo, Under The Church, Faceless Burial, Tomb Mold, Sutrah, Horrified, Inanimate Existence, Desolate Shrine, Acephalix, Gigan, The Lurking Fear, Pyrrhon, Necrovorous, Desecresy, Resurgency, Execration and tons of other top tier 2017 death metal maestros I missed.


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Album Cemetery Urn – Cemetery Urn
Type Full-length
Released  June 9, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Death Metal

Wanted to start off this list with something as filthy and pure death metal as possible. Cemetery Urn are criminally overlooked and they got the short end of the stick this year. This Australian band have been around for about 12 years a now and this third full-length is gut-ripping death metal yanking the entrails of the 90’s with the vigor and brutality of Drawn and Quartered and the riff-writing of early 00’s Immolation. I totally overlooked this album for my end of the year list and regret that now that I’ve revived it here. ‘Cemetery Urn’ is an album that largely sticks to its guns and I’m guessing folks didn’t pay it much mind because it does sound like a lot of other bands that fused Incantation riffing into a faster sound. I just think it’s a special-assed instantly appealing ride that made up for the sleepiness of ‘Atonement’ this year.


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Album Xipe Totec – Axomimitl
Type Full-length
Released October 15th, 2017
LISTEN on Spotify!
Genres
Brutal Aztec Death Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Because their re-recording of their 1998 demo ‘Prehispanic Beg’ was more widely available this album has been entirely overlooked online. They haven’t marketed it well and very few people even new it was released. Xipe Totec is a long running Mexican death metal band who combine styles of extreme metal with themes and instrumentation pulled from native Mexican music and Aztecan culture. The way I see this band is like a continuation of the band Mictlan (but I’m sure they’re not related). This album sounds more like Nile than the previous records which reminded me of a brutal death metal version of The Chasm and some of that sound is still there. I would also recommend starting with the insane and totally underrated album ‘Miquian’ from the band as your introduction, it is so incredibly atmospheric and brutal while using a lot of loud flute playing; granted this album is more ‘riffing’ and just as tribal. It ends up being very catchy music for how brutal it is.


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Album Post Pulse – Halls of the Damned
Type Full-length
Released May 16, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Technical Death Metal, Groove Metal

This year I was intrigued a bit by the marriage of soulless tech death and halfway successful groove metal as I warmed up to Decapitated, Gojira, and even liked an Archspire record of all things. Post Pulse occupy a space that is hard to define because they’ve used influences from all over the place using technical death metal riffs, melodic metal passages, and a healthy amount of precision groove metal antics. The result is unarguably a modern technical death metal record but one that feels more progressive and youthfully angsty rather than showy or ‘tech’. At times I feel like I’m definitely listening to death metal from folks who grew up on Fear Factory and Meshuggah but it doesn’t permeate the music so much that it feels forced or ugly. There is a machine-like sterility to the album that only warms when they go off on tangents or bonking groove riffs. It might be a bit abrasive but I think it’ll be something at least slightly different for tech death fans.


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Album Soulrest – In Spite
Type Full-length
Released July 7, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Progressive Death Metal

Soulrest are a Ukranian band that have been around for almost two decades now making progressive death metal influenced by classic 90’s death metal as well as melodeath and melodic death/doom. I consider this album to be the remedy for the bad taste left in my mouth by the most recent Akercocke album. If you’re familiar with their previous full-lengths this is most like their debut ‘Pathological Processes’ in terms of vocals and pacing. They’ve got a new drummer and vocalist for this album and as a result their sound is different but the spirit of their music is the same. His Ukrainian accent and the 70’s prog influences are sort of an acquired taste here; once I warmed up to their sound and gave it a few listens this ended up being a truly progressive metal album. Maybe it just reminded me of listening to prog-thrash albums from eastern European countries, but there are enough unexpected moments here to make up for the lack of big-huge death metal moments you might expect if you’ve heard their ‘Chaosophia’ album. Highly recommended if the recent Sadist albums disappointed you.


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Album Darkside Ritual – Earthly Vulgarity
Type Full-length
Released July 26, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Technical Blackened Death Metal

This fresh ass Mexican death metal band’s debut was a huge surprise when it popped up this summer. It combines a dirty, rattling occult sound with fast and technical riffing. For every moment of precision they toss in an equally filth-ridden and mean riff and the result is ‘Earthly Vulgarity’ feels like a bestial technical death metal record. I mean the keyboard breakdown on the first song should be enough to draw you into their sound. The production itself reminds me of the midrangey clank of The Chasm‘s ‘Deathcult for Eternity: The Triumph’ but their style hits upon Krisiun, Accidental Suicide and well… to be honest its been hard to compare this album with others this year. There are bestial black metal influences alongside highly technical riffing and that alone is enough to make this more important and vital than a lot of death metal stuff in 2017. Definitely a band to watch in the future, very inspired and have a ton of great ideas brewing within this album’s rotten bones.


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Album Regurgitate Life – Obliteration of the Self
Type Full-length
Released March 31, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Brutal Death Metal

If you already know Regurgitate Life you’ll know what to expect here. They play a very easy to listen to version of brutal death metal that goes back in time a bit before bands like Origin and Necrophagist taught everyone to blasterbate and git-fiddle to irritating excess. ‘Obliteration of the Self’ is easily one of the most pensive and soul-searching brutal death metal records since Mithras‘ second and yet it retains a bit of that NY brutal death metal punch when it counts. Definitely seems like I spent 2005-2011 asking for a brutal death metal album that could slow down and do something great once in a while and I think Regurgitate Life has provided that, and the album branches out in thoughtful ways that you just don’t see anywhere. A good compliment to Scaphism‘s most recent album where the riffs are memorable and big, though this is a much more serious-faced album by far. Tasteful and diverse brutal death metal? Yes, really!


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Album Marche Funèbre – Into the Arms of Darkness
Type Full-length
Released February 20, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Melodic death/doom metal.

It was kind of funny to see some oddly misplaced backlash against this band for their clean vocals which aren’t so much Gothic metal as they are just standard doom metal. It never kept people from enjoying early My Dying Bride, Mournful Congregation or Anathema, and this is very much in that vein of when those bands were still doing death metal within their dark doom metal sound. I found this album compelling because it isn’t pure drudging in pace nor is it entirely gloomy. There are angry death metal moments spattered in each song and it keeps the variations cycling. The melodic parts are strong and I actually enjoy the clean vocals, it expresses the classic sort of angered melancholy that this sort of music was meant to convey.


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Album Primordium – Old Gods
Type Full-length
Released June 19, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Death Metal, Symphonic Metal

Primordium are a Brazilian death metal band with Sumerian/Egyptian themes. Sure, it does occasionally resemble ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’ but the prominent keyboards remind me more of Ancient Rites and Nocturnus rather than Nile. The riffing is thrash and melodic death metal influenced and not rooted in brutal death metal most of the time. It makes for a bombastic and slightly ‘cheap’ record at times but I like that ‘Old Gods’ takes a lot of chances on their otherworldly sound. The Egyptian themes are quite old hat at this point, but at least this band incorporates scales and melodies that evoke that region compared to bands like Maat who just sound like every Polish death metal band. I found their use of keyboards throughout left this album stuck in my mind for a while, I’m a big fan of corny symphonic black metal and keyboards in metal in general, so I got a kick out of this.


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Album Narthraal – Screaming From the Grave
Type Full-length
Released May 26, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Death Metal

These Icelandic youngsters are very straight-forward with their mission statement: Worship the Swedish ‘Sunlight Studios’ death metal scene. They make it clear on all media that they intend to carry the torch of Entombed, Dismember and to keep the Boss HM-2 distortion pedal running hot. Weird thing is that they’ve actually avoided sounding like those bands by a fair margin and it actually works in their favor. I think Mass Burial and Entrails put out far better overall imitations of that style while expanding upon those whereas ‘Screaming From the Grave’ resembles a band like Cartilage (Finland) or Centinex rather than their heroes. The vocals are a little croaky and the mix is thick and sludgey, so even if they did miss the mark on the Sunlight Studios/Stockholm sound they put out a ripping, gory mess of a metal record.


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Album Horrid – Beyond the Dark Border
Type Full-length
Released June 1, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Death Metal

Horrid is an Italian death metal band that have been active since 1989 and though they’ve had some long breaks here and there they’ve kept consistent with their style throughout. Their sound deviated from their previous Carnage/Dismember sound post-2006 and has incorporated more black metal elements within their old school death metal sound. I have to admit I initially really missed their long-winded Dismember style songs of ‘Rising From the Hidden Spheres’ but this new approach makes for a current, relevant band that still sounds like they were formed in 1989 and not just revived in the 2010’s. ‘Beyond the Dark Border’ showcases a Soulburn-like vision of Celtic Frost influenced death metal that experiments far outside of the limits of the previous Horrid records and might actually be their best work to date. This album feels a bit like if Varathron did a death metal record and I mean for that to be a high compliment.


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Album Excommunion – Thronosis
Type Full-length(ish)
Released May 12, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Death Metal

This Colorado band returned from the dust after 15 years with this barely-30 minutes blast of atmospheric death/black metal masterclass inspired by Immolation and the like. The guttural vocals and doomed-over blackened classic death metal riffing are incredibly effective across the four seven minute epics that make up ‘Thronosis’. There is a brutality here that is undeniable yet they’re able to crossover between genre influences seamlessly within that sound. I really slept on this album this year despite getting an early promo, I’m not sure why I never dug into it and reviewed it. So, I hoped to remedy that by putting it here on this list. If you’re familiar with Vital Remains‘ ‘Dawn of the Apocalypse’ this albums style has hints of that death/black mix to it.


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Album Gourmand – The Inquisitionist
Type Full-length
Released January 1, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Progressive Death Metal

Gourmand have a really stupid name and they come from a really stupid place (Missouri). I found ‘The Inquisitionist’ pretty irritating and just weird for the sake of weird initially and it just didn’t click with me. Everything from the name to the relatively sparse sound just irritated me but the more time I put into it the more I could appreciate it’s style. A lot of the bass work on the album reminded me of Sadus around the ‘Souls of Black’ era and the band has that jank to it that bands like Ripped and Disciples of Power had in the early 90’s. ‘The Inquisitionist’ is too focused to be truly progressive, and it’s themes are far-reaching but quickly stale so where it really shines for me is the musicianship. While Gourmand aren’t technical wizards I do feel like this outdoes itself in terms of just ‘going for it’ and making an ambitious album. The band name is still really, really fucking stupid.


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Album Devilpriest – Devil Inspired Chants
Type Full-length
Released November 10, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Death Metal, Black Metal

Devilpriest are a newcomer Polish death/black metal band that incorporate Morbid Angel style from the ‘Gateways of Annihilation’ era with Angelcorpse ferocity and it ends up a sort of mix of confident-yet-anxious thrashing death metal blasts alongside blasphemic black metal hissing. Each track is intense and belches blasphemous fire with truly Polish dedication. The drumming reminds me of something like Ripping Corpse where he jumps between styles and that means it isn’t always coherent in terms of cohesive songwriting, but it is for the sake of intensity and a certain controlled chaotic sound. This is absolutely a ‘riff’ album and I have continued to return to it repeatedly since first hearing it.


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Album Soulrot – Namless Hideous Manifestations
Type Full-length
Released April 24, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Death Metal

This death metal band from Chile have similar goals as Narthraal but they get a bit closer to the classic Sunlight Studios sound of Swedish death metal. In fact they’ve ended up sounding a lot like Autopsy in the process while going back to the style of Nihilist in some respects. This will be nothing new for fans of old school death metal and I’m including it here for a couple of reasons: It features pretty good songwriting and some heavy riffing, it shows how different bands using this same style can be when comparing releases with the same stylistic intentions. Hey, plus I really love that album artwork. Again this won’t blow your mind but it is one of the more overlooked albums in this chainsaw Swedish style death metal in 2017, and let me remind you to definitely check out Mass Burial as well.


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Album Curse of Denial – The 13th Sign
Type Full-length
Released February 3, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Death/Black Metal

Ohio’s own death metal maestros Curse of Denial fuse thrash and melodic black metal influences into their sound. Parts remind me of the old Abominant before they became really boring around 2004, and the black metal riffs are melodic sort of like what Ritual did on ‘The Summoning’ all pushed along with the orthodoxy of say… Ares Kingdom slightly. I enjoyed this album despite the relatively restrained drumming which is far from extreme and rather just pushes along mid-paced songs that are meant to invoke evil and anxiety. Turns out one of these guys was from Decrepit, who put out a really underrated death metal album back in the late 90’s.


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Album Redemptor – Arthaneum
Type Full-length
Released November 30, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Technical Death Metal

This is a mind-bending sludge-ified technical death metal record that is progressive in nature and doesn’t focus on speed as much as theme and composition. In fact the compositions are so complex that it was almost too much to take in at first. I haven’t quite had that feeling since Cynic ‘Focus’ just in the sense of getting death metal aesthetics sifted through entirely transcendent delivery. There is an undercurrent of atmospheric sludge metal here, even if the music itself is at its core technical death metal with riffing influenced by Morbid Angel‘s later era as well as Behemoth. Brilliant stuff.


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Album Bufihimat – I
Type Full-length
Released April 23, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres
Technical Death/Grind

If you were bewildered by the guitar work of Pyrrhon, Gigan and Krallice this year then buckle up for Bufihimat. This Russian band play a math-grind infused form of technical death metal similar to those groups. This was a little too close to wild garbage like Psyopus for me, nothing wrong with it but I find somewhat forgettable and hard to follow unless I’m really wanting to focus on seemingly random discordance playing. It isn’t a long listen though, and you’ll likely find a lot of cool stuff here. It reminds me of listening to Watchmaker for the first time and not understanding what it was, there is a world they’re coming from where I’ve just never really been interested before.


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Album Skelethal – Of the Depths…
Type Full-length
Released June 23, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!
Genres
Death Metal

After one lame full-length and two solid EP’s over the last two years Skelethal went from wannabe old school death metal kids to a real powerhouse on this album. ‘Of the Depths…’ captures the sound of old school death metal but kicks their own thrashing energy into it. The album reminds me of the first Asphyx album but with moments of Sorcery and Autopsy. Skelethal pack in the riffs far more than most bands on this list. Yes, it is ultimately a retro sounding death metal record but not so predictable in style that you’ll be completely bored by it. I promised lots of riffs and I believe this album delivers.


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Album Succumb – Succumb
Type Full-length
Released May 5, 2017
 BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Occult experimental death/grind.

Succumb are the musical embodiment of suffocating while listening to death metal. While random brain cells burst and die due to lack of oxygen, so do your dying memories of other genres like grindcore, math metal, noise rock, and it all collides into one spiraling cacophony of brain death. This is the true shit that hipsters were hoping to find this year but  it seems like this band only gained marginal popularity. I find the band comparable to Pyrrhon in some ways, but less playful and more serious. It isn’t wildly technical and really focuses more on atmosphere and groove as a sort of medium between Mitochondrian‘s murk and Verberis‘ blasting precision. The vocals are an odd choice that I don’t really love, but they’re just echoing idiot shouts from behind a wall anyhow.


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Album Ophis – The Dismal Circle
Type Full-length
Released October 20, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!
Genres Death Doom Metal

Ophis are a German death/doom metal band that have been around for about two decades and despite creating the type of death metal that is so popular these days they’ve not received a ton of attention compared to newer bands. Sure, their songs are around 10 minutes each on this record and it drags its ass on purpose, but they put effort into making every song distinct. 60+ minutes is asking a lot of the listener but I appreciate that this band is capable of actual death metal when they occasionally feel inclined to highlight a song with it. ‘The Dismal Circle’ doesn’t make huge improvements over the previous record and I suppose that is enough reason to overlook it yet it makes no sense to pass up a band like Ophis if you’re already enjoying stuff like Spectral Voice, Usnea, and Bell Witch in 2017. It isn’t quite funeral doom but it is focused and gloomy enough to satisfy similar needs!


If I missed your favorite death metal album from 2017 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite death metal album (past or present). If you’re in a death metal band and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page up and send me a copy, keep in mind I like melodic stuff the best. No death metal will be left unheard!

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