20 Underground Death Metal Albums You Missed in 2018

Death metal represents an extreme within heavy metal that can never hope to go ‘mainstream’ for long. No matter how hard you work to extrude its essence the core traits of death metal that resonate with serious, reasonable human beings cannot be machined into popular music. That isn’t to say that people don’t try and that garbage death metal isn’t popular, but those of us who cling to some sort of taste level in terms of death metal know the difference almost immediately. However you personally approach selection know that this list is chosen to represent several styles of death metal; The goal is to find artistic value in a relatively arbitrary (but still entirely curated) selection of underground/independent artists with the hopes of representing the global scope of death metal musicianship.

I want to suggest that I have put a lot of time, nearly two decades of research, into becoming some sort of self-professed quasi-expert on the general subject of death metal. I am at least well versed in the history and various styles and movements of the genre along with pointed fandom of most all variations. I’ve made an effort to connect with death metal since first hearing Morbid Angel‘s ‘Altars of Madness’ back in the early 90’s where I’d finally found music that made me want to play the guitar. I will be fairly inclusive here but if any release leans further towards other genres they’ll likely end up on those respective genre lists. I do my best to find compelling and powerful albums but a few of these will just be weirdos for the sake of showing the out-of-the-box thinkers, smaller bands with potential, and hidden gems of underground death metal today.

To be clear, I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of death metal in 2018 but rather to illustrate what death metal is/was in 2018 and where I think it was most interesting yet overlooked. 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: Chapel of Disease, Baneful Storm, Faceless Burial, Obliteration, Desolation Realm,  Tomb Mold, Spearhead, Ulthar, Abyssous, Putrisect, Summoning Death, Pulverized, Embalmed Souls, Hissing, Outer Heaven, Outre-Tombe, Ruin, Vanhelgd, Horrendous, House of Atreus, Scorched, Eroded, Hyperdontia, Abhorrence, Malthusian, Sepulcher, Necros Christos, Imperial Triumphant, Mutilation Rites, Gravewards, Runemagick, Zombiefication, Gutter Instinct, Faithxtractor, Extremity, Drawn and Quartered, Atavisma, Burial Invocation, Lago, Mutilate, Embrace of Thorns, Mortuous, Taphos, Ritual Necromancy, At the Gates, Torture Rack, Abythic, Oksennus, Convocation, Valgrind, Deiquisitor, Skeletal Remains, Spectral, Ghastly, Augury, Grave Upheaval, Inisans, Lecherous Nocturne, Ripped to Shreds, Shrine of the Serpent, Usurpress, De Profundis, Hated, Flespyre, Golgothan Remains, Monolithe, Decaying, Portal, Druid Lord, Ataraxy, Hooded Menace, and tons more 2018 death metal albums I’ve already covered.


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Artist Ascaris
Title [Type/Year] The Raised Hand [Full-length/2018]
Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

You might be halfway through this Ascaris album without realizing that it isn’t the Polish group that was active in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Their style is brutal and the production of the record resembles the best of Hertz Studios more adventurous days. In fact this Ascaris is from Gloucester, England and appear highly influenced by the early 2000’s era of death metal where brutality reigned supreme and the blackening of death metal reached new furious heights. The primary influence appears to heavily lean on innovations from early 2000’s Nile and Behemoth but they sometimes merge slightly into technical death territory (something like Trauma‘s later records). Some nostalgia for me but perhaps a new form of brutality for some.


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Artist Act of Impalement
Title [Type/Year] Perdition Cult [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

What is unquestionably an unassuming and amorphously defined mixture of death doom metal, sludge riffs, and blackened death metal atmospherics somehow reeks of the early 90’s on Act of Impalement‘s ‘Perdition Cult’. I’d originally passed over this record thinking it was relatively average beyond some moshable riffs and an interesting sound. The bass distortion clashes with my own expectations of death metal sounds but I’d never really connected that sound with sludge before. Act of Impalement are notable for this mixture of true sludge riffs with death metal and while it may not be a thrilling combination due to their stripped down sound, these Nashville boys whip out something distinct. I’d mostly recommend this one to folks who are curious about how pure old school death metal and what I’d consider mid-90’s sludge riffs work together. Metal punk, war doom, death sludge, uh… Lair of the Minotaur-esque I suppose. I am curious to see how they expand their sound, there is some real Slaughter-esque ‘Strappado’ style potential here.


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Artist Vitriol
Title [Type/Year] Pain Will Define Their Death [Compilation/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Although technically a 2017 EP release coupled with their 2018 single “The Parting of a Neck”, I still felt like this was worthy of mention. Portland, Oregon blackened brutal death metal trio Vitriol play a style closely related to that of Anaal Nathrakh with some additional cues taken from Hate Eternal‘s more technical side. The release is held together by the brutality of it all and whenever they relax the EP loses a little bit of power; Vitriol survive by the tension of the drummer’s performance, he acts as a retaining wall anytime the guitars wander from their chugging brutality into blackened death metal atmospherics. Very much reminds me of listening to Myrkskog, Angelcorpse, and Lecherous Nocturne back in the day.


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Artist Mass Infection
Title [Type/Year] Shadows Became Flesh [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Now in their fifteenth year of brutality Livadia, Greece based brutal death metal band Mass Infection continue to expand their sound with great influence from the classics of North American death metal. You might initially feel the blasts and rhythmic toss that came off the backs of groups influenced by Morbid Angel and Deicide but there is no doubt that ‘Shadows Became Flesh’ is a brutal death metal record; It recalls my favorite moments from bands like Supreme Pain, Septycal Gorge, and Inveracity without any great focus on the technical aspects of the music. The insistent clattering of the drums reeks of the most brutal Dutch death metal and this is only enhanced by the occasional dips into their aforementioned early Deicide-esque attack. It’ll definitely appeal to fans of pre-tech craze Unique Leader stuff.


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Artist Aempyrean
Title [Type/Year] Fireborn [EP/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This old school enabled blackened death metal quintet Aempyrean birth enshrouded in the grime of the late 80’s with blackened thrash and classic death/thrash hybrids informing their sound. Although their sound is somewhat thin it appears they’ve shot for a more subtle sound to allow their rhythms a sort of ‘The Sun of Tipareth’ vibe alongside their ‘Altars of Madness’ worship, which includes a bland cover of “Chapel of Ghouls”. I don’t think the band have yet hit their goals for their sound but, I like this sort of Revenant sounding death/thrash EP they’ve kicked things off with.


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Artist Carnosus
Title [Type/Year] The Universal Culmination [Compilation/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Swedish death metal band Carnosus recorded and released most of this EP back in 2016 but they’ve remastered the EP’s original four songs, included their “Lost to Funereal Desires” single from 2017 and included the original mix for the ‘Universal Culmination’ EP for contrast. Why would I even bother with something like this? Their sound has hints of modern progressive death metal and technical death metal that always remain understated and although I don’t like their mosh riffing moments it is a pretty good EP that most people missed. I wouldn’t say it comes anywhere near a band like Anata or Sectu but they seem headed in that direction as they polish their sound. Something to watch for folks who like some mixture of technical death in their melodic death metal.


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Artist Inner Decay
Title [Type/Year] Souls of War [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This Chicago, Illinois death metal band invoke the spirit of bands like Jungle Rot, Skinless, and Vomitory with straight forward and fairly brutal death metal. It all jogs along like a hardcore informed version of bands like Torture Division or I guess Cut Up. It is guttural mosh metal served through an early 2000’s death metal production sound and with some additional groove/thrash metal influences. The band label themselves a s ‘melodic’ death metal on their Facebook page but I’d say they’re far from it and closer to a mosh-heavy Amon Amarth at best (see: “Ocean Away”) and maybe Soulless if you squint your eyes hard enough. Not the flashiest jam out there but a great debut.


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Artist Goat Sperm
Title [Type/Year] Voice in the Womb [EP/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

From Kyiv, Ukraine and unknown by any name other than Goat Sperm this EP, this ‘Voice in the Womb’ is a hidden cave revealing insidious obsidian riches. Burnt black by rituals and emanating the purest death Goat Sperm create loud, hall-shaking, door crushing orthodox black/death metal streaming pure revelry unto dissonance and decay. The omnimalevolent spirit of Angra Mainyu is incanted and absorbed by the flattening darkness of these three tracks. The mix is so forceful and loud, it just belches from the recesses and unto deeper darkness. Absolutely one of the more overlooked highlights of 2018’s black/death oeuvre. Although they are vague comparisons, I’d point to influences from both Portal and (earlier) DeathSpell Omega.


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Artist Connate Exasperation
Title [Type/Year] Delusional Primacy [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Although Connate Exasperation were nothing special back in 2010 when they formed as more or less a bedroom death metal project in Iran, this full-length debut comes two years after becoming a full-fledged four piece. ‘Delusional Primacy’ is a brutal and technical death metal album that toys with dissonance and time signatures to keep things interesting. It all seems like a late 2000’s tech death record though there are some great moments (see: “Egoistic Demise”, “Subsistence of the Bygone”) that hooked me into its groove. I appreciate the clever intricacies that actually fit with the brutality of the music, which reminds me of Spectral‘s album from earlier this year but this is less Spawn of Possession and more Deeds of Flesh in terms of riffs.


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Artist Languish
Title [Type/Year] Unworthy [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Tuscon, Arizona based blackened death/grinders Languish are a cross joint between members of atmosludge/post-metal band North and deathstars Gatecreeper. They’re on good footing in finding this slicked-up but froth-puking medium between 90’s hardcore and death/crust and the resulting grind is a reasonable punch of death punk. Plenty of bands are jumping into that ‘Realm of Chaos’ medium of crust punk influenced grindcore with death metal production kind of thing and I suppose what Languish do differently is go a step too far with their brutality. ‘Unworthy’ has more in common with Impetigo or Insect Warfare than Bolt Thrower between the electrical fire of the guitar tone and belching rasp of the vocals. The riffs venture between hardcore, grindcore, death metal, and sludge but a lack of inspired slow-riff sections kills some of the dynamic of the record. I love the raw blast of it all, and can generally recommend it if you’re into fucked up deathgrind with some 90’s hardcore influences flinging around under the hood.


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Artist Zealot Cult
Title [Type/Year] Spiritual Sickness [Full-length/2018]
Rating [3.75/5.0] LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Limerick, Ireland’s true death metal hoard Zealot Cult might’ve just released their debut full-length this year but these guys have been in action since about 2008. ‘Spiritual Sickness’ takes their love of Morbid Angel, Obituary and Massacre to a ‘Covenant’-meets-‘The End Complete’ level of quality and offers a mild step up in fidelity over their ‘Karmenian Crypt’ EP from 2016. If you grew up with Florida’s first wave of death metal as a major foundation ‘Spiritual Sickness’ will be inspiring without question, especially if you’re into what Skeletal Remains have been doing for their last two records in moving towards a sort of thrashing ‘Consuming Impulse’ sound that can also cross over into Death unto Obituary. Morgoth? Asphyx? Close enough! They’re embodying that earliest era of death metal’s influence and writing compelling songs within. I was actually fairly upset that I would not have time to give this album a full review this year, as it is one of the more satisfying death metal records of 2018 that displays their old school death metal influences proudly on their sleeves.


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Artist Tarpan
Title [Type/Year] Бездна (The Abyss) [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A closer look at God Macabre, Comecon, Uncanny and various other hidden mutants of Swedish death metal history their punk influences almost seemed to phase out as they became better musicians and the influence of Swedish crust upon death metal certainly wasn’t an easily accepted crossover for some. Though death/crust projects have been plowing through the underground for decades few sustain the style for long before venturing elsewhere, or sputtering into the spiral of dead side-projects or major label tweaked sounds. Tarpan are brilliant for resembling both Amebix paced crust and death metal alike and believe it or not that distinction is fairly rare and typically mutates into sludge over time (see: Ilsa). The guitar tone is closer to ‘Wolverine Blues’ than say, Fleshcrawl but ‘The Abyss’ drives the HM-2 guitar pedal and does not let that massive distortion sound take over the entirety of their sound. Definitely one of the best death/crust combinations I’ve heard in the last year and a solid death metal record in its own right.


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Artist Teleport
Title [Type/Year] The Expansion [EP/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Slovenian technical death/thrash metal band Teleport continue to further conceptualize their sound incorporating influences from atmospheric death metal, modern technical thrash metal, and some hints of black metal. The first track is perhaps the biggest departure for Teleport yet as it is almost entirely held together by atmospheric guitar work rather than skittering Vektor-esque riffing (see: ‘Ascendence’ EP). I definitely hear some kind of influence from the Norwegian camp (Execration/Obliteration) so, let it be no surprise that this year the band signed with Edge Circle Productions (see: Sepulcher, Inculter, etc.) and I believe this is a perfect fit. I am excited to see what they’re working on next, and hope that they will reintegrate their thrash influences again.


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Artist Foul
Title [Type/Year] Of Worms [Demo/2018]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Seattle, Washington old school death/doom metal band Foul appear as anonymous entity with a nearly 30 minute debut demo on bandcamp and I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the cooler things out of the area since Cavurn. Although I think they sound a bit like early Pyogenesis (‘Ignis Creation’ with the goth shit erased), Rippikoulu is probably a better approximation if they’d ever sped up to the level of Desecresy. Filthy death and huge doom riffs, all great stuff.


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Artist Redemptor
Title [Type/Year] The Becoming [2005-2011] [Compilation/2018]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Few felt any certain calling to Redemptor‘s music before the release of ‘Arthaneum’ (2017) and in scouring through this retrospective (including: The band’s first full-length, third demo, and 2011 EP ‘4th Density’) I can see a lot of potential occasionally hitting the wrong note. Redemptor are a technical and progressive death metal band from Cracow, Poland and their brand of sterilized, machinated, and explosive technical death metal hasn’t been the revelation that it once was for about fifteen years and that isn’t a knock to their style but to the weirdly stagnant modern technical death metal genre as a whole. ‘None Pointless Balance’ sounds like a demo utilizing a drum machine but again that is a trait of a certain era of tech-death that I understand well, the guitar work isn’t so much sloppy but leans into the groove without a ton of precision for when it hits. By the 2009 demo the band had figured out their instruments and the professional recordings really kick in on ‘Nanosynthesis’ (2009). The star of the show is probably the demo which I’d not heard before, but the stylistic leap (Obliveon style groove/tech stuff) into ‘4th Density’ (2011) might be jarring if you’re not already familiar with their second and third full-lengths. A worthy recollection of Redemptor‘s history, just nothing on par with ‘Arthaneum’.


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Artist Siege Column
Title [Type/Year] Inferno Deathpassion [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

New Jersey proto-death/war metal band Siege Column formed with shared interests between Joe Aversario (Death Fortress) and Shawnslaught Skullkrusher who’ve previously collaborated in satanic speed metal band DSS. What begins as a seeming homage to Repulsion, Slaughter and Nuclear Death quickly devolves into a madness reserved for bands like Nunslaughter, Sadistik Exekution and the blackened face-ripping of Slaughter Lord. I still can’t wrap my head around this album entirely as the duo have found a medium between proto-death metal demo quality riff-blasts and slapping first wave black metal extremity. Doubt I’ve done a great job explaining what ‘Inferno Deathpassion’ is, but it is more or less a clever crossover between proto-death and first wave black metal. The riffs from “Sathanas is Near” should hook you, but the vocals aren’t going to be everyone’s style.


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Artist Coffin Birth
Title [Type/Year] The Serpent Insignia [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Italian retro-Swedish style death metal side-project Coffin Birth comes from the collective interests of members of Hour of Penance, Beheaded, and Fleshgod Apocalypse. They’re more or less sticking to the basics of the Stockholm/Sunlight Studios sound but whenever they need to fill in a blank either slight melodeath or hardcore influences fill in the blanks. The sound here is about as polished and pickled as your average Centinex or Entrails record with just a hint of death n’ roll showing up on tracks like “Red Sky Season”. It isn’t an amazing record but I figure many folks enjoy that HM-2 buzzsaw sound no matter where it is coming from. I like the anti-religious themes but I am kind of on the fence whenever the hardcore influences pop up and feel forced.


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Artist Steorrah
Title [Type/Year] The Alstadt Abyss [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Although I typically do not dabble too heavily in certain types of progressive death metal I found Steorrah‘s approach to classic Opeth was generally inspired if not slightly inconsistent. The slight lisp of the growls give ‘The Alstadt Abyss’ a strange character and the gushy prog-death that this German band create comes with a pretty remarkable stream of ideas. The guitar work makes good use of contrapuntal elements and uses the loud-quiet-loud aspect of popular progressive music to great effect. Where it flails into a place I don’t enjoy is the clean vocals, which are fine but sort of plain and I rarely understand what range of emotion they’re invoking. At their best Steorrah offer a sort of dueling channel experience where it seems the left and right ear are never hearing the same thing and the compositions are most remarkable in these sections. The more standard prog-death (a la Opeth, Akercocke etc.) elements rarely appear written for effect but rather they just slip out in bursts that never seem to resolve. There could be a deeper method there and it seems like an album I could pine over for months more.


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Artist Subtype Zero
Title [Type/Year] The Astral Awakening [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Wake the fuck up with this powerful death/thrash metal record that is so deeply rooted in ‘Hell Awaits’ era thrash that it practically pisses blood. These Ohio folks have been shaking their shit for years as Cringe but with this new name their style takes a slightly darker turn. The groove-era Slayer comparisons generally come from the vocalist while the music itself is definitely a sort of modernized thrash metal sound that luckily strikes upon Ripping Corpse style riffs once in a while. The style of this album leans towards thrash slightly more than death but I like that it showcases the Slayerized side of death metal that isn’t explored often enough.


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Artist Kraanium
Title [Type/Year] Slamchosis [Full-length/2018]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

There are far more impressive scholars of post-2008 brutal death metal out there than I and as such I tend to shy away from a lot of the brutal death and slam that I receive. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the primate arts but that I generally have little of interest to say about it. Kraanium is the convergence of musicians from Norway, England, Turkey, Finland, and Denmark that focuses on making world class slamming brutal death metal. You know when you’re watching the trailer for a terrible action movie like Transformers and the slow motion explosion sound plays? Yeah, that is what it sounds like when Kraanium are signaling the drop of one of their breakdowns. Sure, I mean pig squeals and floppy chugging mosh riffs are all slam is. I get it, and for what its worth ‘Slamchosis’ is a really fine example of it. I appreciate how great this sounds especially in light of their vocalist (and literal brother) killing himself just last year and glad to see them plugging on.


If I missed your favorite death metal album from 2018 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite doom 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 and send me a copy, keep in mind I have a strong preference for old school death (late 80’s and early 90’s), Finnish death metal, anything that sounds like Immolation, death/doom metal, and atmospheric/blackened stuff. No death metal will be left unheard!

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