20 Underground Death Metal Albums You Missed in 2019

I’ve compiled this list not as a “best of” for the wide blanket of death metal in 2019 but to illustrate what death metal is/was beneath the surface in 2019… And where I think it was most interesting and overlooked. From my own point of view these albums were underrepresented and/or passed by quickly by media outlets and some for admittedly valid reasons. So, here are some bands that stood out to me (for GOOD reasons) as I dug through death metal’s innards throughout 2019. There are literally hundreds of great bands that I don’t mention here which I’ve already reviewed, covered, mentioned, or put in my Top 50 for this year so hit the search icon to see if I’ve already covered something vital, otherwise let me know what I’ve missed.


Artist Yawning Void
Title [Type/Year] Streams Within [LP/2019]
Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp! | Weird Truth Prod.

Blackened death/doom from Turku, Finland? Members from Solothus, Sepulchral Curse and Cumbeast? This has to be good, eh. Yeah, it is exactly as good as you’d expect. Mid-to-slow paced death/doom with a huge bass tone and plenty of watery keyboards creating thick and noxious atmospheric dread. ‘Streams Within’ is more or less a blackened funeral doom act played at melodic death/doom speeds or an impossibly heavy plunge into an esoteric and menacing world guided by ethereal synth and rasping horrors. I’d consider that atmosphere Eldritch and not just because of the lovely tentacles on the cover via Moonroot Art. They didn’t make a big stink about this record upon independent digital release, and I didn’t get a ton of buzz from folks who usually follow Weird Truth‘s fine taste in death/doom so I’m a bit surprised to have only heard about this in November. Only complain here is that the bass guitar performance is quite prominent and unchanging, it needs to justify its presence with more varied techniques or effects that help narrate these dreary, sleepy pieces; Its either that or more riffs! A fine album and I was glad to have caught ear of it before the end of the year. Either the opener “Hearts Like Abyss” and its memorably keyboard parts or the 16+ minute finale of “Aequor benthic bodies” will be the pieces that sell the album.


Artist Infinity
Title [Type/Year] Descendants of Sodom [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Just now hatching out of their pods into full-lengthdom Los Angeles, California area death metal quartet Infinity bring elements of thrash and black metal to their brutish, moshable and oft-meandering brand of death music on ‘Descendants of Sodom’. I’m not into the occasional doofy breakdowns (such as the end of the title track) but otherwise these guys have stepped up their gig across the board. “Infatuation with Intoxication” is such a groove, reminding me of those early melodic albums from Abominant as much as Dismemberment or that black/death/thrash ilk. ‘Descendyawnants of Sodom’ comes more full-range than expected and though it should be pumped out towards death metal folks they’re serving a bit of everything extreme without sounding like a kitchen sink-assed snatch n’ grab. Favorite track here is probably closer “Unholy Deception”, plenty of ‘on fire’ riffs throughout its eight minute push.


Artist Gam
Title [Type/Year] Crowned & Reborn [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Swedish occult blackened death metal act Gam formed in Gävle back in 2011 as Vulture putting out two EPs before changing their name around 2016 or so. Here’s a for sure band to watch as they’ve taken notes from early Immortal and some of the more brutal greats from 90’s death metal and found a style that is generally in the realm of say, Imperialist but with a much, much more varied rhythm section. When their death metal side comes roaring out ‘Crowned & Reborn’ is an old school black/death colossus, an imposing feral beast that almost always capitalizes upon those deadlier moments with big riffs. They’ve tasked Dan Swanö with mastering the blustering chaos of these songs and he’s opted to let their brutality punch through the overall loudness of the mix, smartly emphasizing the energetic drumming that characterizes Gam‘s sound.


Artist Sadistic Drive
Title [Type/Year] Street Cannibal Gluttony / Rehearsal 05​/​2019 [Compilation/2019]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Featuring the collective talents of some of Joensuu, Finland’s finer extreme metal underground freaks (Coffincraft, Rutsa, Maniac Abductor) ‘old school’ death metal muckrakers Sadistic Drive channel a fuckin’ disgusting Autopsy-puking grind, thump and howl of primitive and ghastly death. Simple and nasty stuff that digs up the oldest corpses of Finnish death and bites hungrily upon their brittle yellow bones for meat. The ‘Street Cannibal Gluttony’ is a demo from the original two member line-up featuring Niklas (Coffincraft) and Jusa (Bloodscape) and the rehearsal from May this year is the full four members kicking the style towards early Xysma, early Disgrace, and maybe even (old) Death Courier. If they can keep up this mix of old school death, swampy ’88 Finn-grind, and deathly ’82 hardcore punk I’m entirely on board with what Sadistic Drive are bringing. I’m still holding my breath waiting for another Coffincraft record but I’ll take more of this either way! Biggest song here is probably “Internal Putrefaction” followed by the swinging crunch of “Body Part Puzzle”.


Artist Обрій (Obrij)
Title [Type/Year] В залізних обіймах лещат (In Severe Stranglehold) [EP/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Ukrainian band Obrij hail down upon the listener with an ‘old school’ feeling sound that hails back to the era of ’94 death n’ roll that still had riffs, never indulging in more than heavy grooves to really earn that ‘n roll tag. Think along the lines of Gorefest, Pungent Stench, and a bit of Morgoth for good measure. They cite Bolt Thrower and Merauder as major influences and I think that makes sense both in terms of leading with grooves and simpler over-arching melodies; You’ll hear this most on the third track “Ad Civitas Solis”, which goes a bit more sentimental than the harder tunes around it. The title ‘In Severe Stranglehold’ references the noose placed around our necks by society and the ruling state, always threatening to pressure us towards destruction if we step too far out of forced bounds. A meaningful message from folks living under an unmercifully fucked-with government. I enjoyed this EP, it brings in those hints of groove and death n’ roll without being corny or going for rock vocals and it hits the death metal mark throughout.


Artist Ancestral
Title [Type/Year] Novus Ordo Seclorum [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This second album from Ancestral brings the neck-punching brutal spectrum of Chilean death metal that we don’t often hear much of in the states outside of the odd Homicide or Pulverized record. ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum’ doesn’t stray from its core formula of huge blasts, brutal roaring, and some wailing guitar solos to build melodies around. “Inertial Kataklysm” is the peak of this archetype on the record and they find some variation as the album progresses but as a whole it is a frantically blasted and anxietous listen that feels like ‘too much’ even at just 34 minutes long. I used to be that brutal death guy, the dude with every latest head-beater spinning non-stop but I wore myself out on this type of record years ago. Still, I think Ancestral do enough to stand out and ex-Timecode/ex-Projector vocalist Felipe does a fine job of carrying the album despite a lack of any real pacing to keep things interesting. Not really my style but definitely worth a listen if you’re still brutal.


Artist Oniricous
Title [Type/Year] La Maldicion [EP/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Spanish death metal band Oniricous began as Ghül back in the mid-2000’s playing a very simple Lovecraftian style of death metal that’d eventually land them on Razorback Records for a debut in 2013, right at the label’s peak activity. This is one of those bands that have improved steadily along with their peers and this latest EP, ‘La Maldicion’, builds upon the intensity of their second album ‘La caverna de fuego’ (2016) while showcasing what is probably the finest production/recording sound for Oniricous to date. This is old school death metal with modern fidelity, a slick and heavy attack helped by their mainstay studio Moontower Studio. Their style has evolved beyond comparisons to Nominon, Entrapment, and Morgoth but is not too far removed, a little bit more thoughtful and mid-paced. ‘La Maldicion’ stood out for me when I left it on repeat and just let it hit me, usually around the second full spin, and I especially liked the title track as it felt almost like a Seance song from back in the day. Worth checking out, especially if you liked that most recent Graveyard record.


Artist Bones
Title [Type/Year] Diseased [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Having missed or overlooked a fair amount of the prolific output from Transcending Obscurity Records this year the one record that’d stuck in my mind most was this third full-length from Chicago’s Bones, a punk influenced death metal (er, death metal influenced punk?) act formed after Usurper split up around 2007. Usurper are a staple of Midwest extreme metal for some, but most folks tend to overlook their stuff beyond that second album. So, a band that was basically formed between that band’s line-up beyond 2000 could expect to be working uphill if they made a point of leading with the Usurper name. The only discernible holdover here is the intermittent Celtic Frost influences shared among members and the actual style is a mix of hardcore punk influenced death metal, and crust punk that adds up to a generally rock guitar infused swinging n’ screaming record. ‘Diseased’ isn’t a Mammoth Grinder album as some might expect and if we’re considering ‘crust’ maybe look towards Septic Tank or their ilk but also consider early Integrity at the same time. It doesn’t fit the ‘deathcrust’ mold of today at all, in fact it goes more punk rock than most proposed hybrids would dare; The real issue here is that it doesn’t resemble death metal at all and occasionally just sounds like one of those weird rock albums from a former hardcore (not post-hardcore) band in the late 80’s. Hell, its a damned weird listen and at the very least I can enjoy that. The bumpin’ wreck of “Mass Graves” is the biggest, rawest moment here and I’d recommend starting there.

INSURRECTION - Circles Of Despair - frontcover 300 dpi

Artist Insurrection
Title [Type/Year] Circles of Despair [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY from Big Bad Wolf Records

If you don’t mind a small passive-aggressive detour on my part: I’d like to recommend this fantastic melodic death metal record from a young band who’re damned talented. You: “Oh great! Awesome, got a link?” No. “Ok, uh, where can I buy it if its so good?” Well, I don’t know… message them on Facebook or search on Discogs? “Eh, man whatever I’m sure you have a hundred more bands I could check out.” Yes, actually, you’re exactly right. This is a complete failure on both sides. The listener is used to instant gratification, zero level of mystery when buying a record, and the independent musician smartly avoids digital channels because of piracy and the pointless game of internet discovery. I get it, but I really want melodic death metal fans to check out Netherlands youths Insurrection, especially if you’re a big fan of both old and new styles of melodic death, melodeath/thrash atmospheric Finnish melodeath, and the more aggressive riff-driven forms of it. ‘Circles of Despair’ is a brilliant full listen, an engrossing and brightly struck blend of ‘Slaughter of the Soul’-isms, early-to-mid Insomnium flair, and that relentlessly howl of ‘The Fifth Season’-era Sacrilege. Sins of Omission, anyone? Maybe my references are too old, but that’d be the point as listening to this album on repeat since July has consistently conjured that feeling of late 90’s melodic death metal adjacent to the ‘melodic death/thrash’ movement nearby. Click HERE to watch a very professional music video for the main single at least.


Artist Larvae
Title [Type/Year] Necroptuary [EP/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Bay Area death metal band Larvae are the sort of act that create wandering motion with their rhythms, a trait that is fully recognizable on any of their releases but translates particularly well in a live setting. Their intermittent activity these last eight or so years appears due to finding the right participants so for ‘Necroptuary’, which was recorded in 2017, they would enlist Impaled drummer Raul Varela. Looking beyond the over-fried crisp of the demo quality recording the appeal of these songs is that aforementioned ‘wandering’ fluidity, some of this looseness does hinder the full listen though as “Decomposed Disembodied” becomes entangled in aimless leads that convey theme but infer a loss of control that isn’t ideal for this ‘old school’ feeling death metal style. As I listened to the labyrinthine main progressions of “Immortal Corpses” I couldn’t help but wonder why they’d never leaned towards a less demanding medium, such as death/doom that could be equally evocative given the right atmosphere. I can easily recommend the sway and general melodic value of this otherwise abrasive death metal recording but the ear-popping fidelity clips a chunk off my own personal rating.


Artist Gnosis
Title [Type/Year] Neural Disintegration [EP/2019]
Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

When you read the death/sludge metal tag there are a few directions the mind could go and I’m not sure any of those expectations exactly applies to Canadian trio Gnosis, who bring loud and bursting at the seams sludge fidelity to their grooved out death/doom sound on this second EP ‘Neural Disintegration’. This three song showcase props open a window to some serious groove n’ squeal thunder that’ll fit into that Fange sorta boat in terms of sound but I get the sense that these guys are equally in it for the doom and morbid death effect, hitting somewhere in the ballpark of recent Inter Arma or Abstracter but with their own stoned twang in the mix. “Infected Cognitions” is such a massive introduction to their sound, it completely blew my brains out. Throw in two more of these songs and these guys have sold me an album.


Artist Vadiat
Title [Type/Year] Darkness Proceeds [EP/2019]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

There is nothing worse than butthead throwing around band names nobody has ever heard of acting like you should know who the fuck they are, in fact -of course- you don’t know who Terror (Ohio), Decrepit, or Blood of Christ are unless you’re about fifty years old and an old hesher tape trader from the Cleveland area. Or you’re just a demo dork on the internet and you read my discography piece on Terror, whatever. These bands and the folks in them were not only from a certain lineage of early extreme metal acts in Ohio but also among the first to take cues from Scandinavia and throw some melody into their extremism. As it turns out melodic extreme metal is a fine place to start in describing Vadiat, a death metal band featuring members of each aforementioned bands that pulls from a deep well of black, thrash, and early death/doom metal for this first undertaking. As for how all of those elements play out I’d say think along the lines of 1992 death/doom in the United States, that post-Paradise Lost effect where the band in question probably loved ‘Lost Paradise’ and only kinda got ‘Gothic’, see: Laceration and Dusk or a less sleepy Thorns of the Carrion. There is more to Vadiat‘s sound than that, of course, and the second track “The Entity” pulls from the slicker post-’92 standards of Finnish death metal more than anywhere else as it thrashes unto doom. You get the idea, there are plenty of facets here to pick through and enjoy if you’ve got about a half hour to devote to these riffs. If nothing else listen to the title track and “Unearthed” back to back to test the waters.


Artist Mortuary
Title [Type/Year] The Autophagous Reign [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the few still-riffing bands from the 80’s death metal scene in France, Mortuary were always a bit different than their peers having arrived upon No Return influenced beginnings in the mid-to-late 90’s that would refine around 2003 with ‘Agony in Red’. With ‘The Autophagous Reign’ the band promised a return to that old school death/thrash metal sound and it’d be fair to say they’ve definitely at least turned back the clock to the frantic energy of  that third album. Their groove metal influences are still apparent on most of these songs but Mortuary have delivered the shotgunned death/thrash riffing they promised, sounding polished and streamlined, somewhere along the lines of a slightly more thrash version of recent Vader records with some of the swing of a band like Invocator (or, Fear Factory) applied to the groove-oriented sections. I found the riffs became somewhat redundant by the halfway point but I loved the sort of Terrorizer-esque brutality that’d kick up once in a while. I only wished there were more of those faster, more frantic pieces set in between the less distinct groove metal parts.


Artist Nihility
Title [Type/Year] Thus Spoke the Antichrist [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Though their sound is appropriately evocative of the Decapitated album of the same name, Portuguese death metal band Nihility venture far beyond plain early 2000’s brutal/technical death metal into some blackened death textures and experiment with atmospheric ideas throughout this debut. That said, when those black metal influenced moments do creep in ever so slightly they don’t offer more than transition or atmosphere and don’t serve to inform the tech-death lite riffing and intensely blasted chug death otherwise. If you’re in tune with some of the finer points of Unique Leader releases pre-2010, the Nile/Behemoth influenced side of Polish death metal of that same era, and enjoy some post ‘Unholy Cult’ era Immolation spirit in your death music this is a great find. I might sound flippant in describing it but I spent quite a lot of time spinning ‘Thus Spoke the Antichrist’ because it has a great production sound and ends up being a very balanced, listenable experience with fantastic themes/lyrics. They need something ‘extra’ to really pull me back in for more listens but Nihility are definitely a band that I’m going to be following from here on out.


Artist Sijjin
Title [Type/Year] Angel of the Eastern Gate [EP/2019]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Easily one of the best early Morbid Angel influenced tapes released since Baneful Storm‘s ‘Invocations’ last year. Sijjin‘s death/thrashing first EP comes from ex-Necros Christos members alongside fellows from lesser known Spanish death/thrashers Extinction. ‘Angel of the Eastern Gate’ has all of the mystic, angular rip you’d expect from this style of old school death/thrash but there is a sort of blackened coughing vileness to its approach that keeps the tape from sounding like a bland retread of the old ways. I’m such a fan of ‘Altars of Madness’, Sadistic Intent, Coffin Texts, Superstition etc. that this sort of release felt exactly right from the first spin and it plays incredibly well on repeat. In fact this list was delayed a full day because I sat there for 3-4 hours just listening to this on repeat.


Artist Sculpted Horror
Title [Type/Year] Festering Death [Demo/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A complete solo effort from Athens, Georgia based musician Tim Rowland, Sculpted Horror was self-released in late 2018 and put to tape by the intrepid fellows at Redefining Darkness and frankly I could list at least ten things that slipped under my own radar from that label alone since they’ve been prolific as all hell. ‘Festering Death’ sounds a bit like a Rogga Johansson side-project at first, a hit of Ribspreader with some slight Finnish death touches here and there, but it finds a more impactful set of riffs along the way. I’m not necessarily falling out of my chair for a full-length just yet but Rowland has made a great case for a couple of EPs in this style if he can work outside the box just a little bit more. If you’re into Murder Squad and Ribspreader but feel like they’re kinda braindead in terms of riffs this’ll be a much more palatable bucket of puke.


Artist Engulf
Title [Type/Year] Transcend [EP/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp

Another solo act from the United States, this one from New Jersey musician Hal Microutsicos (Blasphemous). Engulf is a studio-only project thus far releasing an EP each year starting in 2017. Stylistically speaking Microutsicos focuses on a Hate Eternal and Gorguts inspired blend of brutality and twisted rhythmic ideas that lands somewhere between ‘Domination’ era Morbid Angel and earlier Ulcerate. ‘Transcend’ completes a trilogy of high-fantasy concept that is accentuated by some fine artwork from Misanthropic-Art which I really appreciated. It isn’t all that often that aesthetics actually add to this sort of brutal form of death metal, pushing beyond the 2000’s style of death metal towards the more meandering spirit of death metal today in terms of storyline and expression ends up being a worthwhile experience. So far ‘Gold and Rust’ is my favorite EP from the trilogy and this feels related but just slightly more front-loaded with the bigger riffs. Here’s hoping they eventually put together a compilation of these onto one 12″ LP at some point.


Artist Vultur
Title [Type/Year] Drowned in Gangrenous Blood [LP/2019]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] BUY from Memento Mori |Preview

Here’s a release plucked directly from my ‘to do’ pile of reviews that I just didn’t have enough time to do a full write-up for as I got busier at the end of the year. Vultur is a Greek death metal band that veers towards the filthiest and most brutal side of old school death that comes by the hands of former/current members of Ectoplasma, Resurgency, and The Crucifier. When it comes to brutality there is a sweet spot that is maybe too ‘hard’ for the modern old school atmospheric post-caverncore crowd and too ‘soft’ for the brutal death metal acts of today and there Vultur fit, a righteous mutant that lay somewhere in the middle. If you’re a fan of Resurgency then some of that heaviness will translate here but ‘Drowned in Gangrenous Blood’ has more in common with Banished and Morpheus Descends than the previous album did. They’re not going full-on Infester hard but they do kick it up to that speed in between their more mid-paced early Morta Skuld kinda doomed sections along the way. I don’t think any of this record really surprised me until “High on Adrenochrome” hit, a nasty chasm of doom that opens up into a rolling magmatic boil. At this point I need a full-on subscription to get everything Memento Mori puts out because I’m always into all of it. This was an exceptional album that didn’t get as much praise as its companion pieces from Ectoplasma, buy both!


Artist Sepsis
Title [Type/Year] Interdimensional Decay [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If these youngsters in Sepsis are intent on out-sickening their bulging rot-stuffed contemporaries on Maggot Stomp and similar smaller labels they’re on the right track with this debut full-length ‘Interdimensional Decay’. I dunno if I get the whole dummy caveman death metal thing anymore but I love Autopsy influenced shit-flingers and growling garage busted death metal records so, I really enjoyed my time with this one. Bands like Molder, Coffin Rot, and Undergang come to mind but you can hear Sepsis experiment with some more directly Finn/Swede riff ideas (“Twisted Remains”) and some death/doom flourishes along the way. My only gripe is that I don’t think the fidelity of the recording does it much justice, the grittiness of an early Tomb Mold album or whatever added to the experience because the performances were clear and in this case the lo-fi sound slightly disintegrates the performances. Nothing against a demo-sounding album just some of these songs (such as “Voidrot”) would KILL if they were juiced up a notch. If all of this sounds great check out the rest of Camo Pants Records‘ releases as he’s got a real knack for grabbing solid death metal freaks from the abyss.


Artist Reckless Manslaughter
Title [Type/Year] Caverns of Perdition [LP/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

No doubt every month or two I can safely go hit up F.D.A. Records for whatever they’re putting out because I know I’m getting a real chunk of the best death metal Germany has to offer at any given time. Reckless Manslaughter is no exception here on their third full-length, a Bolt Thrower blasted take on ‘Blessed are the Sick’ fluidity sent to the killing fields of brutal modernity landing upon a sound not far from Sinister and Immolation in the process. ‘Caverns of Perdition’ most notable characteristic on the full listen comes from drummer Pneumator and his frantic blasts; I dunno if I should call them gravity blasts or whatever but they add this primal early Cryptopsy-esque shake-up to these otherwise very heavy, claustrophobia inducing death metal songs. If I’m going to go reach for a death metal band that is old school in spirit and yet brutally ‘modern’ in my eyes it will be a band like this, a group of guys who still know exactly what makes the traditional side of death metal timelessly effective. With that said there are a few songs here that I didn’t get, such as “Operation Chastise” and “Stiffshifter”, shorter pieces that aren’t all that well thought out in terms of the full listen. It all works out to be a fine release that I didn’t see enough people talking about stateside this year.

If I missed your favorite death metal album from 2019 I’m not surprised! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review your favorite black metal album. 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 enjoy all forms of death metal but I don’t necessarily connect with deathcore and ultra don’t want it.

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