Even though Gruesome “pays homage to death metal’s most celebrated founding American acts, Death” (according to a press release), the band’s tastes in the genre don’t stop and end there. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that the group features members with time spent in Exhumed (Deci-fav Matt Harvey), Possessed, Malevolent Creation and Derketa. So while Savage Land, the quartet’s debut, may sound very Schuldiner-esque, guitarist Dan Gonzalez was kind enough to tell us about some other death metal bands. We’ll let the axeman take things from here.
“I could’ve done a ‘best death metal albums’ list or something like that but I figured it’s been done already, so I would rather talk about my favorite songs from some death metal albums I love but think are incredibly underrated. Whenever I get into discussions with some of my death metal brethren about great albums, these rarely get mentioned. These albums captured my attention immediately–for different reasons as they are very different from each other–and became one of my favorites. Even though they might not be obscure (or as underrated as I believe they are), I definitely think more people should listen to them. Bear with me as there are only so many ways to describe brutal drums, riffs and vocals. Next, I could make a thesis on the differences between brutal technical death metal and technical brutal death metal. Enjoy.”
After perusing his picks, you can pick up a copy of Savage Land here.
Commit Suicide’s “Ablation” (from 2002’s Human Larvae – (Earthly Cleansing))
One of the main reasons I love this album is because of its no-frills brutality. They go straight to the point, but it’s never boring. The riffing and song structures are simple but very catchy, going from crushing blast beats to slow grooves. The guitars and bass are very thick and heavy, the vocals are on point and Lee Fisher’s drums are great. This song is the perfect example, short but brutal. Too short.
Edge Of Sanity’s “Crimson” (from 1996’s Crimson)
Equal parts brutal and beautiful, I can’t get enough of this musically broad death metal opus. From blast beats to piano and acoustic guitar passages to dissonant doom grooves to atmospheric landscapes to more blast beats with great solos and vocals, all arranged in a seamless composition that it’s almost hypnotic. 40 minutes I always wish were longer.
Morbid Angel’s “Heaving Earth” (from 1998’s Formulas Fatal To The Flesh)
Morbid Angel changed my life decades ago and became one of my top all time favorite bands, and they managed to do it again all over again when FFF got released. The late ’90s weren’t blooming with great death metal but this is one of the albums that kept my hopes high for the genre. Trey’s relentless and creative riffing, Pete’s perfectly fast and precise drumming, combined with great themes and lyrics freshly voiced by Steve Tucker, orchestrated a relic in death metal, one where every song is its own entity. Lightning fast passages and doom infested slow valleys on a wave of solos dreamed by Cthulhu will be the funeral march for your soul while cruising the Abzu waters.
Origin’s “Manimal Instincts” (from 2000’s Origin)
Although I know that they have evolved into a whole different beast, Origin’s self-titled debut will always be my favorite from them. I remember getting it and thinking it was just perfect non-stop brutality. No solos, no fillers, no rest. Everything is incredibly fast, heavy and tight. The vocals rule. I got to say that Longstreth’s drumming blew me away–it was the first time I heard double rides and freehand/gravity blasts used in unison with the guitars, thus augmenting the energy and intensity of the songs. Extra points for the unorthodox death metal space album art. This song includes all of the above, and I love the intro sample. Hail space
Hypocrisy’s “Apocalypse” (from 1994’s The Fourth Dimension)
In my opinion, this is one of Hypocrisy’s best albums. I love that it’s so diverse and dynamic. Even though I am a speed freak, I remember getting this album and being amazed by these slow haunting songs that were still very heavy and dark. Peter Tägtgren is one of the best death metal vocalists out there (next to writing great riffs, great songs, great lyrics and producing all the albums) and his vocals really make the songs even better. To me this album is proof that experimentation in death metal is not always a bad thing.
Brutus’s “Slachtbeest” (from 2003’s Slachtbeest)
This album is relentless. This is one of those bands that I wish had more recordings. I love how the guitars are so heavy and thick but still very clear. The drums are perfect, just nonstop blasting and the vocals are brutal. All I want to do is headbang and do windmills the whole time
Unmerciful’s “Shotgun Sodomy” (from 2006’s Unmercifully Beaten)
Another band I wish had more albums. I remember being so stoked to open for them, years ago, with my old band Nailshitter and they just “killed it”. With surgical precision speed, James King’s drumming is off the charts here. The riffing is great, and so are the vocals. I can never have enough of this album.
Hate Eternal’s “Chants In Declaration” (from 2002’s King Of All Kings)
King of All Kings might not be underrated but it needs to be recognized as a classic. Rutan, Roddy and Anderson created a timeless piece of art. Rutan’s great riffs that split into dual sonic attacks and Roddy’s brilliant pummeling drums at ruthless speeds turned into some of the most creative and memorable songs of the genre in my opinion. This album did raise the standards of death metal.
Gorgasm’s “Masticate To Dominate” (from 2003’s Masticate To Dominate)
Gorgasm. What a great name. But I digress. I was really happy when they decided to reunite a few years back as they’ve always been one of my favorite bands. The main reason I love this album is because of its marriage of sheer brutality with occasional melodic neo-classical sounding passages à la brutal death metal style. The vocal patterns are excellent–I feel like they are vocal riffs. Everything is heavy, tight, fast and just perfectly crafted. Don’t even get me started on the song names. Perfection.
Brutality’s “When The Sky Turns Black” (from 1994’s When The Sky Turns Black)
This album is crushingly good. The guitars are melodic, but very dark and fast tremolo picked, and the drums have the perfect balance between blast beats and grooves. Scott Reigel is also one of my favorite vocalists. He makes the songs sound angrier somehow. Great solos and bass lines just make it even better. Another win for Florida, in my book.
*Photo by Niuvis Martin
**Pick up a copy of Savage Land here