This is by no means an uncovering of death metal obscurity but rather a celebration of a scene that has endlessly improved. Do you know of any other exceptional Australian death metal bands that should be represented here? Help us help you by commenting.
Throughout the late 80s and into the 90s, Europe and America held the monopoly on the fledgling death metal style. In those days, suggestions that Australia might one day rise as an antipodean bastion of forward-thinking and terrifying variations on metal’s most aggressive form may have been sneered at. But here we are pushing ever deeper into the abyssal 21st century with extreme music increasingly poised to surprise, revolutionise and lay waste to what has come before. Over the last 20 years, Australia’s steady output in this field has been nothing short of a triumph, with now – TODAY – falling under the reign of these new lords of terror. A highly innovative and incestuous scene, here’s a look at some of the heavy-hitters and emerging talent.
Order of Orias
Can you spell ‘criminally underrated’? It starts with Order of Orias. Awakened in 2007, this quintet came to our attention last year with the unleashing of their debut EP, Offering. A ferocious merging of black metal aesthetics with death metal muscle, discordant riff slinging and a life-affirming, elitist ideology, this is one Australian band that simply demands your attention. Order of Orias tightened their vice grip on 2009 with a swift follow-up in the form of the Birth EP, a honing and progression on what the band deems their infancy. This was available for free download from their myspace until recently and is now seeing a proper release through Germany’s Obscure Abhorence Productions around December/January. We interviewed them back in May so head here to get a sense of what they’re about.
Offering seemingly appeared out of the ether, displaying a band with an aura of maturity rarely assigned to a debut recording. Throat shredding vocals ride atop a multitude of dynamic and varied riffs, discordant and chaotic yet impressively reigned in by very accomplished musicians. Far too chunky and riff-orientated to fall into solely black metal waters, but open minded enough to avoid the sometimes limiting perception of death metal. Birth continued the adept straddling of this murky middle ground, thick with blast beats and melodic chord structures but juxtaposed with powerful low end tremolo riffing and rhythmic palm muted sections that enforce mandatory head thrashing. We are eager to hear what Orias’s legions produce with the advent of a debut album. Great band, get into it!
Offering: ‘Flesh Conspiracy’
From newcomers to an old staple of the scene, there’s no doubt Deströyer 666 have played their part in putting Australia on the death metal map. Although now based in the Netherlands, Deströyer 666 is an Australian band through and through with origins in the seminal black metal blast of Bestial Warlust. Formed in ’94 as a solo outlet for the warlord K.K. Warslut,Deströyer 666 immediately took on a more audible assault than the band’s predecessor with the ’97 debut, Unchain the Wolves.
Not strictly a straight cut death metal project but a potent mix of all the best aspects of thrash, black and death metal. My favourite release is Phoenix Rising which sets the scene perfectly with a sample from the folk musician and cult leader, Mel Lyman: “I am going to burn down the world. I am going to tear down everything that cannot stand alone. I am going to turn ideals to shit. I am going to shove hope up your ass. I am going to reduce everything that stands to rubble. And then I am going to burn the rubble. And then I am going to scatter the ashes. And then maybe someone will be able to see something as it really is.”
On a background of pitch black, sweeping synths, if the opener ‘Rise of the Predator’ doesn’t sufficiently shit you up then perhaps the gripping series of thrashing arpeggios will, with lyrics celebrating the perpetual predatory and destructive nature of man. A classic from start to finish, if you aren’t familiar with this and the rest of Deströyer 666’s strong back catalogue I suggest you mend your ways and start here. September 24th sees the release of To The Devil His Due, a compilation of rare and OOP seven inches on a 12″ LP through Kneel Before The Master’s Throne Records.
Unchain The Wolves: ‘Australian and Anti-Christ’
Phoenix Rising: ‘Rise of the Predator’, ‘I Am The Wargod (Ode To The Battle Slain)’
Our excitement that new Stargazer material was on the horizon this year was evident in that it overflowed into multiple posts. But that excitement was well founded as any who have heard their debut The Scream That Tore The Sky will attest. A mammoth 13 track journey into the some of the most progressive death metal this side of Opeth, the album is an effective melting pot of extreme metal ideas executed with a supreme technical ability and compositional confidence. Equal measures of epic melodies and unstoppable thrash-based attacks line The Scream That Tore The Sky, an album so detailed and multi-faceted that new details emerge with every listen. I haven’t had the chance to explore the new album A Great Work Of Ages yet but am frothing at the mouth to get my hands on it. It was released on September 7th through Profound Lore. Stargazer also marks the beginning of that ‘incestuous’ aspect to the Australian death metal scene, with its inspired members filling the ranks of a number of other landmark bands.
Everything? I’ll get on that new record now…
Cauldron Black Ram
Ever wondered what old school pirate death metal would sound like? Wonder no more: Adelaide’s Cauldron Black Ram has had this thematic enclave covered since ’96. If you were hoping for a death metal Alestorm though, you may be disappointed. But thank fuck that’s not the case. Sharing members with the aforementioned Stargazer and other Australian luminaries, Portal and Misery’s Omen, Cauldron Black Ram have placed this peculiar concept somewhere between the sludgey death of Teitanblood and the razor-sharp riffage of Grand Belial’s Key. Again, THANK FUCK.
Cauldron Black Ram provide some much needed light relief from the lofty concepts and super cereal approach of its related projects, remaining marvellously tongue-in-cheek and true to their bizarre theme even in interviews. The 2004 full-length debut, Skullduggery was reportedly recorded in a cave with this year’s follow-up, Slubberdegullion, recorded in a “back-alley brothel”. Gimmicks aside, both albums are very noteworthy additions to current influx of anti-technical, filthy death metal. Awesome.
Slubberdegullion: ‘Satanic Whores in Bestial Brothels’, ‘Blunderbuss’
No discourse on Australian death metal would be any where near complete without a mention of Portal: These current darlings of the scene are perhaps somewhat responsible for the recent antipodean renaissance. Their utterly bewildering and nauseating take on death metal noise harks back to the atmosphere that was attempted by the earliest death metal stalwarts (see: Necrovore) but strips away any attempts at characteristic riffs, favouring an abstract collage of pure undistilled aural terror. And that is why everyone loves them, not to mention a consistent veneration of the Lovecraft mythos and guitars that sound like a sodomized Chewbacca.
PH’NGLUI MGLW’NAFH CTHULHU R’LYEH WGAH’NAGL FHTAGN
Oh… and Outre‘s ‘Omnipotent Crawling Chaos’
Holy shit. Impetuous Ritual are devastating. This probably has something to do with the fact that they share bassist and drummer with Portal but it is in the lumbering guitars that Impetuous Ritual draws its power. Each listen to their debut and only recorded output, Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence is a draining, exhaustive experience. The textures on this album lend equally from Incantation, Disembowelment and Portal, bordering on the exhilarating abandon of the latter’s foul death metal interpretations but it is the additional influences that make this release something truly special. For level 80 death metal fans only!
Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence should be listened to in its entirety.
Casting back through time a bit but also saving the best for last. Almost worth a post in their own right, Disembowelment came, slayed and conquered, then departed the death metal underground almost as soon as they had arrived. Disembowelment released a couple of early demos, an EP, then the tumultuous 1993 full-length Transcendence into the Peripheral. This is a landmark album for so many reasons but mainly because it single-handedly fashioned the splicing of death metal with the dirge pace of doom, eventually bearing the rotten fruit of funeral doom.
Long have New Jersey’s Evoken reigned in the absence of the death/doom forerunners and while they are more than worthy of this inheritance, they have tampered with the blueprint set down by Disembowelment very little. Transcendence into the Peripheral remains a masterpiece of depressive death metal: wafer thin guitars grunt out intense tremolo’d passages to grindcore-pace drums only to descend the depths of isolation and despondency at the drop of a hat. The despairing atmosphere was largely achieved by the incredibly cavernous production. Drum strikes echo and bounce around a simulated abyss, a habitat perfectly suited for the emotions the band intended to invoke. The inclusion of a crisp, clean guitar sound only augmented the dreariness of the album and is a treat every time it appears. This album destroys me with every listen, and if you haven’t heard it yet you should let it destroy you too.
Transcendence into the Peripheral: ‘The Tree of Life And Death’, ‘Your Prophetic Throne Of Ivory’, ‘A Burial At Ornans’ but the entire work is essential and should be listened to from start to finish.