This is a monthly post where I show some love for my favorite new underground metal albums. I mostly focus on recordings from the past two to three months, but I sometimes add older ones if I've just come across them and they're particularly exciting. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
Leave a comment below with your thoughts and let me know which new underground metal albums you’re currently listening to.
(Be sure to check out last month's list here.)
Nightbearer - Ghosts of a Darkness to Come
We kick off this month not with a bang, but with a city-leveling megaton blast. Holy shit, this album is good. Every month I'm amazed at how many incredible death metal bands there are creating music in obscurity, and Nightbearer is like a new king of the underground.
Ghosts of a Darkness to Come has one of the most beautifully classic OSDM vibes you'll hear from a modern band, often foregoing blast beats in favor of a massively heavy, skull-grinding approach spiked with haunting guitar leads that harken back to the genre's heyday. Thick, crunchy production perfectly accents the band's thunderous writing style across nine terrifying tracks led by a ghoulish vocal style that nails the death metal sweet spot.
I love every entry on here, it's one of the few death metal albums I'm happy to play front to back repeatedly. Early favorites for me were "Forever in Darkness," "Where No Wind Ever Blows," and "A Conquest in Blood," but give this one a few spins and the complete tracklist will grow on you the way it did for me. Legitimately one of my favorite death metal albums ever.
The Devils of Loudun - Escaping Eternity
Rewinding slightly now to the start of the year to acknowledge an unbelievably skilled, polished melodic death metal album from The Devils of Loudun. Never heard of them? Apparently no one has, they have a staggering 1,332 monthly listeners on Spotify at the time I'm writing this. How that's possible is beyond me, because this album is a goldmine of complex, cerebrum-stimulating creations.
Myriad instruments weave in and out of one another as the band leaps from blast beats to haunting piano sections to wild displays of technical mastery, all graced with engaging melodies and packaged with stellar production work. This album is just a goddamn masterpiece.
I mentioned back in June that I'm feeling nostalgic for the melodic death and black metal of the late '90s and early '00s, to the point I even fired up a fresh playlist dedicated to modern creations. (I've given it the wonderfully cumbersome title of Progressive / Melodic / Technical Extreme Metal.) Escaping Eternity sits right at the heart of what I'm looking for on that playlist, tapping into my old nostalgia but taking the songwriting and technical aspects of the music to another level.
If you've ever loved any melodic death metal album, especially one with a technical leaning, give yourself the gift of tracking down and hearing The Devils of Loudun's Escaping Eternity right now.
Thrash Metal / Speed Metal
Ominum - Monument
Straight from the "if it ain't broken don't fix it" department comes Ominum's debut album, Monument. There's something incredibly exciting to me about a new band dropping a recording out of nowhere like this that has such excellent technical chops, engaging songwriting, and production polish.
This one fits right in line with other recent releases I've mentioned here, such as Crisix's Full HD album last month and Traitor's Exiled to the Surface in July, taking old school thrash songwriting and partnering it with hefty, modern production with deeply satisfying results.
Favorites for me include "The Crescent or the Cross," "Fire," and the three-part "Monument" trilogy.
Ensanguinate - Eldritch Anatomy
Take old school death metal, inject it with a healthy dose of speed, sprinkle in a touch of black metal, then package it up in carefully old school, lo-fi sonics, and you'd have Ensanguinate's ear-annihilating new album, Eldritch Anatomy. Absolutely no frills on this one, just bullet-belted, rapid-fire underground metal from the Slovenia quartet.
Top picks for me here include "Hunted," "Cadaver Synod," "Gaping Maws of Cerberus," and "Lowermost Baptisms," but there aren't exactly uniquely crafted pieces of art here. This is savage headbanging music through and through and it does its job extremely well. Pick a track and let it rip.
(Discover more in my NWOTHM / New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal playlist on Spotify)
Sumerlands - Twilight Points the Way
Sumerlands' first album was an epic and slightly doom-y creation featuring dramatic melodies and a beautiful sense of world-building that evoked the smoky mountains of a dangerous fantasy world. That album was respectably unique in its creative approach and wasn't always easy to drop into any major metal subgenre buckets. Surprisingly, that last part isn't true for the band's second full-length offering, Dreamkiller, which retains much of the epic, dream-like vibe of its predecessor but takes a hard stylistic pivot toward the sounds of NWOTHM.
In spite of the production and songwriting shifts as well as a new singer, Sumerlands' new album fully lives up to expectations. Dreamkiller is a majestic recording loaded with endearing melodies, beautiful guitar leads, and an impassioned vocal style that somehow feels unearthly and intimately familiar all at once.
For my money, the title track and advance single "Dreamkiller" is the best effort on the album – and one of my personal favorite traditional metal tunes of the NWOTHM era – but "Twilight Points the Way," "Edge of the Knife," "Force of a Storm," and "Death to Mercy" are equally worthy of high praise.
Hard to find faults with this one, this is top shelf old school metal.
Raptore - Blackfire
Raptore's Blackfire is something of an underdog: it may not contain the polish or technical skill of some of its contemporaries, but it more than makes up for it with energy, sincerity, and a legitimately great sense of songwriting.
Fans of Enforcer should be especially interested in this one, as Raptore's style of old school speed metal is often highly reminiscent of early offerings from that NWOTHM-pioneering group. There's a mountain of heart behind these tracks and I find myself loving breakneck creations like "Triumphal March to Hell" and "Phoenix" more every time I hear them.
It would be easy to take a quick listen to this one, land on one of the less appealing tracks, and dismiss the entire recording. But much like Acid Blade's debut I mentioned last month, Blackfire is a rough-hewn gem that frequently shines brightly in spite of its imperfections.
(Discover more in my Dungeon Synth / Medieval Fantasy playlist on Spotify)
Elyvilon - Drums in the Deepwood
Despite dungeon synth's origins as a splinter genre of black metal, it's increasingly common for new creations to sound more like lo-fi, fantasy-themed outgrowths of new age music. So it is with Elyvilon's latest offering, Drums in the Deepwood.
There are so many different flavors of music swirling behind this one, from '80s new age (shades of Andreas Wollenweider often emerge for me), early '90s PC game soundtracks, dungeon synth, and various forms of so-called "world music." The result is unlike anything I have ever heard before.
Elyvilon has done a brilliant job of world-building with the compositions, and along with deeply imaginative song titles like "Moss Laden and Shambling" and "Gristle and Bone, All Turned to Stone," the album paints a picture of a vibrant, dark, and sometimes playful fantasy world filled with primitive humanoids and ancient arcane magics.
The album's production and instrumentation can honestly be a bit wearying to listen to at times, especially on "A Hunger to Carry off Flocks," and "Drums in the Deepwood," but I think that's actually what I love about it. Listening to Drums in the Deepwood makes me feel as though I've been captured by trolls and carried back to their cavernous lair to be carved up for stew meat, and I have absolutely never had that sensation listening to music before.
Cheers to Elyvilon for doing something wildly unique and memorable.
Murgrind - The Power of Yourself
Murgrind is a long-time creator of epic dungeon synth and dark ambient music whose immersive soundscapes evoke images of a grim, medieval fantasy world. Listening to Murgrind is to envision marauders laying siege to villages, castles left smoldering and barren from the fires war, and shadowy forest retreats where practitioners of dark arts ply their craft.
The artist's latest creation, The Power of Yourself, represents something of a creative pivot, both musically and conceptually, as the signature darkness of Murgrind's music often gives way to a sense of wonder and possibilities. As the album title and cover art reveal, this recording aims to empower as much as forebode.
Sweeping synth strings lend themselves to the task on "The Discovery of the Own Power" and fully ambient creations like "Courage for the New Path and Farewell to Pantheon."
In discussing Haryon's and Tales Under the Oak's new albums back in June, I mentioned I was growing fonder of ambient-oriented music for drawing sessions, and Murgrind's latest has become a quick favorite for me as a result. Grim, epic, and inspiring, The Power of Yourself provides an excellent soundtrack for gaming and creative sessions in which the aim is to immerse oneself in a fictional fantasy world.
I'll be back next month with more new underground metal albums. In the meantime, follow me on Spotify and check out my playlists to see what else I'm currently listening to.