10 obscure but brilliant death metal albums you need in your life

death metal
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Discerning death metal fans will already be well aware of the genre’s certified classics, from the likes of Morbid Angel, Death, Obituary, Carcass and Autopsy. Dig a little deeper into the genre’s rich and varied history and there are a whole host of offal-spattered gems that have never quite been given the attention and acclaim they deserve. Being generous souls, we have selected ten of the finest deathly obscurities. From strange but pioneering Italian prog-death to bewildering, hyper-technical, abstract madness, all shades of under-the-radar are present, correct and deeply unpleasant here. 

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Sadist – Above The Light (1993)

Epic and adventurous, but also vicious and raw, Sadist’s debut album was a progressive death metal record, unleashed some years before the subgenre was truly established. With hindsight, the Italian band’s scattershot approach was years ahead of its time: echoes horror-tinged mini-epics like Sometimes They Come Back and Breathin’ Cancer can be heard in a lot of contemporary dark metal. Meanwhile, the song Sadist remains one of the all-time great metal tributes to John Carpenter and Goblin. Sadist are still active, incidentally: check out 2018’s Spellbound for enjoyable proof that the Italians are still firmly out there.

God Macabre – The Winterlong (1993)

They may not have had the same impact as the likes of Nihilist (later Entombed), Dismember or In Flames, but God Macabre made one glorious contribution to the evolution of Swedish death metal. In fact, the band were one of the first death metal bands in Sweden, originally known as Macabre End, with a sound that combined the expected buzzsaw brutality with a rich and unsettling strain of melancholy. Their sole album, The Winterlong is a rampaging beast, full of grandiose but grimy anthems. 

Gutted – Bleed For Us To Live (1994)

It is inevitable that some truly great bands will slip under the radar. Gutted are rarely mentioned as among the US death metal scene’s biggest hitters, but Bleed For Us To Live is every bit as destructive and memorable as those cherished 90s classics. For a start, please Satan, check out the fucking riffs on this thing! Gutted were much loved in their native Toledo, Ohio, and it’s not hard to imagine how riotous their live shows must have been. Listen to the likes of Sins Of God and Kickin’ The Corpse at full volume, and you will break something.

Disgorge – Chronic Corpora Infest (1997) 

Utterly disgusting from start to finish (and artwork included!), Disgorge’s debut album brought the dark side of Mexican brutality to the attention of underground diehards. Or at least those with a strong stomach. Audibly inspired by early Carcass but powered by the savage muscularity of a post-Suffocation scene, twisted cuts like The Vile Sores In Urticariothrocisism Goulashed Decrepitance, Lymphatic Orgy In A Ulcerated Incubation [sic] and the charming Faecalized still sound obnoxiously brutal. Atmospheric interludes and snatches of warped dialogue only add to an overall feeling of offal-drenched squalor. Not for the squeamish. Also, not to be confused with the other (equally terrifying) Disgorge, from San Diego. 

Burning Inside – The Eve Of The Entities (2000)

Best known for keeping the beat on Death’s final masterpiece, The Sound Of Perseverance, Richard Christy is one of death metal’s most legendary drummers. Also a noted Howard Stern Show alumnus, he showcased his own compositional credentials under the Burning Inside banner. The Eve Of The Entities is a wild ride of technical extremity and spine-shaking bombast, with Christy’s drumming a relentless force of nature underpinning it all. Both guitarists on the record – Steve Childers (also Black Witchery) and Michael Estes (Acheron) – are sadly no longer with us, but this is a monumental legacy. 

Myrkskog – Deathmachine (2000)

They do things differently in Norway. Although audibly fuelled by the epic precision of Morbid Angel’s Covenant and Domination benchmarks, Myrkskog’s hyper-technical battery was so icy and unrelenting, it could only have come from the frozen North. Giving a new millennium a resounding slap, the band’s debut erupted like some devastating, Dystopian techno-war; simultaneously futuristic and not of this world. Deathmachine shares some DNA with Emperor guitarist’s death metal project Zyklon, not least due to guitarist Destructhor being a member of both bands, but it continues to stand out as fearsome and eccentric statement of intent. 

Lykathea Aflame – Elvenefris (2000)

Every now and then, a band pops up, drops a timeless classic, and then fucks off again into wilful obscurity. Two-man progressive death metal mavericks Lykathea Aflame were from the Czech Republic, but sounded like they had been beamed to Earth from somewhere far more mind-blowing. Over 72 mesmerising minutes, Elvenefris twists brutal death metal and symphonic grandeur to their own fiendish ends. Songs like crazed epic Sadness And Strength echoed the all-out attack of peers like Nile and Hate Eternal, but forced that violent essence through a spinning kaleidoscope. Still a total mind-fuck, obviously.

Encenathrakh – Encenathrakh (2015)

If one spends a lot of time listening to insanely brutal death metal, it’s not impossible to become desensitised and bored. If that happens to you, kindly stick on some headphones and listen to Encenathrakh at full blast. So uncommercial it’s genuinely funny and so brutal it defies laws of physics, songs like Atenggor and Akeathate (no, us neither!) will suck you into a deep, swirling maelstrom of confusion and hate. Propelled along at an absurd pace by brilliantly-named drummer Weasel Walter, Encenathrakh play death metal, but pushed to a level that, at times, doesn’t seem okay at all. Last year’s follow-up, Thraakethraaeate Thraithraake (erm, what?), is somehow even more berserk. Seriously.

Fatuous Rump – {Brutality} (2019)

Its status as a country is continually open to debate, but Taiwan knows how to produce bands that will crush you for fun. East and Southeast Asia’s brutal death metal scenes are globally renowned, and it’s albums like Fatuous Rump’s monumentally nasty third full-length that are keeping standards high. A remorseless onslaught of cranium-caving blasts, mutant slug gutturals and monstrous, meathead slam riffs, {Brutality} lives up to its title with room to spare. The song titles are brilliant, too: who wouldn’t want to hear a song called Pot Of Lurid Pulp? Exactly. 

Ribspreader – Bolted To The Cross (2004)

A one-man death metal factory, Sweden’s Rogga Johansson has released more albums in the last few years than just about anyone else on the planet. Also the relentless riff-writer behind (and this is just a few of them!) Revolting, Paganizer, Furnace, Megascavenger, Eye Of Purgatory and Humanity Delete, Rogga established his furious, skin-flaying trademark sound on this streamlined sledgehammer attack from 17 years ago. If it’s raging, old school purity you’re after, songs like Beneath The Cenotaph and As You Bleed will have you frantically banging your head like an actual wazzock. 

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.