Slam, grindcore, deathcore or just plain OSDM, extreme metal comes in just about every shape and size you can imagine in 2022. But no matter what exciting avenues artists take it, it can always be traced back to those early kernels of brutality in the death metal scenes of the 80s and 90s.
Rather than splitting hairs and arguing over what can and can't be classed as death metal in 2022 (don't worry, we're not going to try and slip Ghost in there) we figured it high time to celebrate everything that comes under that particular school of extreme metal brutality.
So if it looks like death metal, sounds like death metal and grunts like it too, we're happy to funnel into that particular bracket (even if technically speaking it might be grindcore, slam or any other permutation of the form you might care to list). That in mind, here are the top 10 death metal records of 2022 that show just how diverse the genre has grown over the past near-40 years.
10. Escuela Grind - Memory Theater
After cramming a febrile 17-songs into a 28-minute package for their debut Indoctrination, Escuela Grind's second record sees the US grindcore troupe tinker ith classic death metal motifs to produce a more ambitious, experimental second effort.
Memory Theater’s 20-odd minutes utilise a thicker and lower sonic spectrum rife with feedback, fret slides, barre chord abuse and punchy staccato flourishes. It’s all forcefully massaged into mosh parts, death blasts, thrashy ambling and sludgy doom muscle memory to deliver a multifaceted album that goes beyond ‘fast and faster’ simplicity. KSP
9. Immolation - Acts Of God
Without messing with their own peerless formula, Acts Of God builds on the scabrous grandeur of the New Yorkers’ last few records and sounds sharper and more meticulously crafted than any Immolation record since the immortal Close To A World Below.
Born aloft on thick waves of churning dread, songs like Blooded, and Overtures Of The Wicked reaffirm the uniqueness of the band’s ageless sound. Equal parts muscular ferocity and otherworldly squall, every last moment of Acts Of God noisily proclaims this band’s unerring superiority. DL
8. Party Cannon - Volumes Of Vomit
With a legendary logo and a reputation for drunken chaos, Party Cannon are obviously very silly. Less well known is that the Scottish quintet are one of the most destructive bands on the planet, and that their second full-length is a spitting, snarling and puking beast.
Comprising 50 minutes of lightningspeed brutal death metal with regular detours into huge, lobotomised slam riffs, this is an ugly, snotty, unrelenting riot from start to finish. DL
7. Wormrot - Hiss
Wormrot's first album in six years is every bit as unhinged and chaotic as its predecessors, but somehow even more incensed and off-the-wall. Fans of traditional grind will be more than satisfied with these 21 chunks of scabby noise, not least because few bands nail a grubby riff or a demented blastbeat with such malicious intent.
But Wormrot have expanded their sonic world, too. The more experimental likes of Voiceless Choir and Sea Of Disease hurl post-punk menace into the mix, Grieve strays briefly but deliciously close to avant-garde black metal, and Desolate Landscapes weaves eerie melodies into 140 seconds of brutal psychedelia. The ’rot will not be stopped. DL
6. Fit For An Autopsy - Oh What The Future Holds
Fit For An Autopsy started peeling away from the rest of the pack on 2015’s Absolute Hope Absolute Hell. That album was their first to feature current vocalist Joe Badolato, and saw the New Jersey innovators, led by esteemed guitarist/producer, Will Putney, stretch the boundaries of deathcore, incorporating melodic textures, technical virtuosity, and emotive themes into their slam attack.
So, with the gauntlet laid down and a standard set that’s way beyond the capabilities of many of their contemporaries, the expectations going into the band’s sixth album are vertiginous. Oh What The Future Holds surpasses them all. From Savages’ ironclad technicality, and Conditional Healing’s nefarious intent, to the serpentine closer, The Man That I Was Not, every track sets a benchmark for modern barbarity. On Oh What The Future Holds, Fit For An Autopsy are in career-defining form, gleefully taking the reinvention of their previous releases to a dark, emotional, thought-provoking and crushing culmination. DL
5. Autopsy - Morbidity Triumphant
Since returning to active duty in 2008, it’s been full acrid and fetid steam ahead for Autopsy. This might mean eight years between albums – although there have been a handful of EP and compilation releases – but it also means continued forward motion with hideously coarse, punk-flecked death metal, horror movie doom and grindhouse classic rock, all played with the delicacy of a wild stallion in a glass-blowing studio.
Morbidity Triumphant’s biggest triumph is how, even in its stripped-down state, it still blows away boundaries with riffs and sequences gussied up by four-string flourishes, gutter guitar virtuosity and Sarlacc screams that keep everything aurally interesting and palatable, but still odiously death metal. KSP
4. Decapitated - Cancer Culture
If you still don’t know how to feel about Decapitated, then at least you’re still engaged in a moral dialogue, because outside those directly involved, no one knows, and to come down firmly on one side risks an injustice to the other. No one’s going to listen to Cancer Culture unless they at the very least entertain the possibility that the band are innocent. And the rub is that, sonically, it’s such the epitome of what death metal should sound like in 2022 that you can’t just squirm your way through it.
If the insistent, Lamb Of God-esque, groove-driven title track doesn’t address the aftermath directly, the lines ‘Opinions like opiates… Comments like convictions’ are surely a knowing parallel. But the imperious sound isn’t down to rage or defensiveness, it’s a celebration of Meshuggah-level precision, aerated with atmospheric leads. Since their reformation after the death of drummer Vitek and the incapacitation of former vocalist Covan, Decapitated have, more than any other band, planted old-school roots firmly in the modern age, and here to breathtakingly fertile ends. JS
3. Imperial Triumphant - Spirit Of Ecstasy
Spirit Of Ecstasy is, let’s put it fairly and frankly, completely fucking insane. Where previous releases jarred and jangled nerves but left you with a semi-coherent set of coordinates, this is a fragmented, obliterative journey whose jazz-blasted landscape makes no such concessions. Cruelly wrought in black and gold, the record is all god-baiting spires, jagged crenelations and impossible angles: a terrible, imposing place where ideas and motifs are stretched, inverted and forced to devour their own poisonous tails.
The band have brought together a cast of guest players that is impressive but also varied to the point of mania. Members of Voivod, Testament, Krallice and Mr. Bungle all enter the fray, improbably rubbing shoulders with an Emmy-winning composer and a gun-for-hire trumpeter who’s appeared on Broadway and gigged with Barry Manilow. Oh, and Kenny G.
For all its goadingly obtuse turns and decisions, Spirit Of Ecstasy somehow coheres into a wonderful, ornate and aberrant whole – one where diseased fusion intricacies, choral vocals and brass instrumentation feel like hostile incursions, and the moments of death metal savagery serve as air pockets of blessed relief. AD
2. Venom Prison - Erebos
Put simply, Erebos is to Samsara what Heartwork was to Reek Of Putrefecation: the moment a great hope of the British extreme metal underground realised their potential and truly became a world-beating act. Venom Prison haven’t turned their back on death metal, rather they have found ways of achieving maximum devastation within the sonic realms that we have come to know and love whilst expanding their repertoire.
Producer Scott Atkins fully realises each of the disparate elements that make Venom Prison so formidable whilst ensuring the overall effect isn’t buried beneath a cacophony. The result is some of the band’s most anthemic and stirring moments to date.
In 2015, Larissa Stupar and Ash Gray took a leap of faith, moving from Germany to Wales in pursuit of a band that could afford them a bright new future. Seven years later they take the plunge again, this time buoyed by a reputation as one of Britain’s brightest new extreme metal acts. With Erebos, Venom Prison have now fully realised their potential, and there is no plateau too high. RH
1. Lorna Shore - Pain Remains
Depending on who you ask, deathcore is either the best thing to happen to death metal this century, or should never be uttered within a hundred miles of the genre. Yet, it has persisted, and just when the scene appeared to flagging and descending into a formless mess with no stars left to lead it, Lorna Shore came around to remind everyone just how vital the (sub)genre could be.
There can be no doubting Lorna Shore's extreme metal cred when it comes to the sheer bludgeoning they can dole out, but it is the band's capability for arena-sized anthems that really makes them a force to be reckoned with, each new release and tour cementing the notion that Will Ramos is a star in the making, a guiding light for death metal's next generation.
Lorna Shore's fourth album Pain Remains is their most ambitious to date, over an hour in length. Once opening track Welcome Back, O Sleeping Dreamer explodes into life following 90 seconds of grandiose, choral build-up, what follows is an extreme metal rollercoaster, hurtling at breakneck speed until the very end.
Lorna Shore have been audacious and daring in the composing of Pain Remains, and it’s paid off handsomely, seeing the band land arena-sized support slots alongside the likes of Parkway Drive whilst pulling enormous crowds of their own in a packed summer festival schedule. Quite where the band will go next remains to be seen, but there can be no denying Lorna Shore are firmly established as the breakout stars of this current crop of deathcore hopefuls. EL