"Quite possibly one of 2024’s finest death metal albums." Jacob Bannon's extreme metal supergroup Umbra Vitae have stuck gnarled gold with Light Of Death

One of the best extreme metal albums of 2024 has arrived

Umbra Vitae in 2024
(Image: © Hillarie Jason)

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The promise of Converge frontman Jacob Bannon being joined by The Red Chord bassist Greg Weeks and guitarist Mike McKenzie, Uncle Acid/former Job for A Cowboy drummer Jon Rice, and Twitching Tongues guitarist Sean Martin, and attempting to make classic-sounding death metal, was enough to make the ears of anyone with a penchant for brutal music prick up. Therefore, when Umbra Vitae’s debut album, Shadow Of Life, arrived in 2020, it was an immediate must-hear. Looking back, however, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. It was decent, extremely good in parts, but clearly the sound of a collective still finding their feet.

Those feet have absolutely been firmly planted now, because Light Of Death is a superior album to that debut in every single metric you could judge it by. Twice as long, and with five more tracks than its predecessor, it’s an record that uses that extra runtime to explore the dynamics of the genre far more Umbra Vitae did previously. The gooey, half-time thump, gurgling gang chants and shredding solos of Anti-Spirit Machine sit next to the thrashing, utterly destructive grind of Reality In Retrograde. There’s even some acoustic flamenco guitar on the album’s longest song, the fantastically chaotic Cause & Effect.

As ever, Kurt Ballou deserves a nod for his superb production. Jacob Bannon screams and snarls as though his head is about to explode like that bloke from the Scanners movie, but the real stars of the show are Sean Martin and Mike McKenzie. They run through a riff repertoire worthy of death metal’s finest, aping Trey Azagthoth one minute, James Murphy the next, and throwing in some of their own hardcore influences while they’re at it. A significant step up, and, in a hotly contested race, quite possibly one of 2024’s finest death metal albums.

Light Of Death is out June 7 via Deathwish

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.