Five New Death Metal Bands Destroying Southern California
What sinister sounds are rising from the South?
With high profile names like Necrot, Rude, Mortuous, and Acephalix blowing away death metal fans worldwide, it’s no secret that Northern California is host to some really fucking good death metal these days- San Jose based one man act Ripped To Shreds even proudly displays the moniker “BAY AREA DEATH METAL” on a longsleeve.
But what about Los Angeles? Orange County? San Diego? Who carries the torch in Southern California? That’s what this article is all about- as a native of the Southern California scene, I want to shed the spotlight on some of the better bands from around my neck of the woods, and since I’ve just been to a few great underground shows in recent weeks, now seems to be the time to do it. Before you go asking where bands like Ascended Dead (who don’t really count anyways at this point, most of the band moved to Portland!), Skeletal Remains, or Gravehill are I’m choosing to strategically spread some spotlight to bands a mite less popular than those guys. I’m also not going to bother with broken up or older bands like the sorely-missed Deathevokation, new dudes only!
With that said, let’s get started with…
Crematory Stench (Costa Mesa, California)
Originally, Crematory Stench was fast, thrashy, and to the point- they went for the jugular with a single minded attention that was competent, and were fun live, reminding me a lot of old Pestilence or Death. It was cool stuff, but what’s way cooler is the direction they went in; over the last year, Crematory Stench have dialed-up the atmosphere, dialed-back the chunky chromatic riffing, and have upped the quality significantly.
Armed with a new guitarist, eerie leads, a much more varied vocal attack, and enough reverb for any fan of the stuff, Crematory Stench have gone from a good local band to one that I’d go see even if they weren’t from Los Angeles- and that’s just about the highest compliment I can give. Though their new EP isn’t out yet (excepting a very, very limited amount of promo tapes made for the Skeletal Remains album release show earlier this year), a lot of their new material can be seen in live videos on YouTube. If you like reverb-laded barbaricism this is the band for you.
Though their metal-archives page says that the band had a brief stint of existence in the ‘90s, Ruin’s real journey into the public spotlight was a demo in 2015 that made waves entitled Spread Plague Hell. Ruin played on that demo (and continue to play now with newer material) absolutely reeking sewer death metal, with enough rotting riffs and a disgusting enough atmosphere to pay the utmost tribute to bands like Impetigo, Infester, and Rottrevore.
Almost immediately after that first release, Ruin started playing shows to spread their filthy brand of murderous death to anyone brave enough to make it out to a show, with activity continuing across an onslaught of regular splits, a full length album on Blood Harvest Records and Memento Mori, and an EP released by Snake Oil Kassettforlag earlier this year. The sheer vileness of their music can’t be properly distilled down to words in the English language, so you’ll just have to let them annihilate you to understand for yourself.
To some people, the describing of a death metal band as “forward thinking” will make sure that they’ll never hit it- but trust me, VoidCeremony are fucking awesome. Though they have just three EPs to date (all released by Swedish powerhouse label Blood Harvest Records), each is punishing, with their newest effort being their best realized so far. 2018’s Foul Origins of Humanity EP is terrifying, strange, and totally unique- it spins with the evil delight that you’d want from death metal, but completely eschews the beaten path for warped dissonance, ugly melody, and riffs that I just know I’m not good enough to play on guitar. Despite this it never strays far enough from what you want to hear to throw you off, always leaving just barely enough of a familiar line home to stay totally hooked.
As much as I’m glad that not every band takes this route (not the least because it’s too arcane for the average songwriter to pull off), it’s a welcome change of pace even among the increasingly popular old school tech scene. If you love old school mentality but wish that there was a bit more of the absolutely crazed and alien side of it, here’s a band for you. This is the only band mentioned that I haven’t seen live yet, for a variety of reasons, so I hope they come back and play something (that I can actually make it to this time) soon.
Bolt Thrower is the law, and Kommand know it. Sharing an affinity for the British legends’ riffing style and enough brutal punk roots to have an idea of what the band was doing before they started playing death metal, Kommand play riffs that also speak beyond the obvious Bolt Thrower comparisons that I’ve seen thrown their way, mixing in stuff akin to Demigod or other slightly less straightforward bands. Unsurprisingly, the band has mostly only played bigger shows in their brief stint as a live band, debuting at their first gig as the opening support for Mammoth Grinder and then going on to play with other modern giants such as Skeletal Remains, Mortuous, and Spectral Voice.
Though Kommand’s two demos only span a shared twenty minutes between them, the band has already marked themselves as being well worth watching between both the strong quality of their recorded material and their already-excellent live shows.
This band doesn’t have a bandcamp, so check them out at the following link: http://kommand.band/
How do you feel about Finland? Do names like Adramalech or Demilich do a lot for you? How about American legends like Brutality or Atheist? Calcemia certainly seem to like ‘em a lot, and it shows in the complicated and absolutely bizarre way that they write their music. Though their only non-demo release is an EP, that EP is longer than some albums, treating listeners to nearly thirty minutes of twisting riffs that can’t be constrained in any way to the comparisons that I made up above. In an interview with Decibel Magazine, guitarist Jake Himelfarb discusses influences ranging from the Timeghoul to Autopsy to Candlemass- a veritable stew of contrasting sounds that can all be heard writhing through the EP’s playtime. I wish I had a better way to describe them, but they’re just too singular; fans of weirdness take note.
I’ve seen Calcemia play with some amazing bands, a few of which deserve inclusion on this all-too-short list, and I know that they’re already working on new material, which is exciting. Until that material comes on a split later this year (more info TBA), you’ll just have to satisfy yourself with The Unburning Flame.