When Death Metal Was Gnarly: YhA from Suffering Hour Talks Unique Death Metal Bands
In this excellent guest post, Josh (YhA) from the genre-defying, riff-crushing death metal band Suffering Hour stops in to share some of his favorite unique death metal bands from yesteryear. Time to get weird.
Hey guys, my name’s Josh and I’m the guitarist and songwriter in a death metal band called Suffering Hour. One of the guys who works at this website liked my band’s promo and saw me being a major dork on a thread [W. note- That’s a me!], so he asked me to write a guest article. Three weeks of doing other stuff later and here I am at last with a finished piece, ready to make pretend like I’m some expert and that my opinion matters. On the reals though, let’s have a one-directional chit-chat.
There’s a lot of really good death metal out there. From the beginning of time, which is around the mid eighties, there have been death metal bands laying down the RIFF like it’s nobody’s business. To this day, there are still bands that make it their life mission to bring the RIFF down onto humanity. There also were bands that decided to take the RIFF (okay I’ll stop) and make it their own thing, where instead of paying direct tribute to the riff they instead bent the riff to their will. There are plenty of these bands that got noticed, like the curators of wonky-death like Gorguts, Edge of Sanity, Death, and Demilich, the new American dissodeath movement with Artificial Brain (shoutout to my boys), Pyrrhon, and Baring Teeth, and the twisted demon darkness going on in Canada right now like Mitochondrion (shoutout to my BOYS), Adversarial, and Antediluvian. HOWEVER, when there are big bands in genres it means there were also bands that got thrown to the wayside. While all of these bands aren’t necessarily insanely deep underground, these are all bands that I feel managed to create something totally unique to themselves and deserve more attention and respect for it. Without further ado, let my nerddom flow like something that flows really hard.
This incredible band was a somewhat short-lived band from Norway, featuring Øystein Garnes Brun, eventual founder of Borknagar, and Erlend Erichsen, who would later drum on Gorgoroth’s Incipit Satan and become an author. The sound they managed to create is something that is not only completely different from anything anybody else is yet to do, but death metal didn’t start to even remotely sound like this for another 15 years after their full-length Blod Draum dropped. Take the lunatic-grade noodliness of early Portal and add a huge-ass scoop of catchiness and old-school rawness, and that’s scratching the surface of what Molested is about. The guitar work is twisted and deformed with a tasteful amount of slop, not being afraid to go into strange territory but also not afraid to just lay the belt down and riff out like it’s nobody’s business, and the vocals are some of the deepest darkest hellsnarls you’ll ever hear. I found these guys when I was starting to get into the cryptic death and blackened death underground, and they have been one of my favorite bands of all time ever since. This is for fans of Portal as aforementioned, Mitochondrion, Demigod, Adversarial, Demilich, basically anybody into awesomely well written twisted death metal from hell. The song above is the first song I ever heard from them and is still one of my favorites. I’d recommend their entire discography, but if you can get a copy of the new Blod Draum remix, it’s more than worth it.
Akercocke also have a special place in my heart, being that I found them a super longass time ago trying to get into Mastodon and stumbling into the music video for Akercocke’s “Leviathan.” This British band has been active since ‘97, putting out 5 records by 2007, and recently got back together and are working on their 6th (I was so happy I screamed). What separates Akercocke from everybody else is the fact that they’ve found a way to mix savage death metal riffiness, Into the Pandemonium lustiness, black metal atmosphere, Satanic hauntedness, and progressive technical prowess into one cohesive and completely unique sound. Their drummer David is actually writing almost all of the music, which I think explains why the riffs themselves are so different than what anybody else has been doing. The frontman Jason also is one of the best guitarists and vocalists (clean and harsh) in extreme metal, and makes it very known on everything Akercocke does. I don’t think there will ever be a band to dethrone Akercocke as my favorite blackened death metal band of all time. For fans of anything from Dead Congregation to Opeth to newer Enslaved to Gorguts. David also has two bands/projects called Voices and The Antichrist Imperium that I highly recommend; Voices’ London is a spectacle. My favorite album by Akercocke is Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone, and the attached song off of Antichrist does an amazing job at summing up their whole sound into one song, in my opinion at least.
This is the one relatively newer band I decided to put on this list, but they earned their spot big time. Forming in 2007 in Finland, they put out two great old school death metal type demos in the vein of Autopsy and Asphyx. Come 2010 they put out a self-titled EP, and while the old-school influence was still there, things started to get spooky. Then in 2014, their full length Lunarterial dropped, and things got REALLY goddamn spooky. Swallowed are still a death-doom band in the sense that the music is still rooted in that world. However, they replaced beatdown riffage with nightmarish, unfathomably sporadic hellscapes, and they replaced gurgle vocals with what sounds like a witch getting dragged into the seventh layer. The amount of effects thrown on the guitars and vocals is immeasurable, and the free-formity adds to the uneasiness in a way no other band has been able to accomplish. Never has a death metal band been able to make me feel this uneasy, and they’re definitely one of the most unique bands to come out of this recent wave of the underground black and death world. For fans of Cultes des Ghoules, Teitanblood, Sepulchral Zeal, Swarþ, or any other bands that bring on the big-time spook factor. The song attached here is the song after the intro on Lunarterial, and it proves right out the starting gate that this band is something from another planet. A couple buddies in some other bands and I are trying to start a project in this same vein, so there’s a shameless plug.
I’ve been trying to include just plain songs that don’t have music videos or anything, but c’mon. Buncha Australian dudes walking around in post-apocalyptic-land in trenchcoats like they run the shit. Too cool. ANYWAYS, Armoured Angel are a band that have been active since 1982, playing evil speed metal from hell through the 80’s. Then, come the 90’s, they released some of the best death metal ever written. The rest of the bands on this list are unique because of interesting genre blends and bends, but Armoured Angel are 100% pure death metal. What makes them special is that their riffs take Bolt Thrower hellgrooves and add an out-there guitar sound and a powerful sense of melody to it that puts them in a completely different ballfield. It’s insanely triumphant while still having a mystical aspect to it that can’t really be pinpointed to a specific trait in the sound or music. This band was love at first song for me, and any band that manages to make their own sound in such a minimalist, old-school way gets an A+ in my book. For fans of Bolt Thrower as aforementioned, House of Atreus (who are basically ripping their Angel of the Sixth Order album, sorry/not-sorry fellow Minnesota boys), Hellenic black metal like Necromantia and Varathron, and some other Australian bands like Sacriphyx and Cauldron Black Ram. Their 1999 full length Angel of the Sixth Order is where their unique sound reached its creative peak, but I also very highly recommend the Stigmartyr demo from ‘92 and the Mysterium EP from ‘94, as those are my favorite releases by them.
Lykathea Aflame is interesting in the sense that their only release was their debut full length, Elvenefris, and formed after the band Appalling Spawn broke up after putting out a demo and a full length. Their sole 2000 album was the brainchild of a guy who goes by Ptoe and featured all ex-members of Appalling Spawn, including drummer Tomáš Corn who would later go on to join Cult of Fire, Maniac Butcher, and Death Karma, among others. The ancient mythological and musical influence in the riffs and lyrics is very prevalent. Sporadic jumps between brutal death clangy snare hyperblast inferno and layered clean parts are to be very much expected; it’s extremely heavy when the music goes heavy, and it’s just as beautiful when it goes clean. There’s a lot of interweaving of these too, with the band somehow finding a way to write these gorgeously melodic phrases while the blast power is still strong. All of the musicianship on this album is spot on, with the drumming being crazy precise at all times, the guitar and bass work being not only technically perfect but also having the best tone for every situation, and the vocals going from gurglier than anything you’ll ever hear to artfully annunciated and/or sung where it’s called for. One of the most perfectly written progressive death metal albums of all time. For fans of Nile (a lot of people compare them, the Egyptian influence is just as strong with both bands), Mithras, Intestine Baalism, Excommunion, basically any interesting brutal death band you can think of.
I saved this band for last for a very good reason. Not only is this my favorite death metal band of all time, but they’re also my biggest and most prevalent influence on my songwriting by miles. The Chasm is a Mexican turned Chicago-based death metal band formed in 1992 after Daniel Corchado left the band Cenotaph. Since then, he, other long-time original member Antonio León, and many other musicians are seven records in making the best death metal on Earth, currently working on an eighth. What The Chasm have done is taken death metal in its purest form and injected it with influence from every subgenre of metal you can think of; heavy metal, black metal, thrash, doom, if you can think of it, it’s in there. Despite this, they still found a way to be 100% death metal and do it better than anybody else. There is never a dull moment in a Chasm song, no matter how fast or slow the song is and no matter how mellow or intense a part is. There is nobody in death metal who has found a way to write guitar and bass parts so elegant and complex while having the degree of melody, catchiness, and dark mysticism that’s in The Chasm’s music. The old school heavy metal influence is extremely prevalent in the amount of harmonized parts, the chord changes, and the awesome solos. Even with their dissonant parts, they’re done with so much taste and old school flair it’s untouchable. The drumming is more than off the hook as well, with there being endless little details that you find with every relisten. Also very heavy metal influenced, and with precision and flavor that most of the fastest and technically advanced drummers can’t touch. While Corchado can belt some crazy lower than hell vocals, as heard on the first Cenotaph record and Incantation’s Diabolical Conquest, his vocals with The Chasm are mid rangy and raw as anything, not holding back an ounce of passion and power. I could keep going on and on if I wanted to, but I don’t want to give too much away. Listen to The Chasm, please dear God. For fans of the best music on Earth, if you don’t want to hear the best music on Earth I guess this band isn’t for you. Their whole discography is unreal, but my favorite record is The Spell of Retribution. It’s them at their most heavy metal influenced in my opinion. Their most recent record, Farseeing the Paranormal Absym, is a close second, also an unbelievable record. Basically my rule of thumb to newcomers when approaching The Chasm’s discography is that any record with Julio Viterbo on it is a record worth listening to. He’s not an original member, but he’s a fantastic musician and contributed more than a lot to The Chasm’s best work.
Anyways, thanks for reading this article about how I’m a nerd. If you didn’t read it and just skimmed through to see what bands I talked about like I do when I read these type of articles, that’s totally cool too, and I appreciate that just as much. As I said earlier I’m the guitarist/songwriter guy for a death metal band called Suffering Hour, and we’ve got our debut full length called In Passing Ascension coming out on May 26th. If you liked any of these albums, hopefully you’ll like our album too. There are a couple songs streaming on our label Blood Harvest’s Bandcamp, and we currently have another song streaming on Decibel’s website that I’m too lazy to link [I gotchu]. Thanks again and have a good one friends.
-Josh Raiken (YhA – Suffering Hour)
Many thanks to Josh! Keep your eyes open for a review of Suffering Hour’s debut in the coming weeks. That album is not one to miss! Be sure to follow Suffering Hour on Facebook to stay up to date with album info.