Great Expectations: The Year To Come, with Schuler of Death Drive 90.5
As I get older, the trend among friends my age seems to be a resistance to new momentum, a yearning for bygone (and somehow unspecified) good ole days, or just a general malaise about the present and future, and… I honestly just don’t get it. I can’t remember the last time I looked back at the music that defined a particular year for me and thought, “could’ve been better.” Death metal is as alive, exciting and vital right now as it ever has been. Ever. And if you look at some of the bar-raisers from the last 12 months, 2019 stands as a testament to the vibrancy of the underground. And everybody’s still in the game! Some of the genre’s pioneering acts like Possessed and Nocturnus came back and dropped fucking bangers last year. And in addition to the old guard still grinding, like half of my top 15 albums of 2019 were debut full-lengths. I’ve said it before, and I stand by it: if you think this kind of music is in a rut, at a loss, or just dead, you just don’t know where to look. Here are some of the bands I’ve got my eye on in 2020.
SANGUISUGABOGG, FROZEN SOUL, and INOCULATION
Last year was undoubtedly the year of the maggot. Maggot Stomp Records, “the world’s smallest, heaviest death metal label,” took listeners and critics by surprise when they came straight out of the gate with a slough of consistently heavy, hungry old school death metal releases. One of their 2019 LPs, Fluids’ Exploitative Practices, made it into my top 3 of the year. Most of their other releases, however, were demos, EPs or singles. And while they all ruled, and while they’ve all continued to receive airplay in my speakers and on Death Drive, they were just tastes of where these bands were going. I loved all of this label’s output over the last year, but the three bands I’m most excited about hearing from in 2020 are Sanguisugabogg, Frozen Soul and Inoculation.
Sanguisugabogg’s Pornographic Seizures found an instant audience among fans of meaty, old school death metal. They’re mixing the heaviest of Covenant with the weirder parts of Formulas Fatal To The Flesh. The band have confirmed that they’ve completed work on a debut full-length, and that it’ll be out in 2020. Frozen Soul’s Encased In Ice demo channeled a fresh, potent mixture of Swedish riffs and Florida swamp gas, all wrapped up in a Texas hardcore package. They’ve finished writing their first LP, and are planning to record and release it this year. And finally, Inoculation. These dudes aren’t new; they’ve already got a couple of EPs and an absolutely crushing full-length under their belts. But their 2019 EP Anatomize featured some of their most angular, technical work yet. It’s clear this lineup has gotten comfortable with each other, and if Anatomize was any indication, what they do next is gonna turn some heads. The band have confirmed work is underway on their sophomore LP, and that it’ll see the light of day this year.
Steak emojis. Snowflake emojis. Alien emojis. Future’s bright, my dude.
Carcass’s 2013 comeback record, Surgical Steel, is some of the best work they’ve ever done. Work on the followup has been painfully slow, but hopefully also thorough and purposeful. Last month the band released a new single, “Under The Scalpel Blade,” through Decibel’s exclusive flexi-disc series. As expected, it’s a riot. Can’t wait to see what the old boys hit us with in 2020.
THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER
I love the bands that were cranking out killer shit when I was still a kid, and I love the bands of kids who are currently cranking out killer shit now that I’m an old man. But The Black Dahlia Murder holds a special and unique place in my heart. It’s not just because they rule, but because they’ve grown up with me. I was 20 in 2003 when their first album, Unhallowed, was released and, in a way, I’ve measured the time since in increments between BDM records. They don’t jump trends. They don’t deviate or falter. But they don’t stick to a tired formula either. What they’ve somehow managed to do across a ton of lineup changes, geographical relocations, and the complete collapse of the traditional music business, is become an inimitable juggernaut of gruesome American melodic death metal mastery. They completed work last year on the followup to 2017’s Nightbringers, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for whatever razor-sharp riffing and twisted horror narratives—courtesy of Trevor Strnad, death metal’s most brilliant lyrical storyteller—are coming my way in the next installment of their three-syllable album title killing spree.
SEWER ROT RECORDS
2019 was a great year for Encoffinized. Their first album, Chambers of Deprivation, was released to critical acclaim (yet another Maggot Stomp gem), and towards the end of the year, members Chris and Max announced the formation of their own label, the aptly-titled Sewer Rot Records. They’ve already pressed and released a cassette version of Reeking’s 2019 demo, Perpetual Torment, and on the slate for 2020 are new releases from Foul Decay, Malignant, Saprogenous, Soul Devourment, Entrenched, Chris’s new band Infested, Engulfer, and even a new EP from Encoffinized themselves. Get ready… you’re gonna have to burn your clothes after you get this shit on you.
Maybe the most consistent band in the game. Bob and Ross have carried the torch for extreme music innovation across every single fad and trend that’s come and gone throughout their storied career. Immolation has always been Immolation, delivering record after flawless record of dense, technical, and instantly recognizable pedigree death metal. Their most recent release, Atonement, is one of their best yet, and there’s no reason to think the album they’re working on as I type this won’t be a highlight of 2020’s best releases. Count on this band like you count on gravity.
This is my favorite death metal band, and one of my all-time favorite acts, period. Back at the first of the month, Cannibal Corpse announced they’d begun work on the followup to 2017’s excellent Red Before Black. This comes at an interesting point in the band’s career, as longtime guitarist Pat O’Brien is currently sidelined due to some personal issues. O’Brien’s collaborations with drummer/lyricist Paul Mazurkiewicz are always CC album highlights, so hopefully he’ll end up contributing to this writing process. However, what’s also interesting is that his touring fill-in, Hate Eternal mastermind and Morbid Angel/Ripping Corpse alum Erik Rutan, has a history of creative collaboration with Cannibal Corpse, having produced several of their albums and contributed guest performances to a few tracks. In a perfect world, Pat will come back and shred with the boys, but I won’t lie… hearing a CC record with some Rutan riffs on it would be a hell of an experience. Wishing the best for all parties involved, and patiently waiting to see what happens (hopefully) later in the year.
Be sure to tune in every Saturday night from 10PM to midnight for new episodes of Death Drive 90.5, and give the show a follow on Instagram @deathdrive90.5 for pics from my personal music collection, studio livestreams, ridiculous dad memes, full playlists from each show, and the link to the DD 90.5 Spotify. Get dead or die trying.