Thursday, October 28, 2010

Metal Briefs: New York Death Metal

When most people think of death metal, they think first of the original death metal scene of Florida: Death, Morbid Angel, and Atheist. Or, they might think of the more accessible Swedish scene: Dark Tranquility, Unleashed, and In Flames. But the scene that took death metal to its logical, brutal extreme is in the state of New York.

Let's look at three of New York's finest.

Incantation: Onward to Golgotha (1992)

Onward to Golgotha (Bonus Dvd) Incantation formed in 1989, and their debut Onward to Golgotha was released by the venerated Relapse Records in 1992. Though they later moved to Pennsylvania, they are originally a New York band, and this album is one of the first examples of the ultra-heavy New York death sound. It was recorded with an extremely raw and dirty production, but you can still hear every instrument (and death grunt) in the cacaphony. Incantation proved that death metal could be even scarier when it's slowed down, and they change tempos often (see "Blasphemous Creation"). The cyclical riffs and unintelligible grunts, both staples of NYDM, demand your attention and keep things interesting throughout. There is no low point on this album, and I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Suffocation: Pierced from Within (1995)

Pierced From Within Jerry Bruckheimer makes movies for people who don't know a good movie from a traumatic brain injury. That's what Cannibal Corpse is to death metal. The exact opposite of that--death metal for people who know good death metal--is created by Suffocation. They are the Kubrick or the Coen Brothers of death. William York of Allmusic said this of the band: "Many bands have attempted to copy Suffocation's sound, and most of them are extremely boring because they either don't grasp the subtleties or don't have the intuition that these guys obviously possess as songwriters and musicians." 1995's Pierced from Within was easily their masterpiece (at least until they re-formed in 2003). Hobbs and Cerrito are two of the best ever to weild the axe, and they work together on a level the equal or better of any other pair in metal. Every riff, every solo, every drum beat on this album is essential, and Mullen's death growl is one of the best in the business. The bass, also, is excellent (see "Depths of Depravity" or album standout "Brood of Hatred"). Pair all that with perfect, raw but clear production, and you get a 5 out of 5 star album.

(WARNING: Video may be NSFW!)

Immolation: Majesty and Decay (2010)

Majesty & Decay Having formed in 1986, Immolation may be the first major NYDM band, and their album Majesty and Decay from earlier this year proves that they're still going strong. It's their ninth full-length, and they crush everything like a steamroller as always. "A Glorious Epoch" displays the power of slow death and cyclical riffing as much as the material from nearly 20 years earlier. The production is crisp and clear, but the sound of the band itself is still raw and filthy (they don't need bad recording as a crutch). The drums do sound strange and over-processed, though. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


These ought to scare everyone on Halloween.


  1. I love all three of those albums. Immolation's best though is Dawn of Possession.

    Cannibal Corpse technically got their start in New York and were a part of this scene until relocating to Florida.

  2. Yeah, I thought about introducing this post with my distaste for Cannibal Corpse, but I thought that fit in better with my movie analogy. I also wasn't sure whether Buffalo is really part of the same scene as the bands closer to NYC.

  3. My guess is the Buffalo scene was probably pretty disconnected from the NYC scene, given that Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse both saw fit to head for Florida.