A lot can happen in a decade. The world we find ourselves in today is not the same as it was during the holiday season of 2013; back then we were only up to the iPhone 5 (ew), and the concept of a worldwide pandemic was just the premise of some sci-fi summer blockbuster.
Much has changed since then, but thankfully there has been one constant, and that’s the steady stream of new releases from some truly amazing metal bands. With the rest of MetalSucks looking back on the last year, why don’t we take a gander at the last 10 years instead?
Here are a dozen examples of some of the heaviest hitters over the last 3,650 days (give or take a few for leap years and whatnot), in no particular order.
An Abstract Illusion — Woe (2022)
Didn’t have to go back very far for this first one, but I’m calling it now, this album is going to stand the test of time. I don’t throw the word “masterpiece” around lightly or often, but it definitely applies here. Woe is a truly spectacular accomplishment, more of an epic film score than a melodic death metal album, and a shining example of heavy metal as a genuine form of art. It’s beautiful, terrifying, mournful, and invigorating all at once as it blends a multitude of genres together into a kaleidoscopic mural of ennui and existential dread. An instant classic if ever there was one. If you haven’t listened to it already, you owe it to yourself to do so. Go, just do it.
Cannibal Corpse — A Skeletal Domain (2014)
Cannibal Corpse have been consistently churning out whiplash-inducing death metal for as long as I’ve been alive and are now inexorably synonymous with the genre. The band have a grand total of 16 full length albums to their name with the release of their most recent offal-drenched offering Chaos Horrific, but if we’re talking the best of the best, then it would be a sin to exclude this absolute banger. Packed with wildly catchy hits from front to back like “High Velocity Impact Spatter”, “Kill or Become”, and “Bloodstained Cement” without an ounce of filler in between, A Skeletal Domain is hands down the strongest entry in the post-Kill catalogue, and that’s saying something.
Morbid Angel — Kingdoms Disdained (2017)
Don’t call it a comeback. Six years after that one left us all scratching our heads and wondering what the hell just happened, Morbid Angel seemingly came to their senses and went back to the drawing board for their next release, and the difference between the two is night and day. Featuring a stellar performance from drummer Scott Fuller as well as the triumphant return of Steve Tucker on bass and vocals, Kingdoms Disdained was a much-needed return to form which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the long-running band are still relevant in this day and age, and forced all the doomsayers to eat their words in glorious fashion.
Black Crown Initiate — Song of the Crippled Bull (2013)
When Reading, PA’s Black Crown Initiate came crashing onto the scene with this EP ten years ago, it was nothing short of a watershed moment for progressive metal. The bar had officially been raised, and raised very high. Ferociously heavy, a little bit technical, and perfectly balanced with just the right amount of melancholic melodies courtesy of lead guitarist and clean singer Andy Thomas, who has since gone on to lend his talents to the equally phenomenal Rivers of Nihil (who will also be making an appearance on this list). The whole thing is technically only one twenty-minute-long song, but brother, it is a hell of a song, chock full of twists and turns and guaranteed to leave you reeling come the end.
Suffocation — …of the Dark Light (2017)
While the previous entry was the beginning of a proud legacy, this was the end of one. The final album to feature legendary vocalist Frank Mullen may not be the be-all end-all entry in Suffocation’s extensive library, but it is a strong offering nevertheless, and a definitive high note for Mullen to end his storied career on. The chorus in “The Warmth Within the Dark” is almost as infectious as the infamous “God forbid, God forbidden” chant, and the breakdowns in the opening track “Clarity Through Depravation” hit just as hard, if not harder, than anything I’ve heard from deathcore to this day, proving once more that Terrance Hobbs is not of this mortal realm. Godspeed Mr. Mullen, and thank you for your service.
Defeated Sanity — Disposal of the Dead // Dharmata (2016)
Defeated Sanity have always been on a whole other level with their free form jazz-like approach to brutal death metal; while the rest of us smooth-brained mortals are content with playing checkers or Connect Four, these guys are playing six simultaneous games of 3D chess with their swollen, pulsating minds while we plebs can only stare up and drool in slack-jawed amazement. I exaggerate, of course, but what is true is that these gurus of technical brutality somehow managed to step things up yet another notch by pulling a fast one and completely switching the tone of the music halfway through this already excellent album. One minute everything is business as usual, but then all of a sudden they sound like a completely different band, like some strange yet perfect combination of Death and Spiral Architect. Everyone I knew who listened to this album had the exact same reaction: “Whoa, wait, hang on, what the fuck…?”
Archspire — Bleed the Future (2021)
Speaking of technicality. It’s only been two years since the most recent release from Aquaman’s favorite band, but in that short amount of time it has completely taken the metal world by storm, and for good reason. Bleed the Future is the culmination of a long and concerted effort by a band who knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish and honed their craft to surgical precision over time in order to accomplish it. The rest of Archspire’s discography is impressive, make no mistake, but this is where everything finally clicks, where the incredible speed and the musicians’ experienced songwriting prowess come together in perfect harmony to create something that nobody else would have thought possible. In a genre replete with self indulgent wankery, this was- and still is- a huge breath of fresh air.
Heilung — Ofnir (2015)
I realize this list has been nothing but death metal so far, so let’s change things up a bit. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of the last decade, Heilung have become a force to be reckoned with, bringing their unique and entrancing brand of experimental folk music to captive audiences the world over, and it all started right here. They might be a household name at this point, but back in 2015 Heilung were just an idea, albeit a very good one that took off like a rocket and has not slowed down since. Just one listen to Maria Franz’s angelic voice against the backdrop of the echoing drums and myriad ceremonial instruments made of real human and animal bones is all it takes to convert just about anyone into a fan, and if that doesn’t do it then their breathtaking live show will.
Wormrot — Hiss (2022)
Another recent entry, but one that is still groundbreaking and well worth the consideration. Wormrot earned their status as heavyweights in the grindcore circuit long ago, but the release of Hiss last year officially cemented their position in the proverbial hall of fame. When it comes to really great grind there is a fine line between obnoxiousness and experimentation that must be walked, and this album straddles that line with the same cold confidence as the vengeful woman in the album art. The dialed down punk rock guitar tone serves to compliment the bombastic drums and frenzied vocals by taking a step back and giving them significantly more room to work with, thus allowing vocalist Arif Suhaimi to pull out all the stops for what would end up being his swansong. It was sad to see him leave, but still a hell of a note to end on all the same.
Rivers of Nihil — Where Owls Know My Name (2018)
One of the only consistent truths in this life is that everything eventually changes, and Rivers of Nihil have embraced and embodied that philosophy in a way that very few bands can, most notably on their exceptional third album Where Owls Know My Name. While their current sound may be strikingly different from their first two albums (Monarchy being my personal favorite) it still remains instantly recognizable, and when looking back it becomes clear that it was a gradual evolution which led to where they are now. That being said, Owls is easily the most stark and pivotal turning point in the band’s musical direction, with a much higher emphasis being placed on melody and atmosphere as opposed to speed and technicality. The title track also features a portentous guest appearance by their future second guitarist, as well as a truly hilarious 70’s-themed music video.
Dyscarnate — With All Their Might (2017)
While we’re on the subject of bands that have gradually changed their sound over time but still managed to remain recognizable and heavy, we would be remiss to leave out this highly underrated trio from the UK. Their first album Enduring the Massacre was a nonstop assault of blast beats and furious tremolo riffs, and then they slowed things down and tightened up the production just enough to allow those riffs to really shine in the immaculate follow-up And So It Came To Pass, but it is the band’s third offering With All Their Might that sees Dyscarnate truly achieve the diversity of pacing and song structure that they were aiming for all along. I say they were underrated, and to clarify, the band did enjoy a moderate level of success during their tenure, but even at the height of their popularity I feel like these guys never got the full credit they deserved for their deceptively simple but highly efficient approach to modern death metal. Sadly the band seem to have all but dropped off the face of the Earth in recent years, but if this turns out to be the end of the road, at least they’ll have left behind a supremely heavy trinity of albums for us to remember them by.
Rejoice! The Light Has Come — Untitled I/II (2022)
And finally, last but certainly not least, gotta show a little love for the black metal crowd, too. More often than not, when a band uses the phrase “avant-garde” to describe their sound it translates to “a bunch of dissonant incoherent nonsense”, but in this particular case not only is it appropriate, but it might be the only way to properly describe this delightfully creepy- here I go saying it again- masterpiece. Never in my life have I heard dissonance and empty space used to such devastating effect, somehow perfectly balanced but constantly in danger of flying off the rails at any moment. It’s ugly and grating, but somehow hypnotic and beautiful at the same time. Technically this isn’t an album but rather a compilation of the band’s two untitled EP’s, the first of which came out in early 2020 and the second one just this past year, but whatever it is, I am in desperate need of more. Lots, lots more.