Im pressed for time, so I'll have to limit my raving. Here we go:
Carcass - Swansong
This is another strange animal of a record. After the success of the god-like Heartwork, Carcass decided to flip the script again and make a death-n-roll record. The result is ironically their most commercially appealing record. It would also be thier last (UNTIL THIS FALL YEEEEAAAAAHHHH!). Unlike fellow metal overlords' Entombed's approach, their sound relied more on 70's rock than punk or hardcore. The opener 'Keep on Rotting in the Free world' is one of the catchiest on the album and makes for the perfect opener. Amott isn't on this record, but his replacement does as well as any mere mortal could have. The second track 'Tomorrow Belongs to Nobody' is features one of my all time favorite riffs, the best song on the record easily. There are plenty of great riffs on this one, but don't hold your breath for any Death/Grind barnburners. As with Napalm Death's Diatribes, the band really challenged themselves to come up with something new and fresh, yet keep elements of distinction. 'Black Star' starts with a cool cyclic riff and remains pretty simple structurally, but the rich guitar sound and changes keep it interesting and enjoyable. Carcass are masters of creating atmosphere musically, without the aid of synth or keyboards, which they flaunt on 'Child's Play' and "Room 101' masterfully. The second half of the record isn't as great as the first, but only because of the near-impossible standard set by the first half. One of my all time favorites.
Suffocation - Despise the Sun
This is another album that many hardcore fans of the band generally dislike.(it's actually an EP). I suspect this is because the songs aren't as immersive generally as most of Suffocation's albums, especially the Alpha/Omega of American Death Metal that is Pierced From Within. The temporary departure of founding drummer Mike Smith may have something to do with this, but his replacement Dave Culross not only fits in perfectly with the band, but adds something new to the band's sound. The from-another-angle-ness of 'Bloodchurn' and the godly breakdown on the title track are good examples of his fingerprints. The opener, 'Funeral Inception' is probably my all time favorite death metal song. The songs are generally more grind-oriented than their other records, which makes it all the more unique. The entire EP is a highlight, each song distinct and awesome in its own way. Brutal Death Perfection.
Knights of the Abyss - Shades
This band (along with another one of my favorites among the newer crop of American Death Metal bands Through the Eyes of The Dead) are unfortunately on hiatus, which really blows, considering they actually have a clue about how to construct a song, unlike many/most of the young bands. Most songs here are probably not what many death metal fans (did I ever mention most are insufferable opinionated pricks, myself included) would call 'technical', but not 'meat n potatoes' either. There are some Deathcore elements here, but I don't think they're sportin the goddamn haircuts or anything. Mostly just cool breakdowns and no guitar solos :(. There are lots of cool guitar riffs and the songs have an intensity and urgency that never lets up. 'Don't Feed the Heathens' is probably my favorite on here, but each song is interesting. Hopefully these guys get back to recording and touring again.
Woe of Tyrants - Kingdom of Might
This is another band I can't believe isn't more popular. I have never heard such catchy, even 'happy' sounding Death Metal songs in my life. This is an extremely unique record. I guess I should also add that this is a Christian band, which only adds to the quirky charm of the album. My wife is fussin, so I really have to go. Buy these records!!
Machine Head - The More Things Change....
I'm not gonna lie, I'm not a Machine Head fan. This record (tape, again!) managed to make an impression on me from the first time I heard it,though. The first song 'Ten Ton Hammer' is appropriately titled, because the main riff is mothafukin HEAVY. They do get a little carried away with the feedback however. It is annoying as hell to hear anyone use the phrase 'I'ma' (If I wanted to hear that bullshit, Id listen to Limp Bizkit.) in a metal song, I must add. At least they refrained from 'White Devil' on this one. Song 2 , 'Take My Scars' is catchy with lots of changes, with clean and screamed vocals. It could do without the little (I cant remember the cocksucker from Rage Against the Machine's name, the one who plays guitar with a coathanger..) RATM part before the solo, but it by no means ruins the song. The 3rd track is a fast one (perhaps too) reminicent of Fucking Hostile that is lots of fun to headbang to. The guitar sound on this album is very rich, to the point it makes even average riffs sound great. Down to None is an anti-religion song with a very slow beginning that once again takes advantage of the robust guitar sound. The song evolves into a mid-tempo chugger with interesting drumming. The second half of the album isn't up to par with the first, unfortunately. 'Spine' has a main riff right off a Korn B-side. 'Bay of Pigs' picks up the tempo temporarily, but the riffs aren't up to par with the earlier tracks. Not to say the 2nd half isn't worth listening to, it's every bit as heavy as the first 6 songs, and there's some interesting experimenting going on here and there. The last song is a cover of Ice-T's 'Colors' presumably added to appeal to the nu-metal shits. I'm not going to lie, I've never listened to the damn song all the way through. This band sounded alot like a mix of equal parts Pantera, Biohazard, and Chaos AD Sepultura this era, which is why many of us were reluctant to shower them with praise. Honestly Machine couldn't hold a candle to any of the above bands, but have written some good records over the years. This one is probably my favorite.
The Vandals - Live Fast Diarrhea
For reasons I'll never know, punks my age and older always prefer all punk band's early records to their later stuff. Zero exceptions. NOFX, The Decendents, Bad Religion, whoever. Maybe it's a sentimental thing, but that's just what folks always say. "Their old stuff is way better!" Every time. The Vandals first couple records are great, but this one is my favorite of theirs by a mile. If you didn't know, they are one of those bands who write 'funny' songs. Musically, it's pretty by-the-numbers SoCal fast punk rock, but these guys date back to 84 or so, so this sound belongs as much to them as anyone. This was released in 95, right when this sound was getting popular in the mainstream. Every song on this record is enjoyable, with the lone exception of the Blink parody 'I Have A Date'. It's every bit as insufferable as your average Blink song. My personal faves are 'Take It Back' , 'And Now We Dance', 'N.I.M.B.Y', 'Power Mustache', and 'Johnny Two Bags'. No matter how shitty a mood I'm in, this record always cheers me up. All the songs are fun to sing and rock hard. What more do ya need?
Cannibal Corpse - Gallery of Suicide
I'm not even going to mention the perpetual debate among fans of this band over whether Corpsegrinder or Barnes is the better vocalist.(Corpsegrinder, by a light-year) This is George's second record with the band, and was the first 'Corpse album I ever bought. What I like most about this record is you can tell they made an effort to make each song unique and distinctive. The opener 'I Will Kill You' is a pretty standard old-school thrash inspired 'Corpse song. Another virtue here is what they call 'vocal patterns' in the credits.(Dunno why) It basically means George sings in a rhythmic fashion, matching the tempo and riffs. It really helps the listenability. It does sound kind of like he's rapping on 'Headless' though. Song topics are as gruesome as any Cannibal Corpse album, which they've kind of backed off from in recent years.(thankfully) 'Disposal of the Body' is pretty similar musically to the first song, but thanks to the 'vocal patterns', and cool guitar riffs, sounds completely different. 'Sentenced to Burn' is a unique song for Cannibal Corpse. It's mid tempo without any changes. It almost reminds me of an industrial metal song, except not shitty.(I can't stand industrial) 'Dismembered and Molested' is musically psychotic, with a super fast verse riff, and a middle-eastern sounding riff at the breakdown. The title track starts out atmospheric and slow, with a gradual buildup to a chaotic climax. The following track ' From Skin to Liquid' is an awesome instrumental (every death metal record should have one), which starts out with a wandering riff, with some random elaborations, and eventually dies a slow death. The best songs on the second half of the record are also the best overall, in my opinion. 'Chambers of Blood' has an incredibly sinister main riff, with faster passages spread throuout, and a killer breakdown. My favorite song on here. 'Headless' is the fastest song, with a weird break in the middle, but still kick-ass. A great follow up to 'Chambers of Blood.' With all it's diversity, this album would probably appeal to even casual metal fans.
Incantation - Onward to Golgotha
I love metal, but sometimes I think there's just too many bands at times. I hate seeing great bands that deserve recognition and success get lost in the shuffle. Incantation is a perfect example of such a band. This is pure brutal Death Metal. Their songs are insanely violent and heavy, with great doom breaks. I also love the production on this one. It reminds me a bit of Suffocation's Human Waste or Effigy of the Forgotten, only 10 times darker. The guitar is very down-tuned and sludgy, but you can still hear the riffs clearly.(How did they do that?). Some call this 'NY style' death metal, which is kind of fitting, but to many NY style means 'sounds like Suffocation.' While they are every bit as brutal as Suffocation, they honestly don't sound anything like them. Their sound is all their own. They released an album last year, to rave reviews. Hopefully their lineup is stable for good this time, as Ive read that's been a reoccuring problem over the years. Anyway, if you are a fan of death metal, buy this record. Most bands this brutal and heavy can't write songs this atmospheric and immersive, especially without keyboards.