Massacre, Morta Skuld, Druid Lord, and Cemetery Filth resurrect the ’90s sound
Written by Scott Belzer | April 27th, 2023
There’s a point on Massacre’s latest compilation album, Corpus Umbra, where vocalist Kam Lee seamlessly blends his signature growls with the demand “C’mon motherfuckers!” before filthy riffs and a punishing breakdown take over. It’s fun. It’s brutal. It’s over the top. And it’s everything you need to know about the seminal band’s approach to death metal.
Formed, disbanded, and formed again in the 1980s, Tampa’s Massacre has helped shape the world of death metal in three-year stints for the past four decades. The band was established by ex-Death guitarists Rick Rozz and Lee, who unleashed the band’s most well-known release, From Beyond, in 1991. Like many ‘90s death metal albums, From Beyond helped establish the brutal and guttural (see also: kick-ass) brand of old-school death metal we’ve all come to know and love. There are few opening riffs as filthy and fuzzy as “Dawn of Eternity,” which dares to ask the question, “What if we brought the same riff back, only faster?” for about a minute straight. Once Lee’s vocals kick in, it’s sheer thrash-worthy bedlam for four more minutes.
Massacre’s latest output includes 2021’s Resurgence and a variety of compilations, singles, and EPs. The band’s members have changed about as fast as Massacre’s disgusting chord progressions, but the band certainly hasn’t lost a step in shredding guitar or stomp-worthy, headbang-inducing rhythms. “Return of the Corpse Grinder” would fit in nicely on any of your favorite OSDM albums and inspire even the most boring show-goers to windmill their luscious locks off.
Massacre arrives in Atlanta on May 6 at Boggs Social & Supply with fellow death metal legends, Morta Skuld, fellow Floridians Druid Lord, and support from Atlanta’s own Cemetery Filth. Can you say stacked? Legendary? How about filthy?
Morta Skuld’s debut album, Dying Remains, can also be counted among the old-school death metal Hall of Fame. Like Massacre, the Milwaukee-based band played a pivotal role in creating the sludgy sound that spawned an infinite number of imitators. Listen to the chaotic hurricane of destruction that is “Dying Remains” or the haunting, soaring guitar on “Without Sin” and try to tell me they didn’t play a role in your favorite Maggot Stomp or 20 Buck Spin release (hint: you can’t).
Like others from the era, Morta Skuld has undergone many lineup changes, taking a break here and there, only to reform and release an album. Throughout that time, vocalist/guitarist Dave Gregor has kept the soul of Morta Skuld (the Skould?) alive through quick-and-dirty melodies, the latest of which can be heard on 2020’s Suffer for Nothing. While Morta Skuld shed the purulent, doom-inspiring atmosphere of their early output in favor of a cleaner brand of devastation, the bones that make them OSDM legends are still there. Check out “Dead Weight” or “Extreme Tolerance” for a quick trip through the band’s new pit of punishment.
If it’s a doomier brand of death metal you’re craving, Orlando’s Druid Lord is more than prepared to drag you through the depths. Since 2010, Druid Lord has conjured haunting melodies and horrific soundscapes that blend stomping death metal with intelligent, ear-piercing guitar orchestration. The band’s signature sound—led by vocalist Tony Blakk and guitarist Pete Slate—alternates between simplistic builds and chaotic crescendos.
Listening to a Druid Lord album is like listening to a well-crafted narrative, filled with punishing peaks and ruinous valleys. On “Relics of the Dead,”—from Druid Lord’s 2022 release, Relics of the Dead (naturally)— the Florida four-piece punishes listeners with ever-slowing orchestration for a solid five minutes before slowing down even more, only to end in a tumultuous cyclone of sound. By the time the following song, “Thirteen Days of Death,” kicks in, listeners discover they’re trapped in a well of wickedness.
Atlanta’s own Cemetery Filth provides listeners with a similar suffocating vibe. The band’s 2020 release, Dominion, stakes a claim in the death metal genre with thundering, meaty riffs and cohesive, assaulting rhythms. Maddie Kilpatrick’s sludgy guitar and vocals envelop the listener in putridity—really hammering home the filth in Cemetery Filth. When combined with fellow guitarist Ryan Guinn and chaotic rhythms from Tristan Payne, it’s hard not to agree with Cemetery Filth’s self-description: “Filth-ridden death metal practiced in the ways of the Ancients.”
– Scott Belzer