The state of death metal today is a curious one. While traditional metal and thrash still thrive on the success of its its biggest bands (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, etc.), it's not quite the same for death metal's forefathers. Death died with Chuck Schuldiner, Suffocation have been a revolving door and they now are seeking to permanently replace Frank Mullen (Terrance Hobbs even told us he calls it 'debt metal'). Morbid Angel are propped up by two youngsters, Dismember disbanded a few years ago and who the Hell knows what's going on with Entombed and their lineup debacle these days?

Cannibal Corpse, death metal's ol' reliable, have yet to cede their power and, sure, Deicide, Obituary, Vader, Immolation and plenty of others are still around, authoring exceptional material, but it's time to really start thinking about the future — the next generation of death metal acts who play it the way the originators intended. That's why we've highlighted five for you. Take a look.

Artificial Brain — For fans of Gorguts, Voivod, Suffocation

Amy Mills

While we await the efforts of NASA and SpaceX to develop safe long-term space passage for humans, there’s alternative means to traversing the cosmos: shut your eyes and listen to New York’s Artificial Brain. Obscura and Wormed helped to make sci-fi and cosmic themes commonplace in modern death metal and Artificial Brain put their stamp on it with winding arrangements hanging on the edge of every atonal, dissonant note and warped rhythm. Over all this are sonorous, ingurgitating death growls which sound more alien than human and more imposing than any warcry from Hollywood’s most threatening of space villains.

Horrendous — For fans of Pestilence, Asphyx, Atheist

Scott Kinkade

Over the last decade, new death metal battalions paying tribute to the old school either worshipped the cavernous sounds of Incantation or the buzzsaw tones made famous by Sweden’s Sunlight Studios and its grubby inhabitants. Horrendous went in a different direction when forming in 2009, preferring Dutch and Florida death metal as their jumping off points and never lost sight of extreme metal’s roots in thrash and, to a certain degree, traditional metal.

There’s a level of complexity to Horrendous' ever-evolving sound, but more in vein of Atheist and Pestilence than senseless flashy fretwork. Sinuous melodies, a touch of early At the Gates and the utilization of multiple vocalists (what ever happened to that?) help keep Horrendous perched atop their unique post. Oh, and they don’t go for that over-processed, hyper digital production that’s stripped the face off so many modern releases. Face-ripping and face-stripping — there's a difference.

Gruesome — For fans of Death, Exhumed and The Black Dahlia Murder

Niuvis Martin

As we lose more of heavy metal’s originals, worship / tribute bands could be on the rise. Metal loves its elders and nostalgia and so do Gruesome, who faithfully recreate Death’s early era freakishly well. Vocalist and guitarist Matt Harvey (Exhumed) navigates every last nuance of Chuck Schuldiner’s playing and undead vocal howls and in an alternate universe, Savage Land (2015) and Twisted Prayers (2018) are authored by Death and released in place of Scream Bloody Gore (1987) and Spiritual Healing (1990). This band goes beyond self-satisfaction — Gruesome are providing a civil service, ensuring Schuldiner’s masterwork is recognized by the next generation of extreme metal fans.

When a band dies the way Death did, it's nice to have a group like Gruesome come along and resurrect their sound nearly decades later. Although it may be bittersweet, it's better to have a semblance of that old-school band within a new generation's music rather than leave it to dust. Ultimately, we've got to feed the fans what they want, and metal dies with no one. -John Gallagher, Dying Fetus

Replacire — For fans of Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah, Decapitated

Season of Mist

This whole djenty, Morse Code style of riffing has gotten out of hand over the last handful of years. Bands adopt limbo’s “how low can you go?” slogan when it comes to tuning, forgetting you can be heavy without turning your guitar into a bass (see Obituary’s Slowly We Rot which was written in E standard). Replacire put a distinctive spin on the trend, even writing full-fledged riffs (remember those?), but when they play for the sake of groove, it’s with destructive intent, barraging the listener with ear-fetching, floor-punching rhythms that never stagnate and are often discarded before milking them dry.

With Replacire, the songs stand up enough individually, but the sternum-cracking impact comes from the full front to back album experience. Are they doing anything entirely new? Maybe not, but they’re doing it far better than a lot their contemporaries. Bonus points to anyone who can figure out where they got their name from. We know, but we're not telling.

Rivers of Nihil — For fans of Opeth, Gojira, Between the Buried and Me

Metal Blade

In an era where bedroom guitarists shred through Necrophagist covers on YouTube, the awe of progressive and technical death metal has waned. The “look what I can do” mentality now supersedes cohesive songwriting with the need to somehow pack the entire musical journey into each song rather than exploring moods across an album. Rivers of Nihil, formed in Pennsylvania in 2009, are the exception to the rule.

After dishing out their formidable debut, Rivers of Nihil’s identity began taking shape as influences like King Crimson and Pink Floyd tightened their grip on the band’s songwriting. While the guitar work still dazzles on the technical front, it isn’t the sole focal point as they work in more varied dynamics to exaggerate certain sounds, serving as a fully complementary band.

“I remember seeing Rivers years ago when they were opening up for us at a show in Philly. I could sense that they were going to go on to do great things and it’s awesome to see just how far they’ve come. Their style of progressive death metal is a breath of fresh air in the scene and they’ve all got the chops to back it all up live. Check out their latest record if you’re looking for music that is both brutal and atmospheric at the same time.” -Dave Davidson, Revocation

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