In just four years, US death metal outfit Undeath have gone from releasing a couple of cult demos to bagging a deal with Prosthetic Records and creating two monstrous albums. Rushonrock’s Rich Holmes caught up with founding members Alexander Jones and Kyle Beam to get the lowdown on their new opus… and find out why old school DM will never die.
“It was our third or fourth show ever. This kid came up to me at the merch table and said, ‘I’ve driven three hours to go to the show to see you guys because I like your demo so much’. That really blew my mind. And that’s when I realised maybe this band is something.”
Undeath vocalist Alexander Jones fondly recounts that 2019 encounter in Toronto, just after the release of the Rochester, NY crew’s second demo, Sentient Autolysis.
The band’s early work certainly hit the underground hard.
After Sentient Autolysis featured on Anthony Fantano’s best EPs list, Bandcamp and Spotify numbers skyrocketed.
And tracks like Archfiend Coercion Methods inspired the kind of devotion Jones mentions.
Adorned in the distinctive, otherworldly art of drummer Matt Browning (“probably more important that the production” say the band), Undeath’s first releases painted old school DM in an acidic new tinge… and brought to mind Autopsy, Cannibal Corpse and Carcass in their twisted, unhinged savagery.
Fast forward to April 2022 and the band have just released their sophomore album, It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave.
It’s been one hell of a ride since Undeath’s emergence in 2018.
Signed to Prosthetic Records in the wake of Sentient Autolysis, the then trio of Jones, Browning and guitarist and chief songwriter Kyle Beam went straight for the jugular with their 2020 debut album, Lesions Of A Different Kind.
It was lapped up by existing fans.
It expanded Undeath’s reach at home and abroad.
And thanks to the viral grooves and unfiltered viciousness of songs like Entranced by the Pendulum and Kicked In The Protruding Guts, Lesions made it on to many an Album Of The Year list (including Rushonrock’s 2020 death metal round-up).
“From Lesions everything has spiralled out of control,” admits Jones.
And not in a bad way, either.
Undeath’s stock has risen further since 2020.
Not even a global pandemic has slowed their momentum.
And thanks to the sharp, earworm-nurturing songcraft shown on It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave, there’s surely more scope for the band to grow – especially in a US scene where OSDM is in vogue, and even Post Malone is hanging out with Gatecreeper and wearing their shirts.
“It’s just good fucking music!” says Beam, when asked about why young death metal acts are returning to the genre’s roots. “Look me in the eyes and tell me The IVth Crusade (Bolt Thrower’s seminal ’92 opus) has aged. It really hasn’t. Neither has any of Bolt Thrower’s catalogue, nor have the early Cannibal Corpse records, or early Autopsy.
“All of the old classic death metal albums are still good.
“Will people still be thinking that Suicide Silence’s first record is good in 30 years? I’m not sure…
“Also like any underground thing, when it’s in the mainstream at all it just has way more eyes on it! Before, it was Republicans ripping on Cannibal Corpse saying, ‘I don’t want your kids listening to this’ on national TV. Now we have cartoons like Metalocalypse, and those other forms of media like TV and games which do way better numbers than music.
“So every time death metal is in some sort of thing like that, 50,000 more people get into it!”
But Undeath aren’t simply riding the crest of that bloody tidal wave.
They are evolving.
It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave shows that.
“We just wanted to refine what we had and use more traditional song structures and have a bit more form… not just riff riff riff in every song,” explains Beam. “With this one, we looked at it and thought, ‘how are we going to push it further?’.
“I didn’t want to do another record that was basically like Lesions. It needed to be different.”
He continues: “It’s important for music to have a structure. Sonata form was used for 200 years, people would write the same things over and over in sonata form – I don’t think we have exhausted the verse chorus format of music yet!”
It’s Time… was the band’s first work as a quintet, following the additions of bassist Tommy Wall and guitarist Jared Welch to the Undeath ranks.
“We were just starting to play live more and guitarists sound way better when they are stereo,” says Beam of the change. “We wanted to do solos, we wanted to death metal band shit live that we couldn’t do as a three piece.”
The newcomers also influenced the writing of Undeath’s new album. Bone Wrought, a particular fetid slab of DM from It’s Time… was penned by Wall, while Welch – who is Beam’s housemate – worked with his fellow guitarist on arrangements.
“Everyone gets a say on everything,” Beam explains. “But I think on the next one it will be more collaborative.”
So then, on to the next one…
Given Undeath’s work rate, it’s no surprise to hear that ideas for the band’s third opus are germinating.
Beam says: “I feel like on this record it was the first record where we found our sound. I don’t want to abandon that, but we definitely have some surprises up our sleeves.
“We won’t make it boring, at least!”
So where do the pair want to take Undeath? What’s the next goal for an act who’ve already achieved so much since their inception?
“I would like to tour full time,” replies Jones. “That has been one of the main goals of this band since the very beginning – to put ourselves in the position that we can tour as much as possible and for it to be sustainable and not bankrupt us.
“Every year we get a little closer to realising that.
“We have a shitload of touring coming up this year and we are already thinking about stuff for early next year.
“It’s going to be very busy for us.
“As long as we can keep playing shows and playing good music, we can achieve everything we want to achieve.”
But could they imagine following death metal’s old guard and still be cranking out albums in their 50s?
“Honestly, when I was 19 I didn’t think I would be alive when I was 27,” laughs Beam. “And I’m about to be 27 and I eat so fucking bad I don’t know if I will be alive when I am 35.
“We will take it one decade at a time!”
It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave by Undeath is out now on Prosthetic Records. Read our review here.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our Best Death Metal Albums of 2021 here.
Undeath photos: Errick Easterday.