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“Fans haven’t seen something like this since the late ’80s”: Meet the new bands making Glasgow the UK’s death metal capital

Upstarts like Brainbath and Coffin Mulch, plus a host of local venues and labels, are making western Scotland a hotbed for ’80s-style death metal madness



It was August 14, 2021, and – deep in the bowels of Glasgow, Scotland – something had started to stir. That night, nascent death metal band Brainbath played their debut gig: a putrid, whites-of-your-eyes blast of beer-swilling, old-school death metal at Belterfest 3. First up, on a lineup of mostly thrash bands, they were taken back by the reaction.

“What was really quite mad looking back is we literally had no music out,” says lead guitarist Kenneth ‘Kendo’ Woods. He cites lockdown as a driver behind the feral appetite for new, extreme music in the city. “We were literally the first band anyone had seen in nearly a year-and-a-half, and folk went absolutely mental.” 

That momentum has now spread across Glasgow. Right now, you can head to any dingy basement – or venues like Audio, The Cathouse and Ivory Blacks – and you’ll find emerging local bands like Brainbath, Coffin Mulch and Rancid Cadaver banging out fetid, ’80s-style death metal to packed rooms of punters. Other bands like Penny Coffin, whose members are spread across Scotland, and Dunfermline’s Tyrannus have made Glasgow their centre of operations, rounding out a buzzing local community that’s the most exciting heavy movement the city has seen… well, ever.

There are folks bouncing off the walls and stage-diving, and everybody’s buying t-shirts!

Al Mabon, Coffin Mulch

“I’ve not seen the underground metal scene in Glasgow be so together before,” says Coffin Mulch vocalist Al Mabon, who also runs independent label At War With False Noise. “You go to a gig now and 100 people turn up, there are folks bouncing off the walls and stage-diving and madness going on, and everybody’s buying t-shirts and records.” 

For Kendo – who also runs imprint Macho Records, on which he released Brainbath’s self-titled 2020 debut – the scene formed out of necessity. While mid-noughties mainstays like Scordatura, Cerebral Bore and Bonesaw and slam reprobates Party Cannon have long flown the flag for modern death metal north of the border, he notes there was a distinct lack of new, old school-inspired death metal bands to rally behind. That, as well as the frustrating tendency for many metal bands to skip Scotland during UK tours, led Brainbath and other bands to take matters into their own hands.

“We’ve got some of the most passionate, extreme metal fans in the world in Glasgow,” he says. “We just went, ‘You know what, why don’t we just do it ourselves? Why don’t we make the music that we love that never comes to see us?’”

That DIY attitude has bled defiantly into every aspect of the community, building up from the grassroots. “There was no budget whatsoever,” shrugs Penny Coffin singer/guitarist Joe Kelly of the band’s nihilistic April 2023 EP, Conscripted Morality. “Anything outside of the art and mastering has been done for basically nothing. Most of it was done in our kitchens and in my living room.”

In June, Al self-released Coffin Mulch’s punk/sludge-splattered debut album, Spectral Intercession, selling over 1,000 copies in two weeks. “We’ve been offered record deals and I just say no, I don’t give a shit about them,” says Al dismissively. “If we were signed [to a bigger label] would we have been able to do the album with the artwork we had, in a gatefold sleeve, with five colours of vinyl? Would we have been able to do it on our own terms without anybody interfering?”

Meanwhile, as Tyrannus singer/guitarist and gig promoter, Callum Cant, asserts, there’s a “concentrated effort to organise and make things better for the scene and hype each other up”, aware that success for one band will water down to everyone else. All of the bands we interview attend and promote each other’s gigs, and were quick to voice their support for Coffin Mulch when they supported Conjurer and melodeath legends Carcass on two Scottish dates back in May. Callum organised the release show for Coffin Mulch’s Spectral Intercession, while the CD release for Penny Coffin’s Conscripted Morality was handled by At War With False Noise, with Kendo putting out the vinyl on Macho Records.

There are fans saying they’ve not heard this type of death metal since the late ’80s.

Garry Ross, Penny Coffin

That sense of pride and authenticity in their scene has attracted both long-term and new death metal fans in their droves. “There are fans saying they’ve not heard or seen this type of death metal since the late ’80s, early ’90s,” says Penny Coffin bassist Garry Ross. “Then we’re seeing a lot of younger fans who are getting into this kind of music for the first time, and we’re almost their gateway in.”

While all the bands lean sonically on old-school death metal, they’re keen to push the genre forward, eschewing the tired gore tropes of old. Tyrannus fiercely pitch themselves as anti-fascist; Coffin Mulch’s 2022 single, Into The Blood, focuses on veganism and animal rights; and Penny Coffin’s lyrics tackle British colonialism

Meanwhile, all of these bands want to capitalise on the momentum surrounding the scene to cultivate a more forward-thinking, inclusive community for future fans. “I’m aware that there are no death metal bands in Glasgow with lassies in them, and it is still a very male-dominated scene, but I would love that to change,” Coffin Mulch’s Al says. “I’m adamant that we should be making more of an effort to do under-18s gigs. I want kids to come and have fun and form their own bands – and I want to release their records.”