Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 4 (10 – 1)

Here we are. The best ten albums to see release between the years 2010 and 2019. These are the sort of albums that will appeal to any metalhead, regardless of usual genre preferences. Classics. All of them.

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10) Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
Dark Descent – 2018

You could crack your neck headbanging to it. You could dislocate fingers trying to emulate its solos. It’s brutal without ignorant chug. It’s technical without gratuitous fret masturbation. And at all times it remains as old school as a slate chalkboard. This album single-handedly gives me hope for the death metal genre. Every year puts up good albums. Sometimes even a great one surfaces. But I was worried that the days of the mind-meltingly phenomenal were gone. This allays all my fears.

9) Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal
Profound Lore – 2018

You won’t find a more satisfyingly immersive listening experience. The successful combination of evocative black metal with the primal electric hum of grime results in an almost trance-inducing state. It’s an album that pushes the limits of its stylistic roots far past expectations; it’s as far as removed from Mayhem as it is from Dizzee Rascal. But in finding this previously undiscovered musical niche, Bliss Signal have become a will-o-the-wisp, irresistibly luring us far off the beaten path.

8) Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness
20 Buck Spin – 2019

Divided by Darkness has some of the most infectious riffs ever put to wax; a rhythmic pathogen with truly pandemic potential. Spirit Adrift sit right on that cusp between true heavy metal and epic doom metal, so they’re able to get huge sounding guitars that move with implacable purpose but are able to simultaneously linger and luxuriate. I’m not sure exactly how it’s possible for one album to be both immoveable object and irresistible force, but this legendary juggernaut is absolutely both.

7) Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
Profound Lore – 2015

Channelling the long held ascetic notion of transcendence through suffering, Prurient’s ninety minute monster of an album stretches the limits of what can rightfully be considered noise to deliver sixteen tracks that cleanse the soul with fire then clad it in glorious white. The looped synths, heavy distortion, and screeching feedback allow the listener to enter a truly meditative state, despite being absolutely and unrepentantly punishing to the ears. Challenging and almost overwhelming, yet wondrously sublime.

6) SubRosa – More Constant tham the Gods
Profound Lore – 2013

I struggle to think of any other band in the stoner doom world that operates at the level of sophistication that SubRosa does. They present emotionally challenging themes without dumbing down their real world complexity. And rather than just plucking the heartstrings and letting it reverb, the band dare to fill their scores with as much life musically as they have thematically. This is an album that was great on release, but has aged spectacularly because of the dynamism the band challenged themselves to play.

5) Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Ipecac – 2018

What is immediately clear here is that when Daughters decided to do a new album, their original shouty, jarring brand of noise rock wouldn’t cut it anymore. What they delivered is swooning, anxious, complicated, and absolutely enthralling. It’s an album that understands, at a fundamental level, all the things that scratch and irritate the psyche. As such, you can’t exactly call it a comfortable listen, but it’s almost impossible to turn off. It’s a masterpiece of emotive songwriting.

4) Devin Townsend – Empath
InsideOut – 2019

What we have here is prog at its most organic sounding. In many respects this comes across as a stream of febrile consciousness. All the transitions, exclamations, and assorted oddities flow into each other and somehow make total sense. It’s like Devin is channelling his inner James Joyce and this is his Ulysses. Don’t underestimate the strangeness; Devin has pushed his sound far out to sea on this. But as overwhelming as it can sound, the raw and joyous humanity on display will fill you with light.

3) Ihsahn – Àmr
Candlelight – 2018

In what may well be the best album he has ever done, Ihsahn has delivered a bleakly captivating dissertation on isolation, loneliness, and depression. There are moments that genuinely cut deep into the soul, where the emptiness at the core of existence is so clear and unquestionable that it hurts. The challenging themes are backed up with a progressive score that is free-wheeling and compelling; it demands to be heard, but its arrogance is well-deserved and hard-earned.

2) Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones
Century Media – 2010

The acrimonious break up of Celtic Frost is the fuel that feeds this raging inferno. I know that Thomas Fischer is on the record about needing a certain level of discord in his life to get the most out of his creativity, but I didn’t think that it was humanly possible for one man to hate as deeply as he does. This is more than simple invective; this is an invocation of anger so profound that if magic were real, a certain former drummer would cease to exist. It’s power is stunning and transcendent on all levels.

1) Cobalt – Slow Forever
Profound Lore – 2016

“In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
– Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

Hobbes was making his case for a mighty ruler by bleakly positing what he considered the natural state of mankind. He genuinely believed that strong, unified control would alleviate this brutish state of nature. However, even if you subscribe to this vision of totalitarian necessity, you also have to acknowledge that life isn’t that simple. Humanity falls through cracks in society all the time. Cobalt understand this; that even in this society we have built to shelter us from ourselves, it’s all too common for people to slip through, to re-enter the state of nature. Slow Forever is replete with a grubby, grasping desperation that is absolutely terrifying because of its raw humanity. This is music of the lost, of the outsider, of people stripped of all but existence. Its struggles are visceral and its desires are violent. It exposes the uncomfortable truth that society is the lie we tell ourselves to hide our all too animal nature from each other. Listen to this and feed your beast.

Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 3 (40-11)

Part 3 of 4. Getting ever closer to the top of the tree. The bands that have got themselves this far have truly produced some amazing work to get here. Not just to beat out the previous 60 acts, but to also beat out the 100s of great albums that almost made the list. For the record, if I’m asked why [insert album here] isn’t in the top 100, it came in at 101.

As usual, enjoy.

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40) Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Relapse – 2016

Crushingly heavy. I swear, I’m going to overuse that phrase, but it’s so useful. And there’s a surprising amount of room to move with it. For example, Paradise Gallows is akin to being caught in one of those moveable wall traps. Think the garbage pit scene from Star Wars, except it doesn’t stop. It’s implacable and remorseless in its attack on your ears. The combination of sludge and drone, held together with blackened threads, is a methodical juggernaut. It cares not for what’s in its path.

39) Nadja – Sonnborner
Broken Spine Productions – 2018

I still find the pacing of this album thoroughly confusing. Opening with that titanic, 30 minute track, then following up with a handful of significantly shorter songs is odd. And, yet, it works so well. They present drone in a way that’s beautiful in a haunting sort of way. The distortion and the sustains warm the soul. And then it transitions to a more up-tempo approach, which breaks the reverie and re-engages the listener with reality. It’s a welcome reinterpretion of the genre.

38) Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
Season of Mist – 2019

Is this actually slow? It seems pretty damn fast in places. The confusion is pretty intense. The thing you have to realise is that Esoteric have hit that terminal point of heaviness. The singularity. Black hole density. Listening to A Pyrrhic Existence puts you firmly past the event horizon and time starts to distort, to lose meaning. It’s satisfyingly weird to have something so crushingly heavy yet dexterously mercurial. It gave me a fresh insight into how funeral doom can shift within its own boundaries. Innovation can be a jovian weight to bear.

37) Batushka – Litourgiya
Witching Hour Productions – 2015

May the metal gods continue to bless the black metal drama machine and keep its cogs oiled and toothsome, because I would never have discovered this gem of an album if the band didn’t go the full Gorgoroth. Whatever your opinion on the acrimony, there’s no denying that Litourgiya is the work of a very skilled band. The interplay between Eastern Orthodox liturgical music and black metal is thoroughly engaging. I wanted, no, needed to keep listening to it; I had to unravel all its hidden truths.

36) Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
Profound Lore – 2019

Death metal, by its very nature, has a certain degree of inherent violence. It’s up to each band to decide how exactly they want to channel it and how they want it dressed. Pissgrave come at the violence with absolutely zero artifice. Their approach is horrifyingly stark. There’s no attempt abstract or obfuscate their aggression; they lay it out naked and unadorned for the world to recoil from. To listen to it is to allow yourself to be dehumanised. It’s sadistic in a way that defies description.

35) Kvelertak – Kvelertak
Indie – 2010

When this came out in 2010 I had no idea how much I would want it. Then I got a taste of their faintly blackened, definitely over the top punk rock hullabaloo and it’s an album that’s been on regular rotation ever since. It’s got punch in the face tempos, ridiculous hooks, and the catchiest damn Norwegian lyrics ever. I don’t understand a word being yelled, but I yell right along with it. Or at least as well as my understanding of phonics will let me. I still get that rush every time it kicks off.

34) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
Self-Released – 2015

I very nearly cheated and put down all three of their demos in one entry. They’re a hell of an act. But doing that would undersell how good these four songs actually are. They’re a whirlwind of absolute madness, forever threatening to completely tear itself apart but always hanging on by the loosest of frayed threads. That the closing track feels so titanic at just under two minutes is indicative of just how brilliantly wild the preceding three tracks were. I hope they continue to play and release material.

33) Today is the Day – Pain is a Warning
Black Market Activities – 2011

One of my go-to albums for getting amped all the way up. It’s not just that it’s an energetic exercise in noise rock; it’s that it’s so smartly delivered. The slow passages brood with barely constrained intensity, the fast movements drive with pulsating dynamism, the clean vocals croon with genuine soul, and the harsh vocals are like acid, hallucinatory and corrosive, on the ear drums. It’s a sonic package so expertly delivered that it continues to surprise and amaze years after release.

32) Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Dark Descent – 2016

No band does death metal like Blood Incantation. They work at an intensity level that deliberately pushes them far outside conventional comfort limits. They take hostility and magnify it to apocalyptic rage. They take dread and amplify it to chthonic horror. And they take bloodlust and warp it into a febrile, extrasensory longing that can never be satiated. Starspawn attacks you and it’s up to you to endure it. It’s unhinged and does what it wants. Such a monstrosity is something that needs celebrating.

31) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Century Media – 2015

That the grindfathers of grindcore have released an album of this vitality so far into their career is testament to their relentless drive and commitment to their message and to their craft. It’s not just that they blast incendiary beats as hard as they can; it’s that they’re willing to throw in curveballs for the listener. The industrial vibe of album’s title track and the oozing sleaze of Dear Slum Landlord… are prime examples. It’s a furious album that indulges in the many faces of anger.

30) Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme
Prophecy – 2012

Alcest are probably my favourite practitioners of blackgaze and Les Voyages de L’âme is definitely my favourite album. It perfects the interplay between shoegaze and black metal. The songs are written with a beautiful, dreamy ambience that fills the sonic space with light. But that light, glorious and blinding, casts long, inky shadows. In those shadows lurk beasts, sharpened fangs, and razor claws. An insatiable hunger lies at the heart of this album and all the splendour does is mask its ravenous intent.

29) Leprous – Malina
InsideOut – 2017

Malina is possibly the most depressing album on this list but certainly the most beautiful. Leprous have taken inspiration from a piece of bleak and oblique Austrian literature and transformed it into a gorgeously affecting prog opus. Heavily syncopated, the album conveys a necessary level of turmoil and unrest without sacrificing narrative flow. And I cannot think of a better vocalist for this than Einar. His contra-tenor is thematically perfect. Sad, sensitive, wonderful.

28) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Profound Lore – 2015

I still struggle to reconcile the sheer power of this album to the fact it’s a two piece: bass, drums, vocals, that’s it. It’s so heavy that it sets everything nearby rattling; so much so that you can’t play it subtly. If it’s on, you will feel it. But the amazing physical phenomena on display pales in comparison to the music itself. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s delivered with such a deft touch that it transcends funeral doom. It creates a hypnotic effect where the crushing weight traps and holds the light.

27) Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
Metal Blade – 2014

Soaring, majestic, and strident, Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a stirring lament to the modern ills of this world. It has the requisite level of bitterness for this style of black metal, but it’s delivered as a call to action; Primordial don’t want the listener to passively mourn the what-ifs of this existence, they want people to be pissed off and engaged with their rage. This dynamism and purpose is truly what sets them apart. They want compatriots not witnesses.

26) High on Fire – Luminiferous
eOne – 2015

An unstoppable beast of an album, Luminiferous sounds like nothing less than an out of control freight train made entirely out of thunder. There’s no second guesses and no chance to over-think things; there are only titanic riffs rolling over everything in their path. And the beauty of it all is that this is not a simple album. There’s a sophistication to it that is only enhanced by the rampaging juggernaut beat down it inflicts. It leaves you with things to think about once you’re standing and have found your teeth.

25) Horrendous – Anareta
Dark Descent – 2015

I think the highest possible praise I can give to Horrendous here is that Anareta gives me the same satisfaction that Leprosy does. Yep, I’m comparing them to Death. While they are very much their own band with their own approach, the end result is an album that marries visceral intensity with distinctive technical flourishes and is delivered with passion and an ear for the listener. In that regard, it’s very similar to a certain, dearly departed Floridian’s oeuvre. A classic album born of legendary roots.

24) Bölzer – Hero
Iron Bonehead – 2016

The moment the intro track, Urðr, starts, you know you’re listening to something different. Something special. It somehow succeeds in being extremely traditional black metal and a wholly new approach to the genre all at once. It burns as brightly as the most powerful stars in the sky, but is kept grounded by a chill groove that is unusual stylistically yet thoroughly welcome. It’s an album of contrasts, as the band juggle the infernal and the mortal. It’s a remarkable album from a remarkable band.

23) Watain – Lawless Darkness
Season of Mist – 2010

Stirring anthems and soaring choruses aren’t just for power metal, you know. Done right, they have a happy home in any genre, irrespective of how ordinarily abrasive it usually is. This is an excellent thing for Watain, who have approached their proselytising for the Dark Lord with both the fire of abject zealotry and the huge hooks of stadium rock. Some may cry “FALSE!” Fuck ’em. As devotees of darkness, they understand that preaching to the choir is reductive and self-defeating. Darkness for all!

22) Enforcer – Diamonds
Earache – 2010

As great as this album is, it still manages to sound like a deliciously guilty pleasure. On a technical level, it’s brilliantly delivered speed metal. Driving rhythms, killer riffs, memorable vocals, the whole deal. But then you get to what it is thematically and it is gloriously lurid. High stakes gambling and swordfights on the neon-washed streets of Tokyo seems to be the narrative they were aiming for, but they also threw in a liberal dose of the devil. It’s utter madness and it all the better for it.

21) Trap Them – Darker Handcraft
Prosthetic – 2011

The absolute kings of Entombedcore and the high priests of HM2 worship, Trap Them took a chainsaw approach to their punk, creating an unmistakably hellish racket in doing so. Nothing exemplifies this as much as Darker Handcraft. Once again, you’ll find yourself in Barren Praise, the ghost town the band centre their narrative around. But this particular trip is harrowing, miserable, and dangerous. Their blend of grindcore and hardcore shouldn’t be this gloriously atmospheric, but it is.

20) Sólstafir – Ótta
Season of Mist – 2014

Winner of the “Holy Shit I Should Learn Another Language” award goes to Sólstafir. Ótta is haunting, lonely, and dripping with ennui. It’s evocative of a weary traveller crossing the tundra on a misty evening. I just wish I could match the lyrical themes to the music. The lyrical delivery is so delicate, sounding so pained yet so inviting at the same time. The emotional depths that this album plumbs transcend language barriers; I may not completely understand it, but I remain touched and enthralled throughout.

19) Altarage – Endinghent
Season of Mist – 2017

I probably overuse the word relentless. I don’t really think about that sort of thing usually, but upon revisiting Endinghent, it’s abundantly clear that I do. And shame on me for watering down the word through overuse, as no other album embodies relentlessness as completely and overwhelmingly as Altarage’s second full length. It’s as delirious and as terrifying as a fever dream in a war zone. Every beat and every riff sounds like they are trying to tear down the walls of reality. Relentless indeed.

18) Alder Glade – Spine of the World
Self-Released – 2017

It still strikes me as odd that an album so deeply rooted in Nordic heathenism could be made to such high quality by one man in Brisbane, Australia. Brisbane: the city winter forgot. But whatever journeys brought him to this point payed dividends, as Spine of the World is possessed of a true blackened aesthetic that makes you believe magic is very real and very dangerous. It helps that the magic is backed up by a unique approach to the genre. It’s crisp and sharp, like it’s been flash frozen in nitrogen.

17) Cloud Rat – Pollinator
Artoffact Records – 2019

This is nothing less than a startling vision of what grindcore could be. Of what it should be. Here is a band that is unafraid to take their fury and vitriol and wrap it in something more than blasts, shrieks, and distortion. It still has all those things, but the band unleash them with a sophistication more akin to prog or post-metal. They present their anger with as much complexity musically as there is in day to day existence. The real world isn’t simple and Cloud Rat dare to acknowledge that.

16) Revocation – Chaos of Forms
Relapse – 2011

Revocation’s signature blend of technical death metal and classic thrash was perfectly realised on Chaos of Forms. Oddly enough, I firmly believe the key to marrying the two genres together this well lies in David Davidson’s jazz background. He understands how to channel different sonic forces and wield them together to create a seemless, yet unpredictable union. In this sense, the title “Chaos of Forms” is entirely apt. Every song is a whirlwind of sound, a technical wonder and a classic banger all in one.

15) Clutch – Earth Rocker
Weathermaker Music – 2013

This is an album that never fails to get me, as they say, right in the feels. So you don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t some florid, weepy exercise in melodramatic sentimentality; rather it’s a powerful testament to healing powers of rock and roll. I never really thought about how much music has helped me get by in life until Earth Rocker stirred me up and got me assessing things. It’s an album that puts its existence up in lights and justifies the ever-living shit out of it with pure rock fury.

14) Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine
Century Media – 2012

There’s an awful lot of awful things you can say about Nachtmystium’s front man, Blake Judd. Junky, thief, and conman leap to mind. But there’s no doubt that when he channelled his self-destruction into his music instead of himself, the results were intense and inspired. Produced just before his life fell completely to shit, this is an album all about the stuttering flame of hope being snuffed out. It’s industrialised, progressive black metal at its most despairing.

13) Hacride – Back to Where You’ve Never Been
Indie – 2013

If you had asked me at the start of the decade which emotionally mature French progressive death metal act would make the most impact on me, I genuinely doubt Hacride would have been on my list. But BtWYNB is an absolute revelation. It sounds absolutely huge; the sumptuous and verdant soundscapes they create are a joy to luxuriate in. And yet, the songs are so personal, so intimate that it feels almost like an intrusion to listen to them. Their combination of hefty sonic bombast and intense emotion leaves an indelible impression.

12) Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment
Volcom – 2012

This is more than a return to form; this is a glorious, sleazy, denim-clad triumph over adversity. The Duke of Nothing on vocals isn’t Hank, but that’s the point. The ten tracks on offer require a rougher approach and that’s what he brings. Sexual Harassment doesn’t just showcase the band’s still-sparkling talent; it allows them to exorcise all the demons born of their turbulent hiatus. It makes for an unusual, yet real mix of hostility, bitterness, relief and gratitude. Catharsis sometimes requires raucous partying.

11) Swans – The Glowing Man
Young God – 2016

Come. Come to the great high mass. Give yourself to the church of sound and abase yourself upon the altar of Swans. Michael Gira’s masters of post-punk have always delivered in ritualistic, almost fevered fashion, but The Glowing Man is transcendent. It offers mania and catharsis, but it requires time and commitment. Exposing yourself fully to its complete panoply of sound is to give yourself over to a devotional that extends to almost the two hour mark, but will leave you feeling the touch of the divine.

Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 2 (70-41)

Welcome to part 2 of 4 of the Best Albums of the Decade. Part 1 may have been a bit eclectic, but part 2 veers gleefully into the false at times. Every albums belongs here though.

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70) Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Profound Lore – 2015

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Leviathan doesn’t make easily accessible music and Scar Sighted is particularly dense. Meaning is obfuscated under layers of distortion and discomfort. Then, once you peel everything back and get to the core of it, all that’s there is an inky, impenetrable heart of blackest misanthropy. To search for meaning in this lucid nightmare is akin to pinning down a shadow; it’s there, you know it’s there, but it’s so intangible that it can never be grasped. It takes an already intense album and twists the knife in your mind.

69) Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
Roadrunner Records – 2012

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If, like me, you think Magma was a hard reset for Gojira, it’s because they hit the wall with L’Enfant Sauvage. They took everything they had built upon over the preceding albums; all the progressive elements; all the technical nuance; all the interplay between light and dark, and threw it at this album. The end result was their most intense album. It could easily have spiralled into a noisy, disjointed mess, so it’s genuinely impressive they managed to keep the reins on it. When going all or nothing, it’s a damn good thing to land on all.

68) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Anti- – 2015

New Bermuda is Deafheaven making an adamant statement that, yes, they are a black metal act. They still lean into the emo and shoegaze elements that have made them (in)famous, but they’ve made a subtle course correct back to the genre fundamentals. It’s a deeper experience than the Black Metal with Feelings (New from Pixar!) that came before. It’s murkier. It’s more chaotic. And, somewhat ironically, it’s a more human experience for it. It pays raw emotional dividends without feeling forced.

67) Devourment – Conceived in Sewage
Relapse – 2013

Here it is, folks: the only brutal slam album I have returned to over and over. I keep coming back because it delivers far more than it promises. I’m not afraid to say that while slam has its moments, ordinarily I find it a bit repetitive for my own taste. Conceived in Sewage is anything but that. It definitely brings the mosh-amping violence, but its headbanging-friendly chug is complemented with memorable melody. What’s on offer here is a complete album, not just a collection of mosh bait.

66) Dälek – Asphalt For Eden
Profound Lore – 2016

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I don’t know a lot about hip-hop, from a critical perspective, but ambient, drone, and noise are right in my wheelhouse. Dälek’s return album is massively successful in building hypnotic and haunting music that sits squarely at the intersection of the aforementioned genres. Soothing, yet discomforting, it’s the sort of music that cuts straight to the soul without you noticing the incision. On top of that are some of the most insightful, impassioned lyrics to be recorded this decade. It’s a beautiful flash of genius.

65) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
Deathwish Inc – 2014

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You’re not going to find another band like Wovenhand. Main man, David Edwards, writes intense, almost apocalyptic Christian lyrics and performs them over a blend of country, punk, and a fistful of different folk influences. And Refractory Obdurate is the album that best brings these disparate elements together. Majestic, yet oddly intimate, it’s a clear window into the mindset of its creator. Don’t let the God bothering put you off; musically, it’s a stunning album built around a wholly unique worldview.

64) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Relapse – 2015

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“When I sleep I dream of death.” Prior to this gut punch in the masterfully depressing Sparrow, you might suspect that Windhand are approaching some difficult subject matter, but then all doubt gets ripped out. The stoner doom fuzz immediately takes on a whole new, unfathomably dark tone. It ceases to be fun, if a whisper troubling. It immediately becomes a deliberate attempt to obfuscate something very real and absolutely awful. I say attempt, because the darkness permeates it totally and cannot be hidden.

63) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Roadrunner Records – 2019

I had to force myself to remove my metal elitist hat and acknowledge that Iowan nontet have actually produced a fantastic piece of contemporary metal. A massive part of that success is a laser-like focus on how they want their finished product to sound. Gone is the flailing, uncontrollable angst of their first albums. Gone (hopefully forever) is the creative malaise that followed until now. This album’s ebbs and flows have a maturity that harnesses anger and repurposes it to drive home a massive sound.

62) Ghost – Opus Eponymous
Rise Above – 2010

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Hard to believe that from this humble little album, Ghost would go on to become the satan pop behemoths they are today. I say hard to believe, as who would have thought that the combination of black metal themes with psychedelic doom composition and Broadway theatrics would lodge so well in the psyche? But as much as they have gone on to bigger things (and will only get bigger), they still haven’t topped their debut. It works on every level it wants to work on. A haunted house inhabited with actual Satanists.

61) Obituary – Obituary
Relapse – 2017

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Obituary have been around for a seemingly forever and, if you have heard much of their post-millennium material, you’d believe it. I was still a fan, but you could hear the tiredness in their approach. But then they dropped their self-titled and all of a sudden their legendary status was on full display again. It’s not just that they play heavy. They always nail the heaviness. It’s that they fully unleashed their swampy swagger, melding the chug of Florida death with a ripping rock and roll nasty.

60) Gold – No Image
Profound Lore – 2015

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To grossly oversimplify thing, goth music is basically post-punk that skews heavily pessimistically romantic. Deathrock takes goth and performs it in a way that not-miserable people might enjoy. Gold lives up to those gross oversimplifications and exceeds all expectations in doing so. It’s an album that routinely gets me right in the heart, but encourages me to feel good about feeling sad. That to live an experience that leaves a genuine emotion is far better than to live safely in a bubble of emotional numbness.

59) american – Violate and Control
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2017

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When I first reviewed this I settled on “The Intersection Between Black Metal and Noise Without Truly Being Either” as the genre tag. On re-review, I don’t think I could have described it any better. They hammer home a distinctly post-human sound by combining the most aggressive elements of the two genres. But there’s a sophistication that takes much unpacking to really appreciate. It pushes its extremes to prog or post- proximity, but never at the expense of its savage atmosphere.

58) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Century Media – 2018

As someone who came very late to the Deicide party, you may not be surprised to learn that I hold the band to a tougher standard than I probably should. They left me cold for a long time and I’ll rake them over the coals for far more minor infractions than I would bother with ordinarily. So that I unabashedly enjoy Overtures speaks volumes about how good an album it is. Their particular focus on melody pays off spectacularly. There is no chug here; every track speaks to the greatness of a death metal original.

57) Mgła – Age of Excuse
Northern Heritage – 2019

As paragons of Satanism at its most objectivist, Mgła often makes me uncomfortable. I’m not afraid to say that, because out of this discomfort is born a fascination. They take me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily travel and force me to justify my own existence. Age of Excuse perfectly encapsulates this forbidden fascination. Its will is totalitarian, its confidence is unwavering, and it wields a massive axe to winnow the herds too weak to stand with it. Selfish desires have never sounded so virtuous.

56) Baroness – Yellow & Green
Relapse – 2012

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There’s an awful lot to like about this double album, but what sticks with me the ability to sound so huge, so absolutely stadium shaking, while at the same time sounding so intimate that they could be playing just for you. It helps that they strike the perfect balance between barnstormers and contemplators, but even taking that into account, there’s something extraordinary about their performance. They went out of their way to be everything at once, and with genuine compositional skill, they are.

55) Ludicra – The Tenant
Profound Lore – 2010

Ludicra’s swansong album is a remarkable example of deft songwriting. It’s powerfully evocative of urban alienation, ably channelling the feeling of insignificance when surrounded by towering, grey, brutalist edifices. But The Tenant is also redolent of a hostile, fae otherness. That underneath the all too human theme of isolation is an unseele court waiting to prey upon the unsuspecting. This is an album that loses the listener in a world that feeds on uncertainty and discontent.

54) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence
I, Voidhanger – 2018

When I listen to these Belgian progressive death dealers, they get me thinking about progressive titans like Opeth, Gojira, and Enslaved. But, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice In Vengeful Reverence ranks above all their offerings. It all comes down to approach. This album makes me think about the other bands because it forges its own path. It delivers its sinister sound with a striking freshness. Wild yet crisp, like a conifer forest in the dead of winter, it’s what the genre needs.

53) Rotting Christ – Aealo
Season of Mist – 2010

This is Rotting Christ getting their ultra-melodic, slightly folky take on black metal just right. Later albums taught me that it’s a far more delicate balancing act than you would think. I think the thing that truly makes Aealo work is it’s relentless. It keeps coming at you and coming at you; it might deviate and try different strategies, but it never stops. It relies upon that aggressiveness of purpose to keep your attention rapt. There’s no rough edges or abrasiveness; there is only melodic triumph.

52) Bastard Priest – Under the Hammer of Destruction
Blood Harvest – 2010

I had been using the term bastard metal for a few years prior to this album for describing bands that were an amalgamation of black, death, and thrash metals, but Bastard Priest really take that term and make it their own. They’ve got the surging immediacy of thrash, the blood and guts of death metal, and the stench of the void of black metal. It’s an album packed from start to finish with sonic evil, made all the more nasty by how memorably entertaining they are. They’re the raging kings of the bastards.

51) Death Angel – The Dream Calls For Blood
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Sharp as a surgical scalpel and whipcord taut, The Dream Calls For Blood is the highlight in Death Angel’s reformation. The band were already the hallmark of consistency amongst Bay Area bands; they haven’t dropped a clunker this millennium. But this album stands even further apart from the rest. It’s the little things. Simple, yet incisive lyrics draw the listener in. The tracks are timed for maximum impact with minimum filler. It’s all about the point: getting there, staying there, and delivering.

50) YOB – Atma
Profound Lore – 2013

Setting a lofty standard for heaviness, Atma is exactly the sort of album that should convert doom non-believers into wide-eyed zealots. The low, rumbling riffs move with tectonic force and when they are matched with the pained, screeching vocals, the end result is seismic sonic upheaval. YOB genuinely sound like they could move mountains or shift our planetary axis on this release. But it’s more than heavy. There’s a subtly too it that belies its heft. It’s delicately crafted art wrapped in riffs.

49) The Haunted – Exit Wounds
Century Media – 2014

That intro track doesn’t really brace you for the onslaught to follow, as The Haunted storm the ramparts with everything in their not-inconsiderable arsenal. I really can’t undersell how hard and how fast this album comes at you. It even has what I would call a false closer or two; you might get sucked into thinking the gas is about to ease off only to get whiplash from the damn thing suddenly red-lining again. It’s a non-stop roller-coaster of high-octane, performance-tuned metal.

48) At the Gates – At War With Reality
Century Media – 2014

You can’t really say it’s a spiritual successor to Slaughter of the Soul. It’s a different beast. Gone is the white-hot angst and in its place is a black-hearted desolation. To say this album is bleak is to undersell it. The band haven’t tried to be what they were then and it shows. They’ve matured as people and this is passed on to the music. Its thematic maturity is mirrored in the music; the full-frontal assault of their youth is replaced with a sinister display of calculated, pernicious aggression.

47) Shining – Blackjazz
Indie – 2010

It was very tempting to review this with just a meme; this one in fact. Straight up, this reinterpretation of jazz through a black metal lens never settles enough to be normal. It just keeps escalating and distorting and intensifying. It doesn’t have an off switch; even when it winds down to a lower tempo, that’s no relief because the mood shifts as well to keep the overall effect challenging. But for all the madness, the relentlessness is memorable in the extreme. It carves itself into your goodwill.

46) Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu
Svart – 2013

It helps to remember that Oranssi Pazuzu started life as a psychedelic rock act that came to black metal later because Valonielu sounds like the band took a bad trip and experienced apocalyptic visions. You can tell that they weren’t born of the dark; that the dark came for them and they embraced it. There are moments that sound genuinely revelatory; that the band knows how to open the doors to perception. The end result is an album that is equal parts enlightenment and absolute terror.

45) Kreator – Gods of Violence
Nuclear Blast – 2017

Multiple songs that I sing along loudly and badly to. Several songs that legitimately choke me up. Suffice to say, this album really speaks to me. It helps that the Teutonic thrash titans upped their game and produced their best album this millennium. It’s clockwork precise, but it cranks along at a blistering pace. But the inescapable fact is what makes this so good is that it is ridiculous fun. Thrash is supposed to be the music of beers and good times. And, holy crap, this brings a raucous party.

44) Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us
Nuclear Blast – 2016

I’ve seen and participated in debates about whether these bruisers are grind, pv, or hardcore. On reflection, they were wastes of time. What matters is how infectious their animosity is. YWNBOOU is hostility fed steroids and then unleashed with a fervent mania. It goes straight for the lizard brain and plays upon its instinctive need to luxuriate and wallow in negativity and aggression. It draws you in deep, which goes to show just how seductive those primal feelings can be.

43) Hail of Bullets – On Divine Winds
Metal Blade – 2010

Hail of Bullets, in their three album existence, were death metal’s foremost world war two historians and On Divine Winds was their most engaging lesson. The war in the Pacific certainly provides a wealth of subject matter (Pearl Harbor, kamikaze, nukes, etc), but that they could translate it into such engaging and memorable lyrics makes it so much better. And then to lay those lyrics down over gunfire drums and heavy machinery guitars to perfectly marry military theme to cataclysmic sound? It’s masterful.

42) Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Epitaph – 2012

Are Converge the most emotionally mature band in metalcore? I’m struggling to think of anyone more so. They have always taken intensely, challengingly poignant themes and refracted them into blustering howls of catharsis. All We Love is a standout in this regard. It’s affectingly heavy. Draining would be my preferred term, but for their convulsive mathcore driving the energy levels up into the extremes. Its ebbs and flows chart moments of beauty and pain and the deltas where they intersect.

41) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
Nuclear Blast – 2014

There is a wonderful, almost guilty satisfaction to this album. It’s like being curled up in bed on a wet day when you should be at work. The rhythms are so catchy and they swell so majestically through the choruses. And then there’s the lyrics, which are fist-pumping, rabble-rousing, sing-along good times. But underneath it all is determined seriousness. Grand Magus care deeply about how they present their heavy metal and have tied everything up with an eye to both history and fate. Triumph and power says it all.

Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 1 (100-71)

Here we go. The best 100 albums of the last decade, starting with albums 100 through 71. We’ve got a little bit of everything: shoegaze, pv, all sorts of metal. Enjoy.

Buy me a coffee

100) True Widow – Circumambulation
Relapse – 2013

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Their self-description as stonegaze is still one of the the quickest ways to describe the sound True Widow have created for Circumambulation. The thundering low-end anchors the shoegaze staples of fuzzed guitars and spacey vocals to a much heavier place, both sonically and emotionally. I like to think that hope still exists in these chords, but getting there takes a far more circuitous route. The catharsis this album offers is earned rather than gifted. I’m glad the journey up Mt Purgatory is a beautiful one though.

99) Vallenfyre – A Fragile King
Century Media – 2011

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Dirty. That’s what this sounds like. Yes, there is undeniably death metal here. Tinges of doom too. But Vallenfyre do things in such a filthy, gritty way that genre distinctions get pushed aside. The riffs churn through the sodden muck like a farmer plowing a field in preparation for a fresh crop of utter misery. That misery contributes to the grime on the album. You can feel it building up under your nails, tangling your hair, staining your skin. But as nasty as it is, it is hugely satisfying. It’s loaded with the degenerate glee of sin committed with absolute purpose.

98) Pseudcommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019

I suppose it’s harder to get much more nihilisticly misanthropic than an amalgamation of harsh noise and power electronics. Pseudcommando layer distortion on top of feedback on top of static to create a howling vortex of dissonance. But beneath it all, struggling to survive like a butterfly in a cyclone, is a haunting melody. It’s like a tiny, sputtering flame of humanity trying to warm a cold and inhospitable void of darkness. It creates a stark interplay between determined hope and rapacious cruelty.

97) Hate Eternal – Infernus
Season of Mist – 2015

Technically precise and heavy as hell, Infernus is the album you go to when you want old school Florida crunch with a satisfying technical ganache layered on top. It’s an indulgent, luxurious sort of death metal on display here; it doesn’t set out to fancy, but it’s so well produced that you can’t help but feel a little decadent listening to it. I hope it doesn’t seem too odd describing an outstanding album from a visceral genre like I’m reviewing a restaurant, but Hate Eternal have delivered Michelin Star quality.

96) Hummingbird of Death – Forbidden Techniques
To Live A Lie – 2017

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It’s a world where the grind scene is dominated by po-faced seriousness. Even pornogrinders and mincecorers are deadly serious about making their awful, awful racket. Forbidden Techniques is refreshingly different. It still simmers and boils over with anger, but the band packages it with an almost pop-punkish irreverence. It’s an album they clearly enjoyed making and they want to pass that along. As far as pissed off polemic goes, it’s hard to go past an album as comfortable with a joint as it is a molotov.

95) 铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 黑骏/Black Steed
Dying Art Productions – 2013

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There’s a reason this is probably the closest thing to a true folk metal album on this list. There’s other folkish acts, but they are very much black metal first. Tengger Cavalry are not that. The Mongolian folk elements, the mantoquin, and the throat singing aren’t just distinct amongst the folk metal canon, but are perfectly incorporated into the metal. The ability to transcend gimmickry is something not nearly enough folk types can do, so to have an album land that is so evocative is something that needs celebrating.

94) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
Nuclear Blast – 2015

If you wanted measured, considered, and insightful content from a metal album, I’m willing to bet Lamb of God wouldn’t be anywhere near your list. But, then again, given Randy’s experiences in the Czech Republic, it probably shouldn’t surprise that Sturm und Drang is reflection wrapped in catharsis. Lyrically it’s starless-sky dark and the music is as maliciously sinister as it is relentlessly intense. It’s essentially a cliché that personal struggles deliver great art, but this is an album that proves it.

93) Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty
Relapse – 2010

Thematic and melodic unity is a fine thing to hear in an album and Misled by Certainty achieves it in unconventional fashion. They take death metal and grindcore, then blend them, fold them, pull them, and distort them until the resultant fuzz is so weird that it pulls off things you never thought possible. This remaking of the noise pairs so well with worst weed-induced paranoias on display in the lyrics. Mind controlling fungus, evil cybernetics, the Second Coming; it’s madness. Drug-fuelled headfuckery all round.

92) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
Dark Descent – 2017

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When it comes to war songs, too often you get “courage, valour, over the wall, pip pip”, or “Look at this specific moment in time. Ain’t it fucked up?” Heresiarch don’t do either. They deal in the pants-crapping horror of the trenches, the creeping dread of not knowing what trauma is yet to come, and the thundering bewilderment of a pitched battle. They get right down to the visceral emotions and they want you to feel every waking nightmare freezing your veins. Never forget; war is hell.

91) Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Southern Lord – 2017

I think the highest praise I can heap upon Power Trip is that they sound unique. Too often with modern thrash, you hear callbacks. This band sound like Slayer, that band sound like Kreator, and so on. Not Power Trip. Power Trip sound like Power Trip and no one else. I confess being late for the Nightmare Logic hype train, but the athletic riffs and muscular vocals they put to wax deserve all the praise 2017 sent its way. To find a new voice for the genre and deliver it with such gusto and poise is phenomenal.

90) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Dark Descent – 2018

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Looking back, I focussed heavily on the gooeyer aspects of Impetus of Death. But, as accurate as the bloodiness was, it wouldn’t hold the album together nearly as well on its own. It needs the technical precision at its core. It’s definitely not techdeath, but everything is fitted together so immaculately that it stands as testament to the composers’ skill. Putting together a grisly monstrosity doesn’t require much finesse. Just pile meat on top of meat. But breathing life into it? That’s the work of twisted genius.

89) Monolithe – Monolithe IV
Debemur Morti – 2013

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Of all the albums on this list, I was most worried about this one’s ability to hold up. But it did more than hold up; it actually improved in my estimations. Their ability to play metal in its longest form without turning it into a chore is something to be celebrated. Across the almost 60 minute run time, this one song traverses a massive vista of sonic landscapes. Importantly it sounds like one consistent, coherent journey. Like any great expedition, this takes endurance, but the satisfaction you feel at the end is intense.

88) Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
Artemisia Records – 2017

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I took the time to listen to Celestial Lineage, Celestite, and Thrice Woven in the lead up to this. Celestial Lineage sounds like the ending it was supposed to be. Celestite, beautiful as it is, is still definitely a companion piece. Then there’s Thrice Woven. They’ve got that full force of nature sound blasting again. I may come from somewhere thoroughly not frosty, but this is very much an album of towering pines, winter frost melting in spring sun, and the ancient, arboreal deities rousing from their winter hibernation.

87) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn
Self-Released – 2015

Serpents Lair chose their album title 100% accurately, as this sounds like a horrific and profane ritual put to music. Their melodic choices are aggressive, intimidating, and jarring; this is black metal performed to cow the listener into submission. And yet, for all its attempts to bend you to its will with brute force, the album also possesses an intoxicating, hallucinatory allure. As it thrashes and assaults, it also manipulates and seduces. Your soul faces a grave peril in these chords.

86) Mizmor (מזמור) – Yodh
Gilead Media – 2016

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Mizmor, to use the Anglicised version, use despair as a form of torture. Every beat a hammer blow. Every melody a razor’s slice. Every growl an expression of raging emptiness. And every shriek a gale of utter futility. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, Yodh is bleak. It’s neither sadistic nor masochistic; it is pain in purest form. But in this total supplication to misery, lies captivating musicianship. As tortuous as the music can be, there’s a sublime dedication to the pain that must be witnessed.

85) Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth
Self-Released – 2018

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As I think about it, I don’t really consider doom to be in tune with nature. It’s always struck me as extremely focussed on the human condition. It’s a way of looking at the genre that’s erroneous at best. I can thank Barren Altar for shaking up my mindset. Entrenched is definitely miserable, but for all its attention to human failings, there also seems to be a great affinity for the power and the darkness of nature. It uses the titanic, uncontrollable forces of the wild to re-enforce the futility of human existence.

84) Friendship – Hatred
Southern Lord – 2017

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Purveyors of misanthropic powerviolence, Japan’s Friendship turn the short, fast, and weird of the genre into a brutish pit fight. Flurries of blows are interspersed with slow, wound up haymakers. This isn’t a professional fight. This isn’t even a fight club scenario. This is, as the album title suggests, fucking personal. This is about hatred so intense, you don’t care how badly you wind up, so long as they wind up worse. This is all about broken bones, missing teeth, crushed windpipes, and blood. All the blood.

83) Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Nuclear Blast – 2016

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Symphonic death metal with serious operatic features being performed to tell the story of a syphilitic monarch’s decent into paranoid madness may sound a whisper over the top, but it’s done with such gusto that it doesn’t lose a single shred of charm. Make no mistake, this does veer strongly into the ridiculous at times, but it needs to. The melodramatic bombast raises King from yet another death metal album with a quirk to a triumph of vision. A triumph over common sense too, but a triumph nonetheless.

82) Absu – Abzu
Candlelight – 2011

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Under normal circumstances you should expect an album devoted to the arcane and esoteric aspects of Sumerian mysticism to venture firmly into the avant-garde depths of black metal. But that’s not how Absu does things. They put their sonic spells together with the chainsaw riffs of blackened thrash. It’s a curious combination that actually works fantastically well. The spiritual devotion is thoroughly hammered into your eardrums, as though the surest way to achieve enlightenment is through audacious ferocity.

81) Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph
Candlelight – 2012

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Winterfylleth’s paeans to pre-Christian England are at their most strident on The Threnody of Triumph. It’s an album whose interplay between the sense of loss arising from the demise of pagan tradition and the anger born of a response to an invading, militant faith is resolved in an articulate, yet blistering manner. It’s indicative of a band who are more than fiercely passionate, but are also well-read. These are ten tracks dedicated to a crystal clear vision of a Britain that could have been in a world less Christian.

80) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds // Pt. 1
Music Theories Recordings – 2018

If someone could hand Mr Romeo the responsibility for a major movie’s score, that would great. War of the Worlds isn’t just a great prog album; it’s a testament to his ability to use music to evoke specific emotions and set a vivid scene. I routinely half-joke with Mrs Metalshopped that when the world inevitably loses John Williams, they (Disney, WB, et al) should give Michael a crack. Based on this album, I’d much rather listen to a Romeo Star Wars than an Elfman one or, gods help us, a Newman one.

79) Carcass – Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Carcass’ comeback album is a more than welcome return from some of the most gifted musicians metal has given the world. They have the luxury of doing things on their own terms (because how else would you get Jeff to do anything, ever?) and what they delivered was a seething yet gratifying blast of pissed off melodic death metal. The great thing is you can still hear the grind in them. It’s all in the attitude, which Surgical Steel has in spades. It’s an angry album tempered by the focus afforded by experience.

78) The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
Season of Mist – 2010

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This is the perfect storm as far as the already volatile Dillinger goes. It gave Ben Weinman all the opportunity to show off his virtuoso with severe a.d.d. talent, but the directions the album go are so unpredictable. It’s weird to hear a band that is so cacophonously electric veer so wildly into territory normally covered by Muse or Faith No More. It goes to show just how versatile an act they were; that they could deliver such affecting pathos in a package of raging mania. It lingers in the brain long after it’s played its last.

77) Opeth – Pale Communion
Roadrunner Records – 2014

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The “where are the growls” camp need to let it go. What’s been delivered on this album is about an hour of dark, psychedelic prog that coalesced Opeth’s less metallic material into a beautiful, melancholy whole. It’s a maturation of sound and approach that wouldn’t be possible by ardently sticking to what came before. Emotionally, Pale Communion is one of the band’s most sophisticated efforts, taking motifs of depression and grief, and extrapolating out to fully explore that human experience.

76) Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Nuclear Blast – 2016

Meshuggah’s quest to thoroughly contort and distort what the average human would consider melody, while still delivering engaging, memorable, and (most importantly) entertaining music reached another high point on Violent Sleep of Reason. The challenge rating on these tracks is super high; no easy “headbang on the downbeat” advice here. But for all the polyrhythmic intensity, there is also an underlying infectious sense of groove that worms its way in and nests in your psyche.

75) Enslaved – E
Nuclear Blast – 2017

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These Norwegian progsters keep finding new levels to hit. E is deep on both a lyrical and musical level. The lyrics are like the wisdom of auld; a guide to life and secrets to the old ways lie there, if you are willing to listen and smart enough to decipher the layers of meaning. And the music is like nature at its extremes. Much like a great frozen river, it combines thick layers of frost over a mighty, flowing torrent. Alternatively, it’s like a towering oak in a terrifying storm; mighty earthen roots grounding the furious movement above.

74) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
Hell, etc – 2015

Looking back at his career as a whole, it’s pretty clear that this is one of Manson’s best efforts and the more time wears on, the better it holds up. It’s because, of all his work, this is his most introspective, most considered, and most mature. Listening to it now, it still sounds like a suicide note, but that is largely due to its reflective nature. It’s the sound of Manson writing not about the outside world or how he is perceived by others, but about how he views himself. Dark, sad, but captivating.

73) Dragged Into Sunlight – WidowMaker
Prosthetic – 2012

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One massive song is conveniently broken down by track into three distinct movements. Part I is trepidation and tension. Part II is fury and release. Part III is insistence and madness. The understated pacing and subtle distortions of the first feed into an all consuming anger, which by the end of the third has warped into a profane hysteria that wishes perpetual degradation upon itself. It’s the life of a serial killer, from creation through to unravelling, set to the beat of twisted, blackened death.

72) Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons
Peaceville – 2010

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Why Circle the Wagons? Why not Arctic Thunder? Why not celebrate their return to trve form? Because, as good as Arctic Thunder is, Darkthrone have a legendary black metal back catalogue. Circle the Wagons, however, is peak Punk Throne. It distils all the spit, venom, and grime of their crust worship into nine tracks of purest pissed off attitude. It’s personal too; the airing of grievances makes up much of the lyrical content. This anchors the album to a very real place and gives it authenticity that you wouldn’t otherwise find.

71) Mastodon – The Hunter
Reprise – 2011

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Of Mastodon’s three albums this decade, The Hunter isn’t just the best critically; it’s also the easiest album to enjoy. Once More and Emperor are both fine albums, in smallest doses. Extended exposure leads to alienation and discontent I find. But The Hunter holds up to repeated listens without losing any of its impact. All the players perform their part immaculately, allowing the band to evolve their sound enthusiastically. It’s metal. It’s prog. It’s rock. It’s spaced out. It’s grounded. It’s everything it wants to be.

Albums of the Year 2019

And so we round off another year. 2019 was good to us metalheads. That being said, it’s surprising how easily this top 11 coalesced.

Despite having a bumper year, full of great albums, I am but one man, so I’m going to miss things. Of the albums I definitely know I missed, these are probably my biggest laments:

Children of Bodom – Hexed
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Valeno
Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave
Leprous – Pitfalls
Mayhem – Daemon
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Queensryche – The Verdict
Tool – Fear Inoculum
Torche – Admission
Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence

And so, without further adieu, here’s the best damn eleven albums from 2019.

11) Nocturnus AD – Paradox

Profound Lore – 2019/05/24

What I said then: The band has lost absolutely nothing over the years; absolutely killer, high-octane death metal.
What I say now: I love the sci-fi vibe on Paradox. It doesn’t just sound technical; it sounds weird. That healthy dose of the bizarre gives the familiar Florida sound a vibrancy it sorely needs.

10) Pseudcommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards

Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/08/23

What I said then: It fills your reality with noise to the point that even the air starts to feel heavy.
What I say now: Alienating and discomforting, this remains one of the year’s toughest listens. But in the hidden depths of noise are secret whispers of melody. Of songs so bleak they must remain obscured for our sanity.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
(Atmospheric Sludge – United States of America/Sweden)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019/02/22

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Bit of a cheat as it was self-released in late 2018, but Sentient Ruin brought this nightmare to the surface. Hateful and misanthropic, this is a masterpiece of sonic horror.

9) Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

Roadrunner Records – 2019/08/09

What I said then: The band’s sound has matured, maintaining a familiar level of vitriol but has become more expansive, as befits their status as one of metal’s most bankable acts.
What I say now: The depth of talent that Slipknot have dared to incorporate is remarkable. They’ve given a sophistication to their sound without sacrificing the venom their performances are best known for.

8) Mgła – Age of Excuse

Northern Heritage – 2019/09/02

What I said then: Age of Excuse sounds as fresh and intimidating as Groza did ten years ago.
What I say now: In a year that saw merely acceptable releases from multiple black metal icons, it took these Poles to show how venomous and furious the genre can still be. They are a mighty tempest of darkness.

7) Alcest – Spiritual Instinct

Nuclear Blast -2019/10/25

What I said then: This isn’t some fae trickster or changeling; this is the wild hunt, riding high in saddle, their doomed quarry hounded by spirit and mist alike.
What I say now: There’s a fine balancing act on display here. It is undoubtedly more aggressive, but it still retains the warming dreamlike quality that makes Alcest so charming. It’s a malicious beauty.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
John Dyer Baizley for Gold & Grey by Baroness

I’ve always had a deep and abiding affection for Baizley’s art, but the work he put into Gold & Grey is absolutely stunning. I could look at it for hours and still find something new.

6) Death Angel – Humanicide

Nuclear Blast – 2019/05/31

What I said then: They have penned an album of thrash anthems that will absolutely stay fresh and loud in your mind.
What I say now: It’s mind-boggling how consistently fantastic Death Angel have been. You absolutely cannot complain about more of the same when everything they do is so damn good.

5) Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence

Season of Mist – 2019/11/08

What I said then: They’ve created a swirling void of utter despair that threatens to suck all life into its infinite depths.
What I say now: Esoteric have that wonderful ability to make funeral doom so much more than low, slow, and miserable. There is a richness of tone and a warmth to their delivery, which gives it soul.

4) Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation

Profound Lore – 2019/03/04

What I said then: The vocals are akin to someone drowning in acid, the guitars are like a frenzied ice-pick attack, the drums might as well be hammers swung at your joints, and the solos are like the gears of a horrifying trap grinding into action.
What I say now: These depraved degenerates can seriously play. As straight up hostile as this is, it’s only as effective as it is because they’ve honed their monstrous craft to a razor’s edge.

The Dillinger Escape Plan Memorial Award for Most Kick Ass Live Act
Behemoth

In a year with ample competition, Behemoth stood taller than all the others. They have a flair for the dramatic, blast harder than they do on wax, and and curate a fantastic live set. It’s metal maximised to the limit.

3) Cloud Rat – Pollinator

Gilead Media – 2019/09/13

What I said then: It’s the vast vista of humanity with all its foibles and tumults, but sped up to the bpm of a stressed hummingbird’s heartbeat and viewed through an obscuring heat shimmer of pure ferocity.
What I say now: Cloud Rat have always been building to something. All that energy. All that drive. All that passion. It all led to this: a humanity affirmation wrapped in a blistering assault.

2) Spirit Adrift – Divided by Darkness

20 Buck Spin – 2019/05/10

What I said then: They’ve forged a path to greatness and paved it with talent.
What I say now: Spirit Adrift tap into the same heavy metal wellspring that made Sabbath essential. Heavy and melodic with bone-shaking rhythms, but done in a way that’s 100% fresh. Old school remade anew.

1) Devin Townsend – Empath

InsideOut – 2019/03/29

What I said then: Proving that any emotion delivered stridently enough can provide an intense experience, Empath is a manic blast of over-the-top positivity.
What I say now: I reckon it’s impossible to not love this. It radiates an aura of chaos that in no way diminishes the pulsating good vibes. To be so unabashedly in your face but with all smiles is unique.

Buy Me Caffeine at ko-fi.com

So that was 2019. Stay tuned for my Top 100 of the past decade.

Albums of the Year 2018

And so we come to the end of another year. Lots of talent on display. More than a few surprises along the way too. By and large, I’ve had a cracking year listening to metal.

Last year, I had a laundry list of albums I missed that I wish I hadn’t. This year, I managed to get most of my targets reviewed. That being said, here’s my list of missed opportunities:

Accu§er – The Mastery
Eagle Twin – The Thundering Heard
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
Winterfylleth – The Hallowing of Heirdom
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

I’ve kept my promise to myself and kept my named awards for Best Complicated Release, Best Art, and Best Live Act.

Idle chit-chat aside, here’s the best damn eleven albums 2018 sent my way.

11) Mantar – The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

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Nuclear Blast – 2018/08/24

What I Said Then: Their incendiary songs roll along with a pyroclastic flow that ensures that everything in their path is obliterated.
What I Say Now: I just love how effortlessly catchy these songs are. For something as straight up mean as this, the fact that you can sing (yell) along with it pretty well immediately is a hell of an achievement.

10) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death

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Dark Descent – 2018/11/23

What I Said Then: It’s like the coroner performing an autopsy, but in your back shed with garden tools.
What I Say Now: Corpsessed understand the compelling perversion of horror. That, once the monster is loose, it is impossible to look away from the bloodshed. Behold the captivation of the train wreck.

The Prurient Award for Best Album that Doesn’t Lend Itself to Easy Reviewing
Kurushimi – What is Chaos?
(Avant-garde Jazz – Australia)
Art as Catharsis – 2018/09/13

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Kurushimi goes everywhere at once, but then the track changes and it finds a whole new set of directions to go all at once. It’s overwhelming, but a great album is contained in the cognitive ultramarathon.

9) Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth

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Self-Released – 2018/06/12

What I Said Then: This album is venomous, filthy and aggressive, but is delivered with such diligence and vigour that nothing gets lost in the malign fury.
What I Say Now: This album has some incredibly deft touches. Doom, especially of the funereal type, doesn’t typically lend itself to musical agility. But Barren Altar nail some pretty spectacular audio gymnastics.

8) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds / Pt. 1

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Music Theories Recordings – 2018/07/27

What I Said Then: It still has all the technical merit you’d expect from one of metal’s great guitarists and composers, but it comes without any of self-indulgent baggage of solo projects.
What I Say Now: I am going to say this is the most straight up fun album on this list. The lyrics, the solos, the weird directions it goes; all of it is done for maximum enjoyment. Entertainment turned up to eleven.

7) Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy

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Century Media – 2018/09/14

What I Said Then: This is laser beam focussed and whip cord taut. Fuck it; it’s their best album ever.
What I Say Now: I’ve gone back and listened to the best of back catalogue. I stand by the above claim. It is heavy, malevolent, blasphemous Deicide at their absolute best. Thoroughly demonic.

Mariusz Lewandowski Award for Best Art
Zbigniew M. Bielak for Overtures of Blasphemy by Deicide

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I keep coming back to this. There’s something both evocative and visceral about this piece. It has a sinister, almost blood-soaked violence to it, which is impressive since it’s a drawing of a scribe.

6) Moss Upon the Skull – In Vengeful Reverence

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I, Voidhanger – 2018/10/19

What I Said Then: Taking Orchid-era Opeth’s proto-sensitivity, combining it with Cascadian black metal’s hermit tendencies, then wrapping it in trad death metal hostility is ambitious.
What I Say Now: This is a very different beast to your standard prog death. It breathes, it grows, it sounds like a living organism made of rage. I love this organic approach to music making.

5) Nadja – Sonnborner

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Broken Spine Productions – 2018/09/14

What I Said Then: Open your ears and marvel; Nadja have produced a masterpiece of dreamy, inspired doom.
What I Say Now: It’s like an anxiety attack slowed down. I can’t think of any other album I’ve listened to that takes something so relaxing and made it seem so tense. Soothing like a persistent catatonic state.

4) Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality

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Dark Descent – 2018/04/13

What I Said Then: It makes me feel like I’m windmilling with luxurious waist length hair, even if I’m just gently headbanging while driving.
What I Say Now: Nothing is quite as invigorating as Being hit by tropical cyclone Devouring Mortality. It’s a maelstrom of chaotic riffs and pounding drums. It smashes like a storm that doesn’t stop.

The Dillinger Escape Plan Memorial Award for Most Kick Ass Live Act
Sólstafir

I wish I had some pics or a video like I did last year, but Sólstafir were just so hypnotic, intense, and awe-inspiring that the thought of whipping out my phone never occured to me. I could have cried.

3) Bliss Signal – Bliss Signal

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Profound Lore – 2018/09/28

What I Said Then: It’s nice to see James Kelly return to the more abrasive, blackened sounds, but combining it with grime creates a sublime, haunting sound I didn’t think could exist.
What I Say Now: Bliss Signal upends the black metal status quo. This is functionally a techno album, but lives and breathes the left hand path. Trailblazing, unique and utterly compelling.

2) Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want


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Ipecac – 2018/10/26

What I Said Then: With guitars that sound like a musical air raid siren, drumming that consistently surprises in the best way, and one of the most evocative vocal deliveries I’ve heard they have delivered one of the most welcoming forays into discomfort ever.
What I Say Now: By moving noise rock closer to noise than is typical for the genre, Daughters have tapped into a mighty wellspring of disquiet. It still rocks, but in a tremendously unsettling way.

1) Ihsahn – Àmr

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Candlelight – 2018/05/04

What I Said Then: It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation
What I Say Now: It’s about as close to a perfect album as possible from Ihsahn. At its core is a marvellously complicated heart. Hearth warm and deathly cold, locked in precarious balance.

So there we are. That’s as firm a one, two, and three as you can get. I’m still pretty blown away by Ámr to be honest.

And forward to 2019 and the end of an amazing decade in heaviness.

Releases of the Year for 2015

Another year down, another fifty releases that everyone should give a crack. I’m pretty comfortable saying 2015 was one of the best years in metal for a long time. For at least half the year I was worried that I may be too generous in my reviews; by the end of the year it was clear that the standard of music was simply better.

This will be the last of my regular posts. I will still do occasional one off reviews and I will most likely release a considerably smaller best of 2016 next year, but as far as regular, monthly posts go, I am finished. It has been tremendous fun though.

Thanks for all the support. I hope everyone loves these releases as much as I do.

Album of the Year
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

What I Said Then: Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling.
What I Say Now: What makes this a truly remarkable album is its emotional complexity. It is buoyantly unsettling and tumultuously welcoming. There is skill beyond measure on display here.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Revocation

In a year populated with top tier live acts (At the Gates, Mastodon, Opeth, etc), these tech-thrash bruisers stood tall. They play with an almost psychotic amount of intensity. Real take-charge live metal.

Best cover art: Purple by John Baizley

Aside from being a fantastic musician, Baizley is also one of metal’s great artists. Unsurprisingly, he saves some of his best work for his own band. Purple is a complicated piece that matches the emotional tone of the album.

My Other Picks for 2015
2) High on Fire – Luminiferous

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eOne Music – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall.
What I Say Now: This remains an absolutely titanic display of pure riffing. There is an almost alchemical genius at work here as, slow or fast, these songs supernaturally heavy. Press play and marvel at the masters at work.

3) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

What I Said Then: They let the light in[;] the flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you.
What I Say Now: This isn’t the sound of darkness killing light; this is darkness gently caressing the light as it dies in its arms. There is as much tact and beauty here as there is soul-crushing misery and grief.

4) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

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Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

What I Said Then: It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
What I Say Now: Giving this another critical listen has only raised it in my esteem. From its industrial yet monastic opener to its rabble rousing final track, there is vitality permeating every moment.

5) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/07/21

What I Said Then: Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them.
What I Say Now: Lxs Jugadxs’ third demo came together in a perfect storm of manic aggression. Its four short tracks have more revolutionary firebrand in them than other grinders get in a career.

6) Baroness – Purple

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Abraxan Hymns – 2015/12/18

What I Said Then: Purple is still redolent with their trademark languid grace, but there’s an unmistakable fire in its belly.
What I Say Now: Effortlessly charming, Purple is an album that makes itself a home in your heart and you’ll never want it to leave. There’s something about its high energy melancholy that leaves you warmed through.

7) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

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Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

What I Said Then: At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke.
What I Say Now: Unfathomable grief rings out with every note. Its naked emotion is what makes this album stand out. Doom is often depressed, but few albums achieve this level of ineffable sadness.

8) Gold – No Image

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Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

What I Said Then: The bleakness goes right to the core[;] this is apocalyptically beautiful.
What I Say Now: As depressing as this album could have been, it’s remarkable just how uplifting it actually is. It turns the desperate clutching of the cold, barren void into a warm and loving embrace.

9) The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise

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Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

What I Said Then: Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess.
What I Say Now: Such furious intensity shouldn’t be such a joy to listen to. It’s emotionally calamitous, but played with such infectious, energetic zeal. It is literally impossible to not enjoy.

10) Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

What I Said Then: Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track.
What I Say Now: It’s a truly remarkable sonic dreamscape. Sprawling continents of sound are brought to life and populated with attention to detail. If I believed in magic, I would know that sorcery is at work here.

11) Folivore – Eve of Conception

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Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: It’s a particularly whacked out blend of marijuana and Mephistopheles.
What I Say Now: It still astonishes me that this is a demo. The certainty of the production and the sophistication of the music are far above demo quality. They may well be the most competent stoners in metal.

12) Enslaved – In Times

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

What I Said Then: From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty.
What I Say Now: Enslaved have struck an intriguing balance between light and dark on In Times. Stirring and inspiring, cold and bleak; there is a pervasive warmth here, if you let the cold wash over you.

13) Sumac – The Deal

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

What I Said Then: The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy.
What I Say Now: There may be heavier albums on this list, albums that pin you in place with crushing weight, but none can match The Deal for oppressiveness. It looms over you like a towering monolith.

14) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: Listening to this album definitely allows you to visualise hoards of panicked people running around being relentlessly attacked by wasps, except it’s pitch black and there’s broken glass everywhere.
What I Say Now: The comparison to Dante’s Inferno that I used in the initial review was more apt than I realised at the time. This may be a nightmarish hellscape, but there’s an enduring poetic quality to it.

15) Symphony X – Underworld

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good.
What I Say Now: I sincerely hope Underworld is the album that gets Symphony X the wider profile they deserve. Progressive and aggressive; tense and dense; I haven’t been awed by fretwork this fine in a long time.

16) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

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Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

What I Said Then: It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. 
What I Say Now: I still have lasting concerns that this is an elaborate suicide note. Its mature and understated approach is perfect for its barren and lonely themes. Who knew that Muz had an album like this in him.

17) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Self-released – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
What I Say Now: Of the seven deadly sins, pride is traditionally the most heinous. Makes sense listening to this hellraising racket. A self-assured swagger and raucous braggadocio is inherent throughout.

18) Leviathan – Scar Sighted

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

What I Said Then: Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice[, which] makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive.
What I Say Now: Wrest has crafted one of the most challenging sonic landscapes for 2015. Untold legions of malice lurk, obfuscated by an often impenetrable miasma of contempt. He makes hatred a tangible sensation.

19) Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [The] music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
What I Say Now: The grotesque cover art is perfect advertising for this album; there is only putrefied, noisome death here. It’s straight to the point and that point is it wants to kill you. Horrific in a satisfying way.

20) Deafheaven – New Bermuda

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Anti Records – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic.
What I Say Now: No other band manages the interplay between light and dark quite like Deafheaven does. Here the warmth and light only serve to remind the listener that storm clouds are bearing down.

21) Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats

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Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [As] much as Abyss isn’t as nakedly sadosexual as some previous works, it still fills you with a spiritual dread and a carnal longing that should not sit side by side.
What I Say Now: Abyss is the void looking back at you, its sensual malevolence longing to infect you with its chaos. It remains a profoundly unsettling, uncomfortable experience.

22) Motörhead – Bad Magic

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UDR Music – 2015/08/28

What I Said Then: Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away.
What I Say Now: Motörhead are one of metal’s oldest institutions, so it’s not surprising that people may not get excited for a new album. But you should get excited for Bad Magic. Every track is a solid gold hit.

23) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Self-released – 2015/10/26

What I Said Then: It’s an intense experience in the best way.
What I Say Now: Definitely puts the post back into post-hardcore, as there is a definite Swans-esque embrace of otherness. It’s more than distortion or structure; Lamantide pulls hardcore into brave new forms.

24) Choking – Choking

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Self-released – 2015/05/15

What I Said Then: Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
What I Say Now: I’m hung up on just how suffocating this release is. The appropriateness of the name has only increased with time. It violently sucks the air out of the atmosphere, leaving the listener breathless.

25) Kylesa – Exhausting Flame

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Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
What I Say Now: Kylesa’s grimey heaviness is delicately balanced with their ear for emotional heaviness. Exhausting Flame is just that: exhausting. It’s a draining experience, but in a satisfying way.

26) Leprous – The Congregation

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InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

What I Said Then: The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos.
What I Say Now: Meandering in a most deliberate manner, The Congregation is easily the urgent daydream of 2015. It’s aggressive beauty isn’t just aging well; it’s becoming more dominant by the second.

27) Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo

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Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

What I Said Then: I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
What I Say Now: I still find it hard to believe that the Spobgebob schtick hasn’t grown old. But it hasn’t. The odd combination of powerviolence and surf rock keeps this fresh listen after listen after listen.

28) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Self-released – 2015/04/07

What I Said Then: The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole.
What I Say Now: The way these four tracks build pressure is amazing. The atmospheres just keep on piling up, breaking bones and forcing the air from your lungs. It’s a terrifying force of nature in your ears.

29) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Self-released – 2015/09/08

What I Said Then: Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent.
What I Say Now: Woundvac get it. Their approach to grind is as unforgiving as Sheriff Joe’s understanding of Christ. It’s a non-stop blast of expertly crafted aggression. Hostility is the winner here.

30) Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos.
What I Say Now: Charnel Passages burns real slow. It’s not until the final track burns out that you realise that it’s taken everything around it with it. It’s destructive in a way that you can’t turn off or ignore.

31) Alder Glade – Demo II

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Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

What I Said Then: The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal.
What I Say Now: Don’t know what I was thinking when I first reviewed this; I should have been far more glowing in my praise. The wholehearted embrace of the tyranny of isolation is impressive.

32) Boak – Boak

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Self-released – 2015/06/03

What I Said Then: It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis.
What I Say Now: Singularly aggressive hardcore-by-the-way-of-powerviolence. Drumming that sounds like a swarm of angry hornets underscores guitars and vocals that exist solely to injure.

33) Hate Eternal – Infernus

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Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

What I Said Then: With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed.
What I Say Now: Sleeper of the year in my opinion. I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is more than a stellar death metal album; this is one of those albums will age spectacularly. It’s left a lasting impression.

34) Abstracter – Wound Empire

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

What I Said Then: They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards.
What I Say Now: This remains as darkly captivating now as it was when I first gave it a spin. Suffused with creeping misery that is as relentless as it is achingly slow, Wound Empire is a glacier of haunting depression.

35) Manhunt – Manhunt

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625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

What I Said Then: Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
What I Say Now: This is the real thing. You can feel the press of bodies in the pit. You can smell the acrid tang of sweat. You can see the steam rising off the superheated mob. Savour the hardcore sensation.

36) Leucrota – Demo

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

What I Said Then: It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary.
What I Say Now: Putting traditional punk immediacy on the back-burner in favour of persistent sinister menace makes this 2015’s most intimidating punk release. Violent in a way that hints that it could be much more so.

37) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/09/29

What I Said Then: Thuggish and muscular black metal is made even nastier with sociopathic noise.
What I Say Now: Cataclysmic noise given only the barest semblance of structure, Unyielding Love take metal to a new uncompromising extreme. Challenging and hateful, this demo is a black spot on the soul.

38) Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

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Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It doesn’t hesitate to bring the blasting violence, but it also allows itself to plumb darker depths of humanity by slowing down and letting melody reign.
What I Say Now: The sophistication that Cloud Rat bring to grind continues to seem incongruously oxymoronic. The mingling of ferocious blastbeats and crystal delicate melodies required amazing skill.

39) Horrendous – Anareta

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Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

What I Said Then: Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up.
What I Say Now: There is a warm glow of nostalgia radiating from every note. The throwback to death metal’s origins is welcome. But the top quality performances from all involved is what makes this so necessary.

40) Carnero – Carnero

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Self-released – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
What I Say Now: It’s releases like this that keep me connected to hardcore. There’s nothing disingenuous here; it’s pure, nasty, violent punk. It’s everything that made the genre great in seven tracks.

41) Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)

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Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. 
What I Say Now: There’s an anguished longing at the core of this. It aches. It needs. It wants. It hungers. I doubt any other band could conjure such excruciating exquisiteness and sustain it so long.

42) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn

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Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

What I Said Then: Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous.
What I Say Now: There’s something to be said for tremolo picking, Christ punching, trve kvlt traditionalism. So long as it’s done well of course. Serpents Lair nail it with an album that is both violent and hypnotic.

43) Sunn O))) – Kannon

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Southern Lord – 2015/12/04

What I Said Then: Sunn O)))’s first non-collaborative work of the decade is less total speaker destruction and more monks at the temple of loud.
What I Say Now: Crushing tectonic force is what’s on display. The slightest shift in tone causes rumbles that can be felt for miles. As contemplative in tone as it is, Kannon is loaded with destruction.

44) Krallice – Ygg Huur

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Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

What I Said Then: An immovable object given irresistible force.
What I Say Now: Brilliantly technical and possessed of a sensibility for other genres, Ygg Huur is a black metal album apart from its genre. It’s fascinating listening to an album that twists the norms so ably.

45) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: There’s a melodic quality to the tracks that brings to mind the peak of the Gotherburg sound, but it doesn’t sacrifice the Lynard-Skynard’s-grindcore-album Southern rage[.]
What I Say Now: Given that LoG hasn’t been relevant to me since I replaced my teenage angst with adult ennui, it’s impressive how much of an impact this made. Proof that groove metal isn’t always a pejorative.

46) Melechesh – Enki

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. 
What I Say Now: With music like this, it’s no wonder Melechesh isn’t welcome in their home country anymore. Its combination of blackened death and Middle Eastern folk is unforgettably vicious.

47) Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

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Parlophone – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar.
What I Say Now: I’m a big fan of Maiden’s millennial work, but Book of Souls is their first bona fide classic in a long time. It’s a double album where everything sounds necessary and vital. Essential listening.

48) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Self-released – 2015/10/15

What I Said Then: Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame.
What I Say Now: Ironic Reversal know how to death metal. The fine balance they strike between the technical and the progressive is not an easy thing to achieve. Few bands have the raw talent that this duo do.

49) A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on.
What I Say Now: It’s an album almost punget with the acrid smoke of coal-fired industry and the incense of Infernal mysticism. It’s intriguing and beguiling with more than a hint of razor-edged danger.

50) Enforcer – From Beyond

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
What I Say Now: It’s leather and big hair from start to finish. Enforcer’s brand of beautiful speed metal anachronism works so well because they have the balls to go there and the talent to back it up. Play it loud.

Best Self-Released Titles for 2015

It’s my second year of celebrating the best of the bands who do everything themselves. I may have dropped it down to forty from fifty, but I still feel thoroughly enthusiastic about the underground. And so should you.

The undeniable winner was Lxs Jugadxs’ Demo 2015. I’ve been a big fan of theirs since I first heard the 2013 Demo, but 2015’s demo brought everything together in spectacular fashion.

Fleshing out the top five are Peasant, Lamantide, Choking, and Cavernlight. Given how very different these bands are, it’s testament to how diversity has strengthened the heavy underground.

Last year’s caveat still applies: I think I’ve done my due diligence and only included independent bands, but if I’ve made a mistake, let me know and I’ll modify things. At the very least I’m certain that all releases were independent at the time of review.

Every band here deserves your support. Enjoy them at maximum volume.

1) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Grindcore – 2015/07/21
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra

2) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Blackened heavy metal – 2015/04/20
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Wretched Codex

3) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Post-hardcore – 2015/10/26
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Immortalis Lapis

4) Choking – Choking

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Blackened sludge metal – 2015/05/15
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine

5) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Droning sludge – 2015/04/07
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold of Reason, Embracing Our Corporeal Forms

6) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Grindcore – 2015/09/08
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Disgraced Convert

7) Boak – Boak

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Powerviolence – 2015/06/03
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Who is the Animal Here?

8) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Experimental black metal – 2015/09/29
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Swelling Absence

9) Carnero – Carnero

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Hardcore – 2015/05/29
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: La scelta del corpo

10) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Progressive death metal – 2015/10/15
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Consume

11) Boar Worship – Boar Worship

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Sludge metal – 2015/07/08
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Two

12) Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist

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Atmospheric black metal – 2015/03/01
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Drink Thine Wretched Wine

13) Invertebrate – Regression/Devolution

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Powerviolence – 2015/03/26
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Fuck Punk, Fuck Grind, Drive Scion

14) Kriegszittern – Frostbite

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Death metal – 2015/08/16
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Primitive Instinct

15) Cartilage – It’s Necrotic

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Death metal – 2015/06/14
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Dialect of the Dead

16) KharmA – SubReal

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Death grind – 2015/02/06
Originally reviewed in February
Try before you buy: Obliterados

17) Concealed Blade – Demo 2015

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Hardcore – 2015/02/17
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Don’t Get Caught

18) Fractal Generator – Apotheosynthesis

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Atmospheric death metal – 2015/07/21
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Paragon

19) Deathblow – The Other Side of Darkness

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Thrash – 2015/04/21
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: The Other Side of Darkness

20) Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament

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Black metal – 2015/07/03
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean

21) Dowrr – Demo Tape

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Metallic hardcore – 2015/08/10
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Misfortune

22) Steel Chains – Demo 2015

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Post-punk – 2015/02/14
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Hard to Follow

23) Sermos – (husk)

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Death metal – 2015/07/04
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: The End of Flesh

24) Bleed the Pigs/Thetan – Split

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Grindcore – 2015/02/27
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Justified

25) Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate

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Progressive metal – 2015/02/18
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Perception

26) Devoid – II

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Droning sludge – 2015/06/09
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Excavation

27) Blutbad – Abandonment

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Harsh noise – 2015/09/19
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Ritual

28) Ēōs – Ēōs

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Drone doom – 2015/01/01
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Umwelt

29) Zombie X Incest – The First Violent Step

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Powerviolence – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: How is punk dead when powerviolence is still alive?

30) The Horn – Volume 14

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Black metal – 2015/12/02
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Spell 174

31) Sovereign – Deceptum

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Crusty black metal – 2015/06/04
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Colourless

32) Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe

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Deathgrind – 2015/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Hallucinating Contagion

33) Krvshr – Church Burner

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Sludge metal – 2015/05/25
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Highlander

34) Tales from Beyond – Putrid Realm

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Death metal – 2015/05/17
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Psychosis

35) Leash – Demo 2015

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Crust – 2015/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Revelation

36) Verheerer – Archar

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Black metal – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Archar

37) Tuer – Ivresse & Enfer

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Grindcore – 2015/09/25
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Odyssée Ethylique

38) Evenstate – Inside

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Progressive metal – 2015/07/25
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Chosen One

39) Monolith – Legacy of the Opium Eater

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Death metal – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Seemingly False Fantasies

40) Sombre – Flora and fauna, Feast Upon My Flesh

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Blackened noisey sludgeviolence – 2015/08/03
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Humans of Earth

Releases of the Year for 2014

It’s finally here. A bit later than most annual lists, but I stand by my policy of waiting to review everything. Some amazing albums turned up late in the year and no list would be complete without them.

I’ve put the list together differently this year. Last year’s list was just a collection of my previously unreleased reviews. Reposting old reviews didn’t seem right, so I went back, relistened to everything, and tried to reflect on the year.

So without further adieu, here’s my best of 2014.

Album of the Year
Sólstafir – Ótta

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Season of Mist – 2014/08/29

What I said then: If you can’t appreciate the wonder of this album, I weep for you.
What I say now: This album really does improve with every listen. By the time I’m two tracks in, I’m already choked up. It’s raw and devastatingly emotional, but it’s so beautiful I will take the pain.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Death Angel

I saw these guys supporting Kreator. They completey blew their Teutonic compatriots off the stage. I haven’t been so thoroughly entertained by a band for a long, long time.

Best cover art: Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable by Ola Larsson

It’s a remarkably evocative piece of art, perfectly suited to its album. It doesn’t just convey a sense of palpable darkness; it conveys the futility of even attempting to fight it.

My Other Picks for 2014
2) Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

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Metal Blade Records – 2014/11/25

What I said then: Few bands can do what Primordial do; fewer still could match this effort.
What I say now: I really didn’t expect another album to muscle its way into the top three, but underestimating Primordial was foolish on my part. Awe inspiring and heart wrenching in equal measure.

3) Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

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Century Media Records – 2014/04/14

What I said then: [The] album is replete with the seething contempt and haunting introspection that make his work so engaging.
What I say now: The darkness only deepens the more you listen to it. Hardly a surprise though. Triptykon are masters of the inky depths. Few bands can juggle beauty and despair this well.

4) Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite

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Artemisia Records – 2014/07/08

What I said then: It takes alienation and isolation, and makes them beautiful.
What I say now: Easily the most soothing release on this list. I can lose myself in their ambience for a long time, reclining into their subtle blend of delicacy and tension. It’s a thing of beauty.

5) Opeth – Pale Communion

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Roadrunner Records – 2014/08/24

What I said then: Rich, evocative rhythms are woven through with striking string passages and delicate accoustic movements, creating sumptuously dark listening experience.
What I say now: I figured Pale Communion might have lost some lustre over the passing months. Wrong. Very wrong. It drew me in as easily now as it did when it was released in August.

6) Swans – To Be Kind

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Young God Records – 2014/05/12

What I said then: That an album can be so dense and seemingly impenetrable, but be utterly compelling is a mark of true genius.
What I say now: It admittedly isn’t an album I’ve returned to often, but that’s because every time I start, I’m compelled to listen to it in its entirety. It’s an album that demands to be experienced.

7) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate

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Deathwish Inc – 2014/04/29

What I said then: Just as the band deftly tiptoes around classification, so too do the songs dance gracefully across the emotional spectrum.
What I say now: Wovenhand really have put together something wonderful. It’s contemplative in a way that shouldn’t be possible given the album’s pacing. Excuse me while I rock out while meditating.

8) Trap Them – Blissfucker

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Prosthetic Records – 2014/06/10

What I said then: You are pummled with fury and defiance, and yet, track by track, desperation and exhaustion creep in.
What I say now: The fury of this album is still the chief selling point of this album. Lots of bands do angry; few do it with the absolute lack of restraint on display here. Relentless, malicious abandon.

9) Devin Townsend Project – Z²

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HevyDevy Records – 2014/10/28

What I said then: This double album hammers home both Townsend’s talent and his bizarreness.
What I say now: Devin Townsend makes his music so damn easy to listen to. It’s big and bombastic, successfully filling any empty space in your mind with ridiculously good music.

10) Decapitated – Blood Mantra

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Nuclear Blast – 2014/09/26

What I said then: Blood Mantra is polished death metal perfection, delivering non-stop pummelling action.
What I say now: The polish has endured; not a hint of tarnish to be seen. It remains an album that blows you away from the moment you press play. It deserves it’s ‘2014 best death’ crown.

11) Various Artists – One and All, Together, For Home

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Season of Mist – 2014/05/23

What I said then: Serious, moving, and proof that black metal can have some pride without going full Varg.
What I say now: The contributing artists clearly throw everything into these songs, as the raw emotional heft remains as potent today as it was in September. Best compilation in years.

12) Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/05/13

What I said then: The rhythms and melodies flow with a natural progression that turn lengthy songs into meaningful reflective experiences.
What I say now: The Serpent & the Sphere is the model modern black metal album. It doesn’t piss away its energy with mindless fury; rather, it cultivates a mature, yet devastating ambience.

13) At the Gates – At War With Reality

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Century Media – 2014/10/27

What I said then: They have released an album that sounds exactly like it came out of the creative high-point they were in for Slaughter of the Soul.
What I say now: The comparison to Slaughter of the Soul may have been a whisper generous, but this is still some of the best melodeath out there. Easily the best thing out of Gothenburg for a long time.

14) Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity

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Candlelight Records – 2014/10/07

What I said then: The guitars are furious but clockwork precise, the drums are captivating in their intricacy, and the vocals have a nuance rarely seen in black metal.
What I say now: Winterfylleth improve with every album they do. And The Divination of Antiquity is far and away their best effort to date. Technically proficient and emotionally mature metal.

15) Death Fortress – Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable

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Fallen Empire Records – 2014/11/15

What I said then: Their take on darkness is a contagious invocation of malice and domination, infecting your soul with hatred most profane.
What I say now: When it starts, you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. By the end, you’re pretty sure you can’t live without it. Congratulations, Death Fortress has recorded damnation.

16) Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

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Season of Mist – 2014/06/06

What I said then: It’s easily the best thing they’ve done since they defined the genre all those years ago.
What I say now: Alienation and obliteration. That’s what Esoteric Warfare serves up. This isn’t just Mayhem; this is Mayhem at their most ruthless. Which is a terrifying thought.

17) Plebeian Grandstand – Lowgazers

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Throatruiner Records – 2014/03/31

What I said then: It’s a combination of avant-garde darkness and technical fury that creates an atmosphere of relentless misanthropy.
What I say now: That it sounds like a combination of blackened horrors, Deathspell Omega, and jazz metal weirdos, Shining, is reason enough to get this. It remains a dark revelation.

18) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

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Nuclear Blast – 2014/01/31

What I said then: Triumph and Power has everything you could possibly want in a metal album: anthemic choruses, towering solos, fist-pumping rhythms.
What I say now: It’s an album I have listened to a lot this year. I keep on getting the itch and it can only be scratched by Grand Magus’ particular brand of metalness. Rousing good times.

19) Earth – Primitive and Deadly

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Southern Lord – 2014/09/01

What I said then: It can bring a tear to the eye while simultaneously destroying speakers.
What I say now: Sublime in its contemplativeness, Primitive and Deadly is an album that, four months on, is already demonstrating that it will stand the test of time. Irresistible and immovable.

20) Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh

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Self-released – 2014/09/30

What I said then: Even the weakest track on the album will kill the competition.
What I say now: Horsehunter justifiably took home the crown for best self-released title for the year. What they’ve done on their own, most of their labelled genre-mates couldn’t hope to achieve.

21) Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/08/19

What I said then: It draws you in and keeps you nestled in its heart.
What I say now: Pallbearer have put together a benchmark album here; it’s the album by which they, and many others, shall be judged from here on out. It’s a defining moment in quality doom.

22) Gnaw Their Tongues & Alkerdeel – Dyodyo Asema

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ConSouling Sounds – 2014/01/01

What I said then: Be transported to a scene of abject horror.
What I say now: Sweet Jesus, this is bleak. I’m used to Gnaw Their Tongues’ brand of horror, but the introduction of Alkerdeel’s maddening sludge took this to an unexpected realm of darkness.

23) Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

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Reprise Records – 2014/06/24

What I said then: It’s a beautiful expedition into progressive expanses, that is challenging, uplifting, and hard rocking.
What I say now: There was a 50/50 chance I was going to return to this and feel let down. But I wasn’t; it’s held up over the passing months. It remains an album dedicated to rocking the great riff.

24) 铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 远古呼唤 / Ancient Call

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Metal Hell Records – 2014/02/01

What I said then: Ancient Call is more blackened than their last album, but it is still an utter joy to listen to.
What I say now: I fretted that maybe Tengger Cavalry were, dare I say it, a one trick pony. But I can’t argue with results. They put out consistently high quality blackened folk that begs to be heard.

25) Woundvac – Woundvac

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Self-released – 2014/02/25

What I said then: Woundvac’s self-titled debut is the sound of emerging from a mosh pit, covered in sweat and blood (not all of it mine), nose busted across my face, spitting teeth, and smiling like a madman.
What I say now: Why did I rate this so highly? Oh yeah. That’s right. It kicks the living shit out of everything in sight. It’s easily the best pure grind album in a year populated with excellent grind releases.

26) Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

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Debemur Morti Productions – 2014/10/10

What I said then: It’s an album that, knowing it already speaks to the other, seeks to engage rather than alienate.
What I say now: I’m glad that this is another addition to the Memoria Vetusta series. As much as I love Blut aus Nord’s more avant-garde material, what they do with trad black metal is amazing.

27) Lord Mantis – Death Mask

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/04/29

What I said then: Death Mask is a concentrated mass of metastasised malignancy.
What I say now: It hasn’t so much aged like fine wine as it has putrefied like a corpse in a swamp. It was nasty when I first got it and has somehow grown into something much worse in the interim.

28) Eyehategod – Eyehategod

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Housecore Records – 2014/05/27

What I said then: Thanks to Hurricane Katrina and their own personal demons, the notorious sludge lords truly have been through hell and back, [which] has translated directly to their music.
What I say now: I enjoyed revisiting this. I had forgotten just how punk it was. Unmistakably metal, don’t get me wrong, but still punk as fuck. It makes an already grimey band sound extra dirty.

29) End Silence – The Waters

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Self-released – 2014/09/19

What I said then: Everything from the vocalist’s range to the intriguing solos is near perfect.
What I say now: The year’s best thrash album, right here. The fact that it doesn’t play to either the traditional thrash tropes or a frat house mentality helps. That it kicks ass is more important.

30) Rotten Soil – Los Caretas

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The Olmo Records – 2014/06/02

What I said then: Aside from the in your face immediacy, Los Caretas succeeds in combining hardcore rhythms with death metal tuning in a way that few of their genremates do.
What I say now: I continue to be a huge fan of their deathcore for the attention deficient. The album snaps by a breakneck speed, but still somehow allows the music room to breathe.

31) Tombs – Savage Gold

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Relapse Records – 2014/06/10

What I said then: Densely symbolic. Thematically complicated. Tantalisingly unknowable.
What I say now: I have always been a fan of Tombs’ smart metal. I love to be challenged intellectually by music. Savage Gold takes the intellectual approach and adds extra layers of nasty.

32) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/07/02

What I said then: There is more to this than naked rage; there’s something darker in there, possibly grief, possibly melancholy.
What I say now: A grimey grindcore nasty, Lxs Jugadxs’ most recent demo stands as a firm reminder that some of the world’s best grind comes from deep in the underground. ¡Viva grind!

33) The Haunted – Exit Wounds

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Century Media Records – 2014/08/25

What I said then: This is a seemless blend of thrash and melodic death metal, keeping the invigorating energy of the former and the naked aggression of the latter.
What I say now: The simple joy of Exit Wounds makes you wonder why they’re the only ones nailing it. It has a familiarity that allows you to drop staight in at the deep end of the mosh.

34) Alcest – Shelter

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Prophecy Productions – 2014/01/17

What I said then: The end result is a sun-drenched journey through the ether.
What I say now: Neige’s full embrace of shoegaze is a welcome thing. I loved his previous trvegaze work, but Shelter is a step apart. It allows his dreams to bloom out of the shadow of nightmare.

35) Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind

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Century Media – 2014/08/05

What I said then: Bitterness, regret, and occasional self-pity make for a surprisingly honest outcome.
What I say now: Blake Judd may have gone out of his way to act like a colossal, steaming turd, but that’s no reason to take it out on The World We Left Behind. It’s a striking, stark beauty.

36) YOB – Clearing the Path Ascend

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Neurot Recordings – 2014/08/29

What I said then: Another fantastic addition to Yob’s already outstanding catalogue of American heaviness.
What I say now: As ominous and oppressive as a looming thunderstorm, Clearing the Path to Ascend is a literal embodiment of doom. It has some rough edges, but that’s not a bad thing.

37) Panopticon – Roads to the North

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Bindrune Recordings – 2014/08/01

What I said then: Roads to the North is absolutely coruscating black metal that incorporates Southern song structure and fiddles in a way that pays due homage to the band’s Kentucky heritage.
What I say now: I’m willing to add Panopticon to the list of bands that get heritage metal right. Right up there with Primordial, Winterfylleth, and Drudkh. Heartache and fury abound.

38) Ancient VVisdom – Sacrificial

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Magic Bullet Records – 2014/10/28

What I said then: It sounds fantastic and feels like you are having your own damnation broadcast directly to you.
What I say now: Coming across as less folksie and more like a lower, slower Ghost (B.C.) has worked wonders for the band. It sounds like they actually have forward momentum again.

39) Ofghost – Eeva

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Self-released – 2014/08/01

What I said then: The driving rhythms speak to a post-humanity environment; mankind is dead and this is the music of the machines.
What I say now: I’ve heard lots of industrial influenced black metal in my time, but Ofghost’s synthesised approach sets it apart. It adds some novelty to a genre that is normally far too staid.

40) Shores of Null – Quiescence

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Candlelight Records – 2014/03/24

What I said then: You don’t often get to associate the word ‘beautiful’ with death metal, but that’s what Quiescence is: beautiful death metal.
What I say now: This is somewhat more aggressive than memory served. But so it should be. I remembered the excellent gothic parts, but I needed the reminder of how kickass the death passages are.

41) Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance

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Self-released – 2014/09/21

What I said then: It truly is a remarkable ep; every listen unearths something new, nuances in song structure that, while not immediately noticeable, make every song completely and truly vital.
What I say now: As much as I love Our Lives Out of Balance, I still feel I’ve underrated it. It plays with black metal tropes like a cat with its prey. It sounds familiar but is remarkably different.

42) Black Khox – Akab

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Self-released – 2014/04/20

What I said then: Once the sample fanfare ended and the rock started, I was left with an ear to ear grin.
What I say now: There’s way more fun contained here than should be legal. I’m sure some will say it needs more polish, but they’re the sort of people who think no social event is complete without doilies.

43) Vermin Womb – Permanence

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Throatruiner Records – 2014/09/01

What I said then: Its merciless, pitiless, remorseless blast-driven beat underscores some of the nastiest guitar work I’ve heard this year.
What I say now: Permanence goes way past nasty. This is the sonic equivalent of violently hate-fucking in filth. It’s hateful, malicious, and contemptuous. It would kill you if it could.

44) Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

What I said then: Much like a mad emperor, it effortlessly commands you, but you cannot be at ease.
What I say now: The decision to write fewer tracks but make them substantially longer paid dividends. This isn’t only the superior Ape of God; this is an outstanding album in its own right.

45) Twilight – III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb

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Century Media Records – 2014/03/17

What I said then: Twilight is black metal that embodies the death of light of their namesake phenomena.
What I say now: It’s a crying shame that Twilight have gone their separate ways, as they improved with every release. Beneath Trident’s Tomb is sinister black metal performed at the highest standard.

46) Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated

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Self-released – 2014/04/24

What I said then: The combination of harsh, crusty guitars and more elegant string sections create an e.p. that is beautiful in its anger, furious in its eloquence.
What I say now: It still seems somewhat antithetical for a crust album to not be 100% grimey, but credit to Anopheli, they have successfully incorporated lighter, cleaner elements without losing impact.

47) ACxDC – Antichrist Demoncore

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Melotov Records – 2014/06/24

What I said then: The sheer level of audio violence crammed into these twenty odd minutes is truly inspiring.
What I say now: Wild and anarchic, I had forgotten just how punishing this album was. There is no safe volume level for this. Played at one, it’ll start a fight. At eleven, it’ll start wars.

48) Amnesian – No Atonement

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Self-released – 2014/02/08

What I said then: I could easily ramble about the quality of the performers, but I’d rather marvel in the creation of a sound that is distinctly, and uniquely, Amnesian.
What I say now: It may seem a bit low on the list, but I love Amnesian. They approach grind in a way that still seems fresh almost a year after this was released. An amazing new band.

49) Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs

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Self-released – 2014/10/02

What I said then: As I listened to Dead Dogs it slowly dawned on me that I may be listening to the best hardcore release of the year.
What I say now: I was right; it is 2014’s best hardcore release. They strike a balance between technical skill and pure vitriol that is desperately lacking across the genre as a whole.

50) Morbus Chron – Sweven

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Century Media Records – 2014/02/24

What I said then: Their music has an otherworldly quality to it now, which allows them to expand their songwriting into progressive territory, while still indulging in the supernatural.
What I say now: Sweven remains a stand out album for straight up death metal. What it trades out in tempo it more than makes up in composition. Swedeath has a bright future here.

Best Self-released Titles for 2014

In December, a kind commenter, boo909, said I provided the best round up of Bandcamp metal. It’s a great compliment. It got me thinking too. There are many top notch bands out there that have released amazing albums this year via Bandcamp and have done so without a shred of label support.

I think that’s worthy of recognition. So I put together a list of the top 50 self-released titles for the year. Some bands on the list have gone on to find label support. Others were merely between labels or wanted to release something off label. And others still are steadfastly independent. It doesn’t matter though. Every release here demands attention in its own way. So check them out; you never know what you might have missed.

Congratulations go out to Horsehunter on taking top spot here. Caged in Flesh is an absolute monster and should be listened to by everybody. And congratulations to Amnesian for getting two mentions. If there’s any justice, they will be major label huge as soon as possible.

If I have failed at my due diligence and have included a release that was labelled all along, apologies. But I’m pretty sure I got everything right.

1) Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh

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Self-released – 2014/09/30
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Witchery

2) Woundvac – Woundvac

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Self-released – 2014/02/25
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold

3) End Silence – The Waters

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Self-released – 2014/09/19
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Soul Charger

4) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/07/02
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fallar

5) Ofghost – Eeva

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Self-released – 2014/08/01
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Dust

6) Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance

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Self-released – 2014/09/21
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: A Grey Matter

7) Black Khox – Akab

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Self-released – 2014/04/20
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Kong

8) Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated

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Self-released – 2014/04/24
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Incompetent Sires

9) Amnesian – No Atonement

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Self-released – 2014/02/08
Originally reviewed in February
Try before you buy: …Mania

10) Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs

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Self-released – 2014/10/02
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Violence

11) Of Doomed Morale – Ritual on Black Mountain

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Self-released – 2014/11/04
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: The Haruspex

12) Iprit – Iprit

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Self-released – 2014/10/01
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Солнце не взойдет

13) El Hambre – El Hambre

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Self-released – 2014/01/13
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Valkiria

14) Pregnancy – Demo

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Self-released – 2014/01/19
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: A Backing-Up of the Bowels

15) Mörkhimmel – Ostří černé kosy zní

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Self-released – 2014/12/24
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Na věky věků

16) Ironic Reversal – Clonus

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Self-released – 2014/10/15
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Simulants

17) Alder Glade – Demo I

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Self-released – 2014/08/28
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Imprisoned in the Stars

18) Abysmal Growls of Despair – Lovecraftian Drone

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Self-released – 2014/09/05
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: The Great Old Ones

19) Hegeroth – Three Emperors’ Triangle

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Self-released – 2014/09/05
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: The Enforcer

20) James Doesn’t Exist – The Kid Wins Again

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Self-released – 2014/08/06
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: To High to Get High

21) Skinflint – Nyemba

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Self-released – 2014/09/06
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Veya

22) Coffin Birth – Necrotic Liquefaction

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Self-released – 2014/07/31
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: The Ripping and the Tearing

23) Afterwalker – Afterwalker

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Self-released – 2014/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Denied

24) TarLung – TarLung

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Self-released – 2014/11/22
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Last Breath

25) Agonized – Consumed

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Self-released – 2014/02/22
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Indefinite

26) Videmur – Finality

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Self-released – 2014/08/25
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Desolate Essence

27) Amnesian – Inhospitable

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Self-released – 2014/09/28
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Symmetry Hymn

28) Gnaw Their Tongues – Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht

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Self-released – 2014/11/01
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht

29) Practically Extinct – Again

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Self-released – 2014/07/03
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: WxFxFxFx

30) Omfalos – Fallacy

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Self-released – 2014/07/29
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fallacy II

31) The Mark of Man – Exeunt

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Self-released – 2014/08/21
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: The Craven

32) ExVx – Contra Violence

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Self-released – 2014/03/04
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Parochial

33) Ephemeral Ocean – Honour in the Mask

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Self-released – 2014/04/05
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Wrong Dismemberment

34) Voidcraeft – Disgust

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Self-released – 2014/02/18
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Where There is No Image

35) Aronious – Truth in Perception

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Self-released – 2014/04/04
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Truth in Perception

36) Al Goregrind – Asses

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Self-released – 2014/08/01
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Psychedelic Fart Symphony

37) Catapult the Dead – All is Sorrow

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Self-released – 2014/04/20
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Valencia

38) Larvae – Grave Descent

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Self-released – 2014/01/14
Originally reviewed in January
Try before you buy: Fallen, Left to Die

39) Muldjord – Color of My Soul

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Self-released – 2014/07/02
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: A Thousand Paths

40) Oberion – Return

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Self-released – 2014/06/04
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Eerie

41) Jane Dark – Doors to Silence

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Self-released – 2014/07/29
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fading of Flowers

42) Serpent View – From Darkness to Light

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Self-released – 2014/10/25
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: The Sun is Going Down

43) Deadbeat – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/03/23
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Nuke Fear

44) Barren Altar – A Monument to Endless Suffering

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Self-released – 2014/10/08
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: The Nectar of Human Blood

45) The Tovver – The Tovver

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Self-released – 2014/11/22
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: To Sleep and Awake Unafraid

46) A Red Nightmare – A Red Nightmare

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Self-released – 2014/06/02
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Enemy

47) Defamer – Monolith of Filth

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Self-released – 2014/08/19
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Conflagration of Divinity

48) The Apache Revolver – The Morningstar EP

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Self-released – 2014/05/01
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Morningstar, Son of the Dawn

49) Amora – Violence is Human

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Self-released – 2014/03/28
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: For Those Slain

50) Pekla – Speed’n’Roll

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Self-released – 2014/07/07
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Nuo Sutemų iki Aušros