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.

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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.

September 2019 Review Round Up

That was a hell of a September. It was a catch up month for Metalshopped, so shout out to the taxman for giving me a nice refund of my own money. It felt good to mostly clear the ol’ shopping list.

You know what else feels good? Listening to Empath. Devin Townsend has unleashed a spectacular, insane hit of joyous ridiculousness. It’s prog without limits.

Also reviewed this month is Blut Aus Nord’s Hallucinogen. Another cracking album for sure, but it should have been included next month. Some dick leaked the album early, so Debemur Morti responded by upping the release date. While it’s nice to have the album early, it’s bullshit that it happened that way. Support content creators; fuck pirates.

The year and the decade are both winding up, but there’s still a hell of a lot of good in the pipes. Got pumped, stay pumped.

As usual, you can hit me up on Facebook. Always happy to hear feedback and suggestions.

See everyone next month.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Album of the Month
Devin Townsend – Empath
(Progressive Metal – Canada)
InsideOut – 2019/03/29

Proving that any emotion delivered stridently enough can provide an intense experience, Empath is a manic blast of over-the-top positivity. The album is an extended love song to existence, and not in the bubblegum, everything-is-awesome sense. This is a shining beacon highlighting the warts and all nature of life in all its glory.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
01101111011101100110111001101001 – SDSS J0333+0651
(Brutal Death Metal – Antarctica and Mars but actually Argentina)
Amputated Vein – 2019/08/09

I’m ashamed of how much I like this, because, let’s be honest, astronomy slam sounds like the Dunning-Kruger effect put to music. But I don’t think anyone other than the band could have predicted how precise and energetic SDSS would turn out. No lazy interchangeable chug here. There’s not a second of wasted energy; all mosh, no rest.

Abyssal – A Beacon in the Husk
(Death Metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore – 2019/06/21

Abyssal continue to be one of the most ably evocative metal acts out there. Like their previous album, Antikatastaseis, A Beacon in the Husk takes me deep into the hell realms of Dante’s Inferno. This time, I’m transported to the Wood of the Suicides. It’s dread. It’s horror. It’s entrapment. It’s the knowledge of damnation at your own hands.

Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
(Progressive Black Metal – France)
Debemur Morti – 2019/09/20

It’s an irritating but necessary pun that best describes Hallucinogen; it’s intoxicating. From its diverse vocal range to its Hendrix-meets-Mayhem melodies, it’s an album that pushes progressive black metal in directions it doesn’t usually go. It challenges expectations and rewards the active listener with its psychedelic visions.

Cloud Rat – Pollinator
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Artoffact – 2019/09/13

Who would have thought grindcore could be so grandiose? So majestic? Dare I say it? Epic. Pollinator is something very special. 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. A stunning act of musical severity.

Consummation – The Great Solar Hunter
(Blackened Death Metal – Australia)
Profound Lore – 2019/06/07

The fury of the ascendant sun combined with the patience of the greatest hunter; it’s hard to think of a more appropriately named album. Especially since it’s, well, great. It’s always impressive to see a band manage an elevated level of aggression with the forethought and maturity to build up to bigger pay-offs. And this album pays off big time.

Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear
(Progressive Metal – Sweden)
Metal Blade – 2019/09/20

Cult of Luna give themselves all the room in the world to craft their music. It’s an expansive approach that yields the dividends they were expecting, as the band’s signature part-progressive, part-post metal sound is given free reign to soar to dizzying acrophobic openness and crunch into claustrophobic oppression. Stirring stuff.

Darkthrone – Old Star
(Blackish Metal – Norway)
Peaceville – 2019/05/31

I love Darkthrone’s “We don’t give a shit; we play what we want” attitude. You couldn’t have an album like Old Star without it. It plays out like Mayhem covering Lynyrd Skynyrd, or maybe vice versa. Oozing with attitude, it’s an album for getting smashed around a camp fire with mates after a hard day of blasphemy and church burning.

Destruction – Born to Perish
(Thrash – Germany)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/08/09

Destruction have to start aiming up. Thrash doesn’t have the luxury of resting on its laurels anymore. To plateau is to stagnate and the genre is littered with albums that, while not bad, fail to inspire because they’re a rehash of what came before. It’s been like that for a long time and these German titans seem to have missed the memo.

Devourment – Obscene Majesty
(Brutal Death Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2019/08/16

For a band that has been held up as a pillar of a genre often (self-) described as super ignorant, there’s an awful lot of intelligence packed into these ten songs. Suspiciously melodic passages too. It’s like the band care why their fans are smashing each other to a pulp in the mosh and are trying to give them better reasons to do so.

Fall of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology
(Black Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2019/07/19

Ordinarily, I tend to use ephemeral as a pejorative. Light weight. Lacking substance. That’s not the case with Patterns in Mythology. It’s ephemeral in the fae, life is fleeting way. It gives the black metal on display a curious otherness; it allows the band to explore airier, more beautiful sounds while still retaining the blackened fire.

Full of Hell – Weeping Choir
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Relapse – 2019/05/17

Full of Hell have tended to land their grindcore firmly in the experimental, avant-garde camp. Very easy to see their talent, not always as easy to enjoy their efforts. Weeping Choir breaks free of this. Still absolutely willing to experiment with grind’s form, but it is delivered as such an all-out assault that all niggling doubts vanish.

Gaahl’s WYRD – GastiR — Ghosts Invited
(Black Metal – Norway)
Season of Mist – 2019/05/31

This feels like an important album. Like there’s another leap forward contained within, up there with Bathory’s early work or Mayhem’s De Mysteriis dom Sathanas. The icy ferocity of the music is matched with a dark poetry that you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with the genre. Gaahl truly is one of this generation’s greatest skålds.

Garsdghastr – Slit Throat Requiem
(Symphonic Black Metal – Sweden/United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2019/04/26

Damn, this is sharp. I don’t expect symphonic black metal to have such a wicked cutting edge to it. But there’s no florid Dimmu-esque melodrama; there is only a ruthless dedication to making the most hellish synth-led racket they possibly can. It serves as an almighty reminder that black metal should, in all its myriad forms, intimidate.

Grand Magus – Wolf God
(Heavy Metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2019/04/19

I am, and will remain, a big fan of Grand Magus, but my fandom isn’t so one-eyed that I can’t acknowledge their faults. And vocal delivery is certainly a problem. JB’s vocals don’t have a great deal of range, which is fine when there’s a cornucopia of badass riffs to distract. Wolf God, alas, does not distract. It’s all a bit flat and uninspiring.

Inter Arma – Sulphur English
(Sludge Metal – United States of America)
Relapse – 2019/04/12

Coming across as less cataclysmic and more cathartic, Sulphur English still sounds distinctly like Inter Arma. And, yet, not. Subtle stylistic deviations are the mark of a band expanding their sonic brand. They still build tension deliberately and intensely, but they direct it differently. It’s an organic evolution to their approach to darkness.

Mgła – Age of Excuse
(Black Metal – Poland)
Northern Heritage – 2019/09/02

Complacency is the greatest enemy of consistency. It’s understandable that a band with a distinct sound and approach to their craft might to resistant to change to the own detriment. It’s why Mgła are so impressive. Age of Excuse sounds as fresh and intimidating as Groza did ten years ago. And they’ve sacrificed none of their signature sound along the way.

Mizmor (מזמור) – Cairn
(Blackened Doom Metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2019/09/06

Cairn sounds like an album attempting, but failing, to outrun itself. A great jovian heaviness acts as a gravity well, forever smashing the fevered black metal back to earth and forcing it to crawl at a near drone. It’s a thoroughly entertaining synergy of energy levels, merging the anti-human and the inhuman into one malign force.

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
(Nu-Metal – United States of America)
Roadrunner – 2019/08/09

A fine return to form, Slipknot have moved past the necessarily disjointed Gray Chapter and the terrible Stone Sourness of the previous two albums before that. 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.

Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
(Death Metal – Canada)
20 Buck Spin – 2019/07/19

If you’re going to be prolific, you’d better hope you’re good. And the thoroughly restless Tomb Mold are just that. Planetary Clairvoyance breathes fire into every track, making what is essentially an old school album fresh again. This is what happens when a band deeply care about their end product and have the smarts to deliver.

August 2016 Review Round Up

August has been one of those months that make me question whether or not I should keep going. So much top quality music passed through my ears that I found it difficult to say a bad thing. Even the album I’m most critical of is, in all honesty, pretty good.

Am I too soft? Possibly.

Or it could just be that August was one of those lucky months that came without a dud.

Altarage shone the brightest over all the other gems this month. Bit of an ironic description; they are a bleak experience. But within their withering contempt lies a brilliant stroke of death metal genius.

Grave Miasma gets the nod for honourable mention. Any other month would see them at the top of the tree. Their latest ep is a death metal masterclass.

I’m still active on Facebook, so feel free to get in touch.

Until September, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Altarage – Nihl
(Blackened death metal – Spain)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories/Doomentia Records/Iron Bonehead Productions – 2016/02/26

Dear GOD, that’s an aggressive album. Damn. But more than that, it’s an invigorating album. It’s an album that makes the genre sound vital and new in every way. It’s horrifying. It’s malevolent. Its every note and growl are invocations to indulge in all of humanity’s worst. Captivating in its darkness, Nihl doesn’t let up. Not for one second.
Try before you buy: Vortex Pyramid (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgrimage
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records/Sepulchral Voice Records – 2016/05/06

I missed Grave Miasma on their last spin through critical country. I’m guessing that was a mistake, as this EP is exactly what death metal should sound like. It is a paragon of death metal, if you will. It absolutely, and perfectly, nails the balance between blistering fury and sinister malice that the genre was built upon.
Try before you buy: Utterance of the Foulest Spirit (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Atrament – Eternal Downfall
(Blackened death crust – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/03/04

A swirling cacophony of bleakness, Eternal Downfall puts it all out there and all it is is horror. The raw spit and venom of crust turns the blackened death metal into a nightmarish amalgamation of cult and gangland initiations. A flurry of fists and feet pummelling you while thick, noisome incense chokes you.
Try before you buy: Rotting Twilight (Bandcamp)

Karcavul – Intersaone
(Blackened sludge – France)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/07/01

Sometimes muddy production aids an album. That is definitely the case here. Karcavul’s take on sludge is venomous in the extreme and the ‘recorded in a sewer’ vibe they have going on here only serves to highlight this. Torrid, toxic, and downright sinister, Intersaone is a reminder that metal often hates you.
Try before you buy: Mangepierres (Bandcamp)

Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
(Depressive rock – Sweden)
Peaceville Records – 2016/05/20

This is what a band embracing their maturity sounds like. The music is always finely balanced between melancholic and bleak. This is further complemented by vocals that are somehow achingly delicate and powerfully desperate. It certainly has its tonally heavy moments, but it is the thematic heaviness that leaves the biggest mark.
Try before you buy: Old Heart Falls (YouTube)

Leather Glove – Skin on Glass
(Crusty death metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2016/05/05

Always good to listen to death metal that doesn’t sacrifice entertainment in the name of brutality or technicality. Make no mistake, this is aggressive, but the crust influence gives it a degree of punk swagger. Over the course of the three tracks, this demo brings death metal down to the gutter and lets the dirty rock rhythms reign.
Try before you buy: Skin on Glass (Bandcamp)

Mesarthim – .- -… … . -. -.-. .
(Atmospheric black metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/08/28

Points awarded straight away for being an atmospheric black metal act that looks beyond the sylvan and verdant. Looking to the broader cosmos is a theme I feel is surprisingly underused in black metal. This album takes mankind’s insignificance in the universe and twists it into knots of futility and rage.
Try before you buy: …– (Bandcamp)

מזמור — Yodh
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Gilead Media – 2016/08/12

Did you ever get the feeling something was going to be brilliant before experiencing it? You try to manage your expectations and keep your hopes in check. Most of the time you will be let down. Not the case with מזמור, aka Mizmor. Harrowing and mournful, Yodh is a death rattle amplified and distorted
Try before you buy: iii. The Serpent Eats Its Tail (Bandcamp)

Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence
(Metallic post-punk – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/06/15

Some solid love for Killing Joke is on display here. I don’t mean to make them sound derivative, as they’re not. It’s more that they push the limits of post-punk far out into the murky waters of metal. It’s a hypnotic affair; swirling synths and meticulous guitar work produce an album furious in its deliberation.
Try before you buy: White Psyche (Bandcamp)

Revocation – Great is Our Sin
(Death thrash – United States of America)
Metal Blade Records – 2016/07/22

I first got into Revocation with their titanic release, Chaos of Forms. It’s a beast of an album. Great is Our Sin is easily its equal. Probably its superior, once I excise the nostalgia. Its speed and heaviness are rounded out by flourishes of technicality. It’s instantly accessible and deeply complicated.
Try before you buy: Only the Spineless Survive (Bandcamp)

Ritual Chamber – Obscurations (To Feast On The Seraphim)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2016/02/26

The curse of being merely good made manifest. Everything about Obscurations is on point. The riffs sound like Satan blowing off steam. The rhythms are relentless. The growls are low and guttural invocations of damnation. And, yet, for all this positivity, it’s not memorable. Definitely for genre fans, but it’s charm is ephemeral.
Try before you buy: Beings of Entropy (Bandcamp)