Yes, of course, it’s just an arbitrary date, one that has no intrinsic meaning. The arrow of time moves inexorably forward, the segmentation of its path into old years and new ones solely our own creation, one more effort to impose some kind of communal order on chaos. The effort fails, but as an occasion for remembering good times and bad, and perhaps kindling hope for a better tomorrow, the clicking of the clock past midnight tonight serves a laudable purpose. Even as simply an excuse for a cathartic blowout, it’s a good thing, if that’s your thing.
The calendar will flip over, but I’ll just keep writing as if nothing is about to change. Why the hell not? I have a lot of new songs and videos I’ve discovered over the last 48 hours. I’ve collected a few of them — the result of hard choices — and will make some of them the subject of this last NCS post of 2016, and the rest the subject of our first post of 2017 tomorrow.
Happy Fucking New Year to all of you from all of us. My resolution, over which I have no control, is to be here with you one year from today, saying the same damned thing.
This last day of an unusual and unsettling year marks the release of an unusual and unsettling album that it’s our pleasure to premiere for you. The album’s name is Civilization Is the Tomb of Our Noble Gods, and it was created by La Torture Des Ténèbres from Ottawa, Canada.
I’ve tried, but I haven’t succeeded, in stitching together my thoughts about the album in a coherent, organized form. The music defeats such efforts, or at least my own. More likely, I just haven’t yet reassembled the parts of my mind that were fragmented but also left spellbound by what I’ve heard. So I’ll just scatter my impressions before you like leaves that are still swirling in the wind.
(2016 was the year when I discovered Montréal’s Tumbleweed Dealer through their very cool new album Tokes, Hatred & Caffeine. The band’s main man Seb Painchaud has very expansive and very eclectic musical tastes, and in this year-end list he pulls us off our usual beaten paths by highlighting favorite releases that are outside the usual metal lists… including a lot of Not-Metal.)
To be honest, I fucking hate Christmas. Yup, that’s how I’m going to start this article. I fucking hate the holidays. I hate the parties, the gift giving and the family gatherings. It’s cold as fuck up here at this time of year and snow isn’t the beautiful white flurries you see in Christmas movies in a big city like Montreal, it’s just grey, wet mush that ends up everywhere, ensuring wet socks from the second you leave the house until the moment you brave the arctic winds once again to make it home.
The one thing I actually enjoy about the holidays: End of year list season.
I love going through every list I can check out and every album I haven’t heard yet, and try to agglomerate everyone else’s discoveries into my own list. That’s why I put out a top 100 list every year. Not 25, 50, or even 75. 100. And I always end up cutting albums to bring it down to 100.
But 100 is a bit much for here and there’s no point in mentioning the same albums as everyone else. So I offered NCS to write a list of albums you won’t find on most metalhead’s lists.
When it comes to defining sludge, the density is the prime factor, so I find myself throwing in anything that is not dark enough to be doom. Sludge generally holds true to its punk rooks, but projects defined as stoner metal are also being included here. That doesn’t mean there is not legit sludge all over this list, as sludge is the dirty crust punk cousin of doom. Some sludge bands have just grown up and gotten more rock ‘n’ roll over time, so what sludge is has changed some over the years and this year’s crop is certainly evidence of that fact. Some of these bands might even think they are doom or have gotten their start as a doom band, but now have smoked too much pot to keep it that dark. So heaviness is often an organic by-product of the sounds compiled here with the top ten sludge albums of 2016.
(For the sixth year in a row, I invited my friend Johan Huldtgren of the Swedish black metal band Obitus — whose new album Slaves of the Vast Machine will be released in early 2017 by Black Plague Records and Hypnotic Dirge Records — to share with us his year-end list. Once again, he agreed. This list previously appeared on Johan’s own blog.)
As Listmania season is upon us I can only once again conclude that there are many, many albums that I’ve missed. However, this is why series such as these are helpful; without all the other lists I’d never have known what I’d missed. Luckily I didn’t see too many of my picks in the other main lists, so hopefully this list will give you something new to check out.
(NCS contributor Grant Skelton prepared four year-end lists that we’ve been posting this week, and this is the last of them. The first one focused on thrash, the second one on death metal, and the third on doom.)
The term “miscellaneous” carries with it certain negative connotations. We tend to think of “miscellany” as something that’s an afterthought, something with a chink in its greatness, if even a small one. But that isn’t the case here.
I created this post for 2 reasons. First, several of the bands in this list defy classification so much that I opted not to include them in a particular “best of” genre list. Second, I found that I didn’t have enough metal from a particular genre to warrant doing a “best of” list specifically for that genre.
It pleases me to say that 4 of the albums on this list are black metal albums. I’ve dabbled in black metal before. But as the year has drawn to a close, I’ve been making a point to listen to more. So if you’re a relative novice to black metal (like me), I believe you’ll find several bands in this list that will be worth your while. So let’s get started.
We’re still not finished posting our own year-end lists — that will continue today and into next week — but this morning I learned about an “international list of lists” that I thought you folks would find interesting.
To the Teeth is the name of a Facebook-based metal blog that began life last May. The proprietor, Dutch journalist Peter van der Ploeg, regularly posts about new extreme metal songs and full releases, and he has a Reddit thread in which he often goes into greater depth about what appears more briefly at To the Teeth on FB.
To compile this “international list of lists”, Peter began by assembling a population of 83 year-end lists. In order to be included in this “list of list” exercise, the original lists had to rank the albums numerically; of course, not all lists do that. The 83 that Peter chose included a total of 558 albums and were drawn from these sources, which include a lot of “big platform” mainstream publications as well as lists from scurrilous metal-only outlets such as our own:
(We present Karina Cifuentes’ interview of Erik Molnar, one of the guitarists in the Swedish band Hyperion, whose 2016 album Seraphical Euphony appeared frequently in our readers’ year-end lists and is indeed damned good.)
I have not made any end-of-the-year list and I probably won’t do it this year neither, because I think it’s difficult to rank albums, so I prefer to stick to interviews at this time of the year. I chose Hyperion this time, an excellent band from Sweden.
Metal music to me is pretty closely connected to my emotions and I really appreciate it when a band gets me to feel something, and even more if it manages to awaken a wide variety of emotions. That’s one of my main criteria for a band to make it to my personal egalitarian list.
Hyperion is just one such band. Their music evokes a wide range of emotions, and I love that. Seraphical Euphony is a pretty interesting album that has a really well-structured composition and it succeeds in giving the listener awesome epic buildups and symphonic elements. Interspersed throughout the album you will find both melancholic and merrier tunes beautifully entwined with powerful Black and Death Metal riffs and a totally relentless and crushing Swedish style of drumming.
(Ken Sorceron had a very busy year, touring both Europe and the U.S. with Abigail Williams, singing with The Faceless, announcing a new band named The Accuser that has signed with Blood Music, and more. But in response to our invitation, he still managed to assemble a list of favorite 2016 releases that we’re now sharing with you — on his birthday!)
I didn’t get to listen to a ton of new releases this year because I was so busy doing my own music, but here are the top ten releases I can remember really liking in 2016.
In no particular order:
(TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut album by Norway’s Fleshmeadow and brings us a premiere of a full album stream.)
Ok. This is my REAL last 2016 review. I promise. And it comes with a stream premiere.
Fleshmeadow are in the vein of progressive AND technical black metal that I’ve fallen in love with. When I think of black metal I enjoy, I think of bands like Khonsu, Keep of Kalessin, Dark Fortress, Old Man’s Child. These bands are always doing interesting things, writing superbly crafted riff-storms of frigid ice comprised of foreign alien matter and scathing nihilism toward existence itself — and so is Fleshmeadow.
Fleshmeadow’s Umbra came out on December 16th, so it’s another one of those releases that has come too late in the month to get its proper year-end recognition. That’s really sad, because if you like more deliberate, progressive, and machine-cold black metal, this might be the best black metal album released in 2016 that wasn’t Khonsu’s The Xun Protectorate.