This list is different from others in some ways. I didn’t feel obliged to throw light on or check out the so-called “big” releases — which I did, however, but didn’t succumb to unnecessary hype. As I hope is evident, I’m focusing on releases that are outstanding in a way, mostly where originality or at least innovativeness is involved. Most of the releases mentioned are a mix of styles, which is what it takes these days, and I’m perfectly fine with it. Grindcore is neglected more often than not, but on this list are a couple of underground gems, to say the least, released in the last year, a great one for music.
Annorkoth (Russia) – The Last Days (Black Metal)
Yes, this is more of the atmospheric kind, reaching out, creating a vast landscape and sweeping melodies. But then there are few with the kind of vision and scope this band has, and successfully portrays. This is just beautiful, infusing breathtaking melodies into fast, melancholic, and atmospheric music.
Hisstonend (Russia) – II (Atmospheric Black Metal)
From Russia comes this release that’s just beautiful, instrumental almost, but undiluted in its intent. It’s like the early works of Ulver and Kampfar but almost completely without vocals, which are but whisperings from the forest, as it seems, because the album is focused on just that — beautiful, nature-ensconced Black Metal.
Urth (US) – Enemas of the Music Business (Cyber/Goregrind)
Giant balls, is what this Jon Engman band has. This guy’s the drummer of Brodequin/Liturgy/Foetopsy but over here he’s operating a finger-controlled drum machine to create devastating music that takes the sound forward in this genre. It’s sloshy and futuristic madness. If you want extremity, don’t be a hypocrite — check this out.
Tribulation (Sweden) – The Formulas of Death (Progressive Death Metal)
A band that started out playing Swedish Death Metal that was hardly original to something that can only be called a quantum leap is nothing short of remarkable. This album is virtually peerless, and while the detractors crave for the band’s primal sound, there are too many like that that could shut them up, while this one takes it forward and bends it in ways you never thought possible.
Gorguts (Canada) – Colored Sands (Transcendental Death Metal)
Gorguts has progressed, elevated its music, and claimed its rightful throne. One-word description of this album would be “transcendental”.
Bolzer (Switzerland) – Aura (Innovative Black/Death Metal)
One of the best Black/Death Metal debuts in a genre that’s saturated with faceless chaotic bands. Bolzer delivers what’s one of the best songs of this year – “Entranced by the Wolfshook” – sounding like Blut aus Nord covering Incantation channelled through early Destroyer 666.
Inhumate (France) – Expulsed (Unrestrained Death/Grind)
Grindcore never married Death Metal in a more cohesive manner without losing the individuality and expression of either. Inhumate is violent and cathartic without losing it, but coming very close — highly entertaining.
Officium Triste (Netherlands) – Mors Viri (Melodic Death/Doom Metal)
This criminally underrated band has unloaded a stellar album, infusing melodies and clean vocals, as well as Death Metal riffing and of course the Doom Metal structuring, in a way that’s just immaculate. What stands out is the band’s diversity and versatility and of course the haunting parts, countless of them on this album.
Fleshpress (Finland) – Tearing Skyholes (Sludge/Doom Metal)
It’s not one of those faceless Sludge or Doom Metal bands. Fleshpress, featuring Clandestine Blaze/Deathspell Omega band members, is crafting a brilliant form of Sludge/Doom with myriad elements and stylings, creating something that stands out from afar. It’s something that grows on you, requires close listens, but is rewarding like few others. Great stuff.
Facada (Brazil) – Nadir (Sludgy Grindcore)
The term “sludgy” is just a descriptor for this album that sounds like Rotten Sound circa Murderworks, but sluggish in a way, as if it’s mired in sludge or its sounds. It’s something that holds some individuality in a sea of so many Nasum clones these days. Grindcore is just not appreciated enough.