(For the fourth year in a row our old friend SurgicalBrute weighs in with his list of the year’s best metal.)
Okay, let’s be honest… When it comes to end of the year lists, no one really cares about these intro paragraphs. They’re usually some anecdote about how this was a such great year in metal, and truthfully, we all know I could be writing erotic hobbit fan fiction up here and most of you wouldn’t notice… You’re going to skip right to the music. So I’m just going to make a couple of quick points
First, I don’t know if it was the abnormally grim and frosty weather that we got last winter, but this past year seemed to be a particularly strong one for black metal… at least for me.
Second, this was probably the hardest list I’ve written. Lots of good albums came out this year, but there wasn’t a whole lot that actually stood head and shoulders above the rest. It just seemed like a year full of very solid, enjoyable releases.
So, with that out of the way, on to the important stuff (…and no, there’s no particular order to this).
Burstin Out – Outburst of Blasphemy (Blackened speed)
The success of Midnight seems to have created a resurgence of interest in dirty speed metal, and this year sees another strong contender throw their hat into the ring. There’s not much to say about the music… it’s fast, nasty, and hooks you instantly.
Sivyj Yar – From the Dead Villages’ Darkness (pagan/black)
A late addition to my year-end list, Russia’s Sivyj Yar came out of nowhere and blew me away. It’s not often you run across it, but this is the kind of folk-inspired black metal where words like “beautiful” and “passionate” really seem to be entirely appropriate.
Kriegsmaschine – Enemy of Man (black)
While Kriegsmaschine technically predates Mgla, I think at this point they’ll probably be seen as more of a side project. That doesn’t mean the music is in anyway secondary though. Despite the mid-paced tempo the sound is aggressive and immerses you in its macabre atmosphere
Nasheim – Solens vemod (atmospheric black)
From a band formed back in 2003, this full-length has been a long time coming, but that wait has resulted in a fantastic piece of atmospheric black metal. Dark and brooding, the music is drenched with melencholy and winter cold.
Sorcier Des Glaces – Ritual of the End (black)
Long-running black metal band Sorcier Des Glaces have a history of consistently great albums in their discography, and their newest is no exception. This is vintage black metal that shines by keeping things simple yet keenly melodic.
Zom – Flesh Assimilation (black/death)
Those of you who read my list last year may well remember my inclusion of ZOM’s Multiversal Holocaust EP. This year sees the release of their first full-length, and with that comes a return to the blisteringly fast wall of thunder, as well as the crushing waves of doom that define their sound.
Doombringer – The Grand Sabbath (black/death)
Wow… talk about a shock. I’d honestly thought that Doombringer was dead in the water, so I was very happy to discover this album was getting a late 2014 release. For those not familier, Doombringer carve their own path with a distinct lack of repetiton in comparison to other bands of the genre; the music has a heavy death metal base, with a large amount of blackened darkness added to the mix.
Execration – Morbid Dimensions (death)
Norway may be better known for their black metal bands, but that doesn’t mean it can’t create some impressive death metal when it wants to. Morbid Dimensions is Execration’s third full-length and while they don’t hit you with mean-spirited brutality of, say, fellow countrymen Obliteration, the borderline progressive elements woven throughout the album create a uniqueness that can’t be matched.
Saturnine – Mors Vocat (black/sludge/doom)
I was surprised as hell to find out about this release as I hadn’t heard any news about them since their awesome demo back in 2012. The good news is, the full-length is every bit as good, so I’ll just repeat what I said last time: These ladies are the real deal when it comes to sludge. It’s dirty and doom-laden with just a bit of black metal thrown in for good measure
Sinmara – Aphotic Womb (Black)
A black metal supergroup, Iceland’s Sinmara brings together members from various personal favorites like Svartidauði, Wormlust, and Slidhr and the result is the kind of orthodox black metal that makes waves in the underground. This is everything I like in black metal… heavy and aggressive with a dark atmosphere and dynamic song structure.
Symptom – Caverns of Katabasis (death/doom)
This is the second year in a row that Symptom has released a full-length, and this is the second year in a row that it’s flown almost completely under people’s radars, which is really a damn shame. This album lurches along like a a slow-rolling juggernaut of destruction, sprinting just long enough to take you by surprise before returning to a crawl.
Ondfødt – Hexkonst (Black)
You really can’t go wrong with Finnish black metal and the debut album by Ondfødt shows just why. Taking influences from both the Swedish and Norwegian scene, this is a very simple style of metal that’s simple to screw up as well. Fortunately, the riffs are strong and the music is well done, with dark melodies and a dark sound.
Narbeleth – A Hatred Manifesto (raw black)
One-man black metal projects are a dime a dozen, and usually underground for good reason, but with the release of his second album, Narbeleth’s sole member Drakkar shows he may be ready for bigger things. Remenicent of the well known Norwegian sound, this is a promising album of raw, stripped-down, riff-driven black metal.
Fuoco Fatuo – The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of What Remains (death/doom)
With only two EP’s and a split under their belt, this was a damn fine album for Fuoco Fatuo’s first full-length release. Incorporating the elements of a black metal atmosphere with crushing doom and blistering death, the sound stays cohesive throughout.
Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall (death)
There’s very little to say about this album that hasn’t been said by several dozen other people, so I’m just going to add that while the influence of both Incantation and Immolation can be felt throughout the music, Dead Congregation shows that there’s still some inovation left in the formula. This is without a doubt the best death metal album released this year.
Sempiternal Dusk – Sempiternal Dusk
Honestly, with members from Shroud of the Heretic and Aldebaran involved, there was no way I wasn’t going to like this. Cavernous, lo-fi production, and crawling doom-inspired riffs and vocals that could rattle mountains, this is everything I enjoy in extreme metal.
Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith (atmospheric black)
Mare Cognitum is another one-man black metal band that defies the stereotypical bedroom recordings that have saturated the genre. Within the trancelike qualities of atmospheric black metal hides some enjoyably dynamic and complex music.
Swallowed – Lunarterial (death/doom)
I discovered Swallowed back in 2010, and while it’s only been four years, I swear I’ve been waiting on this album for what seems like forever. I’m happy to say this is everything I could have hoped for… a slow-rolling crawl of doom with moments of chaotic death metal frenzy.
Vanhelgd – Relics of Sulphur Salvation (death)
Among the numerous death metal bands that have tried to recapture the early 90’s Stockholm sound, Vanhelgd has always stood out to me. They manage to create a truly evil atmosphere with their music, giving it a dark edge that seems to be missing from so many other bands.
Mortuus – Grape of the Vine (black)
A two-piece act out of Sweden, Mortuus isn’t exactly the most prolific black metal band, but their work with acts like Ofermod and Ondskapt means the music carries a very strong pedigree. This is trudging, mid-tempo metal bordering on doom at times, so those of you looking for a speedier blastbeat-heavy style will be disappointed.
Temple Of Void (death/doom)
Owl’s Blood (Black)
Eternal Khan (doom/black)
Zom might have made my list if it wasn’t for the absolute worst production job i’ve heard in years. It’s painfully unlistenable, and who ever decided that the guitars should pump to the kick should be slapped.
Production didnt bother me too much on this, it wasnt any great shakes on heir EP last year and I still enjoyed it
I thought it was more of a deliberate choice by the band themselves.
Burstin’ Out sounds nice. Going to have to check that one out.
Yeah, if you like that style definitely check them out..I stumbled into them by accident while checking out black n roll bands one night and they stood out to me
Execration is on my list too 🙂 great album…nite to check out all of the others I’ve missed…
Cool, let me know what you think of the other stuff on here
Sorcier des Glaces and Execration are good picks that seemed to get overlooked by most. When people say there’s nothing new in metal, Execration are one of the bands that I just assume they’ve never heard.
Sorcier des Glaces seems to get overlooked an awful lot for some reason, just not a name you see thrown around very much considering how long theyve been around.
Im really surprised Execration wasnt on more lists though, this seemed like the year they would kind of break through after 2011’s Odes to the Occult
This is the list I’ve been waiting for. All the epic Black Metal cheese. Mmmm.
I have a fan..awesome!
Thanks though man, glad you liked it. Yeah, it really did seem like a great year for black metal..one of the strongest in a while
One of the lists I always look forward to. And this one is great as usual. Loved Sivyj Yar (absolutely floored for that matter), Kriegsmachine (love Mgla so this is an instant catch on), Narbaleth and Symptom.
All of which i came to know about thanks to your list.
Much appreciated, especially given all the music I know you track down every year. I totally agree about Sivyj Yar, that album really was an amazing release, if I bothered to actually rank things that would be near the top
Finally a black metal list! So many good bands I haven never even heard before!
Christians to the LIONS!!!!
Not all black, as theres a fair bit of nasty death metal mixed in, but hopefully you’ll enjoy those albums as well.
wow, some very tasty stuff on here that i hadn’t heard : )
Thanks…glad you liked it
Loved Sinmara and Mare Cognitum, but I definitely haven’t spent as much time with them as I should. And I don’t know why I overlooked Nasheim when reading Austin Lunn’s list, but I’m gonna rectify that this very instant.
If you like atmospheric black metal then Id highly recommend it..also check out that Owl’s Blood album in my honorable mentions, I think he had it included on his list as well
Dammit, I DID put a lot of Black Metal on all my lists… the “Great” one even makes explicit mention of how good a year this has been for Black Metal. Although it’s not always the same sort of Black Metal I guess.
In seriousness though, a lot of this list could have been transposed from my “Didn’t have time to listen to yet” list. Must find more time to listen to music.
I agree with you (for once 🙂 ), it was a really strong year for black metal, and thats saying something because Im usually more of a death metal guy
Theres always too much music though, Im just now finding albums Id probably have tried to include on this list if Id heard them sooner
We’ve had an unusual amount of agreements this year actually… I’m worried.
Im not..clearly your time around me has brought you to your senses
Lots of stuff here I missed that I’ll have to check out when I’m back in town. Your list never disappoints.
I was eagerly awaiting Doombringer, but somehow it didn’t connect with me when I finally heard it. Maybe I’ll give it another shot.
The only other ones here that I’ve heard (Swallowed, Dead Congregation) made my list. Vanhelgd I just heard recently thanks to another list here, but it would have made mine if I’d heard it in time.
Thanks man…the Doombringer might not click for you, it happens. I know I dont get the appeal of that Black Magic album a few people have put up. Thats what makes these lists so fun, we’ve all got different taste
..Im a huge mark for Vanhelgd, as I said, the atmosphere those guys create makes their style of Swedish death stand out..it still sounds evil to me which is something a lot of other bands dont manage. I highly recommend tracking down their back catalog as well
Really enjoyed your list, and if I were inclined to post a year end list myself it would no doubt read very similar to your own. With a few exceptions of course. For example, Totorum’s album Katabasis: an album worthy of comparison with the best of those still playing under the banner of black metal orthodoxy. The closing track to this album is quite possibly one of the best songs I have ever heard. Ang given your taste in music, I think you might enjoy it as well.
I just heard about that Tortorum album in maybe the last week or so, still havent had a chance to check it out, but Ive seen only good stuff about it. Ive got a lot of albums I still need to catch up on before the year is out
I completely forgot about that Tortorum album.
This is a really great list! A lot of obscure releases that I missed and all of them sound like something I’d like. Good to see Mare Cognitum and Swallowed on here as well; both released fantastic albums.
While I obviously think my whole list is worth checking out, let me point you at Symptom and Sorcier Des Glaces as two really overlooked albums this year. Really great stuff
As a veritable BM noob I found this list super helpful!!
Im glad you liked it…
I tend to like my metal to be on the raw, lo-fi end of the spectrum, but if you ever want some more recommendations just ask