(We are grateful that for the third year in a row Austin Lunn accepted our invitation to share his favorite releases from the year that’s about to end. He is, of course, the man behind one of ours: Panopticon’s Autumn Eternal.)
First off, sorry for the excessive length of my list this year. There was a lot of to choose from and a lot of records to listen to this year. I am sure that I have forgotten some excellent records, and immediately after this is published it’ll hit me. Please keep in mind that there is no particular order or ranking on this list… it is simply a list of records I really enjoyed this year, and I hope that others have, too.
Nechochwen – The Heart of Akamon
Nechochwen is a band I have been a fan of for quite some time, and with every single release they redefine themselves, further refining their craft and expanding upon the tremendous foundation they have labored so hard to build. They include their passions in the music, incredible musicianship, and the very precious and rich native history that inspires them. I feel they are a true example of American metal, drawing from the heart-breaking history of this land we live on… screaming the sorrow and loss into the dark, hoping that it will resound in some sort of echo of triumph.
Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields
This is without a doubt my most listened-to album this year. I have been a fan since the release of Angels of Distress and have been hooked ever since. It is music I listen to to calm myself… music I often play at night to drift off to sleep to… this is their absolute finest and will be the standard that funeral doom is to be compared to in my mind from here on out. Crushing, sorrowful, atmospheric…
Galar – De Gjenlevende
This band is one of the finest Norway has to offer at the moment. In my mind, they belong comfortably alongside bands like Borknagar, Windir, and Blodhemn-era Enlaved. They are epic in scope… the performances are incredible… the song-writing is challenging and unique. I have been obsessed with every album since their first, and with each successive release they break the standard they set for themselves on the preceding album.
Grift – Syner
Without a doubt this is my favorite black metal album of the year. It belongs right alongside Nasheim’s brilliant Solens Vemod album… a sorrowful, gut-wrenching black metal album drenched in atmosphere and emotion. The recording is perfect… the packaging for the LP is amazing… this album is without flaws.
Isvind – Gud
One of the best black metal albums to come out of Norway in quite some time, in my opinion… Isvind has been around for a long time and this is an incredible album. It evokes some of the grit and grime of Dark Waters Stir but pushes their intensity and sound to a new level. It is creative, unique, and pummeling. The drumming on this record is vicious… the vocals are brutal (and at times really unique and inventive). I have listened to this album a ton this year and will likely continue to do so for years to come.
Alda – Passage
Alda are one of the finest metal bands America has to offer. This album is such a moving, beautiful record… in the first moments of “The Clearcut”, the music, lyrics, and vocals are so honest and beautiful… it brings the images of the song to mind. This record is exactly the kind of music I am constantly searching for… fragile yet fierce, raw yet clear, emotional and artistic. This is a perfect album, in my opinion.
Tau Cross – s/t
This album… This is so goddam good. It is the album that should have come in between Amebix’s Monolith and their epic reunion album Sonic Mass. It has a much more punk sound than Sonic Mass and certainly picks up where Monolith left off with its driving drums and crusty riffs, grimy recording, and the Baron’s weathered vocals. The lyrics are amazing… Rob’s insight is always much appreciated, but this critique of the state of the world is refreshing and inspiring. The Baron has a lot to offer metalheads and Punks alike and I for one and grateful for it. This record rules.
Swallow the Sun – Songs From the North
There are certainly moments that I like more than others on this album, but as a long-time fan of this band I couldn’t help but be excited when I saw they were doing a triple full-length.
Swallow the Sun’s first two albums are absolutely crucial listening to me. In my mind they were the soundtrack to a miserable time in my life and certainly served as an incredible outlet for a time in my life that was dark and dreary… seeming to drag on and on. Swallow the Sun articulates that forlorn and crushing European death doom style perfectly. This record, or should I say these records, are diverse and creative… exploring many facets of the band, isolating their elements and exploring them to extremes. This album deserves praise simply on the fact that in the age of digital media, not many bands are willing to put so much time and money on the line to create such an epic endeavor.
Blood of the Black Owl – WARmth
Blood of the Black Owl returns with more of Chet Scott’s signature ritualistic, ambient/ metal hybrid, but with a stronger presence of acoustics and a more organic sound this time. I love this band and am always excited to hear more music from Blood of the Black Owl… this album is certainly long-awaited and a bit of a departure from his heavier sound, but certainly a worthy addition to his discography.
Harrow – Fallow Fields
Somewhere between Skagos and Agalloch, this band is one I have been watching for a long time. They have always written good songs, but to me this is the album where all the planets aligned for them… it has this perfectly raw but discernible production… unique songwriting and structure… cool arrangements and great performances… it is really an enjoyable album.
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
When I was 13, Draconian Times came out. A friend of mine gave it to me for my birthday. It’s weird thinking about it… I had no idea at that time that Paradise Lost had been one of the originators of the English Death/Doom metal scene…I had no idea what that was… I was 13 in the ’90s in suburban Tennessee.
As time went on, this band continued to be important to me… as my interests changed and grew, I dug deeper and deeper… in my early twenties I was obsessed with the gloom and grit of Lost Paradise, Gothic, and Shades of God… I have enjoyed many of their albums as they have slowly returned to form, but with each record I would say, “Just wait till the next one…”
Well… here it is. This is THE NEXT ONE I have been waiting for. Brutal as hell… gloomy and grey… heavy and dark… and with Mr. Holmes’ filthy death vocals that I had been wanting to hear, coupled with the best moments of Icon and Draconian Times.
Obsequiae – Aria Of Vernal Tombs
Incredible composition and performance wrapped up in an album that tells an amazing musical story, commanding the listener. Perfectly timed breaths of relief, giving the listeners time to digest the intensity they have just consumed… this is a firm step forward for Obesquiae’s already impressive history, and the standard that many of us in the US should measure our musicianship against. Absolutely brilliant.
Seeds In Barren Fields – Let The Earth Be Silent After Ye
Sweden’s SIBF return with a more emotional, darker, more vicious sophomore album. Decidedly blacker but with moments of beauty… tons of melody, but also dissonance and ugliness. It’s a truly interesting album that requires lots of attention, as it is deep and complex.
Solbrud – Jærtegn (2014)
This came out in 2014 but I don’t give a damn… I just found it this year.
THIS is phenominal Danish black metal. Pummeling, melodic… fierce… reminds me a bit of if you took WITTR’s Black Cascade and Forteresse’s Métal Noir Québécois and tossed it in a blender…. it’s constant and intense… incredible.
Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short
I love this band and have for quite a while, but am often chastised for the albums I love most by this band… ( I’m pretty obsessed with A Handful of Stars… don’t get me wrong… I love everything they have done, but that album in particular is amazing to my ears). This album is on most everyone I know’s year end-list, and with great reason… it is amazing. Full of passion and rage… intensity and absolutely incredible drumming.
Khors – Night Falls Onto The Fronts Of Ours
Somewhere stylistically between Drudkh and Kroda (who also released a great album this year), this album expands on the strongest moments of their previous album Wisdom of Centuries and is a really heavy, atmospheric album with pretty slick production. It’s got great performances by the band members and the songwriting is awesome. It’s atmospheric and moody… lots of interesting keyboards and guitar work.
Thulcandra – Ascension Lost
Thulcandra is continuing on their path with Dissection-worshiping melodic blackened death metal. Each album sounds to me like songs that very well could have been cut from Storm Of The Light’s Bane, and it’s fucking great. I love this band.
I hope they keep it coming.
Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages
Healthy doses of (early) Morbid Angel-esque brutality, with the filth and grime of Gothic-era Paradise Lost… their vocals remind me a lot of His Hero Is Gone… this is awesome death metal… bleak, brutal, and filthy.
Kjeld – Skym
Awesome… totally vicious black metal. This drummer is completely insane.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og ódreðu
This LP belongs right alongside a band like Mgla… it’s dark and aggressive. intense without being overbearing… raw production… gravelly vocals… interesting riffs… just the right amount of atmosphere. Awesome record.
Haethen – Shaped By Aeolian Winds
Fantastic and aggressive black metal. Perfectly raw but balanced production. Lightning fast blasts… reminds me at moments of earlier Immortal, Wrath of the Tyrant-era Emperor, Nemesis Divina-era Satyricon… but with its own unique flare and instrumentation.
Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
This is the record Candlemass should be trying to make. I am a huge Candlemass fan and haven’t been particularly nuts about anything after King of the Grey Islands (and I might add, the demo versions of those songs in the DOOMOLOGY box set are absolutely crushing). This record is awesome and was given to me for my birthday by a good friend… he knew just what I needed. This is amazing, epic doom that is sure to be revered as an essential record for fans of the genre.
Wilt – Moving Monoliths
Gloomy and oppressive… black metal with doom elements, depressive atmospheres… fans of Strid should take note… this band is the soundtrack to the abyss.
Mgła – Exercises in Futility
I was late to this band… I am not sure why. My friend Jan showed them to me in a night of heavy drinking at my place. We listened to With Hearts Toward None and I really liked it. This album is an awesome record… but holy crap… that drummer. He is so inventive and unique… his parts are so interesting and intricate yet completely in the pocket and reasonable. He doesn’t over-play at all; instead, he makes everything interesting, sitting in just the right place at just the right time.
My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery
I love My Dying Bride, so I simply feel an obligation to put their new album on my list. If you like My Dying Bride, you will like this. If you don’t like My Dying Bride, you won’t like this. It is cool to see Calvin Robertshaw return to the band again, although they had some great records with Hamish on guitar as well.
Air Formation – Were We Ever Here
Air Formation’s Daylight Storms album is one of the most often played non-metal records around our house. I love the production and tone of the record… the songs are awesome, and its a great shoegaze record. It’s cool to see them active again and I feel like this new EP fits right in with their Daylight Storms LP and their 57 Octaves Below EP. Awesome, dreamy, atmospheric music.
Grift are a great band… but the Saiva track on this is really something. Saiva is fucking amazing. I can’t wait to hear a full-length from Saiva. Fans of early Ulver and Lönndom take note.
Old Graves – This Ruin Beneath Snowfall
I have listened to this EP over and over. It is sorrowful yet aggressive… unique and emotive black metal with some interesting acoustic passages. Fans of Woods of Desolation would be super-interested this, I reckon. It’s a very good EP.
Obsidian Tongue/ Infera Bruo split LP
I haven’t spent as much time with the Infero Bruo side of this record as I should, but the Obsidian Tongue song is one that I have loved since its inception. I was fortunate enough to hear demo versions of this song along the way, and they performed it at Winterblot festival last December… it’s an incredible song crafted by phenomenal musicians. Infera Bruo also released a great album this past year, In Conjuration, which you should check out as well.
Manii – Skuggeheimen
What is essentially a new incarnation of the amazing Norwegian black metal band MANES, whose early work is essential in the blueprint of depressive black metal… this EP is a re-recording of two MANES songs from their superb demo, “Til Kongens Grav De Døde Wandrer” and ” Ned I Stillheten”. This EP is fucking awesome. I have listened to this a lot (as well as their preceding full-length, Kollaps). If you are into older-sounding, raw black metal with a lot of atmosphere, this is for you.
Addaura – And The Lamps Expire
This record is awesome. Fans of Skagos and Fauna will certainly love this… it is very atmospheric and yet organic… a beautiful record indeed… deserving of many many listens.
Falls of Rauros – Hail Wind and Hewn Oak
First proper full-length by Maine’s finest finally reissued on wax. Raw and beautiful… this is an introspective album. It is very close to my heart and it is awesome to have it on wax. Mastered by Andrew from Nechochwen and with new art by Nate Burns.
Waldgeflüster – Femundsmarka LP
This is one of my favorite albums of all time. One of the finest bands Germany has to offer, in my opinion. An absolutely perfect album finally on wax. I’m also going to throw in here that I have been lucky enough to hear the demo’s for the next Waldgeflüster album and they are completely insane. Much darker, more complex song structures… it is going to be something else!
Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith
I had meant to add this release to my list last year, but there were so many great records that I forgot until it was already published. This record is amazing… reminds me of Blut Aus Nord but more technical and with a more extreme sense of urgency. The LP is amazing…crazy colored vinyl with vibrant art. Killer album.