(For the fifth year in a row, I invited my friend Johan Huldtgren of the Swedish black metal band Obitus — whose latest release appears on one of 2014’s Elemental Nightmares splits (here) — to share with us his year-end list. Once again, he agreed. This list previously appeared on Johan’s blog.)
The year is once again coming to a close, and as tradition would dictate I find myself scrambling to get this list together. When looking out at all the other lists published so far, I realize how little new music I’ve managed to listen to over the past year. I find myself with the same excuses as in years past — the fucking day job, travel, and other obligations. I did however manage to scrounge up ten releases I thought worthy of inclusion in an end of year list.
10: Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
On record Bell Witch are not quite as good as they are live; the biggest problem is that there is just way too much clean singing on some parts and it distracts from an otherwise musically quite good album. If they can tone back on that for the next release I think they’ll have a real winner on their hands.
9: Tyranny – Aeons in Tectonic Interment
While not quite living up to 2005’s Tides of Awakening, Tyranny returns with some still great funeral doom. It’s possible the ten-year wait just built up too high expectations; by no means a bad album, just slightly disappointing.
8: Sangus – Pedicabo Mundi
Violent thrashy black metal, with four songs clocking in at around 11 minutes this hits the spot when you want something quick and nasty, as they never really lay off the tempo. Pretty much starts out at full speed and that’s where they keep it for the duration.
7: Peste Noire – La Chaise-Dyable
Famine and Peste Noire return with another weird album which, at times, falls into the black metal category. It does so often enough for me to like it, but alas, as with the previous album I just feel that it’s lacking that little extra he had on L’ordure à l’état pur. The madness on that is what pushed it over the top. Here it’s unfortunately just good, where it could have been great.
6: Hæthen – Shaped By Aeolian Winds
Atmospheric black metal with a touch of ’90s Norwegian worship, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album. Nothing really new under the sun, but that isn’t necessary when the result is as good as it is. Well-crafted and executed, this is one of those releases you’ll find yourself going back to and often finding small little things you missed last time.
5: Porta Nigra – Kaiserschnitt
I was (probably) alone in not being a huge fan of their previous release Fin De Siècle. However I’m starting to believe I perhaps dismissed it too early. After spending some time with their latest album and letting it grow on me, I might just have to go back and revisit past sins.
4: Murg – Varg & Björn
Like many of this year’s entries on the list, this is another simple and raw black metal album which just hits the spot. Nothing fancy or spectacularly original, just well-written and played.
3: Mephorash – 1557 – Rites Of Nullification
While not straying beyond their previously charted course with slow- to mid-pace orthodox black metal, this time it seems altogether more well put-together, with songs flow naturally and the fairly crisp production bringing all the parts out. Not a bad comeback.
2: Akhlys – The Dreaming I
The complex structures, the raging madness, and those vocals, yeah those vocals. In a year when there is no Nightbringer, album this fills that void perfectly. This album got so many spins this year that if mp3s could wear out, I’m sure they’d all be dead by now. An absolutely amazing album which none should miss.
1: Mgła – Exercises in Futility
This is hands-down album of the year. Despite its late release, it’s easily my most-played album in 2015. I must admit that when I first listened I wasn’t sold on it. It took several listens before it had seared my brain enough to make me realize how utterly brilliant it is. I’m struggling to find any flaws here. The production fits it perfectly, the instrumentation is spot-on, and even the lyrics (which let’s be honest can even on the best albums be lacking) are for once well-formulated. Nothing short of a fantastic album all the way through.