(We are again fortunate to present another year-end list we eagerly await each year, from an immensely talented musician and a damned fine human being — Austin Lunn of Panopticon and Seidr.)
I have to apologize in advance for the length of this list. It has been a great year for metal in my opinion… many, many releases to enjoy and as a result my list is super-long. I cut some stuff for the the sake of brevity… and speaking of brevity, I will do my best to keep the accompanying blurbs short this time around.
This has been an intense year for me, and many of these albums will forever be the soundtrack for those memories in my mind…. so here goes:
The Morningside “Yellow”
I have enjoyed this band for many years but this record is absolutely their best. The production is slick but honest and the songs are rich with melody and melancholy. A perfect dark metal record for grey autumnal days… Fans of mid-era Agalloch, Katatonia, and October Tide take note.
Woman is The Earth “The Torch of Our Final Night”
The sons of South Dakota return with a complex, emotional, and melodic record. This time much more progressive and full of twists and turns than their previous albums. Every release this band has done has been good, but this album sees them push themselves and grow in a way that is unexpected and further displays why they are such a great band both on wax and live.
Forteresse “Themes Pour la Rébellion”
Forteresse return with a pummeling assault full of fury and history. I was extremely excited to hear of a new album coming from this Quebec quartet and it absolutely did not disappoint. The melodies are fierce and razor-sharp with punishing drums and perfect production.
A personal and introspective record from Munich’s Waldgeflüster. This album has more extreme elements than the previous album, in the sense that the metal is more brutal but the mellow parts are more mellow. More clean singing this time around but also a lot more aggressive moments. The record ends with a serene acoustic moment and it truly sets the stage for whatever is to come. Walgeflüster has always been and will always be a journey.
Loth S/T LP
Well-done continuation of some ’90s black metal elements drawing inspiration from Ulver’s Bergtatt and Burzum’s Hvis Lysset Tar Oss but also reminds me of early Agalloch at times. There are certainly original ideas, lots of heavier moments and slower tempos, but this band is doing a service by giving people more of what they may be craving… well-written, well-performed black metal that brings vast landscapes to mind. An excellent record.
Wędrujący wiatr “O Turniach jeziorach i nocnych szlakach”
This is the record I anticipated the most this year. It absolutely did not disappoint.
Go somewhere quiet, build yourself a fire, and listen to it over and over with headphones on. It’s perfect black metal with raw production, sparse folk instruments, and passionate vocals. Truly a magical record.
Diverse and interesting black metal with some slower elements. Three songs… reminds me of early Enslaved at moments and Ancestors Blood at times, but really that is an unfair comparison. Excellent album.
Eneferens “In the Hours Beneath”
This record was a surprise to me… I wasn’t aware it was being released this year and I have been listening to it pretty much constantly over the past couple of weeks… it reminds me of the best elements of Opeth around the My Arms Your Hearse and Still Life era, but with its own unique aggression and blackened metal moments. It is a wonderful record… introspective, passionate… humble and pure… never over-indulgent but always interesting.
I like this band a lot… this record reminds me a lot of earlier Arckanum but with some more piss and vinegar mixed in. I love the production on it, raw but balanced.
Mare Cognitum “Luminiferous Aether”
The first track on this record really took me by surprise. This album is diverse and quite brutal… a great addition to Mare Cognitum’s extremely strong discography. Awesome melodies and atmosphere.
This record is truly gut-wrenching and personal in every aspect. I have known these guys for many years as I am their former bandmate. In my mind, Anagnorisis didn’t really start until I left the band. I consider Beyond All Light to be their first album and this as their second… this album proves to be vital, honest and emotional. The sound of a man coming to terms with himself and refusing to hide from it anymore. I respect this record tremendously.
Sanctuaire “Le Sang sur l’Acier”
Excellent black metal with some folk elements… reminds me of Forteresse but with a different, more pagan feeling. I have enjoyed this album a lot.
Marsh Dweller “The Weight Of Sunlight”
A great record by a good friend. Fans of Nechochwen, Obesquiae, and ’90s Swedish melodic death metal take note…
I had no Idea these guys were working on a new record, so I was excited to see the pre-order up. This is certainly their strongest effort. The vocals are savage. Melancholic dark metal/ black metal with some depressive and post-metal moments… heavy production and lots of melody.
Death Fortress “Deathless March of the Unyielding”
Raw, razor-sharp melodic blackened death. This band sounds like a lower-fi version of Dissection to me. This rules.
Grand Magus “Sword Songs”
A great record to drunkenly scream the lyrics along to with your friends. Unapologetically heavy metal… full of amazingly ridiculous lyrics and insane vocals.
An excellent return to form. I wasn’t fond of their last album but had loved most everything before it, and this album picks up where they left off with Khagan. It has the folk elements present with lots of unique instruments and throat singing. The black metal moments remind me a lot of earlier Drudkh. Its a great record.
Interesting melodies, ranging from mid-paced to blasting… intricate guitar lines with interjecting keyboards… this album picks up and elaborates on Ensamhetens Andar, continuing in the direction that album took Stilla’s journey. Moody, brooding, and dark black metal from Sweden.
It has been a while since there has been new Kältetod. This is more of what you’ve come to expect from this band… good raw black metal.
Heavy-production black metal with black-and-roll moments and a distinctly rebellious message. Sounds good to me.
The intro alone is reason to love this record. There are some really phenomenal melodies on this record and lots of moving and powerful performances. The last song blows me away…
Darkthrone “Arctic Thunder”
Cheers to this band for always doing whatever the hell they feel like doing.
The production on this is awesome… gritty and raw but punchy without sounding synthetic. Some of the album reminds me a bit of moments from Hate Them and Sardonic Wrath.
Dark, ominous, filthy black metal from England with some surprising groove and hypnotic moments. There are moments that remind me of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis…, but then there are the crushingly heavy moments that are almost doomy.
Wildernessking “Mystical Future”
This is my favorite record in this band’s discography. There are some almost post-metal and progressive moments. Awesome album by an awesome band.
Nothing “Tired of Tomorrow”
Really well-done shoegaze/ atmospheric rock.
Fantastic post-black-metal. The last song on this record really blew me away
Earth And Pillars “Pillars I”
This record is furious and atmospheric… the soundtrack to being lost in the mist… frantic yet numbing. Amazing record.
Tardigrada “Emotionale ödnis”
Crushingly sad black metal with insane vocals, heavy but extremely atmospheric production and melodic guitars.
Forndom “Dauðra dura”
Perfect ritual ambient… this record is incredibly soothing. Very special music made by an excellent person.
Gorguts “Pleiades Dust”
Holy shit. Holy. Shit.
Winterfylleth “The Dark Hereafter”
Excellent release by a great band. Some of their finest moments… but wow, that Ulver cover really took the cake. Amazing.
Vemod “Venter på stormene”
Amazing to finally have this on vinyl. Such an entrancing album. This band is a spectacle to behold live and on record. Perfect.
Havukruunu “Rautaa ja tulta”
Extended reissue of their EP. This band is fucking awesome. Superb musicianship, raw production… think if Moonsorrow stripped down and recorded with Blood Fire Death-era Bathory’s gear. There is a vinyl version pending of their full-length record as well.
Amebix “Monolith” remastered
This album is one I have loved since I was a teenager, and sometimes it’s hard to give something a chance when it gets the remaster treatment. This is not one of those times. This sounds heavier and clearer than the album has ever sounded. They did a similar thing with Arise and it was great as well, but this is a far more drastic difference.
Temple of the Dog S/T reissue
This is one of those albums from my childhood that was really profound to me.
When I was little there was a group of college kids that would look after us when my mom needed someone to watch us. There was a guy named Benny who used to lend me music because he knew I liked a lot of heavier music that most little kids weren’t aware of. My parents would take me to music stores and let me kill some time digging through the bins and I would always try to find the things Benny let me borrow.
This album was profound to me, because even though I was very young… in 1990 I would have been 6 or 7… I could understand the grief and emotion behind some of these songs. It was quite heavy to me… hearing these men process their loss through song. There were a few other bands who did the same thing I came across over the years, and it really stressed to me that music can be used in so many powerful ways.