(For the third year in a row we invited Semjaza, the main man behind the superb Greek black metal band Thy Darkened Shade, to share with us his lists of favorite releases, and he again agreed. This year, we’ve divided his year-end thoughts into four parts, and this is the first.)
As far as I am concerned, 2016 was a great year for music as a whole. However, too many people who have lost the will and the passion to discover new music (especially new metal music) are trying to convince others that only the ’80s or ’90s were striking periods. In fact, many releases of 2016 are going to remain classic in the years to come. With the flooding of the market, the non-artistic approach of many bands, the easy access to underground gems, and the short attention span of listeners, it requires more determination than before to discover and appreciate the worthy ones.
It is now crucial that we should all oppose the pseudo-elite disgusting ”YouTube” reviewers and their forged expertise. We should oppose the ordinary propaganda with their new trends and the new ”hot” names. We should oppose new releases from old, once great bands who used to produce masterpieces but corrupted their art and their vision and became nothing but caricatures of themselves.
The fake propaganda, the paid reviews that flood the scene, the dishonesty that has also entered the underground for many years, all bring great confusion and distrust. In addition, due to that, so many people arrogantly spurn the true masterpieces of our age. People need to start listening with their souls and not their ears since there are bands around who still carry the torch of true soulful music. It does not really matter whether a band is old or new as long as there is spirit and fanaticism.
On one hand, it is a bit disappointing to see that some people possess a safe wannabe underground mentality (which, in reality, completely opposes the true underground attitude): The fake mentality that everything should look and sound like a rip-off from the old classics in order to be considered great. That every band should collaborate with the same graphic designer/visual artist to portray their work. And in return, that the artist should reproduce precisely the same artwork with the successful band.
And on the other hand, we have the disgustingly lame plastic trendy wannabe grandiose sound with no vision. With mixing-mastering studios that produce the same sound without caring about individuality and utilizing totally over-triggered drums that kill the music. And, plenty of reviewers who bombard the scene with the same bands and the same album ads. A lot of bands don’t want to reflect their shadow selves or sacrifice their prana and ego for any higher spiritual cause, producing the same albums every two years and touring with no artistic integrity, caring only about money and being rock-stars.
It is comical, that there are still people who are not able to comprehend that the old school heavy metal stance doesn’t mean to sound like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or Black Sabbath. On the contrary, it means to have an individual artistic vision and contribute to the heavy metal genre. Old school true heavy metal, for instance, consists of bands from Iron Maiden to King Diamond, Angelwitch, Black Sabbath, Dio, Manowar, Crimson Glory, Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road, Brocas Helm, Cloven Hoof, Death SS, Heavy Load, Omen, Stormwitch, or Running Wild. They all have renowned sound and vision, obviously with their own musical influences but copying no one and having the will to produce individualistic soulful music.
Similar things happened within the black metal movement, even though black metal is ideologically different from heavy metal. Bands started to assume that copying old masterful bands is the old-school way of doing things. A number of them are actually thinking that it is fine to copy Venom, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Burzum, or Darkthrone and fairly call themselves old school black metal, although this is completely the opposite of what the old school black metal approach is all about. The old-school standpoint was, and still is, to praise the Devil and contribute to the genre by having a very individualistic non-compromising vision and sound. From Mercyful Fate to Master’s Hammer, Sigh to Arcturus, Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Dissection, Thou Art Lord, Negative Plane, Katharsis, SVEST, Abigor, Mayhem, Venom, Hellhammer, Samael, Emperor, Drastus, the Black, Dodheimsgard, Abruptum, Darkthrone, Burzum (check Dominus Sathanas and Count Grishnackh’s early interviews), and so many others, are exquisite instances of the spirit of old school black metal. Old school black metal is/was/will be about praising the Devil and including individualistic vision with no limits or compromises. Anything else is strange within the old-school black metal frame.
The dirty music industry mentality and the non-artistic attitude is what the second wave of black metal was opposed to. Mainly but not solely because death metal back in the beginning of the ’90s was melting way too much with harmless mentality. Death metal, instead of worshiping death, became a genre with a safe vision and trite choices in terms of music production and art direction in general, with some few exceptions that shined. Some black metal bands through the years also melted way too much with harmless mentality and watered down their vision and sinister characteristics — something which totally contradicts the essence of this art-form, which is antinomian and Luciferian. History repeats itself; it is very important to take back what belongs to us. We should take back the fire that the leeches are trying to steal and inspire the old and the new generation of bands and listeners to block any exterior greedy attempts to corrupt and manipulate the sincerity of black metal.
All the following releases are written in alphabetical order and in no order of preference. It is narrow for me to just name ten of my favourite 2016 releases. Except for my regular playlist, here is the 2016 music I mostly listened to, not only once or twice. More music from 2016 will be listened to properly as soon as time allows. These are the eleven most-played albums of mine released from 2016:
“Open your eyes and see
The veil has been lifted
The chain has been broken
Our reign has just begun…”
Thou Art Lord, 1993
I. BEHEXEN “The Poisonous Path”
Whenever I listen to this album I like it more than before. This is an impressive album with imposing vocals, solemn concept, and a sinister aura. I accept as true that bands like Behexen are essential. Since more bands are following the pretentious “holier than thou” dissonant path (and few of them succeed), the melodic ’90s black metal of Behexen sounds even more relevant to me. With epic hymns like: “The Poisonous Path”, “A Sword Of Promethean Fire”, “Umbra Luciferi”, “Rakkaudesta Saatanaan”, etc, this album is an Azazelian triumph.
II. CULTES DES GHOULES “Coven or Evil Ways Instead of Love”
Perhaps the album that I listened to more since it was out this year, and I regard it as classic already. It is great that a lot of people already noticed this. This is ideal Necromantic black metal, drawing influences from Necromantia to Master’s Hammer, Mortuary Drape, and even Beherit, with a personal sound and vision. Just stare at the cover and wonder if it reminds of anything that has been released lately. This is a concept double-album; each riff and lyric is there for a reason and needs to be absorbed. Did I say black metal? Certainly, this album worships the Devil.
III. DESTRÖYER 666 “Wildfire”
The old school thrash/black masters return. Wildfire is what the title utters. Here we have one of the most sincere bands around carrying true metal fire with genuine fanaticism. One of the best live bands too. Diehard, cult, truthful, old school; all these epithets are synonymous with the almighty Deströyer! Now since I own this, I just wait uncomplainingly for the new Nifelheim album.
IV. DEATHSPELL OMEGA “The Synarchy of Molten Bones”
Dreadfully addictive, difficult to be comprehended with just few listens. A lot of people will notice this release, ignoring the radical concept and the antinomian way of doing things. A lot of bands will copy, ignoring the relevant characteristics that make DsO exceptional. Others will basically disregard it because they are too ”cult” for this. One thing is for sure, Deathspell Omega proved once more that black metal can vary from the most primitive (Infernal Battles) to the most technical and progressive compositions, as long as it worships the Devil. Black metal knows no limits since it is the sonic ritual of primeval darkness. Ignore the countless impressionists; this is the genuine covenant of dissonant blaze.
V. FORGOTTEN SPELL “Epiphaneia Phosphorus (Angel, God or Insanity)”
An additional double-album that I worshipped this year. People who complain about the long duration of great albums should start looking into their vacant life timetable that doesn’t permit them to totally focus on an album for one hour and a half. This is sinister old school black metal that worships the source and nothing else. This is unconventional underground cult Satanic art. Harmonious and serpentine, at the same time dissonant and evil. Medieval atmosphere is also present here, something which I always value in a black metal release.
VI. HEAD OF THE DEMON “Sathanas Trismegistos”
Draconian ritualistic black fate of death. I respect the magicians behind this unholy conception, and this album adds to their legacy of releasing grand albums. Sathanas Trismegistos was created by members of the great Kaamos and Mortuus (everyone should check both these spiritual bands). This synthesis goes much beyond a mere musical project. It reflects shadow selves and raises the kundalini. Slow-paced, organic spiritual art.
VII. IRKALLIAN ORACLE “Apollyon”
An obscure and ominous Luciferian band with an arcane conception unleashed by authentic practitioners of the black arts. The album offers the impression of falling into the void and certainly not returning again. This is authentic death metal, a profound album that sounds like it was spawned from the chasm. I discover novel ideas each time I listen intimately to this album. Also, contained therein are some of the best lyrics ever written in the Satanic metal scene.
“In a single path
In a single word
In a single name
A single noose to
hang all gods of shame”
Irkallian Oracle, 2016
VIII. PANPHAGE “Drengskapr”
A great album with a ’90s menacing aura that reminds me of the early works of the great Arckanum. Drengskapr possesses the antediluvian atmosphere that I always admire in black metal releases. True spirit and possessed performance, a must black metal release from 2016. Only addictive songs and riffing rapture here, for me it truly has the worth of a classic black metal album.
IX. SHAARIMOTH “Temple of the Adversarial Fire”
Still not released yet, but I had the pleasure to listen to this album beforehand. Certainly, one of the finest albums for me this year (if not the best) and one that will stay with me ceaselessly. A glorious return of these Norwegians, a
death/black metal masterpiece, worshiping the source of chaos and darkness. Contained therein are the sonic rituals of the eleven that will engulf all earth. Furthermore, it is a remarkable work in terms of the mixing-mastering done by no other than a brother of blood, TT of the influential Abigor. In addition, this release will be released by World Terror Committee, a true underground label of Luciferian blood.
X. VIRUS “Memento Collider”
What can I say about Virus? This band is genuine and one of my favourite live experiences too. Memento Collider is grand to the point of obsession; as soon as it entered my playlist it hardly ever went out. Moreover, I can even listen to this and focus solely on the bass lines; I even need the .wav file of the bass recordings. Finally, Carl Michael Eide has always been one of my favourite musicians. He is also related to three of my favourite bands ever, the completely innovative Ved Buens Ende, Dødheimsgard, and Aura Noir.
XI. VOID MEDITATION CULT “Utter the Tongue Of The Dead”
Light the candles and the incense and meditate upon the great void that will bring forth the nameless. Spirits are rising from the graves. Ultimately, definitely, one of the best releases this year.