(Our Norwegian contributor Gorger, who usually embarrasses and rewards us by identifying releases that flew under our radar, brings us a year-end list divided into three parts, with this being the second (Part 1 is here). To find more of his reviews, type “Gorger” in our search bar and visit Gorger’s Metal.)
This entire list… the more I reflect, the more pointless it seams. Just like one of those words that all of a sudden loses all its meaning. First of all, comparing and ranking all these individual expressions of profound art, oftentimes completely incomparable, causes grievous frustrations. Just how the hell does one compare such diverse stuff as Borknagar, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Obscura, and Schammasch, just to name but a few?
Secondly, I’ve only heard a fraction of what 2016 had to offer. At the time of writing, Encyclopaedium Metallum has 6,922 albums and 9,165 other releases registered for 2016 alone. Those numbers will continue to grow well into 2017. But for now, that’s 19 full-length studio albums each and every day on average.
Allow me to spread the rest of my gibberish in between the following albums. As much as I’ve enjoyed the albums on the previous list, here’s a bunch of even better albums, or at least better received by me. Let’s call them the “second best”, albeit in their own right, they are second to none. The order is partly sorted by release, but you can view it as totally random.
• Humanitas Error Est – Human Pathomorphism
Explosive misanthropic black metal with “Where is your god, when creatures like us are raging?!” as motto. Fuck, yeah!
• The Burning Dogma – No Shores Of Hope
Varied and different with deadly aggression, a melodic approach, a technical aspect and some more industrial and electronic elements with symphonic structures. And don’t worry, the female vocals in the video I’m linking to ain’t very representative.
• Deströyer 666 – Wildfire
Some of the stuff you’ll encounter on this list should need no introduction. Like this one. Still, in a sub-genre often characterized by songs gliding together as one in sonic detonations of dissonant walls-to-walls riffs, there are some who write songs. You know, that kind of singular musical composition consisting of coherent phonetic development, one that stands rock solid on its own if it is taken out of the album’s context. Deströyer 666 are one such band.
• Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Oh, what do you know. Here’s another one you already know. Boy, is that Gorger playing it safe. Our Italian friends are back on par with Agony (2011), but have finally improved the dynamic range in their sound to a tolerable level.
• Obscura – Akróasis
What, you know this bunch too? Boy, don’t you know many bands. Not quite on par with Omnivium (2011), but that one set the bar damned high.
• Vredehammer – Violator
Former Elite soldier (the band, that is), Per Valla is the antagonist behind the northern sledgehammer known as Vredehammer. On Violator, the deadly factors of the band’s black/death are more significant than ever. With recognizable and even quite unforgettable songwriting and pulverizing expression, this proves to be one hell of a badass piece of demolishing machinery!
• Sorcier des Glaces – North
Is this the last bastion of trve Québécois métal de noir? It’s icy, raw, atmospheric, grim, and majestic all at once, like a depraved king in a loathed castle.
• Mussorgski – Creatio Cosmicam Bestiae
Polish outer-worldly industrialized symphonic black metal with an ethereal, spiritual, astral, and ambient veil. Alien but delightful.
• Nordjevel – Nordjevel
With warlike temperament, Nordjevel go to a merciless frontal attack that hits hard and leaves everything in ruins and no enemy alive in a relentless bombardment. Backed by machine-gun drums, the axe strings fire deadly lightning bolts, as in a duel between Thor and Zeus.
• Graveyard – …For Thine is the Darkness
Catalonian death metal that goes that extra mile with heavy, diabolical, and ass-kicking drift, swirling melodies, and evocative despondency. Wonderful guitar work and hard-hitting dark sound add the finishing touch.
• Zhrine – Unortheta
Íslenska svartur/dauða metal, or Icelandic black/death if you must. The burden lays on my shoulders to perform the pretentious task of formulating the inevitable classification of the genre amalgamation. Zhrine, I baptize thee post-kaleidoscopic metal. A smoldering, yet viscous maelstrom.
• Luna’s Call – Divinity
If you have a taste for bands like Hidden in the Fog, Alkaloid, and others residing in a prog-technical extreme metal landscape, Divinty is for you.
• The Vision Bleak – The Unknown
Having sought mysteries and hunted monsters, ghosts, and witches on their journey across the seven seas and through Europe’s mountain ranges, ravines, and forests, this idiosyncratic band again explore new and uncharted territory by battling their inner demons on a journey filled with eccentric moods.
As this is a list of the favorites of the stuff I’ve heard, it doesn’t include Vektor, Ihsahn, Mithras, Djevel, Ripper, Megadeth, Moonsorrow, Anaal Nathrakh, Skáphe, Darkthrone, and a shitload of other stuff that’s not necessarily forgotten, but simply not heard, due to prioritization of promos. Whilst others, such as Temple of Demigod, Suffer Yourself, Sentient Horror, Urfaust, Scorched, Wode, et al. have pulled a shorter straw in my eternal battle against time. I’ve listened to them and many others, but not nearly enough. Slechtvalk, Darkrypt, Grafvitnir, Echelon, and Ignis Gehenna (amongst others) probably deserve a spot on the list, but I’m not done with my meticulous analysis quite yet.
• Gloomy Grim – The Age Of Aquarius
The Finns’ melodic black horror metal with symphonic features might not revitalize the genre, but the veterans bring enough hostile and sinister eeriness to the table to send ice crystals through the blood stream.
• Denouncement Pyre – Black Sun Unbound
The almost 50 minutes of sturdy perilous atmospheres the Austrians with members from Order of Orias and Nocturnal Graves have prepared, conjure a dystopic nightmare scenario through black metal in the vein of Watain.
• Inquisition – Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith
Phew. Wait, let me catch my breath. The duo (who technically speaking never were Colombian because Dagon moved back to the US before Incubus was recruited to the blasphemous expeditions and the debut was released) more than meets my hopes. With noteworthily haunting sequences in each and every song, be it killer riffs, rhythms, or guitar licks, Bloodshed’s practically got more hooks than Inquisition’s back catalog combined.
• Nocturne – Nocturne
Delightful Austrian melodic black metal debut with vibes of pagan metal, atmospheric impulses, and orchestral tinges. A sense of pride in and melancholy over a gradually deteriorated heritage lingers in these thorough compositions.
• Nox Formulae – The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy
This Greek black metal entity is above-average concerned about secret occult rites, but the most dominant mood is a chronic atmosphere of sorrow, regret, and bitterness. Like a vast number of Hellenic entities, they succeed at creating something quite unique.
• Hellspawn – There Has Never Been A Son Of Me
A Polish death squad with a whiff of grandeur. Juicy riffs, great transitions, and skillful balance between heaviness, speed, and slowness, are all vital elements. Not to forget an unmistakable sense of power, courage, and strength, amplified by orchestral elements.
• Predatory Light – Predatory Light
With their self-titled debut album, the American band has grown demon wings to soar over the mountain passes, while they still thrive in rumbling, mildew-infested catacombs deep within the bedrock. Recommended to those in search of hypnotic, alkalic, and alchemic black, deadly doom.
• Khepra – Cosmology Divine
Turkish Khepra blend mighty metal with roots in death metal and inspirations from black metal, with a local heritage of folk music from the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. To top it all off, and to really take the listener’s breath away, they then add orchestral elements. Less is more? Fuck that!
• Netherbird – The Grander Voyage
The Swedes have slowed down a notch and put greater emphasis on moods in their evocative, melodic black/death. Their strong compositions float between instinctive inclinations toward the epic, atmospheric, pagan wilderness and an adventurous Viking approach in an ocean journey brimming with the spray of the salty sea. Whether there’s mournful piano, saddened violins, rural acoustic strumming, or strong harsh and briny moods of warriors with stoic guttural vocals, I thrive on this voyage.
• Hobbs’ Angel of Death – Heaven Bled
In 2017 we can finally congratulate Hobbs’ Angel of Death with the 30th anniversary jubilee. And what better way to celebrate than to hear Heaven Bled, a surprisingly vital and impressive thrasher! The band bring together proto black metal and Teutonic thrash, early American thrash, and various forms of early black/thrash, along with some traceable seasonings of mid-nineties black metal and a teaspoon of testy death metal like no one else, and present it all wrapped up in a killer contemporary organic production with an honorable respect for the ways of yore. It’s a energetic cascade of multifaceted diversity with virile frenetic deathrash riffs and testosterone-rhythms, interspersed with howling adrenaline-filled solos and a dash of jet-black arrogant furore. Hell yeah!
• Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
I don’t know how many lists Ulcerate have occupied this (or last) year, but it’s well deserved. Their dissonant death metal earns the tag technical, although the expression is far from playful. The hallucinatory dystopia this band deliver is admittedly an astonishingly coherent execution, one that borders on calculated, but it’s far from sterile. The performance feels organic and full of soul. That the soul is sickly, scarred, and touches upon sociopathic is another matter.
• Seven Sins – Due Diaboli et Apocalypse
The quintet from Kazakhstan play melodic and grandiose symphonic extreme metal with local seasoning and a somewhat gothic edge. Think Old Man’s Child merged with Melechesh and Russian Arkona.
• Doomed – Anna
For those unfamiliar with Doomed, the Germans play death/doom with sadness, grief, misery, and discomfort à la funeral, but with a more vital and progressive approach. The layering and proggy structure within coherent pieces of beautiful and well-written melodies testify once again to a most professional one-man band.
• NordWitch – Mørk Profeti
With guitars that swirl like vampire bats and offering delightful chameleon licks, rhythms that sting like poisonous scorpions, and a proficient lioness providing guttural Minotaur-roars, this Ukraine quintet deliver ass-kicking death metal with elements from pagan and a whiff of thrash. Scorched and brimful of melodic hooks.
• Hannes Grossmann – The Crypts of Sleep
You all know this German drum virtuoso, and you know that he delivers the goods. ‘Nuff said!
The past two weeks, I’ve been busy with preparations for and execution of the Yule time festivity; hoarding up on goodies and snacks, feasting with family, drinking with friends, gluttony with near and dear (or any willing deer). As the end was drawing nigh, I had more than 100 albums, times circa 45 minutes of music, to compare and narrow this down to a somewhat manageable list. 4500 minutes means 75 hours. A full workweek with overtime. That means listening to random songs and gut-feelings, hoping they’re representative for the respective albums. Does any of this sound like scientific methods to you? I can see why Islander don’t make a “best of” list of his own. I guess what I’m trying to say is; take this list with a few grains of salt, for by tomorrow I might have changed my mind.
• Noctem – Haeresis
Although Noctem have put the successful orchestral experiment from Exilium behind them, Haeresis emerges as a majestic work of full-blown extreme metal fireworks. They offer delightful raging black/death with feisty guitars, rich riffing, proficient drumming, and stalwart moods. All wrapped in juicy sound and agreeable dynamic range. Check out the video for The Submission Discipline while you’re at it.
• Krypts – Remnants of Expansion
Krypts offer sedate female-fronted power-pop metal with electric banjo and pan-flute solos. You know I’m fucking with you. Krypts hardly need any explanation. Their death/doom is so leaden, dark, rabidly hostile, violently vindictive, and bulldozingly morbid, that it’s bound to create a crater in the cerebral cortex on impact.
• Eternal Deformity – No Way Out
Polish Eternal Deformity took a giant leap from Frozen Circus (2007) to The Beauty Of Chaos (2012), and fortunately they seem determined to reside on this more qualitative level. Unlike their typically more brutish compatriots, these lads focus on melodic progressive extreme metal with symphonic undertones. The melodies are ravishing, the guitars occasionally brilliant. The transitions and the rich structures are exemplary, and the ever-changing scenery here in the limbo between calm and extreme is breathtaking.
PS: I now see that this album was actually self-released back in 2015, but the foot’s been put down, and we’re past the point of no return. Deal with it!
• Saor – Guardians
Where Roots mirrored the Scottish highlands, as they loomed as lush prairies of rugged terrain with the silhouettes of mountain’s spires against the horizon, Guardians begins the descent from the ridges, fells, and plateaus, and the scenery becomes wilder. This, as you all surely know by now, is music that will plant vivid imagery into the brain of the listener. Fantastic!
• Mercyless – Pathetic Divinity
Allow me to start by wishing Mercyless a happy 30th anniversary. The veterans and pioneers know the necessity of going that extra mile. With a bounty of ass-kicking variation, a hellish drift the world hasn’t seen the likes of since Genghis Khan traversed the steppes blows up your speaker. This isn’t just “fairly indignant” death metal. It is veritably raging. And the infamous outbreak is tight as sticks of dynamite and detonates just as loud and powerfully.
• Cultes des Ghoules – Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love
I was initially thinking about postponing this ’til the digital release date officially set to February, but then a reader by the inexpressible name of gknw persuaded me to set aside 100 minutes and dive into it. Not so much with words as with a severely unhealthy and morbidly maddening laughter of the resounding diabolical type. Now, in all honesty, I believe the length could have been cropped without losing any content, but it’s all the more impressive that they retain the listener’s attention by generating the most abrasive riffs, sound, and atmosphere imaginable. Time becomes an illusion under the spell of this mesmerizing sabbath. Undoubtedly, gknw’s a toad witch, he is.
• Crimson Moon – Oneironaut
With gradually improving songs, this album starts off good and ends great. Scorpios Androctonus, of Acherontas fame amongst others, recently released his third album, consisting of a rich display of extreme metal and pagan tradition in a heathen heritage stretching back to archaic times. Several exotic instruments are applied, creating a shamanistic ceremonial rite with oriental tones of Eastern mysticism and a Hellenic whiff.
• Misanthropic Rage – Gates No Longer Shut
Somewhat otherworldly and definitely enthralling. Dreamy and ceremonial black metal with inspirations from different sources tastefully incorporated. Swarming insanity and swirling winds. Never without an abrupt transition just around the corner.
• Rotting Christ – Rituals
Thanks to Islander’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs Part 2, I was reminded about just how great this album can be, given the right circumstances. I was a bit lukewarm when first hearing it, as it didn’t live up to my high expectations. It’s still a very good album, applicable for soothing frayed nerves.
• Unlight – Antihelion
With their seventh full-length, the melodic German black metallers are at the top of their game. Melodic in this case don’t mean “gentle”. Think of it rather as a flamboyant, malevolent, fire-breathing dragon.
• Tardigrada – Emotionale Ödnis
A gloomy Swiss dsbm-debut with sore melodies and mournful moods. Containing five short acoustic and calm interludes with tearful moods of loneliness and loss. The five approximately ten-minute-long songs, however, range from the stripped-down, to the impetuously fierce and sharp, as suffering and disgust turn into rage.
• Death Fetishist – Clandestine Sacrament
I’d like to describe Clandestine Sacrament through visual performance art, but my vivid logic tells me that placing an industrial-size wood chipper in a dystopic landscape of abandoned factories, firing it up, and crawling willingly through the rotating blades, would most likely kill me. Or definitely make a bloody mess. Matron Thorn from Ævangelist, et al., bid us eclectic, claustrophobic dystopia through rather kaleidoscopic black/death soaked in dark ambience, threatening noise, and raw, sociopathic, emotionless, industrial disgust. Unless you’ve seen the whole Saw series as a marathon after staying awake for 48 hours, I don’t think you fully understand the extent of just how discordant loathing, cacophonously dissonant, and plain fucking morbid this is.
Dang. You see that “Posted by Islander” right below? That means we’re out of space and have to continue another day. What a fucking pity. Oh, well, I guess this post is more than long enough as it is. I solemnly swear that Part 3 will be the final piece of list on my hands. And also that it’ll be shorter than this one. ‘Til then.