(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 third (Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here). To find more of his reviews, type “Gorger” in our search bar and visit Gorger’s Metal.)
Ladies and hobos, sorry about the delay. We’re finally approaching the albums that really stand out by creating their own sphere and universe. Or that I for some reason have spent a lot of time with and fallen head over heels with. To be honest, I don’t have an absolute favorite album from the year, but these are all awesome. I could perhaps have ranked them, but but by the time I’d be done and ready to publish, spring would be upon us. Thus; sequence, thy name is randomness. Albeit, admittedly, release (or rather review) date may to a certain degree have had a finger in the pie.
I’m throwing in proper streams this time. Click the bc logo (where available) to access Bandcamp.
• Sulphur – Omens of Doom
Sulphur plays death metal with black borderlines, garnished with technical and proglicious twists. First and foremost with a focus on conveying thorough songs, but behind a veil of fairly intricate patterns, lies delightful proggy structures, offering unexpected turnarounds here and there. Please be patient to gain full effect and benefit.
• Borknagar – Winter Thrice
Who can withstand the combined vocal range of Lazare, Vintersorg, ICS Vortex, and Garm in the title track? You. That’s who. The gorgeous melodies, the structures and growing hooks, the versatile vocal styles and instrumentation warm the heart like the honey-colored rays emitted from the sun once a long winter finally yields.
• Behexen – The Poisonous Path
With overtones of cryptic ritual moods resting like an evil shadow over this work, Hoath Torog sounds like the devil himself, roaring profanities after using sulfuric acid as mouthwash, Wraath (aka Luctus) provides freezing, malicious and sinister guitar works along with Shatraug, while Horns hammers in demonic manners. This might very well be Behexen’s magnum opus, and one of the very best trve black metal releases of 2016!
• Hyperion – Seraphical Euphony
Melodic black metal of tremendous quality. Packed with strong melodies and clever transitions, symphonic structures and a generally playful touch, seemingly performed with ease, as if they’d been doing this since kindergarten.
• Krater – Urere
Urere shows two sides of the devil’s medallion; the passionate, intense and flaming enthusiasm, and the self-adulation and hedonistic, occult ceremony. First, war and triumph, marked by hell-fire, then celebration with wine, mead, hypnotic intoxication, and unrestrained lewdness.
• Abyssic – A Winter’s Tale
Memnoch of Susperia fame and orchestral maestro André Aaslie (Gromth) teamed up with Spiral Architect’s Asgeir Mickelson and Elvorn (also Susperia) to create symphonic death/doom in the vein of classical music. And they succeeded! The music might touch upon funeral doom in pace, but the dramatic progression offers wonderful atmospheric equilibrium.
• Mistur – In Memoriam
In Memoriam saw Mistur take a giant leap from their debut. The album is a veritable firework of virtuoso composing, zeal, and enthusiasm. An amazing album!
• Winterhorde – Maestro
Maestro is an album that borrows from classical, jazz, and progressive rock, in addition to drops of avant-garde, indie pop, swing revival, and theatrical circus. It’s a cocktail of melodic, epic, and orchestral-mixed metal with strong hints of black metal and a gothic attitude, creating a distinctive atmosphere, a dramatic, theatrical film noir or a cabaret that swings between Greek drama and burlesque, giving a touch of an unfortunate story.
• Schammasch – Triangle
100 minutes of music divided into three acts; volcanic turbulence, dreamy ceremonial oscillations, and transcendental moods. The inequality between the three prevents predictable triangular symmetry. The 16 tracks all have their own unique character, but still form a very coherent journey, where the continuity is strongest within each segment. Admittedly, disc number three ain’t mandatory, but the two first more than make up for it.
• Subterranean Disposition – Contagiuum And The Landscapes Of Failure
A very beautiful and varied, well-played and well-sounding album of progressive death/doom with strong mournful moods. The emotional atmosphere causes vivid reveries of grievance and loss to emerge. Beware of marvelous Hammond organ, lovely saxophone, and tearful fiddles.
• Svartelder – Pyres
Svartelder’s black metal gives nourishment to insecurity, while they erase the distinction between the accepted, established truths, and the painful discomfort of reality. This is a degenerated downward spiral of mental deterioration, where only a flourishing psychosis can find fertile ground.
• Deisidaemonia – Khthonian Hymns
A Hellenic melting pot of swirling and soaring black metal with a moderate occult touch and a sense of grand Luciferian pride, in ever transmutation. Winding, vibrant, whizzing, and even acoustic guitars swarm as piranhas and strike as rattlesnakes. This one-man piece impresses immensely. And to think it’s even the debut of a man seemingly not previously associated with any musical releases… Just, wow!
• Volbeat – Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie
Volbeat’s hyper-catchy melodic groove metal feels like a guilty pleasure in this setting. It’s even more mainstream than Wil Cifer’s top ten list of mainstream albums, and some readers will surely be grossed out. But the Danes have found their niche, one that’ll be damned hard to copycat, as their flair for distinct songwriting is almost unparalleled.
As traditional heavy metal has faded to a matte and lifeless reflection of itself, this band is a great replacement to fill the stadiums with roof-lifting sing-along. The music is versatile in both the sense that it’s more audible than extreme metal on crappy gear (like a generic vehicle audio system) and that the target audience is much wider, meaning you could probably play this at the dinner table or when your parents drop by. In other words, Seal the Deal… might not be my favorite moment of the year, but it’s sure been played a lot.
• Gespenst – Forfald
Are you still with me, or did I just lose all my integrity and cred? Let me make it up to you by including Gespenst, Danish for ghost, spirit, phantom, apparition, revenant, et al. Regular visitors have seen this ominously, haunted black/doom release presented before, but it’s well wort a revisit if you haven’t checked out this ethereal and dreamy, yet disturbingly haunted release properly. If, like me, you feel inexplicably attracted to this cryptic, bizarre, and abhorrent hidden dimension of half-material and half-spiritual existence, I’m guessing you also understand the protagonists in Lovecraft’s vivid stories all too well.
• Belenos – Kornôg
Belenos blends black baselines with pagan/folk-inspirations and atmospheric elements. Despite a few debris, like low sonic dynamic range and not all songs being on par with the best, this might just be Belenos‘ magnum opus. Moods of Celtic and Norse origins, with flattering tones of raids in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, taste terrific and are performed in a rich, varied, vibrant, and vital way.
• Mist of Misery – Absence
I nitpicked quite a bit at Temple Of Stilled Voices, an EP released back in April, but my hopes still remained strong. Yet, the abrupt transition to clever compositions, masterful implementation, and superb sound baffled me. Splendiferous! Absence is a must in the collection for anyone who enjoys hybrids between atmospheric and orchestral black tones with a latent touch of folk musical moods!
• Escarnium – Interitus
Death metal seems to seep out of every Hell-hole in spades, not always in a spectacular fashion of course. Brazil’s Escarnium, however, offer a lethal injection of another world. In addition to striking pace and brutal savagery, howling hypnotic guitars suggest a cosmic black hole and build an intense atmosphere. Could the ethereal touch of unknown dimensions in this black-scorched death metal, whose forms and shapes are abstract and unrecognizable, originate from the surreal, non-euclidean nightmare city of R’lyeh?
• Cwealm – Odes To No Hereafter
Sweden’s Cwealm is another highly impressive one-man operation ruled in totalitarian autocratic megalomania by chief architect Astraeus. His progressive melodic black metal follows in solid footsteps, but he has no difficulty leaving his own playful and idiosyncratic mark. The melodic outbreak of hell-fire from the north spreads like wildfire at gale’s force in irregular fractals patterns. It’s a mental thunderstorm of toxic gases and a schizophrenic roller-coaster waltz rupturing like a sudden cloudburst. There are welcome hints of Hidden in the Fog to the expression as well.
• Khonsu – The Xun Protectorate
You all know the Norwegian project, whose concept is based on a futuristic tale of events occurring at a huge space station orbiting the sun in a distant future. With elements of techno-electronic music and melodic black metal, as well as alternating extreme vocals and sensitive clean ones, a distinct and unique feel of intergalactic, clinical, and synthetic isolation is generated, capable of giving earthbound beings a strong sense of claustrophobic fear of the future.
Khonsu execute a form of extreme metal that hasn’t gained an “official” name yet. Andy Synn has given the futuristic astronauts the apt designation Blade Runner Metal, whilst I cling on to the term Sci-Fi Metal. Space Metal (the next metallic frontier) would also work.
• Arkona – Lunaris
This Polish black metal ensemble has been around since 1993, yet I fear they’re not as well known as their pagan Russian namesake. That ought to change with Lunaris, a dark, doomy, saddened, and testy black explosion with subtle orchestral elements. The vile depravity and miserable bottomlessness, obtained via dignified pride, powerful atmosphere, and hypnotic moods, might be just a hair’s breadth away from dsbm, but the Poles rather conjure up loathing anger and fiery grief that coils up like a black cobra in the abdominal region, pending forthcoming retaliation in a bloody confrontation.
• Crest of Darkness – Welcome The Dead
Norway’s Crest of Darkness have never cared for rigid boundaries or crafting the same stagnating album twice. Welcome The Dead offers black metal with a dark and bleak mood that’s not exactly dystopic, but that contains nuances of destruction, loss, and isolation as subtle undertones in an unnerving atmosphere akin to a nervous gut feeling. The album forms a suggestive, dark, and ominous voyage in a strange dimension crafted by a fairly progressive multiplicity of diverse ingredients and eclectic structures. Brilliant classical guitar work and thrashing sequences is a bonus.
• Marianas Rest – Horror Vacui
Marianas Rest is a gratifying new acquaintance from Finland. The music of their debut can be defined as slow, melodic, melancholic, hushed, and doom-infested death metal, but the term death/doom would of course also do the trick. Omnium Gatherum’s Aapo Koivisto offer rather extensive synth that for some may provide a somewhat polished whiff, but the sheer heavy and mournful songs make up for it. The band take full advantage of a flair for strong melodies and moods, offering a hypnotic state that feels as physical as a heavy vacuum or as a bath in pleasantly temperated cement. This album was released in November in Europe, but it won’t be out until February 10th in North America.
• Myrkgrav – Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen
I conclude with an album that I haven’t reviewed yet, and that might not belong amongst 2016′ very finest feathers, but it’s still beautiful and splendid in its own way. It’s also one of the albums I’ve heard most. This is the swan song of Lars Jensen’s Myrkgrav, as he has decided to move on. The album consists of a combination of new songs and new versions of elder material, and it’s only been released digitally thus far. A physical release is still pending, though. The immensely pleasing album can practically be said to be the quintessence of Norwegian folk music in a metallic setting.
Well, that’s the best I had time to do. Take it or leave it, motherfuckers. I’m not done with 2016. Hell, I’m not done with 2015, or 2014 for that matter. And I never will be. The past is haunting me like an ill-natured spirit. This list is far from perfect. Had I used another month to revise it, some would have been moved, deleted, or added. You could consider this a temporary list, but I’ve spent days and days on this shit, and I’m not looking back once more. Let’s call it a rough indication, measured by rule of thumb or something.
As this protracted project was initiated during yule time, I had plans to round off this list with a video to leave you with a belly-full of holly jolly spirit. It feels rather inappropriate to do so, now that daily life is back to normal after two weeks at the ol’ fucking day job™. Yet, there’s another X-mas on the rise in just 11 months, and the video has a morale for contemplation that you might as well have in mind ’til next season.
So ask yourself in a merry manner if you toil to succumb and run with the reindeer pack in order to please Santa rather than Satan, whilst you listen to this cheerfully and seasonally adapted carol:
Thanks to Islander for inviting me, and to every NCS reader and contributor in 2016! Keep banging your putrid heads through 2017!