(For the sixth year in a row, we’re grateful that Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood) accepted our invitation to share with us and you a list releases from the past year that made an impact on him. His lists always provide welcome discoveries, and the one this year which is divided into two parts — is no different. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.)
Going over my year-end thing from last year I’m struck with how dour of a tone it takes and I’m reminded of how difficult I found putting that list together. Not that the choices I made were bad, far from it, but those were the only records I could pull out of last year that I felt anything for. Only two of them remain in rotation, maybe three. Kind of self-fulfilling since nearly every time I’ve been given the honor to thrust my tastes at you I always warn of how people don’t actually pay attention to the records on these lists a few weeks after the new year starts. I guess this means I’m not better than any of you since I’m guilty of the same thing, and now my entire world is crumbling. Also I quit smoking a week ago.
Any of this only matters because I’ve had a much more difficult and, honestly, awful year than I have in… well… years, and yet the only reason this list is a lot tougher than 2018 is because this has been an incredible year for music and I’ve only scratched the surface with this list. Much like 2017, I have to do two pieces for shit I think you should give a listen to. Hope you get something out of them. This first part will focus on the full-lengths while the second part will be the fucking myriad odds and ends this year that kept dropping like a rat shitting in a hoarder’s dining room.
Hermodr “Forest Sky”
I stumbled on this by accident because I left the room as whatever I was listening to on YouTube skipped to this; otherwise I probably never would have given it even a glance.
Listening to this transports me back to the mid-late ’90s, a place populated by a growing army of solo black metal musicians. But unlike the majority of that dreck this record is loaded with strong atmosphere, excellent riffs, and if you really take the time to listen to it you’ll hear a lot of Beherit, even though the bulk of the record stays more into somewhat hypnotic and atmospheric territory. There’s probably no other record I’ve given this much of my time to this year and it’s definitely one that restored my faith that newer bands can write and record black metal that has the emotional punch it did when I started listening twenty-five years ago.
No, I didn’t do my due diligence to see if this was a “safe” band before the comments section lights up.
Blut Aus Nord “Hallucinogen”
Something that I’m sure all musicians can relate to is when you listen to a new record and it makes you angry because you wish you had thought of it first. That kind of jealously/curiosity kept me invested in this record from start to finish. Blut Aus Nord has always been forward-thinking, but not in that way where you feel like you’re being sold an idea rather than being given an experience. As someone who is consistently cynical about modern music and the forces that shill it, it’s exceptionally refreshing to listen to records like this that are, and this is going to sound so fucking cliché’, less about the music and more about the experience the creator is allowing us to be taken on. Writing that sort of thing really makes me have to shit, but I stand behind it in this instance because this record is a masterpiece from start to finish.
Departure Chandelier “Antichrist Rise to Power”
Sure, there’s a lot of memes that use this record’s cover floating around, and a similar amount of people talking about it being “overrated” or, and this was kind of a throwback to the last time death metal was this popular and black metal was taking a public beating, that the production is too “raw”. To set the record straight on these points is honestly simple: everything is a meme now, the world is flooded with morons, and just give the fucking record a listen.
This is black metal from a different time and spirit. This is the kind of black metal that would show up in my mailbox on a dubbed tape from a contact a continent away while I was in high school still naïve enough to think I could make something out of my life. This comfortably sits next to the early ’90s recordings coming out of France and the Baltics, with one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard on a black metal record in years.
Bleach Everything “So We Gnaw”
One of the most anticipated records of the year for me. I’ve written about Bleach Everything at least once or twice in years past, but almost always in short bursts since they took their fucking time in putting together a full-length. And it was absolutely worth the wait. Dark, violent hardcore that should scratch the itch left by waiting an unfortunate amount of time on a new Gehenna record. Everything about this record is exactly what I wanted from it. We’ll talk about their split with Integrity in the next part, but if you only have room in your heart for one hardcore record this year, this better fucking be it.
(riff at 3:10 or so…fuck)
I was very cautious going in on this one. The Slow Death EP is one of my most prized possessions and an impossibly harsh record. I had a lot of high hopes for this album based solely on that nearly thirty-year-old EP, which is the kind of shit I tell people not to do because it means they’re going to be sad when things change. And initially I was a little shaken by the difference between Mortem then and Mortem now because I didn’t give myself enough time to let it all sink in.
Mortem 2019 feels like what you would have expected out of Arcturus after Aspera… if the vocal direction of “My Angel” had continued. If this all seems like too much of a nerdy deep-dive, all you have to know is this is probably the best atmospheric black metal record to come out of Norway since the decade in which this record sounds like it was written occurred. It’s fucking great, is what I’m getting at.
I’m not a huge proponent of sludge as a genre, mostly because I grew up at the time Winter was still active and I owned a lot of Grief and 13 records. I think that sort of ruined me for whatever the genre turned into. Which is what makes Moros special; they’re interesting enough to keep my attention and not bore me. I’m sure someone will bring up that these guys are involved in Krieg or are my friends, but honestly, I don’t like most of what my friends do musically. Unless it’s you who’s reading this, I love your band, really.
That aside, this record went way under the radar en lieu of some really fucking terrible “feels”-driven garbage written by people whose only emotional damage growing up was their allowances weren’t big enough. So this is a good time to rectify your mistakes and give Moros a listen.
Darkthrone “Old Star”
Ever wonder what Darkthrone would sound like if they were really big into Amebix? Now you know.
Future Terror “Plague”
A few years ago I got the chance to release Future Terror’s We’re All Fucked demo based on the strength of a two-minute clip I heard while picking up something from a friend. Fast forward some time and a few member shifts and they released this full-length, which was one of the most intense crust records I got the chance to hear this year. Absolute nastiness that reminds me of Misery and maybe even a mixture of early UK and Japanese crust bands. Definitely worth seeking out.
Gorgon “The Veil of Darkness”
While there were a lot of great records this year it was still very easy for me to pick my favorite of them all. I’ve written about Gorgon for this site before [here] but at the time I had no inkling that Osmose would make the smartest decision they’ve made in years by reissuing the long-out-of-print recordings of this great band nor that a new album would be appearing anytime soon.
Like Beherit with Engram, Gorgon have not only made a great comeback record but also the best record of their very long career. From start to finish this record is constant in its momentum and energy, a punk-fueled black metal attack. The genuine article from arguably France’s oldest and definitely it’s most under appreciated act is dripping with the kind of integrity and focus one only achieves through decades of dedication. Album of 2019 for me.
That’s my list for full-lengths, but I have a lot of EPs and splits etc to go through in the next installment. Until then I hope you got far less Michael Bloomberg ads if you watched any of these videos than I did and remember that if you enjoy any of this shit to please go support the artists directly.