(For the ninth year in a row (!), our friend Johan Huldtgren of the Swedish black metal band Obitus — whose 2017 album Slaves of the Vast Machine (reviewed and premiered here) is their latest release — has again allowed us to share with you his year-end list, which originally appeared on Johan’s own blog.)
10: Cénotaphe – Empyrée
NCS might very well have introduced me to this band and release, I do not quite remember, regardless it’s a great little gem. Mostly mid-paced and melodic but with some furious vocals to keep things interesting. Looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish when they get around to making a full-length.
9: Grafvitnir – Venenum Scorpionis
Like every other Grafvitnir album you know what you’re going to get, they don’t stray very far from their formula of fast Swedish black metal. The guitars have their customary tone and the raspy almost hoarse vocals are a dead give away from the minute the album opens. Minor complaint is that the vocals add almost like a fog over the rest whenever they come in. Small complaint on an otherwise decent album.
8: Funereal Presence – Achatius
This is mostly a mid-paced affair but there are times when we get some bursts of speed,. The drums are very nice and tight (both the playing style as well as the sound), and he’s further pretty busy in the percussion section with both cow and church bells (although the latter is probably sampled). I find their sound quite hard to describe in the right words, but if you generally like black metal and are willing to go on a wild ride of fairly epic proportions then this is the album for you.
7: Mgła – Age of Excuse
To say my expectations were high for the new Mgła album would have been an understatement. As this position probably makes clear, it didn’t quite live up to them. There are times of brilliance, but between these bursts of genius there are periods where it just fails to mesmerize like they have in the past. Perhaps expecting that was an exercise in futility.
6: Vanum – Ageless Fire
I’ve been spinning this throughout the year as it’s catchy a hell, which is impressive given that if you discount the two instrumental tracks the four main tracks average an impressive almost nine minutes each. Stand-out track “Eternity” you actually wish would last longer as it’s that good, but alas you’ll have to settle for a mere ten minutes; this isn’t to diminish the rest of the tracks which are all good in their own rights. One of this year’s absolute best USBM releases.
5: Misþyrming – Algleymi
While retaining much of a traditional black metal sound they’ve incorporated a lot more, well, rock n’ roll, than previously. Luckily this is done skillfully enough that this doesn’t turn into a rock album with black edges, but a black metal album with rock overtones. This all comes down to some excellent song writing, coupled with the mostly caustic vocals and this never veers too far. Shockingly good follow-up album.
4: Mephorash – Shem Ha Mephorash
One should caution that this is a long album, coming in at a massive 74 minute. Luckily however, with the exception of perhaps a few passages when your mind might start to wander, the album uses its long form to its advantages, using the time to build up the songs and often leaving me wanting more. This is especially true on the two final tracks, the majestic :777: Third Woe” (which was released as an EP last year already) and then the massive fifteen-minute final track which leaves you salivating for more well before it’s over.
3: Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingensia
For the last fifteen years Deathspell Omega have been at the vanguard of black metal. Now that hasn’t necessarily changed, however for the first time I feel slightly disappointed by a Deathspell Omega album. I think the slower overall tempo and simpler, more direct song structures just don’t give the same rush as the frenzied chaos of, for example, something like “Devouring Famine” from Paracletus or anything from the chaos-fest that is Fas – Ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum. To clarify, this is still a very good album, just that compared to what I know they can accomplish it’s a bit disappointing.
2: Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
When I first read the press release from Debemur Morti announcing the new Blut Aus Nord album this summer I was utterly unsurprised. Blut Aus Nord have always gone their own way and on many releases have strayed not just far from black metal but strayed from what most people would even consider metal. So them finally putting metal behind them and going off to do something different was not unexpected. When Hallucinogen was finally released it was not only far more metal than the PR had let on, it was often much more black metal than could have been expected. In the end Blut Aus Nord simply show they are very good at what they do, regardless of what they do. Since this came out I’m not sure I’ve listened more to anything else. A magnificent and beautiful album.
1: Aoratos – Gods Without Name
Naas Alcameth takes the best parts of his various other projects and produces an album which blew everything else clear out of the water. It is, obviously, very reminiscent of Akhlys, but pushes the envelope slightly in intensity. For the bulk of the album it never lets up. The first five songs blend into each other, making it very easy to think you’ve just sat through a single song. My only complaint about this setup is that the album ends up slightly lopsided, with the last 13 minutes of the album being quite ambient, as you have both :Prayer of Abjection” and outro “Parallax II” bookending the last real song, the slightly doomy “Dread Spirit Of The Place”. A very minor complaint for the undisputed album of the year.