(Norway-based NCS contributor Karina Noctum for the first time shares with us her year-end list of metal — 21 albums and EPs in all.)
I have contributed to this page for many years and yet this is the first time I’ve taken the time to make a year-end list.This year has been a really busy one for me when it comes to concerts. I have been lucky enough to have seen most of the bands in this list many times and hear them promoting their new albums, so my memory is filled with that and perhaps it was that what motivated me to do this.
Here I present a list of some excellent bands mainly within Black, Brutal, and Tech Death Metal which is what I listen to the most:
In no particular order:
Kampfar – Ofidians Manifest
I absolutely love Ofidians Manifest. It is well-balanced, full of groove, and it’s like you end up feeling that you want to go for whatever they sing about (join viking battle? anytime…), regardless of it is good or bad, because some songs have the qualities of hymns. They have reached excellency.
Putrefied J – The Deep End of Horror
OMG, I have a weakness for good slam/brutal and Black Metal solo projects. Putrefied J is Belgian Grind/Slam Death. I don’t mind the programming here because it fits so good. Pretty tight, pretty relentless, and yet slammy. I can’t wait for a full-length.
Devourment – Obscene Majesty
One of the best bands in the brutal spectrum of Death Metal. Obscene Majesty is intricate and yet catchy! Tech and slammy at the same time, a pretty good combination. Microsecond details immersed in a dark dense sound.
Relics of Humanity – Obscuration EP
Russia and Belarus are fertile grounds for awesome Brutal Death. Relics of Humanity are from Minsk and are signed with Willowtip Records. something that attests for their quality. I was lucky that many Death Metal fest organizers share my taste for those scenes here in Europe, so I was able to see Relics of Humanity this year live and it was an awesome experience. They draw inspiration from beloved Disgorge and Devourment as well. It’s top-notch raw brutality.
Entrails – Rise of the Reaper
Are you a Dismember fan? Then you need this one in your life. I have been listening to Rise of the Reaper non-stop, especially while working out because it gives you so much energy. Well-produced Swedish Death Metal at its best!
Mayhem – Daemon
Daemon is a tribute to Mayhem’s dark past. Probably not as dark as previous efforts, but most of the songs, while having the familiar sound, may take slightly unexpected turns and that keeps it interesting. Daemon is meant to be a return to the past, but I think that attempt has been embellished, especially by the guitar sound, and that’s awesome as well. So it is actually not more of the same, it is a most welcome refinement.
Mortem – Ravnsvart
The band is exactly what you would expect when excellent musicians from Arcturus and 1349 get together and try their best to bring back the ’90s with the experience gained throughout the years. The combined effort from masters of atmosphere and BM. Mortem’s Ravnsvart is one of the best Black Metal albums this year.
Prostitute Disfigurement – Prostitute Disfigurement
It’s Dutch Death Metal at its best. I was just ecstatic when the band announced their new album and told us it was going to draw inspiration from the old B-movie-like old sound because I love it. PD‘s sound is pretty rhythmic so you don’t get the blurry wall-of-noise feeling that some brutal bands may give. Moreover, there’s actually a well-executed building-up in the songs’ structures so you get the full effect of the fastest parts.
Gaahls Wyrd – GastiR- Ghosts Invited
I always crave Atmospheric Black Metal from time to time to rest, and Gaahls Wyrd are perfect for that purpose. It’s dense, dark, and hypnotic. I think Gaahl’s vocal style added a lot to the dark feeling Gorgoroth had, which I truly miss, so it is good to have more music from him. It has been awesome to see both his own songs and the Gorgoroth songs for which he has copyrights being performed live. I have been following the band, and how it has evolved into an entity on its own, and I’m really glad they have achieved so much so far. They all deserve all the praise, as they are excellent musicians.
Djevel – Ormer til Armer, Maane til Hodet
Everything good Norwegian BM has to offer in one place!
Wormed – Metaportal EP
I got the woah feeling with the level of technicality displayed in their newest EP. It’s so cool to see bands evolving in this way. This is a must-listen for all tech death fans.
Desecravity – Anathema
The best band from Japan for me. They just push it further and further when it comes to tempo and technicality. They have a permanent shared #1 place in my list every year they release something.
Nile – Nilotic Vile Rituals
They offer a much-needed return to their own ancient past. Many missed it, and now we got the opportunity to have the feelings of old back, and that’s something I’m pretty thankful for.
Vltimas – Something Wicked Marches In
Have you missed this pure excellence of an album? The combination of Mayhem + Morbid Angel + Cryptopsy speaks for itself. Luckily enough, they are so prolific that there’s a new album coming and hopefully lots of touring!
Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
One of the most influential bands in the French Black Metal scene. All throughout the discography the band have a trend of releasing more Black Metal oriented albums followed by more experimental and hard-to-put-in-a-box efforts. I find the Black Metal releases to be as interesting as the more alternative releases. So after Memoria Vetusta III, which was one of the best albums from 2014 for me, a different album followed; it was Deus Salutis Meæ, which was was pretty dark and ’80s-oriented. Following the alternative trend, Hallucinogen is much more melodious, The colors of the cover artwork of both albums reflect the contrast in sound. Hallucinogen has many psychedelic rock moments and post-metal ambience that always draws inspiration from a myriad of non-metal things. But anyway, whichever path BAN take, their very essence is always there.
The Great Old Ones – Cosmicism
I have been a fan of TGOO for a long time now. Mainly because, in addition to excellent musicianship, they have an eerie atmosphere that is pretty tied to their lyrical theme. It’s music that makes you feel something. Music should bring an emotional experience in addition to being well-written, so in this case it is pretty much cold despair and loss.
Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
They hail from Finland, but their style differs from what you would expect when the name of the country is mentioned. It’s actually Australia that comes to mind for me, and not precisely the melodic heavy metal oriented virtuosity that characterizes so many Finnish bands. Krypts’ sound is dark, doom-oriented at times, and has ghastly undertones. I love genuinely ghastly bands in general, regardless of genre. It’s such a rare quality! Krypts also offer a good variation of tempos that keeps things interesting.
Hour of Penance – Misotheism
I find many bands in the Italian Death Metal scene to be constantly improving and keeping the balance between good production, technicality, and the raw force of brutality. Hour of Penance have had a long career and Misotheism just sums up what these guys have achieved. They sure deserved praise this year.
Inanimate Existence – Clockwork
I was drawn to IE many years ago, especially because of their blend of atmosphere, tech death, and other non-metal influences that made the sound so special. For a while they went a bit experimental and kind of mellow, so I lost interest a bit. Now they have caught my attention again with Clockwork. In addition to a fast-paced tempo, they have wonderful, feeling-laden melodic moments that remind me of the feeling Death gives, pretty awesome!
Misery Index – Rituals of Power
Some grind is always present on my playlists. Mainly mixed with Death and a good dose of technicality. MI are one of the best when it comes to Grind Death and they keep proving it with every new album. Furthermore they have a distinct sound that they continue developing. Well, there are also some catchy songs in Rituals of Power, like “New Salem” — kinda hit songs — but they have rather complex songs as well, so I still enjoy them a lot. I’m glad that even though they may tour with bigger names or play at bigger fests they have not gone completely catchy.
1349 – The Infernal Pathway
The sound of their new album is pretty much akin to old albums, but it also reflects the true metal sound at its core. The heavy/thrash blend distilled and embellished by the Norwegian style. It is still the 1349 sound, anchored in timeless metal greatness!
Things to look forward to in 2020:
Beneath the Massacre
I have always liked Beneath the Massacre, and just when you think they are already excellent they actually manage to get a bit better! Their new album is going to not only fulfill expectations, but also raise the bar for the tech death world for sure.
The French scene is something I adore, from their aesthetics to their particular style of sound. I find it elegant. Well, Darkall Slaves is not a good representative of the French style, but they are excellent nonetheless. They have made a name in the brutal scene worldwide now and they have a new label in New Standard Elite (Gorgasm, Internal Suffering, Epicardiectomy, Vituperate). Their last single promises a pretty slammy and groovy sound for the release to come, and I’m already looking forward to enjoying it live!