LISTMANIA 2020: NEILL JAMESON’S YEAR END EGO FEEDING BULLSHIT (PT I): EPS, DEMOS & SPLITS
(We are grateful once again to be able to share year-end lists compiled by Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood), which this year comes in multiples parts, of which this is the first.)
I noticed a pattern when I look back on all the year-end lists that I’ve been allowed to shit up your newsfeed with and it seems that every other year is packed with records I’m passionate about and then a year that’s kind of bleak and I struggled to pull together a list greater than ten or so. Seeing that this has been an interesting (beautifully understated) year, I’m going to break that pattern with a multi-day extravaganza broken up into parts culminating with the best from all categories because, as a self centered prick, I’ve got a lot of releases to share with the four of you who are interested, as well as commentary and all the other shit I roll into a ball to make myself feel important at this time of the year.
Today I wanted to start out with a list of EPs, demos and splits that I’ve really latched onto this year, as well as corresponding Bandcamp links to support the artists and labels wherever applicable. Sound rad? Fucking right. Let’s begin:
Errant “Self titled”
Solo ventures come in a lot of sizes and shapes but basically break down to two categories: ego-feeding pretense crafted entirely as vanity pieces or well-thought-out explorations of other sides of the creators that aren’t expressed in their main enterprise. Errant’s debut mcd is mercifully the second and came as a well-timed surprise last spring. When I wrote about it earlier this year I compared it to ’90s death/doom when that genre was starting to go different ways, the main reference point being Pyogenesis‘ Waves of Erotasia mixed with Slowdive. Eight or so months later this is still in rotation for me as a palette cleanser, a simultaneously dark yet bright record that I didn’t see enough people looking into. Hopefully there’s more to come from this project.
Hermodr “Old Woods”
2020 was a densely prolific year for Hermodr as you can see if you click on the link to his Bandcamp. Every piece he released this year is well worth diving into, so it was difficult to pick just one EP for this list but Old Woods is a continuation of the project’s long-running melancholic black metal that harkens back to the ’90s European underground, the sort of bands that got me into black metal in the first place.
Skravl “En Higen mod Tilintetgoreelsen”
I don’t think any scene is as consistently great as the Korpsand bands in Denmark. Every recording I hear coming from them is diverse in sound but united in the kind of raw creative talent that I haven’t seen emanate from one group of individuals since the 1990s (apologies to every boys club that moonlights as a black metal “gang” or whatever). And using the 90s as a reference point, Skravl stands out as a traditional black metal entity that would fit perfectly alongside the best of the 1990s underground. Intense and driving black metal released through the excellent Nattetale.
Surprisingly no one’s put this online anywhere that I can find so I’ve put the link to the Nattetale store instead, who have very fast shipping to the US. Arcane Altar has copies too, I think, but won’t last long. Three caustic songs lighting the way to their next full-length, Skinliv is another of the Korpsand bands that have the feel of the orthodox scene of a decade ago, without being fucking prentious or forcing you to read a philosophy book before you press “play”.
Wyvern reminds me of Staar (not just in their relation) where I feel like I’m listening to tapes I used to trade 25 years ago of the old Polish/Czech underground. Atmospheric yet still raw traditional black metal from the always reliable Tour De Garde.
Inlandshjarta “Viljan Och Vidderna”
A little less than 14 minutes of traditional Swedish black metal by way of Octinomos and Svartsyn’s earlier contributions recorded by Nachzeit from Lustre. Not to sound like a broken record. but again a black metal recording that takes me back to the 1990s in a sincere manner and different enough from his main project to warrant its existence. I really hope for a full-length sometime soon.
Kyrios “Saturnal Chambers”
This is a project that you’re going to probably hear a lot more about in the coming years. A surprising mix of Ved Buens Ende and Leviathan-esque disharmony, with parts that bring to mind the less boring parts of Deathspell Omega (sorry). This is one of those bands that just came out of fucking nowhere. Pick up the demo now so you can be the person people wish would shut the fuck up about finding a band early instead of the other way around.
Revenant Marquis/Lamp of Murmuur
Revenant Marquis is one of those bands I always meant to check out because they tend to use very interesting imagery on their releases but always sell out before I get a chance to give them a try. Caustic and strange lo-fi UK black metal with a unique aesthetic, definitely going to try to grab the reissues DeathKvlt have planned for next year. Lamp of Murmuur could place in every single category I’ll be writing about but probably my favorite of his 2020 releases is his side of this split. It has everything I find compelling about the project: a hurricane of interesting riffs nestled in a raw enough production to give the songs teeth but clear enough as not to muddle down the message. Probably my favorite cover on any release this year, save Boreal’s The Battle of Vosad.
I was unfamiliar with Eindig before this split but their track is fucking phenominal, reminding me of a mixture of Forgotten Woods and Joyless (I know they’re mostly the same band, fuck off). Absolutely hopeless black metal, perfectly paired with the excruciating sounds of Carved Cross. Both bands manage to instill a feeling of despair without coming off like some pretentious attention-seeking “suicidal” black metal.
By far the best split of the year comes from the pairing of Valac and Kommodus. Considering both projects filled up the year with excellent recordings, it seems natural that this pairing would result in such a release. Valac (whose split with Grogaldr this year is also worth digging into) plays black metal that to my ears fits perfectly with the old Black Funeral/Sorath/Magus Thorn era of American black metal. Dark and obscure, this recording is his best thus far and shows a lot of promise for the future. Kommodus is currently my favorite active band in the black metal underground, fucking nothing sounds like this. Intense and warlike, a perfect counterpoint to Valac’s dense and obscure sounds. This split will be released on vinyl next year as the tape sold out in seconds. Pure underground excellence.
It was difficult to have this part of the list as short as it was. As I’ll say every 500 words or so, 2020 was a fucking year for underground music that only comes once every ten. Next wordy piece that I’ll bore you with will be me talking at you about dungeon synth. You’ll love it, I promise.
This is my kind of list
Valac and Kommodus have both been a couple of my favorites for the last few years….Kommodus especially seems to thrive with these shorter demo and split releases, so I’d completely second this reco. same with the Skravl demo…that’s a great release.
Maybe I’ll go back and retry that Wyvern demo, that one didn’t click for me the last time I gave it a spin.
“Saturnal Chambers” by Kyrios and Revenant Marquis / Lamp of Murmur split.
That Inlandshjarta breaks my heart. The music is so good, why does the production need to be so bad?