(We continue rolling out a series of year-end lists compiled by Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood). You can (and should) find Part I here (which was also devoted to EPs, Demos, and Splits) and Part II here (which was devoted to dungeon synth).
I don’t have very much of an eye for detail, no matter how much I bullshit about it on my resume, and because of that I constantly miss things when I do lists like this, plus the first two lists (did you read them? You should, they’re remarkable.) were pretty long and attention spans are short.
Really it’s just because I rushed through it like everything else in life, which is why my chapter in the USBM book stops around 2001. Anyway here’s more EPs, demos, and splits.
Diplodocus “Tales of an Ancient Past”
While I’m sure it would start arguments on what does and doesn’t constitute “dungeon synth” (I don’t really fucking care, I’m 42 years old) this project delivered a fucking immense record last year that I still listen to at least once a week. so I set an alarm when this went up for preorder. I didn’t know how well Diplodocus would fare on a 7-inch but these two songs somehow squeeze in what feels like an hour’s worth of material. Once again, my favorite synth related record of the year.
Old Tower “Seelenasche”
The third in the “Grim Alchemy” trilogy of 7 inches, Seelenasche might be my favorite of the three. There is something distant and morbid to it, almost reminiscent of some of the earlier Cold Meat Industry stuff. I really have enjoyed watching (listening?) to where he’s journeyed with this project this year.
Arts “Graveside Summoning”
Youth Attack is always reliable for really nasty punk and hardcore but where the label secretly shines is their black metal releases. This is a special record, the first in ten years for the project, and is just absolutely pummeling necrotic black metal. Wish I would’ve copped the glow-in-the-dark vinyl but that’s a 2021 hunt I suppose. Hopefully it’s not another decade before we hear more.
Fasad “The End”
I despise using the term “blackened” for anything, I wish I could tell you why. I guess it’s the same way some of you hate the words “moist” or “panties” or “critical thinking” but the term fits with Fasad. Anthemic crust punk with an obvious black metal slant to it, one of the most punishing demos this last year.
Vampire Tower “Ecclesia”
Every recording this project does is done with a different kind of synth set-up, which gives everything a very unique feeling to it. Ecclesia is a meditative experience, somber and trance-inducing at times, more renaissance at others, but always captivating and dark.
This was released at the very end of 2019, so close to the end that it fits easily into this year’s list unless you’re a pedantic nimrod. Brand are one of those bands working within the post-punk/black metal spectrum, but similar to Invunche they’re less The Cure and more the Warsaw demos. Brand have really tightened up their approach from their earlier work and this added focus gives these songs a tight, stomping aggression.
Krampusnacht “Trinity Pt III: The Holy G.O.A.T”
I’ve mentioned my distaste for whimsy all over the fucking place, plus anyone who’s ever talked to me in person can tell you I have what amounts to a black hole around me when it comes to fun, and yet here we are with a list that includes a project that writes synth songs about fucking dinosaurs and the newest recording from the original Christmas synth project, Krampusnacht. While I’ve kept my eye on this project for the last few years this is the first release since his eponymous debut that’s really caught me on my first listen. Sure, this is only for certain moods, but ’tis the fucking season.
I’ve already told you why Brand deserves your attention but Häxenzijrkell is one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. I would say it’s “powerful”, but a better way to describe them would be forceful. Listening to their side of this split feels like you’re throwing your soul against a wall. I don’t know why the fuck more people aren’t raving about this.
Valac/Grogaldr “Daggers of Stygian Darkness”
I mentioned this in the Part I bit about the (excellent) Valac/Kommodus split, but since I have the opportunity I might as well bring it up again, because it’s worth the attention. Valac, like I said before, give you the feeling that you’re in 1994 and there’s (mercifully) only about 8 USBM bands anyone outside of their towns have heard of. Valac sits nicely in the mid-’90s pedigree of quality USBM. Grogaldr’s split with Kommodus was my introduction to the project, and similar to Kommodus this is a fully realized vision from start to finish, with no unnecessary bullshit attached to the songs, just razor sharpness in both its sound and its focus.
We’re now well more than halfway done with yearly self-indulgence. Next piece will be full-lengths, then finally what I consider to be the top of the year. Hope you’ve found something useful in these so far.