(Here’s the final part of Neill Jameson‘s 5-part series of year-end lists for NCS. As always we’re grateful to him for letting us share them, and we hope you’ve made as many great discoveries from them as we have.)
So now we’ve come to the end of several days’ worth of things to read while you’re on the shitter which, according to Christmas tradition, should be full. I didn’t do full albums for this, you can use Google to find my list of those, and I would have added Funeral Mist and Ifernach to the heap but both of those came out too late for me to really do much about it, and by now you should have already guessed they’re both great.
Again, these lists are entirely subjective and I’m sure I missed whatever bullshit you’ve been chubbing up to, which you’ll tell me about in some forum I’ll never read. Or worse, perhaps you’re one of the people who spend the other 51 weeks of the year talking cash shit about me only to suck up this last week of the year hoping I’ll do something for your band or label, only to fall back into the internet sewing-circle of dry dicks waiting for me to do something that finally gets me “cancelled’.
Well, get fucked, your band sucks and I’ve had shows cancelled due to Antifa decades before you even knew your dick was for anything besides pissing. If this is the first you’ve heard that it can be used for anything else, congratulations and welcome to 2022. I’ll be leaving 2021 the same way I came in: making crass dick jokes some shitty webzine will dissect thinking it’ll get them somewhere. They can get fucked, too. Here’s the best of the best of the last twelve months in my eyes (ears?):
Staar “Schaduwmagie” (Tour De Garde)
This is a collection of all three Staar demos, placed in an order so that it begins with black metal ala Poland ‘95/later Judas Iscariot and transforms into astral synth work akin to Neptune Towers. I’m obviously a fan of The Spectre’s work (this is the third entry of his in my lists) but outside of the first two Old Tower full-lengths this is definitely my favorite of his creations and was very pleased that Tour De Garde released this collection since the demos individually are fucking expensive. Would love to see this on vinyl eventually.
Spiral Staircase “Cellar Dream” (Final Agony)
Intensely dark and caustic black metal that hides layer upon layer of filth, Cellar Dream is one of those rare instances of visual and sonic aesthetic being perfectly paired. Unlike a lot of the raw black metal you guys are getting all pre-cummy about, Spiral Staircase has depth of sound and spirit fully realized into a perfect EP.
Gallkrist “Det Lukter Geit” (Black Goat)
Taking an already interesting formula from Demo 2021 Det Lukter Geit expands on the weird dungeon noise in an increasingly satisfying manner. If you enjoyed Vivian’s first demo under this moniker then you should already own this one. Excited to see where 2022 takes her.
An Old Sad Ghost “Fullmoon Over Videna” (Gondolin Records)
I’ve missed every physical release An Old Sad Ghost has had this year, but I’m determined not to miss this when it eventually drops. As a long time fan of this project I’ve really enjoyed watching him expand his sound and go into new territories with it, and I think Fullmoon Over Videna might be my favorite thus far. Like his other work there’s still an overall morbid atmosphere to it but it’s also somewhat uplifting, like a midnight stroll through European cities of old. Sublime dungeon music.
Cathedrals In the Night “Demo 1” (Jems Label)
There’s always been a direct disconnect for me in between the self pitying “DSBM” and the morose and melancholic black metal bands like earlier Mütiilation or Strid. I think it’s because the former just comes off like the audio equivalent to My Chemical Romance’s hair. Cathedrals in the Night strongly belong in the latter. Pulsating and thick with sorrow, this was by far the best debut of a new project I heard this year.
Quest Master/Graves of Eden “Brimstone” (Brilliant Emperor)
Holy shit, this 7” gets better every time I listen to it. I already did a few hundred words on Quest Master two lists ago but this is the track that introduced me to the project and is a touch darker than his other material. Graves of Eden is the dungeon synth incarnation of Burier and truly gives your imagination a trip into black, torchlit caverns. While a 7-inch isn’t what I would necessarily choose as a format for dungeon synth, in this case it works beautifully.
Krigstjørn “”Skikkelser” (Nattetale)
For such a new project to release not one but two high-quality releases in their first year speaks volumes about the musicians behind it. Four songs this time and while the first two are enjoyable this EP really picks up with the second half. The shifting tempos mixed with very memorable riffs just really took this record up from being killer to being one of the best of the year for me and the main Korpsand project to watch.
Corroded Spiral “Ancient Nocturnal Summoning” (Phantom Limb)
Genre-defying project with Igor Cavalera and Dwid Hellion that runs the gamut from power electronics to mid ’90s Metropolis EBM to GGFH territory this demo feels like you’re tethered by rusting chains from a sub-functional elevator in some bombed-out factory somewhere. Both mind-numbing and mind-expanding and probably not what you would expect when you hear they were working together but truly great collaborations should push an artist out of what the listener would infer as their “comfort zone”. Hopefully we see more come from this.
Grinning Death’s Head “Cataclysm” (Youth Attack)
Grinning Death’s Head follows the pattern of quality that Mark McCoy and J. Wood have laid out in all of their previous projects. Crushing and savage black metal perfection from the endless riffs to incredible vocals to the clear yet sharp production. Far and away my favorite EP of 2021.
Oxygen Tank “Demo 2021”
A new Chris Colohan-fronted project with Morgan from Hive that sounds like Cursed “III”, Burning Love, and Hive thrown into a blender filled with razors? That sentence should be enough to get a dribble coming out your piss hole of choice but the end result is even greater than the sum of its parts. Like a brick to the face, my favorite demo of 2021 was an easier pick than most years.
Kommodus / Pan-Amerikan Native Front “Immortal Ceremonies” (Goatowar Rex)
Normally I write these before submitting all of them but I waited a bit for this part just to see if I received any comments or messages accusing me of forgetting this one and, holy shit, you guys did not disappoint. There’s really not a lot I can say about this split that hasn’t been said, probably better, elsewhere. Both of these projects continually get better and better with each release and are helmed by two of the most driven and focused minds in modern black metal, producing what might be their finest work. This is an obvious choice for the best record of 2021, which is why it’s at the top of the heap during a surprisingly fertile year for music.
And this wraps up 2021. This was a harder list to put together than most years and that’s simply because there was so much exceptional music fighting each other for spots. You can go back to my “Dirty Black Summer” playlists [here, here, and here] to check out some of the stuff that didn’t make it but is also worth your listening time.
I appreciate the opportunity that No Clean Singing gives me whenever the mood hits to throw together a playlist or to waste bandwidth puttering on about bands that are important only to the members and myself and, for as much as it pains me to say so, I appreciate you-the reader- for continuing to give me attention but also for continuing to actually check out some of these records and, and this is the most important part, actually support the musicians creating it. Because it’s all well and good for me to write about bands but they are the ones you should be celebrating and lifting up because they’re doing all the heavy lifting that enables people like me to do what we do.
To stand on tradition I’ll say the record I most look forward to in 2022 is (the infamous) Gehenna’s Negative Hardcore, but unlike the last 6 or 7 years of saying it, the record actually has a release date of August and I’ve gotten to hear a bit of it, and holy shit. It’s worth the wait. So what should replace it? Probably a new Withdrawal record since those nice boys know how to make us wait as well.