(For the 11th 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: Sphere – π
Harsh, pummeling, ambient blackmetal. At its best this is very reminiscent of Darkspace. Dense, dense sound with a punishing drum machine, synths piled upon synths, and vast guitars. Vocals have a weird tendency to be simultaneously engulfed by everything else that is going on while still being prominent, perhaps it’s just the harshness of them perfectly slicing though. In short, if you’ve been mourning the lack of a Darkspace album lately, pick this up, you will not regret it.
9: Mondocane – Dvala
An album which from what I can tell got very little attention. This is too bad because it’s a solid debut. On the whole it’s fairly standard nordic black metal with the exception of two tracks which are more ambient and where they’ve incorporated more of an electronica sound. This is interesting and actually works out well, which I might have missed if I’d just been told about it without hearing it. I’ll be eager to see where they go next.
8: Ungfell – Es Grauet
Ungfell return with their latest album Es Grauet, and the first thing I noticed was the softer and warmer production. While Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz had a raw, chaotic quality to it, this is much more refined. Now while I’m a fan of the rawer sound, this does sound very good. Everything is crisp and clear, the vocals are as unhinged as ever. If you enjoyed their previous output, chances are you’ll enjoy this too.
7: Dauþuz – Vom schwarzen Schmied
Fairly traditional first/second wave album albeit with an ample dose of folk influences. The vocals range from wails to chants to something cleanish, but not enough of the latter for it to be a distraction to yours truly. In many ways this feels like a natural progression from the last EP and there is nothing here to complain about other than perhaps that some of the songs are a bit on the longer side and drag just a bit. In all, a minor complaint, which shouldn’t take away from the overall accomplishments here.
6: Jordfäst – Hädanefter
While this album only consists of two long songs, the time is well utilized and it’s over faster than one knows. The songs have a tendency to veer over into unexpected territories; you think they’re going one way but then they decide on a different trajectory, something which keeps thing interesting. A strong debut and I’m curious what comes next.
5: Aorlhac – Pierres Brûlées
Like on their previous album this is very melodic but the riffs are sharp, and new drummer K.H. keeps things interesting with solid blast beats and fills. The one complaint one can have here is that there really isn’t a ton of variation. The songs, while each individually is great, do sound quite similar. However, as I often say, this is a fairly small quibble, especially if you like this type of blackmetal.
4: Ferriterium – Calvaire
Ferriterium, like countrymen Aorlhac or Cenotaphe, have an almost Québécois sound to them; raging and pretty raw but at the same time strongly melodic black metal. There is really no fat on this album, every note has its purpose and place and it’s right there where it should be. Vocals are passionately delivered with ferocious howling. Production is nice and crisp, and given the tempo most of the album goes at, this ensures that you can actually enjoy all the nuances this delivers.
3: Aara – Triade I: Eos
Having enjoyed last year’s album a lot I knew to keep an eye out for them and the first part of their trilogy based on Charles Maturin‘s book Melmoth the Wanderer, and Triade I: Eos is a stunning album start to finish. While there are parts which could be described as atmospheric or even symphonic, most of this album is played at an absolutely blistering speed with high-pitched shrieked vocals. I am very fond of the vocals; absolutely searing and caustic, this is just how I like my blackmetal singers. Aara have constructed a monster of an album here and I just hope the wait for parts two and three isn’t too long.
2: Misotheist – For the Glory of Your Redeemer
I wasn’t enamored with Misotheist‘s previous album, which may explain why I missed that this had been released and only found it very late in the year. However, with For the Glory of Your Redeemer they have certainly redeemed themselves in my eyes. This is some of the sharpest dissonant black metal I’ve heard this year. Gone is the overly murky sound of the debut and here we have sharp sounds, well-composed songs and a bleak and miserable blackmetal that is just hitting all the right notes. The vocals are cavernous and right up front without being overbearing. Right now if you ask me, my biggest regret of 2021 is that I didn’t have this album earlier.
1: Funeral Mist – Deiform
Funeral Mist albums always appear out of nowhere. Last time there had been a nine-year drought and then without any announcement Hekatomb dropped. This time the wait was shorter, but the announcement was made a week in advance with only two weeks left of the year. So despite having my year-end list mostly ready I decided to hold off a week so I could at least give this a few listens before deciding to include it or not.
My first listen was jarring as it was rather underwhelming, not a feeling I’m used to when it comes to Funeral Mist. I was ready to write the album off but the next day had it on while working and the songs started creeping in on me. Then I finally took some time and sat down and listened intently on my real stereo as opposed to hearing it on the computer or in the car. This cemented the view I’d been building to most of the day, that this was truly a great album.
Now there are parts which I’m not fully enamored with but those pieces are minor in the grand scheme of things. Arioch has managed to create an album which again is immediately recognizable as a Funeral Mist album but without sounding really like any of his previous albums. Perhaps the most obvious change is that despite the songs mostly all being on the longer side, the speed and intricacy of riffs and fills have gone up significantly. Despite coming out as late as it did, in my book Funeral Mist managed to blow the competition out of the water this year.