Once again some insanely good varied epic metal tracks packed into a one hour album-like entity.
1. Keep of Kalessin – Armada. One of my long time favourites from 2006. A perfect fusion of thrash metal, death metal and black metal really. The composer Arnt Obsidian shared a really interesting story about the creation of the track in his blog (https://arntobsidian.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-armada/):
The ARMADA title was decided on very early in the process and I had a vision of how the title track should sound. But when I was writing songs I always felt that “this is a cool song, but it’s not ARMADA!”. I remember thinking this for Crown of the kings, The Wealth of Darkness and The Black Uncharted. Until one special night at around 11pm, I took one chord and I felt goosebumps all over my body…..because in that moment, I knew that THIS was it. It was happening now! The best song I’ve ever written was about to manifest itself on my guitar! I then spent 8 hours writing the song. Without recording any of it. I just made the entire song in one go, with all the passes and details right there and then. And I remember calling my brother at 7am after I was finished, saying “I’ve done it! ARMADA is written!! And it’s fucking insane!!!”. Haha. I have never been more excited about a song and I remember this as something special because I’ve never written an entire song with all passes and details like that in one long session before or after. It was truly something unique and I also think that this song is something truly unique!
2.-3. Mountains Above the Sun by Vektor serves as an intro to Ultimate Artificer in their 2016 album Terminal Redux. I saw no reason not to do the same here. A monster of a theme, Progressive sci-fi thrash metal, lead to the biggest metal breakthrough album of 2016. What a headbanger Ultimate Artificer is. As the saying goes: Sci-fi or die!
4. When Anaal Nathrakh go doom, they go massive. When their usual chaotic tempos and vocals are matched with epic and heavy undertones, like in Drug-Fucking Abomination it creates a new kind of diversity. Just listen how epic as shit intro first transforms into screams of pain with a melancholic melody, and then into fierce ripping tempo. It’s almost funny how damn intense Anaal Nathrakh can get.
5. Murder, by Katatonia is part of their Brave Murder Day album (the track name is not Murder Day as is falsely tagged in Spotify). It’s almost comical how fitting it is for an album with that name to have three first tracks with the names, Brave, Murder and Day. Day is the most somber one and Murder a link between their old and new days. The first 13 seconds of repetive guitar chord are at first almost annoying, but after it becomes familiar, for me it is a promise that one of all time best melodic doom riffs is to follow.
Brave Murder Day (1996) is a great mixture of the rawness and doom of Dance of December Souls (1993) and their later clearer melancholic rock/metal sound. The main focus is still with the doom but the great lead melodies do not hurt at all. Also Mikael Åkerfeldt’s inspired vocal performance has to be taken into account. He was actually alerted to sing in the album in a really quick notice after Jonas Renkse lost his voice just before the recordings. And Åkerfeldt delivers!
6. One of the most underrated albums of 2016 Downfall of Gaia‘s Atrophy has a title track that deserves to go to metal history as a supreme accomplishment of melodic black metal. It is not often that a band from the backwoods of German black metal/sludge/hardcore scene comes to the fore with this much damn style. I mean this neverheard band has the guts to start with brilliant melody that leads to a fucking drum solo and to-die-for tremolo riff. And no, they aren’t progressive metal, just casually throwing a drum solo there. Blows my mind. If Downfall of Gaia manage to keep this strong base level up, they are bound to get a lot more notice in the next years.
And damn, that is not the only backwoods atmospheric German melodic black metal album in the masterclass of 2016. Ultha’s Converging Sings is also there.
7.-8. Downfall of Gaia shares some post-hardcore traits. Converge is a band that for many defines the mixture of hardcore punk, post-hardcore and metal. Precipe is an intro to All We Love We Leave Behind in their 2012 album. It sets the mood very well being a very atmospheric composition by nature.
All We Love We Leave Behind striked me first as a bit whiny even though the riffs and especially the rhythmics are really inspired. Later on I heard that the track is actually about the vocalist Jacob Bannon’s dogs. Sheesh, it transformed into heartbreaking at that very instant. The lines that I thought were such a fucking cliche actually started to work really well. Converge seems to keeps inventing the wheel again and again, their mixture of different genres is ever so fresh.
9. A bit before Hardcore punk band Converge mixed metal in, a hardcore band Neurosis abandoned hardcore punk and started playing slow weird music with hardcore elements. It could have been called post-hardcore (emo, anyone?) but instead it turned out post-metal. The second album of Neurosis from 1992, Souls At Zero is one of the first, if not the first post-metal albums of all time. Surprisingly it is arguably the best.
Souls at Zero is not as widely regarded a classic as most genre defining albums. It should be, post-metal has grown quite big in the 25 years since the making of Souls at Zero. I had heard a huge number of post-metal albums before I stumbled across Souls at Zero, but still Souls came on top of the whole pile. This very rarely happens to me, usually I find the genre defining albums to have been made better later (not a popular opinion I know). Souls at Zero is not a clinically clean album and has the hardcore rawness and energy being heavy and oppressive as shit at the same time. Sounding so damn inspired.
To Crawl Under One’s Skin starts with humming voice clips and obscure stuff turning into really memorable melodies and riffs. They may lack the later post-metal loudness war heaviness but have dynamics to die for. Bass booms in the front and a weird quite high-pitched but heavy riff chugs and meanders about. All the sudden at 2.47 the guitarist Scott Kelly or Steve van Till makes the guitars damn near cry with long bends. Followed by a drum-break and build up, I feel there is a term to it too. This kind of structural freeness defines a lot of post-metal. Free-flowing meandering compositions that wonder through different climaxes naturally, sometimes avoiding the peak and turning to different direction half-way.
Still, Souls at Zero is pretty damn different from any later post-metal albums. That might actually explain why it is not valued as high as I’d want, cause it’s still a part of a process but not the actual defining album. Why has no one else done post-metal like this? Damn. If someone has, feel obliged to send me that album’s name immediately.
10. Cult of Luna turned out to be arguably the biggest second wave post metal band (first album in 2001). Mainly because their discography is full of class. Though it also helps that they did not break up like Isis did. First albums of Cult of Luna are quite hardcore influenced as with so many of the biggest post-metal bands. Neurosis, Callisto, The Ocean and Isis for example.
Mariner from 2016 is listed as a collaboration in Metal-archives but it is actually a new album. 54 minutes and 5 tracks with a female singer Julie Christmas. A friend justly commented that he cannot imagine why Cult of Luna wouldn’t make this permanent. I agree, the female vocals complement the bit stale Cult of Luna signature male grunts so perfectly it adds A LOT to the music. The album Vertikal (2012) already grew a bit stale but this new element keeps the kettle boiling.
Julie Christmas is also not a pop singer. The hardcorish attitude vocals add a lot of scale especially when sometimes she sounds angelic, others like a 41 year old woman she is, but at times like a 14 year old teen. Boys, that is vocal talent.
The Wreck of S.S. Needle does not have play between female and male vocals that I feel they could try more in the future. It is a basic real quality, real atmospheric intro that leads into heavy riffing, electronic throbbing elements in the back, and later on a climax. Usually with post-metal the pinnacle of the track is a heavy as shit riff but here it’s the vocal performance of Julie Christmas. Cult of Luna hasn’t sounded so fresh since 2006.