Black metal

Best albums and tracks of 2017

The best albums of 2017 contains 60 albums that I listened enough to warrant them a place in this list. Scroll further down for the best tracks as a Spotify playlist and a few pickups that I missed in 2016. Hyperlinks lead to reviews.


Best albums of 2017

Near perfect (9+)

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Loss — Horizonless – funeral doom / deathdoom – Horizonless by Loss is a giant of a funeral doom album. It portrays a wide dispersal of moods, shifting between beautiful, crushing and ominous. The instrumentation and sounds are all top level, even the bass guitar comes to the fore time to time.
     Horizonless seeped among the best albums of 2017 slowly. I dare to say this is my favourite doom release from the US since Morgion’s criminally underknown Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth (2004).


Excellent (9)

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Nyss — Princesse Terre (Three Studies of Silence and Death) – atmospheric black metal – Fantastic atmosphere, riffs and use of effective repetition. Climaxes, build-ups, some melodies, backing ambience. Absolute top tier atmospheric and hypnotic black metal.


Very good (9-)

Grave Pleasures — Motherblood – death rock / post-punk – Everything that Beastmilk, who later renamed themselves to Grave Pleasures did right in the first album Climax (2013) also comes in place on Motherblood. The blasphemous lyrics, deathrock and catchy pop hooks groove together elegantly again.
     The album retains a strong base level through it’s length. Tracks like Joy Through Death dance between two worlds masterfully. It could be an eulogy or as well just a piece of dark humorous obscenity!

Hebosagil — Fortuna / Auta – noise rock / post-metal / hardcore punk – Bursting with melodies and aggression. I don’t think they’ve ever before had this many pop hooks. On the other hand, the 2nd track Auta still flirts with drone and noise rock with violently paranoid lyrics…


Good+ (8½)

Septicflesh — Codex Omega – symphonic death metal

Woe — Hope Attrition – atmospheric black metal – biggest grower of the year.

Oranssi Pazuzu — Kevät / Värimyrsky Psychedelic black metal / stoner doom – Pazuzu re-released their split with Candy Cane with the name Farmakologinen, it’s a 9+/10 album but also released a brand new great single. Värimyrsky is a welcome nod back to their old days.

Slægt — Domus Mysterium – black metal / heavy metal – I really liked the 2015 EP Beautiful and Damned so it’s really welcome to see they are as good a full-length band!

Wintersun  — The Forest Seasons – symphonic metal /progressive metal / melodic metal – Wintersun’s The Forest Seasons might be the album that has split most opinions in 2017. It currently stands at 56 % in Metal Archives which cannot be based on music alone. For the musics in this music album are mostly solid as heck.
     First three tracks (clocking over 40 minutes) are packed with memorable melodies, good songwriting and fine sounding symphonics. Wintersun is not a one trick pony solely based on power metal and melodeath. The album has a few aces up its sleeve. For example, most melodeath bands might not try their skills in black metal or melancholic doom.

Heptaedium — How Long Shall I Suffer Here? – electronic metal / breakcore / nintendocore / progressive metal

Glanko — OsmosiSci-fi IDM – Dark toned themes with sci-fi elements. Glanko has matured and found great melody lines to accompany beats more diverse than ever. Perfect music for reading sci-fi like Dan Simmonds Hyperion quartet! You can add / remove half a point depending if you are reading sci-fi or not!

Sun of The Sleepless — To The Elements – atmospheric black metal


Good+ (8+)

Vallenfyre — Fear Those Who Fear Him – oldschool death metal with connections to Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Abhorrence. Not surprisingly, the best moments on Fear Those Who Fear Him are the slower doomier bits. The sound of the album is quite perfect for this kind of music altogether. Really powerful, far from crystal clear, yet not muddy at all. Piercing, rumbling and ferocious.

The Moth Gatherer — The Comfortable Low – post-metal / post-rock

Wear Your Wounds — WYW – slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze – side-project of Converge’s Jacob Bannon. The highs are really high if you’ve always digged the slower tracks of Converge. WYW strips down almost all heavy guitars and is quite a melancholic slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze album. Unsurprisingly the heaviest moments rank among the best.
There’s over 20 minutes of boring material in the midst of 63 minutes so I’m ranking it more for the good points than for the bad. Just skipping the last two tracks already makes it great. Still difficult to get into. 

Ayreon — The Source (album 1) – progressive rock / musical

AlNamrood — Enkar – Middle Eastern blackened deaththrash – one of the biggest growers of the year, initially I did not even like Enkar it as it does not repeat the mystic and even majestic atmospheric tricks of their 2015 album Diaji Al Joor. Enkar is quite a punk album compared to Diaji but after over 10 listens the Middle Eastern instrumentation, nuances and straightforward fierce song-writing started to really feel like a tight package.


Good (8ish)

Over the Voids… — Over The Voids – black metal

James Elkington — Wintres Womasinger-songwriter / acoustic / folk – At best Elkington channels Nick Drake’s gentle guitar virtuosity. Fortunately he is not a one-trick pony but I admit I’m a sucker for the more complicated pickings.

Ulver — The Assassination of Julius Caesar – avant-garde synthpop / experimental

Converge — The Dusk In Us – metalcore / hardcore / post-hardcore

WÖYH! — KRTKRTK – progressive rock / children’s music for adults

Janne Westerlund — There’s a Passage singer-songwriter / folk / acoustic / experimental

Au-Dessus — End of Chapter – atmospheric black metal / post-metal

The Faceless — In Becoming a Ghost – progressive death metal – Half really good (Digging The Grave, The Spiraling Void, Shake The Disease, I Am, half of Black Star), the rest is filler. Extra points from how the melodramatic intro sets up Digging the Grave. The jumpiest album start since Ghost of Perdition by Opeth!

Pryapisme — Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium – Avant-garde metal / experimental metal


8-

Ochre — Beyond The Outer Loop – idm / downtempo / ambient

Troldhaugen — Idio+syncrasies – avant-garde metal / humour metal – Half funny, half annoying, half great. This is a true love it or hate it album, yet I am inbetween because the compositions are mostly great but vocals oft times annoyingly over freaky. The metalcore / crabcore influences aren’t that much of my liking either, some of the avant-garde elements are outrageously good and only a few outrageously annoying (the rap part of It’s Morphine Time, yet the chorus is a hilarious stadium rock sing-a-long). The album has hints of Crotchduster-like greatness. Bullseye track has the best track title of the year: I Ordered A Taxi Driver Not A Taxidermy.

Riitaoja — Täytettyjä lintuja – experimental indie rock / art rock / folk

Wvrm — Can You Hear The Wind Howl – grindcore / death metal – 10 minutes is just the right length for this kind of furious album. 6 tracks with a 3 minute doomy headbanger in the midst. Epic track length in their standards.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana – garage rock / psychedelic rock

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Gumboot Soup – garage rock / psychedelic rock – The rest of the 5 (!!!!!) albums they released this year I did not check properly yet. Quick check on Polygondwanaland sounds like another real quality effort. It’s concept would also be worth a mention. Here’s a great Youtube video sumup of their 5 album plan. King Gizzard is probably the most innovative rock band at the moment. Maybe one of the albums will match their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity.

Hanging Garden — I Am Become – atmospheric rock / doom metal – Blackout Whiteout was one of the biggest surprises of 2015, the first tastes of I am Become were great, yet it did not have the growth of the last album. The best bits Kouta and Our Dark Design are top class and the album does not really have bad sections either.

Lantern — II: Morphosis – new wave of Finnish oldschool dark death metal in the vein of Demigod and Convulse


Kardinaalit — Primus Culpa experimental / rock / humour – Primus Culpa demo should be annoying but mostly it is actually funny. These guys also have some high class material in their soundcloud (also a lot of junk), eagerly awaiting if they piece their shit together out of humour terrains and develop their stronger tracks. At least 3-4 are already fully ready and would be a backbone of a very strong release

Enslaved — E – progressive metal / viking metal / black metal – possible grower

Eneferens — In The Hours Beneath – atmospheric rock / atmospheric black metal

Wolves in the Throne Room — Thrice Woven – atmospheric black metal

Fen — Winter – atmospheric black metal – possible grower

Vulture Industries — Stranger Times – progressive metal / avant-garde metal – The first three tracks of the album are really fucking good which is why it’s such a shame that the rest of the album is strangely mediocre to almost useless. Three other tracks do stand out a bit. Something Vile’s last half is driven by good lead guitars and heavy drum pounding, matching the beginning. Midnight Draws Near and Screaming Reflections do have great vocals and good dynamic going on but constantly slow paced pretty good compositions fail to resonate much after the beginning of the album does everything a few notches better.

Pillorian Obsidian Arc – atmospheric black metal


7+

Ne Obliviscaris — Urn – progressive metal

KANASHIMI — INORI depressive black metal / funeral doom / japanese pop influences – yes you read right, Scar of the heart is a bullseye of a track, a nicely unique dsbm sound. Then the one man project repeats it nearly all album long… Classic one man band problem really.

Havukruunu — Kelle surut soi – pagan black metal – hello Moonsorrow, these guys are pretty good in their own right too. Bullseye track: Kelle Surut Soi.

Inferno Requiem — Nüwa 女媧 – oldschool black metal / atmospheric black metal

Igorrr — Savage Sinusoid – avant-garde metal / breakcore / electronic

Skyclad — Forward Into The Past – folk metal / heavy metal – metal-observer’s review seemed to sum most of my thoughts. I just have to add the best track “Change Is Coming” is at part with almost any of their tracks and “State of The Union Now” a fresh reminder of their thrash past. Judging by the 2015 album Atom by Atom, Steve Ramsay might just leave his best tracks for his other project, Satan.

Myrkur — Maredit – black metal / indie rock / dream pop – fantastic beginning then the mediocre but well sung indie / dream pop elements come to the surface. Most of the metallish tracks are slow, doomy and boring. The blastbeating chaotic atmosphere appears too scarcely. Luckily there’s Gladiatrix.


Okay (7ish)

Falls of Rauros — Vigilance Perennial – atmospheric black metal

Planeetta 9 — Koivut – Finnish metal / rock / doom

Falaise — My Endless Immensityblackgaze

Akercocke — Renaissance In Extremis – avant-garde metal / black metal – Possible grower, ~8 listens doesn’t seem to be enough

Alfahanne — Det Nya Svarta – post-punk / death rock – One track miracle Satans Verser, probably the best rock track of the year, there’s a good mellow post-punk atmosphere but Avgrundsgravitation and Det Nya Svarta are the only tracks that completely succeed in tension. Mitt mörkär är mörkäre än ditt is weirdly catchy, I can’t quite put my hand on it, if i like it or don’t. Same catchiness goes for Även an Hund Har Sin Dag. For a while I thought the album is great until it crashed down to mediocre. I admit I might like it more if I bothered to understand more of the lyrics.

Ayreon — The Source (album 2) – progressive rock / musical

Paradise Lost — Medusa – doom metal / death doom


Okay- (6½) aka class c black metal

Fleurety — The White Death – One track miracle The Ballad of The Copernicus, few ok tracks besides it (White Death, Future Day). Special credit to the worst riff of the year in the peculiarly, chosen single track Lament of the Optimist.

Ajattara — Lupaus – black metal – One track miracle Saatanan Sinetti, few good tracks besides it (Sinä, last half of Lupaus). Most lyrics a bit stupid: Pimeä, pimeä, kuolema, kuolema blah blah blah.. Special credit to stupidest choruses of the year in Ristinkirot and Machete. Too bad as Machete is musically quite a great headbanger.

Charnel Winds — Verschränkung – Avant-garde metal / black metal

Asagraum — Potestas Magicum Diaboli – black metal


Best tracks of 2017

Best tracks arranged to a playlist in quite random order. Playlist in text-pdf format + a few tracks that aren’t in Spotify: Best_tracks_of_2017


Bubbling under

Brilliant tracks just below the first category. Except on a good day…


2016 reprise

Bunch of interesting 2016 releases found too late

9ish

Downfall of Gaia — Atrophy – atmospheric black metal / post black metal

W. Iivarinen — Melankolia – Finnish metal / rock

8ish

Blood Incantation — Starspawn – Progressive atmospheric death metal
Jpefmafia — Black Ben Carson
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Cantique Lepreaux — Cendres Célestes
 – atmospheric black metal
Ultha — Converging Sins – atmospheric black metal / post-black metal
明日の叙景(Asunojokei) — 過誤の鳥 (A Bird in the Fault) – post-black metal/post-hardcore

7 to 8-

Khid — Ohi – experimental rap / trap
Baptism
— V: The Devil’s Fire – black metal
Jpefmafia — The 2nd Amendment
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Saor — Guardians
– atmospheric folk / black metal
Radiopuhelimet — Saastan Kaipuu
– melurock / finnish rock
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra — Broken Lines
– alternative metal / alternative rock

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Monumental Folkish & Folk metal playlist

1. Fleurety – Fragmenter av en Fortid disappeared from Spotify just a while ago, it will be added back when it comes back around. Full-length Min tid skal komme from 1995 is the real jewel of their discography. One of many “lost” metal releases that many consider a classic but most people have never heard about. It’s definitely a must checkup for fans of folkish metal.

1. Fleurety’s place was taken by Pillorian, the newly formed line-up of ex-Agalloch John Haughm. After Agalloch split into two pieces in 2016, the remaining three members went to form Khôrada that is due to release their first album. Pillorian‘s 2017 release Obsidian Arc starts with it’s brightest spots, By the Light of a Black Sun (+ Archaen Divinity) should sate most Agalloch fans.

2. Fen is not a band that I’ve tracked, even though it’s similarities to Agalloch have been known to me since their first full-length Malediction Fields in 2009. It is only lately that I gave a true chance to their unpolished first album and it unveiled a real jewel in Lashed by Storm. The weak clean vocals in the very end are it’s only grey spot. Fen’s 2017 release Winter materialized on my listening cycle; it does have some very atmospheric sections but its also really-frigging-long (75 minutes!). I would deem it very possible that a track from it appears to my playlists later on.

3.-4. As a humble praise, Wilderun‘s Sleep at the Edge of Earth might be my favourite metal release of past 5 years. It has a glorious quaternity Ash Memory (trinity has 3, quaternity 4, yeah i just looked it up from google…), from which 2 well fitting tracks were chosen. Hope and Shadow (II), and the The Faintest Echo (IV). The traces in the beginning of Hope and Shadow that clip in this collection are from the 1st track of the quaternity. Wilderun really took care to make it a logical entity which I then disturbed!

The Faintest Echo’s 3.20 monumental symphonic centerpiece and outro of the quaternity is a prime example why Wilderun’s output doesn’t pale in comparison with any symphonic and folk metal bands of today.

5. Tore Hund is by Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá. It is a project by Enslaved and Wardruna veterans, which may run below radar cause of it’s eccentric name that sounds like artsy folk music. Well um, it is kind of that actually, in a lot of ways Skuggsja sounds more like folk with metal elements than the other way around. Though even the folkier tracks often have a heavy backbone that owes to metal and makes these two elements come together naturally.

6. In Zuriaake‘s Afterimage of Autumn‘s most stunning moment, the chorus of 歸兮 / Return Journey Zuriaake seamlessly adds a traditional sounding Chinese tremolo melody to a slow doomy basis. Unfortunately I could not pick the name of this guitar like string instrument as the booklet is all in Chinese (except track titles). Zuriaake’s black metal focuses on entwining natural atmospherics, ambience with very overdriven guitars and depressive black metal vibe. I also reviewed them in the past (https://likemusictoyourears.com/2016/01/26/zuriaake-afterimage-of-autumn).

7. October Falls is an interesting beast for their first promo was metal but three of the first four official releases were acoustic guitar driven material with a lot of natural ambience. Since then they’ve mostly strolled on the metallic grounds, always with quality but rarely with something that really catches my ears. A Collapse of Faith Part III, from 2010 A Collapse of Faith must be their best track to date. I must admit however that I have spent way too little time in adjusting to 2013, The Plague of a Coming Age. That ought to be my next listen.

8. The noise / drone wall of Sol InvictusEnglish Murder‘s intro make it a significantly difficult piece. But I am not making these collections for layman listeners quick fix. The controversy and paradox of a folk track being actually heavier and darker than the following metal track make it a juicy addon.

9. Logically following Sol Invictus is Agalloch, who have listed Sol Invictus as one of their big influences. Agalloch is one of the very first metal bands that I got into and surely the first folkish metal band. Yet in their sound progressive elements, post-rock and melancholia are also ever present. Limbs 10 minute brilliance is started by deliciously annoyingly long 10 second note after which it goes all post-rock. Climbing to mountains, descending into valleys and drifting among the transparent mist.

I do appreciate a well timed and set up grunt, John Haughm’s 6.35 effort is one of the prime examples! “These boughs were said to be lost! Torn, unearthed and broken –  IYRRRRRRRRRRRR”. What the fuck is he even singing about? There must be something to it as it inspires genuine sing-along grunting from yours truly. When it comes to grunting, Haughm is right up there with Thomas Gabriel Fischer.

10. Skyclad‘s past two albums haven’t been nearly as notable as most of their 12 full-lengths before them (many of them are masterpieces after all). I would only rate A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol and No Daylights Not Heeltaps on level with the new albums. However, on In The… All Together from 2009 Skyclad formed possibly the best track of their career, The Well-Travelled Man. The vocalist Kevin Ridley is on fire, shouting half of the track. Lyrics and composition communicate perfectly into a folky, dramatic, upbeat, yet melancholic tune with a heart-wrenching ending. Wow.

Depression Overload – metal playlist

Funeral doom and depressive black metal is the bread and butter of this album (a playlist really, but I consider my playlists albums). It visits only a few other despairing terrains. This is no melancholy walk in the park as my previous playlists (Monumental funeral doom melancholy and Post-rock melancholia) but pure despair and depression. The darkness on the album is not sourced from incoherent extreme sewer sounds but tightly sounding bands that combine a great melodic sense with a feeling of hopelessness and misery.

1. It would not make sense to reveal all the cards in the beginning, so the beginning of the album is a light descent with some melodic funeral doom.

Shape of Despair is a band many of the melancholic melodic funeral doom bands model after. Their second album Angels of Distress (2001) is the biggest landmark yet strangely I seem to have picked tracks from their two newer ones in my playlists. Entwined in Misery is the best piece of their 2004 album Illusion’s play. It features hauntingly beautiful background keys that have lasted the touch of time extremely well. Pasi Koskinen’s growling kept getting deeper as Shape of Despair progressed in their career, peaking here. The new vocalist Henri Koivula (Throes of Dawn) does a tremendous job on their newest release, Monotony Fields (2015) as well.
All these years in absence
…forgiveness does not reveal itself…

…and emptiness falls before me…
And silences this life,


2. One of the best releases of 2015 Leviathan’s Scar Sighted is based on black metal but at it’s darkest it is pure nihilistic funeral doom. The title track is especially gloomy. The tortured screams and bright piano create a real contrast of depression and light.
Nil light reigns
Only tattered accusations
Paling to the comparison
Now utterly drained
And all wonder is banished
Life after life
Absorbing
Nothing


3. Evoken – Mournful Refusal. Evoken could be called a successor of nihilistic old school funeral bands like Esoteric, also having more in common with Thergothon and Skepticism than Shape of Despair. 2005 release Antithesis of Light (what a title!) benefits of its modern and crushingly heavy production. Hear also the dynamics, how beautifully Evoken has crafted a chorus with clean guitar and lovely bursty double bass drumming.
Waiting only prolongs the wanting
Living only prolongs the arriving
Death knows no regret of a mournful refusal

In sporadic tone, the composition of beauty
Turned grim and cold…


4. Lifelover (what a band name!), a lot of people loathe them and for a reason. Their sounds take some time to get used to, drum machine and quite amateuristic guitar sounds. Upon listening their masterpiece, Konkurs for the first time I thought: “Is this the masterpiece? Really?” But it’s a stunning grower with a soul that is very hard to find on any other release. The pitch-black humour in the depressive lyrics is the icing on the cake.

Stängt p.g.a Semester (closed because of semester) is an interlude unlike anything else on this album. A beautifully haunting acoustic track with despairing lyrics. One of the only instances were being forced to study ~8 years of Swedish in school has paid off.

På Svenska
Vem behöver glädjas åt sig själv
När vi kan skratta åt andra?
Vem behöver ha ett syfte
När det är urvattnat och saknar mening?
Vem behöver säga att “Jag mår bra”
När ändå ytan är det viktiga?
Innan jag åkte, lämnade jag bomber,
Där ni känner er som mest trygga
Jag kommer inte tillbaka
English translation
Who needs to be happy about their selves
When we can laugh at others?
Who needs a purpose
When it’s all dried up and lacks meaning?
Who needs to say “I feel good”
When the surface is what counts?

Before I left, I planted bombs
Where you feel most secure
I won’t return

5. A lot of people thought it a dick move when a couple years ago Ghost Bath swindled in being a Chinese band, but turned out to be American. They said that was because they wanted to keep actual identities/location anonymous and for affection of Chinese culture.

Prejudice labelled aside Moonlover is a fine release but Happyhouse is the lethal injection Ghost Bath is at it’s best in prescribing. Happyhouse brings in mind the “Mental Central Dialog” themes of Lifelover. It’s bright melodies and incoherently painful screaming vocals clash together to create a feeling of an mental asylum. The melodies are a bit predictable but twisted a little obscure, perhaps wee bit out of tune and so fucking good, all this predictability is a strength. A downright shuddering tune.


6. Drudkh – Solitude. Yes it’s a great track and yes it’s pretty long with a lot of repetition, in the right mode Solitude becomes a very meditative track. Solitude is one of the only instances of more melancholic terrain than the rest of the tracks, it’s true potential lies in its slow and somber orchestral main melody.

Solitude’s lyrics are from a poem of an Ukrainian artist Taras Shevchenko (Thoughts of mine, О thoughts of mine, 1839). The familiar slavic dramatic melancholy is easy to discover.

Ukrainian
Журбою
Не накличу собі долі,
Коли так не маю.
Нехай злидні живуть три дні –
Я їх заховаю,
Заховаю змію люту
Коло свого серця,
Щоб вороги не бачили,
Як лихо сміється…
Нехай думка, як той ворон,
Літає та кряче,
А серденько соловейком
Щебече та плаче
Нишком – люди не побачать,
То й не засміються…
Не втирайте ж мої сльози,
Нехай собі ллються,
Чуже поле поливають
Щодня і щоночі,
Поки попи не засиплють
Чужим піском очі…
English translation
Never knew I joy, nor will it
Come to me if I
Grieve ’thout end…. Let grief be short-lived,
Let it snake-like lie
Coiled within my breast and hidden
From the evil sight
Of my foes…. And may its laughter
Reach them not…. By night
And by day my thoughts are ravens;
Let them croak while my
Heart, a songbird, trills and warbles,
While it softly sighs,
Sighs and moans with none to hear it
Or to taunt it … Pray,
Let me weep, and do not try to
Wipe my tears away.
Let them flow and flood the alien
Field till that a priest
Comes and covers me with alien
Earth…. Ah, me! No peace
Grief will bring me….

English translation by Irina Zheleznova taken from http://taras-shevchenko.infolike.net/t-shevchenko-tr-by-irina-zheleznova-poem-thoughts-of-mine-o-thoughts-of-mine.html) I cannot speak Ukrainian so the English and Ukrainian parts may not match exactly.


7. Moonsorrow – Kuolleiden Maa. Listen, Moonsorrow is not most known for their depressive black metal vibes. But on Kuolleiden Maa they are nothing else.

Finnish
Olen siellä mistä kaikki alkaa uudelleen
Missä valo ei värejä näytä
Kaikkialle levittäytyy tasainen niitty
Vain taivas ylläni vaalenee
Käy rauhaisena vierelläni tuuli
Itse silmäni suljen ja itken
Tänne jään, kaipuuta vailla
Rikotun henkeni veden virtaan annan
English translation
I am there where everything
starts and
Where the light shows no colours
An even meadow stretching everywhere
Only the sky above me growing lighter
A calm breeze is blowing beside me | I close my
eyes and weep | Here I
shall remain, without yearning | My broken spirit I shall give to the streaming
waters
depression overload_edit

Illustration from British Library free to use Flickr

Monumental metal 4 – Epixperimental playlist

Bring out the weird again, epic experimental tracks! This playlist features bands from experimental terrain that have a solid basis on metal.

1. Rudra‘s Illusory Enlightment is “Vedic” metal from Singapore. Vedic comes from their incorporation of Sanskrit Vedic literature, philosophy and ancient mantras (shlokas) to blackened death metal basis. They also encompass traditional Carnatic music to their compositions. Illusory Enlightment’s top moment is the compelling chanting chorus. See also the review of their album Brahmavidya: Immortal I here.

2. Jumalhämärä is one of the many bands in Finnish experimental black metal terrain that has gotten more attention in the past 10 years. Along with bands like Oranssi Pazuzu, Abyssion, Mörkö, Jumalhämärä is probably the weirdest of the bunch. The title track of their most accessible album Resignaatio is a rare catchy, almost punky, track and in their catalogue that makes it an abnormality. Its deep bass rumbling intro turns into naturally flowing structure, captivating Finnish lyrics with supremely hooking riffing and stylish use of upstrokes. You know what they released after Resignaatio? A drone pipe organ album. Really.

3. December Wolves is one of the many bands I found from Earache presents: Metal – A headbanger’s companion (2007). It is from the CD 2 – Grindcore, but especially CD 6 – Leftfield is a great listen (Cult of Luna, Callisto, Scorn, Godflesh, Akercocke, Crotchduster etc.). Desperately Seeking Satan could be called leftfield, though its roots are firmly in black metal. The heavy use of voice clips, nihilistic lyrics and programmed drums combining industrial with violent black metal guitars make their 2002 release Blasterpiece Theatre have a sound appearance unlike any other.

4. The Meads of Asphodel – Children of the Sunwheel Banner (part 2). You could say that Metatron, the vocalist of Meads of Asphodel takes making lyrics a bit seriously. Their webpage has about 100 pages of text per album about the lyrical themes. So you can imagine it surges pretty deep. It seems the web page is unfortunately down at the moment though.

Sunwheel banner obviously references to nazis. I am not even going into the stuff of them being “nazis” because they are a metal band that has an interest of the atrocities of the past + uses the word “jew”. Oh and one of the 10 labels that has released their music has apparently released an NSBM release, jeez.

Like in one of my previous playlists Monumental metal oddities, I placed “cousin” bands The Meads of Asphodel and Sigh after each other. They have enough eccentric material to use for a few playlists. Also, the keyboard solo in Children of the Sunwheel Banner is played by none else than the main man behind Sigh, Mirai Kawashima.

5. Sigh – A Messenger From Tomorrow (I. The Message – II. Foreboding – III. Doomsday). The most epic track in Sigh’s catalogue. Surprisingly also one of the lightest ones, based on strong orchestral melodies. The lesser amount of heavy distortion guitars does not mean the composition wouldn’t be huge though. A Messenger From Tomorrow only further proves the multifacetedness of Sigh as a monstrously diverse band.

6. Negură Bunget – Cunoașterea tăcută. Negura Bunget’s 2006 release Om is one of the highlights of 2000s black metal in both song-writing and originality. The introduction of Romanian traditional instruments, epic soundscapes, shamanistic repetitive passages, raw production and very oldschool black metal elements blew many a mind. Cunoașterea tăcută includes one of those clean melodies (at 3.00) that makes you wonder on what plane of being it was conceived. Oldschool black metal riffing accompanied with traditional instruments and high-flying folk singing with the catchiness of bubonic plague.

7. Ufomammut – Daemons. What a Monster riff to close up their 2015 release, Ecate. That is all that needs to be said really.

Music Quickies – Paradox, Deathspell Omega, Wilderun, Barren Earth

Paradox – Pangea (2016)

573798These old thrash raptors are on the chase (2nd track Raptor, Jurassic Park)! In their manhunt (5th track Manhunt, Rambo) for the second best thrash album of 2016 with Blaakyum’s Line of Fear. Which one comes 2nd then?  I really cannot say but both are really positive surprises.

However, 6th track Cheat & Pretend is an offshot, and by 9th and 10th tracks, Alien Godz (Prometheus) and El Muerte, the biggest joy is gone. 59 minutes is too much for a thrash album, these three tracks could have easily been left out. The younger cosmic-rogues, Vektor still hold the cataclysm force (1st track Apophis, Stargate).

Solid album nevertheless, I had no idea speed metal heritage could still sound fresh!


Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (2016)
deathspellomegaarvosteludeathspell-omega-the-synarchy-of-molten-bones-e1475279012978Quote is from their last.fm wall. Free form jazz is a pretty good explanation why I have a hard time appreciating some of Deathspell Omega’s latest efforts. I feel they do hit right notes but I much prefer when they actually try to compose a song instead of section1->section2->section3->section4->section5->section6->section7->section8->section9->section10->section11->section12->section13…

Over random sections there’s vocals that do not really correlate with the music except in a sense that they are quite crazy too. On the other hand, how could you vocalize over this? I guess it’s as good an effort as any.

On Paracletus there were songs that had a more approachable structure and hooks. Quite a few of those hooks were memorable and the album is a solid entity. But Drought and Synarcy are just a mess.

Deathspell Omega is definitely experimental which is why I’d hope that they would realize not to run the damn clean guitar sound above everything on all of these three records. Perhaps Synarchy needs more time to fruition. 4 listens within a month merely crosses my irritation threshold.


Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of The Earth (2015)

492322Simply the best album to come out in 2015, I have yet to find it’s equal from 2016 either.

Try it if you do not hate any of the following:
metal
symphonic
folk (dibbly-dabbly beerfolk excluded)
clean vocals
guitars
cinematic music



Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers (2015)
onlonelytowersp19com8m781mjt11t431p1i4to4m4The title track On Lonely Towers is the centerpiece of Barren Earth’s 2015 album and welcomes them back into form after the disappointingly tame The Devil’s Resolve (2012).

On Lonely Towers is somewhere between their first album Curse of the Red River (2010) and The Devil’s Resolve on heaviness scale. It’s not a deathdoom-donkey or blastbeat-beaver but occasionally uses both of these tricks to its advantage. Unlike some sections of The Devil’s Resolve it does not sound like Opeth’s Heritage. Unlike some sections of the Curse of the Red not a Swallow The Sun copy either.

Especially welcoming is the great vocal performance by the Faroe Island native Jón Aldará (Hamfero). That is not to say the previous vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) didn’t do a good job on previous albums, but the more powerful voice of Aldará is a really welcome change.

On Lonely Towers, is a true gem of a track and none other ecplises it. The crooked and deliciously sung Shapeless Derelict and Chaos, The Songs Within, are also A class progressive metal. Frozen Processions and Howl are good examples of melodies and progressive twists that make some people deem Barren Earth “Amopeth”.

AlNamrood – Diaji Al Joor – Saudi Arabia

525517Too many bands from the more exotic metal countries try to sound like their western counterparts. While it is interesting to find a band from Saudi Arabia that sounds like it could be a mediocre German thrash metal band, it doesn’t add much to the experience besides novelty value. Luckily AlNamrood is not one of those bands.

AlNamrood is usually titled a black metal band, but they are far from the traditional sort. In fact, often it feels like the tracks are based purely on Arabic elements with distortion guitar and metal elements added on top. It is really refreshing not being able to know who to compare them to or even what genre they are. They could even be described as constantly overpeaked heavy metal band with basis on Arabic instrumentation.

The beginning of the record got my hopes up immediately as I’m a sucker for all things unexpected in my metal. The raw Egyptian-like intro Dhaleen, turns into stylishly minimalistic tremolo instrumentation with wind instruments and “aaaaaa”-chanting.

All the more the surprise when the vocalist Humbaba stats barking away with his monotone and quite unique vocal style in the second track Zamjara Alat. At 2.05 Al-Namrood tunes in a better melody I’d ever expect this obscure band to be able to deliver. It’s a c-part after the first verse straight from the boiling desert, accompanied by beautiful backgrounds. Already during the second track it is clear that this is not a normal metal experience but a lot more thrilling one.

The drumming first felt like a bit flat drum machine but because it is nicely overpeaked it invokes more raw power than in most cases. The sound really grew on me and on further listens the unpolished sounds stopped bothering.

On first listens it was also easy to disregard some unharmonic passages as amateuristic. Like Hawas Wa Thuar which is an particularly odd piece, with melodies that seem out of tune. Only later it started to feel like this atonalism (?) must come from Arabic music heritage. AlNamrood uses melodies that are straight out of European scales. Especially the said Hawas Wa Thuar succeeds in invoking a real diabolical feel with tastily unharmonic melodic patterns. Where as Hayat Al Khezea is a ritualistic piece where the monotonic vocals heighten the atmosphere and the majestic and eerie end speech sounds to discurse some serious, sacred or esoteric issues with conviction.

Actually I cannot think much that I dislike. If I have to start picking, the melodic folk metal influences, the backbone of most of Ejhaph, is not much of my liking. Ya Le Taasatekum is a bit mediocre but on the other hand conceives of a more rapid pace than its counterparts. It also really excels in varied and intense vocals and an outro with rumbling drums, very much a counterpart to the cover image. It’s not really mediocre after all, I gotta take that back. And even Ejhaph has mightily interesting percussions and eerie guitars in its last two minutes.

All in all, all tracks have something unique to offer, every track differentiates from the crowd. Like massive Adghan with double bass landslides and bright acoustic instrumentation or Ana Al Tughian’s mystic woodwinds and rhythmics.

Diaji Al Joor is a grower, after putting it aside for a while the true excess of unique elements and exceptional atmosphere kept growing. It took about 3 months to process into 9 /10 level.

Bandcamp: https://shaytanproductions.bandcamp.com/album/diaji-al-joor