Madam X New ImageAs 2015 makes her grand and stately entrance, bear with and support me as I try to hunt down even more new blackened death metal albums that sound exactly like Septicflesh. To you, our readers, a big thanks for your presence, support and vociferous participation. You make the site the angry metal community it is, and we like it that way. Here’s to a big and bright New Year and even more angry metal in 2015!

But first, without further delay, here’s the Top Ten(ish) albums that captured my attention and garnered the most replay, along with a few others that wow’d me along the way. And then last but not least, the albums that just couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t:

Kuolemanlaakso_Tulijoutsen(ish): Kuolemanlaakso // Tulijoutsen – Tis the season to be jolly… or not. As this album slowly reveals its atmosphere and dynamics you can’t help but be drawn into the majesty and soul sapping grandeur of Kuolemanlaakso‘s hypnotizing death-doom worship. although maybe not as instantly likable as the album art that adorns it, expect nothing less than massive riffs and hints to the fascinating diversity of metal greats like Celtic Frost, Triptykon, Moonspell, Agalloch, Saint Vitus and even Rammstein. To the dedicated listener, Tulijoutsen won’t disappoint.

Young and In the Way - Shadow of Murder 01#10. Young and in the Way // When Life Comes to DeathYoung and in the Way are the chilling, boisterous blackened crust band from Charlotte, North Carolina that lured me into their discography with their simplistic, clean-cut and razor-sharp album art. If you’re looking for an album that’s got the melody of Marduk, the grinding filth of Nails and the gurgling hatred of Hexis, you’ll be as well entranced and maybe just a little bewitched with the likes of “Be My Blood,” “Loved And Unwanted” and “Shadow Of Murder.”

DECEMBRE_NOIR_cover_PRINT#9. Décembre Noir // A Discouraged Believer – This album vexed me during the reviewing process way back in May, and it continues to do so today. On one hand I love it for it’s Katatonia, Paradise Lost, October Tide and My Dying Bride melodies and maturity, but on the other, Décembre Noir haven’t actually brought anything new to the death-doom genre. Despite A Discouraged Believer not being genre changing or defining, it still drips with just the right blend of emotion and successfully satisfies my craving for hulking poignancy.

Avatar - Hail the Apocalypse 01#8. Avatar // Hail the Apocalypse – A mere two years after Avatar‘s Black Waltz revelry hit the stands, the evil Swedish death clowns are back with their fifth groove-laden album. Although this doesn’t quite have the instant accessibility and freshness of its predecessor, with repeat listens, Johannes Eckerström’s over-the-top blackened theatrics and post-hardcore aggressiveness coerce you into falling for headbanging gems like “Bloody Angel” and “Murderer.” Pure and simple, this is fun and entertaining stuff!

Deathstars - The Perfecct Cult 01#7. Deathstars // The Perfect Cult – If you like gothic metal that pulls out all the Devil’s toys, laced with horror, pessimism and misanthropicism, the fourth cog in these Swede’s gothic metal discography is for you! The Perfect Cult explodes from your speakers exactly where Night Electric Night‘s piano interlude left off, loaded with fire galore, face paint, catchy lyrics and a skillful blend of Gothminister, Rammstein and Pain-filled hooks. “Cut the stars, turn the knife, Let death walk tall in the shattered shape of life. Can you hear, they search for you…” Yup that about says it, check this dark and deadly thrill-ride out if you haven’t already.

Dawnbringer_Night of the Hammer#6. Dawnbringer // Night of the Hammer – An album as stripped down, addictive and hard-hitting as the album title and cover art suggests. In Night of the Hammer, their sixth full-length release, Dawnbringer venture back in time revisiting the rumbling old-timey sounds of Manilla Road, Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult to bring you palliative memories like “Alien,” “One-Eyed Sister” and “Damn You. This melodic ode to classic heavy metal is a worthy addition to Chris Black’s legacy, and if you’re a fan of American heavy metal done right and you haven’t already checked this out, “Fall on your knife, fall on your own knife and run from your life.”

Vardan - Enjoy of Deep Sadness 01#5. Vardan // Enjoy of Deep Sadness – Chronologically the twelfth release in the Italian band’s soupy discography, this oh-so-poorly titled album mixes their brand of raw black metal with distorted atmospherics and broken melodies borrowed from early Ulver or Agalloch to create a depressive blackened experience that whispers of anti-life, darkness, depression and self-hatred. There’s absolutely no show-boating here, Vardan‘s Enjoy of Deep Sadness is just layer upon layer of brutally simple, raw, honest emotion hitting you solidly from the start of “A Broken Existence” through to the bitterly isolated cries at the end of “An Abstract Voice.”  Try to overlook the ridiculous title and check this one out.

Pet the Preacher - The Cave and the Sunlight 01#4. Pet the Preacher // The Cave & The Sunlight – Despite a band name that induced much ridicule from the AMG staff, The Cave & The Sunlight delivers 11 musclebound, NOLA-doom paced, sludgy anthems that let your dragon fly. Sing-along hymns like “Kamikaze Knight” and “Remains” are a window into the bands groove as they shake and bake with an odd mix of Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity, Bloody Hammers and Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang. If you still believe in the force of the Almighty Riff, this one’s for you. Push play and rock out!

Ass to Mouth Degenerate 01#3. Ass to Mouth // Degenerate – Band name shock factor got me listening to these earwormy Polish death grinders, but it was the sweet combination of Impetigo news clips, Mortician-styled conversation, pig squeals, grunts, snorts, growls and all the goodies Parricide would offer that kept me coming back for more. Degenerate doesn’t quite reach the massive brutality of genre veterans like Napalm Death and Mortician, but it’s a fun ride that ends up one of the best grind releases of the year.

Igorrr and Ruby My Dear - Maigre 01#2. Igorrr & Ruby My Dear // Maigre – French for thin, Maigre is anything but that! two years after the release of his multi-instrumental breakcore masterpiece Halleluja, Igorrr‘s Gautier Serre is back with an EP that’s a misnomer… it’s so absolutely and completely metal and yet at the same time not in the least reminiscent of the burly genre. Maigre combines Igorrr‘s mediterranean melodies, Hardcore beats, metal riffs, growls, sub-basses, absurd samples and sudden breaks with the piercing operatics of Laure Le Prunenec and Laurent Lunoir, and the complex production and electronica portent of Ruby My Dear. Despite being an EP, Maigre holds five extreme addictions that are, for lack of a better term, essential.

#1. Sólstafir // Ótta – Ever wondered how to stop time from choking the life out of you? Well, Sólstafir found the way and it’s neatly captured in eight tracks flowing according to the old Icelandic form of time-keeping reminiscent of the monastic hours or Eykt (one eighth of a solar day). The shine still hasn’t worn off this odyssey one iota and instrumentally, Ótta feels every bit the swirling melting pot of flavours, colours and textures I described back in August. And as my song of the year, the title track holds its own against Ulver‘s “Not Saved” as one of the most enthralling pieces of music I’ve come across. If post-metal, solid conceptualization and bluegrass-like banjo frivolity are your thing, Ótta delivers without flaw.

SUA 331LPES Trigatefold.indd


Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Nightsatan // Nightsatan And The Loops Of Doom – If you’d enjoy travelling with 70s era sci-fi in your pocket, this is the synthy answer to your prayers.
Audrey Horne // Pure Heavy – Norwegian hard rock as it’s made in the USA!
Overkill // White Devil ArmoryOverkill is as Overkill was, what else were you expecting?
Die Choking // II – Finally Die Choking deliver a beast of an album, that rips a huge chunk of meat from your throat and leaves you thrashing around on the floor choking in your own blood-red froth. 16-minutes of grindcore just the way I like it.
Castle // Under Siege – “At the crossroads of retro/occult metal, doom and throwback vest metal, sits Castle like some sort of big…castle.” Yup, Steel Druhm says it best.
Ghost Brigade // IV – One With the Storm – Doesn’t knock it’s predecessor from its top-notch pedestal, but it’s a worthy addition to Ghost Brigade‘s discography nonetheless.
Gluttony // Beyond the Veil of FleshJungle Rot and zombie infected Swedish death metal that shuns technicality.  And as the song says “By devouring their remains, by consuming them, they don’t leave, they become part of you.” Let this sloppy gorefest become a part of you.
 Infestus // The Reflecting Void – An album that builds on the contrast between black metal and post-metal that sounds like a blend of Heretoir and Shining (Swedish) with a flash of Old Dead Tree‘s monologue.
 Lux Occulta // Kołysanki – A tasty blend of Polish blackened, industrial post-metal with jazz-tastic, proggy interludes. It’s tough to pigeonhole this one.

Disappointments of 2014 (in no particular order):

Taake // Stridens Hus – Feels like something hastily stitched together for a holiday season release. Interminably long, lacking in space and mostly just a chore to wade through.
Septicflesh // Titan – If you enjoyed Communion and The Great Mass, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll enjoy Titan, and can consider this a good SAFE buy.  I don’t like my blackened death safe!
Agalloch // The Serpent and the Sphere – An album that rehashes many of the instrumental tricks and flourishes Agalloch delivered on earlier releases, but with less artful avant-garde quirks and embellishments.
Obituary // Inked in BloodStill offering nods to bands like Napalm DeathPossessed and Celtic Frost and yet, somehow Obituary found a way to turn this deadly influence into the kind of inoffensive death metal you can spin while baking chocolate chip cookies.

Song o’ the Year: Sólstafir – “Ótta

  • Martin Knap

    Master’s Hammer has a new album out this year, it’s a shame you didn’t review it. (You reviewed this one I thought it was some shitty obscure band, but now they are sound like Sigh, which is great :-)

  • Ocajian

    Igorrr!! Never thought I would see that name on this site but it makes total sense. What an artist.

    • Surprisingly enough the site has a few contributor fans, I’m suprised they haven’t featured before. Absolutely!

      • Ocajian

        That’s cool to know!

        Whourkr is also a project Gautier was part of till they disbanded. Not too bad either.

        • I’ll check them out, thanks for the tip :)

          • t l

            in the same vein of name-dropping, I can recommend another project in which Gautier participated, i.e. Öxxö Xööx

          • I caught their new video release about 2 days back and now I wait with much anticipation for the actual album release! Great recommendation :)

          • Ocajian

            I concur!!

    • Kryopsis

      I can’t believe I never heard of this artist before! The EP mentioned sounds like somebody accidentally recorded Amon Tobin remixes of vintage Carcass on top of casette tapes of live French radio circa 1975. Oh and there is a dance club downstairs from you blasting Dubstep just as you sat down to listen to this recording. Also you’re being abducted by aliens or something.

      • Ocajian

        HA! Best description I have heard given for Igorrr :D

  • Jukka Alanen

    Ótta indeed. I Got it on LP as a replacement for Pale Communion (which I returned because of faulty pressing and turned out that the whole batch was similarly fucked up). Later I also got a nice gift in form of Pale Communion blu-ray with 5.1 surround mix. Not a bad deal, both would definitely be in my top 5.

    In other news, Sólstafir’s gig at Sweden Rock was another highlight of the year. One of the most memorable festival gigs I’ve ever seen, can’t wait to see them in club surroundings come February!

    Nice list all the way, next I’m gonna definitely check out that Igorrr dude.

    • I would love to see Solstafir live, I’m watching and waiting anxiously for a US show to be announced.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Hallelujah makes the best starting point IMO.

      • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

        Just saw them in Minneapolis the other week.

        One of my favorite albums of the year, but I don’t think it transfers to a live set very well. A lot of the subtle nuances and soft parts are just replaced with meandering feedback when played live.

        • I suspected that may happen, maybe venue is also a big factor. I caught Agalloch a few months back and I was surprised at how well they pulled off The Serpent and the Sphere… it came across pretty well live.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Very, very strong bookends! Tulijoutsen has been my most played album, by far.
    Somewhere in the middle you lost me. I think it was right around “Enjoy of Deep Ass to Mouth”. (Somebody had to be the 1st to bring it up!)

    • Perv-o-rama!

    • That would be a terrible split release!

    • De2013

      I completely enjoyed ordering this album at several record stores around town. The looks on the store clerks’ faces were priceless.

      • That would be absolutely priceless, wish I’d seen that!

  • AndySynn

    Tulijoutsen was a lock for my top ten as soon as I heard it. Such a good album. And brilliant production too.

    I disagree about Agalloch though. I think it’s one of their best albums!

    • I can’t keep that damn band name in my head, but the album is so good I still couldn’t stop listening to it.

  • Kryopsis

    Two albums of 2014 eclipsed all the rest for me. If were to list my personal top 10 albums of the year, the first place would be contested between Sólstafir’s Ótta and Fallujah’s The Flesh Prevails and the rest would follow in no particular order. This said, if I were to write about Ótta and explain why appeals to me so much, it would no doubt come out as a jumbled, unstructured mess.

    In short, Ótta is everything I like about music. Not just progressive music or Metal music but music at its purest form: a combination of aesthetically-pleasing sounds that elicits an emotional response. Sólstafir’s effort is hardly the most intricate Post-Metal I ever heard but it has economy and subtlety, something I find a lot of bands are missing. It is a very meticulously crafted album and I appreciate that immensely.

    This said, I’m surprised to find DVDTDR in your list, Madam.

    • Otta is about the closest I’ve come across to perfect, there wasn’t a single thing about the album I would want changed.

      Not sure exactly what DVDTDR is?

      • Kryopsis

        The letter ‘д’ of the Cyrillic alphabet is actually a ‘d’. If I recall correctly, the members of Avatar are aware of it.

        • Aaah now I understand! Avatar are full of fun and corpse paint, I couldn’t help but include them :)

  • Garak

    Whoa! I love Avatar’s Black Waltz, but I really just can’t get into Hail the Apocalypse after several listens, which sucks big time because I think Black Waltz was damned good, and HtA just isn’t.

    +1 for Igorrr.

    • I love Black Waltz too, I’d say a good 60% of Hail the Apocalypse is on a par with Black Waltz for me… it’s ended up a great driving album, you can hit the road and just lose yourself in the malarkey :)

      • Garak

        I can see that. The main issue for me is Black Waltz has “Use Your Tongue” while HtA has nothing close to that song, and there’s no bad song on Black Waltz while HtA has “Tower”…

  • TminusEight

    Nice one, Madam X. Reaffirms my intent to pick up Ótta on vinyl. After first being put onto them from your original review, I actually ended up buying a copy of Svartir Sandar (which I love), so haven’t yet heard Ótta in full… something to look forward to. Cheers.

    • That’s great news, I hope you end up loving Otta as much or more that Svartir Sandar! I’d love to hear the vinyl myself.

  • De2013

    Too bad for Obituary. I still haven’t had a chance to check it out. Although I already have baked a dozen of cookies during the holiday season.

    I will definitely check out Sólstafir. Thank you for the list Madam.

    • Haha thanks for checking it out! On a seperate note, are the cookies in the mail?

  • Doomdeathrosh

    nice “blackened-death metal list” madam! but im surprised not to see behemoth in here!

    • Yeah, The Satanist only had a couple of tracks that really hit me in a memorable fashion. I’m glad though for the album and even more so to see the band recovering from the battles they’ve faced.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        O Father O Satan O Sun! is one of the best songs of the year, powerful stuff

        • It was a very very strong contender!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Otta gets better with each listen, a real highlight this year and another great find thanks to AMG! It’s good to see the metal community embracing an excellent non metal band like Solstafir.
    To my ears they have more in common with 80s post punk and new romantics and artists like Nick Cave along with fellow Icelanders Sigur Ros than they do with Metal.
    Maybe I’m crazy but to me the vocal melody in dagmal is a dead ringer for the Fine Young Cannibals version of suspicious minds, which only makes me like it more :)

    • TminusEight

      I keep getting Jane’s Addiction coming to mind when I listen to Svartir Sandar.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        yeah I can see that

  • I have to say I’ve been warming up to The Serpent and The Sphere a lot lately. Before this I would have agreed with you on that being one of the biggest dissapointments of the year for me. Besides that I agree with pretty much everything on this list. Specially Kuolemanlaakso, who are a strong contender for cover art of the year methinks.

    • I’d definitely give them a vote for cover art of the year.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      It’s gotta be either the Soen or Triptykon covers for me

      • Surprised to see a lack of Artificial Brain there, I loved that cover. Also The Great Old Ones, Disemballerina or Witch Mountain would take the cake for me. I’m still mulling which one would get that coveted honour ;P. For the cult of the orb I would pick either Usnea’s or Wolvhammer’s.

        • That Artificial Brain cover is a good one. Good album too.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Oh yeah brain fade from me there.
          Asides from the presence of Dan Gargiulo it was the art that made me buy Labyrinth Constellation without checking first.
          The other release’s that I thought had exceptional art were Castle’s Under Siege and Behemoth’s The Satanist, the vinyl package of which is killer.
          I still haven’t really listed to Seon yet, but I wanna pick it up on vinyl if I can mostly because I have a horn for that rhino!

  • Andres Pintos Nocerino

    every year i agree only with you, whoever i like septicflesh too much and triptykon too

  • Wilhelm

    As I had completely given up on finding a doom/death album worthy of accolades in 2014, I am now listening to Decembre Noir (thanks to your list) which I find rather interesting.

  • Rui Miguel Silva

    Pet the Preacher?!… Hell could well freeze before i would consider picking up anything from a band with such a ridiculous name!! Now i have and it’s all your fault Madam X! THANK YOU!!!!

    • Hahaha this pleases me immensely! My pleasure :)

  • Rui Miguel Silva

    Went through Sosltafir’s Otta a couple of times on Youtube. It sounds great but i don’t understand ONE word he’s singing … just can’t connect with this album because of it …