As 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:
(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.
#10. Young and in the Way // When Life Comes to Death – Young 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.”
#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.
#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!
#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.
#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.”
#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.
#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!
#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.
#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.
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 Armory – Overkill 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 Flesh – Jungle 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 Blood – Still offering nods to bands like Napalm Death, Possessed 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“