As we come to the end of another year, let us reflect on the fact that nothing has really changed. The world is still dogshit, there are still very powerful people who are dedicated to keeping it that way, and all paths still lead to a lonely, desolate grave. Thus, it's been another great year for black metal, environmental decimation, and drug use.
The rules are, as always:
1. Anything remotely black metal-adjacent will be considered eligible.
2. There will be no download links. Interested parties should check Mortuus in Somnis.
3. Feel free to disagree in the comments section, just don't be a wretched dumpster person.
Alrighty then, let's get this over with.
Black Death Terroristic Onslaught
Right off the bat I’m pissing you off. As the backlash against cavernous black/death continues, I’m doubling down. Black Death Terroristic Onslaught is probably as extreme as this microgenre can be taken before you just become a noise project like Skáphe. I can kinda hear some riffs almost, but it’s pretty much all blastbeats, gutturals, and a wall of guitar mud, all thickly coated in reverb.
Hellfire Deathcult - Culto a la Muerte (2016)
Hellfire Deathcult - Culto a la Muerte (2016)
Satan, Chaos, Blood and Terror
On a similar note, I don't know anyone else who got stoked on this record like I did. Thrashing, bestial black/death, with one of the best metal vocal performances of the year, which they make sure you notice by turning the vocals up waaay too high in the mix.
The Alchemy of Cursed Blood
Exactly what I want from raw black metal: indecipherable guitars, muffled drums, and grim vocals hovering above it all like lost spirits.
Hammer of the Heretics
Punishing industrial black/death with lightless, suffocating production.
Raw, atmospheric beauty. Sounds like a band made up of ghosts who haven't quite come to terms with the fact that they're dead.
Ripping, frill-free black metal with crisp but dense production, played with a sense of abandon and visceral intensity. Or, in their words: “A recognition and celebration of the messy, degenerate and convoluted matter of our miserable existence. No essence, no transcendence, no Satan or chaos dragon or nature or nation will save you.”
A Path Unknown
Three cerebral, psychedelic monoliths of post-metal-infused chaos. Shrieking, harsh dissonance, valleys of layered, rumbling drone, waves of icy beauty, and blasting, lupine fury.
Reverorum ib Malacht
Im Ra Distare Summum Soveris Seris Vas Innoble
Utter cacophony. Relentlessly blasting drums, echoing growls, choral samples, droning keyboards, various SFX, and barely audible guitars. Turns out I have a high tolerance for this kinda thing, as there are plenty of people who couldn’t stand this record.
Patient, doom-infused, atmospheric epics colored by hella organ, flute, and more. Members of Fauna and Skagos.
Beefy, cavernous, psychedelic black/death mastery. Inhüma is the second of two excellent albums put out by Esoctrilihum this year, and it looks and sounds like a sequel — but one of the rare sequels that manage to best the original by simply honing in on its strengths and cutting the fat. Like Evil Dead 2.
Echoes from η Carinae
A just-under-53-minute cosmic journey through a cold, faraway star system. Long stretches of soothing dark ambient and majestic, mid-paced, gauzy BM.
Hypnotic ritual psychedelia for exploring the inner and outer limits. I slept on their last album, and I'm not gonna let you do the same thing with this one.
The Yawning Abyss of Perdition
Raw DSBM, perfected. Two extended, droning excursions into despondency.
Given the flawless nature of their previous album, Paysages Polaires was one of the surest bets of 2018. They know how to bring the crystalline, tremolo-picked beauty, but they also know the importance of bringing the riffs. Ethereal, mesmerizing, and consistently engaging.
White Noise and Black Metal
A riff-fest to end all riff-fests, and a major return to form.
Ethereal, slo-mo, neofolk-infused beauty from one half of Fauna. Somehow, despite the Cascadian black metal gold rush that went down earlier this decade, both Echtra and Fauna — easily two of the scene’s best — got weirdly looked over.
The Quest for the Star Mountain
Haunting, spectral, ugly, and raw. Honestly, should probably be higher on the list but I've been working on this shit for hours and can't be bothered to move it at this point. Fuck it, we'll do it live.
Melodic, borderline symphonic Norwegian perfection. Soaring melodies, and some gorgeous choral and (synthesized) string arrangements.
Northern Chaos Gods
Their best since At the Heart of Winter. An openly nostalgic album of ass-kicking, frost-bitten riffage, with numerous overt musical and lyrical references to the band’s past glories, in particular Battles in the North.
Pa Vesh En
Church of Bones
Unsettling, hermetic rawness.
One of the heaviest-sounding records I've ever had the pleasure of annoying my neighbors with. Crushing, doom-leaning sounds for an ongoing apocalypse.
When the Night Falls...
Severoth continues to amaze with some of the best atmospheric BM in the game. Lush, at times overwhelmingly beautiful odes to isolation, memory, and the natural world.
Epic, raging, and true. Starts off with a fairly traditional sound -- played with great enthusiasm and inspiration, of course -- that evolves and expands as the record continues. Plus, I love a big, sprawling closer, and "Im Flehen Aschener Zungen" is a worthy addition to the pantheon.
Brutal, meat-and-potatoes black/death annihilation, impeccably written and performed, with perfectly crushing production. Think of all the super-boring death metal that gets hyped to hell, while this motherfucking beast slips through the cracks? Way to go, world.
Heir to Despair
Total insanity from Japan's finest purveyors of avant-garde metal. Here at OPIUM HUM, we work exclusively in half-assed writing, so effectively describing such a complex record just isn't in the cards, sorry. You've probably already heard it anyway.
Moenen of Xezbeth
Ancient Spells of Darkness...
Raw occult worship. Slightly out-of-tune guitars, ghostly keyboards, hoarse vocals, and grainy production.
With Doom We Come
Another keyboard-saturated, Lord of the Rings-themed masterpiece by Summoning. I refuse to pretend that a single one of you needs me to tell you what this record sounds like.
The Futile Fires of Man
Exquisitely composed orthodox BM. My hater card's gonna show yet again, but damn it, it's frustrating watching everyone pretend that the new Uada was anything but a complete letdown, while all but ignoring stuff like this knotty slice of perfection.
Altar of Perversion
A mind-blowing, sprawling double-album of intricate, majestically ugly aural dark magic. It’s been 12 years since their last record, and 17 since their last full-length, and they somehow made it worth the wait.
Phenomenal, fluid guitar interplay, spacious yet dense production, and masterful pacing. Another thing that hasn’t changed since last year: the Icelandic scene has continued to lead orthodox black metal into freer, heavier, more psychedelic lands.
T H I C C .
Transfixing, melancholic, and haunting. Epic guitar work shrouded in ghostly synth and reverb.
A breathtaking swansong for one of the great modern Swedish BM projects. Mournful, folk-y melodies channeled through a beautifully vicious sound.
Revelations of the Red Sword
Intricate guitar work, chaotic but tight compositions, killer performances all around. Iceland stays slaying.
The Dawn of Black Pansophy
Eerie, mysterious, and ferocious. Drenched in darkness, sacrificial blood, and reverb. A listening experience not unlike one of those sections of a haunted house where you're just feeling your way through a seemingly endless, lightless, labyrinthine hallway.
In which Iskandr make the jump from lo-fi to spacious, widescreen production, and end up with what's easily their best record yet. Masterfully constructed songs hurtling through a towering, ethereal atmosphere.
Thick, heavy guitars, reverb-soaked everything, a touch of dark psychedelia, and massive, enveloping production that makes you feel like you're being sucked into a black abyss of ice. A shoe-in for this list on first listen.
Cultes des Ghoules
Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths
Ritualistic, doom-heavy sounds of the occult from the masters thereof.
Gnarled and utterly discordant, with blasts of brass and saxophone to push it all the way into total chaos. People throw around the world “claustrophobic” a lot when discussing this style of BM, but Vile Luxury truly embodies that feeling: a dark, unstoppable force closing in all around you. Perhaps the record’s greatest achievement, though, is its seamless incorporation of film-noir jazz elements throughout. I know the idea sounds ridiculous, but it somehow make perfect sense in context. Honestly, had this been written tomorrow, Vile Luxury might have ended up at #1.
Entropy Created Consciousness
Impressions of the Morning Star
Every moment of this record is stunning. From my writeup: "Phenomenal black metal from parts unknown. A chill-inducing, forward-thinking masterpiece that cuts through the suffocating density that one might expect from modern black metal with a shimmering, sorrowful sense of beauty." Without hyperbole, Impressions of the Morning Star truly feels like a step forward for black metal as a whole.