Monday, May 27, 2024

Various Artists - Misguided Wish for Fire's Song - 2024 Pt. 1 (2024)


My car is an '04 Corolla that has no Bluetooth and no AUX. It has the radio and a CD player. Sure, I could get a new stereo system installed, but I've weirdly fallen back in love with the art of the mix CD. No matter how well they come together, Spotify playlists always feel unfinished to me, whereas with a mix CD, you finalize a playlist and actually create a physical artifact of it. Much more satisfying. Less practical, of course, but more satisfying.

So this is the most recent one that I've made, and it's a collection of some of my favorite songs that have been released this year so far. It's not comprehensive, and it definitely wasn't made for public consumption, but it hasn't left my CD player for two weeks now, and it's what I have for you. Here's a quick rundown of the track list. Sorry if this is weird, I don't know what the hell life is anymore.

1. Lætitia Sadier - "Cloud 6"
The last song on Rooting for Love, which is probably my favorite Sadier solo record. The abrupt, borderline jump-scare ending is brilliant.
2. Amaro Freitas - "Sonho Ancestral"
Brazilian jazz piano. Buoyant and reflective.
3. Grandaddy - "Long as I'm Not the One"
A shiny, mid-paced sad-sack ballad among a collection of shiny, mid-paced sad-sack ballads.
4. Gesaffelstein - "Hard Dreams"
Reminds me of the golden age of electroclash.
5. Chelsea Wolfe - "Whispers in the Echo Chamber"
From the whispered breakdown to the riff-y ending that quickly redlines: she's in her NIN era.
6. meth. - "Shame"
Devastating, merciless noise-sludge. Title track from what's probably my AOTY at the moment.
7. Mizu - "Pump"
Ambient cello/electronics/field recordings.
8. Itasca - "Tears on Sky Mountain"
Weightless, gently psychedelic folk rock. The song from which I lifted the pretentious name for this mix. Again, I wasn't planning on sharing this when I made it.
9. Julia Holter - "Something in the Room She Moves"
Y'all probably know this one.
10. Kelly Moran - "Dancer Polynomials"
Hypnotic, cascading piano.
11. Ildganger - "Dans Om Tomhedens Mund"
Depressive, atmospheric, anxious yet majestic, raw-ish black metal.
12. Elegý - "Ship of Hopes"
Melodic, epic DSBM/post-BM.
13. Lila Ehjä - "Rust"
Slow-burning electro-darkwave track that takes on a shoegaze-like wall of guitar as it progresses.
14. Six Organs of Admittance - "Slip Away"
A spacious, haunting, acoustic-led psych-folk elegy that tends to make me cry.

Hopefully this doesn't result in Google deleting my blog. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 5, 2024

ROHIT - Trick (2013)


Last month -- in the evening, on Thursday, April 11 -- my friend Danny died. He had made plans with his girlfriend to go out, and he was supposed to meet her outside his apartment, but when she got there, he wasn't outside. Eventually, after not hearing from him, she went into his apartment and found him dead on the couch. He had one shoe on.

No one knows for sure what happened. One can certainly make assumptions or inferences, but his cause of death is still unknown, and depending on what his family chooses to do with the autopsy results, it might stay that way. The only thing I feel safe saying is that, whatever it was, it was sudden, and it was unintentional. He was putting his shoes on, getting ready to go out with his girlfriend. He had texted her half an hour before she found him. Danny didn't want to die.

The night of his memorial, I had a dream that I was driving to drop off this bag full of old 4-track recordings of his that he left at my house sometime during early Covid (that part is real). Just before I pulled up to his house I realized that I'd driven to the wrong house: I was at the first house where I had lived with him, way back in 2007-2008. So I think, "Wait a second, Danny doesn't live here. Where the fuck does Danny live?" And I'm all confused. Then, the thought hits me as I wake up with a stone in my throat: "Oh, that's right. Danny doesn't live anywhere anymore."

Danny and I were in a few bands together over the years, and ROHIT was where we really bonded. I had started it as a solo project, but midway through recording the first demo, I knew I had to bring him into it. I just knew he would get it. So I played it for him, and he loved it. ROHIT was now a two-piece. We used to play shows for largely indifferent crowds, and we'd walk away like, "holy shit, dude, we just fucking crushed it, we're so fucking good." We truly didn't care if other people liked it -- we were doing exactly what we wanted to. And he boosted me like no other bandmate ever had or has -- I have never felt as seen or respected, creatively, as I did working with Danny in those early years.

After a while, we decided we weren't heavy enough and we needed a bassist so we invited Ana, who was fresh off the boat from Sweden, to join. She was into it, and we immediately became the best version of ourselves. That's the version of the band that recorded Trick, which I still consider our definitive recording. We had zeroed in on what we were best at, which was an extremely minimal synthesis of Ildjarn, Eyehategod, and Swans. It's not for everyone, and it's really not the point of this post. Check it out if you like.

Over the first couple of weeks after Danny died, it felt I had something dead attached to me, like a phantom limb or a tumor or some kind of cold, gnawing growth. And I knew that I had to let it go or it would spread to the rest of my body, but I couldn't bring myself to, because that thing was Danny. And letting it go meant letting Danny die, and I wanted to hold onto him as hard as I could. Keep him from that void into which so many beautiful souls have already disappeared. Pull him back through the veil, downwards with the rain, through an open window into his living room. Safe again, on his couch, sliding that second shoe on.

We kinda grew apart over the years. We texted a lot, and I always figured we'd grow back together again some day. Start another band. Watch more horror movies and It's Always Sunny. Drink beers on the porch and argue about Neurosis. Listen to Bill Fay and watch the sun turn red and disappear behind the trees. There were times when we'd go months without seeing each other, and more than once, when we finally did hang out, he told me that he'd been reading my blog -- this stupid fucking blog -- because that way he could see that, even though we weren't together, I was still me, I was still funny, I was ok.

Maybe writing this, I'm hoping that he can still read it somehow. I love you, Danny. I'll miss you forever.




Friday, March 22, 2024

Suicidal Tendencies - Suicidal for Life (1994)


Plenty of people consider Suicidal for Life the worst Suicidal album. Which is fair. But first of all, those people are wrong because Still Cyco After All These Years exists. Second: it's not on streaming so it's my responsibility as a shitty blogger to keep it in digital circulation.

Third: I want to paint you a picture. Close your eyes. Wait, shit, you can't read like that. Open your eyes. Imagine it's the mid-90s, and you're a suburban kid in your early adolescence with pretty much the exact same taste in music as Beavis & Butthead, and you think "The Goat" is comedy's greatest achievement. Yesterday was your birthday and you got a nice little stack of CDs. You pop on the S.F.W. soundtrack, which you asked for because it features Marilyn Manson, Hole, and GWAR. Aside from the Pretty Mary Sunshine track, every track is hitting. But then, a massively overdriven groove metal riff swings its dick at you and some cool dude starts shout-rap-singing the following lyrics:

"You talk your shit but I ain't listenin' / And I don't do no ass-kissin' / Now here's the point that you've been missin' / No fuckin' problem at all"

And all of a sudden you are absolutely losing your shit, throwing yourself into walls, moshing with your pillows, and you need more Suicidal. So you track down the CD with this song on it, see that tracks 2-6 are called "Don't Give a Fuck", "No Fuck'n Problem", "Suicyco Muthafucka", "Fucked Up Just Right", and "No Bullshit", and you start levitating. You plop down the money, fire up the Discman, and following a terrible, cringe-inducing intro track that your dumb-ass thinks is hilarious, the album proper kicks off with:

"I don't give a shit / I don't give a fuck / Your opinion don't mean shit to me and your shit's about to fall"

Nothing could be better. You play it for all your dumb suburban adolescent friends and everyone agrees that it's the absolute shit, and all is well. Then one fine Friday at the youth fitness center, your fitness instructor hears you talking to your friend about this album, tells you how dumb you are, and lends you his copy of the self-titled, an absolute peerless 10/10 classic. Of course, it completely knocks your socks off. Plus you just so happen to be in the middle of deciding to be punk now so it works for your new personal brand. Pretty soon you're renouncing your love for Suicidal for Life, White Zombie, Metallica, Guns 'n' Roses, soccer and all the rest, and committing yourself to a life of NOFX, Crass, Op Ivy, and Dead Kennedys.

Somewhere, Adam Sandler sheds a single tear.

Then like 30 years later you randomly decide to put it on while you're doing pushups and you're like, "hey, if you ignore how terrible it is, it's actually pretty good!" You finish your pushups, sit on the couch listening to "Benediction" trail off for the first time since you shared bedroom walls with your sister and your parents, and you realize that finally, after all these years, you truly don't give a fuck again. And all is well.

Track listing:
1. Invocation
2. Don't Give a Fuck
3. No Fuck'n Problem
4. Suicyco Muthafucka
5. Fucked Up Just Right
6. No Bullshit
7. What Else Could I Do?
8. What You Need's a Friend
9. I Wouldn't Mind
10. Depression and Anguish
11. Evil
12. Love vs. Loneliness
13. Benediction


More dubious adolescent favorites:

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Kliché - Supertanker (1980)


Synth-heavy Danish punk/new wave excellence. First found via the Pære Punk comp -- truly one of the best punk comps in existence -- where Kliché stood out for their more melodic, pop-y sound. What I really love about this band is what I hear as not-so-subtle krautrock influences, which are most pronounced on instrumental intro track "Igen Og Igen" and the endless, euphoric repetition of 10-minute album closer "Masselinjen".

Track listing:
1. Igen Og Igen
2. Havets Ble
3. Hetz
4. Militskvinder
5. Panorama
6. Aldrig Mere
7. Stjernerne I Deres Ojne
8. Bodygaurds
9. Maselinjen


Also listen to:

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Sean Deason - Allegory & Metaphor (2000)


Detroit ambient techno bliss. I got a bunch of shit done earlier, had a workout, then met my buddy for a couple beers, and now I am laying on my couch, petting my cat, and listening to this record. At some point, this became my idea of a perfect Saturday.

Track listing:
1. Creation
2. Phunk
3. Allegory & Metaphor
4. 2030 AD
5. Ambience
6. Interlude
7. Zig
8. Psybadek One
9. My World
10. Hiphoptrak
11. Another Interlude
12. Allegory & Metaphor (Revisited)


Also listen to:

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Honey Is Cool - Early Morning Are You Working? (1999)


The second and final full-length from Honey Is Cool, a Gothenburg indie rock band that ultimately served as a springboard for the career of Karin Dreijer, aka Fever Ray. Dreijer's powerful, distinctive vocals are very much the focal point here, but here it's in service of dark-tinted, dynamic, muscular indie rock. I forget how I first found this band but I know it was via some ass-backwards-internet-music-nerd means, as I had no idea Dreijer was in the band when I first put them on, and it slowly dawned on me as her voice soared over the opening whirlwind of the title track.

Track listing:
1. Early Morning Are You Working?
2. Bolero
3. Great and Smaller Things
4. There's No Difference
5. Summer of Men
6. I Surprise
7. Waiting for a Friend
8. My Love Is a Bell
9. Lead but Low
10. Something Above the Mountains
11. The Giraffe


You should also hear:

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Percy Jones Ensemble - Propeller Music (1990)


Previously on OPIUM HUM:

Drum machine, noodling fretless bass, synthetic-ass-all-hell keyboards, fragmented guitars -- generally woozy, slightly unsettling, 100% nerdy fusion. Midway through, vocals enter the mix, and the album morphs into a mid-era Gary Numan record. I listen to this by myself on headphones, and I think, "damn, this is so fucking rad, I wish all music was this weird;" I put this on a stereo with someone else in the room, I feel like a degenerate and a pervert.

Track listing:
1. $10,000 Bookshelf
2. Heidelberg Switch
3. Barrio
4. Panic - Disorder
5. Count the Ways
6. Turn Around
7. Slick
8. Slack
9. All for a Better Way
10. Looking for a Sign of New Life
11. Razorville
12. K2


If you like this, you should hear:

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Todtgelichter - Schemen (2007)

 


Epic German black metal with an expansive, organic, Pagan-esque sound and a tendency towards the melodic and the sorrowful. The occasional appearances of unorthodox instrumentation -- the saxophone on "Aschentraum", the didgeridoo drone lurking throughout "Segen", the clean vocals on "Beginn des Endes" -- are both inspired and surprisingly tasteful in their delivery. 

Track listing:
1. Impuls
2. Larva
3. Segen
4. Blutstern
5. Für Immer Schweigen
6. Aschentraum
7. Hammer
8. Beginn des Endes

Ein Punkt nur ist es, kaum ein Schmerz,

More German greatness:

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Griftegård - Solemn • Sacred • Severe (2009)


Swedish epic doom exploring the holy horror of Christian dogma. FFO: Candlemass, Warning, and Mansion. Thanks to everyone for sticking around, and sorry to the many, many people with re-up requests that I haven't gotten to.

Track listing:
1. Charles Taze Russell
2. Punishment & Ordeal
3. I Refuse These Ashes!
4. Noah's Hands
5. The Mire
6. Drunk with Wormwood


Also listen to:

Saturday, December 9, 2023

My 20 Favorite (Non-Black Metal) Albums of 2023

 


2023 was the year that I realized that my tastes have become hopelessly out of touch with relevancy. I did like some of this year's more hyped records -- Caroline Polachek and Boygenius spring to mind -- but all of my favorites have absolutely nothing to do with the cultural conversation. And I'm starting to suspect that everyone else is wrong and I'm the only one who's right. So yes, I will be bringing that Principal Skinner energy to this list.

P.S. I didn't feel that the album as a whole was super-strong, but Diners made a bittersweet, timeless, perfect power pop song called "Someday I'll Go Surfing" that instantly became an all-time favorite of mine, and I feel like I have to mention it here.




#20
trajedesaliva + Maud the Moth
Bordando el manto terrestre

Ethereal darkwave in the lineage of some of the best of the genre -- Dead Can Dance/Lisa Gerrard and black tape for a blue girl in particular. Droning synths, cello, classically-inspired vocals, and various noise/SFX sources. Beautiful and haunting.




#19
Fire! Orchestra
Echoes

Slow-burning, big band psych-jazz in two sprawling halves. Explores too much sonic territory for me to effectively cover in a half-assed writeup such as this.




#18
Mansion
Second Death

A best-case scenario for Candlemass-style doom metal in 2023. Crushing riffs, layered male and female vocals, and Christian horror.




#17
Greg Foat & Gig Masin
Dolphin

One of my favorite jazz musicians and one of my favorite ambient/new age musicians come together to make gorgeous, tranquil sounds that hover in the sweet, sweet liminal space between jazz and ambient/new age. It's like an answered prayer.





#16
Sense Fracture
Landscape of Thorns

Dystopian industrial/power electronics/EBM. Throbbing rhythms, warped samples, distorted screams, fragmented synths, and an overwhelming sense of anxiety.




#15
Boris & Uniform
Bright New Disease

Y'all know I love Boris, and Bright New Disease plays mostly like a continuation of the thrash-y hardcore Boris was making on No, but with denser industrial production. Of course, there's some phenomenal art-sludge in there ("The Look Is a Flame"), plus there's a total curveball of synth-driven darkwave.

Boris - The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked (2004)





#14
Bernice
Cruisin'

80s-style sophisti-pop deconstructed. Dated synths and whimsical twists-and-turns provide the backdrop to some surprisingly open-hearted, wistfully beautiful songs -- see "Underneath My Toe" or "Begin Again".




#13
Tujiko Noriko
Crépuscule I & II

Lulling, nocturnal ambient synth pieces with vocals occasionally interspersed throughout. Evocative of a massive, dimly lit, heavenly space that I'd like to live in. It really says something that this album made me tear up despite a near-complete lack of knowledge of its lyrical content.




#12
Hammock
Love in the Void

I had been almost completely disengaged from the world of post-rock for over a decade. Sometime around when Explosions in the Sky started making soundtracks, it was over for me. That all changed when I sunk into a horrible depression at the beginning of 2023 (see also: me crying to Tujiko Noriko.) A random on the internet recommended Love in the Void, I gave it a spin, and it was so beautiful, it broke my goddamn heart. Guess there's still some life left in the ol' crescendo-core tank.




#11
Nithing
Agonal Hymns

Non-stop wall-of-sound brutal death. It all happens so quickly and relentlessly, it's easy to miss that it's also tech-y as fuck. Reminds me of Last Days of Humanity -- not so much in sound, but in its dizzying, brain-annihilating impact.




#10
Squid
O Monolith

Hey, look! I'm with it! I'm hip! Daka-daka-daka-daka! Pretty sure the youths like this one -- at least the Fantano/RYM youths. Post-punk/art rock for your anxiety, ennui, overstimulation, and modern malaise.




#9
Nourished by Time
Erotic Probiotic 2

My dad had a really shitty year. Cancer scares, major surgery, and debilitating back and leg pain really took it out of him, both physically and otherwise. (He's doing way, way better now.) I'm pretty sure this is his AOTY; he said it was like a balm for him. One of my favorite musical moments of the year is sitting with him in his computer room, listening to "Quantum Suicide" really loud, just being completely absorbed in the sound.




#8
Khanate
To Be Cruel

The opposite of a musical balm. Drone-doom deconstructionists Khanate are back and possibly even more spiritually disturbing than ever! For instance, "It Wants to Fly" is a 21-minute long nightmare in which our narrator slowly takes a person apart piece by piece, instructing them not to look away as the light leaves their body. Musically, it's almost like free jazz in its aversion to rhythm or structural predictability -- an absolute masterclass in sustained, skin-crawling tension. I'm only ranking it this low because I really can't see myself listening to this more than a few times per year.





#7
Jonah Yano
portrait of a dog

Heartfelt songs about love, family, and love and family lost over an impossibly pleasant instrumental bed of chilled-out but dynamic, gently psychedelic jazz, courtesy of BADBADNOTGOOD. It feels kinda funny sandwiching Khanate between these two very nice, chill records, but that's the way the cards were dealt.




#6
MSPAINT
Post-American

Hardcore minus guitars, plus synths that hit way harder than you'd ever think they would, plus a vocalist who rides the line between shouting and rapping. "Titan of Hope" is a banger's banger among bangers -- a fucking sledgehammer to the noggin of complacency.




#5
The Murder Capital
Gigi's Recovery

It's very tempting to make this little writeup extremely reductive, and say something like "The Murder Capital sound like the post-punk version of Radiohead" but that's dumb because 1) that's kinda what The Smile is, and b) they're much more than that. And ultimately what's great about them isn't just that they make cerebral, knotty, guitar-driven art rock sound accessible -- even anthemic -- but that they write truly great songs about the ways dreams die and values corrode in the thrum of day-to-day survival. My favorites are "Ethel", which mourns the loss of a never-conceived child, and "The Lie Becomes the Self", whose bleak portrayal of self-conception unexpectedly falls into a wistful, heartbreakingly tender coda.




#4
Devendra Banhart
Flying Wig

My favorite Banhart record by a comfortable margin, Flying Wig finds him channeling the enveloping, synthesized darkness of Julee Cruise. One of those records that makes me think I must have bad taste because everyone else's take on it goes something like, "huh, sounds pretty cool, have you heard Cripple Crow?" But me? I love the subtle doo-wop rhythm on the title track, I love the off-kilter groove of "Nun", and I positively adore the beautiful simplicity of the lyrics. "You can love someone wrong / But you can't love by mistake"? "When I said I didn't need it / That's when I knew that I would need it"? "I go to the party / But it don't go to me"? My heart.




#3
Westerman
An Inbuilt Fault

Artful, impressionistic songs that recall Joni Mitchell circa Night Ride Home, sung in a honeyed voice that recalls Arthur Russell. But as sweet as he sounds, the gnarled arrangements and sudden blasts of synth are signposts for the anger and alienation lurking just below the surface. The brilliant animated music video for "A Lens Turning" is a handy visual representation for this whole album's vibe -- an abstract figure dances while its form and reality relentlessly distorts and shifts.




#2
Lisa O'Neill
All of This Is Chance

"Feathered friend, dig up and resurrect me / I long to live among the song of birdies / A lawless league of lonesome, lonesome beauty / Skies and skies and skies above duty."

Lisa O'Neill is one of those artists that make me half-believe in some form of divinity or reincarnation. There are moments and songs on here that truly sound like she's channeling memories of the afterlife or something. Or, as a friend put it (in reference to "Coast to Coast" by Elliott Smith"): it's "cosmic knowledge." Like, I don't always get it, but goddamn do I feel it. This is perhaps best exemplified by "Old Note", a song that I'm not sure I fully understand but -- and I say this without a single hint of irony -- I want to be played at my funeral when I die. And to close it all out is "Goodnight World", which functions as both an ode to lost loved ones and a simple, sweet lullaby that you could sing to a newborn.




#1
Hamish Hawk
Angel Numbers

"I'll starve / I will not stifle my appetite."

I forget how I stumbled across Hamish Hawk, but I know that my first exposure was the music video for "Money", and that I was immediately reminded of Jarvis Cocker/Pulp and Morrissey. I am not alone in this. However, here in 2023, he's outpacing them both. There's a certain melancholy to Angel Numbers, but there's no self-pity -- one key lyrics goes "I was ill-shapen clay / And suffering didn't fit me." Money is a recurring theme -- it's mentioned directly in "Bill" and, well, "Money", and it's in the peripherals of a handful of other tracks -- and there are many references to careerism, the grim absurdity of modernity, and fumbling romances. But to me, Angel Numbers is, above all else, a collection of sharp, often humorous songs by way of warm, muscular indie rock, courtesy of a crooner that has a much bigger heart than he might like to admit, and that's all it has to be.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

My 20 Favorite Black Metal Records of 2023

 



This really should be a top 40 or 50, as there were a ton of black metal records that I fucking loved this year. But now that I'm an official business office boi, I 100% do not have the time for all that, so ruthless editing is a must. And honorable mentions are the coward's way out, so there'll be none of that. You may notice, however, that my writeups are even shittier than normal. Regardless, these are the black metal albums that I spent the most time with this year, whether it was while pumping iron, laying in a meditative state with all the lights off, sitting in rush hour traffic, or grimly doing the dishes.




#20
Black Shaman
Tradition

Atmospheric hypnotism in slow motion from a one-man Czechian project. Paced like doom metal but the feel is 100% black. If I was still addicted to kratom, this would definitely be higher on the list.





#19
Nadir
Extinction Rituals

Riff-y/thrash-y in a way that clearly has something to do with crust (and maybe sludge metal) but only really leans into those elements in small bursts -- see the chug-y breakdown in "The Old Wind" or the mid-paced intro to "Beyond the Shadow of Death" for evidence.





#18
Gryftigæn
Wurmwaldgaistoz

Sounds like this guy was watching The Fellowship of the Ring, got to the part where they're on the pass through the Misty Mountains and Saruman is bellowing incantations and conjuring an ice storm to destroy them, and thought, "OK but what if, instead of a scene in a movie, this was a raw atmospheric black metal album?"




#17
Nemesis
Nemesis

One of the hardest Google searches of 2023 (adding "black metal Norway" helps). For some reason I listen to this a lot when I'm doing pushups. Is there a shorthand for the kind of black metal that sounds like it's emanating from behind the crumbling walls of a haunted old castle? Can I just call it "OCBM" from now on?




#16
Calligram
Position | Momentum

More black metal with apparent roots in punk/hardcore, this time with a deeper sense of atmosphere, a more cohesive, cerebral aesthetic, and more mature songcraft. The tremolo-picking breakdown on "Frantumi In Itinere" through to the end of the song is one my favorite sections of music in recent memory. 




#15
Ildganger
Wanderer of Fiery Planes

Raw black metal perfection. Sorrowful epics for nomadic ghosts. As I make this list, I'm noticing that literally every single album that comes up, I think, "Fuck, this should really be higher."




#14
Vosbúð
Heklugjá

Looks like Vosbúð edged out Ildganger in the battle of the raw-atmospheric-black-metal-records-with-volcanoes-on-the-cover this year. I suppose it's fitting, as Vosbúð staked their claim by dubbing themselves "Volcanic Black Metal". Sounds like Paysage d'Hiver channeling the majestic aura of Twilight of the Gods-era Bathory. Manages the difficult task of keeping very long songs consistently dynamic and engaging without ever really taking the foot off the gas.




#13
Profane Order
One Nightmare Unto Another

Stupefyingly heavy black/death destruction with stupidly heavy production. Gravity blasts, bonehead riffs, and levels of bestial, chaotic precision that we haven't heard since Anaal Nathraak went on Radio 1.




#12
ὁ Μέɣας
κ​​​ή​​​ρ​​​υ​​​ξ π​​​ῦ​​​ρ

This one's a real oddity: a vicious raw black metal album about Alexander the Great with conspicuously layered folk instrumentation. There's a lot of what sounds like a mandolin and some kind of woodblock percussion, but it's all devoid of any sense of quirkiness or self-consciousness: it just adds to this anonymous project's sense of mystery.




#11
Kringa
All Stillborn Fires, Lick My Heart!

In which Kringa realize their full potential, taking liberally from death-doom, post-punk, and psychedelia, but remaining firmly grounded in grainy, occult BM. All Stillborn Fires definitely sounds like it was recorded live in-studio with minimal overdubs, which further enhances the sense that the whole album is some sort of ritual that we're privileged to be listening in on.





#10
Afsky
Om hundrede år

After liking but not loving Afsky for years, Om hundred år finally made me a believer. Patiently crafted, melodic DSBM played with passion and urgency.




#9
Wells Valley
Achamoth

The queasy dissonance of Blut Aus Nord intertwined in the murk of Portal with the deliberate pacing and anxious groove of Cult of Luna. This year, I learned to love post-BM again, and Wells Valley led the charge.




#8
Helleruin
Devils, Death and Dark Arts

Helleruin brings a lot to the table -- the odd folk-ish melody, some ethereal guitar layering that suggests an awareness of modernity, one instance of cowbell -- but ultimately, what you're looking at is epic, vicious, true black metal in absolute peak form.




#7
Austere
Corrosion of Hearts

Depression has a way of feeding off of itself. It comes and goes over the years, but every time it returns in earnest, it feels that much heavier with the knowledge that it's never really been gone. Austere, who I had assumed was gone for good until recently, is one of the few bands capable of really embodying that weight.




#6
Uzlaga
The Sunken Seer

Utterly crushing down-tuned power chord riffs, hovering layers of high-frequency drone, one-two beats, hissing vocals, and ambient interludes worthy of one of NIN's Ghosts albums. A truly singular vision courtesy of a dude who runs a black metal memes IG.




#5
Sól án varma
Sól án varma

One-and-done project from members of Misþyrming, Carpe Noctem, Árstíðir Lífsins, 0, Skáphe, and more. The vortex-like heaviness of Icelandic black metal filtered through later-Celtic Frost-esque psychedelic-death-doom. Iceland, man. Iceland.




#4
Runespell
Shores of Náströnd

In which Runespell takes on a full-time drummer and a keyboardist, catapults their sound into lusher, vaster realms, leans into their more mournful, melodic tendencies, and creates some of the greatest pagan black metal I've ever heard. The most excited I've gotten about Runespell since Unhallowed Blood Oath.




#3
Entropia
Total

I've liked this band for years, but for me, Total is absolutely in a class all its own in the band's discography. It's somewhere between progressive and post-metal, but both labels feel misleading. The way the riffs seem to just repeat over and over until you notice that they're constantly melting and morphing into new and strange shapes, removing sections, taking on new layers, or otherwise distorting: I've just never heard anything quite like it. And it's all done so fluidly, it's honestly pretty mind-blowing. I'm also seemingly the only one who thinks so highly of Total, so proceed with caution.





#2
Hasard
Malivore

One of the most effective takes on the dissonant French style I've ever heard. Malivore is a nightmare emerging from the void as if conjured by forces beyond all mortal understanding or control, bred only to consume light and negate life. On a somewhat related note, I ordered this LP last Saturday and about half an hour ago, the mail carrier literally frisbee-ed it up from the street -- our front door is up a flight of stairs -- and it hit the door so hard that both of my cats ran and hid. Thanks guy.




#1
Thantifaxath
Hive Mind Narcosis

An absolute fucking masterpiece from start to finish, and I will happily die on that hill. Unflinchingly inventive avant-garde mastery. Queasy guitars vomit, convulse, and sculpt terrifying, amorphous structures. A faceless figure croaks acid-soaked prophecies of bottomless hunger and deathless horrors. Our world spins, slows to a crawl, chokes, and folds back in on itself. Parallel universes glow like embers then melt into nothing. Songs so dense and labyrinthine, I can't even conceive of how they were composed or recorded. Like, what the fuck is going on in "Solar Witch"? Are those guitars? How does it sound so utterly disjointed yet completely cohesive? Who are these mysterious Canadians, and how did they figure out how to bend time?