Thursday, December 8, 2016

My 40 Favorite Black Metal Records of 2016


Welp, once more 'round the sun we have gone. One year closer to the grave and, in a larger sense, total annihilation. It really has been an incredibly shitty year, hasn't it?

In that spirit, I've opted to focus on black metal for this, my much-anticipated (haha get it? cause no one actually cares) year-end list. I did make an all-genre list for my job, but something about it feels redundant. For one, it was highly populated by albums from legacy artists (David Bowie, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey) that I'm guessing most people don't need me to tell them about. But more importantly, I felt like I was forcing myself to make room for non-black metal albums, at the expense of listing some incredible fucking records.

So I figure, before we get started, I'll just say this: there were plenty of truly great, non-black metal albums released this year, including those by Moor Mother, Yves Tumor, LUH, Clipping, MMOTHS, Adrian Younge, PARTYNEXTDOOR, dvsn, Anderson .Paak, Clipping, Solange, and Rome. And David Bowie's Blackstar was far and away my favorite release of the year. Probably of the decade. 

Okey-dokey. Break out the corpsepaint, fuckers.

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40. Cultus - Gezeteld in Zegeruïnen
Netherlands


Epic and sorrowful, with barebones but full, punchy production. Black metal in its purest form.

Previously:
A Seat in Valhalla (2004)
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39. Black Candle - Lost Light of the North
Luxembourg


Raw and ritualistic, filled out intermittently with creepy keyboards, and laced with a queasy undercurrent of sludgy doom.
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38. Sol Sistere - Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum
Chile


Excellent, melodic guitar work and a vast, almost cinematic sound.
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37. Arkaik Excruciation - Cursed Blood of Doom
Spain


Crushing bestial black/death with a few highly effective excursions into the murky waters of dark ambient and drone.
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36. El-Ahrairah - El-Ahrairah
United States


Posted this back in June, from that post: "Simple, downstroked riffs and pogo beats, in service of a (relatively) melodic, melancholic sound."
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35. Black Vice - Rituals of the Anti-Cosmic Doctrine

United States


Harsh, blown-out misanthropy. From the post I did on this last month: "Ugly riffs, simplistic drumming, and disgusted rasps."
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34. Temple Nightside - The Hecatomb
Australia


Esoteric, reverb-saturated black/death.

Previously:
Prophecies of Malevolence (2011)
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33. Plebeian Grandstand - False Highs, True Lows
France


Damn, I already did a post on this, too: "The dissonant, warped guitar style and enveloping, darkly dramatic overall sound for which the French black metal scene is known, channeled through a rhythmically complex approach that harkens to late 90s chaotic hardcore, and performed with unassailable musicianship that's worthy of the tightest of tech-death."
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32. Wildernessking - Mystical Future
South Africa


Hypnotic, sprawling, possibly Cascadian-inspired sounds.
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31. Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder
Norway


My favorite Darkthrone in over a decade. Sounds like mid-era Darkthrone shot up with a syringe full of first-wave black metal.
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30. Nordjevel - Nordjevel
Norway


True Norwegian black metal. Nothing more, nothing less.
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29. Ancestors Blood - Hyperborea
Finland


Posted this a couple months back. From that post: "Epic, passionate, mostly midpaced songs, with a lush, keyboard-heavy sound that's counteracted by an ample amount of dissonance and vicious vocals."
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28. Occult Burial - Hideous Obscure

Canada


Blackened thrash. Occult Burial blaze precisely zero new territory because they're too busy burning cities to the ground with mosh-ready riffs and nonsensical guitar solos.

Previously:
Occult Burial (2013) + Promo MMXV (2015)
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27. Trasig - Jammer og Nød
Norway


Eerie and depressive in the inscrutable, horror-savvy tradition of Striborg, albeit in slightly more accessible form.
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26. Mons Veneris - Sibilando com o Mestre Negro

Portugal


In which Portugal's finest purveyor of esoteric, LLN-inspired black metal almost (he eventually gets there) completely abandons black metal in favor of an ugly, dissonant mass of strings, keyboards, and moaning, quasi-choral clean vocals.

Previously:
Inferno (2005)
To Rape the Nazarene (2006) + Abismo a Céu Aberto (2006)
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25. Oath - Mustan Liekin Veljeskunta

Finland


Traditional black metal, perfected. Mournful, tremolo-picked leads float in the aether alongside ghostly, ethereal keyboards. Mesmerizes from beginning to end.

Previously:
Light of the Black Dawn (2013) + Antichrist Reign (2014)
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24. Sheidim - Shrines of the Void

Spain


Modern black/death with a huge, enveloping sound.
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23. Unhuman Disease - De Templi Autem Veteris Serpentis

United States


Raw, lysergic musical rituals. Unhuman Disease are one of the most underrated bands in the country, and this is their most accomplished work yet.

Previously:
Black Creations of Satan (2009)
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22. Countess - Fires of Destiny
Netherlands


Pagan, folk-leaning sounds. Keyboards are the glue that holds this thing together -- they're permanently on the "choir" setting, but sound oddly small and isolated instead of epic, which, when combined with simplistic guitar work and raw, hoarse vocals,  makes for a surprisingly unique, fresh sound.

Previously:
The Shining Swords of Hate (2000)
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21. Negativa - Untitled 1
Spain


Huge-sounding, reverb-drenched, pitch-black depression. Untitled 1 is technically a compilation, but it plays like an album, and it's the shit, so I'm counting it.
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20. Void Omnia - Dying Light
United States


Elite-tier first LP from the best, truest Norwegian-influenced US black metal band currently in existence.
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19. Darkestrah - Turan
Germany


Yet another masterful set of folk-infused Pagan metal from these underground titans. Darkestrah have never produced anything that's short of spectacular, and after almost two decades, they're still progressing.

Previously:
Манас (2013)
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18. Sun Worship - Pale Dawn
Germany


A darkly euphoric haze of unrelenting blastbeats, tremolo-picking, and lupine howls.
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17. Elffor - Malkhedant
Spain


Four passionate, folk- and Viking-tinged epics from this longstanding solo project. Though Elffor's evolution from dark ambient to black metal began over a decade ago, Malkhedant represents his most confident, complete departure from the project's early, synth-based sound, and is his most cohesive, and overall best work yet.

Previously:
Into the Dark Forest... (1998)
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16. Nebrus - Exta Malorvm
Italy


Cavernous, doom-laden aural conjurings.
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15. Battle Dagorath - I - Dark Dragons of the Cosmos
Switzerland / United States


Icy, densely layered, atmospheric perfection.

Previously:
Eternal Throne (2008)
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14. Ast - Fraktale
Germany


An aggressive, extremely advanced fusion of sounds. It's as if pg. 99 or Majority Rule decided to be a black metal band -- heavy and harsh, with a great deal of tricky time signature changes, but underlined by a subtle but heartbreaking sense of beauty. "Nekrolog Pt. 1" in particular represents, to me at least, an almost entirely new approach to black metal.
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13. Lathspell - Torn Cold Void
Finland


The grand, nocturnal majesty of black metal distilled into four feral parts. Unlike the previous entry, there's nothing particularly new at work here, but that doesn't stop Torn Cold Void from sounding fresh, or kicking ass.

Previously:
Fascination of Deviltry (2005)
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12. Profanatica - The Curling Flame of Destiny
United States


Disgustingly heavy black/death. If played loud enough, this record is capable of opening a pit through which winged demons can drag angels down to the fiery abyss, as pictured above.

Previously:
The Enemy of Virtue (2006)
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11. Alignak - Triptych Vision 1
United States


Dynamic, trance-inducing, psychedelic sounds from one of the most unfairly overlooked black metal bands in the world. Here's the post I did on this album back in September.
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10. Inquisition - Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
United States


Haters can pretend that this is hipster nonsense, but the truth is that Inquisition are way fucking truer and, more importantly, better than 99% of the competition.
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9. Cantique Lépreux - Cendres Célestes
Canada
Technically proficient, and relentlessly vicious yet beautiful. Like blood-spattered snow.
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8. A Diadem of Dead Stars - Kingdoms Bathed in Golden Light
Greece


Sorrowful, nature-oriented, neofolk-informed atmospheric mastery.
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7. Saor - Guardians
Scotland


One of the most breaktakingly beautiful black metal records I've ever heard. If there are other black metal bands out there who use traditional Scottish instruments (esp. bagpipes) as part of their core sound, someone please let me know.

Previously:
Roots (2013)
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6. Skaphe - Skáphe²
United States


From the post I did on this album back in May: "Cavernous, cacophonous, impenetrably dense US black metal. Reverberating howls and dissonant, chiming guitars explode like a bullet-ridden skull over a muddy but airtight rhythm section."
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5. Oranssi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä
Finland


Deeply layered, blackened krautrock. Once again, Oranssi Pazuzu has raised the bar -- for themselves, and for the subgenre at large.

Previously:
Kosmonument (2011)
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4. Black Funeral - Ankou and the Death Fire
United States


After over a decade of (quite successful IMO) experimentation, the masters of esoteric, occult US black metal return to the pure, raw, Transilvanian Hunger-worshipping sound of their first few records.

Previously:
Ordog (2006)
Az-I-Dahak (2004) + Waters of Weeping (2007)
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3. Belenos - Kornôg
France


Mind-blowing, intricately orchestrated mini-epics. The songs on Kornôg rarely settle into a groove for very long, instead opting for a jagged, linear approach. How in the fuck is this a solo record?

Previously:
Errances Oniriques (2001)
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2. Cultes des Ghoules - Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love
Poland


Sounds like blackened Amebix, only waaaay more ambitious. Satan.
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1. Schammasch - Triangle
Switzerland


A musical vision of decay spanning three discs. First disc is blistering orthodox BM, second disc slows things down and ups the bombast, third disc is all murky dark ambient and thunderous percussion. Though there are plenty of bands pushing black metal in new and exciting directions, few bands have the audacity to try something this ambitious, and even fewer have the skills to back it up. A truly remarkable achievement.

Previously:
Sic Lvceat Lvx (2010)

22 comments:

  1. Are you serious? I was hoping for a best of '16 list from you! Pretty epic post, thank you for this!
    V.

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    1. I agree with this comment

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  2. I haven't heard most of these, so I'm thankful for the list. I'll check some of these out, for sure. However, the lack of Forgotten Spell worries me. Angel, God Or Insanity is quickly becoming one of my favorite black metal albums.

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    Replies
    1. That is a super tight record. It was on the master list, but in the end I decided that I just hadn't listened to it enough. Good catch though!

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  3. I will post a years best black metal list for you once I've compiled my own. A token of appreciation, if you will.

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  4. Cruachan (Ireland) used Irish bagpipes on their one BM LP. If ya don't know that LP, it's amazing! Punk inspired Pagan Black Metal!

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  5. Fantastic list!! Most of these bands I am not too familiar with so I am quite excited to dig in! Above all else, thanks for all the effort you pool into the blog. I have discovered so many gems across so many different genres that I have also passed onto others.

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  6. Interesting list I'll have to dig deeper into.

    Also I'm wondering now if there are any Black Metal Christmas albums...

    -Xtm

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  7. What on this list would appeal to someone who likes Norwegian black metal? Inquisition and Darkthrone obviously. Anything else anyone notices?

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    Replies
    1. Try: Cultus, Nordjevel, Oath, Void Omnia, Lathspell

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  8. What an excellent countdown!

    Thank you for this list, and thank you so much for another year of consistent and interesting posts. Must be an incredible amount of work - I appreciate every ounce of it! First (and often only) website I check when I get home from work.

    A few of these albums have come to be new classics in my life, and a few of them are from bands I love who I had NO idea came out with new material this year. Mainly Cultes Des Ghoules, Occult Burial and Inquisition. All perfect soundtracks to white-knuckled driving in Michigan's snow storm this weekend. Coven especially - shit sounds like a shitty knife ground razor sharp.

    Do people really get down on Inquisition? That's too bad, I've always really liked them. Gotta keep everyone from stealing Dagon's lunch money I guess.

    Thanks again, here's to Opium Hum '17!

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  9. My crowning black metal achievement for 2016 was successfully ordering this wonderful piece of crap:

    https://goo.gl/images/qNMB8Y

    Shipped from Poland, bootleg as hell. Was almost certain it'd never arrive. Was definitely as shitty as I was hoping. I would love to send a kid to kindergarten with that thing.

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  10. thanks for the list man! i just wanna let you know that this is a great blog and that i always come here whenever i feel like trying something new. keep up the good work!

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  11. Allright, here goes - my Black Metal list. Some have not been released yet, but I Know they will live up to expectations.

    359 - The Path of Ayin
    -Numerically good.
    Acrimonious - Eleven Dragons (Not out yet, but there is this - https://youtu.be/AFP5tYKjdTc)
    -Have kept a close watch on what they have been up to for years.
    Antaeus - Condemnation
    -The fast and the furious
    Behexen - The Poisonous Path
    -Finnish Devil Worship.
    Chhinamasta - Varja-Sarpa
    -Burzum from India.
    Darkthrone - Arctic Fire
    -Better than the previous decade.
    Deathspell Omega - The Synarchy of Molten Bones
    -The continuation of a winning concept.
    Grafvitnir - Obeisance to a Witch Moon (Releases 161216 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDXi0AT8C3Y)
    -New album by this prolific horde. They have been on the last three lists.
    Infernarium - Pimeän Hohto
    -Finland Perkele Black Metal.
    Inquisition - Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Astral Zenith
    -One of their better albums.
    Korgonthurus - Vuohen Siunaus
    -Really good album, they have grown.
    Malroth/Oes Gallioth - Malveillance Rehearsals
    -Filthy Black Metal.
    Murg - Gudatall
    -Thinking back on the '90ies.
    Myrkr - Rekwiz/Ritual of Undeath
    -Welldeserved rerelease.
    Pillar Tombs of Aku - IV
    -Lo-Fi filth.
    Profanatica - The Curling Flame of Blasphemy
    -Unexpectedly interesting.
    Spektr - The Art to Disappear
    -Back to form. Like few others, organically industrial.
    Summum - Benedictus Kui Venit in Nomine Domine - Redeamus ad Mort Domine
    -Abruptum for a new generation.
    Sun Worship - Pale Dawn
    -Another unexpected find.
    Teitanblood - Accursed Skin
    -Filthy death/black.
    Trasig - Jammer og Nød
    -Previously unknown.
    True Black Dawn - Come the Colorless Dawn
    -Back from the dead.
    TujAroT - ...Artis Obscura
    -Czech - long, dark tracks.
    Unhuman Disease - De Templi Autem Veteris Serpentis
    -Another great release.
    Urgehal - Aeons in Sodom
    -A strong ending.
    Uškumgallu - Rotten Limbs in Dreams of Blood
    -Very enjoyable, filthy and dark death/black.
    Wędrowcy~Tułacze~Zbiegi - Światu Jest Wszystko Jedno
    -Avantgarde, first track is probably my favorite track of the year.

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  12. Amazing, as always! By sure, one of the most important blogs in the web today. Wish I could talk to you via fb or something. Best wishes!

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  13. Thank you for the list, with some new bands to try. Most of my favorite new ones are turning out to be near the bottom of the list. I hope it is not selfish of me to say that I hope there is a death metal list too!

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    1. No can do, unfortunately, I didn't listen to nearly enough new death metal to make a list. If I were to make one, though, Brutally Deceased, Vainaja, Ulcerate, Carnal Tomb, and Krypts would def make the cut.

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  14. Got way into Urzeit's "Anmoksha" record. Unrelenting, bone-splintering stuff. Definitely one of my 2016 favorites.

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  15. i really want you to listen to this and read your opinion:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2h6kjXZOsM&feature=youtu.be
    it's an impressive approach to black metal. not sure if they're serious or trolling though, but i am sure you can appreciate it! And if you need a link for the album let me know!
    V.
    V.

    ReplyDelete