Tabitha’s Top Six Picks for 2015

2015 was an exceptionally good year for metal. Bands that we hadn’t heard from in years released new albums. Great new bands stormed onto the scene. Black metal bands found their way onto American tours for the first time ever. We saw festivals get bigger and fantastic independent bands get signed to notable, underground labels. 2015 proved that metal is still alive and thriving more than ever. With all that in mind, picking a top six for the year was an exceedingly difficult task. After much deliberation though, I finally settled on the following six releases. Keep in mind that this is just one asshole’s opinion. You are entitled to your lame opinions as well. Don’t be gay.

6. Nile| What Should Not Be Unearthed

Nile

These guys always come hard. Maybe it’s because they have been around for over twenty years and are older than dirt, which means they’ve had a lot of practice. In prior years, I wouldn’t have put them in the top six, but this release was different. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is their best album since “Annihilation of the Wicked”.

What makes this album stand out is the complexity and diversity of the songs. Each track brings something unique to the table. The guitar solos, technicality, and drum work are all irrefutably insane, leaving tech death connoisseurs speechless on their first listen. Despite this, the album has that “old school” appeal as its heaviness is unparalleled.

Also notable, are the lyrical themes on this album. The song “Call to Destruction” is particularly ballsy in its attacks on the futility and destruction of war as well as bringing attention to the dangerousness of religious fanaticism. The focus on current events is a welcome change for Nile. Yes, Nile truly outdid themselves this year, but listen for yourself and be the judge. “What Should Not Be Unearthed” is a must have for 2015.

 

5. Finsterforst| Mach Dich Frei

finsterforst

This band seriously came out of nowhere. Aside from being the sexiest folk metal band to come out of Germany in a long time, Finsterforst can tout being one of the best. “Mach Dich Frei” is the forth release from the band and the one to put them on the map. Napalm Records signed Finsterforst a few years back and can be accredited for the exposure they’ve received for “Mach Dich Frei”. Thankfully, the exposure and praise was well deserved.

Beginning to end, “Mach Dich Frei” is an unapologetic celebration of heathenistic, pagan values, espousing triumph, freedom, and victory with every breath. The folk elements on the record are unique, as the band allows for large accordion sections in the majority of the songs. Yes, Finsterforst has an accordion player and he plays a huge role in creating their distinctive sound.

One can easily be reminded of “Nordland” era Bathory while listening to “Mach Dich Frei” and the compliment is largely earned. With seven members in the band, Finsterforst creates an incredibly full and complicated sound, sprinkled with hidden intricacies and surprises. Simon Shillinger, Johannas Joseph, and Cornelius Heck’s clean vocals are truly remarkable, and cathartic. The band is also not afraid of writing longer songs. The last track on the album, entitled “Finsterforst”, is a twenty-three-minute-long metal symphony. “Mach Dich Frei” is a truly extraordinary addition to the world of blackened pagan/folk metal; a definite must listen for 2015.

 

4. Perdition Temple| The Tempter’s Victorious

perdition temple

This was one of those bands that all my friends were talking about and raving over like a bunch of drooling hounds. Other than hearing them being played in the background at afterhours parties, I waited a ridiculously long time to listen to this band. Perdition Temple is basically a continuation of black/death aficionados, Angelcorpse’s career, and their influence is apparent on “The Tempter’s Victorious”. If you’re looking for the most aggressive and dangerous sounding LP of 2015, “The Tempter’s Victorious” is definitely in the running.

The production on this album is ridiculously meaty and full, yet manages to keep in tune with the aggression of the old school and never sounds digital. The blast beats are bludgeoning and the guitar solos are in line with 80’s Teutonic thrash, yet unbelievably proficient despite their vileness. These points are exemplified on stand out tracks like “Scythes of the Antichrist” and “The Doomsday Chosen”. The anti-

Christian and anti-human lyrics are surprisingly intelligent and well thought out, and frankly, a pleasure to read. This album is a definite 10/10. If you’re looking for a sound to open the gates of hell, look no further. Listening to “The Tempter’s Victorious” will burn your fragile soul.

 

3. Istapp| Frostbiten

istapp

Just when I had made peace with the reality that Istapp was probably never going to release another album, they went ahead and kicked my ass with the release of “Frostbiten” back in August. What a treat this was for the fans. More than just a continuation on 2010’s “Bleklinge”, “Frostbiten” was an improvement. Istapp keeps the essence of Swedish melodic black metal alive with an incredible, throwback sound that coalesces the spirit of Dissection with early Wintersun. Folk elements are woven into the mix in an unassuming manner. The production is kvlt enough to avoid sounding like melodeath, yet remains professional sounding.

I seriously find no fault with this LP in the slightest. “Frostbiten” never bores the listener and each song is memorable. Istapp will leave your blood frozen with tracks like “Skoll”, “Apep”, and “Primim Frigidum”. “Frostbiten”, the title track, has a hauntingly beautiful and catchy chorus, sung in clean vocals. Melodies are evocatively dissonant and leave listeners absolutely captivated. I could go on and on giving this band praise but nothing compares to listening for yourself. Istapp truly impaled listeners this year, like the icicles they’re named after. “Frostbiten” was definitely worth the wait.

 

2. Kroda| Ginnungagap, Ginnungagaldr, Ginnungakaos

kroda

Ukrainian lyrics, Icelandic album title…..is it just me or does it seem like Kroda is trying to avoid becoming popular in America? Unfortunately, when you release an album of this caliber, you’re going to get American attention whether you like it or not. What can I really say? This is another Kroda record, almost perfection beginning to end.

Blackened dissonance permeates throughout the album, leaving listeners spellbound. Kroda gives Melodic Swedish metal bands a real run for their money with this album. The distinctiveness and beauty of each melody on this record is incomparable. Somehow, Kroda manages to create a sound that’s both victorious and misanthropic at once. This is the stuff pagan metal is made of: pure beauty, pure victory, pure nationalism, and pure freedom and harmony amongst nature. All of these ideologies resonate through Kroda’s distinctive sound.

Einenslav’s vocals are among the best in the industry, dripping with unrestrained eccentricity that’s aesthetically pleasing. The flute parts are intricate, complex, and strikingly beautiful. I can’t really say too much more. Other than being a bit slower than some prior releases, this is simply another Kroda record; an unrivalled display of absolute beauty and perfection.

 

1. MGLA| Exercises in Futility

mgla

A few of my favorite elitist asshole bloggers have been saying that “Exercises in Futility” is too smooth and lacks the ugliness and misanthropic aggression of early black metal. They’ve said that there’s not enough rawness in this record’s sound to classify it as true black metal. I must admit, they have a point. Black metal has been changing quite a bit over the past few years. Some might say it’s been watered down to appeal to the masses. Go ahead and call me a big old pussy trend lover then, because I can’t stop listening to this album. I’m not alone here either, as this album has boasted predominantly rave reviews.

Listeners really need to try hard not to cut themselves like emo kids after listening to “Exercises in Futility’s” extreme, nihilistic messages. The beauty in the repetitiveness of the riffs harkens back to the early days of black metal and is incredibly cathartic, yet the production is decent. No, this was not recorded on a tape deck. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Despite the album merely being broken up into six, self-titled chapters, each song had a unique personality of its own. Tracks IV and VI are particularly memorable and emotion inducing. The quality of the drumming is hard not to notice as well. Blasts are tasteful and intricate, blending beautifully with the guitar and bass. The lyrics are bleakly dark and poetic and the vocals are nothing short of amazing.

“Exercises in Futility” is addictive more than anything else. You’ll easily find yourself hitting the repeat button on your favorite song until you’re damn near late for work. MGLA really outdid themselves with this one. “Exercises in Futility” is beautiful music for you to die to.

Well, there you have it, one elitists top six picks for the year. What are yours? List them in the comments. Stay trve! Hails!

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Cleveland Thrashers, Terror, Release First Single Since 1997!

terror

Thrash metal veterans, Terror, recently blew the dust off their instruments and brushed the chip crumbs off their bellies to release their first new single in almost twenty years! The metal community is ever grateful. “Legion of Gore” is as primitive and vile as anything the band has released prior and is a swift kick in the nuts to modern thrash bands with its crude production, blistering guitar solos, and cutting riffs. The seven inch was released on December 31 by Hell Headbangers, and is a must have for fans of primitive thrash metal in the vein of Hellhammer or Insane from Italy. The single includes two skull crushing tracks entitled “Carving Techniques” and respectively, “Legion of Gore”. The band is currently in the studio recording an album that’s rumored to be released sometime this year. Thrashers should keep an eye out for this. In the meantime, here’s sneak peek at the single.

Bombs of Hades- Death Mask Replica

bombs of hades

It seems as though Sweden has an extreme metal band manufacturing lab dedicated to genetically engineering great musicians located somewhere in the heart of Stockholm. It’s hard to even imagine so many talented musicians living in a country not much bigger than California. Because Sweden is almost magically metal with its frigid temperatures and overall bleakness, it’s not hard to understand why some of the greatest death metal bands like Unleashed, Entombed, and Grave all hail from this bitterly cold Scandinavian country. It’s time to add one more band to the Swedish death hall of fame.

Bombs of Hades can’t exactly be described as new with a career spanning over ten years but the band really started making waves back 2012 with the release of The Serpent’s Redemption. Catchy, primitive, and gritty are three adjectives that can describe the feel of the band’s 2012 release and thankfully, their sound on Death Mask Replica doesn’t deviate much from this.

What makes Death Mask Replica such an exciting release is that, in true Bombs of Hades fashion, the album is stripped down. You won’t find a lick of trendy, experimental sounding, overly noisy, or shoegaze-y bullshit on this album. Death Mask Replica is a straight up death metal record with elements of rock and roll. One is easily reminded of mid era Entombed when listening to the album but there’s also an undeniable Motorhead influence as well as remnants of Venom style, early black/thrash. The album is a perfect amalgamation of crudeness and groove.

Bombs of Hades kick starts the album with title track, Death Mask Replica, in true, classic metal fashion, complete with guitar licks your dad would love and death growl vocals that are palatable and clear. The album continues on this path until track five, entitled Burning Angel, which starts out as a bit of a snooze but if you’re patient enough, you’re in for a treat on this track. About four and half minutes into the track the atmosphere changes and the song progresses into a haunting string section that exemplifies the melodicism Sweden is so famous for.

Unfortunately, at times the band relies a little too heavily on used up riff progressions and a few of the tracks, such as When the Reaper Comes, Tombsday, and Old Fires Die, are less than memorable. Thankfully, it doesn’t keep that pace for long. On Pillars of Madness, the title track, and The Venom all slay. This is definitely one of those albums to skip around with. The faster, thrashier tracks far surpass the slower ones. The clear, unmuted sound of the guitar and the standard D tuning is a definite stand out feature on this album. I highly recommend giving this album a listen. Despite the fact that not every song is particularly memorable, the ones that are make purchasing Death Mask Replica worth it.

7/10

Nocturnal Blood- Abnormalities Prevail

nocturnal blood

I don’t when, but somewhere along the line war metal transformed into bestial metal and began taking over the American black/death scene. The “bestial” sound was a natural progression for a somewhat waning war metal scene. Bestial metal takes the most attractive aspects of war metal (very raw black/death metal); rawness, bad production, simplicity, and heaviness and infuses it with the repetitiveness of early Norwegian black metal. Of course, some of the bands are shit, *cough* Black Witchery *cough*, but Nocturnal Blood manages to add a unique flare and violence to the bestial sound.

After having the chance to witness their live performance at Hell’s Headbash back in September, I knew I wanted to snag their latest release and give it a listen. Luckily for me, being a relatively new fan, Abnormalities Prevail, is a compilation album which gives listeners a nice overview of Nocturnal Blood’s five-year long career. Nocturnal Blood is one of those bands that can easily appeal to a variety of metal fans because of their palatability. Thrash slop soloing is kept to a minimum, the drumming isn’t overly pronounced, and the riffs, while bloodthirsty, are catchy.

Die hard Nocturnal Breed fans will be pleased with this compilation as it includes a number of songs from the band’s celebrated demo, True Spirit of Old, such as Goat Vulva and Temple of Masturbation as well as tracks from their split with Sanguis Imperem. For newer fans, this compilation gives a compelling overview of the band’s unique sound. Although I didn’t find much fault with this record, I could argue that at times the repetitiveness and one trick, raw heaviness can become tiresome, but Nocturnal Breed set up the album is such a way that it doesn’t drag out for long. Tracks like Temple of Masturbation, Violent Crucifixion, and Invocation of Spirit introduce some exciting, head bang inducing riffage and hooking intros.

Other than at times being a tad unmemorable, however, I cannot find much wrong with this album. This is odd coming from a girl who typically avoids the bestial sound and bands from America in general. Despite the fact that this isn’t the long awaited new material fans have been yearning for, I think Nocturnal Blood devotees and newbies alike will be pleased with this release. And if not, go suck a Goat Vulva……just kidding, do whatever you want. But still, listen to Abnormalities Prevail. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

7.5/10

https://hellsheadbangers.bandcamp.com/album/abnormalities-prevail

Adversarial- Death, Endless Nothing, and the Black Knife of Nihilism

adversaria;

I’ve taken an incredibly long time to comment on this, but Adversarial’s September release has integrated itself perfectly into 2016 without being forgotten, so better late than never. Death, Endless, Nothing, and the Black Knife of Nihilism not only qualifies for the longest of the epically long albums titles of 2015, it also has been revered on many top ten lists for 2015, and for good reason. Adversarial perfects that murky, North American sound with muddy production, muted, throaty growls, and blast beats at the forefront. Adversarial’s drummer, E. K. is really the stand out performer on the LP. The fact that the drums so pronounced in addition with the precision that they are played, only adds this album’s genius progression.

Death, Endless…begins with a fast paced, feature type track entitled “Dissenting the Waking Shell” and immediately hooks you with catchy, head bang inducing, technical slop. And yes, all the song titles are a tad pseudo-intellectual, but in an endearing way. Interestingly, the following track is the intro played like one with feedback buzz and tribal sounding drums. Strangely, despite how much I enjoyed the Dissenting the Waking Shell, the album started after this for me.

The album progresses with an amplifying, warring hum through Immersion Void Paragon, and Enoik Spiritual Warfare but reaches catharsis after the interlude with Cursed Blades Cast upon the Slavescum of Christ, which is an absolutely schizophrenic five-minute long expedition. Let’s also take note of how brilliantly anti-Christian that song title is. Ingeniously, the album slows down after that with the emotional, doom-y atmosphere on Old Ruins Slumber in a Crushing Hatred of Man. Of course, Adversarial doesn’t stay here for the remainder of the album. The title track slays as hard as the opening track. Adversarial is that band you can bring up next time you’re talking about how *insert underground band here’s* first album is classic with your uber kvlt friends. Thankfully, the celebration in the underground is well deserved.

9/10

https://darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com/album/death-endless-nothing-and-the-black-knife-of-nihilism

Old Forest- Dagian

old forest

What can you expect to hear from a British band that takes nerdism to the extreme with Tolkien themed lyrics growled over folk laden, atmospheric black metal? Well, if Old Forest’s latest release “Dagian” is any indication of what to expect, epic-ness is the clear result.

Veterans, Old Funeral achieve an almost Eastern European folk/pagan metal sound and show clear influence from bands like Drudkh or Walknut. Patience is key when listening this album. The slow build up from the sounds of nature to gloomy blackened ambiance is worth waiting for. The addition of the flute in track one is mesmerizing. Like a Greek epic, each track on Dagian builds off of the other. The first two tracks, Morwen and Non, are more up-tempo and complex. Since both tracks are over ten minutes in length, there is room for many different progressions within each track. These tracks act as a sort of a journey to a more somber place in the middle of the album through the end.

Track three, Tweoneleoht, acts as sort of a ballad, dreamy and ambient, with beautifully melodic breaks. At this point in the album, the band deviates into a sort of black gaze reminiscent of Agalloch or November’s Doom. Old Forest adds a unique touch of the flute to differentiate themselves. The risk of adding clean vocals also worked in the band’s favor. Kobold’s versatile vocals range from haunting to demonic, and the clean vocals are powerful and hypnotizing.

The final track, Neaht, concludes the album in true Burzum fashion, with long, atmospheric feedback. Despite the track’s single, whirring hum, it never bores. Five minutes in, flutes whistle in the background. It continues this minimalistic and genius progression throughout the track ending the saga on a somber note. Originality is the word to describe this Old Forest release. The band takes risks and succeeds to create a truly breathtaking Tolkien-esque narrative. This is definitely an album to look for in 2016.

9/10

https://avantgardemusic.bandcamp.com/album/dagian

Satanic Warmaster/Archgoat- Lux Satanae

Satanic Warmaster

Satanic Warmaster-
Finland’s Luciferian hordes are back at it! Satanic Warmaster and Archgoat teamed up to release what will most certainly be the evilest split of 2016, despite the fact that the year has only just begun. Satanic Warmaster has certainly come a long way since the murky, unprocessed sounds of Strength and Honor. Their addition to Lux Satanea is an atmospheric, dissonant, and captivating ode to the original Norwegian black metal sound.

Side A of “Lux Satanea” is a fitting follow up to Satanic Warmaster’s mind-blowing 2014 release “Fimbulwinter” with a slightly more subdued level of ambience. The split contains two brand new songs from the Finnish trio entitled “Black Destiny” and “Wolves of Blood and Iron”, as well as a thrash-y, fist pounding cover of Pest’s “Satanic Winter”, and a lengthier and improved version of their classic from 2005 “My Kingdom of Darkness”.

The new tracks contain all the spell binding elements of traditional black metal and crank the dramaturgical elements and the subtle cheese factor in impressively satisfying way. Werewolf’s shrill shrieks pierce the firmament and the combined atmospheric and ambient elements create a raw, orchestral, wall of sound to lose yourself into. Satanic Warmaster is a band that has been improving with every album. “Lux Satanea is an inarguable example of their sheer dedication to their craft and to the perfection of their signature sound.

9/10 By Tabitha Payne

ARCHGOAT – Lux Satanae
“Ime mun munaa Norja Black Metal!”
Feels good to say that, and the one thing we know for sure is that Archgoat is on the sides of the Finns; to get into this review I had to dig up a few older tapes because all of this material comes from the early days of Archgoat and I thought it’d be interesting to listen to the original demos, EPs, and releases before seeing how the new recordings sound.

One thing that becomes apparent right away is VnoM’s drumming, while his style has always been very different and more intense than Blood Desecrator’s, hearing him play through Blood Desecrator’s drum-lines is almost like hearing a completely different set of hits, the drumming is more intense more fueled, more aggressive and a bit faster.

The other thing that becomes apparent is Ritual Butcherer’s old gear-line tweaked a bit sounds beyond nasty; it tears through old licks with grind like aggression, adding to something that already made songs so old feel completely fresh and new. The stand out for me on this album is Penis Perversor which is great to hear in a completely new way; they even re-mastering the original opening sample which made me question and doublecheck to see if it was in fact still the same sample.

Showing not only the early work in a new way, but also proving that most of the Finnish Black Metal scene has never been one to follow trends or to have a defining style, from a 90’s style death on Satanic Oath to Speed metal on Angelcunt and the ever present grind influence felt throughout the entirety. I cannot find a single fault with this side; my only issue is there’s enough material for it to be release onto itself.

8/10 – Only because this was done as a Split, and I desperately wish it was an album unto itself. By Ailo Venalainen

https://hellsheadbangers.bandcamp.com/album/lux-satanae-thirteen-hymns-of-finnish-devil-worship