10. Enslaved – Utgard
I didn’t think about Enslaved for almost fifteen years, but when I saw that they had a new album out I was curious to hear where the band chose to go and damn was I in for a treat! The album begins with a deep Viking choir to blaze a trail for trained well pronounced harsh vocals mastered by Grutle Kjellson that really stepped up his game since the last time I’ve heard him. The album oscillates very well between the Viking vibe and progressive black metal. The transitions and riffs cut right to the chase and nothing seems too out of place. So if you missed the last couple of releases of the band, I think it’s time to come back to them.
9. Omni Express – Florida Man
I’m a big fan of originality and mixing genres that I wouldn’t expect. I’ve never been a big fan of grindcore, slam and pig squeals, but mix it with retro-synthwave and you get a hybrid monster with high pitched snares, 80s synth transitions, hard guitars and deep growls. Omni Express are unique in the slamwave genre as far as I know and I applaud them for their originality. For a first release, this is impressive and I can’t wait to hear where they will take things in their next album.
8. Feminazgul – No Dawn For Men
The first two notes of accordion with birds in the background made me think this was going to be a pagan, folk metal kind of deal. I was ready to give it a chance and good thing I did. After only one minute and a half, a demonic screech full of the most perfect white noise proved that I got the album's direction all wrong. This is a black metal release we needed this year. The drums goes from traditional black metal blast beats to more rock rhythms that compliment Laura Beach’s vocals incredibly well. It’s worth listening to the album in its entirety, since it will take so many twists and turns and you will find yourself lost in a labyrinth in which you will want to dwell.
7. VVOV – Marto
Oh Finland, how I love thee. VVOV is the most aggressive and violent electronic music that I got to listen to in years. The first five seconds of the album make your eardrums explode. It has the impact of the hardest Black Metal bands with a mix of industrial drums and synth that will saw your soul in half and not let you put it back together. The saturated riffs give you moments of peace while leaving space for demonic church organs and ethereal synths which interludes fresh air of the heavy sound that was beating your ears. If you want something new and evil, let VVOV in your neon summoning circle.
6. Hail Spirit Noir – Eden In Reverse
There are very few bands in the Psychedelic Black Metal genre and even less that are worthy of mention. This saddens me, because I think it’s one of the most interesting and open to experimentation genres out there. Ebonylake, Oranssi Pazuzu, A Forest of Stars are some that, in my view, represent the style perfectly. I started the album and the first thing that hit me was the absence of harsh black metal vocals. Instead Ghost-like harmonies invaded my ears. I didn’t expect it, but it flowed as an uncoagulating river of blood. The psychedelic and progressive aspect of the band took a step forward with softer vocals. The choices made in the album compositions are a testament to the master of their craft. If you are not familiar with the genre, this is a very accessible album for something as complex.
5. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi
To follow a great Psychedelic Black Metal album, here’s another one! Contrary to Hail Spirit Noir, we have harsh haunting vocals wall to wall here. The guitar riffs are hypnotic and the music feels like an unfurling spiral dragging you in. This is the most beautiful way I felt attacked by music in a long time. Not as accessible as Hail Spirit Noir, but oh so rewarding for the adventuring melomaniac falling in this rabbit hole. This might not be the best release of the band, but it is quickly becoming my personal favorite work from them so far.
4. Borgne – Y
This is an album that is especially impactful because it came out this year. It is slow, dark, fatalist and will make you stare into the abyss. The cold guitar strings are often doubled with a doom-infused organ and it makes the already frozen riffs even more powerful. The vocals are full of despair and hate with lyrics cradling these emotions at their core. Slower, quieter breaks make you breathe just long enough before the metal returns to poignantly pierce your brains. It's a down and gloomy album that is extremely satisfying from beginning to end.
3. Rannoch – Reflections Upon Darkness
Rannoch’s first effort (Between Two Worlds) was in my top 10 of 2013 and seven years later they find their way back with a largely different but more mature album. Borrowing from Gojira, Opeth, Meshuggah and more, yet still having their own voice, they are reaping their way to the top of what Progressive Death Metal has to offer. Complex riffs, well thought guitar sound, ultra competent vocals, amazing production, prodigious solos and non linear drum lines are in play here. This is hopefully the album that will make the metal world aware of this still unknown gargantuan beast that is Rannoch.
2. Melted Bodies – Enjoy Yourself
This is the way to retain my attention with a first album. I am a sucker for originality and well executed weirdness and this album is well versed in both. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Mr Bungle had Jello Biafra as a singer? Well this is very close to the answer. There is a very punk mood throughout the entire album, but from the more familiar punk and trash metal riffs emanate a chaos that is welcomed and refreshing. Social satire oriented lyrics, manic energy interlaced with breakdowns, 180 degrees switch of mood, this is a band that is not afraid to try different things and do it in a way that makes me ask for another album as soon as possible.
1. Akhlys – Melinoë
Boldly releasing their second LP in December to steal the first place, Akhlys does not fuck around. This is what I wish Black Metal sounded like all the time. This is a more mature album where you really feel the entire band effort to create something that will redefine the standards of the genre. Violent, nightmarish, haunting and produced to perfection, it is impossible not to want to headbang to this album. The riffs are powerful, evil and will freeze the blood in your veins as the vocals shatter the remnant of your soul and eat it whole. With only five songs, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It is a five course meal of exquisite delicacies, but I would have taken even more songs just to have a little dessert. But the only downfall I can find to this album is that I wanted more. I’m sure it only means they succeeded at producing a memorable record.
Mr Bungle: This is how a re-release of a demo should sound like.
Zeal And Ardor: If this was a full length album it would have been on the list. They tackled the flagrant racism we’ve seen this year in a brilliant way and we need more metal band attacking this.
DJERV: The band has teased us with two new songs and I can’t wait to hear more.
Toehider: For anyone missing Power Metal, the 80s and loves musicianship, this is a must.