Archive for the 2015 Category

Hagalaz’ Favorite Albums of 2015

Posted in 2015, best of, black metal, doom, doom metal, drone metal, finland, funeral doom, marduk, melechesh, orthodox black metal, sweden, traditional heavy metal, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, I was thinking of catch-up posts I needed to do and I thought, “Oh! I’ll do a post about my favorite albums of 2015!” I didn’t plan on it needing to be ten or eleven like I normally do because… it’s almost six months late, so why do you care? But then, lo, there were that many, so the list is eleven after all.

So without further ado, in mostly random order, my favorites of 2015.

11. Ghost – Meliora

After the huge fanfare for Infestissumam (and there was a lot of it. Remember when Ghost released those sex toys?), there was practically none for its follow-up. Really. I didn’t even know this album was out until about a week after it dropped, and I worked at a metal record store. Meliora feels like a throwback in a way; it’s more stripped down in the way that Opus Eponymous was, and I dare say a little heavier than its predecessors, “Cirice” feels almost doomy.

Favorite Tracks: He Is, Absolution

[Here’s Ghost playing “He Is” with the grandpas guitars.]

 

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon

Sunn O))) near the end of the year released their first full-length album (not with Ulver) since 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions (which is absolutely, stupidly, dumbfoundingly awesome). Clocking in at barely over a half hour, Kannon is over a whole lot faster than you would hope (if you’re me), but that’s literally my only complaint about it. Here’s to Attila doing more crazy things with his throat!

H’s Favorite Track: Kannon, Pt. 3

 

9. Baroness – Purple

I was stupidly happy to hear that Baroness would have a new album out; after their terrible bus crash in 2012, I would not have been surprised if they never put out another album. Purple is a return to a heavier sound, and it simultaneously incorporates a lot of new sounds and styles, like in “Shock Me” and “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain).” J thinks that 2012’s Yellow & Green may prove to be a transitional album if the band continues in this vein, and it will be interesting to see where Baroness goes from here.

Favorite Tracks: Shock Me, Kerosene

 

8. Melechesh – Enki

Melechesh is one of those bands that I think is really cool and innovative and doesn’t get nearly enough attention. 2010’s The Epigenesis was when they got the production budget to really hit their peak, and I wasn’t sure that they would be able to top it, but Enki definitely does. It’s tight, fast, full of fun shifting drum patterns and Eastern-influenced riffing and instrumentation. Now if we can just get them to tour here again… or headline…

Favorite Tracks: Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged, Doorways to Irkala

[And this is just track one.]

 

8. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

I was also very excited to hear that Shape of Despair had a new album coming out. Angels of Distress is one of the most upsetting albums I know- it’s beautiful, but it really is distressing. Monotony Fields (there’s one that came out between them that I didn’t know about! I will have to get on that) is another treatise in funeral doom the way it should be done- it’s bleak and slow-moving with some awesome keyboard parts. It’s also got some surprising turns- “Descending Inner Light” is almost joyful. For funeral doom. Which is really kind of the opposite of joyful. Huh.

Favorite Tracks: The Distant Dreams of Life, In Longing

[Here’s another track, because there are entirely too many high points on this album]

 

6. Saturnalia Temple – To The Other

Speaking of doom- Saturnalia Temple’s To The Other really is like gazing into the Void. Creepy, heavy, and just plain downright daunting (smothering?), this album reminds me of all of the ugliness and sonic twistedness of something like Teitanblood, but slower. Much. Much. Slower. It’s sort of like being slapped with a sledgehammer. But in a good way.

Favorite Tracks: ZazelSorath, To the Other

[Enjoy your nightmares.]

 

5. Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends

Shining released their ninth full-length album last year, called Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends. This new album features an introductory track that is entirely fugue-like classical riffing, and later employs the use of a sitar. Say what you will about their stage antics and the general notoriety of vocalist Niklas Kvarforth, Shining remains, in my opinion, one of the most innovative black metal bands currently out there.

Favorite Tracks: Den påtvingade tvåsamheten, Besök från i(ho)nom

 

4. Mgła – Exercises in Futility

Mgła also returned with an offering every bit as good as everyone expected it to be. While I am still very partial to With Hearts Towards None, Exercises in Futility proves that Mgła is not slacking and is easily one of the best black metal releases of last year, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground. Blending old school style with third-wave melody, Mgła’s albums are consistently solid and enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: IV, VI

 

3. Marduk – Frontschwein

2015 also saw the return of Marduk, and specifically the return of Marduk playing war music. Not to say that their past several albums haven’t been absolutely fantastic in their focus on Biblical/apocalyptic imagery, but let’s face it, war is kind of what they’re known for. Frontschwein does not disappoint, bringing in some of the best reviews that Marduk has seen in years and proving that black metal’s war machine hasn’t sacrificed any of their brutality.

Favorite Tracks: Nebelwerfer, 503

[Yes. That’s a tambourine.]

 

2. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud

This is the weird one on the list. I have never listened to Amorphis before last year. At all. Basically, Shane just played it a lot at the record store and it really grew on me. While not typically the sort of thing that I listen to with any amount of frequency, Amorphis’ Under the Red Cloud is, I think, easily one of my favorite albums of 2015.

Favorite Tracks: Death of a King, Tree of Ages

[Again. There isn’t a bad song on this one either.]

 

1. Clandestine Blaze – New Golgotha Rising

My number one album of 2015 is actually a black metal album this year. If you’re not familiar with Clandestine Blaze, you should be, and if those vocals sound familiar… well, that would probably be because Deathspell Omega also channels their works through Mikko Aspa’s vocal chords. Only here he does everything. New Golgotha Rising is, on the surface, a relatively straightforward raw black metal album, but the more I listen to it, the more I find that it shifts around beneath the surface, like some kind of parasite in a sci-fi horror film. All of Clandestine Blaze’s catalog is seriously good stuff, but this new one is one of my favorites.

Favorite Tracks: (All of it, ya goofs, but if I have to pick,) Evocation Under Starlit Sky, Passage to New Creed

[I wanted to post this track because it does a good job of showing off that slippery riffage that Clandestine Blaze does so well.]

So there is a list of stuff I liked last year. Because dudes, I already had eleven. Which is why Enforcer isn’t on there along with other notable exceptions, and there’s still stuff I need to catch up on (Arcturus). The back catalog on the stuff I need to catch up on is huge. But, here is the stuff I was jamming a bunch last year for you to peruse while I try to stay on top of this year (new Rotting Christ is incredible, and Behexen and Inquisition’s new stuff is sounding really, really good).

Until next time…

-H

 

 

Advertisements

Review: Marduk- Frontschwein

Posted in 2015, black metal, marduk, Reviews, sweden with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2015 by blackmetallurgy

If there’s one thing Marduk does extraordinarily well, it’s war. Since the release of Panzer Division Marduk the band has been known for their tributes to rolling tanks and an unholy fusion of war and occult imagery. And it’s a poignant connection- apocalypses in plenty of religions involve warfare of some kind, and nothing smacks of evil quite like the Third Reich, which was actively involved with mysticism and esoteric practices. Nevertheless, with the exception of 2011’s “Iron Dawn” EP, the Swedish juggernaut hasn’t released a fully war-themed album since Panzer Division.

In 2015, the black metal war machine is back, and they’re as brutal as ever. Frontschwein is war-themed from front to back, and blends Marduk’s old-school, blistering, machine gun-esque blastbeats with Mortuus’ gut-wretching vocals, making for an album which combines the variety in Marduk’s later material with the sheer ferocity of their early work. This work is aided heavily by the addition of drummer Fredrik Widigs, a 26 year old prodigy whose efforts on this album are absolutely dumbfounding. Tying the entirety of the album together is Morgan’s masterful guitar riffs, sonically linking this newest of Marduk’s works to the rest of their considerable canon.

The album starts off with the title track, which bursts out of the gate with one of the catchiest riffs you’ll hear in 2015. Pretty standard in its straightforward approach to Marduk-brand black metal, “Frontschwein” accompanies such tracks as “Afrika” and “Rope of Regret” in its hearkening back to Marduk’s early days. The latter in particular is reminiscent of the brutality of Panzer Division Marduk, unceasing in its sheer speed. A traditional song, it makes for a great early release teaser in a promise that fans can expect a Marduk more tethered in its roots this time around.

Of course, not all of the songs on Frontschwein are sheer force. Songs like “Nebelwerfer” and “The Blonde Beast” utilize slower tempos, the former putting me in mind of such earlier tracks as “Prochorovka: Blood and Sunflowers” (which might be my favorite Marduk song. I don’t know. They are all my favorites at some point or another). The feel of this track is slow and inexorable, reeking of despair and hopelessness, another eventuality of war and destruction. In contrast, “The Blonde Beast” has an extremely catchy pacing and rhythm, the beat shifting onto the upbeat at 3:12.

One of my favorite aspects of Marduk’s music has always been that they do not mix out the bass as a lot of early black metal does, choosing instead to show off the low-end at varying points in their albums. As usual, Marduk makes full use of bassist Devo Magnusson’s considerable skill, amplifying the basslines in tracks like “503” and “Doomsday Elite.”

“503” is probably my favorite track on the album, and certainly, I feel, the most original. One of the slower tracks on the album, it’s in sharp contrast to its predecessor “502” on Panzer Division Marduk. What’s also exciting is the tambourine (yup, you read that right), which gives the roll-call a creepy, dancelike feel.

Likewise, Mortuus’ vocals are varied this time around, with “Thousand-Fold Death” featuring vocalizations at such speeds that it is almost like he is rapping, the speed of the lyrics mimicking the velocity of the drums and guitars. The title track also showcases more of Mortuus’ vocal talents, the higher pitch and rawness of the vocals so startlingly different from what I have come to expect that I was unsure that it was him at first.

The album artwork for Frontschwein keeps with the war theme; the regular edition features a color scheme a greyish green of army camo. Because I’m a huge nerd, I of course had to get the special edition version, which reminds me much of the special edition for Serpent Sermon. The war imagery continues here, with a shield on the front and an iron cross forming the “O” in the album’s title; the back also says “Marduk Legion,” a reference of course to the band’s supporters as well as another to war.

Front cover of the special edition. Ignore the Hello Kitty pants.

Front cover of the special edition. Ignore the Hello Kitty pants.

Back cover. Warshau III is the bonus track on the special edition- it's largely an atmospheric track.

Back cover. Warshau III is the bonus track on the special edition- it’s largely an atmospheric track.

Marduk Legion

Marduk Legion

A booklet containing images and extra layout serves as the extended liner notes, with a classy black field accented in silver. I really like the type font used in the notes, as it’s very stately. Once again, Holy Poison Design did the layout and Endarker the production, keeping much of the album’s work in-house. Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about Frontschwein is the packaging where the CD goes- these little slip-in covers scratch my CDs when I take them out to listen to them, and it’s profoundly annoying (I’m not sure if I bitched about that in reference to the last Watain album, but if I didn’t, I should have).

An example of the font. Sorry for the glare.

An example of the font. Sorry for the glare.

The pics are shaded in silver as well. Here's Devo for an example.

The pics are shaded in silver as well. Here’s Devo for an example.

Icky slip case.

Icky slip case.

Frontschwein is a fantastic release. It will certainly make it on my list of front-runners this year, and I personally think it ought to be on everyone else’s as well. I’m reluctant to say that it’s better than other albums (picking a favorite Marduk album is like picking a favorite child as far as I’m concerned), but it’s certainly a return to Marduk’s roots in blood-soaked soil. The ferocity in this one is unrelenting, and once again Marduk has proven their ability to subtly add new techniques to their arsenal while maintaining the relentlessness that has made them famous for their war albums.

Hagalaz’ Favorite Tracks:

Frontschwein
503
Falaise: Cauldron of Blood
Thousand-Fold Death