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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

 

 

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Hagalaz’ Top Black Metal Albums of 2014

Posted in best of, black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2015 by blackmetallurgy

Due to my preoccupation with doom metal and horror movies this past year, I haven’t paid as close attention to new black metal as I should have. However, I have come up with a list (there’s not quite ten, but they are my favorites that I feel like I can do justice to). For instance, while I really loved the new Twilight and the new 1349, what I have heard of them, I haven’t been able to listen to them enough to give good reasons why others should. Likewise, there are other I-am-sure-fantastic new releases from the Finnish bands- Goatmoon, Sargeist, and Satanic Warmaster- that I haven’t been able to track down or listen to enough yet.

But here you go. Here are my favorites from the past year.

Myrkur- S/T EP
Myrkur’s debut EP provides a mental journey to a frosty land. Clearly paying homage to her forebears while remaining startlingly original, this self-titled EP has me waiting on tenterhooks to see what this young lady has up her sleeve next.

Kampfar- Djevelmakt
Although they seem to have slipped under the radar for the most part this year, Kampfar’s newest release Djevelmakt is a strong contender. The old-school Norwegians have polished their mix; Djevelmakt has a noticeable lack of low-fi fuzz. Nevertheless, Kampfar’s sound is as mighty and as innovative as always.

Behemoth- The Satanist
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from Behemoth this year. As much as I love their live show, I’ve not been all that impressed with their last few albums; they sound pretty much exactly alike. I’m very happy to say that Behemoth proved me wrong this time ‘round. Maybe it’s just that I’m a geek for the Orthodox black metal approach, but The Satanist hit me in all the right places, particularly “O Father, O Satan, O Sun.”

Enthroned- Sovereigns
Enthroned’s newest is one of my absolute favorites this year. In terms of pure creepiness, it’s like a ten. Dark and eerie, it’s horrifyingly beautiful in that way that I like my black metal.

Folge Dem Wind- To Summon Twilight
When Jason over at Burning Fist asked me to review Folge Dem Wind’s new album, described to me as “primitive black metal,” I was skeptical, because what the hell is primitive black metal anyway? Jason knows my tastes pretty well, however, and I have a thing for the French school of third wave black metal. The sheer tenacity and wildness inherent in FDW’s newest release makes me want to run through the woods with the wolves.

Primordial- Where Greater Men Have Fallen
I like Primordial. They are great. I have never just been completely dumbfounded by Primordial however. Not until this year. Holy crap. J sent me a link to the title track from this album, and I’m still just in awe at the bombast and magnitude of this thing. And that’s just the first track. The whole thing is like that. How’s your mind? Blown? Thought so.

Mayhem- Esoteric Warfare
Mayhem’s newest album was every bit as amazing as I could have hoped. While those who maintain the view that the band should have quit after Euronymous’ murder will probably hate Esoteric Warfare on principle, those willing to give it a go will find an album with the old school in its bones and some of Attila’s most powerful vocals yet.

Triptykon- Melana Chasmata
Triptykon is sitting pretty at the top of this list, to the surprise, I am sure, of absolutely no one. While I was fond enough of their last offering, Melana Chasmata blew me away completely. Featuring artwork from the late, great, H.R. Giger, Melana Chasmata makes for an awe-inspiring eulogy.

Teitanblood- Death
Once again, I called my favorite early, and I was right. The appropriately named Death is absolutely devastating, the soundtrack to the ugliest pit in hell. Utilizing distortion and echoes in such a way as to create a bottomless feel along with buzzsaw guitars and constantly hammering blast beats, Death is truly a monument of horror.

***

-Hagalaz

Hagalaz’ Top 10 Not-Just-Black-Metal Albums of 2013

Posted in best of, black metal, burning fist, death metal, doom, doom metal, folk metal, grindcore, retro occult rock, sludge metal, traditional heavy metal with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

… Is posted over at Burning Fist. Go read it! And then listen to In Solitude and Satan’s Host! And listen to the new Carcass again (as though you needed any persuading to do that).

-Hagalaz