Here’s me, talking about this year.
Fuck, what a year. My favorite band made their best record in a decade. My favorite lady (in music, at least 2 in life are way ahead of her) made her best record ever. I saw more shows than maybe every other year that were of the “I’ll never get a chance to do this” character. I watched my kid grow up a little and loved every second of it. I managed to not get stabbed by my wife. Music was at an all time high for me, especially black metal, and life was pretty good outside of how horrible everything is. I had to do a top 50, and even then, I felt like I left a ton of stuff off. Everything listed below got multiple listens, and if available, purchased on LP. Yes, I buy a lot of records. No I don’t regret it. I can truly say that every ranked record deserved their place. I would have loved to keep this to a top 10. I couldn’t. Oh well. I’ve excluded reissues and non full lengths, and some stuff I didn’t get a ton of time with I just threw in honorable mentions. Without further ado, here’s the kinda shit I like:
Why did I feel the need to do a top 50?
- Blut Aus Nord- Deus Salutis Meae. Yeah fucking right anything else was gonna be number one. Industrial influenced black metal, recorded directly in the gravity drive of the Event Horizon. If you dug Odinist, Mort, and any of the other heavy mechanical sounds BAN has offered in the past, I see no reason not to enjoy this. Listen to this. Have nightmares.
- Ulver- The Assassination of Julius Caesar. Hi, we’re Ulver. we started folk black metal. Here’s a record that mixes 80s pop, gospel, and R and B, and its far and away the greatest thing we’ve ever done.
- Lana Del Rey- Lust for Life. Cherry is the best pop song ever written. No fucking hyperbole. Just fact.
- Godflesh- Post Self. Holy shit is this a strange and wonderful album. Industrial metal pioneers have raised the strange, toned down the metal, and made the most interesting and varied album of their career.
- Planning For Burial-Below the House. A starkly moving record, drenched in reverb and delay, plodding and mournful, and relentlessly powerful. It’s like if Low were having a really really bad day…. underwater. Also, Thom’s really nice.
- Lluvia-Enigma. Yo this was a pain in the ass to find on vinyl, but man was it worth it. Superbly done atmospheric black metal with no frills, clean choruses, or overuse of effects or synths.
- Ruins of Beverast-Exuvia. So I’ve always liked this band a lot. Their hybrid of doom and black metal is super heavy on melody, and their arrangements complex and fascinating. However, Exuvia, despite what a bunch of dumdums will likely say, treads new ground for literally all of heavy music, and as such, is the band’s best album. His clean vocals are SUPERB, and the shamanic elements make for an interesting aspect I’ve never heard successfully worked into heavy music like this.
- Celeste- Infidele(s). Celeste has continually refined their brand of blackened hardcore, improving every record. This one, in particular, has hints of screamo (real screamo, think Daitro and City of Caterpillar) to break up the incredibly oppressive heaviness of the album as a whole.
- Haunting Depths- Death’s Sacred Fire. Brilliant death rock influenced black metal. The melodies and rhythms are equally strong on this record, a rare commodity in black metal.
- Nortt- Endeligt. I didn’t think I’d get to hear this before the year ended. I am sure glad I did. A hauntingly beautiful blend of funeral doom, black metal, and dirgey piano compositions. The wait was worth it.
- Mogwai- Every Country’s Sun. After the lackluster Rave Tapes, and purely background music Atomic, Mogwai returns to form with an album that invokes strong emotions in me. I love the sparing use of vocals, especially on songs like Party in the Dark. The best post rock band of all time, bar none.
- Slagmaur- Thrill Smits Terror. Industrial laden black metal with a bit of a theatrical edge. Slagmaur isn’t the most varied or dynamic band, but man, they’re spooky, heavy, and somehow, still fun.
- Gnipahalan-s/t. Ancient Records is the most overhyped collective in black metal, but when the hype is warranted, boy is it warranted, as is the case here. No special “subgenre” needed here, despite the hints of post punk in some of the riffs. This is raw, melodic, and atmospheric in all of the best ways.
- Chaos Moon- Eschaton Memoire. Psychedelic black metal, divided into three lengthy songs that fly by. There’s not a whole lot of blasting, or overt heaviness, but it is moody and transcendent in ways few others have achieved. US black metal is alive and well thanks to bands like Chaos Moon.
- Alymrkvi- Umbra. This almost missed my list thanks to the late November release. I’d have been kicking myself in the ass about it, because this is right up my alley, and may have been ranked higher had I more time with it. Spacey, atmospheric black metal, that still manages to be heavy and powerful without sacrificing atmosphere or melodies. Think Darkspace III I mixed with Memoria Vetusta II, but with a heavy, almost death metal tinge.
- Aosoth-V. French riff masters return with a less spastic approach. Melodies are more present than ever, but the bludgeoning of their riffs remains the same.
- Throane-Plus Une Main A Mordre. While it would be easy to write these guys off as another Blut Aus Nord worship band, that would also be a grievous mistake. While the blueprint of mechanized black metal is obviously there, the attention to ambient elements and demonic soundscapes is wholly their own.
- Blaze of Perdition- Conscious Darkness. Eschewing a lot of the death metal influence of their prior work, BoP finds themselves embracing a more classic atmospheric black metal sound to great success. This is their finest hour.
- Nocturnal Triumph-Into Light’s Graven Womb. Excellent melodic black metal, reminiscent of a less structured Dissection at times.
- Blanck Mass-World Eater. This was a way late addition. Outside the box electronic music that immediately drew me in. It reminds me in different parts of DJ Shadow, Sixtoo, and Jaga Jazzist, while having a unique character all of it’s own. Amazing use of soulful vocals. I listened non stop upon getting this, and was happy a friend showed me this band.
- Yellow Eyes-Immersion Trench Reverie. Dissonant, unrelenting black metal from Brooklyn. While there may be some pages taken out of Deathspell Omega’s book used here, Yellow Eyes has truly developed a unique and distinctive sound.
- Frozen Graves-S/T. Straightforward atmospheric black metal done by the dude from Cosmic Church and some cohorts. Late entry, could have been even higher. I got the record and spun it four times in a row.
- Tchornobog-s/t. Death metal, funeral doom, and sexy saxophone combine to make a four track monolithic nightmare. Far from Markov’s work on either Aureole or Slow, Tchornobog is heavier than hell, but still innovative enough to be hard to neatly fit into one genre.
- Evilfeast-Elegies of the Stellar Wind. This fell into my hot little hands on the day of the first snowfall in Pennsylvania. Coincidence? I think not. Frost, atmospheric black metal with fantastic ambient elements.
- Krolok-Flying Above Ancient Ruins. No Frills, riffy as hell black metal.
- Grave Pleasures- Motherblood. I was really worried about this record. Beastmilk was great. The first Grave Pleasures? Not so much. Excellent 80s goth influenced post punk or whatever.
- AmenRa- Mass VI. Cult of Neurosis now has a fourth luminary. I’d been ambivalent on this band for a long time, but Solitary Reign may be one of the best songs ever in the entire damn genre.
- Emptiness-Not For Music. This blending of industrial, extreme metal, and…something else has the most unease causing vocal delivery I’ve heard in some time. It’s not a happy album, it’s not a miserable album, it’s just unsettling and brilliant and I’m not sure I will ever be ready for it
- Heaven In Her Arms-White Halo. Japanese screamo, with blast beats that will have some people calling this blackened, and me calling this very very good.
- Converge-The Dusk In Us. I haven’t truly been in love with anything this band has done since Jane Doe came out my senior year of high school. This may go down as their finest hour, ever.
- Chelsea Wolfe-Hiss Spun. Chelsea Wolfe is an absolutely amazing artist, and she made yet another perfect darkwave/goth/folk record, yet this didn’t grab me as immediately as her prior work. That said, it’s still amazing.
- Oxbow-The Thin Black Duke. There are bands, and then there is Oxbow. No one is like them. Trying to fit a band with such jazz and orchestral elements neatly into a genre is nearly impossible, not to mention Eugene Robinson’s truly unique and incredible voice.
- Grails-Chalice Hymnal. Instrumental post rock, heavily influenced by world music. Grails has always been a band that was on the verge of greatness, even having truly great albums, but to me, this is their most complete and well rounded work.
- Boris-Dear. Man, when Boris is on, boy are they on. This album is heavy, yet still grooves and doesn’t rely on feedback and amp tricks to prove a point. Some of their finest songwriting in a long time.
- Light of the Morningstar-Nocta. Take the darkness of Sisters of Mercy and blend it with the driving riffs of…actually fuck a comparison, these guys just do heavy, riffy, goth rock really really damn well.
- Brand New-Science Fiction. Shit people can make great music, and this should be news to no one. Great indie rock.
- Loss-Horizonless. They’ve ditched a bit of the funeral doom for a more melodic sound, and it works really, really damn well. Make no mistake, they’re as miserable as ever.
- Nargaroth-Era of Threnody. So Rene hired a backing band and focused on vocals and finally made an album that isn’t mostly garbage. Holy shit, this one rules. Great production too.
- Drab Majesty-Careless. Synthy, poppy, gothy, and dancy if you don’t mind crying while you dance. I should have spent more time with this.
- Nokturnal Mortum-Verity. While it feels like a slight backslide from the absolutely brilliant Voice of Steel, Verity is one hell of a folk influenced black metal record. The melodies and use of traditional instruments are second to none, and Nokturnal Mortum are the kings of this style.
- Havukruunu-Kelle Surut Soi. Brilliant folky black metal. I don’t dig this style a lot, but these guys fucking nail it.
- Spectral Voice-Eroded Corridors of Unbeing. Crawling, doom influenced death metal. While I’ve heard, and understand, the comparisons to Disembowelment, I’m totally fine with a band filling that void way better than Inverloch does.
- Sannhet- So Numb. Instrumental black metal-ish post rock. You’d think the lack of vocals would make them sound like they’re missing something. It doesn’t, not for a second. Great guitar work, and Thom from Planning for Burial’s contributions do not go unnoticed.
- Dalek-Endangered Philosophies. A hip hop group with atmosphere so heavy and murky, My Bloody Valentine would blush. Politically conscious, furious, overwhelming, but truly unique and much needed for these times.
- The Great Old Ones-EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy. Cthulhu obsessed atmospheric black metal, sure to please fans of Drudkh and Winterfylleth. They improve every album
- Wode-Servants of the Countercosmos. Picking up where bands like Sacramentum left off, these UK Black Metallers play a truly ear pleasing brand of melodic black metal, with a marked Swedish death metal influence.
- Voidsphere-To Call | To Speak. Imagine Paysage d’Hiver in space. And now that your interest is piqued, go listen and come up with a way better description than my horribly shitty one.
- Black Cilice-Banished from Time. It takes a lot for black metal this raw to catch my ear, and keep it, but I can’t deny the songwriting, and the lack of production is in no way to hide a lack of talent
- Runespell-Unhallowed Blood Oath. I’ll refrain from commenting on an Absurd cover for catchy, yet grimey riffs like these. Solid black metal
- Der Weg Einer Freiheit-Finisterre. Melodic black metal, which while not incredibly different than many other bands, is so damn proficient. These guys improve every album.
These are great albums, that either I didn’t get enough time with, didn’t quite make the top 50, or definitely would have made the top 50 if the members of the band weren’t championing bullshit I can’t get behind.
Windswept, Death of Lovers, Turia, Pallbearer, Wear Your Wounds, Mord’a’Stigmata, Windswept, Hexis, Enslaved, Grav (all four records), Sielunvihollinen, Trolldom, Azellisassath, Gauletier, Leichenzug, Battle Dagorath, Les Discrets, Elder, Pillorian, Cradle of Filth, Malokarpatan, Rebirth of Nefast, Sarkrista, Nesseria, Rope Sect, Pyrrhon, Vaal, Progenie Terrestre Pura, Julien Baker, Au Champ Des Morts, Grift, Gjendod, Horn, Woe, Bergrizen, Pallow, Entheogen, Endon, Wolves in the Throne Room, Dapuz, Serpent Column, Jassa, Solstafir, Fen, Katla, Arkhtinn, Integrity, Gold, Phrenelith, Laster.
SPECIAL NOTE: Mount Eerie- A Crow Looked at Me. I can’t rank this record. It’s seriously the most painful listen of my entire life. I’ve never heard anything that was so raw, honest, and heartfelt. Dude’s wife died, and in no uncertain terms, he attempts to reconcile the unfairness of her untimely and young death with his new life as the worst kind of single father. It is a beautiful record that I will likely never listen to again.
Best EP/Split releases of the year:
- Ulver- Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
- Sinmara- Within These Weaves of Infinity
- Schammasch-The Malador Chants
- Paysage D’Hiver/Drudkh
- Cosmic Church/Keres
- Paysage D’Hiver/Nordlicht
- Gnipahalan-I Blodets Kamp
- Rope Sect-Proselytes
- Hexis- XII
Disappointments of the year:
New Spotlights: Flat, boring as fuck, and just generally a worse version of what they did fantastically on tidals. Nope.
New Slowdive: Ok, not even being a dick, but someone had this on, and I thought they had “repeat one track” on for the first song, and played it over and over. It was the whole album, in order. No point in reuniting to make this horribly uninspired dogshit excuse for a record that people will still jock just because of the name on it.
New Quicksand: nah, stay dead guys. This boring ass lounge rock bullshit is not Quicksand.
New King Woman. I LOVED their last EP, but this new full length is a marked step down in quality. It’s not necessarily bad, but with how excited I was for this, the fact that I barely remembered this existed until I was looking over my list of the year’s releases while writing this says it all.
Best shows of the year, and honestly, some of these are the all time best I’ve ever seen:
Oxbow in Philly at KFN
Nick Cave in Philly at the Electric Factory
Cult of Luna with Julie Christmas in NYC with Dalek and Whores at uh….some big venue. Played Mariner in full.
Have a Nice Life in Boston and in Philly with Planning for Burial both times, Elizabeth Colour Wheel in Boston, and Adult in Philly.
Boris, Gost, and Warning at Days of Darkness fest in Baltimore.
Lana Del Rey at Terminal 5 in NYC.
Album I slept on in 2016:
Coldworld-Autumn. This is a perfect black metal record. Equal parts stunning atmosphere and depressive bleakness. Why I slept on this after enjoying Melancholie2 so much, is beyond me, but I guess I’m very stupid sometimes.