Best of 2012: 20-16

wild hunt

20. WILD HUNT, “Beyond the Plane of Angles” (Kemado) – Getting a record or press release about a new band that espouses the concentration in black metal, progressive tones, and atmosphere is nothing new, and if anything, it breeds skepticism in me. So it was that way when I first took on “Beyond the Plane of Angles” that I wondered in the back of my head if this was just another in a long line of bands I’d forget a week after hearing their album. Then I listened, and from that moment on, I was converted into a Wild Hunt believer. This is was of the albums I have recommended the most to people this year, and every visit is a joy.

Made up of members of equally ambitious Dimesland (who also put out a pretty good EP this year), these guys put their full imaginations and souls into this album. While yeah, it delves into black metal for sure, it’s not violent or bloodthirsty, but instead adventurous and thought-provoking. The compositions  on this five-track album are long and involved (the album runs 52 minutes, after all), but there’s not one point at all during this thing where you’re mind isn’t fully engaged and dreaming along with them. Excellent playing, mindful compositions, and one of this year’s most exciting debuts are all wrapped into this fantastic voyage. I cannot wait to hear more. (May 1)

To buy the album, go here: http://www.kemado.com/?shopp_page=shop

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19. WINTERFYLLETH, “The Threnody of Triumph” (Candlelight) – While English black metal historians Winterfylleth only released their debut album four years ago, it feels like they’ve been on a crusade that’s transcended into ages. I always have to go back to their first album and realize it was out in 2008, because it feels like this band has been a part of my life for so much longer than that. Perhaps that’s just the sign of a great, ever-growing band that they can make music for such a short period of time but already attach themselves to your DNA. Their third disc, “The Threnody of Triumph” is another expansive addition to their collection, one that’ll sound perfect this winter.

The band can be fully aggressive and bone-crunching at times, but at others they sweep you up and pull you for a journey across their homeland, where they drop in on important parts of their nation’s history and what makes them as proud of their heritage as they are. Their music is melodic and sweeping when it’s not pulverizing you, and each time they come back they have an even richer experience for you to absorb. Add to that their sprinkling of folk into their little stew, and it all makes for music that keeps you wondering about your own roots while you examine the blood and struggle of this band’s. These guys just keep getting better and better. (Sept. 10)

To buy the album, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/

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18. MARES OF THRACE, “The Pilgrimage” (Sonic Unyon) – This was a huge year for Mares of Thrace, and all the success and accolades they have enjoyed did not come without a cost. Drummer Stefani MacKichan left the fold shortly after the album’s release to go back to school (and, obviously, we wish her the best of luck), while bandmate and long-time friend Thérèse Lanz carried on with the band’s tumultuous, hard-hitting, sludgy, doomy, sick sounds (while herself pursuing an education in game design). She recruited the super-talented Rae Amitay to carry on, and even did some shows with a bass player, and all seems full speed ahead.

But the focus here is the record, their first for Sonic Unyon, one that was nominated for long list for the Polaris Music Prize, the Canadian album of the year award that ultimately went to Feist (whose album is called … um … “Metals”). But that should show you the power and ferocity was not lost on those behind the prize’s nomination, as this record is an incredible example of finesse, strength, and outright brutality. Lanz howls and growls like a demon possessed, and she and MacKichan combined to make for one formidable, clawhammer-delivering duo. The other thing about the record is, while impactful on first listen, it digs its claws deeper with each experience as the punishing drumming and Lanz’s dexterous, fresh, and channeled guitar work infects you fully. This group still flies way too far under the radar here in the States. This band fucking kills, and you better recognize or get bulldozed. (April 24)

To buy the album, go here: http://www.sonicunyonstore.com/

evoken

17. EVOKEN, “Atra Mors” (Profound Lore) – It’s been five long years since we’ve heard from Jersey-based Evoken (their last was 2007’s “A Caress of the Void”), and to say their brand of elegant, dreary, haunting doom has been missed would be an extreme understatement. They emote like no other band in this genre, and it’s a wonder why they aren’t cited more often as a standard bearer, because they encapsulate the darkness and fog as well as any group going today. And maybe of all time. The announcement of a new album on Profound Lore sent chills of excitement, and their “Atra Mors” delivered completely.

Sitting with this record in a dark room, with shades drawn, and nothing but you and your thoughts, probably is the ideal setting for this massive document, although if you’re not mentally stable enough to handle such an environment while visiting these guys, then perhaps don’t do that. The band mixes goth elements, a cavern full of atmospheric murk, and grisly intentions through this eight-track, 67-minute burner. The songs are long, slow driving, and filled with psychological madness, and beyond that scarring, you’ll also find an expertly played, emotionally walloping album that’ll be the perfect companion for when you are at your lowest.  (July 31)

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/plr-items/

botanist cover

16. BOTANIST, “III: Doom in Bloom” (TotalRust) – The word unique and the term one of a kind get bandied about too much, and I’m probably guilty of that myself. But when it comes to one-man black metal band Botanist and its sole creator Otrebor, how can you help but use those descriptions? Tell me, who else creates their dark trades with the use of just a drum kit and hammered dulcimer and still manages to create something as dark and foreboding as a band with five times as many members? Plus, I defy you to find another music project that sounds anything like Botanist, because chances are, it does not exist. But thanks for trying.

Yet, being different sometimes can be drawback because more effort is put into the quirks and not into the music. But Otrebor never falls into that trap, and this second album (or third, and his first was a double collection, and this one does have a III in the title) finds him branching out his forestal apocalypse even further, and that includes conceptually. While his debut double album had a whopping 40 tracks (most over very quickly), this one has but seven songs that last much longer and have more depth and atmosphere. A lot of the album is slower and quite whispery, and getting into the heart of the story can both be uplifting and terrifying. Add to this a second disc is included that has Otrebor collaborating with like-minded musicians from other bands, and you see how fertile his imagination can be in that setting as well. Great piece of music from a truly incomparable artist. (May 25)

To buy the album, go here: http://www.totalrust-music.com/Catalogue.asp