10. HORRENDOUS, “Ecdysis” (Dark Descent): So there I was, lying on a beach in late August, enjoying the sun, and digging into my first listen to Horrendous’ new opus “Ecdysis.” Yeah, it’s not the most death metal setting in the world, but it’s where I seem to have these yeah-toppling experiences with music. I was in nearly the same spot last year the first time I heard the latest Oranssi Pazuzu album, and “Ecdysis” had the same profound effect on me where I’d remember the time and place and feeling the first time I heard this incredible album.
The East Coast-situated Horrendous already impressed with their 2012 debut full-length “The Chills,” but this thing was something else entirely. From the epic opener “The Stranger,” one of the best songs in their short catalog, all the way to cataclysmic ending “Titan,” this band blows away your expectations of what to expect from death metal. There is creativity crossed with brutality on this record, and it’s one that could unite listeners who want it raw and nasty with ones who appreciate sharp musicianship. “Ecdysis” really has it all, and it’s a gigantic step into the future for one of death metal’s most promising bands. (Released Oct. 14)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/HorrendousDeathMetal
To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/
9. MORBUS CHRON, “Sweven” (Century Media): Morbus Chron’s 2011 debut “Sleepers in the Rift” hinted at good things ahead for the Swedish death metal band. But there’s no way anyone outside of the band could have guessed just how much was brewing and bubbling underneath the surface creatively, which the world learned all about when stunning “Sweven” was unleashed upon the world. Their transformation into a spacey new beast is damn near Opeth-ian, and the incredible music on their sophomore record exclaims that Morbus Chron are an alien force whose next steps cannot possibly be predicted.
If you like a heavy dose of psychedelics with your death, no one does it better than these guys. Balancing trippy and devastating is not an easy chore, but they pull it off seamlessly on this imaginative album. Instrumental opener “Berceuse” hints at the journey that’s ahead, and that pays dividends on cuts including “Chains,” “Towards a Dark Sky,” and “Beyond Life’s Sealed Abode.” This is a total mind bender, an really memorable record we’ll be praising years from now when looking back on this era’s best metal albums. It’s that good and that essential. (Released Feb. 24)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/morbuschron
To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/
8. MORTALS, “Cursed to See the Future” (Relapse): The news that Mortals had joined the Relapse roster was triumphant in many different ways. First, the label was adding yet another stellar band to their ranks, one that ended up being one of their heaviest acts. On the other hand, the three musicians who comprise Mortals’ lineup—Elizabeth Cline, Lesley Wolf, and Caryn Havlik—have worked their asses off, made killer music for several years, and deserved to finally go to a place where their work could be heard by way more people. If that’s not a win-win, then what is?
The band responded with their superb second full-length “Cursed to See the Future,” a document that built on what they only hinted at on 2012 EP “Death Ritual.” The songs have grown longer and more complex, they’ve grasped death and black metal by the throat, and their conviction pummels you on these six songs that are both fearsome and refreshing. The bulk of the tracks hang around the nine-minute mark, destroying you with fiery progression and striking at you with a hot sword screaming for blood. “Epochryphal Doom,” the sinister “Devilspeak,” and clubbing finisher “Anchored in Time” are violent, daring, intelligent, and examples of some of the most forward-thinking metal of the year. Long may this band run. (Released July 8)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/mortalstheband
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/
7. PALLBEARER, “Foundations of Burden” (Profound Lore): Pallbearer’s story of their unlikely rise to underground metal prominence is one most people probably know by now. In case anyone is new to their tale, the band released their unreal debut “Sorrow and Extinction” in 2012, bringing back into focus vocal-centered doom and ending up on a number of year-end lists as the kings (including ours). Now with their second album “Foundations of Burden,” they faced pressure and expectations for the first time, and there likely would be people just waiting to pounce if they delivered something not up to par.
What Pallbearer ended up doing was proving their debut was no fluke and that they are a heavily celebrated young metal band for a reason. The melodies are even deeper on this record (immerse yourself in the wondrous “Foundations” for a quick education) and even took some serious chances (quasi-ballad “Ashes”) that would scare away “more extreme” bands. Pallbearer have become a destination metal band, a group whose new work always will be a major event worth anticipating and celebrating. The genre doesn’t have a whole lot of those anymore, but these guys are seeing to it that you can make an honest, smart, gripping metal record and receive adulation while remaining true to your art. I can’t wait to hear what they do next. (Released Aug. 19)
For more on the band, go here: http://pallbearerdoom.com/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/pallbearer/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/
6. BLUT AUS NORD, “Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry” (Debemur Morti): When French black metal dreamers Blut Aus Nord completed their “777” trilogy in 2012, it seemed perhaps the long-standing band might take a different creative turn. Anyone who lived through that saga knows that with each installment, the Vindsval-led band morphed into a stranger and stranger creature. “Cosmosophy” was an incredible document no doubt, but it barely resembled the black metal people who come to know and demand from the band.
The announcement of a third installment of the “Memoria Vetusta” series landed this fall, and those who hoped for a return to form likely were thrilled in their hiking boots. This album is warped, destructive, and hellacious, yet the band’s creativity and colorful personality remain deeply imbedded. I loved the twists they took on the “777,” series but hearing the band trying to rip a hole in the Earth again also sounds damn good. Another thing is the songs logically flow together, feeling a part of a whole but each having distinct DNA. It’s a masterful way to pull you through tracks including “Paien,” “Tellus Mater,” and “Metaphor of the Moon” and make sure you see each intergalactic feature along the way. I’m pretty much down with whatever Blut Aus Nord have offered us over the years, but it’s also nice to have the vicious version of the band back. (Released Oct. 10)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blutausnord.official
To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop
For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/