Best of 2015: 10-6

Vanum cover10. VANUM, “Realm of Sacrifice” (Profound Lore): There are those albums that come out every year that, once the final days are here, you wonder why more people didn’t talk about said record. I cannot believe more people are not all over “Realm of Sacrifice,” the stunning debut record from black metal duo Vanum. Comprised of K. Morgan from Ash Borer and M. Rekavics of Fell Voices and Vorde, their union alone was enough to drum up a ton of excitement. But then taking on the music and its waves upon waves of riffs and vicious, tormented vocals, it was an experience that surpassed the enthusiasm I had in my head. It’s one hell of a quaking record.

Spread over four tracks, the band creates an atmospheric, hellish world that swirls overhead and sprays chaos over the land. Starting with opener “Realm of Ascension,” the band lights a fire and fans those flames as far as the eye can see. Sometimes the music feels like it’s emitted from the mouth of a volcano, at others in the deepest underground science lab, and through it all, they find ways to make your head spin and your flesh burn. “Convergence” feels spooky and spacey before the bombs are dropped and carnage digs its teeth into your senses. Closer “Convergence” feels like the outline of a demonic spirit hovering overhead, hulking, seeking to spill your guts, but settling for leaving you permanently scarred psychologically. I don’t know if folks slept on this record or forgot it, but it was one of the most enthralling, energy-spitting black metal releases of the year.  (June 25)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/realmofsacrifice

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

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Yellow Eyes cover9. YELLOW EYES, “Sick With Bloom” (Gilead Media): We’re barely into the winter season (the solstice was yesterday, after all), but as noted in our review a few weeks back on the great new Yellow Eyes album “Sick With Bloom,” these songs make me think of the first days of thaw. The NYC-based black metal band on their third record managed to pump out the best music of their career, and certainly the most disorienting. The riffs flood your senses, the damn-near inhuman shrieks blister you, yet the sub-freezing atmosphere pumped into these songs practically makes steam rise from the dying ice as you crawl your way to the damp, saturated woods.

“Sick With Bloom” also is likely to be the most accessible release from the band from a physical product standpoint, as Gilead Media put this thing out into the world, and if you’re new to Yellow Eyes and hunger for black metal that shows you new colors and shades, this is the record for you. The album gets started with the title track, as a swarm of insects penetrates before the band sets you on a dizzying spin. “What Filters Through the Copper Strain” lets melodies wash over and stream into electric force, with a storm coming later to soak the grounds. Plus, the stunning “The Mangrove, the Preserver” has vocal scrapes and pure anguish, while closer “Ice in the Spring” caps off the album with an emotional caterwaul. This is an amazing record, one that should put Yellow Eyes on the tips of more tongues.  (Dec. 11)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Yellow-Eyes-659862920738821/

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

CDBO04.pdf8. VASTUM, “Hole Below” (20 Buck Spin): Sex long has been a part of heavy metal. But for the most part, that’s been as an element of sleeze, womanizing-heavy fantasies, and pure innuendo. Bay Area death metal pounders Vastum have taken a different angle to sexuality over their time together. Instead of going that cheap route, they’ve exposed the ugly, torturous side. That carries over to their smothering third record “Hole Below,” a punishing six-track journey that is as psychologically bruising as it is impossibly heavy.

We begin this thing with a song called “Sodomistic Malevolence,” just in case you thought the band was going to ease you into the horrors, and from there, the destructive, driving death metal and the dual, threatening howls from Leila Abdul-Rauf and Daniel Butler do serious damage to your insides. Clearly it doesn’t end there. And it’s not limited to sexual derangement either, as the band certainly drags you through other dark waters on cuts such as “In Sickness and in Death” that’s mauling and chugging; “Intrusions” that is mangling and horrific; and the great closer “Empty Breast,” a track that you can skim meaning a bit from the surface based on the title but won’t fully prepare you for the rampage ahead. Vastum are three albums into their run, and there hasn’t been a weak moment yet. (Nov. 6)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vastum/440192535391

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Obsequiae7. OBSEQUIAE, “Aria of Vernal Tombs” (20 Buck Spin): You want a dose of fantasy with your metal? You want something that will make you want to storm a castle, rescue a princess, make her yours for life, and live in a room of crowns and riches? Holy shit, man, that’s what an Obsequiae record feels like. “Aria of Vernal Tombs,” the band’s second record, is another fantastic adventure into a timeless time, yet one that feels drenched in bygone eras. If that makes any sense. The metallic glory separated by beautiful harp solos make for an interesting combination of heavy and classical, and this band’s work literally has no peer. Name another Obsequiae, and you’ll fail trying.

This spectacular follow-up to their debut “Suspended in the Brune of Eos” is 11 tracks and 44 minutes of fun and chainmail-bloodied, sword-clanging power. The record is more exquisite and mystical than it is brutal, and the great guitar work, gushing growls and shrieks, and sense of adventure fuels this album and sends into the stratosphere. Creator Tanner Anderson, who handles guitars, vocals, and bass, is at the height of his powers here on songs such as “Autumnal Pyre,” humid “Pools of a Vernal Paradise,” molten “In the Absence of Light,” and purely dark “Orphic Rites of the Mystic.” It’s a record that rightfully has gotten a lot of praise from many scribes and fellow musicians because it’s a one-of-a-kind burst of metal ripped from the past and smeared into the present.   (May 26)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/epicuscastlecusmetallicus

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Panopticon cover6. PANOPTICON, “Autumn Eternal” (Bindrune Recordings): Austin Lunn has been on a pretty impressive clip the past few years, and now, two years in a row, his Panopticon project has put out one of the most impressive, expressive metal records of the year. Coming off his impressive journey to and from home with “”Roads to the North,” Lunn returns with “Autumn Eternal,” a record that landed right in the middle of the Fall as a collection that pays homage and tribute to that very season. From the breath-taking album cover to the thunderous, emotional eight tracks on this record, you are treated to an hour of brilliant work and bloody raw sentiment that is missing from so much of modern metal. We praise Lunn over and over each year because he truly deserves such accolades for his work.

Working this time with Colin Marston, Lunn sets the stage with acoustic-fed, water-trickling “Tamarack’s Gold Returns” before shifting into an incredible high on “Into the North Woods,” a track that will pick you up, carry you on its shoulders, and rage into the lands of trees and fading leaves. That continues into the flooding, furiously melodic title cut; the picturesque and raucous “Oaks Ablaze” that gives you the perfect scene of red-and-orange autumn at the height of its majesty; through the moody and punchy “Pale Ghosts”; and on to “A Superior Lament” that has passion, fire, and a range of emotions (including shadowy, solemn singing about halfway through the cut) that spill over and swell your heart. It’s impossible to hear a Panopticon record and not feel a tidal wave of various energies. “Autumn Eternal” is no exception, and it’s another example of Lunn’s seemingly never ending inspiration and brilliance. (Oct. 16)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TheTruePanopticon

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/

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