With the year winding down, everyone everywhere is taking a look back on the music of 2016. The best albums list always is the biggest feature for most people, but we’re careful in these parts not to forget about the smaller releases that populate the year’s music output.
We have a nice bit of EPs and split releases that occurred during the year, which we didn’t include in our top 40, because we kept that specifically to full-length records. But these releases are worth your time for sure, as they are some of the better non-full-length efforts of the past year. Make sure you give them some love, respect, and even better, your money.
DAWNBRINGER, ‘XX” (Ektro/Full Contact): The final act from this Chris Black project was released digitally in February and got physical versions later in the year via Ektro and Full Contact. It’s a slim, trim 20-minute collection that rules from front to back. With half-ballad “Why Would You Leave Me” starting off the EP, the music then hammers into tried-and-true metal glory with “Into the Maze” and “North By North,” which are crushers, and the whole thing ends with instrumental “The End of the Beginning.” Black has moved onto making more of High Spirits and some solo work, but he left Dawnbringer on a real high note on an EP that stands up with the rest of the band’s catalog.
For more on the band, go here: https://dawnbringer.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.ektrorecords.com/shop/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.ektrorecords.com/ektro.php
GRAVE MIASMA, “Endless Pilgrimage” (Profound Lore): Guttural death metal that feels like it is chewing away at your innards yet also pummels you with instrumental prowess is not something every band can pull off. But UK death monsters Grave Miasma are not your run-of-the-mill offenders, which they prove on their new EP “Endless Pilgrimage.” While a smaller release, the 33-minute run time still is longer than other bands’ full-lengths, and it’s as meaty and massive as any other death metal release this year. The group clobbers you over and over on mesmerizing opener “Yama Transforms to the Afterlife”; infernally damaging “Utterance of the Foulest Spirit”; and devastating closer “Full Moon Dawn” that lets the charnel winds coat your lungs with soot as you crawl to your certain doom.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/gravemiasma
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: www.profoundlorerecords.com
VILE CREATURE, “A Pessimistic Doomsayer” (self-released): This Canadian doom duo ruffles feathers among metal’s narrow-minded war bros with their support for vegan and LGBTQ issues and their distaste for oppression and abuse. But that’s never stood in this band’s way—if anything, it likely galvanizes them—and their awesome one-track, 17:50 EP is a massive, emotional journey that is heavy as it gets. The band buries itself in works of fiction, records, TV shows, you name it, in which they find solace when the outside world gets to be too much. It’s their self-made preservation zone, which is a healthy way to combat what ails you, and along with singer Laura Minnes lending her powerful vocals, the core band members Vik (drums, vocals) and K.W. (guitars/vocals) pummel you with smothering sludge and devastating doom that’s weighty and delivered right from their bruises souls. When the howl, “This world has no safe space for me!” it’s as much a desperate cry as anger-lathered battle cry that it’s clear that, despite barriers in their way, lets you know they’ll stop at nothing to have their voices heard and make metal their damn way.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vilecreature
To buy the album, go here: https://vilecreature.bandcamp.com/album/a-pessimistic-doomsayer
MARE COGNITUM/AUREOLE, “Resonance: Crimson Void” (Fallen Empire): Often split releases contain a collection of songs by two bands or more that are in no way connected. They’re just packaged together. But Mare Cognitum and Aureole had different ideas on “Resonance: Crimson Void,” making it one of the most noteworthy split releases of the year. The two bands come together to create a black metal-smeared space opera that centers around the Citadel Alunar, its bell tower, and a civilization that is in collapse as its inhabitants reach to the stars for answers. The citadel eventually encounters and is engulfed by the Rosette Nebula (see the amazing cover art), causing chaos, a great struggle, and the suffocation of life by hands emerging from the bell, until the bell tower finally collapses. Yet, the citadel lives, and from this, it emerges with newfound knowledge and must rebuild itself. It’s a story that’ll totally mesmerize you and your desire for cosmic sagas, and the music will envelop you whole when it’s all said and done.
For more on Mare Cognitum, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic/
For more on Aureole, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AureoleBM
To buy the album, go here: http://store.fallenempirerecords.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/FallenEmpireRecords
BOTANIST/OSKOREIEN, “EP3: Green Metal/Deterministic Chaos” (Avantgarde Music): Two one-man projects unite here for a traditional split, and a damn fine one at that. Botanist continues his foray into the Verdant Realm, where the good and green of nature continue to plot their revenge on destructive humanity. The project’s hammered-dulcimer-and-drums sound has continued to morph, and this is more compelling stuff from one of this site’s favorite acts. Oskoreien got their active year going with “Deterministic Chaos,” two tracks of industrially sooty black metal force that’s the work of Jay Valena. He offers up one twisted track of his own and then does a transformative number on Placebo’s “Without You, I’m Nothing,” a track you likely won’t even recognize right away. Or even when it’s done. These are two of the most interesting bands in underground metal, and their every turn is worth your attention.
For more on Botanist, go here: http://www.botanist.nu/
For more on Oskoreien, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Oskoreienband/
To buy the album, go here: https://verdant-realm-botanist.bandcamp.com/album/botanist-oskoreien-ep3-green-metal-deterministic-chaos-botanist-version-saprophyte-yellow-gold-splatter-colored-vinyl-backpatch-pre-order-bonus
Or here: http://oskoreien.com/
Other noteworthy EPs: Krallice, “Hyperion”; Paroxsihzem, “Abyss of Excruciating Vexes”; Tombs, “All Empires Fall”; Mesarthim, “Pillars,” “Spires,” and “The Great Filter”; Candlemass, “Death Thy Lover”
Splits: Palace of Worms/Thaobath; Waldgeflüster/Panopticon; Blut Aus Nord/Ævangelist; Spectral Voice/Phrenelith