Best of 2016: 30-21

Forteresse cover30. FORTERESSE, “Thèmes pour la Rébellion” (Sepulchral Productions): History and progress are made locally, and that’s something fresh on the minds of Quebec-based black metal band Forteresse. Their fifth record “Thèmes pour la Rébellion” is one of the most unique of the year, not only for how it sounds but for its subject matter, that being the Lower Canadian Rebellion that took place in 1837-38. The sense of vengeance and fighting for freedom bleed throughout this record, and amid the band’s devastating sound, you practically can hear forces moving through the villages, setting fire to the enemy, and going on a rampage. It’s a fascinating listen, and it’ll make the blood rush to your head. Violence, history, and chaos swell this thing, and it’s one hell of a monstrous experience. (June 24)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Forteresse-312227428819928

To buy the album, go here: http://www.sepulchralproductions.com/collections/preorders

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

waldgefluster-cover29. WALDGEFLÜSTER, “Ruinen” (Bindrune/Nordvis Produktion): It’s impossible to put on a Waldgeflüster record and not feel a huge tidal wave of genuine passion and emotion. It’s been that way since Winterherz put together this project as his own solo project, and it remains this way as the band has grown into a full unit. “Ruinen” is a great serving of folk-influenced black metal, the stuff you can imagine listening to on a mid-winter jaunt through the forest as you look to either connect with nature or just clear your head. The black metal elements are as heavy as anything in the band’s history, and the quieter moments serve as a perfect counter to the building storm. The band’s heartfelt playing and spirited songwriting are so strong on “Ruinen,” and it’s another powerful entry into Waldgeflüster’s impressive resume. (Oct. 14)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.waldgefluester.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://thecollectivedistro.com/

Or here: http://store.nordvis.com/

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

And here: http://www.nordvis.com/

Moonsorrow cover28. MOONSORROW, “Jumalten aika” (Century Media): Not sure what got into Finnish metal legion Moonsorrow’s blood when they were making their seventh record “Jumalten aika,” but hopefully that continues to infect these guys. This album is vitriolically heavy and brutal, not that past records haven’t been, but it hasn’t been to this extent. Moonsorrow seem to have been extra agitated when they made this record, and good for them, because it’s the best thing they’ve put out in some time. Their Pagan spirits are in full effect on this record, and there are some amazing highlights (I can’t get the opening title track out of my head, as it’s one of my favorite songs of the year). This album is 67 minutes of the best Moonsorrow have to offer, and it’s great that this far into their run that they’re gushing vital, relevant blood with such intensity. (April 1)

For more on the band, go here: http://moonsorrow.com/

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

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

Abbath cover27. ABBATH, self-titled ‘’ (Season of Mist): Abbath leaving black metal institution Immortal likely will be a death blow for that band (or at least a debilitating full-body bruise), but it sure didn’t hurt the man who fronted that legendary group for years. Abbath’s solo debut is a fiery steamroller, proof that this experienced warrior still has ice in his veins and winter at his heart. What’s also cool is this isn’t exactly an Immortal album with different players. Those elements are there (they would have to be), but the band also explores all sorts of metallic sounds to make this a record a total crusher. Opener “To War” is a boots-on-the-ground stomper, while “Winterbane” stands as the best song on this record, one that rivals anything on the last Immortal outing. Abbath is alive and well, ready to take your head off. And he’s already making a new album!  (Jan. 22)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here: http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Ashbringer cover26. ASHBRINGER, “Yūgen” (Avantgarde Music): Nothing beats a great riff. It makes metal what it is. So how about an entire record filled with killer riffs stitched together and draped over eight tracks and 55 minutes on Ashbringer’s second record “Yūgen”? Put this record on, and see how long it takes to get your heart racing with the band’s energetic, melodic blend of black metal that is powerful and catchy at the same time. This Nick Stanger-led band truly arrives on this record. There are plenty of bands out there that do something similar to Ashbringer, but very few put the pieces together quite as well as this band. From “Solace” and it’s Maiden-like leads to “In Remembrance” and its reflection on loss and pain to amazing closer “Glowing Embers, Dying Fire” (which has some of the record’s best lyrics), Ashbringer deliver something truly special and memorable. (June 3)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://avantgardemusic.bigcartel.com/

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

urzeit-cover25. URZEIT, “Anmoksha” (self-released): So much metal is centered on hate. That’s one of the most obvious statements in the history of the site, eh? But it makes sense to point out in this case because Urzeit’s “Anmoksha” is an album that center on self-hatred and the results of that inner torment (the made-up title essentially means without peace). Combining members of the Vrasubatlat circle, A.L.N. (Mizmor), R.F. (Ash Borer, Triumvir Foul), and M (also of Ash Borer, Triumvir Foul) create chaotic, charred black metal that sound like it oozed out of their bruised souls. Over 10 tracks and 51 minutes, this band delivers painfully heavy punishment and bile-soaked music that will make you know for certain this hatred-filled ritual is real, and that few other bands can match the hellish darkness at the center of this album. (Oct. 10)

For more on the band or for a digital version, go here: https://urzeit.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://vrasubatlat.bigcartel.com/

Or here: http://mizmor.bigcartel.com/

Mare Cognitum cover24. MARE COGNITUM, “Luminiferous Aether” (I, Voidhanger): Examining the human condition from a level of compassion and true exploration for a good answer to what ails us probably seems to go against the black metal ethos of hatred all the time. But Jacob Buczarski isn’t your everyday musician, and his Mare Cogntium project always has set itself apart from the rest of the metallic field. You can hear that all over the band’s fourth full-length “Luminiferous Aether,” a five track, nearly 51-minute excursion that continues Buczarski’s penchant for imaginative music and explosive playing. There is anger and ferocity to this record without question, but Buczarski’s decision to push his music more toward a hopeful perspective is both a bold move and something of which we could use more as we all stare an uncertain future right in the face. (Sept. 16)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

saor-guardians-front-cover23. SAOR, “Guardians” (Northern Silence): Andy Marshall has spent the past several years carving out his own pathway in Celtic-flavored black metal, and “Guardians,” his third record under the Saor banner, keeps things moving toward the atmospheric and lush. These five epics combine for nearly 56 minutes of breath-taking and punishing music that’s good for the psyche and the soul. Getting helping hands from Bryan Hamilton (Cnoc An Tursa) on drums; Meri Tadic (Irij, formerly of Elueviete) on fiddle; John Becker (Austaras) on strings; and Kevin Murphy on bagpipes, Marshall pushes his art into the green, thriving wilderness with a dose of black metal that would be fitting no matter the time of year but probably will sound best once the spring is bursting to life again. Soar is one of those projects that’s been gaining momentum over time, and “Guardians” only should solidify that push. (Nov. 11)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.northern-silence.de/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.northern-silence.de/

inter-arma22. INTER ARMA, “Paradise Gallows” (Relapse): There’s no questioning the creativity and refusal to adhere to any rules displayed over the past decade, and the band hit its high-water mark on their amazing third full-length “Paradise Gallows.” At nine tracks and 70 minutes, this album is incredibly unpredictable and always volcanic, pushing you to expand your own parameters for what heavy music can be. Simply put, these guys should be the trend setters, the band spawning a new wave of followers who also demand more from themselves and this sound, and Inter Arma achieve that excellence over and over on tracks including “An Archer in the Emptiness,” “Primordial Wound,” insanely penetrating “The Summer Drones,” the great title track, and the total come-down of a finale in the folk-infused “Where the Earth Meets the Sky.” Just an incredible collection of songs. (July 8)

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

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

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

Hammer of Misfortune cover21. HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, “Dead Revolution” (Metal Blade): Traditional metal has become more plentiful that past several years, and we can point in the direction of San Francisco’s Hammers of Misfortune as one of the seed planters. The band’s sixth record “Dead Revolution,” their first in five years, kept pushing the fiery melodies, gravelly and glorious singing, and incredible drama. John Cobbett continues to write the shit out of great riffs, Sigrid Sheie’s keyboards take an even bigger role, and singer Joe Hutton, who survived a serious motorcycle accident, is in total command. There are so many great moments on this record, including stellar opener “The Velvet Inquisition,” which builds its momentum nicely; my personal favorite track “The Precipice (Waiting for the Crash),” where Hutton’s calls of, “And all you hear is sky!” pastes itself into your head; and amazing curveball finish “Days of ’49,” their heavy take on the traditional folk song based on Joaquin Miller’s poem about the gold rush of 1849 that shows just how outside the box this band thinks. Hammers of Misfortune literally is incapable of disappointing us.  (July 22)

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

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/

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