Best of 2016: 20-16

Dust Moth cover20. DUST MOTH, “Scale” (The Mylene Sheath): Much of what we do around here is immersed in absolute heaviness. I got a better idea of that putting together this best-of-2016 list. Damn, we do a lot of doom and black metal and death metal, and it makes sense considering our focus. But brutality isn’t the be all, end all, and it’s not the only thing that makes a band and its music heavy. Seattle’s Dust Moth are one of the bands that might not blow out your hearing, but they’re sure to take you somewhere that will quake your insides.

Dust Moth’s full-length debut “Scale” is a perfect example of a record that might not tangle with the beasts, but it’s got enough power to push you. Their music has its sure bursts of power, and when those moments strike, they’re very effective. But psychedelic dreaming and spacey wonders are at the heart of this thing, and the music is so alluring and catchy, it’ll get stuck in your head for days. Led by expressive singer Irene Barber, the band pushes you through nine expansive tracks that’ll infect your mind, including swirling opener “Space Legs,” amazing and infectious “Corrections,” and drizzling closer “Essex.” This is one of the year’s most pleasant surprises as far as debuts go, and their adventures from here will be devoured wholly by us as soon as they arrive. (July 22)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.mylenesheath.com/pg/preorders

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

sumerlands-cover19. SUMERLANDS, self-titled (Relapse): Get an old car, wait until a warm evening, and go buy some good beer in order to properly digest Sumerlands’ first record. This feels like a lost album recorded in 1984 that sat on someone’s shelf, foolishly neglected, and only surfaced now. Think Judas Priest, Dio, and mid-1980s Ozzy Osbourne and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect on this band’s first record. My first visit with the album is nearly described above, and I listened with optimal volume during a hot summer day while on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, and it was absolutely perfect.

The band has former Hour of 13 singer Phil Swanson out front—he has some of the best pipes in all heavy metal—and by his side are members of bands such as Magic Circle and War Hungry. Together, they put together a perfectly sized album at eight tracks and 32 minutes, and this thing is packed with great riffs, doom-laced classic heavy metal, and singing that’ll cut to your metallic heart and leave it bleeding silver. Tracks such as “The Seal,” “Guardian,” “Spiral Infinite,” and “Lost My Mind” are modern-day metal gems made by a band that is trying to revive the genre’s golden roots and spread them all over the world again. (Sept. 16)

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

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

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

urfaust-cover18. URFAUST, “Empty Space Meditation” (Ván): Transcending is something you cannot get with every heavy metal band. But Dutch duo Urfaust are not like any other metal band, and each of their releases offer something completely different to their audience. No two Urfaust records are the same, or even close for that matter, and their fourth full-length “Empty Space Mediation” continues to push their sound and direction deep into the psyche. This is music you’re not going to put on because you want to punch it full speed down the road and fill yourself with adrenaline. This is music that can help you center yourself and transport to another plane of existence.

These six songs all are called “Meditatum,” with an accompanying Roman numeral, and each track takes you one step further to pushing yourself beyond earthly boundaries, even if that’s only in your mind. There is heaviness involved for sure, which you’ll find with the horrifying screams of “II” and the chants and fire-breathing guitars on “V.” But then there are the chilling, swirling synth passages and the dream-soaked compositions that stretch over opener “I” and the mentally stimulating closer “VI” that’s splashed with Indian-style melodies, a chamber of hypnosis, and melodies floating in and out of your brain. Urfaust never repeat themselves, and “Empty Space Meditation” is a huge mind fuck.  (Oct. 28)

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

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/

MIzmor cover17. MIZMOR, “Yodh” (Gilead Media): What causes people to get up every day and carry through a life that can be buried in multiple difficulties varies for each person. We all have our own motivation, and we all decide to carry on for one reason or another and forge through yet more challenges. Those circumstances that will our survival is at the heart of “Yodh,” the second record from this A.L.N.-driven project that absolutely crushed our world this year.

Mizmor (also known under the Hebrew spelling מזמור) packs doom, noise, drone, and black metal in heavy layers that are damn-near impenetrable, and the five tracks on here deal a serious bludgeoning from start to finish. Despite the negativity and poisonous surroundings that could mar our everyday lives, Mizmor find a way to steamroll through those barriers and into whatever comes next. This music is corrosive and powerful, and from opener “Woe Regains My Substance” to cataclysmic closer “Bask in the Lingering,” A.L.N. drags you through an abrasive journey that could help find some answers amid your suffering. (Aug. 12)

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

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

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

Blood Ceremony cover16. BLOOD CEREMONY, “Lord of Misrule” (Rise Above): For the past decade, Toronto’s occult-based band Blood Ceremony have spent their time sharpening their blades, getting more infectious, and luring in more listeners. They’ve also kept their music varied enough that each of their records stands apart, and that continues on their excellent fourth effort “Lord of Misrule.” This thing is darker and grittier than their more approachable “The Eldritch Dark” but also maintains a lot of that record’s power.

Vocalist/flautist Alia “O’Brien is at her very best on these songs, sounding raspier and more sinister in spots but also soaring like a ritual fire. The rest of the band matches her mastery and intensity, firing hard on tracks such as “The Devil’s Widow,” “The Rogue’s Lot,” the impossibly catchy title track (especially its psyche-friendly chorus), “Half Moon Street,” and “Old Fires.” Witchcraft and magick always feel like they’re flowing heavily on a Blood Ceremony record, and that’s never been more accurate than on “Lord of Misrule.” I’m already excited to find out what dark corners they take us to next. (March 25)

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

To buy the album go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/shop/

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

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