Best of 2016: 15-11

15. ASTRONOID, “Air” (Blood Music): The (silly) sentiment that metal only can be played one way and must be inherently evil came to an annoying head again when Astronoid’s superb “Air” was released this summer. It’s everything that cult black metal is not, in that it’s bright, fiercely catchy, and will etch itself into your psyche forever. This isn’t brutal music, but it’s damn heavy, and the band’s way with melody is something to behold and absolutely respect. It’s safe to say no other metal record sounded like “Air” this year and probably never will.

“Air” is the first full-length record on Astronoid’s resume, and they can act as a burst of euphoric energy to your system. How can that be bad? Yeah, it might not fill you with the devil’s horrors, but these nine songs that stretch over 50 minutes can rocket you into outer space, with you finding a way to fill your lungs despite science insisting that’s impossible. There are a ton of killer songs on here from “Up and Atom,” one of the best metal cuts of the year and 6:17 of pure power; the black metal-infused insanity of “Resin”; and “Tin Foil Hats” that has a chorus that’s nearly jubilant. Astronoid is one hell of a revelation, and this record is jammed with glory. (June 10)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/store/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/

lotus-thief-cover14. LOTUS THIEF, “Gramarye” (Prophecy): Bay Area metal band Lotus Thief doesn’t rely on the normal trappings of metal in which to find their influence. Instead, they’ve been known to tear backward through literature to motivate their music, and perhaps that’s what makes them stand apart so successfully. On their excellent second album “Gramarye,” their first for Prophecy, they conjure Homer’s Odyssey, the Merseburg Incantations, The Book of the Dead, and Crowley’s The Book of Lies to spread their darkness and wonder over these five songs.

Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/composer Bezaelith, drummer Otrebor (Botanist), and synth player/vocalist Iva Toric (the lineup since has been reconfigured) still situated themselves in space for a lot of this record, but they also blend in black metal and doom to bruise tracks such as “The Book of the Dead,” “Circe,” and gazey, post-punk-flavored “Salem.” The record has a mystical, magical feel to it, and like so many of the records we chose for this year’s list, it easily can transport you to other places in your mind. On top of that, the music very well may cause its listeners to dig deeper into the texts that inspired these songs, which should enrich your mind and soul. (Sept. 16)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/pre-order-bundles/

For more on the label, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/

Marsh Dweller cover13. MARSH DWELLER, “The Weight of Sunlight” (Eihwaz): Just a few months ago, John Kerr joined up with us to create the drunkest interview in the history of this site, a feat that has not been, and may never will be, repeated since. All of that was to shine light on his Marsh Dweller project’s excellent new record “The Weight of Sunlight,” an eight-track, 42-minute debut offering that should make friends with anyone into atmospheric black metal and those who still devour the glory days of Swedish death metal.

The album is both a very personal journey for Kerr as well as an homage to naturalistic pantheism, immersing himself in the journey he’s been on the past few years while also remembering to respect the surroundings that have become a part of his DNA. Amid three instrumentals that work as gateways during the record, Kerr brings fluid riffs, punishing playing, and grisly vocals to tracks such as “The Dull Earth” that has a sword-sharpening medieval sound to it; “Monumental Collapse” that brings the melodic death metal fire; and tremendous “Forks on the River,” where it feels like the glorious guitar work laps over you like a cold body of water, enveloping you and pulling you toward a new home. This is a really promising debut from an artist who is bound to keep surprising us. (Aug. 15)

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

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

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

ash-borer-cover12. ASH BORER, “The Irrepassable Gate” (Profound Lore): The weight of an Ash Borer can feel like gravity going heel and pushing all its weight down on you. Their drone-glazed black metal keeps morphing just a bit on every record, and we hear that again on “The Irrepassable Gate,” an album that barely made it under the deadline for 2016 releases. We may have had to wait until the waning days of autumn, but having this six-track, 53-minute album in our grasp means we ended this dreadful year with another excursion into this band’s warped chaos.

The three members of Ash Borer—K on guitars and vocals, A on guitars, R on bass and vocals, M on drums—also create terror in bands including Triumvir Foul, Predatory Light, Urzeit, Vanum, and Serug Dreg, but they make their deadliest magic on this project. They prove that time and again on “The Irrepassable Gate” by unloading tracks such as the doomy, wrenching title cut that opens the album; “Lacerated Spirit” that haunts and pummels at the same time, making you feel out-of-body chills; and “Rotten Firmament,” the album’s beefiest track at 12:37 that boils, confounds, and erodes over its run time. Ash Borer’s level is not attainable, which they make painful clear on this smothering album. (Dec 2)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.ashborer.net/

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

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

predatory-light-cover11. PREDATORY LIGHT, self-titled (Invictus/Psychic Violence): Not to suggest that Predatory Light isn’t a diverse bunch, but the point of their volcanic, self-titled record appears to be outright violence for its sake. It’s a doom-filled expression of black metal that goes right for the throat. Sure, the music can set off into unexpected terrain now and again, but for the most part, you realize you’re in for a savage beating that’s going to last the bulk of these six track and 41 minutes of torment. If you feel like you’ve visited the mouth of hell when this is all over, you’re not alone.

This band—guitarist/vocalist L.S., guitarist K, bassist D.F., drummer N.M.—is built with parts of several other notable band including Triumvir Foul, Vanum, Ash Borer, Anhedonist, and Drought, and they bring their collective fire together for an astonishing first act that will keep your head spinning. From the total mind-fuck first minutes of “Laughing Wound,” it feels like they’re headed into the galaxy, yet they instead level you with sooty doom and feral power that acts as a blazing assault. “Lurid Hand” spirals all over with a mighty blaze and adds dizziness to their fury; “Dark Membrance” simmers in horrific psychosis; and “Born of the Wrong Blood” feels like black metal panic that whips up tornadic winds and nausea. This album is dangerous, smoking, and skull crushing, and it’s terrifying to think that this is Predatory Light’s first full shot fired. (Sept. 23)

For more on the band, go here: https://predatorylight.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.invictusproductions.net/shop/

Or here: http://psychicviolence.bigcartel.com/

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

And here: https://www.facebook.com/PSYCHICVIOLENCERECORDS/

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