AOTY 2K16, as chosen by Richter, Leif Bearikson, and Old Man Doom
Listmania is in full swing here at the Toilet ov Hell. Check out the top-10 lists from loyal TovH writers Richter, Leif Bearikson, and Old Man Doom.
Richter’s Top 10 ov 2016
10. Virus — Memento Collider | Karisma Records
Honorary AOTY slot because IT’S FUCKING VIRUS! Memento Collider is another trippy ride in a history of trippy rides from these legends of Norwegian what?metal. If that isn’t enough to prick up your ears, read the long version here.
Listen to — “Dripping into Orbit”
9. Street Sects — End Position | The Flenser
I probably would have passed on this album had fate not intervened. That would have been a shame. You can’t just listen to black metal all the time, right? Wrong? Regardless, it’s good for the soul to receive your ear-bleedingly heavy doses of loathing and disgust from other areas of the genre spectrum. In the case of End Position, from hyper and noisy industrialized punk. This album may be riffless, but it is easily as loud and heavy as anything else released this year. And it has continued to grow on me long after my review, to the point where it managed to knock some other unfortunate album off this list.
Listen to — “If This is What Passes for Living”
8. Naðra — Allir vegir til glötunar | Fallen Empire Records
Allir vegir etc was my first great hope of the year. The first album I looked forward to hearing (covered brilliantly by Spear here). 2016 got off to a bit of a slow start for extreme metal, and perhaps because of that draught, Naðra’s debut album stirred up a great deal of pre-release hype. Or perhaps it’s just a killer album, among the best to emerge from the relatively young and already formidable Icelandic black metal scene. Allir vegir breaks free of Icelandic BM’s association with the French school of dissonance in favor of bright and triumphant anthems shredded by sadistically harsh production. My only substantial gripe is that the vocalist never shuts his mouth.
Listen to — “Sár”
7. Cara Neir — Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition | Broken Limbs Recordings
This one made it to the list by the skin of its teeth on account of being released so got-danged late in the year. It’s probably the most hard-riffing thing I’ve reviewed (said the guy who doesn’t usually listen to all that many hard-riffing things). Great punky black metal for driving angry. Or driving happy, if you’re the kind of person who is made insanely happy by very angry-sounding things. It is that anger, radiating from every single instrument on Perpetual Despair, which forms a bridge between the usual dark desolation of black metal and the pissed-off histrionics of punk and post-hardcore. This album is a big fat NO uttered in the face of an unacceptable universe.
Listen to — “Spiteful Universe”
6. Howls of Ebb — Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows | I, Voidhanger Records
Filthy. Facetious. Frightening. Fun. These are all words that start with F. And they all apply to this bloated and bonkers thing called Cursus Impasse. The term “surf-death” does not start with F, but it also applies. Cursus Impasse is somehow grandiose and shoddy at the same time. An occult and groovy avant-death fuckaround the likes of which you will never hear again in your puny life–unless you listen to some other Howls of Ebb record. If any of this makes sense to you then you are in for a treat: skip over this and this and go straight to the listening.
Listen to — “Subliminal Lock – A Precursor to Vengeance”
5. Haunter — Thrinodía | Self Released
The U.S. has been a hotbed of forward-thinking black metal for at least a decade now. There is something immediately recognizable about the American sound. And yet it is completely incoherent and difficult to put into words, in large part because USBM draws liberally and fearlessly from other American musical traditions, from hardcore and indie rock to deathrock and whatever “Americana” is. Haunter are out there on the frontier, sprinting into the unknown right alongside the alphas of the scene. This is a very young band, and yet they’ve already made a bold and unique statement. I have no doubt that they will do great things in years to come. Read more garbage words about the jaw-dropping Thrinodía here.
Listen to — “Apnoeic (Polarized in Retrospective Contempt)”
4. Crowhurst — II | Dullest Records
There’s really nothing I can say about this record that Edward hasn’t already said. So for a quick recap: II is premium tier listening for the adventurous extreme metal fan. There’s probably no more exciting artist working at the edges of black, doom and post metal than Crowhurst mastermind Jay Gambit. Come for the despondent black metal vibes. Stay for the noisy Swans-inflected art-fuck.
Listen to — “The End”
3. Skáphe — Skáphe² | Fallen Empire Records
Ever have that dream where you’re falling? Skáphe² is what you’re falling into. A vortex composed of every nightmare or memory your mind has ever recorded and every unsettling or eerie or downright frightening sound you’ve ever heard. Oppressive black metal filtered through gulfs of moribund dissonance and half-aborted riffs. A protean throat of mirrors swallowing itself and you along with it. In no way catchy and yet utterly addictive. Read Lacertilian’s most excellent thoughts on the record here.
Listen to — “II”
2. Psalm Zero — Stranger to Violence | Profound Lore Records
Stranger to Violence is about as metal as a non-metal album can get. Or vice versa. It dances along some weird horizon at the limits of art rock, metal and post-punk. It skirts the razor edge between catchy and challenging. Between familiar and alien. Between heartfelt and detached. I rated this album 4 out of 5 Flaming Toilets of Hell, but at this late point in the year I’ve come to regret not giving it a 4.5.
Listen to — “White Psyche”
1. Wreck & Reference — Indifferent Rivers Romance End | The Flenser
I’ve never successfully described the music of W&R to anyone. I don’t even think my review of this album did the trick. But I’m going to try again briefly: dark avant-garde chambercore. Lovely sample-based orchestrations surrounded by harsh vocal outcries and maleficent collages of ambience and noise, all lashed into order by Ignat’s bloodthirsty percussive whip. This is a rare example of a band taking everything that makes them great and pushing it to the semblance of perfection.
Listen to — “Manifestos”
LEIF BEARIKSON’S TOP 10 OF 2016
I’m foregoing numbering my list this year because in a year where there was so much quality music trying to hoist up us up out of the cesspits it feels like a disservice to number them. SO, here are 10 of my favorite albums in no particular order.
Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Dark Descent Records | August 18th, 2016
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I am, frankly, head over heels for this album. Starspawn is more or less exactly what I want from my death metal. There are gargantuan cavern riffs, sun swallowing vocals, mind warping solos and even some freaking kraut rock. In my book this was the best death metal album of the year and one that I’ve been listening to nonstop since the promo hit my inbox. An instant classic that cements Blood Incantation as a force.
Listen to “Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Pt. 2)”
Chthe’ilist – Le Dernier Crepuscule
Profound Lore | January 29th, 2016
Given my affinity for Blood Incantation’s off kilter form of death metal, this selection should probably come as little surprise. Their take on my personal favorite genre of “weirdo death metal” is something like if Incantation had been raised by murlocs in a swamp behind Lovecraft’s house. While the riffs and atmosphere are great, it’s the leads and the mindfucking Seinfeld-esque slap bass that kept me coming back.
Listen to “Voidspawn”
Gatecreeper – Sonoran Depravation
Relapse Records | October 7th, 2016
Arizona’s Gatecreeper doesn’t offer anything new or terribly showy, but what they do offer is some of the finest swedeath you’ve probably herd in quite some time, presented in absolutely brutal fashion. From the first pneumatic hammer of a riff I was hooked by Gatecreeper’s buzzsaw barrage and I’ve found myself revisiting it frequently, whether at the gym or just kicking back with a beer and a desire to headbang.
Listen to “Sterilized”
Brutally Deceased – Satanic Corpse
Doomentia Records | August 18th, 2016
This record is everything incredible about heavy metal distilled into one CD. Brutally Deceased. Satanic Corpse. That giant red sticker. It’s all just so wonderfully absurd, and that’s before we even get to the music! Satanic Corpse is, more or less, the best album that Dismember never released. Don’t believe me? Listen to “Hosstile Earth and realize how wrong you are.
Listen to – “Hostile Earth”
Nucleus – Sentient
Unspeakable Axe Records | April 15th, 2016
MORE WEIRD DEATH METAL. 2016 was a red letter year for bands that dabble in death metal’s more outlandish elements, and one of the standout debuts was Sentient by Nucleus. This album is really a twofer as it appeals to the death metal fan in me AND the scifi nerd with songs that cover everything from The Forever War to motherfucking Cube. Plus, just look at that album art! Classic Seagrave paired with a great debut is a winning combo.
Listen to motherfucking “Cube”
Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
Neurot Recordings | September 23rd, 2016
I think I’ve pretty much said everything I could possibly say about Fires within Fires right here, so I’ll just leave it at this: 30 years in Neurosis don’t exactly surprise, but they can still deliver as cathartic an experience as you will find in heavy music.
Listen to “Reach”
Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Relapse Records | July 8th, 2016
If 2013’s Sky Burial put Inter Arma on the map, then Paradise Gallows sees them taking over a massive portion of it, Shogun: Total War style. If you sub out the assassins and massive amounts of archers with fat, churning riffs, mesmerizing songcraft and a desire to incorporate every musical style known to man into one album that analogy totally works. No, really. It does.
Listen to “Violent Constellations”
Mizmor – Yodh
Gilead Media | August 12th, 2016
Rarely does an album just HURT as much as this one does. Yodh is a difficult listen, not because it’s particularly dense instrumentally or all over the place musically, but because you can just feel the agony in every note and every bellow of sole member ALN. The mix of black and doom here feels perfect for that agony, quickly switching from melancholic loathing to seething hatred. Far and away one of the most powerful albums released in 2016.
Listen to “I.Woe Regains My Substance”
Zhrine – Unortheta
Season of Mist | April 8th, 2016
2016 was the year we finally realized what Iceland was capable of when it came to black metal. Everything released this year would be met with absurd expectations. Even so, Zhrine managed to blow those expectations away with Unortheta. Featuring not just black metal, but traces of doom, post rock, and an adventurous sense of songwriting, Unortheta is the most varied, and excellent, album to come from the Icelandic scene. All others have been put on notice.
Listen to “Empire”
Ash Borer – The Irrepassable Gate
Profound Lore | December 2nd, 2016
The Vrasubatlat crew have been busy this year, releasing albums from Predatory Light, Uskumgallu, Urzeit and prepping new material for Triumvir Foul. Their most notable accomplishment though is definitely Ash Borer’s The Irrepassable Gate. While I have no idea what the album title means, I DO know that this is some of the finest (and catchiest!) USBM released this year. It warps and bends from atmosphere to twisted riffs that repeat and hypnotize, slowly drawing you further and further in until…you hit the play button again because it’s so damn good.
Listen to “Lacerated Spirit”
OLD MAN DOOM’S Top 10 of 2016
10. The Vision Bleak – The Unknown | Prophecy Productions
The Vision Bleak have been a mainstay in the gothic metal community for the past decade. But despite their age, The Unknown offers up some of their most succinct and effective death/doom songwriting to date. The songs herein straddle the line between straight-faced melancholia and kitschy horror all while managing to include some very catchy hooks and headbang-able riffage. If you like your death/doom heavy as fuck with a side of gothic camp, then make sure to check out The Unknown.
Listen to — “The Fragrancy of Soil Unearthed”
9. The Lion’s Daughter – Existence Is Horror | Season of Mist
Wild sludge with a lyrical focus on horror films. What more could you want? The Horror of Existence is produced by Sanford Parker (YOB, Rwake), making it one of the sonically heaviest, grimiest records of the year. It truly is a harrowing and terrifying listen.
Listen to — “Four Flies,” “The Horror of Existence”
8. Maeth – Shrouded Mountain | Independent
Maeth pick their riffs straight from the earth. They dig through the soil, through the bones and the grit and roots to find the material from which they craft their transcendental sludge. The heavily effected flute that guides the songs through the cosmic afterlife lends an almost shamanic quality to the fuzzed out riffs on display here. Any time you listen to Shrouded Mountain, it’s a journey far beyond that which we know. Just where that journey leads, I don’t know – but I like it.
Listen to — “Verne”
7. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows | Relapse Records
Holy shit, the dudes in Inter Arma have been busy! They’ve recorded two incredible full lengths and a 45 minute long single song EP just in the past three years. And I am so damn grateful for it! Their brand of sludge prioritizes atmosphere to great effect, and the experimentation with cleaner vocal styles in some of the songs is also a welcome addition to the band’s already dynamic sound. The fluctuation between light and heavy on Paradise Gallows tells a story, one that is at once timeless and ancient beyond recognition. If a western-tinged sludge metal band exploring the outer reaches of conscious thought sounds good to you, then give Paradise Gallows a listen… or ten.
Listen to — “Paradise Gallows,” “Where the Earth Meets the Sky”
6. Mouth of the Architect – Path of Eight | Independent
Post-metal is a funny genre for me: when it’s bad, it’s really fucking
bad boring. When it’s good, it’s got my interest locked in more than anything else. Path of Eight reinforces the latter reaction. I think I may have listened to this record more than any other record this year, and it’s because it features some of the weirdest and catchiest material the band has produced to date. It seems to me that the adherence to the concept album format and telling a story of the afterlife (read my review here) truly gave a new life to what could have just another post-metal riff fest. Instead, the incorporation of bizarre atmospheric elements and more succinct songwriting really captured both my interest and my imagination.
Listen — “Ritual Bell,” “Fever Dream”
5. Hail Spirit Noir – Mayhem in Blue | Dark Essence Records
This is some quality black ‘n roll… and it rides in on a surfboard. Hail Spirit Noir embrace the kitsch and use it to great effect in this prog rock nightmare of an album. From the hellish circus vibes of “Lost in Satan’s Charms” and “Riders to Utopia” to the bizarrely 70’s easy listening style intro on “How to Fly in Blackness,” the album covers a broad spectrum of weirdo rock infused with an aggressive black metal edge. Mayhem in Blue is the perfect soundtrack for your next Satanic surf rock sacrifice or dinner-and-a-movie premier of Eraserhead.
Listen to — “Lost in Satan’s Charms,” “How to Fly in Blackness”
4. Gojira – Magma | Roadrunner Records
Even though I was initially hesitant about this album, I have come to enjoy the progressive direction The Gojiras have taken on Magma. The signature heavy grooves are still here (“Silvera,” “The Cell”), but the atmospheric elements have mellowed and spread out more than on previous efforts. And I think this spreading out greatly enhanced the album’s inner contemplative aspects, especially given the highly personal subject matter for the Duplantier bros. While there are certainly those who disagree, I’ll say that Magma, to me, is truly and authentically Gojira to its core.
Listen to — “Low Lands”
3. Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom | Prosthetic Records
The ‘Wtich returns! And this time they’ve brought with them a new singer: Adam Clemans of Wolvhammer. I suppose most conversation around this EP has focused on Clemans, so I’ll spare you all and just say that he’s fantastic; his rasp fits the blackened-thrash aesthetic perfectly. That being said, I think that the actual songwriting itself is some of the strongest that the band has ever put forward. The intense melodic solo section at the end of “Black Waters” is moving in a way that only a gore and guts band like Skeletonwitch can pull off. If you had doubts that this line-up change spelled doom for these guys, fret not! I am here to say that The Apothic Gloom is as fine an example of Ohioan blackened-thrash as any. As such, I am stoked to hear more about the new album for next year.
Listen to — “Red Death, White Light”
2. Ihsahn – Arktis | Mnemosyne Productions
I pretty much unconditionally love anything and everything this man does. Arktis is no exception, but the album does mark an interesting, if not slightly upsetting for some, departure from previous albums. Instead of the long, sprawling prog metal epics that listeners are used to, Arktis features some very succinct and traditional songwriting. You know: verse, chorus, verse chorus – that kind of thing. I was willing to go with
Mr. Ihsahn on this curious journey, and I am glad I did. The songs really fuckin’ rock! Ihsahn’s signature guitar work is at the forefront of each track while his big choruses really drive songs like “Pressure” and “Until I Too Dissolve.” Good, good stuff.
Listen to — “Until I Too Dissolve,” “Pressure”
1. COBALT – Slow Forever | Profound Lore Records
Savagery incarnate. Tortured, twisted, triumphant – in other words, quintessentially American. Slow Forever is a perpetually wounded animal backed into a corner, lashing out against the very forces that created it. Collapse with it.
Listen to “Cold Breaker,” “Siege“