TOP ALBUMS OV 2020 W/ JOE THRASHNKILL, ROLDERATHIS, LACERTILIAN AND KARHU!

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The final day of LISTMANIA is here. How can there be more? How can this post be so T H I C C? How will you ever make up for the damage you’ve done to your savings account? Joe Thrashnkill, Rolderathis, Lacertilian and Karhu don’t have any answers, but they do have some lists for you.

Joe Thrashnkill

I came off the most depressed year of my life straight into a job that’s killing me, 27 credit hours at the community college, and the United States leaning hard into the collapse I used to spend my time worrying about happening. Suffice to say, I spent much of the year listening to comforting oldies instead of being sonically adventurous. The lists you read on this website contain more informed picks and better writing than my own but there are a handful of records that stuck with me this year that I’d like to share with you anyway. The number next to each record is meaningless; it’s just fun to count down from ten to one.

10. Oranssi PazuzuMestarin Kynsi
Nuclear Blast

After doing back-to-back podcast ‘sodes that contained a different person telling me this record sounds like a stack of gold-plated $100 bills, I finally gave it a shot. And you know what? They were right! These Finns have wicked bad vibes but the jams on Mestarin Kynsi get downright chill. Take a heroic dose of kratom and play it loud on a nice set of speakers. Then call me from the highest summit of the moon where you’ve established an extremely chill but definitely haunted base camp.


9. AdzesNo One Wants to Speak About It
Independent

I’ve covered Adzes. A lot. I mean, like, a lot a lot. So of course I love Forest Bohrer’s debut full-length (out now on cassette via Tridroid Records). I can’t really talk about this record too much without putting myself on some kind of government list of malcontents so let me just say that if you think the general arc of things is going not so great and you like blunt object sludge, you ought to give No One Wants to Speak About It a listen. THEN, give yourself the present of listening to Adzes cover Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. It’s like a nice sherbet after a heavy meal.


8. XibalbaAños En Infierno
Southern Lord | Review

Fuck man. Read Iron Goddess of Mercy’s review of Años En Infierno instead of reading my bullshit. It is smart and I am not. This album whips ass tho.


7. ExhalantsAtonement
HEX Records

Exhalants work and play in the city I’ve lived in for 15 years and I only learned about them ‘cuz a guy half the country away told me I ought to pay attention. Let’s blame the pandemic instead of my general ignorance of noise rock. If you like BUMMER, old friends of the Toilet since the early days, and you like the extremely satisfying CLANG of a low tuned bass guitar, Exhalants is likely what the doctor ordered. Each time I spin Atonement I find another element to love. Repeated listens are essential and, likely, compulsive.


6. Ripped to Shreds亂 (Luan)
Independent

Yes, Luan is a thrilling ride of breakneck OSDM riffs, virtuoso lead guitar, everything I wanted but feared was lost forever after Trench Rot broke up, etc. etc. etc. The real story is this: If you buy this album Andrew Lee will just use your dollars to buy more HM-2s. He has so many. Is it a cry for help? Perhaps instead of buying this very good record, consider staging an intervention.


5. Charley CrockettWelcome to Hard Times
Sons of Davy (Independent)

Lotta folks out there dig Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. Charley Crockett is gonna join that echelon of Country Artists Even Metal Dudes Like any day now. It might just be today if you haven’t yet heard Welcome to Hard Times, a Depression-era throwback so timely no one could have predicted its relevance before release.


4. Serpent ColumnKathodos
Mystískaos

A good man used to write for this humble web blog. Dubya exited the social media sphere, a wise decision, and we don’t talk as often anymore. During his tenure, he doted on fussy bands with complicated riffs that mostly confused my simple brain. Kathodos, the latest LP from avant-garde black metal project Serpent Column makes me think of him. It goes hard enough to engage my idiot child core while retaining inscrutable structures, undeniably mapped out upon an altar of esoteric origin; perhaps sheet music. I bet he digs this one too.


3. Lamp of Murmuur Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism
Independent

The cover art features a heavily contrasted black & white photo of a dork in corpse paint so you’d reckon this album would sound like any one of thousands of other black metal bands, right? You fool. You clod. You absolute buffoon. Sure, this debut LP kicks off with a cacophony, but soon locks into undeniable hooks that carry through with the opposite of alacrity. On the title track, M., the shadowy character behind Lamp of Murmuur, concocted a fascinating experiment in which black metal sounds good. Haters said it couldn’t be done but here’s Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism proving the haters wrong and sounding nice as hell.


2. WolfhandThe Devil Arrives
Independent

You ever listen to a record and start hooting and hollering? When my esteemed colleague 365 Days of Horror sent me this Bandcamp link a few months back I clicked play, threw my hat in the air, and shot it full of holes with my six-shooter. The Devil Arrives, the first full-length from these Cowboys from Vermont is a rootin’ AND tootin’, slide guitar wailing post-metal adventure across the frontier. Boy howdy, do I love this record.


1. Old NickNo Solace In Sunlight
Independent

Old Nick put out two full-lengths, 7 EPs, a couple of splits and a few compilations in this year alone. Is this particular EP the best thing Old Nick released this year? I don’t know! I haven’t worked through their 2020 discography yet. Regardless, No Solace In Sunlight hit me in all the right spots. It’s absurdly raw, it’s intentionally silly, it is INSANELY catchy. I’m pretty sure the keyboard lines were recorded from a garage sale Casio plugged directly into a walkie talkie. I respect the fuck out of everything this band is doing. Turn your volume down a little bit and click play on “Necromancer of… 1923” if you’d like to hear the deliriously wonderful sounds of the Guided By Voices of black metal. I love you, Old Nick.

Rolderathis

2020 requires little in the way of introduction—beyond the trumpeting of a wet fart. It began with a musical drought, ended in a deluge of half-digested Bandcamp Friday purchases, and the in-between consisted of nothing less than the largest viral load in modern US history. Despite these obstacles, musicians somehow managed to molt their fetid pajamas, leave their homes, record albums and release them into the wild. The following are my top crops from this blighted year.

10. Bütcher 666 Goats Carry My Chariot
Osmose Productions | Animals

Progressive; refined; cultured—these words all have nothing to do with Bütcher. From the ünnecessary ümlaüts to the rather conspicuous album title, the band’s goal is clear as light beer: going very fast. Their fervid devotion to speed metal allows each track to maintain a blistering 666 goatpower throughout, with few (infernal) pit-stops.

When they do venture out into other genres, the result is no less passionate; “666 Goats…” delves into primitive black metal before offering its second half on the altar of Mercyful Fate. (This segment is some of the most unabashed fun I’ve had listening to music in years.) Please keep your horns, hooves and hocks inside the chariot—things are about to get dicey.


9. WayfarerA Romance with Violence
Profound Bore

Wayfarer’s progression in recent years mirrors advances in locomotive technology; if World’s Blood represented our relation to the horse, A Romance with Violence is a study of the freedom (and destructive power) granted by the steam engine. “Fire & Gold” and “Vaudeville” cross unknown territory, experimenting with a greater focus on singing and auxiliary instruments (for instance, the inclusion of organs and clapping hands). However, the core of the band remains black as coal. Songs like “The Crimson Rider” and “The Iron Horse” move with relentless energy, propelling us through lands littered with buffalo skulls and blasted stone. ARwV evokes the history of the railroad—the thrill of innovation, the bubbling of blood, the screaming of steel.


8. Wills DissolveEchoes
Hypnotic Dirge Records | Review

Within its first minutes, Echoes channels some of the most iconic sounds in science fiction: arpeggiated synths and choirs plucked from 2001’s orbit. Consequently, the sudden transition to death metal left an impact crater in my expectations. The album yields new discoveries as the voyage continues; the ship’s computer (I’ve dubbed it AAL9000) adds a progressive touch of vocoder, and lush clean guitars shimmer in the spaces between stars. (By stars, I mean plasma spheres held together by doom’s crushing gravity.)

The production is somewhat rough around the edges, but it fits the story Wills Dissolve is telling. This isn’t some retrofuture utopia; you’ll need a bulky, uncomfortable spacesuit (probably designed by Ridley Scott) to survive. The tradeoff? An experience that’s truly alien.


7. Frome Eden to ExileAge of Fire
Attic Records

From Eden to Exile blurs the lines between tech death, groove metal and hardcore; the combination is something akin to a robot beating you with a club. Knotted riffs and gang vocals might seem like strange bedfellows at first, but the result is intoxicating—both visceral and cerebral.

“Age of Fire” begins with vintage Nevermore riffing (including a dash of Loomisian shred) and segues to piston grooves à la Gojira, but the band never loses their own identity (and does Gojira’s recent output even cast a shadow to stand in?) “Face of Desolation” and “Inhuman” further explore the -core influence with breakdowns that would leave any self-respecting pit a smoldering crater (IF WE COULD HAVE THEM.) FEtE has just started their journey beyond Paradise, but the future looks promising. Be sure to Adam to your collection.


6. Neck of the WoodsAnnex of Ire
Pelagic Records

I’ve never seen an album cover that so clearly depicts the U.S. political system. (That is, rabid wolves fighting in a ditch.) In the world of The Annex of Ire, genres behave in a similar manner: the Canadian inclination to tech sinks fangs into melodic metalcore, and Opeth‘s melancholic prog whines at the back of the melee, making elaborate plans to get at the carcass.

It’s a quick meal (at under 40 minutes), but each track, each bloody morsel sticks to the ribs with a mixture of memorability and experimentation. A numbing frost approaches; in this neck of the woods, the only defense against the bitter cold is feeding—greedily, with disregard for etiquette.


5. The Hallowed Catharsis Killowner
Lacerated Enemy Records | Animals

It’s midnight as you drive through the forest; you scan the road, ready to brake at the sight of luminous eyes. A light flashes. 14 minutes are gone. A lot can happen in a quarter of an hour—say, the theft of your genetic material by forces beyond comprehension. You can also listen to the latest EP from The Hallowed Catharsis.

Albums that flow as a continuous story tend to suffer on a track-by-track basis, with individual songs lacking their own identity. At less than 3 minutes each, the tracks on Killowner have short incubation periods, but they develop quickly through the band’s creative songwriting. “Abduction Sequence” begins with jazzy chords before collapsing into spastic grind; elsewhere, down in the “Breeding Pits,” technicality is stripped away, leaving behind a simple (but instantly effective) speed metal groove. Killowner burrowed swiftly into my brain (right near the implant); I anxiously await the next visitation.


4. CytotoxinNuklearth
Unique Leader Records | Review

It’s not fair that other brutal death metal drummers have to compete with Stephan Stockburger of Cytotoxin—after all, few people have access to the amount of radiation needed to grow extra limbs. After camping with his kit in the Pripyat Amusement Park for an entire week, even his snare reproduced by budding. (This newly-sprouted instrument bears a sonic resemblance to a trashcan.)

Nuklearth‘s dynamic production and melodicism display a mutation in BDM tropes; from the sense of wonder conveyed in the introduction of “Dominus” to the expressive soloing in “Drown in Havoc,” there’s an emotional depth rarely considered in the genre. I can only hope their influence will seep into the groundwater and irradiate the musical landscape.


3. ÆnigmatumAdorned in Wrath
Chaos Records

No matter how much time I spend with Adorned in Wrath, its structure and boundaries elude me. I’m normally critical of songs that don’t stick easily in the mind, but Ænigmatum has forced me to eat crow. It’s not that the individual sections aren’t exciting (in fact, their blend of dissonance and melody is quite memorable), but, like in a nightmare, I’m never sure how I arrived at a particular moment. To be perfectly pretentious, this 11-minute demo is more of an experience than a collection of songs. (Said every Ulcerate fan ever; I understand now, albeit reluctantly.) Waking on the other side, the transitions dissolve into smoke, escaping between our fingers. Adorned in Wrath is the embodiment of these fleeting visions.


2. Well of NightThe Lower Planes of Self-Abstraction
Independent | Animals

Black metal in 2020 has an editing problem, with songs regularly reaching the bloated 10-minute mark. I enjoy an epic-length track as much as the next owl, but when the number of ideas is less than half the runtime, my eyes start to glaze over. Well of Night (hailing from the kvlt kapital ov the world, Dayton, Ohio) avoids this issue by crafting songs that flow naturally between myriad moods and influences.

“Black Alder Sacristy” manages to weave together melodic black metal, thrash, and even some deathcore dread without bursting at the seams. These acrobatics occur throughout the album’s long-form compositions without once devolving into riff salad—quite the achievement for such an ambitious debut. With this level of skill (and confidence), the band has set a high bar for themselves; I expect to see them vault it in the years to come.


1. Dystopia – Geen Weg Uit
Zwaertgevegt | Mini

Even before the winter months, the light was quick to drain from this year. Like the figure depicted in Geen Weg Uit‘s artwork, I found myself jumping through a series of hoops, both mentally and professionally. This album was the perfect companion for dark times—a flame to burn away my bitterness.

Dystopia’s inclusion of brass instruments (trombone and trumpet) lends a funereal quality to their songs; in combination with the harrowing vocals, Geen Weg Uit is quite the little black (metal) rain cloud. Thankfully, there are moments of calm scattered throughout, flickering beacons to fend off the shadows. At 38 minutes, the album runs relatively short (this is, perhaps, a mercy), giving the band just enough time to pare listeners down to raw emotions without leaving them totally despondent.

Lacertilian

As with last year, my time to write (and even edit) for the site has been steadily diminishing as our child reaches the age of “never napping”. Sorry. The mid-day siesta site time is long gone and I’ve been reduced to momentary meme-ing on social media during work breaks. However, I still get to listen to a veritable shit-tonne of music each week at work (some 550+ hrs this year apparently). Once again, huge thanks to Spear and Roldo who’ve managed to keep the site ticking over during 2020. Buy them an album on Bandcamp, or just send over a nice animal gif. Both are equitable.

10. Convocation – Ashes Coalesce
Everlasting Spew | Premiere

Honestly had a hard time choosing between this album and the amazing Atramentus debut, and while I did dub Stygian “the funeral doom album modern funeral doom albums request for their funeral”, I’m going to include Convocation here instead for 2 reasons; the first being that I’ve already seen Atramentus get some coverage on earlier EOY lists here, and the second is that I like how Ashes Coalesce evolves throughout its runtime. Commencing in a kind of death-doom style redolent more of Ataraxy than Thergothon the vibe shifts for the middle two tracks into pure funeral doom majesty, finally mellowing for the fourth and final song into an almost Pink Floydian delay-drenched (+synth?) reverie. A must-hear for death-doom and funeral doom dorks alike.


9. SwevenThe Eternal Resonance
Ván Records | RotW

Many psych-death fans were impressed by Bedsore‘s follow-up, however they were never going to outshine this lysergic Lizard’s excitement for the quasi-return of Morbus Chron. Obviously more in keeping with Sweven than Sleepers In The Rift (as you’d expect), yet The Eternal Resonance still feels fresh regardless of however long ago it was recorded.
FFO: Venenum, Tribulation (FoD), Horrendous


8. HavukruunuUinuos Syömein Sota
Naturmacht

While Uinuos Syömein Sota didn’t quite enthrall me as immediately as Kelle Surut Soi did upon release, I’d be lying if I said the latest offering from Finland’s rising melodic/medieval black metal troubadours Havukruunu wasn’t as strong a follow-up as one could hope for. On the whole the album is a little less aggressive and more refined, but the soaring solos and overall grandeur carry it through with guustö.
FFO: Macabre Omen, Nocternity, Obsequiae on methylenedioxyamphetamines.


7. Glorious Depravity – Ageless Violence
Translation Loss

For most of the year, when people would ask what the stand-out straight-up death metal album of the year was I’d link Cosmic Putrefaction. That was, until Ageless Violence hit the inbox. Just bang-on belters from start to finish.


6. Spectral Lore | Mare Cognitum– Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine
I, Voidhanger | Review

Honestly the most impressive part of this split isn’t that it maintains your interest across nigh on 2hrs of progressive planetary-themed black metal, it’s that it does so with the word “astrology” in the title.


5. ExpanderNeuropunk Boostergang
Profound Lore

What better way to usher in our technocratic neo-feudal future than with a new record from Expander. Neuropunk Boostergang is essentially the perfect follow-up to Endless Computer, maintaining the circuit-frying chromatic intensity but expounding on the dystopian vibes courtesy of a more pronounced focus on the synapse-stuttering leads. My only regret re: this release is not having the time to reboot the ridiculous MS-DOS review format. The ride never ends.


4. JordablodThe Cabinet Of Numinous Song

What if you got a proggy Norwegian death metal band, gave them occult surf rock equipment, made them listen to Wovenhand-esque Americana, and told them to make black metal to fit the Black Twilight Circle roster? Damn, that would rule…wonder where you could hear that?


3. Armand HammerShrines
Backwoodz Studios

Billy Woods is prolific as fuck but his work always delivers. Forget Karl Malone, he’s the damn mailman imo. Combine him with Elucid and you have an unmatchable combo. Diverse production moods as per usual, and powerful political messaging. Never disappoints.


2. PyrrhonAbscess Time
Willowtip

Somehow everyone’s favourite [̸͓̦̠͍͈̬̫͙̬̮̭̺͍̃̆̑̾͜͝ͅĩ̵͈̫̣̏̈́̀̔͑͋̑̈̚͜͠n̶̹͒̒͌̀̽͌̄͐̽̅̕c̴͈̬̬̟̭̖̲̮̞̲̩̣̓̉̽̓̌̿̑̓̉͊͂̃͛͜͜͝͠o̸̧̹̻̩͙͓̳̻̲̥̦̫͇͆̀͗̏͛̑̈̀̑̈̉͊̕̚ͅm̶̡̟̜̲̳̟̺̮̑̀̍̃̎͋̒̋̂͗͆̑̐͠ͅp̷̛͔̼̣̭͚̙͖̪͈̣͍̦̄͛̄̽̈́͐͂̾͘͠ͅṙ̵̨͎̹̠͚͆͗̈̎͘͠e̶͖͍͙̍̄̀̒̎̅̇͒͌ͅh̷̨̡̛̰͕͇̣́͛̅́́̐̏͌̿̐̅͑͗͜͝e̶̜̋̈̋̍̔̀̃̅͗̀͗͐̌̒̏ṉ̷̢͔̥̖̮̣͔̤̳̃̀̀̂̄̋͘s̸̜͓͈͓͚̮̫̘̥͓̠͙͎͔̍̓̊̀̌̔̍͐͆́̑̚̕͜i̶̧̬̥̒̌̕b̷͔̖͖̠͉̤͕͖͊̄̄̌̾́̀̌̽̄̆͋̂͂̚ͅl̶̡͓͕̙͇̞͇͈̼͐͆͛̆͒͆̋̍̄̌͜ͅȅ̸̢̻͈̲̭̬͚̱͇̻̱͉̠̆͌̂̑͌́͌͘͜ ̸̧̨̳̟̺̩͈͖͉̫̥̦̤̃̆͋̍̿̌̑̐͝ͅs̶̺̦̖̣͉͖̻̗̫͑̌̽͠u̴̢̳̮̱͓̳͕͇̺̰͆b̶͕͈̘͂͘-̸̛̦̔̓̃̐͋g̸̛͎͇͖͍̩̤͙̫̍̔͋͊̄̅͒͑̀̌̕e̶̢͖͓̮̖̱̹̞̮̥̿͋́̓͜ͅņ̵̥̣̰̲̻͋̎ṟ̵̣͕̣̰̮̘̮̈́͗̄̀̓̌̋́͝͝ͅȩ̸̦̗̯̔͗͐̆̂̒̽]̶̧͙͇͙̯͙̝̼͕̙̗̜̬̲́́͘͜ group managed to top 2017’s What Passes For Survival. As I said back in April, DiLella‘s main riff on ‘The Cost Of Living’ from Abscess Time is one of the most demented and intoxicating I’ve heard in 20+ years of listening to metal. Just the perfect antidote album to couple with the seething inexpressible rage which has been the prominent feature of 2020.


1. Aesop RockSpirit World Field Guide
Rhymesayers

If you’re a fan of Aes‘s work, you’re probably pretty fucken fine w/ seeing this up @ #1. Spirit World Field Guide is like the synthesis of Skelethon and The Impossible Kid; combining the former’s darker allegorical sensibility with the latter’s confessional quirk. This came out in November but is already my most listened to album of the year, so it’d honestly feel wrong to put it anywhere else.

Karhu

10. Opium WarlordsNembutal
Svart Records | Review-to-appear-here-shortly

I had originally planned to include Valdrin here, but two December releases forced my hand into some heavy re-arranging. Of the two, this was the one I knew to expect. An all-time favourite artist of mine mixing doom, drone and avant-garde in a manner instantly attributable to him, but so that no one song, or often even two, could accurately describe the album, or the experience? Yes please. Again a different album from 2017’s Droner, even if it contains hints of it, and it’s comfortably familiar while allowing the excitement of exploration. If there is such a concept as an uncomfort listen, then this is it, for there is nothing comfortable about this record, even though I just said so, and yet it’s proven an invaluable comfort listen for an exceptionally shitty December.


9. Fuck the FactsPleine Norceur
Noise Salvation | Review

To go fast? To add grindcore to melodoom? To kill a mockingbird? Questions that have plagued mankind for centuries. Butt-Fuck the Facts has your answer, and it is a resounding: “Monday”. The two genres, at a quick glance the polar opposites of each other, come together very naturally for something that’s coming together about as unnaturally as possible. It helps that they’ve twisted and bent the genre limitations many times over before, and that the grind isn’t always the harshest, most punishing kind that makes Sanic proud, although there’s that too, and the melodoom isn’t the most ruefully forlorn Peaceville Three circa 1992, although there’s that too, so it feels like the album is sliding between the two styles instead of jumping between them, and I tell you I just got me a new board.


8. KatatoniaCity Burials
Peaceville Records | Review

I had to include Katatonia out of the sheer amount of times I’ve played City Burials this year. In shedding their metal exoskeleton, Katatonia has become a hypnotic, proggy sadboi group that’s now looking to synthpop for the sealant. It’s hook-laden and catchy from the get go, but there’s a quality of depth to it that’ll reveal its true memorability only in due time. It never felt like it was going to be a “list album”, even though I loved it from the start. Rather it’s an album that feels like there was an additional gear that City Burials needed to use, but never took advantage of, that kept it grounded a little too firmly. But then you wake up to another morning and you’ve spun it a hundred times and it doesn’t make any sense to leave it out of the list, because if that doesn’t earn you a place, then what the devil does?


7. AbigorTotschläger (A Saintslayer’s Songbook)
Review-to-appear

Abigor sent my list into disarray dropping a new album out of nowhere a couple of weeks back. Channeling their own idiosyncratic ’90s sound, riffing and arrangements through the lens of their modern work, the band follows their weakest effort with one of their best. It’s an album of complex, multilayered guitars, of apocalyptic atmosphere, of mannerisms both vile and sophisticated and of black metal that seemingly draws much of its musical inspiration outside of the genre, in stark contrast to the bulk of the nostalgia-ridden metal scene at large. It’s an album challenging to the listener, and though I’ve spent much time with it already, I feel as if I’ve not even heard all of it yet, and so I hesitate to place it higher at this point in time. As much as I love and gorge on the genre, it’s a sad glance to black metal’s stagnant state that an album looking back at a 27-year old band’s own past as much as this, can still feel and seem like one of the most forward thinking releases in 2020.


6. Joose KeskitaloNukkekoti
Review

Somewhere at the threshold where the world’s most comforting delirium meets a pleasant stranger bringing news and speaking the words most friendly, in the manner most kind that never the less, instill a deep unease and dread into you, lies Joose Keskitalo. The acoustic arrangements that serve as the foundations of his songs can be playful or dry, his stately singing and elocution as if we were having the most mundane conversation, and yet the songs are filled with magic extraordinaire. The woodwind and brass arrangements bring a breeze of world music and the first hint of the enchantment to be unraveled. There is little, if anything, like Mr. Keskitalo and I would like to see him proclaimed a national treasure.


5. Faustian PactOutojen Tornien Varjoissa
Review

Another album that uses familiar pieces to build something unique. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like their “Aristopoetic Forest Black Metal”, and all of the bands that have sprung into mind as comparisons beyond some exogenous reason, have done so on the conceptual, rather than musical level. The mythological and folkloric aspects of their music especially draw them away from the crowd, but the way they use clean and female vocals and the sense of melody for synths do their part of the heavy lifting as well. It’s as if their symphonic black metal came from and belonged to a fantasy world of their own device, oh wait. I just wish their choice of label had been as fortunate as the sister project Sauvan Sankari‘s.


4. AfterbirthFour Dimensional Flesh
Unique Leader Records | Mini

I may have initially been a little disappointed at the lack of slam present here, but the space gurgle has forced my return many times. The twisting, bendy and jerking riffs, my favourite kind, incidentally, work their magic for mind-bending compositions and as a testament to their skill, the interludes are every bit as engaging and essential to the arc as the songs around them. It’s brutal death metal only nominally now, though knowing some of these songs are old, I stand in awe of how much tonality can do, and seeking more sci-fi-filled progressive death metal skies, but the vocals and other remnants of their former foundation only add to Afterbirth’s pull.


3. ConvocationAshes Coalesce
Everlasting Spew Records | Review

Hands down the finest (funeral) doom metal album this year. And it would be so, even if there had been any notable competition, which there wasn’t. The omnipresent tension, thick enough to cut with a machete, the hellish weight of the dragging riffs and the haunting melodies, bursts of anger and speed at just the right spots. All so perfectly executed I’m still blown on my ass the vocals can somehow match and even exceed them—Convocation is one of the very few legitimate challengers to diSEMBOWELMENT’s throne. Grief, lunacy and misery have never felt this good.


2. MalokarpatanKrupinské Ohne
Interview

Following a primal, first wave-influenced record with a more hook-centered and heavy metal-influenced one, then abandoning those for a progressive rock and Viking-era Bathory-influenced album sounds like off-kilter genre hopping. But the local folklore and -music influence and strength of vision that give Malokarpatan their unique sound tie the three together so well they seem like a logical continuation, and Krupinské Ohne is the most ambitious of the three and the band’s crowning achievement so far. An incredible album that uses familiar parts to build something immediately recognizable and entirely their own.


1. HavukruunuUinuos Syömmein Sota
Naturmacht Productions | Review

Having all of the band’s members partake in the arrangements of the album has brought additional depth, variety and vividness to Havukruunu’s delivery. The later Bathory and Immortal influences may be clear as a day, but by now it’s inarguable Havukruunu has their sound down to a t and despite all of their influences, it’s associative, from the first second, of themselves only (I am definitely sensing a theme here). Inspired by the language of folk music, rather than the instrumentation commonly associated with it’s myriad of forms, the riffs, melodies and lyrics intertwine to form a concept that’s familiar, intimate and, in time, distanced. I dare say, the finest album from a damn excellent group.

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