And starting off at number fifteen. . .
15. Midnight Betrothed – Death… My Faithful Bride (Australia – Northern Silence Productions)
Haunting and tremendously mournful, Midnight Betrothed second album is one of the more unique albums I’ve heard this year. While the uninitiated may hear the traditional low-production quality that is signature to early black metal, the album is intrinsically layered with textures that sets the perfect ambience that is Death… My Faithful Bride.
14. Dream Unending/Worm – Starpath (Canada/United States – 20 Buck Spin)
A split has never made my Top 15 before – so congratulations to Dream Unending and Worm with Starpath. Dream Unending’s melancholic atmosphere matches surprisingly well with Worm’s blackened death tones. While the two bands have two distinct sounds, they are coherent when side-by-side – something I never would’ve expected when I initially learned these two were releasing Starpath.
13. Ozric Tentacles – Lotus Unfolding (England – Kscope)
Ozric Tentacles sixteenth album shows the band has no signs of fatigue or that they’re running out of ideas. Always absorbing and utilizing musical technology around them, the psychedelic/fusion prog rock band reinvigorates listeners by providing them something different-yet-familiar to their listeners. In my opinion, this album is definitely best enjoyed with headphones.
12. Taake – Et Hav av Avstand (Norway – Dark Essence Records)
In their eighth release, the legendary black metal band – or Hoest from Taake – still wows. With four songs sprawling 42 minutes, Taake rips into some of very dark and progressive music. With dauntingly powerful ebbing movements along with some very epic peaks, Et Hav av Avstand is a true and brilliant accomplishment.
11. Ahab – The Coral Tombs (Germany – Napalm Records)
I’ve always felt Ahab’s been chasing The Call of the Wretched Sea since its release. While The Coral Tombs took some warming up to, I’ve felt this is the closest the band has ever come. Drenched with with mood and various shining moments through the darkness, The Coral Tombs stands out, not only as one of Ahab’s best albums, but one of my favourites this year.
10. Riverside – ID.Entity (Poland – InsideOut)
Riverside always seems to be reinventing their selves while still feeling like Riverside. It’s truly remarkable how they accomplish it. With Id.Entity, Riverside explores new and seemingly familiar musical territory – touching in a bit of Depeche Mode and 80s-aesthetic. This prog rock/metal band seems to always be on the move – and it’s working out!
9. Isafjørd – Hjartastjaki (Iceland – Svart Records)
Featuring singer Aðalbjörn Addi Tryggvason from Sólstafir and ex-Pain of Salvation member, Ragnar Zolberg, Hjartastjaki presents one of the most moody, if not spiritual albums I’ve listened to this year. With songs feeling like they came straight from the heart, the duo create a painfully beautiful soundscape. While melancholic, the album is still surprisingly uplifting.
8. Afksy – Om hundrede år (Denmark – Vendetta Records)
Afsky’s Om hundrede år shows how black metal can be more than just “noise” to the casual listener. Epic and glorious, the album showcases moods and both wailing guitars and vocals. Its utter rawness is majestic and expressive – letting the listener really understand the feeling of loss through music.
7. Aara – Triade III: Nyx (Switzerland – Debemur Morti Productions)
Aara astounds in the conclusion of their musical trilogy with Triade III: Nyx. With its grand and monumental scope, the story’s music is as intense as it is beautiful. With incredible blast beats and screeching vocals and guitar, there’s a simplistic notion behind it all that captures the listener’s attention amongst the frenzy.
6. Voyager – Fearless in Love (Australia – Season of Mist)
In the world of progressive rock/metal, it’s hard to stand out amongst all of the musical wankery and pretentiousness that comes with the genre. Voyager however wipes it all away with incredibly catchy songs, hooks, and guitar solos. Reminding me of Threshold’s Dead Reckoning (in the sense that it was such a refreshing “new” sound for the band), Fearless in Love will be on my playlist for years to come.
5. Gridlink – Coronet Juniper (United States – Willowtip Records)
I thought Gridlink was done for – especially given guitarist Takefumi Matsubara suffered a brain infection leaving his left hand paralyzed. Yet here we are! Matsubara recovered and holy hell, we have Coronet Juniper! Grindcore at its finest, the blazingly fast and catchy album suffers only for being too short! I’m so glad Gridlink is back and I can’t wait for their next adventure.
4. Ulthar – Anthronomicon (United States – 20 Buck Spin)
Releasing two albums at the same time, Anthronomicon and Helionomicon shows Ulthar can continue to pump out quality albums. While Helionomicon I felt suffered from being too experimental, Anthronomicon astounds with everything that makes Ulthar great. Awesome guitar hooks pair with instrumental technical prowess makes it one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard this year.
3. Minenwerfer – Feuerwalze (United States – Osmose Productions)
Upon first listen, I felt like I was listening to Panzer Division Marduk again – which I feel is an incredibly high praise to give a black metal album. Feuerwalze is so in-your-face and absolutely relentless with its attack. For their fourth album, Minenwerfer doesn’t hold back. Powerful and persistent – this is my favourite black metal album of the year.
2. Fossilization – Leprous Daylight (Brazil – Everlasting Spew Records)
“Portal but better,” is how I would recommend this album. Featuring terrifying atmosphere and a pounding snare, Leprous Daylight encapsulates brutality and fury in an incredible 36 minutes that doesn’t come close to overstaying its welcome. With filthy riffs and tones from the guitars and bass, the listener can easily become entranced with the album’s ferocity.
1. Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium (United States – Season of Mist)
Astounding progressive death metal riddled with thrash is how I’d categorize Horrendous’ Ontological Mysterium.
With each song standing out as an achievement on their own, it’s obvious why this album is on the top of my list. Songs such as “Neon Leviathan” showcase traditional thrash with it’s drum/bass opening only to turn into a technical foray of death and prog. “Cult of Shaad’oah” shows off how much variety Horrendous offers with clean riffs which emphasize off-beats and finger-tapping goodness. Every song is off of the album is one banger after the other.
Then there’s stranger moments like in “Exeg(en)esis” where repetitive instrumentals perform behind layered vocals – feeling something reminiscent from Cynic’s Focus. Yet the song progresses and explores different avenues than what the listener would have expected it to go. Every song feels like it has something creative to show – and it all flows naturally without jarring interruptions.
The album is dark. The album is blackened. It’s riddled with death metal, progressive metal, and thrash metal – and it all comes together coherently . For those reasons and more is why Horrendous’ Ontological Mysterium is my favourite album of the year.
Pustilence – Beliefs of Dead Stargazers and Soothsayers
Cannibal Corpse – Chaos Horrific
Blaze of Sorrow – Vultus Fati
Ulthar – Helionomicon
Cryptopsy – As Gomorrah Burns
Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit
Bell Witch – Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate
Lunar Chamber – Shambhallic Vibrations EP
Metallica – 72 Seasons
Overkill – Scorched
Steven Wilson – The Harmony Codex
Blink 182 – One More Time…
The Flower Kings – Look at You Now