And starting off at number fifteen. . .
15. Gevurah – Gehinnom (Canada – Profound Lore)
The second album from Gevurah features their great song writing technique with their ever-so-punishing black metal. With incredible blast beats and thrashing riffs, the Gehinnom feels in your face for a full 46 minutes with tasteful acoustic interludes in-between the destruction.
14. ARÐ – Take Up My Bones (England – Prophecy Recordings)
In a complete 180 from the album listed above, ARÐ’s Take Up My Bones is epic doom metal at its best. With a slow, dramatic pace and hauntingly beautiful vocal layers, the album at times feels more like an extended mournful prayer. It’s incredible how it works – and an incredible performance by artist Mark Deeks.
13. Night Hag – Phantasmal Scourge (United States – Rotted Life Records)
The death and doom of Night Hag’s Phantasmal Scourge is filthy AF. Heavy on the reverb and heavy in the riffs, Night Hag’s debut album does not disappoint. The album terrifies: with incredible vocal variations and frightening atmosphere, the nine tracks keep the listener engaged for the horrifying journey.
12. Escuela Grind – Memory Theater (united States – MNRK Heavy)
The grind/hardcore and metallic stylings of Escuela Grind are just fantastic. With exploding riffs, blast beats, and growls and screams from lead vocalist Katerina Economou, Memory Theater is just powerful. And what’s even better? The power has groove. The creative songwriting on this album simply is top-notch.
11. Olhava – Reborn (Russia – Independent)
Back again on my list for another year, Olhava’s Reborn is breathtaking. Still at the top of their game with the bitter atmosphere they evoke, the near-hour-and-twenty-minute album is enchanting and riddled with mood. While at a glance one may feel the album should be shorter – if you’re in the mood for it – you’ll only end up wanting more by the end.
10. Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones (Italy – Profound Lore)
Cosmic is definitely one way to describe the album; Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones it’s a wild death metal journey that features some out-of-the-box thinking which makes moments of the album border along avant-garde. Solo artist Gabriele Gramaglia absolutely crushes it. With great power comes great intensity: and this album has both.
9. Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain (United States – Profound Lore)
I don’t think Artificial Brian can come out with an album I’ll dislike. They’re three for three now in making my Top 15 list – and I listen to a lot in any given year. The science-fiction melded tech-death stylings seems to be a sweet-spot for me. Of course it helps when Luc Lemay (Gorguts) makes a guest appearance and Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, and a ton of others) mixes the album. Just a brilliant piece of art.
8. Blind Guardian – The God Machine (Germany – Nuclear Blast)
What a return to form! After years of rather ho-hum albums, Blind Guardian comes back with The God Machine. Bringing back some thrash to their power metal, The God Machine feels like a meld between A Night at the Opera and Somewhere Far Beyond. After thirty years, Blind Guardian still has some major staying power and I’m very happy with this album.
7. Mosaic – Heimatspuk (Germany – Eisenwald)
Always on the hunt for something different, Mosaic’s Heimatspuk nails it. Into the third album, solo artist Valkenstijn showcases incredible songwriting ability with encapsulating acting and drama. Each song feels independent yet cohesive – all sharing an audible theme of despair which runs throughout the album.
6. Voivod – Synchro Anarchy (Canada – Century Media)
The progressive thrashers are back with what may be their most “accessible” album to date. Syncho Anarchy’s nine songs are full of punch and energy. You can also feel the band having fun while performing the songs in the studio. There’s a certain excitement that comes with each song that makes Synchro Anarchy one of the best Voivod albums in quite some time.
5. Grima – Frostbitten (Russia – Naturmacht Productions)
Like Olhava, Grima makes it back on my list for two years in a row. (What is it with these Russian black metal bands?) Like previous albums, the scope of Grima is based in nature and an epic feel. With mid-paced black metal, the songs get time to breathe and let the listen really become engrossed in the catchy melodies. If anything, Frostbitten comes across as one of the most positive-feeling albums in Grima’s catalogue.
4. Sigh – Shiki (Japan – Peaceville Records)
When a new Sigh comes out, everyone should listen. Constantly breaking the rules of production and how songs can and should be written, the newest Sigh does not disappoint. Always with incredible musicianship, the dynamics on the album are what really stand out. Guitar solos, rototoms, synthesizers, and more, all take center stage in various moments within the album. There’s something very different with Shiki and it’s an honest joy to listen to again and again.
3. Véhémence – Ordalies (France – Antiq Records)
Ripping, epic medieval black/folk metal from France. Ordalies comes in with fresh production and ideas, offering traditional instruments like bagpipes, flutes, and lutes, to make already memorable songs stand out further. The guitar riffs are just incredible though. Crisp and fast, Ordalies is the stand-out black metal album for me this year.
2. Morrow – The Quiet Earth (England – Alerta Antifascista Records)
Absolutely breathtaking crust punk. Within the first few moments of the album, I knew I was in for a ride. With acoustic guitars and percussion being the main driving force of the music, the many vocal styles of Morrow are what really pack a punch. The songs build and fall, creating dramatic escapes and dynamic, engrossing moments that really make The Quiet Earth stand out as an awesome force.
1. Wormrot – Hiss (Singapore – Earache Records)
I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve listened to Hiss. While the band is grindcore at heart, Hiss is just so much more than that.
With every song having a story, each song brings something different and inspired. From the anthem-like chants in “When Talking Fails, It’s Time For Violence” or the wailing screams to guttural vocal shifts in “The Darkest Burden,” singer Arif comes across like ten vocalists as one. Guitarist Rasyid offers a flurry of range, with bright, aggressive guitars in “Your Dystopian Hell” to the down-right thrash-grind riffs in “Spiral Eyes.” Then there’s songs like “Behind Closed Doors” where drummer Vijesh features both punk rock drum beats and blast beats. But then in “Sea of Disease,” the toms shine with a mid-paced gallop – progressive variations which are not usually found in the genre.
There’s so much variety from the trio of musicians, Hiss is constantly reeling the listener in.
In fact, many of the songs simply transcend one another while holding together a cohesive feel. By the twelfth track “Grieve,” violins enter the album in a dissonant, sinister way. They reappear in a handful of songs afterward. By the final song, “Glass Shards,” the trio come together and make an emotional plea to the listener. And then comes that emotional violin solo, concluding the album and giving me goosebumps and concluding the aggressive drama.
While Arif unfortunately left Wormrot after Hiss’ release, I cannot think of a better high-note to leave on for any artist.
Upon first listen, I knew Hiss would be my Album of the Year: nothing comes close to the ferocity, excitement, progressiveness, brilliance, and emotions that this album evokes from me. Hands-down one of, if not, the best grindcore album I’ve ever listened to.
Marillion – An Hour Before It’s Dark
The Chasm – The Scars of a Lost Reflective Shadow
The Gathering – Beautiful Distortion
Satan – Earth Infernal
Tomb Mold – Aperture of Body EP
Deströyer 666 – Never Surrender
Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation
Alanis Morissette – The Storm Before the Calm
Grand Belial’s Key – Kohanic Charmers
Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait
Meshuggah – Immutable
Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying… And the Dead!
Abbath – Dread Reaver