10. Borknagar – Winter Thrice (Napalm Records)
Borknagar a constant in the last 20 years honors us with their 10th Album. Winter Thrice guarantees high quality compared with the usual virtue. I want to mention the guest vocals of Garm on 2 songs because they are very felicitous and build a bridge to the early days.
9. Skuggsjá – Skuggsjá: A Piece For Mind And Mirror (Season of Mist)
Skuggsjá is the Project of Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (Wardruna). Skuggsjá´s style is a very folk heavy underlined with Black Metal, first mentioned are the Highlight of the Record. Promising debut - let’s see if this was a onetime thing. Talent and Potential is definitely there!
8. Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder (Peaceville Records)
Nothing new in the Darkthrone camp on their 17th Output. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto do what they always did so they don’t give a fuck and do what they like to do. The difference to the last couple of Albums is that Arctic Thunder feels nearer to Black Metal then the rest and that makes it the best Darkthorne album in a long time but still miles away from their legendary stuff like Under a Funeral Moon.
7. Orassi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä (Independent)
Behind this exotic name, which means orange daemon, hides a Finnish band which somehow passed me by so im kind of surprised Värähtelija is their 4th record. Discribing the Daemons musical style is a tough one: flashes of limbonic art, Arcturus, Pink Floyd and Psychedelic rock comes through my mind. Which sound a bit wierd fitting well together. What makes it great is that they never loose themselves in too much detail or try to become too special. After the first pass I wasn´t that convinced because Orassi Pazuzu´s style is pretty unique but after a while it works and make Värähelja a little dark crazy piece of good music...
6. Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign (Century Media)
It’s been 7 painful years since the Swedish institution released “Angelus Exuro pro Eternus”. Emperor Magus Caligula is gone and the new singer is called “Helharmadr”. So, if you were expecting kind of a safety record, well - it is not. When you hear “Where Shadows Forever Reign” you know it's Dark Funeral. What lifts this album over the others is simply the fact that some of the songs are surprisingly good and sick in your ear. With the conscious use of not so fast paced songs they look more edged and show some different aspects of their music. Of course, songs like “The Eternal Eclipse“ couldn´t be more Dark Funeral but overall “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is a strong record!
5. Naðra - Allir Vegir til Glötunar (Signal Rex)
One of the most common phrases when you talk with somebody about the black metal scene in Iceland is: Well it must be something in the water! The high-quality records from Misþyrming, Auðn and Svartidauði proved that Iceland has a strong but small vital scene. Early this year Allir Vegir til Glötunar; Naðra´s debut was released and stands as proof that if you like black metal look to the small island in the north Atlantic - it’s worth it.
Naðra plays simply said: melodic old school black metal. A bit of Burzum and Taake comes through my mind. What sounds a bit boring in the first moment isn’t it at all! The way they play is special, awesome lead guitars and especially vocalist “Ö” has done an immense job. Another great thing is the electrifying atmosphere and the very thought-out pace chances mostly followed by epic moments. After around 40 minutes it finishes and the only thing I can do is nod and honor Naðra for an excellent debut and push the play button again and again!
4. Inquisition – Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith (Season of Mist)
Well Inquisition´s album tiltles are always a bit special so it was no wonder what they came up for their 7 strike would be anything but mundane. The Duo has made themselves a force to reckon with over the last years and well, with the new Breed Bloodshed they proved it again. With little chances in their sound and a big on in Dagon´s singing style, he chanced the pitch of his voice and I have to say that I liked that from the first moments on. Bloodshed is an absolute masterpiece which detonates immediately, awesome Guitar work again from Dagon. Overall Inquisitions latest output deserved this spot, in fact every time I listen to Bloodshed my neck gets completely ruined!
3. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (Season of Mist/Noevdia)
Well it’s quite a challenge these days discovering that the French black metal phenomenon Deathspell Omega released new material. Refusing social media, almost any communication and remain with anonymous members the Ep “The Synarchy of Molten Bones” was released. A baleful course opens this chaotic and fascinating piece of music. With no breather and the speed pedal extruded Deathspell Omega drags you down in their unhailful labyrinth of music. Every single time listening becomes a new path with things you discover, making you feel like you are lost with no way out. With all the ideas Deathspell Omega packed in this Monster which other bands would derive from their hole career. It’s just an EP so let’s hope they release a full Album soon but never the less its easily the best EP this year!
2. Saor – Guardians (Northern Silence Productions)
Who would have thought that Saor could top Aura which already was a superb Record but Andy Marshall succeeds which is so putatively easy. Soar´s celtic folk black metal can create pictures in your head and awake them almost as if to live with their amazing love for details. Guardians is like a feverish dream hiking through the Scottish Highlands, intense, rousing and simply beautiful. Having being capable of such things; Saor stand in a row with Moonsorrow and I think this is one of the greatest compliments you can say about a band in the folk/pagan black metal genre.
1. Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika (Century Media)
Moonsorrow never were the quickest band on earth when it comes to releasing albums. “Jumalten Aika” required 5 years and every day waiting for it was worth it. Their mix of black metal, pagan, folk and the Finnish language creates a majestic, rousing and atmospheric record. Moonsorrow didn’t change that much in this album, only nuances - but they didn’t need to. Well there is nothing more to say accept an absolute recommendation! And my Album of the year by far...
20. Unfathomable Ruination – Finitude (Sevared Records)
19. Rotting Christ - Rituals (Seasons of Mist)
18. Blut Aus Nord/Aevangelist – Codex Obscura Nomina (Debemur Morti Productions)
17. Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder (Peaceville Records)
16. Miazma – North (The Black Wreath)
15. Departe – Failure, Subside (Seasons of Mist)
14. Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis (Relapse Records)
13. Mar Mortuum – TOMB (Impure Sounds)
12. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
11. King - Reclaim the Darkness (Indie Recordings)
10. Abbath – Abbath (Seasons of Mist)
Like many who have, over the years, followed the unfolding drama of Immortal, the vacuum created by the disbanding of such an iconic group initially confused me. Much to nobody’s surprise, the signature sound and vibe of Immortal carried over with its enshrined frontman to be reincarnated as the eponymous ‘debutante’ outfit Abbath. No love lost, the grim winterscapes live on.
9. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King (Nuclear Blast)
This was a robust, beautiful and profoundly heavy album that had all the lusciousness of classical influence that seems to flow through Italian death metal. I reckoned this to be a grandiose and sophisticated development on the technical merits of previous Fleshgod releases that resulted in an immersive and powerful album.
8. Meshiaak - Alliance of Thieves (Mascot Records)
This album reignited my interest in thrash metal and showcases the diversity of songwriting that this subgenre can accommodate. Always with the (sometimes angry) heart on the sleeve, this album was one of the most relatable releases I heard this year.
7. Gojira - Magma (Roadrunner Records)
Gojira moved into even darker waters with Magma and it was a darkening that I fully embraced. Still tracks like Silvera retained the technically astounding elements of tech death that have defined Gojira, but tracks like Shooting Star tore at my heartstrings.
6. Inquisition - Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith (Seasons Of Mist)
This was an interesting excursion for me into several listen-throughs before I made my mind up as to whether this seventh-album monument was an improvement or not upon the last. It is, in my opinion, a handsome enlargement on Obscure Verses for the Multiverse and I love the return of the raw/grimy texture that doesn’t compromise how interesting the riffs and melodies are. And I love tension inherent in Inquisition’s content – at once invoking the barren void, yet does so with mesmerising emotion.
5. Azaghal - Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä (Nine Circles Of Hell) (Moribund Records)
Teenage Audrey’s heart skipped a beat to hear that 1999 was coming back with a CD reissue of longstanding Finnish black metal band Azaghal’s second full-length album Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä. It’s as mind-blowingly fast, yet rhythmically varied, captivatingly cold and full of that strange combination of ghoulish screams and clean vocals as I remember it to be.
4. Dark Funeral - Where Shadows Forever Reign (Century Media Records)
With so much line-up alteration between 2009’s Angelo Exuro pro Eternus and 2016’s Where Shadows Forever Reign I was relieved to hear Dark Funeral’s latest release sounding reinvigorated and ambitiously future-focussed. This was a highly diverse collection of tracks for a black metal release. Among the dark-anthem-style classics on this album, Temple of Ahriman has stayed on my playlist since the first time I heard it.
3. Destroyer 666 - Wildfire (Seasons of Mist)
I was totally hooked on the blackened energy that blazed through this long-awaited release from the moment that massive shrill opening Traitor scorched my ears. Wildfire’s chaotic, catchy and in-the-moment tracks inject an addictive kind of rage-lust that is both gallant and dark.
2. Meshuggah - The Violent Sleep of Reason (Nuclear Blast)
This release was everything I love about Meshuggah done to a degree of excellence that exceeded even my high expectations. From faster onslaught tracks like opener Clockworks to the tough-as-guts grind of By The Ton and Ivory Tower there is not a weak moment anywhere on this album. It is wall-to-wall amazing, heavy, technical neck-breaking feast.
1. Ruins - Undercurrent (Listenable Records)
The latest offering from Tasmania’s black metal prophets takes my number 1 listing because this album had a slice of everything I hold dear in music brought together in a concept that engaged my ears musically and my mind intellectually. Undercurrent is as grim as winter, heavy yet energetic, technically astounding on all fronts and delivers lyrically one of the most interrogative and poetic examinations of existence that has me grasping to comprehend time and time again....