2016 Favourites – Part II

Following on from Part I, which can be read here, here is the second installment of my favourite releases from this year; still in alphabetical order, and still full of awesome, wonderfully diverse music. The top five will follow soon, along with a few other reflections on the past year. But in the meantime, enjoy!

 Necrolytic Goat Converter – Demo MMXVI

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Label: self-released

Full review: link

Forget that it says “demo” in the title, this is more substantial than most albums are. Melodic, tuneful DSBM with a very honest and personal feel.

“Importantly for a DSBM record, Demo MMXVI never gets bogged down in its own misery. It may be intended as a way for sole member Chris Voss to express himself and work through his personal demons, but the music never sounds torturous or grueling. Many DSBM records possess the all-important cathartic element (and this demo is no exception), but few are as enjoyable – or addictive – to listen to. It’s quite common to find myself leaving the demo on repeat for multiple spins at a time, absorbing myself in it for hours at a time, something that very rarely happens to me with DSBM; one listen is usually more than enough, but not here.”

Our Place Of Worship Is Silence – The Embodiment Of Hate

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Label: Broken Limbs Recordings

Full review: link

Arguably the death metal release of the year, this record unleashes more devastation in 27 minutes than most bands will in their whole career. That it’s underpinned by a sense of intelligence makes all the difference.

“Fittingly, The Embodiment Of Hate is not an easy or approachable listen. Possessed of a kind of avant-garde brutality that recalls Rites Of Thy Degringolade, with a dark murkiness that at times is reminiscent of Antediluvian, this truly is death metal for the elite. There are few riffs or movements that could be described as accessible, and even those who are used to death metal’s more extreme aspects will need a few listens to fully appreciate all that is happening on the record.”

Rebel Wizard – Triumph Of Gloom

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Label: Self-released

Full review: link

Given that it’s due to be re-released by Prosthetic Records in the coming year, expect Rebel Wizard to get more of the cover their Heavy Negative Wizard Metal deserves. Full of energy and passion, this one is impossible to deny.

“There’s a lot of different elements at play on Triumph Of Gloom, keeping it an interesting, varied listen. Built upon a solid foundation of black-thrash and heavy metal riffs and high tempo drums, the album also possesses more than its fair share of excellent leads and solos, which give the songs a lot of their character and charm. When combined with the vicious, raw black metal vocals, it’s hard not to get swept up in the whirlwind created, designed for headbanging and raised fists. There’s a flamboyance, an arrogant “fuck you!” attitude throughout, that only adds to its charm.”

Rotting Christ – Rituals

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Label: Season Of Mist

Full review: link (written by Davy Oblyvyon at Boken Amp)

I was unsure of this one at first, as I noted in my short review in February. I also stated that it may take some time to fully assess the album. Well, now that time has passed, and it feels clear that Rituals like one of Rotting Christ’s strongest albums, and the high water-mark of their sound since Theogonia. Dramatic, emotional, and all different kinds of powerful, this is the sound of a veteran band operating at their peak.

“Theatrical’ is probably the perfect word to sum up Rituals. Palm muted triplets, violent double bass and growled vocals may be the foundation of the Rotting Christ sound but clever pacing of songs (the slow, tense build on ‘Ze Nigmar’ before the more driven attack of ‘Elthe Kyrie’ is a perfect example) and interludes make the entire album seem like a series of scenes from some war-torn history being acted out. The call-and-answer introduction to ‘Apage Satana’ itself comes across as enactment more than rendition: other bands may get on a stage and play their songs for an audience, Rotting Christ put on a planned, prepared performance.”

Shield Patterns – Mirror Breathing

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Label: Gizeh Records

Full review: link

Sonically, it’s arguably the gentlest of all the records on this list. Emotionally, it’s one of the heaviest and most devastating. Few records are so heart-breakingly crushing, whilst sounding so delightful. As with the Mur album in the first list, leaving this out of my top five was a difficult decision.

“It is an album for star-gazing, for sleepless nights, for confessions and promises, whether alone or in intimate company. It is so disarmingly beautiful and honest that I struggle to find a single flaw with it, and a single listen inevitably ends up with me spending the rest of the night with it on repeat. Mirror Breathing – and, by extension, Shield Patterns – is something very, very special, and deserves to be both treasured, and recognised for the triumph that it is.”

Twilight Fauna – Fire Of The Spirit

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Label: Ravenwood Recordings / Fragile Branch Recordings

Full review: link

The word ‘atmosphere’s gets tossed around like it’s going out of style in black metal circles, but Fire Of The Spirit is a prime example of just how powerful and effective conjuring the right environment and, well, atmosphere can be.

“It is music for solitude, for wandering, and for spiritual catharsis. Its (overall) relatively sparse sound belies its incredibly deep nature: this is an album to keep coming back to, finding new avenues and sounds to explore, new details to hold the attention and paths to follow. And this is all without mentioning the inspiration and thematic grounding of the album, being based upon snake handling rituals native to Appalachia. It’s one further detail, adding depth to an already deep record. It can be very difficult to make music of this nature without it becoming too sparse, or for the volume-heavy sections to overpower the more subdued moments, but Fire Of The Spirit absolutely gets it right. Sit back, and let your mind wander. This is something special.”

Wode – Wode (self-titled)

wode cover art

Label: Broken Limbs Recordings / Sell Your Soul Records / COF Records

Full review: link

In a year when Winterfylleth kinda dropped the ball (there’s something disappointing about a new ‘album’ that only contains three new songs), Wode showed that there’s still plenty of life in the dark heart of grand English black metal. Sure to become a cult classic in the future.

Wode is a remarkably addictive album, the kind that can easily be left on for several plays in a single sitting. There are plenty of subtle details to be unearthed amongst the sonic density, but even on a more immediate level it is a hugely thrilling example of modern black metal. This album is not one to sleep on, and more than meets the high expectations I had for it.”

Wormrot – Voices

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Label: Earache Records

Full review: link (written by Mark Angel Brandt at Broken Amp)

I never really expected Wormrot to re-form, or for them to release a third album. Nor did I expect it to be so damn good. The addition of some emo-violence elements to select riffs added a whole new dimension to their already devastating sound.

Voices demonstrates that Wormrot have evolved beyond their peers; it is more diverse, more raging and still as fresh as ever. Start reshuffling your list of top grind bands, because this trio have achieved something remarkable, and both Wormrot and Voices will be heavily discussed for years to come.”

Zeal And Ardor – Devil Is Fine

Zeal and Ardor - Devil Is Fine - cover

Label: Reflections Records

Full review: link

One of the most creative and unorthodox records of the year, Devil Is Fine took black metal to some very strange – yet successful – places. In doing so, it really underlined how creatively redundant so many bands are. The coming re-issue in 2017 means it’s presently unavailable, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, you’ll have a new chance soon.

” It’s a glorious, stirring listen, dancing in the ruins of black metal whilst simultaneously embracing its darkness and malice. It shouldn’t be this enjoyable. It shouldn’t work. Hell, it probably shouldn’t even exist. But it does, and I’m bloody glad of that, as few albums – if any – are going to challenge your notions of just what is and isn’t metal this year. The comparison that makes the most sense is Death Grips, and the way they deconstruct hip-hop in to something else entirely, but even that only tells part of the story. Devil Is Fine is one of the most unique albums ever to fall under the broad spectrum of black metal, having more in common with Dødheimsgard’s 666 International than anything being made today. You’ll either love it or hate it, but I can’t help but feel that this is one album that will be impossible to ignore.”

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