2016 has been the year that saw me listen to, and review, more music than ever before. For every release that gets reviewed, there’s several that I don’t have the time to write something on; or that I listen to, but simply don’t get excited over. It’s also worth bearing in mind the purposes of this blog – exploring the underground. With the odd exception (such as the new Darkthrone), I have no interest in writing in the “big” releases; I want to help give some exposure and coverage to the small and underground, not go chasing whatever review or feature will get me the most hits. I’d also point out that it’s easy to lose sense of what actually is mainstream and underground when you spend so much time immersed in music. Sure, everyone may have access to Bandcamp and Youtube and a legion of Spotify recommendations, but it’s easy to overestimate just how big our favourite bands are.
That said, there’s still some mainstream releases I’ve really enjoyed this year and want to share some thoughts on in another post. But here, I want to take the time to give shout-outs to those more underground releases which didn’t quite make the cut for my list of 25 favourites of the year.
Abigail – The Final Damnation – it sounds like Abigail doing what Abigail do. Dirty, sleazy, high-energy street metal, every bit as vicious as they were on their Intercourse & Lust debut. Satan only knows how they churn out so many releases without a drop in quality or energy. They’re like the Motörhead or AC/DC of black-thrash, only with even more releases.
Allfather – Bless The Earth With Fire – RIFFS. Powerful debut from this UK band, like an angry, anti-fascist version of High On Fire with a hardcore attitude, full of RIFFS (full-caps is mandatory).
Blood Chalice – Demo 2016 – war metal is a genre with little margin for error, and the differences between a worthwhile record and a poor one can be slim. This demo absolutely nails the genre on first attempt. Utter devastation in musical form.
Burial In The Sky – Persistence Of Thought – so, so close to being a perfect tech-death record, this self-released record combined superlative technical skill with great song-writing.
Cara Neir / Wildspeaker – Guilt And His Reflection (split) – excellent split between two great bands. Loved the approach to the concept, and the two band’s different sounds play off well against each other.
Conan – Revengance – you know what to expect from Conan by now, and they deliver. Ever-so slow and ever-so heavy, this is doom metal that cuts right to the bone and crushes all beneath its weight.
Fuath – I – Every so often, I think we must have hit peak atmospheric black metal, but then an album like this comes out to remind me that there’s still life in the genre yet.
Gilded Lily – Mongrel’s Light – a take on USBM that captures the stress and everyday horror of living in a city, this debut is full of intelligence and variety.
Petrichor – Rain – classic-sounding death-doom with blackened and funeral touches, this is utterly miserable in all the right ways. Here’s hoping these guys get the bigger audience they deserve.
Shrug – Apathy – one of the least enjoyable albums on this list, but still one of the more arresting and interesting. A truly bleak, experimental listen, taking in numerous diverse sounds and styles all wrapped up in a narrative and emotional whole.
Sunwølf – Eve – more stripped-down than previous album Beholden To Nothing And No One, Eve is a real work of beauty and restraint, full of sweet sorrow and the promise of redemption within sight, but out of reach.
Super Unison – Auto – I was pretty sad when vocalist Meghan left Punch in 2014, but her new band, Super Unison, are pretty great. Auto is a highlight for post-hardcore in 2016, with hints of post-punk giving them an extra melodic edge.
Thrawsunblat – Metachtonia – dense and deeply moving, this is one of the most life-affirming metal albums of the year. Rising above tragedy, Thrawsunblat released something truly special here.
Ulcerate – Shrines Of Paralysis – honestly, I haven’t been able to spend as much time with this one as I’d have liked to. A real shame, as it sees the band continue to improve on each of their previous albums, with their all-encompassing death metal never sounding as ominous and devastating as it does here.
Unyielding Love – The Sweat Of Augury – blackened powerviolence of the most oppressive kind, with some unexpected turns towards the end. Hoping to hear a lot more from this band.
Venom Prison – Animus – adding a hardcore-style aggression to death metal without ever risking becoming deathcore, Animus is the kind of album that takes no prisoners, and is unapologetic in its left-wing, feminist politics.
World Controller – Apocalypse – one of the countless bands of Richard Weeks, here he takes on classic death-doom with great results. Steeped in dystopian themes, this is surprisingly enjoyable.
And all of this is without taking in to account the many albums I’ve barely spent any time with, including the new ones from Oathbreaker, Ash Borer, Teitanblood, Deathspell Omega, and Khemmis. There’s a lot of good stuff out there!