It is a depressing paradox that, for a genre which started off in such incendiary, challenging fashion, black metal is now often one of the most musically conservative of genres, weighed down by insipid songs about Satan full of uninspired tremolo-picking and blasts. It’s this context which makes the emergence of a band like 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) all the more inspiring. The debut album from this multinational band, 5772, is a bewildering, awe-inspiring journey that, whilst owing a considerable debt to both raw and progressive black metal, also draws heavily full sources such as improvisational jazz and krautrock, as well as the violent energy of bands like G.I.S.M. As this might imply, it is a unique listen, and one of the more intriguing black metal releases of 2017.
The Ancient Plague does not fuck about. The debut demo/EP from Malefic Levitation is an unrelenting, skull-crushing twenty minutes of bestial and war metal that takes no prisoners. It taps in to that same sense of barely controlled chaos as the likes of Revenge and Archgoat do, walking a fine line between all-encompassing pandemonium and neck-snapping addictive riffs. Considering that it is a debut release, the mastery that Malefic Levitation display over this most ferocious of genres is all the more impressive.
It can be nice when a record lives up to your expectations. With a band name like Petrification, and a title like Summon Horrendous Destruction, and artwork like that, you’d no doubt be hoping for this 7″ to contain some dirty, old-school death metal. And you’d be exactly right. Summon Horrendous Destruction was originally released (and quickly sold out) on cassette earlier in the year, but is now being released on vinyl by Sentient Ruin, giving this slice of fetid metal another chance to inflict its pestilence upon the world. It’s a good thing, too, as this is no-nonsense death metal done right, sounding like it was dragged out of some moldy cavern, and as crushing as any other purveyor of old-school death you would care to name.
In the increasingly populated world of extreme music, it gets harder and harder to stand out. There’s only so many novel ideas out there, and there’s no guarantee that musicians have the requisite talent to properly convey what they have to express. It’s this context which helps make american seem an all the more startling prospect. Their mix of black metal, industrial, and harsh noise already sounds exciting on paper, but what Violate And Control demonstrates is that the duo have both the ideas and talent to take this combination in to strange new places. This results in an album that feels remarkably fresh, even as it indulges in some of the most horrific music committed to tape whilst still remaining listenable.
And so, to my five favourite albums of 2016. There’s been a lot of good stuff released this year, some of which I haven’t been able to spend as much time with as I’d ordinarily like, or which I suspect may need more time for me to fully appreciate them – I intend on writing one further end of year post, taking in at least some of those releases, plus a few other bits from 2016.
As with last year, my top five is in order; ranking them has been difficult, but I feel quite confident in the order I’m placing them in, even if there wasn’t much between most of them. On to the list!
The problem with so much so-called extreme music today is that it doesn’t feel extreme anymore. Maybe more bands are playing it (comparatively) safe; maybe I’m just a desensitized, cynical bastard. Whatever the reason, it’s rare these days for bands to give me that same rush of excitement and sheer sense of maniacal joy at the absurd intensity of what they’re doing as I used to get during my youth. So, when I say that The Sweat Of Augury gave me that feeling, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. What Unyielding Love have unleashed here is twenty minutes of blackened powerviolence that is right at the apex of the style, threatening to tip over in to utter chaos more often than not and sounding all the better for it.
There’s a lot of music out there; too much to adequately cover, and it’s easy for worthwhile records to get lost in the sea of noise that exists on the internet. That’s why I’ve decided to present a list of some of my favourite records of 2016 so far. As with all my lists, they may not necessarily be the ‘best’, but they’re my favourites, and that’s close enough. There might be the odd one that got released at the very end of 2015, but whatever. It’s the thought that counts.