LISTCRUSH – Part One: Splits and EPs

It’s that wonderful time of year: The time when every man and his dog has been splattering their ‘best of’ lists all over every available surface with joyous abandon. It’s also handy to find out if you’ve missed anything outstanding, as perusing lists from like-minded souls with similar tastes often yields overlooked gems. Last year I probably listened to more music than ever before and I still definitely would have missed plenty of gold standard releases; so, far from being comprehensive ‘best of’ lists here are BMD’s humble lists of superb black/blackened splits, EPs and albums that more people should hear and you should hunt down if you slept on. Some big names, some clandestine arts; my favourite shit from one of the most stacked years in recent memory, and every single one of these artists/releases I wholeheartedly recommend for your full attention. Part one: Splits and EPs. Enjoy.

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~~ TOP 10 SPLITS ~~

10: GRAVEIR / MAR MORTUUM (Impure Sounds)

The first of three (!) all-Australian splits to make my top 10. An uneasy journey from Graveir knocks you around a bit before Mar Mortuum come through with absolute strength and astonishing quality. How neither of these bands are bigger than they are is beyond the limits of my comprehension. 

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9: PAYSAGE D’HIVER / DRUDKH (Season Of Mist)

A single lengthy piece of windswept hypnotic atmosphere from Paysage D’Hiver that’s still absolutely essential; the only thing that prevents this being higher up the list is Drudkh not meeting their usual lofty standards. Which means by average plebian standards, it’s still fucking great. Even sub-par Drudkh is excellent music.

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8: INTRINSIC LIGHT / EXPURGATORY (YNTPM)

Zen transcendence and blackened noise-rock experimentalism from the bowels of Melbourne, Australia. No other split intrigued me like this did; an almost indescribable experience. Those scared to stray far from the black metal blueprint need not apply.

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7: WHITEWURM / TRUE LOVE (Les Fleurs Du Mal Productions)

Two solo USBM artists combine for one of the most caustic double stabs of hate you’ll have heard last year. Everything starts off disgustingly well with Whiteworm (featuring guest vocals from Eric Baker, who I daresay will also pop up somewhere in part two) then descends even further into new depths of hell with True Love. This was actually how I discovered True Love, so I like this split even more for that. 

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6:  SUTEKH HEXEN / BLSPHM (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)

Yeah I’m cheating throwing a vinyl reissue in here, but the original release from years ago was ridiculously limited and barely anyone heard it, so fuck you, this counts in my book. Like listening to the destruction (Sutekh Hexen) and aftermath (BLSPHM) of the end of the world; strangely calming and terrifying all at once.

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5: SINMARA / MISÞYRMING (Terratur Posessions, Vánagandr)

The Icelandic masters knock it out of the park on both sides. Sinmara‘s track ‘Ivory Stone’ is somehow even better than anything on ‘Within the Weaves of Infinity’, which is saying something.

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4: HOWLS OF EBB / KHTHONIIK CERVIIKS (I, Voidhanger Records, Iron Bonehead Productions)

Khthoniik Cerviiks and Howls of Ebb try to outdo each other for pure black death avant-garde psychic obliteration. Utterly batshit.

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3: ABIGOR / NIGHTBRINGER / THY DARKENED SHADE / MORTUUS (Self Released)

Four great artists, four tracks that blend seamlessly into a mesmerising and magickal whole, one stunning split. Reverential. Immerse thyself.

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2: CONVULSING / SIBERIAN HELL SOUNDS (Art As Catharsis, WOOAAARGH)

Sheer masterful carnage. I still haven’t wrapped my head completely around these twin Australian black holes, and it’s been out for a month. It’s also another one that introduced me to one of the artists; I fucking love Convulsing and am forever grateful to Brendan for finally making me check out Siberian Hell Sounds through this release. Be warned: this will consume you from the inside out.

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1: BLOOD TYRANT / DEPARTURE CHANDELIER (Nuclear War Now! Productions)

Unequivocal and irrefutable split of the year. Raw vampyric elitist art from Dutch duo Blood Tyrant, and the triumphant return after six years of Canadians Departure Chandelier. It may only be a single track from each (and a short intro) but I can easily flip the 7″ over and over and listen on repeat for hours, and have done so many times. Near perfection.

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Near Misses: Sutekh Hexen / Hissing, Funeral Moon / Hordes of the Black Cross, Thy Darkened Shade / Chaos Invocation.

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~~ TOP 10 EP’S ~~

10: HEXIS – XII (Self Released)

The unstoppable Dutch blackened hardcore pulverisers somehow topped ‘Tando Ashanti’ from earlier in the year with this. I’m still mightily pissed I missed them when they came through my area last year too. Brutal.

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9: HIMELVARUWE – ‘Gewrocht’ (The Throat)

I could have easily put Dutch enigma T‘s  other raw demo for this project (‘CCIII’) up here, or his release from the also-stunning Kaffaljidhma; but this captivated me from the minute I heard it. How does he do it? Beats me, but I hope he never stops.

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8: MALEFIC LEVITATION – ‘The Ancient Plague’ (Sentient Ruin Laboratories, Dawnbreed Records)

This came in relatively late but I’ve been playing the shit out of it. In a great year for war metal, these US berzerkers blew me away. Ultimate destruction; more please, stat.

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7: AVERSIO HUMANITATIS – ‘Longing For The Untold’ (Sentient Ruin Laboratories, BlackSeed Productions)

“This is an EP that will pull your skin off slowly to force you to see what’s underneath, directing your gaze both inwards and outwards.” 

I said that in the intro piece for when I interviewed them earlier in the year and it’s still a perfect description of their nihilistic, transcendent black/death assault to me. Need a new full-length from these demons. 

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6: LORN – ‘Arrayed Claws’ (I, Voidhanger Records)

I’ve been communicating sporadically with Radok of Italians Lorn for almost a year now in regards to an interview; he’s a fascinating person. Perhaps one day it will eventuate, but in the meantime let the intricate, silvery ‘Arrayed Claws’ sink needle-like into your brain. Unique and unsettling; this project just gets better and better with each release.

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5: SINMARA – ‘Within the Weaves of Infinity’ (Oration, Terratur Possessions)

Intricate, deeply melodic in its bleakness and utterly captivating in the tale it tells, this wrapped its rich tapestries around me and didn’t let go for some time. Bodes extremely well for the upcoming full-length.

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4: GNIPAHÅLAN – ‘I Blodets Kamp…’ (Ancient Records, Mysticism Productions)

I would have put the Swedes excellent self-titled full length in the top albums list but that originally came out in 2016 despite the ’17 vinyl release, so luckily this EP more than makes up for that omission. Raw black with perfect atmospheric clarity; listen deeply.

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3: VOIDSPHERE – ‘To Call | To Speak’ (Fallen Empire Records, Amor Fati Productions)

I said in the last Bandcamp Misanthropy this was one of the greatest EPs to drop last year and it easily would have been the greatest if the next two on the list hadn’t been released. The production gets me every time. Pure void worship. I need to pick this up on vinyl.

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2: THANTIFAXATH – ‘Void Masquerading As Matter’ (Dark Descent Records)

The first time I heard ‘Cursed Numbers’, my reaction was simply: Wow. The Canadian trio could have released that track as a single and I still would have put it somewhere on this list; add the rest of the EP and you’ve almost taken top spot. Follows up ‘Sacred White Noise’ in the best way possible. Stunning. 

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1: SKÁPHE – ‘Untitled’ (Mystískaos) 

I feel like many have forgotten about this outstanding single track EP, the third release from the duo of Alex Poole (another name that may pop up in part two) and D.G of Martröð, Misþyrming and Naðra. Black metal to me is all about feeling; this makes me feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare hell trip through the worst kind of hallucinatory psychosis. Easily the best of the year. Yeah DMT and LSD are cool, but have you tried Skáphe?

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Near Misses: Serpent Column – ‘Ornuthi Thalassa’, SVRM – anything he released last year, Kaffaljidhma – ‘IV’, Rür – ‘Rür’, Somnium Nox – ‘Terra Inanis’, Abkehr – ‘In Asche’, Thy Sepulchral Moon – ‘Contemptuous Retaliation Storm’, Nordjevel – ‘Krigsmakt’, Endalok – ‘Úr Draumheimi Viðurstyggðar’, Svartidauði – ‘Untitled’.

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And that’s Part One wrapped up, hope you found at least one new blackened delight to pleasure/annihilate your ears with. Let me know anything I’ve missed, should have heard, or just how terribly shit you think my listening tastes are in general and stay tuned for Part Two: Albums, coming soon. 

Hails to 2017.

– A.

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Get in early for 2018. Submissions welcomed.

Email: blackmetaldaily@outlook.com

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    Bandcamp Misanthropy – Volume 12

    The bottomless wellspring of Bandcamp is overflowing with great shit just waiting to be discovered. This series aims to shine light on the freshest emanations and foulest incantations from its darkest corners, a few artists at a time. Here’s the twelfth installment for your vulgar delectation. Enjoy. 

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    Artist: Insanity Cult

    Year: 2017

    Kicking off, we have what could end up being my favourite Hellenic black metal release of the year. Insanity Cult formed in 2011 and I’ve just discovered their second full-length ‘Of Despair and Self-Destruction’ that was released into the ether about six months ago. To be honest, I wish I’d discovered it earlier. 

    This album is a brooding, violent, elegant and somber beast with a deep, dark emotional intensity that grips your soul. Everything has been stripped back, each note drips with passion distilled down to its purest and most potent form. Just try not to feel something while listening to this; it’s a truly moving piece of black art.

    The five piece includes Sacreligious from Sores (who were featured in Volumes 2 and 10) on vocals and he absolutely nails it here, sounding both distraught and envenomed in one. The lyrics are despairing and introspective, nihilistic and beautiful. The acoustic introductions and interludes are exquisite and some of the best I’ve heard of late. The production is perfectly done, the songwriting almost flawless.

    I could continue to spew superlatives, but I’ll just say: check this album out. Every track here is a winner, they have created something bordering on breathtaking. Name-your-price download with limited tapes still available from Unholy Forces Productions and CDs from Ogmios Underground.

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    Artist: Bubonic Cult

    Year: 2017

    Another cult, but this time we sink down in a different direction: Sri Lanka’s one man orthodox occultist Bubonic Cult channels total raw death and Satan worship inspired by the horror and destruction of the bubonic plague. 

    Not by any stretch is this your typical raw black metal foray. ‘The Grotesque of Desolation’ is two tracks imbued with a twisted sense of wretched melody that truly embodies the despair and inevitable decaying consumption of life caused by the disease, and revels in it. The desolate yet almost jaunty riffs weave a captivating death incantation, ensnaring mind and flesh alike as depraved vocals swathed in reverb devolve on occasion into otherworldly guttural croaks. The overall effect is both haunting and immediate, an esoteric and irresistible evil.

    Total death, total support. Up for name-your-price download, as are his other two great releases. Hails.


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    Artist: Crafteon

    Year: 2017

    You may have seen this one getting a bit of coverage already, unsurprisingly for good reason. USBM four-piece Crafteon self released their debut album a couple of weeks ago and it’s eight tracks of excellent Lovecraft worship with Swedish-style finesse. 

    The man HP and his tales of dread have provided inspiration to countless bands since the dawn of heavy music but seldom has it been done this convincingly. Melodic atmosphere reigns supreme here, the exquisitely crafted assault deftly conveying the eldritch horror and dark wonder of the subject matter. You know how it feels when you read Lovecraft? Crafteon is the audio equivalent of that feeling. The moment ‘The Outsider’ bursts from the gates like a storm you’re drawn into this world; from the intensity of the aforementioned opener to the glorious, brooding ‘The Colour out of Space’ and the creeping riff-fest that is ‘From Beyond’, each track has a life of its own and captivates from go to whoa. 

    While the savagely mellifluous guitar work is a major strength, it isn’t the only thing that shines. Vocals that vary wildly between commanding rasps and a malignant Abbath-like croak tell the tales with suitable intrigue. The audible bass pulses with nefarious life, pumping blood through the tracks while the driving mostly mid-paced rhythmic drumming provides a powerful backbone for the great old one as it rises from the murky unknown depths to rend your mind asunder, gibbering in incoherent cosmic terror.

    Another release where it’s frankly hard to believe it’s their debut due to the level of quality on display, I’d wager these wraiths get picked up by a label fairly shortly. If you’re a fan of Lovecraftian mythos and/or good Swedish black/black metal in general, pick this up without hesitation. If not, you’re a weirdo but pick it up anyway. Name-your-price download with a few physical copies also remaining if you’re quick.

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    Artist: Void Terror

    Year: 2017

    Who doesn’t like a bit of death metal, blackened, old school as fuck and reeking of the crypt? Nobody, that’s who. US cult Void Terror’s first demo ‘Soul Harvest’ is a two track tour-de-force of sick riffs that will flay off your skin and crush your bones to dust.

    With a sound verging between pure headbanging pulverisation and tomb-rotting miasma rattling from decaying ribcages, the four piece have summoned an absolutely killer as fuck demo. I’m a huge fan of everything about this, from the drums to the vocals to the actual songs themselves. And it isn’t just a nostalgia trip, oh no; while it pays homage to the greats it more than holds up in the modern death/black arena. Play this for anyone and you’re almost guaranteed a result.

    At name-your-price, get on this shit stat. And to these gents: Kindly hurry up and release a full length, I’ve played the shit out of this already. Cheers.

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    Artist: Intrinsic Light / Expurgatory

    Year: 2017

    And finally in the tradition of keeping the most challenging release ’til last, we have the experimental split between Australians Intrinsic Light and Expurgatory. Both of these artists have a few releases behind them, but I’ve only recently discovered them with this split… And what a split it is.

    Intrinsic Light have the first side and the duo label themselves ‘Blackened Zen’, saying they “alchemically meld exploratory entheogenic improvisation with sporadic shakra-surges of blackened mantra metal vibrationally filling the air with necromindfulness so dense it blasts directly into the Third Ear, forcing one’s spirit to simultaneously ascend North of Nirvana and descend South of Hell”. What that means is over the course of their two tracks it sounds like you’re riding a wave of consciousness in raw black metal form that devolves and reconstructs through transcendental stages, varying in intensity.

    When I say transcendental, I don’t mean the polished or cosmic transcendentalism prevalent in many acts; it’s more raw, the “earthy meditating Buddhist monks in a forest temple” type. It isn’t rushed or immediate, it’s made to alter your consciousness and reach new inner planes of existence; and it balances the knife edge of it’s proto-black Jekyll and Hyde side perfectly.

    Expurgatory however, are a whole different proposition that somehow still works and flows seamlessly on from Intrinsic Light’s already mind-blowing side. The seven piece’s first track ‘Grand Union’ is blackened noise rock, dreamlike female vocals over a harsh concoction of laconic whimsy. Great stuff, swathes of distortion helping the etherial quality of the music wash over you and tangibly loosen all your muscles, both mental and physical as you relax into the noise.

    If Intrinsic Light’s side is more meditative in its black intentions, Expurgatory’s is like a daydream that becomes progressively more disturbing. It eventually culminates in their second track: a spectacularly dark, disassociative ambient spoken word cover of a track by a deceased pop artist (!) that I won’t say too much about as it simply has to be experienced for yourself.

    A raw, authentic and exploratory release, it’s like nothing I’ve heard before and for those who aren’t afraid to listen to a wider scope of darkness than just blast beats, quite mind expanding. At first glance it may not be for the faint at heart simply by way of the stratospheric tangents it fires itself off into, but spend some time with it and you’ll find it incredibly rewarding. The sheer range of emotion and styles this release goes through in four tracks is spectacular, unfolding like a flower hidden away for centuries that you discover at the perfect moment as it blooms and then dies; a captivating and humbling event only your eyes have ever seen, and ever will. And you’ll never be able to adequately explain it to anyone.

    Released through label YNTPM (You Need To Practice More) there’s only one single physical copy left for purchase; if you miss out console yourself with a name-your-price download available from Expurgatory’s Bandcamp below, or Intrinsic Light’s here.

    EDIT: All physical copies now sold.

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    Submissions for possible inclusion in future Volumes are welcome.

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