Back again lords and legends, this time with my favourite EPs and demos that saw foul birth during the last twelve months. All of these are very, very good, summoned and sent out by some great artists and incredible labels that deserve your support – so you should definitely listen to any that you’ve missed, post-haste. I mean, you already missed them the first time. Why make that mistake again?
25. HIMELVARUWE – Het Ondenkbare
The always-outstanding T gave us a new piece of the raw kosmiche black metal puzzle that he’s been slowly assembling over the years. As mystical as the cover art suggests.
24. BLASPHEMOUS COVENANT – Disruption … Havoc (Grey Matter Productions)
The unholy union between members of Byyrth and Thy Sepulchral Moon. I reviewed this a while back (read it here) and gave it a 4/5 – I like it even more now that I’ve sat with it even longer. To lift from that piece: “By its very nature Disruption… Havoc takes the foundations of both original bands and drops a fucking nuke on them. This is another prospect altogether, existing on its own wavelength of pure experimentation and hatred, expression for the sake of it. It blows everything to pieces; and as the rubble crashes to its final resting place… there stands Blasphemous Covenant, vomiting all over the remains, annihilating the weaklings that still somehow cling to life, and trying to tear open the fabric of existence with its own bare hands. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Only the strong survive.”
23. ABYSSAL VACUUM – MMXIX (Egregor Records)
In a genius move on my part I made the mistake of writing up a set of interview questions for Sebastien of Abyssal Vacuum BEFORE I asked if he was free – turns out he wasn’t, but the fact that this is an astonishing EP still stands. With a fantastic concept surrounding the project (all the artwork depicts eerie subterranean caverns that perfectly echo the exact sound of the dissonant abyss found within) this is still one of the best hidden gems in the underground, and this EP is equally as great as the first two.
22. THECODONTION – Jurassic (Xenoglossy Productions, Glossolalia Records, WOOAAARGH)
War metal. No guitars. Only bass. Lyrics about… dinosaurs? You better believe it, and it fucking slaps. Their second EP Jurassic is a monster, and they have a full-length album coming soon too – so read this interview I did with the beasts earlier in the year and let this dino-stomp crush you.
21. HEXEKRATION RITES – Desekration Manifesto (Atavism Records)
I’m amazed the world is still standing after this vicious blast of annihilating hatred dropped last month. Read my review here if you want to know more, but as I said there: Just listen to it. It fucking sounds like someone beginning to recite the words that will end us all.
20. PA VESH EN – Cryptic Rites Of Necromancy (Iron Bonehead Productions)
Honestly, I thought this EP was better than Pyrefication, the full-length unleashed by Belarusian wraith Pa Vesh En a few months later. Disturbing, mesmerizing, anguished; exactly what I wanted from this excellent project.
19. BYYRTH – Cold Autumn Shadows (Iron Bonehead Productions, Grey Matter Productions)
BMD had the privilege of premiering this seething opus a couple of months ago, and it’s still just as impactful now. Go play ‘Parasitic Twin’ right now and tell me it isn’t great. Go on. Do it.
18. CELESTIAL CONJURATION – Demo 1
Stellar synth-driven rawness; sorrowful, abrasive, and oh-so-cold. The second best blend of Dungeon Synth and raw black metal in demo format this year (see number 12 for the best). More proof that Australia exports top quality rawness.
17. ANDVARI – Fimbulvetr (Fólkvangr Records)
This six track debut EP from new raw pagan USBM duo Andvari (aka Nokturn and Meghan Wood) is an elemental blend of folk melodies, riffs that lockjaw on your neck and won’t let go, plus a great introductory ambient piece to boot. I don’t own this yet, but it’s the item on this list that I’ll be picking up next. You should too (from here) if you know what’s good for you.
16. ULTHA – Belong (Vendetta Records)
Confession: I’m a big fan of what these guys do… and even with that weight of expectation Belong did not let me down in any way. This “EP” is not only excellent but 40 minutes long, too – that’s an album if you ask me, but hey, I ain’t complaining.
15. NIMBIFER – Demo I
Raw black to tug at your soul. I really do need more of this. Side note: that dude on the front is me after realizing I missed out on the extremely limited tape. Repress please?
14. CARVED CROSS – Sapped Of Strength, Left To Wither And Fade Away (Perished Soil, Livor Mortis)
More astonishing raw black from Australia (Tasmania, to be precise). This might be my favourite of the Hobart horde’s recent works… which is really saying something. Powerful emotion.
13. MALAKHIM – II (Iron Bonehead Productions)
Annihilates their debut tape, which was already great. These menacing Swedish mystics have absolutely mastered what they do and are already one of the most exciting acts of their ilk, channeling powerful forces into electric compositions. Intense.
12. FALLEN FOREST – Both Demos (Lost Armor Records)
Yes, you certainly do need to hear both of these stunning demos. No, I don’t care if it’s cheating listing two releases like this. Dungeon (or “mountain”) synth and raw black done incredibly right – but it’s a side project of Coniferous Myst, so would you expect any less?
11. GEHEIMNISVOLL – Venomous Sorcery Through Hidden Darkness (Knife Vision, ASRAR)
Music to wander long forgotten hallways, haunt tombs AND run wild across moonlit landscapes to. Cold, yearning melodies and an irrepressible energy, with riffs to die for.
10. LVCIFYRE – Sacrament (Dark Descent Records)
Can black metal be brutal? Nope. Black death however, like Lvcifyre‘s Sacrament (their first work since 2014’s Svn Eater), can be brutal as fuck. This doesn’t stop until every bone in your body has been ground to dust.
9. LAMPIR – Demo III (Perverse Homage)
I love lamp. Especially necrotic, wretched, howling lamps like Demo III. I can’t see myself getting sick of this project anytime soon.
8. ATEIGGÄR – Us d‘r Höll chunnt nume Zyt (Eisenwald)
As someone else described it, which made me check it out in the first place – this sounds like Kvist with spooky choirs. You best believe I’m all in for that shit.
7. DÉLÉTÈRE – Theovorator: Babelis Testamentum (Sepulchral Productions)
This Quebecois crew have been near faultless since their inception, and this latest three tracks of hyper-melodic pestilence and fervor keeps their streak of superb releases going strong. Almost revelatory in its glorious, ecclesiastical filth.
6. Kapala – Termination Apex (Dunkelheit Produktionen)
“Hvmanity is heading towards the ultimate end and will, in time, walk in a world of only ash and death. Hvmanity is an arrogant parody of itself, writhing gleefully in a cesspool of its own making.”
So said the commandos behind Kapala when I interviewed them about Termination Apex earlier this year. This EP, like most others from the Kolkata scene, is some of the most violent music I’ve heard in my life. Pure carnage.
5. HAJDUK – All 3 EPs
I’m cheating again by including all three tapes of this Bulgarian solo project here, but you really need to listen to the trilogy in order to understand just how good the raw atmosphere here really is. Originally self-released, I believe Not Kvlt records is doing an LP soon… I’m crossing my fingers It’ll be a comp of all three together because I’d throw money at that shit so damn hard my arm would fall off.
4. BLACK SPIRIT – Behind The Light That Fades (Infinite Night Records)
If you dig raw black metal and haven’t heard this Spanish solo project, fix that immediately. Second demo Behind The Light That Fades may be unassuming at first but with repeated visits its mastery of crumbling, melodic riffs and subtly venomous vibe will sink deep into your psyche and take firm root. A great, well-rounded tape. Side note – the first demo is also amazing.
3. LAMP OF MURMUUR – Melancholy Howls In Ceremonial Penitence (Death Kvlt Productions)
I managed to score the tape of this and proceeded to almost wear it the fuck out. The other two demos released by this mysterious US spectre were also quite good, but it was Melancholy Howls In Ceremonial Penitence that resonated just right with me. Quintessential stuff.
2. DOLD VORDE ENS NAVN – Gjengangere i hjertets mørke (Soulseller Records)
Have you ever seen a reviewer use the phrase “does more in X amount of tracks than most bands do in an entire album”? The debut EP of Norwegian supergroup Dold Vorde Ens Navn is the epitome of that statement. The shades and styles this EP travels through whilst still remaining gloriously coherent and rooted in early ’90s black metal fire would warrant its place on this list alone; however there’s also the utterly undeniable talent of its esteemed creators Håvard Jørgensen (aka Haavard and Lemarchand, co-founding member of Satyricon and early Ulver member), Vicotnik (Dødheimsgard, Ved Buens Ende), Cerberus (ex- Dødheimsgard) and Myrvoll (Nidingr) to contend with. Their collective powers combine, shining through and summoning unforgettable tracks with passion, integrity and energy – I wrestled with whether or not to have this as number one, and it might even have been on a different day.
1. PLOUGHSHARE – Tellurian Insurgency (I, Voidhanger Records, Night Rhythms, Brilliant Emperor)
To some this will be a surprising choice for number one. Why? It’s largely death metal (well, blackened death, really) and as an EP, it’s a little… odd. But I fucking love it.
Readers of a certain vintage might recall trekking down to the local music dispensary as a kid to spend a few dollars on a now-unfortunately-mythical artifact known as a “CD single”. These typically took the form of the titular single, a b-side that half the time was better than the actual single, then a couple of remixes or some super experimental track that the artist would never dream of chucking on an actual album. Some of these singles were fucking excellent due to their weirdness, and that’s what Tellurian Insurgency feels like to me. There’s opener ‘Abrective Trance’ which begins in a haze of noise and proceeds to cave your head in, then ‘Indistinguishable Beast Of Flight’, which is even better… then an industrialized remix of the title track from In Offal, Salvation and the sleek experimental electronic hybrid abomination thing ‘Xeno-Chemical Insider’ to hammer the final nails in. It’s truly compelling, totally fearless, stands on its own AND leaves me salivating to see what they’re going to come up with on their next full-length excretion if they choose to dive a little deeper into these particular experimental elements and incorporate them into their sound more than ever before.
But yeah, all that aside you could only play the first two tracks and it would still likely hold up as the best of the year. Buy this, I did. Hails.
Wampyric Rites – Reflections Of A Frostbitten Moon
Wolcensmen – Fire In The White Stone
Decoherence – Decoherence
Grabesruhe – Remnants Of Primordial Knowlege
Goat Terror – Unholy March
Triumvir Foul – Urine Of Abomination
Aludra – Mass Stellar Graves
Ombrage – Witchsickle Swung Low
Unrest – Cold
Hamelin – Hamelin
Lifvsleda – Manifest MMXIX
Plaguewielder – Suffering From Self Inflicted Wounds
…with one extra note: the new Sargeist EP just dropped and would probably have clawed its way to somewhere around the top of this list if I’d had more time to spend with it, and thus judge it fairly. Suss it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Hails.
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