LISTCRUSH 2019: Dex’s Top Full-Length Albums

Okay, so here it is – my list of favoured albums that resonated with me the most over the last twelve months. These are the gems I garnered severe replay value from and that I’ll likely return to many more times in future; the ones that burrowed in deep and sat there, festering away and becoming an irreversible part of me. It may seem like a shitload but I somehow listened to somewhere around 1,200 black metal albums/demos (WORTH MORE THAN YOUR LIFE) over the last twelve months and my original shortlist was around 200 releases long, so cut me some slack here – whittling it down to 66 was hard enough.

It’s a black metal only list and only full-lengths qualify (top EPs/demos list is HERE and splits/collabs list is HERE, if you want more recommendations). Due to the sheer volume of albums I wanted to fit in I’m also being outlandishly pedantic with original release dates and other things this year, so although it’s a fucking outstanding record you won’t see stuff like Musmahhu (digital dropped December 2018 or it would have made it in for sure) or the BEKËTH NEXËHMU – De Fördolda Klangorna re-recording appear (technically first released on tape years ago even though not many heard it). There are also others like the new Mizmor that I really should’ve spent more time with, but I didn’t because I’m an idiot, so they don’t make the list. Anyway, here’s the year that was for me. Hope it was just as good for you, thanks to everyone who read my shit and to every artist either on this list or not for doing what you do with such passion, and keeping this beast known as black metal imbued with eternal life. Hails.

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66. PRIMEVAL WELLPrimeval Well

Ryan described the inspiration behind this to me as (and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this): “Some sort of alchemical urge to meld things that shouldn’t work together into one singular, organic living creation based upon what I feel is common ground between black metal, certain types of old-time music, and certain types of modern jazz”. Some of the melodies are lifted from actual folk tunes too – you really do need to listen to this to get the full, incredible picture.

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65. HAVOHEJTable Of Uncreation

Weird, probably hated by many, but I thought this was a great return for the project and I liked it far more than the last Profanatica. Pure evil.

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64. REVENANT MARQUIS – Polterngeyst

Horrible, abrasive, mind-warping, harrowing, haunting. All apt ways to describe the raw onslaught of Revenant Marquis, the apparent new master of blown-out raw madness that’s as psychologically disturbing as it is suffocating. Will drain your very essence and leave you a hollow shell.

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63. QAYIN REGISDoctrine 

Astonishing occultic debut that effortlessly delivered on all the promises made by their great first EP.

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62. MALHKEBRESatanic Resistance

Visceral and untainted satanic orthodoxy from these French apostles, who only get better with each release.

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61. DAUÞUZMonvmentvm

The miners return with another slab of perfectly executed tremolo glory and fantastic atmosphere.

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60. ASAGRAUMDawn Of Infinite Fire

“A massive album of Satanic glory that does everything right and will reignite any black flame to a blazing inferno”. Read the full review HERE.

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59. FÖRGJORDIlmestykset

“at once rough and almost riotous, yet inflicted with a deep and forlorn melancholia, and the masterful juxtaposition of these elements is a true delight to listen to. Almost every song walks dusted, long forgotten and crumbling hallways like an ancient Count Orlok from Nosferatu whilst in the same breath tears through the forest like a pack of wolves on a wild hunt”. Read the full review HERE.

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58. IFERNACHSkin Stone Blood Bone

In a word: Primal. In another word: Excellent. Three more words: Listen to it.

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57. JUTE GYTE – Birefringence

Are you insane? No? If you’re unfamiliar with Jute Gyte you might be after listening to this album. Microtonal braindance madness, and my favourite thing I’ve heard from him in a minute. Which is saying a lot.

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56 LASTERHet wassen oog

Another strange, beautiful and unique album from a strange, beautiful and unique band. Side note – W. Damiaen‘s other project Nevel also released a stunning album, Leven.

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55. STARLESS DOMAINEOS & ALMA

Yes, I’m putting these in together because they’re both equally astonishing and wonderful companion pieces to each other. Listen to them both, and read my interview with the minds behind these hypnotic forays into deep field black metal HERE.

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54. KVELGEYSTAlkahest 

The Helvetic Underground Committee does it again. These alchemical rites were positively thrilling.

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53. VOËMMR – O ovnh intot adr mordrb

“You may find yourself questioning: is this madness, the deterioration of my mental faculties? Nay – just the subterranean wraiths of Voëmmr infecting our reality with all the malignant malevolence usually hidden on the other side. For O ovnh intot adr mordrb isn’t just an album – it’s a portal to another plane of non-existence.” We were lucky enough to premiere this and speak with the Aldebaran Circle members themselves – read the full thing HERE.

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52. WARMOON LORDBurning Banners Of The Funereal War

This Finnish one man project came out of nowhere for me and surprised me with how often I returned to it. Cold, classic melody – the old-school pretty much perfected.

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51. DARKENED NOCTURN SLAUGHTERCULTMardom

Speaking of old-school perfected; the ever-reliable Onielar and co. returned with another gem. They’ve never released a bad album and Mardom drew from everything they’ve done before, with a few new twists.

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50. KËKHT ARÄKH – Night & Love

Romantic lo-fi black that probably should’ve been higher up this list due to it’s (relative) uniqueness and how damn well the whole thing is put together. Spellbinding, delicate atmosphere and raw emotion. LP is up for pre-order through Livor Mortis as we speak, by the way.

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49. BLACK CILICE – Transfixion Of Spirits

Not quite as good as Banished From Time… but still fucking great.

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48. MINENWERFERAlpenpässe

Opening your album with a 17-minute epic is the ultimate power move. US guys singing in German about Prussian involvement in WWI over gorgeous atmoblack never sounded so damned good.

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47. OBSEQUIAE – The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings

Everyone expected this to be amazing. Spoiler alert: they were correct. Medieval bliss.

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46. MYSTAGOGUEAnd The Darkness Was Cast Out Into Wilderness

Wessel Damiaen of Laster and Maurice De Jong of Gnaw Their Tongues come together to create an album that “whilst not doing anything radically unheard of, still perfectly balances all of its elements into an experience that will subtly dawn on you with increasing power. Like an ecclesiastical revelation sent from on high… and echoed down below.” Plus, it got even better the more I listened to it. Read the full review HERE.

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45. MYLINGARDöda Själar

The final panel of their Döda triptych of albums was just as face-devouring and intense as the last two. Ravenous and fetid. Where do they go from here?

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44. VAAL – Visioen van het verborgen land

Saw the fury toned down a little from previous releases, in favour of a more atmospheric menacing/morose feel – and you know what? It worked a treat. I’ve already liked everything the Dutch hermit has put out prior to this but the thick, ancient vibes conjured through these four lo-fi black tracks and four ambient interludes took the project to an entirely new level.

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43. KALEIKRHeart Of Lead

This progressive, complex and beautifully crushing album expertly blended psychedelia and dissonant death with the innate dazzling textures of Icelandic black metal; and all whilst being fed through a filter of intense emotional weight. Impacted early and had huge staying power. As a bonus, we also interviewed Kjartan HERE.

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42. OCCELENSBRIGG – Glacial Conjuration

Thus, the enigmatic Aldebaran Circle solo entity returned to us with its second full-length blizzard of raw black hypnosis, Glacial Conjuration. This project hasn’t put a foot wrong yet and the magic summoned by its swirling tremolo winds and clattering drums is no less potent here; this shit will bury you under six feet of snow and you’ll be so transfixed you won’t even bat an eyelid.

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41. HOPE DRONEVoid Lustre

Obliterating atmospheric post-black sludge-infused nihilism. Drown in the relentless devastating waves. I fucking love this band and how they’re evolving; 2020 will be the year I finally catch them when they come back down here (I’ve missed them more times than I care to count). This tape found its way to my deck many, many times.

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40. AKROTHEISMLaw Of Seven Deaths

These orthodox esotericists effortlessly outdid their already solid first album with a cosmic monument of modern black metal. Captivating and transcendent.

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39. THE DEATHTRIPDemon Solar Totem

Kvohst is back, Thomas from Mork got involved… I was not expecting new The Deathtrip but I’m far from sad we got it. A worthy successor to the superb Deep Drone Master.

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38. CULT OF EXTINCTIONRitual In The Absolute Absence Of Light

I’ll be honest – a lot of war metal/bestial black death runs the risk of all sounding the same to me. I mean shit, if I want to listen to Blasphemy or Bestial Warlust I’ll just listen to them. The stuff that really makes my pants fit nice is when bands or artists come at it from another angle, injecting their own idiosyncratic weirdness into the equation… which is where Cult Of Extinction come in. Although definitely still taking cues from the legends, the project of prolific German solo artist Void goes one further than those earthly brutalities and sophomore effort Ritual In The Absolute Absence Of Light instead sounds like the world being torn apart by occultic and alien means as all we can do is watch in abject horror. The ferocity on display is far past redlining, the harrowing audio samples only add to the mind-shredding abilities of the carnage vomiting forth from your speakers, the whole thing is almost biblical – just like the Gustave Doré cover art, this is exactly like staring into the Empyrean.

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37. HAGZISSAThey Ride Along

In their unique robes and with manic fervour they reap madness with their newly polished spells; eight shrieking and howling odes to the primal and otherworldly. It’s music that sounds like it’s been whipped to your ears on laughing winds as you stand in ragged cloth at the crossroads at midnight… Hagzissa really do walk a wild path of ancient wickedness; unfettered from the norms of regular existence, dancing on that gossamer-thin line between this earthly realm… and the other.

Came back to this magical and sinister beast many, many times. I had the immense pleasure of premiering it and interviewing founder B. Moser too; check that out HERE.

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36. PHARMAKEIA – Pharmakeia

Everything Prava Kollektiv put out this year was fantastic… and this slab of oppressive, churning violence was the best. Harrowing.

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35. DWARROWDELFOf Dying Lights

Hold up – I want to stress this isn’t a “conflict of interest” type thing. Although later on in the year Tom would end up adding his considerable class to our writing team here at BMD, this stunning album was on lock for a spot in my list regardless. Anyway, this is my personal pick for epic black metal album of the year. I also had the pleasure of premiering this album, check that (and a nice chat with the man himself) out HERE.

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34. HUMAN AGONY – Putrescence Of Calvary

Was my favourite bestial black/death release of the year for a while. “A symphony of cruelty. Pure hatred and destruction of the human race“… check the full review out HERE.

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33. GRAFVITNIRVenenum Scorpionis

“The Swedish occult black metal constellation of Grafvitnir is one of those projects intrinsic to the existence of black metal in general. They sum up the very essence of it, every release surging with the mystical power of forces unseen and calling to things beyond sight and comprehension; a grand maelstrom of hate, worship, violence and hyper-melodic intensity honed to the point where it could slice a hole in the fabric of existence itself.”

A band that has never fallen short of my expectations and this record was no different. I also got to chat with them about it earlier in the year; check that out HERE.

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32. BLUE HUMMINGBIRD ON THE LEFT – Atl Tlachinolli

One of the first albums that caught my attention for the year… possibly even in 2018 because promos came a little early, if I recall correctly. Hype built up over almost a decade to this slab of Aztec / Black Twilight Circle war, and it was worth the wait.

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31. TEITANBLOODThe Baneful Choir

Slightly more accessible than their recent work and not quiiiiite up to Seven Chalices level, this typically dissonant monstrosity of nightmare-fuel still hit the spot for me. Could listen to the title track all day, which is probably an odd one to pick out of the bunch, but hey.

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30. DRASTUS – La Croix De Sang

Surprisingly this turned out to be a fairly divisive release between those that loved it and those who didn’t understand the hype at all. One guess which camp I’m firmly in.

“A divine conflagration crawling from the primordial core of life, reaching to devour all, and bring only ash” …read the full review HERE.

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29. WAGNER ÖDEGÅRD – Om undergång och de tretton järtekn

Released a pair of great eponymous albums this year but this one he let really rip with the punk influences, so it is therefore superior and takes the chocolates in my books.

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28. IMPAVIDAAntipode

Returning after eleven years in the abyss with the aptly named He, Who Walketh The Void on vocals, this album is genuinely unsettling as hell. As I said in the full review (HERE), it “…continues the path set out by the first two releases with impressive ease and a natural evolution into even further realms of unfolding terror and darkness. On sheer feeling alone experiencing this record is akin to sitting through some kind of mind-blowingly expansive psychological/occultic horror film. Complete immersion via repeat listens yields immense reward, but be warned; the terror may shatter your fragile synapses, turn your blood to ice… perhaps even burn you alive.”

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27. BETHLEHEMLebe dich leer

Onielar’s second appearance on this list hit me even harder than the first – her throat-shredding howls are fucking perfect for the DSBM originators’ inventive compositions.

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26. SÜHNOPFERHic Regnant Borbonii Manes

Hyper medieval melodies are king on this glorious monarchial maelstrom. Still blows me away each time I listen to it.

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25. MORKDet Svarte Juv

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: True Norwegian Black Metal will never die as long as Mork are still around to carry the torch with great albums like this.

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24. YELLOW EYESRare Field Ceiling

Immersion Trench Reverie was my 2017 album of the year. This didn’t hit quite the same heights, but is still a near immaculate record.

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23. ANTICHRIST SIEGE MACHINE – Schism Perpetration

This album hits fucking HARD. Riffs ahoy, delivered with punishing force. The track ‘Prime Mover’ alone is insane… I can only applaud.

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22. FUNERAL PRESENCE – Achatius 

I saw this recently described as “taking 10g of dried Hawaiian psilocybin mushrooms in a posessed 16th century convent”, which isn’t too far from the truth. Vital stuff with a pure and irrepressible black metal spark.

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21. VARGRAVReign In Supreme Darkness

“What works? Everything. What doesn’t work? Nothing. With his second Vargrav offering V-KhaoZ has surpassed all comparisons to take the throne and reign in the modern era alongside all the old masters. Reign In Supreme Darkness is no mere copy or homage, no tribute album trading on nostalgia… it is Supreme Majestic Black Metal Art. Bow down.”

I was super pumped on scoring the full-stream premiere of this before it fell through at the eleventh hour – but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it one bit. Read the full review HERE.

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20. VANUMAgeless Fire

Grandiose, powerful, melodic… this irresistible album stayed with me all year. Still love that cover art, too.

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19. ALTARAGEThe Approaching Roar

This approaching roar consumed all in its path, swarming and devouring, leaving only decimation in its wake. Altarage are unstoppable.

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18. KAMPFAROfidians Manifest

After some health problems, the Norwegians are back with serious intent. The breathtaking Ofidians Manifest is their strongest work in a very long time.

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17. SINMARAHvísl Stjarnanna

Originally, I was lukewarm on this album… now I cannot get enough of it. Þórir Garðarsson and Garðar S. Jónsson seem to unstitch reality with their riffs. Swirling, bewitching, celestial goodness.

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16. SØRGELIGWe, The Oblivious

“Challenging you to confront and accept the pointlessness of it all, this album is emotional warfare. A mandatory listen for those who will understand. Buy or die, it doesn’t matter… just accept the void.”

This ended up a chronically underappreciated album for the year. Read the full review HERE and then listen to the fucking thing, alright?

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15. BARSHASKETHBarshasketh

For their fourth album, the UK demons distilled their potent concoction into arguably its most potent form yet. Black metal as a weapon.

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14. STELLAR DESCENTMoss

I’m sure even the gentlemen that created this incredible moment in art might even be surprised to see it so loftily placed in this list (especially when they released another, more black metal album this year too), but just listen to it and you’ll see why. It still touches me deeply with every mesmerizing spin.

“To fully feel this album, go outside into nature, as far away from anything civilised as you can go, and just sit. Close your eyes, feel the air on your skin and… listen. You’ll sink into an appreciation of the fabric of life, seeing all the threads that make up our existence intertwine together into the intrinsic tapestry that we walk through every day, yet ignore due to the very nature of the world we have created for ourselves. One that we should pay more attention to before it’s too late. This album is a reminder. Don’t miss it.

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13. GOLDEN ASHES – Gold Are The Ashes Of The Restorer

…and the award for most stunningly coherent holistic expression of vision in 2019 goes to: this magnificent creation. Another project from Maurice of Gnaw Their Tongues, everything here ties in with perfect synergy – the album art, album title, track titles, hell even the project name are the very manifestation of the transcendent music found within, and all create something overwhelmingly beautiful.

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12. BORKNAGARTrue North

Was not expecting this album to stick with me as much as it did; I’ve always liked everything the Norwegians have done, but not loved it like this. Soaring, progressive, wondrous stuff – with a few new members and ICS Vortex back on the mic, this was a revitalized, resounding triumph.

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11. QUALM – Tiefe

I don’t know what I expected from this album when I saw the cover art, but it certainly wasn’t the most raw, miasmic, miserable and mood-altering record of the year. The vibe here is nothing short of incredible as hypnotic waves of slow abrasion induce a trancelike, life-leaving state; the way this album feels speaks deeply to my soul. When this shit gets rolling it makes Xasthur seem like the happiest dude on earth. Drowning, portrayed in the harshest of audio forms.

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10. MISÞYRMINGAlgleymi

First listen I quite liked this record, then I went off it a bit. Then one day I chucked it back on and it clicked like never before – it was all I listened to on repeat for days, and has remained in my regular playlist since then. Yeah, it certainly has its flaws, but by taking a totally different approach to their debut the Icelanders have created something stirring and electrifying… and oddly life-affirming. Probably a good one to listen to after Qualm, then.

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9. CULT OF ERINYESÆstivation

Holy FUCK this album is a monster. Came out of nowhere at the end of the year and forced its way almost immediately to the top tier of this list. Hands down the best thing they’ve put their name to; a career defining release. “…a relentless onslaught that blows away anything they’ve put their name to thus far; it’s more intense yet with deeper textures than ever before, far more abrasive, more epic in composition… more transcendent. Every searing note is another scrape against your soul, slowly scouring it away with growing violence until it is left raw and bleeding.” Read the full review HERE.

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8. DAI-ICHI – dai-ichi

This mysterious duo came from nowhere (Japan? Who knows) with the sleeper hit of the year. It was also the first original vinyl put out by one of BMD‘s favourite cassette labels, Fólkvangr Records – so you should buy one and support. ‘Seishi’ is still one of my top tracks of 2k19 – check out our premiere of it HERE.

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7. AKASHACanticles Of The Sepulchral Deity

Charging d-beat mayhem tears strips off of coruscating raw black, sinks its teeth into heavy metal and drags it flailing and bleeding through the dirt. Right from the get-go the guitar tone alone acts as a conduit for fearful mysticism and visions of arcane electrical storms crackling wildly into the night, off kilter riffage careening along as songs sound inches from flying off the rails… and it’s all deliciously drenched in a virulent strain of howling sanguinary misanthropia and the pungent stench of disinterred tombs.” If you somehow haven’t heard this album yet, fix that immediately – even Shatraug of Sargeist rated this as one of the best of the year. Read our interview with sole practitioner Leech HERE.

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6. DEATHSPELL OMEGAThe Furnaces Of Palingenesia

“We will grant you freedom from freedom”. A controversial inclusion? This is, to me, the best thing they’ve done since Paracletus (which is one of my albums of the decade). Hasjarl really is one of the most creative players out there.

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5. DEPARTURE CHANDELIER – Antichrist Rise To Power

Man, had I been looking forward to a full-length from these guys… and oh man did they deliver, adding to what is one of my favourite slowly growing discographies in black metal with a glorious, almost faultless record. Also took the honors of being one of the most memed bands of 2019. Neat.

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4. RINGARË – Under Pale Moon

In the entirety of 2019 I played no tape in my possession more than I did the Forgotten Centuries hand-dub of Under Pale Moon. It became my go-to for late night writing sessions, its haunting midnight atmospheres and otherworldly synth a catalyst for slipping into transcendent mental realms and inspiring creativity. Am I infinitely grateful Alex finally decided to release this after all these years? Yes, I am.

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3. SAMMATHAcross The Rhine Is Only Death

Don’t get me wrong, I love nuance and subtlety in my black metal as much as the next person. I can get down to some soft stuff when the mood takes. However, a massive part of my listening pleasure is also derived from hearing pure, uncompromising, skull-shattering aggression and holy fucking shit did this album utterly nail that brief for me. The gents in Sammath perfected their formula with an album that was the very sound of war; an obliterating beast of balls to the fucking wall hatred, relentless death and frenzied blood-flecked carnage. I can only salute them in awe. It’s probably also the review I enjoyed writing the most last year, read the full thing HERE.

Sammath are the boot on your neck, the gun barrel pointed at your face as you cry and piss yourself in the mud. Across The Rhine Is Only Death is the bullet going through your brain as you choke your last breath.

The ultimate war album. Fucking die.

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2. BLUT AUS NORDHallucinogen

This was my number one for the longest time, switching back and forth with Sammath depending on the day. The Frenchmen mutated their sound even further, adding classic and progressive rock elements… resulting in their best work in years. I love albums that do odd things to your head, and this psychedelic trip into worlds unknown definitely does. Ivan did a great review of this which echoes my own sentiments well, so instead of blathering on further I’ll just say: check that out HERE.

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1. NEDXXX – NEDXXX 

I’m sure at least half of you are reading this saying “what the actual fuck? This album dropped extremely late in the year, I didn’t even like it, how the shit could this poser have it at number one?” Well hold onto your Mayhem undies kids, I shall explain.

As I said way back in the intro, I listen to a relatively large amount of music each year (nowhere near as much as some), and often find myself thinking about that age-old edgelord chestnut – is black metal really dying? I mean, look at most of the stuff that gets praised each year. Look at your own favourite albums. Chances are, at the most basic level many if not all are a slightly rearranged or altered copy of something else that you already liked the previous year. And the year before that. And so on. Not only sonically, but in image, album title, the works. Even in extreme metal, all too often everything is expected, everything is safe – in the age of clicking scores of Bandcamp/YouTube links per day, if it’s not immediately familiar with a sound that people already identify with it’s often discarded in favour of the next thing released thirty seconds later. Not always, but often; that’s just how shit is nowadays. Paradoxically, that’s what largely happened with NEDXXX… and that’s what it seems actively designed to challenge.

If NEDXXX is similar to anything, you could say there are shades of the mighty Abigor within, especially the latter day albums. It’s not too much of a stretch to assume TT is somehow involved – I couldn’t think of too many others who would create this. Whoever it is, they’ve seemingly written the album with the intent to tap into something discussed by a voice in the centre of the album – the DIABOLICAL. As the voice states: “What is the diabolic? The diabolic disrupts. It comes from the Greek words Dia and Boli. Diaboli means to tear apart, rip asunder. Anything therefore that breaks pattern. That destroys unity. That corrupts gestalt. Produces discord. That is the diabolic”.

This album is the diabolic manifested, obtaining “evil” through tearing apart all of the safe, expected and endlessly repeated tropes of what you expect from a black metal album and leaving a truly expressive and creative conduit for unspeakable forces. It doesn’t even have a fucking name. I’ve seen many people saying they tried it once or for a track or two but they couldn’t handle the “mathcore” influence/complexity, or it was just noise, or boring. Where were the same old blasts and tremolo lines, or if it was supposed to be some sort of dissoblack, why wasn’t it a DSO copy? It immediately challenged people’s perception of what they expected to hear, it rebelled and attempted to corrupt expectations. For this is not an easy-lisening album – It’s impossibly complex, for starters. Almost Naked City level batshit. It shreds, blasts, switches on a dime at least twenty times in each track, has bongos, dialogue samples, clean proselytizing and distorted roars, takes an immensely intricate approach to composition. It demands attention, investment… and this investment pays off. Peel back the layers, allow its complex patterns to assimilate with your synaptic pathways and a doorway will open – a doorway only true black art can breach, and which all too few artists are attempting to even reach these days, content to release the same old stuff. A doorway to the true diabolic, one of the core tenets of black metal itself.

So yeah, simply put, for me this is the most creative and (yes, I ACCEPT YOUR WRATH) “black metal” album released this year. I’ve listened to it countless times since release, bought the LP and all. Of course, many people hated it. I wholeheartedly recommend you just try it again for yourself, forget about everything else and listen. Absorb.

Open the doorway. Hails.

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Near Misses:

You should also check out the recent albums by Degredo, Ancestral Shadows, Regnans, Arnaut Pavle, Beorn’s Hall, Penance Stare, Wormwitch, Nocturnal Departure, An Isolated Mind, Mizmor, Sutekh Hexen, Frostveil, Nordjevel, Runespell, Djevel, Earth And Pillars, Sun Worship, Arkona, Haunter, Gardsghastr, Örmagna, Keres, Sores, Marras, Ashen Chalice, Waste Of Space Orchestra, Defacement, Revenant Marquis, Witchbones, Gorgon, Vukari, Aegrus, Consummation, Vessel Of Iniquity, Sadisme, Cthonica, all the Prava Kollektiv stuff, Sarke, Schammasch, Mephorahsh, Vástígr, Bednja, Worsen, Wolok and Mo’ynoq. All of these are also fucking great records, and either just missed out or might have made the list if I’d been able to spend more time with them. Oh, and the new Mayhem was solid enough… but we’ve all heard that.

Best Tribute Album: Lords Of The North – A Tribute To Bathory (Fólkvangr Records)

A labour of love from the Fólkvangr stable with a stunning result. Read my full review HERE. Closely followed by the great Devastators Of The Suns (A Tribute To Katharsis) by Bile Noire.

Biggest Letdown: MGŁAAge Of Excuse

Felt like a largely boring rehash without the spark of previous works, took an entire album to get to the one great song (the last one).

…and that’s it. Listcrush done for another year. Cheers again, maniacs. Hails.

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LISTCRUSH 2019: The Ivan Gossage Edition

Hails to Order Ov The Black Arts, Black Metal Daily, and any readers gracious enough to spend time reading what will follow. 2019 has been a hell of a year for extreme metal, and these are my top 57 picks of the year. There’s a hierarchy here, but only by tier… those that fall within a given tier are generally interchangeable and honestly even the margins of each tier are a little arbitrary to some extent, but this seems like the most feasible way to provide some sort of structure.

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FIRST TIER: ALBUM OF THE YEAR

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DisillusionThe Liberation

I could write a short novel about my experience with Disillusion, but that would be boring for you, too personally revealing for me, and marginally inappropriate for this forum since Disillusion isn’t black metal. Sitting midway between progressive epic death metal (think An Abstract Illusion, Ne Obliviscaris, or Eternal Storm [see below]) and progressive modern rock (i.e. Tool), Disillusion can be squarely described as epic progressive metal. Their 2004 album Back To Times of Splendor is THE album I would choose if I could only choose one album to listen to forevermore (except if I were living in the snow, then it would be The Mantle by Agalloch), and The Liberation is a sequel to Back to Times of Splendor. The music?… you will just have to listen for yourself, don’t expect anything too aggressive, and I’m never surprised when other listeners aren’t nearly as hyped about it because so much of my listening experience is wrapped up in subjective contexts. Just listen to ‘In Waking Hours’ and ‘Wintertide’ (songs 1 & 2) with headphones and no distractions… if it doesn’t resonate with you I get it, but I can’t really adequately express how this album resonates with me, and I’m not going to try. Bottom line, it’s probably my favorite thing that has been released since 2015 except for Schammasch’s Maldoror Chants EP. Favorite tracks: ‘Wintertide’, ‘A Shimmer In The Darkest Sea’ [Tool fans should check that one out], and ‘The Liberation’.

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SECOND TIER (six selections)

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SaorForgotten Paths

This was probably my most anticipated release coming into 2019 except for Schammasch and Fleshgod Apocalypse. Since it was released early in the year, because it is so short, and because my love of the album was reinforced by seeing Saor live at Fire In The Mountains festival, it almost certainly gets the award for most spin time. Three epic Caledonian tracks and a nice filler outro that I nevertheless bother listening to. Did I mention that it is short? Yeah, that’s my only complaint… the album length, as well as more nuanced details like the physical presence of the vinyl (regular sleeve instead of elaborate gatefold with poster like the previous 3 albums) makes me really want to accuse this release of being an EP. That aside, the music is PHENOMENAL. Three tracks make picking top songs pretty pointless, so I’d like to recommend full volume on the track ‘Forgotten Paths’ at 4:20 (do you hear that crazy rubbing sound that the bass starts doing at 4:28-30?! What the IS that?!) and the chorus’ of ‘Brón’. Saor has since signed to Season of Mist, and Andy is already working on the next album. Yes, please.

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MisþyrmingAlgleymi

Unlike Saor and Schammasch, I was completely blindsided by this one. When it went up for preorder I blew it off because there was no preview track. Big mistake, which was almost instantly rectified upon hearing the first minute of the first song. Aggressive, catchy, subtly epic, and with good amount of attention paid to seriously rocking the fuck out… to put it simply, Algleymi has everything that I look for in black metal… not just in timbre, but in attitude as well: “It is our utmost conviction that the artist ought to stand beyond good or evil and that the pursuit of his or her artistic goals should therefore remain untouched by considerations pertaining to critical reception, the sensitivity of a potential audience, or anything that would detract from the full accomplishment of those artistic goals. Taking into creative consideration the very fragile current zeitgeist would render any piece of art absolutely harmless and devoid of worth … let us leave the world of binary thinking for a minute, concentrate solely on the individual of exceptional fabric, and dream aloud.” [D.G., Bardo Methodology interview, 2019]. Full Support. Favorite tracks: I don’t know… fucking… all of them I think.

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AoratosGods Without Name

The prolific output of Naas Alcameth makes it difficult to resist exacting upon Aoratos a bit of comparative analysis against its infernal siblings. What Aoratos projects is a supernatural force which is both external and worldly, and can hence be more easily demarcated from the dread internal psychic nightmare of Akhlys, as well as from the more subterranean hellish inferno of Bestia Arcana. That leaves Nightbringer as Aoratos’ closest relative, but here there are important differences. Lacking the epic keyboards and heightened shrill falsetto guitar lead of Nightbringer and bringing instead a nuanced industrial edge, Aoratos forgoes the immense, sprawling apocalypse of Nightbringer and instead emotes a monstrous haunting; more local, more rural, and more terrestrial. The power of this album is absolutely annihilating. Recommended: ‘Gods Without Name’, ‘Thresher’, ‘Watcher on the Threshold’. See full review HERE.

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SchammaschHearts Of No Light

One of my two most anticipated albums of the year, Schammasch (unlike Fleshgod Apocalypse) did not disappoint. Overall, both lyrically and musically, Hearts Of No Light exudes something that is darker, more negative, and more personal than previous albums. Lacking the usual concrete motif, Hearts Of No Light instead consists of multiple tenebrous approaches to a wider and more varied array of areas deep within, where shadowy undercurrents hold sway, where rays of light are glimpsed, and where outward cohesion begins to dissolve. In this way, Hearts Of No Light signifies a progression not only in terms of wider musical variance, but also in the way that the whole is composed… while each track addresses different nebulous aspects of being and tends to individually move from a state of abstraction towards increased emotive cohesion, of the lack of a distinct overarching thesis is itself a statement about the chaos and darkness of inner existential turmoil. Recommended tracks: ‘Ego Sum Omega’, ‘I Burn Within You’, ‘Katabasis’. See full review HERE.

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AsagraumDawn of Infinite Fire

If you are looking for straightforward, no frills, epically aggressive familiar Swedish sound (ala Sworn To The Dark / Lawless Darkness and Vobiscum Satanas / Diabolus Interim) complete with persistently satanic themes, casually blazing riffs, relentlessly tasty ballistic percussion, scorching vocals and that horns-in-the-air ‘let’s burn this fucker to the ground’ insolence, look no further than this musical inferno. Everything about this release positively glows with sincere and authentic classic black metal audacity, and they are doing it WAY THE FUCK BETTER than more established contemporary acts (yes, looking right at you, Watain and Dark Funeral). These ladies are fucking DOMINATING right now and if you like that style and you haven’t been paying attention, please get off your ass, because Dawn of Infinite Fire is downright ruthless. Recommended tracks… fuck, same as Misþyrming, this whole thing is amazing.

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MephorashShem Ha Mephorash

Shem Ha Mephorash is a work of massive ambition, and I have to admit that a significant part of the appeal is not just the music (which is fantastic but pointedly contemplative and ecclesial and not necessarily superior to 1557-Rites of Nullification in my opinion) but the sheer developmental advancement and enormity of the album (clocks in at 74 minutes), the stunning artwork of the physical product, and the overall level of ambition and coherence. The lines between the daemonic and theistic blur here as Mephorash seems to obscure such trivial distinctions, the trumpets of both Heaven and Hell harkening a sacred fire to the spirit, casting the listener simultaneously above as crystalized vapors of ethereal perfection and below to infernal ashes of annihilation. Woe to the profane secular flesh and petty ego, gasping and choking on the smoke from a numinous flame. A modern esoteric black metal masterpiece, Shem Ha Mephorash radiates with transcendence, sacramental power, and a terrible, beautiful white flame of holy judgement. See full review HERE.

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THIRD TIER (ten selections)

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KaleikrHeart of Lead

This one is a bit of an enigma. There’s a LOT going on here that Kaleikr managed to seam together very well. Starting out very close to the beautiful, utra-melodic, atmospheric black metal sensibility of Saor’s Forgotten Paths (ironic because the albums were released at almost the same time), Heart of Lead quickly evolves in a myriad of different directions, like more menacing progressive black metal, technical death metal, progressive death metal, and prog-rock. It even gets a little bit into that claustrophobic and suffocating Icelandic sound with the short title track… but this is minimal and not overdone. A good thing in my personal opinion.

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Musmahhu – Reign of the Odious

A fucking savage blackdeath offering curtesy of Swartadauþuz, mastermind behind Bekëth Nexëhmü, contributor to Gardsghastr (see below), and a surfeit of other extreme projects. This one ranks as perhaps the most violent of all my year-end picks, and might be compared somewhat to Aoratos as an immediate reference. Reign of the Odious is more death metal-oriented, but similar in terms of unremittent pitch-black maelstrom mixed with subtle industrial(ish) elements and an undercurrent of epic cataclysmic ruin. Completely necessary. 

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Eternal StormCome The Tide

I won’t get too into it because it isn’t black metal, but this is a magnificently written, powerful, very melodic opus of beautiful epic artful death metal, which got LOTS of playtime from me. For fans of An Abstract Illusion, Exsickator, and Rivers Of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name (but more melodic DM than technical DM). Recommended tracks: ‘Through the Wall of Light Pt. I (The Strand), ‘Through the Wall of Light Pt. II (Immersion)’, ‘The Mountain’.

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WormwoodNattarvet

In 20+ years of listening to extreme metal, there has been only ONE time that an initial listening experience was so profound that I was almost brought to tears from the opening minutes of a song… What is crucial about ‘The Isolationist’ (the last song, track 7)  and in a more general sense Nattarvet as a whole, is the ability to capture a profound paradox: It is a journey both within and also beyond, aptly conjoining the psychological tragedy of isolation with the coldness of natural indifference, and achieving a dissolution of the self through immersion in the solitude that pervades reality as a whole. See full review HERE.

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HathOf Rot and Ruin

Another death metal album. A fantastic one… a near perfect combination of groove, speed, classiness, melodicism, brutality, progressiveness, and technicality, complete with tasteful acoustic interludes and fantastic vocal variation. For fans of Black Crown Initiate before Black Crown Initiate decided to try to sound like Tool. With vocals kind of like Travis Ryan ala Cattle Decapitation, but without those melodic highs. It’s really just badass in every way.

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PanzerfaustThe Suns of Perdition, Chapter 1: War, Horrid War

Monstrous, crushing, war-themed blackdeath with limited tasteful atonality, overpowering vocals, and some doomish sensibilities (mostly in terms of production and an overall sense of progressive desolating inevitability, not in terms of speed)… what can be said about this album that hasn’t been said before and more elaborately? This is one that just demands a listen in order to get it. It’s difficult for me to describe it in a way that makes the album sound unique, but it IS unique, and its short length and promise of subsequent installments makes it easily digestible, leaving one pining for more. I hope we get it in 2020.

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Totaled – Lament

You ever get those moments when you give your chosen listening device a raised eyebrow because of all of the asskickery that is suddenly occurring? Like it was sort of kicking ass in the first place but then it gets taken to the next level and hits that sweet spot when you are just like ‘fuuuuuck’? Well, Lament has a SHITLOAD of those moments. It’s a fusion of black metal and galloping no-damns-given punk/crust/core/grind/violence/something belligerence. On the BM side of things there’s some classic Swedish melody taking place, not unlike old Dissection or mid-era Watain, etc., but there also some much more aggressive, cutthroat Tsjuder-like ripping which really helps bridge the gap between the epic melody and the whateverthefuckitis in such a way that the tracks can vacillate between the disparate styles and sometimes outright mix them together while always sounding entirely seamless. I managed to pounce on the last fancy LP on Bandcamp and the package came with this really cool set of Tarot cards which match the cover art. Definitely highlights this as a top release for me.

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VukariAevum

With only moderate hype, this album turned a lot of heads when it dropped (at least in my social media circles)… and for good reason. Progressive black metal done perfectly: great focus, great balance, great drive, great production. The sound, while not as “warm” as one would find with many post-black offerings, but it is certainly not “cold” either, and the mix embraces the sort of enveloping, balanced, crystalline density that one can find, for example, with Gaerea’s Unsettling Whispers (2018)  or Beltez’s Exiled, Punished, Rejected (2017) … the sort of mix where you can hear everything, nothing is in excess, and it all sounds terrific. There’s nothing here that isn’t downright tasteful, and it fucking rocks on top of it.

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Vortex of EndArdens Fvror

Vortex of End definitely gets my most underappreciated band of the year vote. Despite one previous album already under the belt, captivating album artwork, a surprisingly elaborate physical product (I grabbed a gold LP), and my own best efforts, it never really seemed like Ardens Fvror gained much traction as the triumphant black metal monument that I think it is. Musically, this is undeniably compelling: a slightly death-tinged, powerful, ferocious, yet artistic orthodox BM masterwork with an array of exciting elements and plenty of room to breathe. The vocals are particularly noteworthy… varied, interesting, and effective. What it reminds me the most of is a more muscular evolution of Ascension’s acclaimed Consolamentum album, while simultaneously being much better than anything Ascension itself has put out since. PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS. 

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RorcalMuladona

Based on a novel of the same name by Eric Stener Carlson, and featuring narration of the story by the author, Muladona is the extreme auditory interpretation of a horrific tale of disease and decay, death, violence and stench, grotesque pubescence and entrenched evil. Heavy to the point of devastating, suffocatingly dense, and with a compressed magnitude which is a bit hard to explain, it is no surprise that Metal Archives inadequately describes the band as “Sludge/Doom Metal/Post-Hardcore” but, I’m somewhat curious that the “Blackened” tag is omitted. I’m not sure about older albums, but this one certainly warrants it. Much like the Reverorum Ib Malacht release last year (but sounding nothing like it) my reaction isn’t really “I like this”, but more like “I am in awe of this”.

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FOURTH TIER (fifteen selections)

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Blut Aus NordHallucinogen

Hallucinogen is a prismatic, spiraling, inspired voyage that intentionally waxes towards both the outer realms of cognition as well as towards the far fringes of an eccentric discography which is already so varied and visionary that Blut Aus Nord holds a categorically exclusive, unique, and unmatched status within black metal at large. See full review HERE.

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Drawn Into DescentEndless Endeavour

A melancholic and moving combination of DSBM (which I almost never listen to) and post-black warmth. Much like the Wormwood release, the album is full of quality tracks, but there’s one that really caused me to make the investment, and that was “Wither” (track 2), which a peer shrewdly described as “the ‘Sultans of Swing’ of black metal”… can you hear it? Since I do believe that ‘Sultans of Swing’ is probably one of the best 5 rock songs ever written, let’s just say I was convinced.

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AshbringerAbsolution

Easy Americana-folk infused barelyblackmetal with meandering, woodsy melodies, lightly cascading percussion, straightforward vocals, positive Lennon-esque message, and a very organic, natural, mellow production. Very little distortion or aggression to be found here, this is for times of peace. My only complaint is that the vocals could use some variation, they stick to the Harakiri For The Sky-ish yelling pretty much exclusively. Quite beautiful overall though and probably my most laid-back pick of the year. Great tunes for a wayward northwestern drive amongst the trees, and truly a unique album, musically and visually.

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AkashaCanticles Of The Sepulchral Deity

Malignant, audacious, and relentlessly abrasive, Akasha is a hybrid of venomous, frenzied raw black metal and savage, necksnapping D-beat driven crustpunk. Unlike Totaled, there is zero melody to found in these tracks, only slight variations of speed which ranges from paced predatorial malevolence to frenetic, driving bloodlust, all the while spearheaded by riffs to rip out your throat and vocals to mar your soul. Shockingly, singularly, and utterly vicious.

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ConsummationThe Great Solar Hunter

Pummeling drums drive forward anxious riffing before seamlessly progressing to up-tempo headbanging extravaganza sections. Short but violent guitar solos are dispersed throughout, as downtempo passages featuring ominous chants emerge. Mid-paced groove proves to be one of the more stellar aspects of the album, among many other impressive qualities. Swirling, threatening, almost nauseating guitars atop simple ritualistic beats transition to more doomy, melancholic, and at times quite beautiful measures featuring soaring leads and spoken word. See full review HERE.

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Gardsghastr – Slit Throat Requiem

For me, there’s a lot to not like with about 95% of all modern symphonic black metal. Gardsghastr, essentially a supergroup comprised of Swartadauþuz (Bekëth Nexëhmü, Musmahhu, etc.), Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Entheogen, Skáphe, etc.), the Blackburn brothers (Chaos Moon, Accursed Aeons, Guðveiki, etc.) and relative newcomer voice Glömd avoids all of those pitfalls, hurling forth an album that is at once grandiose and furious. Symphonic elements accentuate the songs instead of trying to carry them, and the tracks blast forward with surprising aggression and brazen scorn, tempting comparisons to more assaultive works within the subgenre like Anorexia Nervosa’s Drudenhaus (but less reliant on orchestration) and Nightbringer’s faster songs.

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AihosHävityksen Maa

Immediately virulent melodies ala MGLA, Dumal, or Uada… helplessly addictive headbanging-in-traffic grooves… beautiful clean acoustic moments… unabashed black and roll qualities of Instinct / Assassins era Nachtmystium… the folk inspired flavors of Nokturnal Mortum… both the classic magnitude of Sworn / Lawless and the more stripped-down galloping orthodoxy of Casus / Trident Watain… fateful march-for-the-horizon-with-your-head-held-high epic ala Catamenia‘s Winternight Tragedies… and all wrapped up in just the right amount of Finnish fuzz. It might not be breaking any huge molds, but this album interweaves multiple facets of straightforward melodic black metal. An instant classic, second in line for most underappreciated album of the year.

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UltarPantheon MMXIX

A critically underrated release from earlier this year. A soaring and complex melodic post-black Lovecraftian opus with a long list of fine attributes, not least of which is an amazing and varied vocal performance and soul-tugging guitar solos. While the music tends towards epic, bombastic scales, the vocals serve to maintain integration with both more traditional black metal currents as well as loop in some post-rock and black-folk elements (specifically similar to the little-known American one-man act Appalachian Winter). I was midway through the third track on the first playthrough when I found myself going for the Buy Record/Vinyl button.

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GrimaWill of the Primordial

Nature-centered and frost bitten, this Siberian black metal places a heavy emphasis on melancholic inflection, an icy subzero vocal delivery, and shitload of damn appropriate accordion. Not to mention other cool stuff like winter bells, blizzards of furious double kick, and whirling guitar riffs, and frigid synth. As a bonus, when Naturmacht Productions opened up preorders they also made the previous album, Tales of the Enchanted Woods available on vinyl for the first time. Thankyouverymuch.

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SühnopferHic Regnant Borbonii Manes

It is difficult to describe what takes place across the vast and furious sonic landscape of this albumThe music embodies austere medieval granite… yet shimmers with golden empyrean aristocracy; the sound is gritty and hard… yet so clearly of the air and the heavens; belligerent and ruthless… but brimming with a passionate hyper-melodicism; a furious bombardment of harmonized antipodes. It is a shockingly flawless display of weightless chaos and choreographed intensity, breathtaking not only for its sheer aesthetic beauty but also because one can scarcely comprehend how such a beautiful maelstrom of orchestrated complexity is possible. Disorientation almost guaranteed unless full attention is given, and even then, it’s a gamble. See full review HERE.

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Remete – Into Endless Night

Steadily driving, foggy melodic black metal, courtesy of D, mastermind behind post-black prototype Woods of Desolation and the rawer(ish) and folk-energized Forest Mysticism. Synth and probably various other instruments adding heavy doses of melancholic presence make this some perfect wintertime midnight music which gets better with every subsequent listen. Into Endless Night is at the top of my list of albums that I’m willing to get pressed onto vinyl at some point. 

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Dead To A Dying WorldElegy

Sort of an odd pick for me if I’m being honest. Also, hard to categorize with some sludgy elements, progressive aspects, doom pacing, black metal flourishes, and “epic crust” is given a nod on their Bandcamp page. Also, multiple vocal styles of deep roaring, blackish screaming, male and female cleans, and array of interesting instrumentation including viola, hurty gurty, Hammond organ, piano, tubular bells, clarinet, hammer dulcimer, and cello. Forlorn, complex, and heart-wrenchingly beautiful much of the time, the wake of my own personal hype surrounding this release led me to retro-collect their entire catalogue, and I regret nothing. 

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NoctemThe Black Consecration

With The Black Consecration, Noctem have definitively annihilated any preconceived notions of what their 5th studio album should sound like… and it is tremendous. Abandoned are many of the death metal elements, grandiose epic flourishes, crystal clear pristine production, and overall vastness of musical concept. What has been embraced is something significantly more stripped down but not raw, focused but not primitive, and straightforward but not simplistic… something more… black metal, and with a noteworthy compacted production to boot. See full review HERE.

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The Great Old OnesCosmicism

Like some immense cosmic horror, tentacles reaching through time and space to spread its monstrous alchemy across the vast universe, Cosmicism is immense, Lovecraftian supernaturalism, carefully layered into ambitious and complex, deep yet expansive melodic black metal. The void’s cold smolder, the frothing of measureless and beautiful empyrean dread emanates from these tracks, not in a relentless explosion, but in a calculated, purposeful, majestic cosmic imperialism, more powerful with every return.

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NihilismObscurite Noir

Jet-black and insidious, this album makes use of addictive, needling riffing (including something that sounds, awesomely, almost identical to parts of the anxiety-inducing film score in 28 Days Later [track 2]) and blistering percussion. It was one of the earliest albums I found this year that really resonated with me (Veldes being the only one of note that I discovered prior to it), and thus it has gotten a lot of periodic listens over the last 12 months, each time reminding me just how fucking solid it is. I would certainly buy this on vinyl, were it available.

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FIFTH TIER (twenty-five selections)

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Veldes – Flameless

This one has the benefit of being the very first album that resonated with me in 2019… earnest, verdant, nature-based melodic post-black luxuriance with prominent (if slightly overbearing) vocals. FFO Woods of Desolation etc. etc.

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Ancient Hostility – Ancient Hostility

Vitriolic black metal with scornful, torturous, and pensive mid-to-slow paced music and absolutely caustic, scathing vocal delivery courtesy of Imber (ex Synodic, Aludra, and hopefully more TBA!).

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Decoherence – Ekpyrosis

Unnerving dissonance, mechanized inertia, catastrophic atmosphere, and ominous spirit, this is Blut Aus Nord worship of the highest order, managing, like Almyrkvi (Umbra, 2017), to surpass the master.

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Qayin Regis – Doctrine

Excellent occult black metal, reminiscent of a more stripped down variation of Naas Alcameth’s various projects (mostly due to the vocals, but also due to a palpable sense of authenticity) with Schammasch-like meditative pacing and even DSO Si Monvmentvm Reqvires Circvmspice style riffing at times.

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Beorn’s Hall – In His Granite Realm

American Viking/black, surprisingly pleasing despite (or maybe because of?) a particular looseness and rudimentary approach with timing, tempo, and production.

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Falaise – A Place I Don’t Belong

Urban, isolative, and despondent, this is warm post-black featuring a particular song that is heroin-level addictive (‘Leaves in the Wind’).

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Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno

FA will always have a place in my heart, at the very least due to at one point being an all-time favorite band. They’ve changed a lot. Veleno is good, but I hope this album grows on me more than it has so far.

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Misertus – Daydream

Lush, atmospheric post-black melodies absolutely drenched in an almost blinding distortion and featuring a vicious vocal approach, very cool combination of beauty and malice.

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Temple of Perdition – Homage to the Dead (EP)

Religiocritical hymns saturated in warm, heavy cathedralic aesthetics, and featuring choirs, celestial instrumentation, grandiose movements, blasting percussion, and transcendental nods towards ego dissolution and ascension. See review HERE.

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Worsen – Cursed to Witness Life

Hard-hitting melodic, misanthropic American black metal with thrashy flavors and hints of melancholy.

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Sulphura – Voidpulse

Instrumental atmospheric meditative ambient ritualistic drone side project of CSR (Schammasch). If you are familiar with the ambient bits of Triangle, Maldoror Chants, and Hearts Of No Light, then you know exactly what you are in for. 

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MGLA – Age of Excuse

Polish masters of melody return with exactly what you would expect: infectious riffs and absurdly complex percussion that only MGLA delivers.

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Heilung – Futha

Massive neo-folk tour-de-force in a style similar to Wardruna, with a profound live show, fusing tribal beats with a plethora of instrumentation highlights and a vague ritualistic dance quality.

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Haxandraok – Ki Si Kil Ud Da Kar Ra

Occult black metal managing to blend ritual and melody, featuring guitarist of Acherontas and primarily semi-clean pseudo-chanting vocals, similar to what Schammasch does on the regular.

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Imha Tarikat – Kara Ihlas

Unique and candid black metal with back ‘n’ roll sensibilities, a particular shouting vocal approach, and fiery solos.

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Meszaroth – Caro Data Vermibus

Caught up with this one earlier in the year and it did the trick keeping me tuned in and primed for that Mephorash / Schammasch sound before either of the latter dropped their new albums. 

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Thormesis – The Sixth

Very solid melodic progressive black metal, which sounds a lot like Harakiri For The Sky or 2019 Saor (except with keyboards instead of the Scottish instruments and more typical vocals). 

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Minenwerfer – Alpenpässe

A strange but alluring combination of almost Agalloch-esque woodsy atmospherics, raw BM primitivism, war-metal callousness, and World War motifs. 

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Stillness – Hermit

Warm, folky and fanciful with lots of synth, bagpipes, violin, piano, acoustic guitar, clean vocals etc. makes this damn near appropriate to make the family listen to during the holidays. Except when it’s not.

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Gorgon – Elegy

Polished, well-produced, epic, muscular, fully modern symphonic death metal with touches of industrial elements, fits snugly alongside bands like Dawn of Ashes, Empyrean Throne, Shade Empire, The Monolith Deathcult, and Septicflesh.

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Decarabia – Ancestral Kingdoms

Medieval black metal drenched in ghastly, murky, and archaic dungeon/dark ambience; also, vocals are quite submerged in the mix, which I have been appreciating lately, at times evoking a sense of ancient suffocating dread, despite being fairly easy to listen to.

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This Gift Is A Curse – A Throne of Ash

Blackened crust/grind/noise-core, surprisingly sophisticated and actually a bit epic at times, while yet exhibiting an unrestrained, almost hysterical barrage of white-hot hatred.

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Frostnatt – Rimfrost

A short melodic blackish instrumental featuring guitar / percussion (particularly cymbal) reciprocation and precision not unlike MGLA, except with a more synth heavy folky trajectory… think MGLA + maybe Falkenbach or Windir or something like that.

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Iapetus – The Body Cosmic

Aspiring and brilliant progressive death metal, flaunting a constellation of great approaches and talents, including percussion from Dan Presland (of Ne Obliviscaris, a reasonable comparison). Not a huge fan of some of the vocals but this album is a bit of a masterpiece in the progdeath world.

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Cult of Erinyes – Æstivation

The placement of this release is based almost entirely on how late it came to the game and the fact that it is still vying for position amongst everything above… a wild, occult auditory assailment, which, like Vortex Of End above, benefits heavily from fucking insane vocal performance and which, like Rorcal above, is almost supernatural in its ravening violence.

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And here, with Cult of Erinyes, an end-of-of year decimator which adequately represents the imminent black and extreme metal excellence that we will continue to see in the year(s) to come, seems like an appropriate place to stop and bid farewell to 2019. I want to give a humble salute to all purveyors of extreme music that I have interacted with this year, the fellow admins and superior members of Order ov the Black Arts, and Dex with Black Metal Daily and Rick with MoshPitNation for giving me the opportunity to ignite the flame with all reviews this year.

Forward, and may thy will be done. 

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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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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. 

~

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.

~

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.

~

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. 

~

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?

~

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