Best Album Covers
BLACK FAST (St. Louis), album - Spectre of Ruin — https://www.discogs.com/Black-Fast-Spectre-Of-Ruin/release/12239718#images/35108594
FUTURE CORPSE (Melbourne), album - Culture Ruins Everything Around Me — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a1191821332_10.jpg
PARIUS (PA), album - The Eldritch Realm — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a3105691492_10.jpg
DEADBIRD (AR), album - III: The Forest Within The Tree — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a2734892447_10.jpg
LURK (Finland), album - Fringe — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a0798154700_10.jpg
GOURMAND (Kansas City), album - Blossoming from the Grave — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a1479235691_10.jpg
BLACK VIPER (Norway), album - Hellions of Fire — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a3156453153_10.jpg
DEATHRITE (Germany), album – Nightmares Reign — https://www.discogs.com/Deathrite-Nightmares-Reign/release/12773662#images/37027173
ULTHAR (Oakland), album – Cosmovore — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a0007232483_10.jpg
CORPSESSED (Finland), album - Impetus of Death — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a0079743140_10.jpg
GROSS MISCONDUCT (Vancouver), album – Equinox — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a4070700797_10.jpg
CONVULSING (AU), album – Grievous — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a2037270330_10.jpg
ANCST (Berlin), album – Abolitionist — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a1912435359_10.jpg
SULPHUR AEON (Germany), album - The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos — https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a1151529218_10.jpg
Best Traditional Black Metal
SPECTRAL WOUND (CAN), album - Infernal Decadence
Song: Feral Gates Of Flesh (0:25-5:51)
— Black metal split between Modern (last week #2 album Convulsing), Traditional and Melodic/Atmospheric. Spectral Wound stood out against an unbelievable year of black metal, with a vocalist that stains your brain.
HUMAN SERPENT (Greece), album - For I,The Misanthropist — They are equipped with an epically vicious vocalist, which is necessary for a 2-piece. The desperation lined with the brilliant melancholy was just immense here, and then punched in was a surprising amount of riffage and groove. Entirely satisfying. I almost chose this over Spectral Wound. Recorded 2015-16, released January 2018.
ABIGOR (Austria), album - Hollenzwang - Chronicles of Perdition — If you miss raw, well grab your balls and listen to the raking grueling sharp jangled black metal of Abigor. The evil oozes, and isn't that what black metal is all about. Rasping, snarling, bubbling, demonic gargled hell.
IMMORTAL (Norway), album - Northern Chaos Gods — Norwegian black metal, that frosty wind of high-pitched vocals in a whirlwind of blasts and head-spinning guitar frenzy.
INEXORUM (MN), album - Lore of the Lakes — I think one-person bands are really good within black metal because s/he focuses on the distinction of instruments, and it doesn't become muddled. Though muddled is also a welcome style in black metal.
SARGEIST (Finland), album – Unbound — Sargeist swings from vicious to melodic, bleak, depressing, emotionally-laden and all of it has the suffocating style we all know and love about black metal.
Best Pagan or Folk-infused Metal
WINDFAERER (NJ), album - Alma
Song: Becoming (7:39-14:15)
— Another black metal album bubbling with organic instruments, but somehow manages to fucking rip the shred of the riff off your butt.
HORN, album – Retrograd — This leans heavily into folk, with a vocalist singing to the heavens, a chorus behind him.
KALMAH (Finland), album – Palo — Strings threading through an immense cloud of melodic death, with viking lord musicians at the helm, super groovy and a blast. They sweeten their style of muscular power with folk.
PANOPTICON, album - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II) — First of all, this album is massive - 18 story-telling epic songs of acoustic, folk, under-the-stars romantic diving into the ink of black.
Best Melodic or Proggy Death
SULPHUR AEON (Germany), album - The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos
Song: Thou Shalt Not Speak His Name (14:53-21:37)
— Another Lovecraft-influenced album in art and lyric. One of the best death albums of the year, thundering and haunting and deeply fist-in-the-airable. They won Best Death in 2015.
HORRENDOUS (Philly), album - Idol — Prog mixed with death; and all of it is super catchy overall
OCEAN OF GRIEF (Greece), album - Nightfall's Lament — Majestic melodic with overtly baritone and masculine vocals is so hard to keep from being cheesy. These Greeks do melodic to perfection, creating vivid gorgeous spell-binding stories.
AT THE GATES (Sweden), album- To Drink from the Night Itself — In the 90's I headbanged to this band religiously in my car. Their new albums sound a lot like Slaughter, but why the hell not. Again, with age comes refinement.
Best Melodic/Post/Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal
DISCIPLES OF THE VOID (Finland), album - S/T
Song: The Heirs Of Wormwood (22:39-28:59)
— Torment-leaning, anonymous 2-piece creating symphonic black metal and shriek-infused melody. The duo creates so much fucking epicness that will defy your preconceived notions of atmospheric.
SUMMONING (Vienna), album - With Doom We Come — A strange, strange mood with ethnic instrumentation and horns blowing across the frostbitten land.
KARG, (Austria) album – Dornenvögel — The vocals are the tool for fierceness in this band, with the emphasis on organic acoustic guitars strummed in gorgeous landscapes. Dude is from Harakiri for the Sky.
OMNIPOTENCE (Vancouver), album – Praecipitium — A late release in the year, a debut, and powerful impact. Thrash and riffs mixed with the pure melodic black modernizes the sound.
AVAST (Norway), album - Mother Culture — Who knew black metal could be influenced by shoegaze so successfully.
Best Bay Area Local Albums
Bay area dude. Fucking bay area.
THESE BASTARDS (SF), album - Old and Pissed
Song: Our Prayer (29:58-32:03)
– I just caught These Bastards, and they are fucking hilarious as you would expect from old farts who’ve been around forever. Their wit, technical prowess and chemistry is something to see live, punchy as fuck album.
PRIMAL RITE (Oakland), album - Dirge of Escapism
Song: Antivenom (32:04-34:15)
— I haven’t seen Primal Rite yet, not sure yet since I see their name everywhere, opening up for pretty big acts and they’ve been around for a handful of years. They are everything you expect from a crossover band: unbelievably catchy and frenzied. They play with tempos, slowing down unexpectedly, building upon each other.
BRAINOIL (Oakland), album - Singularity to Extinction — Sludge gods Brainoil were one of the forefathers of the downtuned thick bass and groove, led by profoundly deep vocals that made a girlfriend of mine pass out at a show.
ULTHAR (Oakland), album – Cosmovore — Oakland debut offers chompy speedy-thrash with bloody death and evil black.
Best Modern Death (mixed genre)
VEILBURNER (PA), album - A Sire To The Ghouls Of Lunacy
Song: Introvertoid (34:50-42:00)
— Veilburner swallowed Oranssi Pazuzu and burped out weird and synthy and theatrical within guttural death and a mix of black. So surprising.
RIVERS OF NIHIL (PA), album - Where Owls Know My Name — This band created one of the best videos for sure, technical death mixed with organic instrumentation like saxophone; dynamic, diverse and textured death
OUTRE-TOMBE (Quebec), album - Nécrovortex — Death and thrash and punk, refreshing a brutal mix
HISSING (Seattle), album - Permanent Destitution — Death noise, aggressive, seething, dissonant insanity with no patterns that somehow makes sense.
Best Modern Doom (mixed genre)
HOODED MENACE (Finland), album - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
Song: In Eerie Deliverance (42:58-49:35)
— Unafraid is the doom, and it swallows whole the death riffs and aggression. Finnish alien brain keeps ya guessing.
Thou (Baton Rouge), album- Magus — The released their 5th full-length in a flurry of releases last year, including multiple EPs. Thou is what you would expect: depressive sludge, ambient, melancholy melodic doom with a explosive spectrum of vocals that plead not to look at him. Well, I'm looking.
Khemmis (Denver), album – Desolation — Khemmis' vocalist soars in front of the sound, a blend of majestic doom, paced by a thick sludge. It erupts into catchy melodies, a lot like GypsyHawk, a spinoff of the original Skeletonwitch.
Deadbird (AR), album - III: The Forest Within The Tree — When I heard Deadbird nearly 15 years ago, the vocals did me in. Heart-wrenching. The incredible album art is by John Santos.
SLUGDGE (UK), album - Esoteric Malacology
Song: Slave Goo World (50:27-56:52)
— An intense dense sweet funny creepy desolate clean filthy brutal challenging complex album. It is pure talent, and can fit any mood for any Saturday. Unbelievable from a duo.
Best Avant Garde/Experimental/#1 Album
IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT (NY), album - Vile Luxury
Song: Gotham Luxe (57:57-END)
— Conceptually capturing all aspects of NYC - beauty, grit, decay, sophistication with 2 trombones, 2 trumpets, a tuba, bass, and raving lunatic vocalists. As with all the best albums, you have to listen multiple times and each time is a different experience.
Gura (Belgium), album – Caligura — Gura is a crazed 2 piece of jazz saxaphone often following the singer off a ledge, a thick bass and drums that punch holes into each other, experimental to say the least, you have no idea where it starts and ends. All of it makes sense.