Let’s get one thing straight right away. I HATE top fucking anythings. I will be posting a top fifty early next year, and I fucking hate doing that as well. The last two years have been an absolute nightmare when it comes to Metal, as most of it has been so so good. I’d even struggle to do a top 100 to be honest, but it is what it is, and I will now provide you with my a selection of what I feel are “Ten Essentials”, taken from my top 50. Please enjoy, and check em out if you haven’t already! This ten may well end up being concrete, but as of right now I am still going over and over everything, so please forgive my indecision, and enjoy!
- Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties (Transcending Obscurity Records)
The litmus test for me on any release is replay value,and just as Paganizer’s “Land of Weeping Souls” won my vote for the top spot last year because of the sheer fact that it is endlessly replayable, so does this one. Markus, Antti, Vesa and Matti bring a whole new but not entirely unrelatable swing with a very large bat into the game we call Death Metal, making it seem somehow more intelligent and stylish by drawing on so many influences and twisting them into their own wicked ways. The slower songs such as “The Hour of Dread” and the killer of all songs “Bones of a Giant” are the proverbial ducks guts. Every spin will unravel yet another layer of their brilliance. Fucking yes to that, mind you, as I will say about a lot of these bands, their earlier releases also shit on the masses from a very lofty height. I stumbled across these guys through Hooded Menace, as Markus played with them for a while, and they are one of the greatest discoveries I have ever made. “Morbid Majesties” makes it even more so.
- Usurpress – Interregnum (Agonia Records)
This album was a huge contender for number one if not for the fact that sometimes it makes me profoundly sad and I cannot bear to listen to it. Why? Well, apart from it’s very somber tone at times, the fact that their singer Stefan Pettersson lost his battle with cancer this year is like a sword to the heart. Each and every album this band has ever produced is just sheer brilliance. The inclusion of a drummer schooled in Jazz makes a whopping difference to what you would normally expect from a Death Metal album, and the band is all the better for it. Add to that some absolutely killer performances by every band member, and you have a classic for the ages. Quality music, and I urge you to check out their back catalogue, and not to get overwhelmed with sadness at times when you think about what a loss we have all suffered. I certainly hope Usurpress can find a way to go on with all my heart. So different, so special and so bloody fantastic.
- Atavisma – The Chthonic Rituals (Momento Mori)
Holy snapping duck turds, and fuck you Rick Jackson for infecting me, this little bundle of joy really upset my apple cart. Death/Doom and gloom abounds with this excellent pack of French bastards, and I’m spewing that I hadn’t heard of them earlier. This is bucket full of dead elephant’s that were fed on lead heavy, I shit you not. Tracks 6, 7, and 8 are the stuff of nightmares. The vocal tone achieved by L (yes, that’s his fucking name, no the French don’t make any sense to me either) is the sort of thing that should only come from the mouth of a gurgling monstrosity. This is the sort of band that keeps me looking under my bed before I jump in it. Ghastly Doomy brutal sledgehammer awesomeness.
- Pemphigoid – Where Compassion Comes To DIe (Unsigned)
Old school UK Death Metal is my roots, and I fucking love the stuff, but these fine lads have just upped the ante in no uncertain terms. At times the tone reminds me a little of one of my all time favourites, that being Decomposed’s one and only full length release “Hope Finally died”. This certainly is not Death/Doom by any means, but it also is not going to blast your face off with over the top drumming and guitar histrionics. Nice and steady, big fat chunky riffs laid over the top of an excellent and on point rhythm section, this is simply heaven for any fan of the genre, and the rest of you buggers should pay attention too. With the superb Ash Cotteril on grunting duty, the almighty Bill Richmond holding down the bottom end like a fucking giant anchor on a ship of death, and the sheerly brilliant Richard Cornelius Mallatratt pounding the skins like Ed Gein on prom night, you can’t go far wrong with this one. More I say, and more I say again! Why are these guys unsigned, and why aren’t you labels breaking your necks to get to them. Fools.
- Voivod – The Wake (Century Media)
Like a modern version of The War of the Worlds this one, a story of the last man left alive after an alien ship that crashed on earth millenia ago decides to really throw a giant fucking spanner into the works by wiping out humanity in a nutshell. Old mate (let’s call him Kevin just for the hell of it) decides he may just try and ruin the aliens holiday season by returning the favour on their ship. Plot holes a plenty, and yet so damn fascinating as you hear the aliens literally shitting globulous amounts of goo as old Kevin outsmarts the smartest race in the universe. Shit, these buggers were so smart they took a very long kip on the Earth and then suddenly remembered why they came! All very Voivod if you are a fan, but the exceptional guitar smart arsery of Daniel “Chewy” Mograin lifts it into another dimension. How he got the “Chewy” nickname I can only hope is because he is big and hairy..Other alternatives don’t fit in the head real well. Is he made of Taffy? Did Voivod just drop one of the best of their expansive career? Tune in and find out! (Hint, that’s a yes)
- 1914 – The Blind Leading The Blind (Archaic Sound)
These fine chaps from the Ukraine have always managed to be an “oh fuck” moment for me. Since stumbling over 2015’s “Eschatology of War” and then buying every single thing they have released (Do check out their compilation album on Bandcamp) they have never ceased to amaze me. Plenty of bands talk about war, have lyrical themes involving war, but no one has ever been this precise and accurate about it. The soundbites provided giving a glimpse into the mentality of the people of the time only serve to highlight the experience, ranging from the cheery and the hopeful to the downright reality of what war back in the early parts of the 1900’s was all about. Musically it is a mix of many things, all of them dark and foreboding without a shadow of a doubt. Blackened Death, Deathened Black? Just plain exceptional any way you choose to receive it.
- Lurk – Fringe (Transcending Obscurity Records)
Finland’s Lurk where a real slow burner for me. One could not go past that stunning artwork, but the first few spins didn’t deliver much to me until one day track three “Reclaim” just hooked me. It had a slight swagger about it, reminding me in parts of Decline of the I amongst other bands that one would not normally have put together with a Sludge/Doom band, and then the penny had fully dropped. Each listen delivered more and more, and continues to do so on a daily basis. The latter half of the album also brings to mind both early and latter day Paradise Lost, as well as My Dying Bride – two of my all time favourites as those that know will testify. Don’t let the whole Sludge/Doom thing put you off, this one certainly contains some real grunt when necessary, and the appropriate touches when required to be labelled a masterpiece. The vocals on this one deliver so much, and never stick to the familiar path, even if they remind us at times of things gone by, and the musicianship is just bat shit insane.
- Demored – Sickening Dreams (Neckbreaker Records)
A band that has kept me coming back over and over for many reasons. One of them being that just when I’ve got them pinned to a certain kind of style they then shut my fingers in the door of Death Metal by pulling a passage out of their arse that makes me think again. There is everything in this tasty package for a fan of Death, and then some.Take tack three “Omnious Venesection” as a prime example, then listen to the following little musical bit before “Drenched in Dysphoria” shows you yet again another angle on how good this album is. Yep, it’s Death through and through, but with a sense of melody, and fantastic pacing to boot. Nothing new you say? Maybe not, but I for one cannot resist the way Demored have managed to keep this whole album interesting with the variety of their delivery. “One with the Dead” mixes it up again, and I could go on all day about this. The title track is more utter goodness, “Dread Return (Life Reformed)” is balls out perfection as far as Death goes, and so on it goes. Just fucking wow, you need this in your life. Track ten “Cease to Exist” will hammer this into your consciousness, and if we were choosing top songs of the year, would no doubt be in my top three. It almost borders on the Doom side, almost. “Dismal Mutualism” is another superb showcase of the ability we have before us as it chops and changes, and if this dribble doesn’t make you want to have a listen to them, then you may well be a complete moron.. I must shut up now…
- Scaphism – Unutterable Horrors (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions)
Horrors indeed this bunch, but their very name does so need to be uttered! Catchier than (insert your favourite medieval plague right here), and as subtle as a mace to the forehead. To quote myself in a review I did earlier this year, “Abso-fucking-lutely the catchiest bunch of miserable horrid brilliance I have heard probably in the eternity that I have called my life, and you should know that I have been around since seventeen dickety six, so I am right and you should just get onto this. Death, thrash, whatever. Absolutely essential listening for any metal head. If the lyrics don’t make you want to lose your last meal then jumping around like a fucking maniac to the sick tunes will surely bring you undone.” That was around January, and they have still remained high on the play roster ever since. You also need to check out their earlier one “Festering Human Remains”, more absolute class. Fucking amen to that.
- Kåabalh – Kåabalh (Epidemia Recs)
Another “What the fuck” moment this year, and more crazy Frenchies to boot. Along with Atavisma, and Ataraxy, these guys have completed the unholy triumvirate of Doom and Death this year for me to no end. The massive riffs, the gurgling horror of them vocals, and the sheer sense of utter dread these bastards evokes is all together exactly what I for one call my kind of happiness. Born from the ashes of previous band Torture Throne (whom you should also check out), There is not much more that I can say about this lot than that they are brilliance of the highest order, times infinity. Press play, and just let this album roll over you like the dark lord surely intended when he bestowed them upon us.
Yep, as stated, there are many more bands to come in my Top 50, and by fucking Christ this has been absolute torture, so many bands that I was sure where even top five just didn’t make it, and this upsets me greatly. Make sure to check out the full one in a couple of weeks, and feel free to comment if you disagree as I am always open to opinions, as long as they are well put and not the product of personal bias or just plain shit headedness. A great year, and next year is already shaping up to be just as good! Thanks for your time!
The Great Mackintosh.