This year has been busy for me on multiple fronts, therefore catching up with 2016’s breed was a tough task. However, I did my best to scan what popular metal publishers have already covered in their year end lists and came up with the following. Instead of repeating what has been praised probably 100 times now, I will present you a retrospection that will cover hardly ever mentioned albums. Be sure to bookmark this post as it will be the only dedicated one to summing up some of the finest albums from the underground that came this year.
Ordinul Negru – Sorcery of Darkness
Romanian quartet Ordinul Negru did a remarkle job with their 7th full-length “Sorcery of Darkness.” It is a refreshing combination of traditional black metal with a second wave sounding. Excels with a clean production that ensures you’ll experience the abundance of darkly emotions without any hassle.
Adaestuo – Tacent Semitae
Adaestuo is an international trio featuring members from Nightbringer and ex. Cornigr. This project was conceived sometime in 2014, however the first ever release followed up 2 years later. The band’s debut EP packs an obscure omnipresence through eerie ambience and blasting instrumentalship. It can actually make you feel quite unsettled while going more and more down the track list. Exceptional stuff!
Totenwelt – Människohataren [Free download]
Totenwelt is a Swedish black metal band rising from the ashes of Immersed in Blood. The coven was conceived in 2007 and as of now offers a modest yet quite intriguing discography that includes a demo and the debut EP titled “Människohataren.” The track list presents 3 songs of solid black metal assault in the vein of the second wave, super-charged with magnetism and energy. The sound production is appealing and the compositions will surely get under your skin in no time. You can download “Människohataren” for free on Bandcamp!
Sorcier Des Glaces & Ende – Le Puits Des Morts
This was a big and overwhelming surprise seeing Sorcier Des Glaces and Ende teaming up for a split. Given the amount of satisfactory these two have delivered through their past releases, I’ve been almost sure that this will be a masterpiece. And so it’s turned out to be! “Le Puits Des Morts” complies 8 grim songs with a winter vibe added to them. The tunes are backed with an eerie atmosphere and resonate to the early 90s classics. Apart from that, Ende covered the infamous Bathory song “Call from the Grave” in a mind-blowing way. Embrace the cold, and let Winter itself flow through your veins!
Wolf’s Hunger – Bež’te živi vraćaju se mrtvi
Serbian quartet Wolf’s Hunger has been way too long away from the SBM radars until I stumbled upon their sophomore full-length “Bež’te živi vraćaju se mrtvi.” Their craft pays tribute to highlights from their country’s historical background as well as Slavic paganism. “Bež’te živi vraćaju se mrtvi” got me hooked up right away because it successfully blended black metal ingredients with thrashing aggressiveness in a highly explosive track list of 9 songs. It’s hard to resist from headbanging insanely, seriously!
Kosmokrator – First Step Towards Supremacy
Kosmokrator is a Belgian black/death act founded in 2013. I got to know their work by discovering their debut EP “First Step Towards Supremacy“on Van Records. Once again, this label proved me right that it’s worth to get back to their store due to the increasing quality stuff emerging from their headquarters. Kosmokrator channels occult forces through a prism that entails the virtues of death. This EP is honestly brutal, erasing all traces of life in a single sweep. Can you bear that much intensity? Let’s find out…
Deathcrush – Evoke the Ancient Curse
International satanic cult by the name of Deathcrush emerged for the first time in 2016 with their firstborn album “Evoke the Ancient Curse.” This one has been crafted with the primal state of this genre in mind resulting in a primitive and dirty black metal outcome. Don’t expect anything different than a pure dedication to the origins! We need to get reminded where everything started from, don’t we?
Ultha – Converging Sins
Germany is a central hub for metal fans in general because there’s always new and exciting music to explore. Case in point is the sophomore record of Ultha titled “Converging Sins.” By all means this piece of melancholic art is a successor given the enormous richness of emotions carried through a whole diversity of beautiful yet oppressive atmosphere, intriguing instrumental work and splendid vocal execution. Without any hesitations I would say that this is the perfected example of what depressive black metal stands for.
Gateway to Selfdestruction – Death, My Salvation
If you follow this list chronologically, there’s a high probability that you are still in a depressive mode. This 5-piece female-fronted act was established in 2013 on German soil by the name of Gateway to Selfdestruction. Their phenomenal debut “Death, My Salvation” will walk you down the death’s vicious spiral. A great attention to details is demonstrated with an emphasis on the crisp sound quality, song writing and vocal expression. You will be carried away by the massively oppressive wave of negativity to a point where the only real feeling will be the joy of leaving life’s burden behind.
Skogsande – Implements of Peace
Skogsande is a one-man band led by Nøkken (also known for taking part in Is, which I’ll cover in just a bit). “Implements of Peace” comes as a 2-track mini album whose backbone is uplifting winter-inspired ambient complemented by black metal severity. The mellow transition between these two genres create a beautiful experience that will engulf you instantly. Wonderful yet harsh as Winter itself!
Soulemission – Tales of Inevitable Death
I must say that Soulemission’s “Tales of Inevitable Death” was among the most anticipated albums in 2016 for me. The lineup includes ex. members of Cirith Gorgor and Prostitute Disfigurement meaning something brutal was pending. Indeed, my expectations were not only met but even surpassed by far. “Tales of Inevitable Death” is an embodiment of an inhuman annihilation in the span of 8 ravishing hymns. So much is going on in this one that I cannot even start to point at what I love the most. Be it the wicked vocals of torture or the mesmerizing melodies and the overall atypical combination of genres. You name it. It’s a weirdly awesome debut that turns up the heat to a great magnitude.
Gherzen – 1917
Members of Elderwind and other extreme metal projects have united their force in what appears as Gherzen. The band takes a major influence from atmospheric music as the means of expressing the great tragedy of “1917“; a historical event of relentless bloodshed that dragged Russia into pitch-black. All that loss and pain encompassed within 7 songs will put you on the front row to witness man-made devastation. An absolute masterpiece for a debut album that will make you realize what the true nature of humanity is.
Bekëth Nexëhmü – De Glömdas Ursjälar
Swedish one-man force Bekëth Nexëhmü has become among the most productive projects in recent time. For a total of 6 years since its dawn, the band has released multiple demos, in this cause 2 in one year! I had the pleasure of discovering the latter titled “De Glömdas Ursjälar“, which consists of a single track with a duration of nearly 40 minutes! From its rawest form, the demo evolves into an awe-inspiring atmospheric soundscape that concludes with a profound ambience. I could not picture anything different than wandering in the snowy forest, with the wolves lit by the Moon.
Torrid Husk / End – Swallow Matewan
Another truly inspiring split by the name of “Swallow Matewan” combines the magnetism of the US act Torrid Husk and Hellenic metallers End. Initially, I was drawn towards this record thanks to the visual masterpiece of a cover artwork by Sergio Padovani. It turned out that it was just the beautiful tip of an iceberg; a splendid 40-minute long ride that will plunge you fast into a realm of fury and twist your mind.
Spirit of the Forest – A Void… / La Nature Oubliée
Spirit of the Forest originates from Canada and I believe you’ve already noticed how many great atmospheric bands can be spotted there immediately. The band’s name does tell a great deal of what to expect from their music overall. “A Void… / La Nature Oubliée” really is full of spirit and liveliness. It will certainly satisfy your tastes if you are on the look for a black metal album offering catchy melodies accompanied by harsh and cold vibe.
Cvinger – Embodied in Incense
Slovenian 4-piece act of blasphemy Cvinger returned with an awesome follow up named as “Embodied in Incense.” The album consists of 10 tracks enshrouded by the morbid presence of the Black Flame itself. Fast, menacing and aggressive as this genre should be.
Pestilentia – Where the Light Dies
Pestilentia is a deathcult based in Minsk, Belarus. Ever since 2011, they’ve released quite a bit of material, including 2-lengths and a variety of EPs, splits and a demo. I started familiarizing myself with their discography when their latest album “Where the Light Dies” was issued forth. Unlike the typical span of between 40-60 minutes, this album clocks at approximately 36 minutes outrageous torture of the soul. Pestilentia did not try to reinvent the genre but rather express their own view on it. Overall, the 6 songs are moderately fast and bleak by nature. Without a single doubt I recommend this one if you are into classic stuff.
Vukari – Divination
In just 3 years since their firstborn record, Vukari have proven how skilled they are at setting an enchanting atmosphere through their music. “Divination” outbreaks into a number of musical directions that complement each other in a flawless manner. Indeed, black metal is the basis but it is just 1 of the multiple layers that build up to the final masterpiece you are listening to right now. With every following spin, the track list feels richer, as if there’s always something new awaiting to be found. Vukari managed to create a multi-layered album, which I call “successor” at the very least!
Spire – Entropy
It’s probably not the first time you see Spire on SBM. I had the pleasure of including one track from “Entropy” on the 3rd volume of the free digital sampler a few months ago. Still, time restrained me from getting more familiar with their new opus, which is a shame given the potential it’s got. “Entropy” is a deep and rather disturbing experience bending reality until it cracks to pieces and chaos takes over. It is solid as hell and inspires visions far more horrific than your mind could bear in a single instance.
Is – November Days
As I promised earlier, I now introduce Nøkken’s second project Is. I reckon this one has a higher priority taking into account the vast amount of issued material in the span of just 2 years. There’s a lot to catch up with but for now I will point you at Is’s latest “November Days” – a criminally short yet outstanding EP. It contains 2 tracks unfolding into a meditative soundscape that will ascend you into a world far more beautiful than the one mankind has manufactured. A peaceful, gentle and dream-like compilation of breath-taking moments that will put your mind at peace…
Lunatic Affliction – Im Bannkreis der Götter
Lunatic Affliction is an old soul with a modest selection of releases including a demo and the relatively fresh debut “Im Bannkreis der Götter.” Heart-melting is just the least I can describe the superb melodious passages that unfold in the span of 40 minutes. A supreme form of melodic black metal imbued by death metal so powerful that will carry you away imperceptibly.
Morar – Wahlheim
Back in 2014 I featured Morar for the first time with their excellent debut album “Chants of Ossian.” Unbelievably, 2 years went by just like that and the band announced a second chapter, which I got my hands on much later along the line. “Wahlheim” marks a significant progress in every aspect, especially as to musicianship. The album is more abundant of life pulses thus feels more natural, diverse and somewhat deep. Certainly, a satisfying continuation that will appeal to those who seek music of melodic and atmospheric origin.
Graveir – Iconostasis
Graveir is an Australian band whose lineup consists of 5 individuals. As most of the previously mentioned selections, these guys have been included for their rather massive debut full-length titled “Iconostasis.” What instantly captured my attention was the diversification of the arrangements that break all preconceived formulas of how this genre should be. With each song forward, you will witness abrupt twists in the way the musical components flow leaving you wonder what’s next. Absolutely refreshing and out of the ordinary.
Celestial Grave – Burial Ground Trance
By all means, Celestial Grave’s first ever demo “Burial Ground Trance” pays homage to the oldschool classics of the early 90s. Raw production is the backbone of the entire package reeking of Northern black metal classicism in the span of 14 minutes.
Sol Sistere – Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum
Sol Sistere is among my most recent discoveries that I bumped into by chance. As in many other occasions, the splendid artwork of their debut “Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum” had me check the rest of their work. To my surprise, this album packs a whole treasure inside that blends successfully atmospheric, melodic and melancholic elements resulting into a quintessence that will move you deeply. Beautiful as life can be yet sorrowful as existence it is nowadays.
Severoth – Самітність
Ukranian one-man band Severoth takes on the second chapter “Самітність” where ambience is the core of the entire 1 hour continium. Highly evocative, thought-provoking and easy to listen to due to the richness of subtle atmosheric and ambient elements. Time means nothing while wandering in the parralel universe Severoth creates through a series of repetitive yet very addictive passages that will put your soul at ease and let your mind drift away in peace.
Sanctuaire – Le Sang sur l’Acier
Sanctuaire is a side project masterminded by Monarque from Quebec. “Le Sang sur l’Acier” is the band’s second opus, which is firmly rooted in the vein of pagan black metal. As a whole, it summarizes themes inspired by ancient times of war, bloodshed and the eternal fight for survival. The tracks excel with an awesome array of catchy melodic riffage and moving atmospheric elements.
Narrenshyff – Narragonia
Members of Srogość and Mornië Utúlië have joined forces in the making of the first release of Narrenshyff named as “Narrragonia.” This is a surprisingly good take on exploring beyond the fundamental restrictions of the original state of the genre leaning towards symphonic/avant-garde extremism. Perfect execution on the overall production – an embodiment of high quality instrumentalism and barbaric vocals.
LVTHN – Eradication of Nescience
Three years after the dawn of LVTHN has come to be their debut “Eradication of Nescience“; an album name that got me curious alongside with the intricate cover artwork suggesting what’s inside the package. In its essence, the album is savage and unrelenting to such an extend that you will be left with no room to take a breath. Each track is like a growing phalanx of demonic entities spreading fire, rage and destruction of global proportions.
Murdryck – Antologi MMXV
Last but not the least mention in this list is dedicated to the Swedish band Murdryck and their second full-length “Antologi MMXV.” Initially, it started out as an ambient project but later evolved into a black metal band. A grand return bringing in a fresh breath from the glorious past of Sweden’s best melodic classics taken from Murdryck’s own prism.