(Valenten, the mastermind of Askrinn was generous to share with SBM his top 10 underground black metal albums plus samples for free streaming.)
The Great Old Ones : Tekeli-Li
This is one of my favorite albums from the year. I am a big Lovecraft fan and although using his works may for some sound cliché, I realized that few metal artists are actually focusing their musical universe around his work. However, The Great Old Ones successfully managed to recreate and even reinforce the mesmerizing atmosphere present in the books, with a very nice concept album which comes in an also nice packaging. Much recommended.
Panopticon : Roads to the North
I have hesitated to include this band for the reason that the bluegrass influence is initially not really my cup of tea. However, I have to confess that the more I listen to this album, the more I like it. The music is strong, moving, impressive. It’s really a quality album with good compositions, so in the end I couldn’t not include it, it would have been unfair. Check it out.
Kampfar : Djevelmakt
A truly powerful album from this year, with an enjoyable Viking feel. Kampfar has produced a superior black metal album with a deep atmosphere successfully supported thanks to a lot of rather-mid-tempo rhythms. It all sounds very solid and cohesive, with various vocal techniques used and interesting compositions.
Saor : Aura
Saor was one of the most exciting artists I have discovered this year. I really enjoy pagan black metal acts drawing their roots in their local folklore, without falling in too folk-ish melodies. Here, we are talking about a quality mix between Scottish heritage, traditional Celtic music and atmospheric Black Metal. A very interesting album which happens to be very evocative of some ancient pagan world. Must-have.
Labyrinthine : Ancient Obscurity
An absolutely fortuitous discovery of 2014, while browsing randomly. I got first hooked by the design of the CD packaging… and didn’t regret. This doom-influenced black metal is surely touching and the melodies are really beautiful and hypnotizing – almost ritualistic. I regret there is not much online about this band, as I would like to know more about the motivation of the artist (it’s a one-man band).
Árstíðir lífsins : Aldafödr ok munka drottinn
This has just been released and I am very happy to put it in this list, as I am very sensitive to this heathen Icelandic black metal music. The ambience is very good, and it all feels very true, very honest. There are some slower parts with acoustic guitars and spoken words, and much more brutal parts ; it is skillfully done and with such a nice artwork, it is almost a must-buy.
Botanist : VI – Flora
The most experimental album of my list. For sure, Black Metal made with hammered dulcimer is not something common. And if it deals with plants and flowers, it is absolutely unique. “Flora” is the 6th main album of Botanist and a very good one. The musical approach is very creative, although I can imagine not everyone will like it, and perfectly suits the general somewhat misanthropic concept.
Darkenhöld : Castellum
This new “Castellum” album is a very solid one, a logical progression after the band’s previous CDs. It is upper-quality medieval/pagan black metal, with strong rhythms and interesting melodies. There is a truly epic feel to the music, and would you let yourself go along with the music for a minute, you could easily imagine the world they describe, with castles and dungeons, kings and warriors.
Iskald : Nedom og Nord
This melodic black metal album is really enjoyable. There are only six tracks, around 7 minutes long each, but the music is not getting repetitive as one could expect from long-ish metal CDs. There is much more going on here. The melodies are very nice, with interesting breaks. There is a real Norwegian vibe in it, yet mixed with a lot of good ideas, making it probably one of the must-have albums of the year.
Mare Cognitum : Phobos Monolith
This four-tracks album is a real jewel. Nice artwork, beautiful lyrics and marvelous atmospheric black metal music. The alchemic/mystic/cosmic lyrics seem to be really important in the artist’s creation process, and completely match the hallucinatory universe evoked by the music. This album feels like a musical travel, it’s a true experience in itself.