Friday, January 16, 2015


By Maxim Björky

Having excluded any bands who are unfortunate enough to be friends with me, I found this listening guide actually became a lot easier to put together. As usual, it ended up as a sort of dissonant puzzle whereby I try, in vain, to reconcile absurd glory and steel with the kind of black metal fit only for unemployed philosophy TAs. At the end of every single one of these lists, I always find myself standing over this sort of grotesque monster, sewn-together by nothing more than my own dorky obsession with discovering new, novel, and challenging things. In any case, my high school counselor said that it might be good to take a break from reviewing gas station bathrooms on Yelp and mix things up for the sake of my portfolio.

Let’s get down to business.

Demos and EPs

10. Violent Hammer – More Victims demo (Shadow Kingdom Records)

Viciously mixed. Not your grandma’s war metal.

9. Serpents Lair – Demo MMXIV (Fallen Empire Productions)

Like Mgla mixed with a some death metal and Deathspell Omega if the latter could actually remember their songs.

8. Evilnight – Stormhymns of Filth demo (Hells Headbangers)

 Let’s face it; we bear witness to countless attempts at crude humor in the underground that fall flat. There are even less of these desperately irreverent bands that wield the kind of chops these guys do. Pure leather, sleaze, and death. 

7. Ascended Dead - Arcane Malevolence (Blood Harvest)

I may have had too many beers to make out anything but a wall of impact noise when seeing them in person, but a closer listen to the EP reveals delightfully jagged riffs and excellent, cavernous lead work.

6. Athanatos – Unholy Union (Iron Bonehead Productions)

Imposing vibes and beefy, memorable riffs.

5. Legs Occult – Modern Man EP (Self-Released)

What was an occult rock outfit on the Dark Rituals EP is now a more of an '80s new wave and Bowie influenced thing, though still sultry and deviant as ever.

4. Orcultus – Black Rust demo (Forever Plagued Records)

Raw production; meticulous riffing. Instantly memorable.

3. Force of Darkness – Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness (Iron Pegazus Records)

As busy on the skins and fretboards as it is grimy.

2. Sadistic Intent – Reawakening Horrid Thoughts MLP (Dark Realm Records)

Rick and Bay are back at it! What else do you need? How bout we throw in a snotty cover of Darkthrone’s “Fuck Off And Die?”

1. Minenwerfer – Kriegserklärung EP (Vama Marga Productions)

With its aging cadres, three-chord riffing, and lyrics that amount to little more than ideological shadowboxing, it would take some impressive logical acrobatics to conclude that major label postmillennial black metal is anything but unintentional satire for teenage girls. Now, let’s not get too worked up. I know that seems extreme, but I think bands who build their brands on spitting abuse and indecency are grown enough to take it. Moreover, the point is simple. The darkest parts of existence are not found in imaginary demons but in the rotten depths of humanity’s most gruesome battles. That Minenwerfer can kick the kind of riff and melodic lead ballistics needed to get this point across was no less decisive in making this my favorite EP release of the year. 


20. Edguy – Space Police: Defenders Of The Crown (Nuclear Blast)

Widely heralded as the band’s most righteous collection of riffs and hooks in a decade, and I can’t help but buy in fully.

19. High Spirits – You Are Here (Hells Headbangers)

Chris Black seems unlikely to resuscitate Superchrist anytime soon, especially with High Spirits playing local festivals and a new '70s style prog project called Aktor kicking into gear. He’s a busy guy. And, though You Are Here may be second to the band’s debut LP, there is a core of tracks on this record that are the band’s most memorable.

18. Air Raid – Point of Impact (High Roller Records)

 Sure, every song may sound very similar, but so does everything on the new Striker record and that album rules. Point of Impact hits a lot of the same spots with less triggering and overproduction.

17. Bloodshot Dawn – Demons (Independent)

“The Image Faded” alone proves that the song writing and lead composition on display is anything but basic.

16. Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade Records)

How Alex Webster and crew never run out of fresh sounding riffs year after year is something that should be studied by scientists.

15. Blood Storm – The Stellar Exorcism (Barbarian Wrath)

This is the kind of grim thrashery the likes of which our scant USBM scene used to hunger for. The lay of the land may be a lot more ample than it used to be, but Blood Storm’s first full-length in nine years sounds fresh as ever.

14. Сивый Яр (Sivij Yar) - Из тьмы вымерших деревень (From The Darkness of Deadened Villages) (Avantgarde Music) 

One-man project Sivij Yar, which translates roughly to “gray shore,” is nothing short of a redeemer for an aesthetically retarded Russian black metal circle. This is a rant for another time. Flashes of Burzum, Wigrid, and even Moonsorrow adorn a well-layered and modestly succinct album.

13. Skull Fist – Chasing the Dream (NoiseArt Records)

Still douchey, overproduced, and funner with every cup of cheap-o keg beer.

12. Ambush – Firestorm (High Roller Records)

Some of the best hooks written since the '80s.

 11. Grave Digger – Return of the Reaper (Napalm Records)

Every track on this silly, wonderful record kills.

10. Domains – Sinister Ceremonies (The Sinister Flame)

A split release and tour with Sadistic Intent would be a ghoulish nightmare come true.

9. Vredehammer – Vinteroffer (Indie Recordings)

Vredehammer is a testament to the immovable strength of doing something right, if not altogether original. The riffs here are unstoppable, delivered with the kind of instinctual cadence that can’t be taught in music school. Whereas once it was The Crown and Immortal that scratched this itch, Vredehammer is now the drug of choice.

8. Аркона – Явь (Napalm Records) 

This record is dense and almost the entirety of it is far more menacing than it is folksy. That bands like Moonsorrow and Arkona are at the forefront of folk metal is something that’s been said to me unsolicited enough times that I can now repeat it here without feeling like too much of a homer.

7. Castle – Under Siege (Van Records) 

From the driving grit of the opening track, Castle again shows most doom and occult bands as the musical equivalent of people you would omit from your party invitations. 

6. Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx (Frontiers Records) 

Every record this band churns out comes packed with more songwriting talent than it does '80s kitsch, and there is plenty of the latter to go around at that. 

5. The Hidden – Fearful Symmetry (Divebomb Records) 

In 1999, Matte Modin of now-defunct death-thrashers Defleshed got some dudes together, and they all decided they loved Agent Steel and the X-Files.The only thing I have a hard time believing is how shittily this album was promoted. 

4. Thy Darkened Shade – Liber Lvcifer I: Khem Sedjet (WTC Productions) 

Heard someone describe this recording as having an insane level of intensity. If you want to scare your parents, listen to 1349. If you want attention, listen to Shining. If you want the dark arts in all their untamed glory, then spin this. 

3. Riot – Unleash the Fire (Avalon Online) 

The announcement of Riot’s first record without Mark Reale’s involvement was met with skepticism and damn near outrage. With its infinite licks and towering vocals, this album even outshines 2011’s Immortal Soul. The hammer, bring it down.

2. Wolf – Devil’s Seed (Century Media) 

 Not only are the choruses more memorable than ever, but there’s an obvious prog rock stamp on many of the jammy sounding bridges and lead sequences. These aren’t easy things to fuse together. Vocalist Niklas Stålvind sounds so much like Mike Howe from Metal Church Mach II, that maybe Mike will hear this raging album–which is Wolf’s best to date—and come out of retirement to rejoin the band. 

1. Bullet – Storm of Blades (Nuclear Blast)

The restoration of heavy metal’s glory began in the 2000s as a sort of revivalist wet dream and grown into an ageless beast, timeless and indestructible. I’d be hard pressed to find a record that captures this better than Storm of Blades.


For more of Maxim Björky's brilliance, check out his mid-year list here

1 comment:

  1. I actually saw Skull Fist last night, they are actually better live then recorded. Nice list, I was expecting ALL Black Metal honestly - just because most blogs these days just bathe in it for some reason.