Erin is a solo black metal musician of several awesome projects like Wolven Daughter and Dread Maw among others. She released a really sick EP and a split with Witchwindow recently that you should check out. You can follow Erin on Twitter here.
10. NOCTULE – WRETCHED ABYSS
The only reason this album is low on the list is because it took me a while to come around on it. I kept (unfairly) comparing it to Serena Cherry’s other project, Svalbard, whose album When I Die, Will I Get Better? was one of my favorites of last year. But there’s plenty to love in Noctule. Full of soaring melodies and possessed of an epic atmosphere that you don’t often find in black metal, this is a remarkable first release. I hope Cherry comes out with much more under the Noctule name in the years to come.
9. IGRIC – SVET SVETLOM STVORENÝ
Another album that could easily be described as epic, gorgeous string arrangements and keyboards mix with mournful guitars and savage vocals to create one of the most surprising albums of the year. Last year’s No Dawn For Men was the album that first made me realize that black metal could be genuinely beautiful, but Svet Svetlom Stvorený cemented my love of this kind of music.
8. AMAFUFUNYANA – DEMONIC POSSESSION I
This is as raw as it gets. The guitars swirl around in such a malestrom of chaos that sometimes it’s hard to pick out individual riffs. But it works. Amafufunyana somehow manages to strike the right balance between noise and melody that makes it more interesting than your average raw black metal album. While it’s not so experimental as to turn off genre purists, it’s definitely one of the more unique albums to come out this year.
7. SAPIENTIA DIABOLI – BLACK IS THE MESSENGER. BLACK IS THE DESTINY
That being said, this is one for the genre purists. Straightforward, fast, and dark, this is exactly how I like my black metal. The riffs are ominous, the vocals are hellish, the drums don’t let up. And it’s exactly as long as it needs to be, clocking in at around 25 minutes. Any longer and it would have gotten monotonous, but as it stands, this is a solid slab of evil music.
6. NACHTHEIR – A JOURNEY OF HATE AND SORROW
This is another short one, about 18 minutes, not counting the bonus track, and what I love about this album is the variation on the riffs. It’s not nearly as one-note as a lot of black metal out there; the sole member weaves several different musical ideas throughout this album and makes them all work together admirably. Speaking of riffs, the repeating guitar part that starts around the 2:20 mark of the first song and makes a few reappearances throughout was one of my favorite moments on any release of this year. I put on this record just to hear that riff sometimes. Great album.
5. FEBRIS MANEA – THROUGH PALE OPULENCE THY REIGN IS DOOMED
Pure evil. Sheer madness. These are the words that describe this album. This is the kind of album that makes you want to hang up your own projects, because black metal has peaked and it doesn’t get any better from here. This is half an hour of some of the most genuinely frightening music I’ve ever heard. The guitars are a wall of dissonant noise, the howled vocals sound genuinely unhinged. Black metal at its absolute most extreme.
4. WORMWITCH – WOLF HEX
This was probably one of the most enjoyable releases this year just in terms of how fun it was to listen to. This album, with its shredding leads and fist-pumping riffs, just radiates energy. It’s some truly excellent black n’roll. Just as good as their incredible 2019 release, Heaven that Dwells within, if not better.
3. LUCIFIXION – FERAL MASS
This album snuck onto the list at the last minute. It’s a one-song demo that was released by Sentient Ruin on December 3rd, not quite 9 and a half minutes long. But I listened to it nonstop for about a week after I got it. It is exactly what it says it is: feral, firing on all cylinders and sandblasting the listener with baleful riffs, savage vocals, and unrelenting drums. Second wave black metal done right, pure and simple.
2. NATURGEIST – REINVIGORATED TERROR
Another short release, but a very memorable one. When it comes to black metal, riffs don’t often stick in my head. But the main riff on “Catatonic Stupor” did. It reminds me a lot of the main riff of Transilvanian Hunger, actually. Unique enough to stand out while still retaining a sinister edge. The rest of the album is also incredible. Much like the Amafufunyana album, Reinvigorated Terror is an exercise in chaos, but a tightly controlled chaos. Excited to hear more from this project.
1. OFSTINGAN – BLASPHEMOUS CONQUEROR
Ofstingan was my favorite find of this year. They released two EPs and a split, and any one of them could have taken this spot on the list. They’re one of the best bands doing second wave worship right now. Blasphemous Conqueror is everything I love about traditional black metal. Satanic, dark, even a little cheesy, this release is the genre in it’s purest form. Evil guitars, blasting drums, interludes of a pitch-shifted voice conducting a Satanic ritual. I love it. It’s perfect.