Max is a good friend of the blog and a musician in the death metal band Subulation who you can follow on twitter here. Some very non typical picks here for a metal end of year list, love to see the number one pick!
16. Earthwomb – Becoming Immanence (EP)
Most people don’t think of Peru when they are looking to discover new black metal, but they should. Peru has had many excellent artists over the years, from the legendary black metal band, Goat Semen to acts like Saqraruna, Two Face Sinner, Anal Vomit, Wrath, and Spectral Moon. Earthwomb continues that tradition and carves their own space by releasing an incredible debut of atmospheric black metal with crisp, clean production, cadaverous vocals, and labyrinthian song structures. As they stated “This first chapter is finished, but Earthwomb remains an open book.” and I’m very excited to hear whatever they release next.
15. Pathology – The Everlasting Plague
Every two years like clockwork, the slam dads return to bless us with another album of transcendently ignorant riffs and brutal, hateful compositions. This is Pathology’s 11th album, and they truly have this down to a science. If you enjoyed 2019’s Reborn to Kill, this is the exact same lineup, so it’s got all the gurgling, shredding, and epic melodies you’d expect from a modern Pathology album. Put it on, crush a beer can against your skull, and stomp around your house as these riffs bludgeon everything in their path. Also, check out the new Pyrexia album “Gravitas Maximus” if you need more ignorant riffage.
14. Serpent Sermon – The Saurian Hymns
Serpent Sermon is blackened death metal with lush symphonic elements and dramatic vocal performances. Russian folk, as well as eastern music, seems to be a heavy influence on their compositions and it’s resulted in a theatrical and engaging album that could stand toe to toe with the likes of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia or The Age of Nero. This album is like candy to my ears and I can’t stop listening to it.
13. So Hideous – None But a Pure Heart Can Sing
Often in metal, a band will write a composition and add something like strings or choir for added texture later, like Metallica’s S&M or Satyricon’s Live at the Opera. These are fine, but every instrument has its strengths and weaknesses and you should compose for each of them instead of just jamming flutes down our throat cause you wanted to pretend to be classy. Post-rock, classically-infused, sludgy, experimental shoegaze band, So Hideous have achieved exactly that. This album navigates its innumerous elements and combines all of them to function as a greater whole. Similar to this year’s Maldición de sangre, it is such a breath of fresh air to hear music written with every facet of its cohort in mind. This is an incredibly unique release and I’m thankful to have found it.
12. Vildhjarta – måsstaden under vatten
Pioneers of the Thall genre return with their first release in 8 years with a goliath album coming in at 80 minutes, 8 seconds (lotta 8s here). If you’ve never heard this band or style of music I’d suggest putting on passage noir and deciding if you’re down for 80 minutes, 8 seconds of that. If you are a fan of this band, this album is beyond anything you could have hoped for. There are callbacks to previous releases on this album, and then the album itself has numerous motifs that will iterate and re-emerge as the album progresses. There is a tremendous sense of joy and freedom on this album. You can tell they were really exploring everything that the guitar is capable of doing and having a blast doing it.
11. Exanimis – Marionnettiste
When Tommaso Riccardi left Fleshgod Apocalypse there was a void in my life, a void of masterful symphonic tech-death with intense orchestration, brutal vocals, and blistering guitar work. With one release Exanimis has completely filled that void. Exanimis’ debut album has incredible neoclassical passages, some beautifully girthy vocals, and a phenomenal drum performance from Clément Denys of Fractal Universe. If, like me, you’ve been searching for something to fill the void that post-Tommaso Fleshgod Apocalypse hasn’t been able to fill, look no further because this is a brilliant release from a band whose career is clearly just getting started.
10. Voidsphere – To Overtake | To Overcome
One of my favorite qualities of black metal is that the way it’s produced can create an atmosphere that shapes the way you engage with it. Voidsphere envelopes you in a weighted blanket of shrieks, blast beats, and fuzzy guitars, but it’s all presented as if you are two rooms away. There is a softness to the production which is rare in metal music, and this is a rare release in Voidsphere’s catalog because it’s much more melodic and riff centric than any of their previous works. If you’re going to give this one a spin, I suggest being as recumbent as possible in a dark room, and just let the void wash over you.
9. Rumination – Blue Rose
Blue Rose is a blackened deathgrind concept EP about Twin Peaks. If for some reason that hasn’t gotten you to buy it already, then I will also mention that the closing track has double bass that is mixed in a way where it sounds like your speakers are breaking. This release is ferocious, pummeling, and comes in under 10 minutes. So, instead of listening to Dream Theater’s Elon Musk inspired opus “The Alien” you could listen to this in its entirety and I’m pretty sure you’d have a much better time.
8. Cerce – Cowboy Music
Cerce is a hardcore punk band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 2011. They combine intense blast beats, low growling vocals, and high leads akin to Julie Christmas to play a tight and chaotic style of hardcore. Cerce disbanded in 2013 and this is their first album since they reunited in 2018, and god damn, it is good to have them back. The lyrics really shine through on this release and singer Becca Cadalzo is in rare form as she belts out lines like “who the fuck have I been faking smiles for? I’m not going to pretend these men are kind.”. It’s fast, it’s heavy, it’s poetic, it’s easily the best release of their career.
7. Summoning The Lich – United in Chaos
United in Chaos is the debut album from this slammy, melodic, death metal band that thrashes and shreds joyously as their vocalist rapid-fire blasts lyrics inspired by Lord of the Rings, Magic The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and Adventure Time into your ear holes. Every member is firing on all cylinders; there’s phenomenal lead work, brutal gutturals, masterful bass work, and some ridiculous and memorable drum parts, all of this combined resulting in a tight, brutal, and uncompromising debut album that quickly cemented a sound and style that is uniquely Lich. If you are looking for a death metal album that’s infinitely replayable, and a blast to listen to, this is an essential buy. And, if you’re looking for more energetic death metal that’s incredibly fun to listen to, check out Demise by Laceration.
6. Los Males Del Mundo – Descent Towards Death
This album is oppressively bleak. It pounds immense, heavy riffs into your skull as the vocals scream “Pain is not a stumbling block on the road, but the path itself on which we take our steps”. Los Males Del Mundo is an Argentinian black metal band inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Emil Cioran! Cioran famously said “We do not rush toward death, we flee the catastrophe of birth, survivors struggling to forget it. Fear of death is merely the projection into the future of a fear which dates back to our first moment of life”. Los Males Del Mundo captures the essence of these legendary thinkers and expresses their nihilistic views on what is truly a tremendous achievement of an album.
5. Infinity Shred – EP 002 (Recovery)
If you’ve never heard Infinity Shred, imagine a barrage of lush synths, post-metal compositional structure, and some insane blast beats and breakdowns thrown in for good measure. Infinity Shred recently signed to 3DOT Recordings with whom they released Forever, A Fast Life, and now EP 002 (Recovery). They can do no wrong in my opinion, this EP is a danceable, thrashable, and beautiful addition to their already flawless catalog. Also, Their drummer does drum playthroughs where she mixes cocktails during the ambient sections of their songs. I don’t know how no one else thought of doing that, and I don’t know why those videos don’t have millions of views.
4. Raat – Eternity
Raat put out 4 releases this year, each one had its own unique flair and flavor, but Raat’s final release was easily their best. Eternity is a Four song EP of uplifting atmospheric black metal. There’s a tremendous amount of hope and beauty in these compositions. Similar to the jubilant bounce of Unreqvited’s Beautiful Ghosts, Eternity dares to be aggressive texturally while having a foundation built on joyous motifs and inspirative passages.
3. Kayne West – Donda
This is the 10th studio album from Kanye West, and even after all these years he is still innovating and pushing the boundaries of art. The way that this album takes his family and friends, captures them, and preserves them reminded me of the works of Charles Willson Peale who would often portrait his family, both living and dead together in one image. This album features posthumous collaborations with Pop Smoke and Donda West alongside many of his collaborators from over the years. These collaborations and his ruminations on life, death, family, and legacy resulted in one of the best albums of his career.
Length for many has been an issue, but that’s where the truly innovative aspect of the album comes into play; it’s interactive. Kanye has put out 3 versions of the album so far, so you can mix and match to create your own ideal version of this album. That, along with the Donda player which has the raw stems of the album allowing for even further iteration on the listeners part just shows how Kanye is always pushing music forward. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much longer I can support someone so egregiously pro-life, but I’ll stay as long as I can Mr. West.
2. Hrast – Beyond the Ethereal Horizon
The album begins with a low drone, then chords strike on a grand piano, an acoustic guitar begins playing an arpeggiated chord as the wind begins to howl and envelop you, twin distorted guitars begin to play, climaxing with a quote from Robert Frost. This is intricately arranged and exceptionally executed black metal. The album ebbs and flows and is a beautiful exploration of sound. These Woods Crush Omnipresence has a lead line on acoustic guitar which is doubled on organ and it creates such a wonderful and unique texture. So much of this album is one genius idea after another, but it never dwells on it and allows it to go stale, it just moves to the next brilliant passage. This is the best metal album I’ve heard in a long time.
1. Madison Beer – Life Support
In 2019 Madison Beer released the single Dear Society, which she had been quoted saying was the closing of one chapter, and the beginning of something new. After 8 years of EP and single releases, Madison Beer released Life Support, her debut album, and a 17-track magnum opus of pop music perfection. This album explores toxicity, heartbreak, emotional numbness, the necessity of recognizing and empathizing with others’ trauma. Although this album builds on the foundations of her prior works, it is truly unlike anything else she has created thus far, shifting from swooning ballads to the hard-hitting pop-rock epics, all while retaining a singular vision and artistic tone. It’s an incredible achievement from an already well-established artist and is easily the best thing I listened to all year.