2015 was a good year for music. Dark music, to be more exact. Many of my favorite bands released new albums, some new bands emerged from the ever hungry underground and all in all I was extremely satisfied with what my music gods had to offer.
Since I do not like classifications, I decided to come up with 15 of the albums I so much enjoyed throughout 2015, in absolutely no particular order. I just arranged them alphabetically, because each band/album I talked about here is very special to me and quenched my hunger for good music.
That being said, here we go:
ACHERONTAS – Ma-Ion (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) – World Terror Committee
These prolific Greeks have come up with their 5th dark opus, the best release so far. Stretching for over 1 hour, this album has gathered all the best elements from all their previous works, taking them further into occult and magick. The 11 songs are more like invocations, a manifesto of the Left Hand Path, immersing the listener into a sea of melancholy, aggression, beautiful melody and nostalgia. Great drums, fantastic vocals (featuring Nebiros (Ofermod/Malign/Mephorash)), superb guitar solos and dreamy interludes which transport the listener into an astral voyage, making this album a true masterpiece of the black arts. Highly recommended.
BATUSHKA – Litourgiya – Witching Hour Productions
Superb debut for this Polish new band, if you want to know more about this album, please read the review below:
BLOODWAY – Mapping the Moment With the Logic of Dreams – I, Voidhanger Records
This is the 1st full length of this brilliant Romanian band, a true monument of introspective music, filled with sadness, despair and, why not, hope. The booklet is amazing and reading the lyrics while listening to the music is mandatory, because of the messages that are contained within. Bloodway‘s music is not easy, it’s not your average happy music you listen to to cheer you up, it’s much more than that. It’s about life, dreams, hope, even about death. I like the whole album a lot, but my favorite tracks are The Transfinite Castaway, Walking Past Near The Lighthouse, Mirror Twins (with its magical solo part), Early Glade Test Pilot, Garden Of Diurnal Fractals and Mapping The Moment With the Logic of Dreams where some “hysteric” blast beats appear here and there, adding some craziness to this already challenging music. Worth to mention is the instrumental song A Hallow Bridge, which features Dr. Mikannibal (Sigh) on a psychedelic saxophone. Excellent debut album, the best Romanian band so far.
DARVAZA – The Downard Descent – Terratur Possessions
This new two-man band came out of the blue (or dark) and released its debut album on Terratur Possessions. The album consists of 4 songs, with a total length of 31 minutes. If we see who the 2 musicians behind this project are (Omega aka Gionata Potenti, one of the most potent black metal drummers these days and Wraath, from the mighty Behexen, among many others), we can figure out this is not a happy walk in the woods just for the fun if it. What we’re dealing with here is furious, religious black metal, full of hate and creepy atmosphere. From the buzzing of flies that opens the album (The Flaming Sword), to the incantation like parts (Derelict of Passion and Tenebrae ) and passing through the groovy black’n roll (The Barren Earth), we’re put in front of a firing squad that uses blast beats instead of bullets and total devotion instead of marching songs. The top notch production, beautiful cover and intense music make this album a very interesting debut for this new band, which proves black metal is not dead yet and has much to say in the future. Hail Satan!
KATAVASIA – The Sacrilegious Testament – Floga Records
From Greece comes another band, Katavasia, again with a debut album released last year. Consisting of musicians with a strong activity in the black metal milieu (Varathron, Aenaon, Hail Spirit Noir) this group recorded something that could have very well been released in the early 90’s. They managed to catch so well the atmosphere of the early Greek black metal scene (Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Thou Art Lord, Nightfall, Elysian Fields), which was full of melody, Mediterranean mysticism and heavy metal riffs. This album makes no difference, throughout its 9 songs, the listener is transported from sheer aggression to melancholy, via doomy, dreamy passages (Symphonie Des Gravens, Visions of the Misty Night). The vocals handled by Necroabyssious are harsh, raspy and evil, fitting perfectly with the catchy guitar riffs, romantic keyboards and ferocious drum parts. Maybe to remind us of the above mentioned connection to the early scene, the main vocals on the last song, The Chariot of Emperor, are done by none other than Sakis Tolis from the mighty Rotting Christ. A beautiful album with an amazing feeling of old which was perfectly caught in 2015. A true gem of Hellenic black metal.
KING DUDE – Songs Of Flesh & Blood – In the Key of Light – Van Records
In June 2015, the American artist TJ Cowgill aka King Dude, released its long awaited follow up to Fear and boy, it rocked. SOFAB is the second non-acoustic album after Fear and it kinda continues in the same way, but this time taking the songwriting to the next level. It’s much more personal than all his releases and much more balanced than before. Sometimes, it sounds like a stoned Nick Cave or like some seriously enamored bard who sings about a long lost love. We have a good share of “fast” songs, (Butterfly Wings, Rosemary and Holy Water) but the rest of the album is very, very melancholic and sad (Deal With the Devil, Death Won’t Take Me ,A Little Bit of Baby, Desolate Hour). As I already said, the lyrics are very personal, talking about drugs, loss of love, death, sadness and religion (or the Devil, to be exact).
Having the chance to listen to half of those songs played live acoustic, without a back up band, I can sincerely say that TJ is one hell of an artist who can play with your feelings whether he’s using just a Gretchen guitar,a piano or a full band. Definitely a classic album and a great artist.
LUCIFER – Lucifer I – Rise Above Records
After she put The Oath to sleep, Johanna Sadonis couldn’t wait too much, in 2014 she formed Lucifer and a year later they released its 1st full length, S/T. If The Oath was heavy-doom oriented, Lucifer is more closer to stoner/doom, a genre that saw its revival a couple of years ago. Johanna took advantage of Cathedral‘s demise and convinced Gaz Jennings to join her on guitar, making Lucifer a force to be reckoned with.
I love this album, the way those songs are written and played. Johanna’s “angelic” voice fits perfectly with the rest of the instruments, giving the atmosphere a very melodic touch. The main theme Lucifer sings about is of course magic and the occult, making it very suitable to listen to while reading an old grimoire. The album gets stronger with every listen and gets a hold over you with its “catchy” guitar riffs and drum beats. The doomy legacy of Mr Jennings can be found on songs like Sabbath and Morning Star, which, combined with Johanna’s voice, make the atmosphere even more gloomier and heavy. This S/T album is very very good and I really do hope the band will continue on this (left hand) path of doom.
MEPHORASH – 1557:Rites of Nullification – Odium Records
The 1st of September saw the release of Mephorash’s 3rd album released via the Polish label Odium Records.
Following Chalice of Tagirion (which I enjoyed a lot), the 3rd LP brings Mephorash the crown of thorns they most likely deserve. Stretching over 40 minutes, the 4 songs make a black metal monster of an album that seems closer to a concept album than to a stand alone one. The metal played on it is as black as the pits of hell and it features on each song some well known guys like Nebiros (Malign), Omega AD (Acherontas, Darvaza), Kostas Koudousnes (Embrace of Thorns, Serpent Noir) and Deacon D (Hetroertzen,Lux Caelis), who, together with Mashkelah M’Ralaa, bring an evil touch to this already cursed opus. The album stands out by the variation and the complexity of the songs, where slow, atmospheric parts are mixed superbly with the furious speed and anger of the drums and riffs. The keyboards and the ethereal female voices add a creepy feeling to the music, making this album one of the best of 2015. Just listen to the album as a whole and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
MY DYING BRIDE – FEEL THE MISERY – Peaceville Records
Three years after Map of All Our Failures, the British sextet have released what I think is their best album from the “modern” era of their career. Feel The Misery represents a journey through all their musical past and seems like it has been written in the early 90’s rather than in late 2015. What we have here is doom metal at its best, played by some depressed souls and everything that pours out of those speakers is grief. From the wailing vocals to the brilliant guitars, going through the haunting violin insertions, we know we’re doomed. Having listened to this album in a delicate time of my life, it consumed me and spat me out, leaving me so beautifully in love with it. I cannot recommend a single song, you must listen to it from start to end when the day is dark and the shadows grow so you can feel the despair that emanates from all its pores. A fuckin’ masterpiece of doom metal.
PATH OF SAMSARA – The Fiery Hand – Van Records
I never heard of this German band before buying the LP but I was intrigued by the title song that was streamed online. At first I did not like this album. Several spinnings were necessary for it to get under my skin, but know I’m very excited I bought it. Path of Samsara is not an average extreme metal band, it has nothing to do with metal actually. What they play is some sort of rock, hard rock maybe, but with a magick touch. They even name their music black magic rock’n roll. The album is very emotional, putting the listener in a very melancholic, meditative mood. The voice is clear and clean, the guitars are sometimes catchy, sometimes sad and the whole is very mystic, like some sort of ritual performed in a remote forest clearing. The songs are quite long but you never get bored because you never expect what you’ll hear next. Take The Dawn of Saturn,for example. It begins with some acoustic guitar lines and then it breaks into a well balanced rock, with occult lyrics that really stick in your mind. A great album, a revelation for me, with a very nice psychedelic atmosphere. Keep an eye open for this band.
SALIGIA – Fonix – Van Records
From Norway comes Saligia with their 2nd full length, released by Van Records. A very good album, almost 43 minutes of black metal with some sophisticated elements, not for everyone’s taste, for sure. On Fonix they mix pure black metal with a bit of doom, and add a spray of punk, but in a way so delicate that the result is a devastating work, their best so far. I really enjoyed Sic Transit Gloria Mundi and Lux Aeternae, but Fonix, as the name implies, rose from its ashes and set it as a milestone in (Norwegian) black metal. Divided into 5 parts, Fire, Revelation, Abyss, Voices and Foenix, the album has a strong structure built upon Ahzari‘s voice (insane shrieks, cries and whispers seem to possess the listener) and V‘s drumming. The lyrics contribute a lot to this crazy, degenerated, religious atmosphere, turning this album into a black metal gem. A must for those who think true black metal still exists.
“Shaking the pillars that once held the sky
Our father is Death and to live is to die”
SATURNALIA TEMPLE – To The Other – Listenable Records
Doom, stoner, psychedelic, a bit of black metal and lots of space effects are the ingredients the wizard Tommie Erickson brewed in his magic cauldron. The result is this long trip down the occult lane which can be taken only by listening to this fantastic album. After the foggy Intro and ZazelSorath, To The Other engulfs the listener in a fuzzy, murky swamp that is created by the obsessive cords and Tommie’s raspy voice. After this monster, we gaze deeper into the abyss surrounded only by the ritualistic effects and the crawling riffs. Snow of Reason, March of Gha’agsheblah, Black Sea of Power and the fabulous Crowned With Seven make this release a monument of stoner/occult doom. The album concludes with a beautiful instrumental, Void, which adds a strange touch to the already psychotic atmosphere. Tommie’s voice has changed since Aion Of Drakon, going more towards the black metal side, but adding more weight to the strange atmosphere. A heavy album with crushing riffs and smoke infused vibes that make you dream. Of what? You’ll find out only if you listen. Closely.
SERPENT NOIR – Erotomysticism – Daemon Worship
Greece brings us again an offering on the altar of death. Its name is Serpent Noir, and they have released a magnificent album called Erotomysticism on Devil Worship Productions.
The whole album takes you on a mystical journey into enchanted lands were spirituality, magic and music are closely intertwined. Stepping away from the pure black metal standards, Serpent Noir have created a piece of art from other planes of existence, where one can dream and rediscover his/her self. Apart from the 2 beautiful instrumental tracks (Path of the Raven and Ayahuasca), we have 7 more tracks that open up gate after of gate of knowledge and liberation. I like this album a lot for its diversity, musicality and for the feelings that it transmits every time I listen to it. Kostas’s voice fits perfectly with the dreamy atmosphere created by the ritual drums and chantings while Belfagor’s drumming provides the perfect heavy balance for this opus. Worth to also mention is the superb cover created by Timmo Ketola, a cover that reflects on a visual scale the music contained on the cd (the album has not yet been released on vinyl, unfortunately). This is one of the most beautiful releases of 2015. Strongly recommended.
SLAYER – Repentless – Nuclear Blast
Another perfect come back, especially after the band went through in the last few years. Slayer is Slayer and this album proves it. I already reviewed the album here:
TRIBULATION – Children of the Night – Century Media
2 years after the release of Formulas of Death, the Swedish Tribulation brought to life this amazing follow-up, Children of the Night, confusing and dividing the whole metal scene. What? Wait a minute. Who the fuck cares of the so called metal scene? I don’t. Each band is free to write, record and release what they like and you, as a music fan are free to either like it or not. It’s that simple.
Long story short, Tribulation changed their style a bit, becoming more melodic than before but at the same time keeping that “occult”, retro vibe still very much alive. Yes, maybe they dropped the blast beats and the death metal riffs but instead they added a very melodic, melancholic touch to their metal. The overall atmosphere is dark, haunting and horror-themed, reminding me of a soundtrack for an old black/white mute vampire movie.
They have evolved, they have reinvented themselves and this, my friends, I like a lot. Some bands are meant to never change (Motorhead, AC/DC etc), but for others change is something that comes in a natural way. And Tribulation makes no exception.
The only element that links Children of the Night to their previous works is Johannes’s voice, which has still kept its growling, harsh tone, compared to all the other instruments that seem to have been slowed down a bit.The use of keyboards and other strange instruments (vibraphones and xylophones) adds a psychedelic touch to the whole atmosphere. There is no weak song on this album despite its length (almost 1 hour) but there are some songs that stand out as “classics”, so to speak: In the Dreams of the Dead, Melancholia, The Motherhood of God, Holy Libations and Music From the Other. A perfect album from a very interesting band that knew when and how to evolve as an artist. The rest is history.
Beside these albums, there were other releases that caught my attention last year:
AOSOTH/ORDER OF ORIAS – WORLD TERROR COMITTEE
AOSOTH – IV EP – AGONIA RECORDS
2 killer releases from this awesome French black metal band. The perfect preview to their new album which will hopefully see the light of day this year. Expect true satanic devotion and sinister vocals. Cult!
DEGIAL – Savage Mutiny – Sepulchral Voice Records
The 2nd opus of this Swedish horde was released on the 25th of December, ending the year in ashes and blood stench. This album is evil, raw, ugly and morbid as fuck. Degial managed to record a savage album that, together with Vorum‘s Current Mouth, can be placed in an all time best death metal albums list without any regrets. As on Death’s Striking Wings, we have Set Teitan as a guest appearance on Revenants and Savage Mutiny, adding a chilling touch to this already sursed work.
Good production, infernal blast beats, hungry growls, all these make Savage Mutiny the living example that old school death metal is still kicking it big time, especially if it comes from Sweden. Check out Savage Mutiny, Pallor, Revenants, Sanguine Thirst.
“A darkness to behold
Blood in blood out…”
FAITH NO MORE Sol Invictus – Ipecac Records
My not so metal guilty pleasure. Blown away by this superb come back, their best album until now. The band has reached its peak of maturity with this work, showing the long pause was not in vain. Recommended songs: Superhero, Sunny Side Up, Cone of Shame, Motherfucker, Matador.
GORGOROTH – Instinctus Bestialis – Soulseller
The great follow up to “Quantus Possunt but with a different vocalist, since Pest has again left the band. His replacement, Atteringer, fits like a spiked glove in Gorgoroth, his vocals bringing a breath of fresh air to their music. Sadly, this good album was the last for Frank Watkins aka Boddel who died after its release.
Gorgoroth have managed to create a very solid work, keeping some of the old school vibe still very much alive. Praise Hail Satan!
MALIGN – A SUN TO SCORCH Norma Evangelium Diaboli
After 13 years of hiatus, Malign have reformed in 2011 and released this magnificent piece of black art as a 10″EP that contains 2 long songs, A Sun To Scorch and The Love of Abysmal Wrath. This is what black metal is really about, passion and devotion, from music to lyrics and visuals. Nebiros delivers here his best performance, building together with the rest of the instruments a sphere of musical chaos that engulfs the listener in an eerie atmosphere. From furious blast beats to acoustic guitar parts, the universe of Malign is like a one way journey to the underworld. The best EP for 2015 and a perfect hommage to Selim Lemouchi. Onwards! Onwards!