Showing posts with label black metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black metal. Show all posts

Lvcifyre- "Svn Eater" CD/LP (Dark Descent)

Greetings readers. Thanks for being patient with my slight delay in reviews. Today we're visiting an album that's only been out for a couple days and has already been causing quite a stir in the general metal media. I tend to try to steer clear of releases that are receiving larger amounts of coverage, but this one impressed me enough to warrant sharing with my readers. With a name like Lvcifyre, I would normally be slightly hesitant about the music, as the whole business of substituting "v' for "u" is typically an indication of campy junk, but even my first listen yielded great interest. It's evident these guys are dead serious and focused on cultivating a truly evil atmosphere, not just playing with Satanism for laughs.

While Svn Eater lurches in slowly with a nearly five-minute long buildup on opener "Night Seas Sorcery," the rest of the album's nearly fifty minutes passes quickly with very few moments of relief. While the lyrical and visual aesthetic of the album is clearly rooted in black metal's symbolism, this is very much an efficient and precise exercise in death metal perfection. Guitars swirl and roar in lower frequencies, yet don't tread into the more subterranean horror that's so popular now. Instead, this is a modern take on the classic aggression of early 90's acts, relentless and full of great riffs. In fact, the mix is crystal clear without treading into slick or obnoxious territory. Everything is crisp and balanced, exactly as it should be, with just enough variety and nuance to keep things from being a simple rehash of a genre overplayed. Copies of this album are officially on sale from Dark Descent now, so grab it on the format of your choice while it's available.

Yellow Eyes- "The Desert Mourns" EP (SIbir Records/Dead Section)

Readers who have been following for any amount of time should know I've been big on New York black metal group Yellow Eyes since the beginning of my writing career (if you could call a blog a career). In just a few short years, these guys have gone from being a band with a promising demo to being the sort of hot commodity who makes year end lists on sites with hundreds of times the visitor count of my little blog. I've even seen copies of their debut demo going for offensively high prices on discogs, which is a sign of their current popularity, although I'd love to see the band getting that kind of cash instead of folks who bought a tape and never even listened to it. In other words, I love Yellow Eyes and it's incredible to me that they've become such a buzz band. This hype would typically be hard to live up to, but this band delivers time after time. Today we're taking a look at their brand new 12" EP, The Desert Mourns.

Back of shirt. Front has Yellow Eyes logo.
With only one song on each side, this album plays at 45RPM, which is a rarity in my collection, but makes this a real collectible gem. These two songs see Yellow Eyes demonstrating a sound that is truly their own yet instantly welcoming even for those not previously initiated with this skilled young act. Vibrant and bright guitars that cut through the mix with a clarity uncommon in black metal will grab your attention almost immediately after following the band's trademark introductory ambiance. If the band's energy doesn't come through your sound system with the passion and fury of a live performance, then I can only assume your ears or heart aren't in the right place, because this is a gripping, if not unnecessarily brief, demonstration of Yellow Eyes' mastery of the genre and true potential. The drumming is expressive without hogging the spotlight and the vocals are almost scientifically engineered to hit the right degree of presence for this kind of music. There is a sense of confidence that this album displays that, while other releases hinted at, is finally coming to the foreground here. I think the band has always had material like this in them yet perhaps did not have the reputation or experience necessary to share it properly. This isn't really even ambitious so much as it is another step in this already challenging band's continuous path towards dominance of the metal underground. Another thing to make note of is the lyrical expansion. While Yellow Eyes' career started with rather bleak, depressing lyrics fixated on self-loathing, misery, and generally unpleasant themes, they've adapted the position of storytellers rather than miserable black metal dudes. While I'm a fan of both, the growth and maturity of the band has clearly expanded in every aspect of their complete package, which delights me. As an aside, if you're a geek like me, you'll love how intense this gets if you play it at 33RPM instead of 45. You'll have to try it for yourself when you grab a copy.

This album is available on its own in versions unique to both the US and EU, as well as in a bundle with a shirt commissioned for this particular album. I'm honestly surprised this didn't sell out in its first day or two, but that doesn't mean you should wait long if you want to have a shot at owning a copy. Also, yes, I'm still unable to embed from bandcamp for some awful reason. Here's a youtube sample of the title track. Once my official site goes up soon I'll be able to embed properly again. Thanks for the patience, dear readers.

Aurvandil- "Thrones" CS (Psychic Violence Records)

Today is the third and final day of my weekend with the newest batch of Psychic Violence tapes. which means we're visiting the magnificent release, Thrones by Aurvandil. While the band does have a noteworthy back catalog, this is my introduction to this group. French acts seem to consistently produce some of the best black metal around, and Aurvandil is a strong contribution to this status. Without wasting further time, let's begin.

Side I is labeled Iron, with two tracks of majestic black metal brilliance that bring to mind a medieval battlefield after the fight has ended: empty, covered in snow, and littered with lifeless bodies. While not quite falling into the folk metal category, the album opens with a splendid semi-acoustic passage that brings to mind Ulver's legendary Kveldsjanger, with subtle choral vocals and just enough shimmering resonance on the guitars to create a proper atmosphere. When the galloping drums and full instrumentation break in, I feel like I've fallen through into another world conjured by the music. While winter is the general climate this album seems to conjure, the motion through snow-covered landscapes is constant, with valleys, forests, and even desolate cities passing by as one listens. The constant movement and the subtle variations created by harmonizing leads that are all but buried in the background keep this fresh despite the repetitive and consistent nature of this kind of music.

Side II is labeled Ice, and while the music here is clearly cut from the same mold as the first side, there is a slightly colder, less violent feeling to the music here. Perhaps it's because of the artist's lead, but it works either way. While not exactly calming, this side feels more victorious and slightly less mournful in a way without losing the overall darkness in mood. When things slow down during a few choice segments in the track, it shows the peak of Aurvandil's genius. I'm always into albums that play with mood and atmosphere, and this is full of it, so it's easy to see why this was one of my favorites of 2013.

Grab a copy while they're still in stock. I can't imagine it'll last long. If you've missed it by this point, Eisenwald will be releasing this on vinyl soon, so keep an eye out.

Vilkacis- "The Fever of War" (Psychic Violence Records)

So I guess this post might make it clear that I'm doing a three part post on the Psychic Violence winter dispatch. I figured yesterday's post about Urzeit was a good start to get your attention, so here's one you can actually get your paws on (although not from the original label). Vilkacis is a solo project of M. Rekeviks of Fell Voices. Little else needs to be said in preparing you for the level of quality presented here, yet fans of the band will be pleasantly surprised to find that this is not merely a clone of Rekeviks' primary band.

The Fever of War is a beast unto itself, with blast beats and tremolo picking leading the way, but in a far less textured and dense way than Fell Voices. Instead, this brings to mind the blistering minimalist approach of classics like Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger with its simple yet appropriately balanced style, although this certainly has more depth than this description might imply. Imagine a violent blizzard, or perhaps even a barrage of gunfire as the visual equivalent of this album's sonic quality. It drives incessantly onward, yet never quite leads one to exhaustion or boredom despite the repetition on which this sort of music often relies. The textured, droning centerpiece of "Sentinel at the Gate" provides a slight reprieve from the madness, akin to some of the more soothing ambient passages from Blazebirth Hall artists, but without the potentially unsavory associations. The following track (which kicks off the B-side) starts things off at a far slower pace, allowing us to regain our footing before jumping back in to the furious and vibrant track, "Wind and Flame." Perhaps I'm just a sucker for this kind of rawness, but this is one of the most masterful demonstrations of this niche that I've witnessed in quite some time. Far too often, bands like this lose themselves in either self-indulgence or (even worse) doldrums of monotony. Vilkacis deftly avoids these pitfalls and has offered something timeless with this debut release.

As previously mentioned, copies are still available in the Analog Worship distro, although I can't imagine these will last long, so grab this beauty while it's still available or else try your luck on discogs, where copies currently exist but will likely vanish just as quickly.

Urzeit- "Urzeit" (Psychic Violence Records)

It's not often that I share a cassette on my website that is already sold out, yet this gem has been haunting my thoughts since I came across the bandcamp page for this project late last summer. Those who aren't already familiar with Psychic Violence Records should know that pretty much anything this label puts out is gold, with many of the releases being related to black metal heavyweights Ash Borer and Fell Voices. Urzeit's members do spend time in other notable acts, yet the sound is so separate from anything affiliated that this tape really stands on its own.

Urzeit's self-titled demo is a brief yet harrowing blast of fury. The cassette features three songs with the same program on each side for maximum listening capacity. The pace here is primarily set at breakneck, yet moments like the mid-paced second half of "Entmannen" or the hypnotic repetition that opens "Albtraum" show the band scaling things back just enough to really set a mood and lead the listener onward. Through a subtle balance of apparent repetition and slight variation, Urzeit keeps me from being wholly surprised while listening yet retains my attention from start to finish. Music this blistering actually benefits from the album's brevity, allowing me to revisit the same song multiple times and become quite well acquainted. This tape is the only of this batch to have sold out by now, which is something of a shame for the buyer but a great indicator of this band's growing audience. Still, you can download these songs from Urzeit's bandcamp page for a mere three dollars. Additionally, a second tape has just been announced, along with a new promo track, so keep your eyes peeled for more from this group. When it goes live, chances are it will sell out just as quickly as this one did.

Rudemas- "Demo" CS & Smuteční Slavnost- "Nářky věčného zatracení" CS

As part of my efforts to improve my website's professionalism, I'm trying not to pair bands together as frequently, unless I can find a legitimate reason to bunch them together. However, today's post is one of curiosity to me. Here we find two very different takes on black metal from two bands who are releasing tapes without the aid of labels. The relatively orthodox, grim sounds of Rudemas have been occupying my ears lately with similar frequency to the entirely unorthodox, highly blasphemous hybridization of black metal and metalcore that Smuteční Slavnost (whose name translates to Funeral Ceremony, according to Google) provides. With this in mind, let's examine two separate yet equally fascinating pieces of music.

Rudemas's "Demo" is a collection of five feedback-heavy black metal assaults that carry the urgency and pace of many first-wave bands with a rawness more akin to the second wave.  While the music here isn't exactly breaking new ground, this Tennessean two-piece is serving up highly addictive and catchy black metal that delights me with its sincere simplicity and aggression. That's not to say that this is sloppily written or amateur, simply that it goes for a relentless, raw punky approach that feels truly evil, or at least menacing. The thing that sells me most on this band is just how much I can tell these guys clearly love the music they're making. Some things can't be faked, and this feels like two fans of the genre giving it their all. This demo has me eagerly waiting for more and I hope these guys can churn out some new material soon, because music this fun truly warrants at least a twenty-minute live set.


For every bit of familiarity in Smuteční Slavnost's antifascist black metal assault presented on "Nářky věčného zatracení", there's an equal amount of peculiar, breakdown-friendly mosh madness that will confuse elitists and delight open-minded fans of metal's many subgenres. For me, this has a bit of personal significance. While black metal is far and away my choice of music these days, my high school years were spent listening to the Trustkill roster just as much as I was becoming excited by discovering Emperor or Ulver. The weird fusion of the two disparate sounds presented on this album brings me back to a time in my life when I didn't really understand genres as much as I simply liked my music heavy. While I certainly dug things back then that I'm not as fond of now, it's important for me to acknowledge that this album makes me nostalgic even though I didn't have anything like this in my collection back in the day. Valiant black metal riffs are paired with blasts that feel more like excerpts from Misery Index's rhythm section than typical black metal drumming. Vocals here have a feral rasp that almost verges on the throaty DSBM shriek at times, yet also surprised me on more than one occasion with guttural vocals you might expect from a slam band instead of any bastardization of black metal. This will be a hard sell for some of my readers, but folks who have enjoyed bands like Ancst or even Carnival in Coal will appreciate this fresh approach to otherwise familiar territory. Tapes are sold out, so enjoy the streaming audio for now.

New from Sol y Nieve: Nemorensis & Hellebore

Today I'm featuring two releases currently available for a discounted pre-order from Sol y Nieve. It's been a few reviews since I touched on something purely black metal, so this is a perfect fit. I've always been thrilled with Sol y Nieve's releases and these two show the label continuing a tradition of working with bands that are unheard yet as talented as larger names. I'm super excited about these two tapes, so let's jump right in.

Starting things off here is Nemorensis, with its epic offering, "The Lady In The Lake." Clocking in at 27:27, this is a monolithic beast that works in movements more than functioning like a song rooted in rock structure. The opening section has a slowed down, ethereal gloom that features a melody that strongly reminds me of Depeche Mode's "Policy of Truth" at about 20% of its normal speed. It's haunting and beautiful, but feels somewhat like drowning or falling into an unplanned, drugged sleep. The ominous nature of this otherworldly drone begins to peak as chants and voices emerge, as if carried across great distances by an unexpected wind. As soon as I'm almost entirely lulled into calmness, I'm startled by the dissolution of peace as electric guitars are introduced. Dissonance begins to take hold, yet the guitars begin as merely an extension of the droning ambiance, slowly growing into something entirely of independent. Like an ancient evil awakening from slumber, it rises slowly into view, growing more dreadful by the minute, dripping with grime and reeking of death. With a transition so slow it's almost unnoticeable, the music shifts from droning guitars to a more aggressive, decidedly black metal approach, with a jagged pulsing approach that all but buries the distant percussion. By the end, the song builds to a radiant, glistening passage that feels like a rawer cousin of Lustre. In case my words don't make it obvious, this is already one of the most exciting things I expect to hear this year. Sol Y Nieve's release of this  gem is limited to 100 cassettes, packaged in a plastic case with a heavy stock J-card and a scroll attached with twine.

As if one massive, spacey black metal release wasn't enough, Sol y Nieve will also be releasing Hellebore's "Anouof Thwo." I have no idea what the title means, but the album art leads me to believe that the cosmic atmospheres have a lyrical direction that matches. While I don't listen to too many bands that take ambient black metal this far, this release genuinely captivates me. While my initial listen left me slightly confused and uncertain about my feelings, repeated visits have planted this in my head. Pounding rhythms and oddly textured leads are par for the course here, but this does not make for a straightforward listen. I'm all for unorthodox, and Hellebore seems keen on delivering just enough strangeness for me to be hooked without running the risk of scaring away more traditional listeners. Even the mellower interludes here (like stunning yet brief centerpiece "Udrea") have an unearthly feeling that isn't quite sad so much as detached, which really adds depth to the experience for me. The vocals have enough reverb to resonate across the void yet they aren't as buried as many similar bands might have them, allowing for a more balanced approach that still yields a raw coldness that pleases me. This surprised me in many ways and I'm glad I gave it a full and fair listen. It's limited to 100 copies on cassette with a heavy stock J-card and a button.

BM&B Exclusive: Yersinia Pestis Debuts With New Streaming Song

It's with great excitement that I share this new song from Yersinia Pestis with my readers. If you aren't already familiar with black metal mastermind E's work in BM&B favorite Morthylla, chances are you heard his prior work in Aerugo. With two solid, reputable projects to date, and Morthylla still an active entity, the announcement of this new project shows a drive and passion for creating great black metal in what he views as a stagnant community. Rounding out Yersinia Pestis is the rhythm section of filthy doom trio Sassu Wunnu, whose members are also responsible for providing the vocals here. This is slightly more feral, traditional black metal than the mid-paced somber melodies of Morthylla, so those who might want something more aggressive will feel right at home with Yersinia Pestis. This project is currently preparing for a limited cassette release as part of the Antilight Collective and is seeking a label to release a 12" record. Any labels interested in releasing this on vinyl can make contact through the Antilight website. While we wait for an official release, here's their debut offering, "Altars."

Ben Djarum shares his top picks from 2013

I recently received a submission from my pal Ben Djarum. As a craft beer rep and metal musician, it only seems appropriate to include his thoughts. He's a self-described Lovecraftian scholar and craft beer prophet, and his project Voidcrawler released one of the more exciting demos that I had the luck of reviewing last year. If that's not enough, he's got a blog of his own in which he details RPG campaigns and extreme music culture, often fusing the two in exciting ways. With his unique set of interests and tastes, it's an honor to feature a list of his top albums of 2013 here on Black Metal & Brews. As each of his lists were "in no particular order," I've decided to alphabetize them for convenience.

As always, we'll start with honorable mentions:
Castevet- "Obsian"
Cloud Rat- "Moksha"
Eissturm- "The Path"
Gamardah Fungus- "Night Walk With Me"
Grift- "Fyra Elegier"
Mortefoutre- "L'Execrable Symbole Defraichi"
Chelsea Wolfe- "Pain is Beauty"

And now, those worthy enough to receive serious descriptions:

Altar of Plagues- "Teethed Glory and Injury"
The late Altar of Plagues released one final disc before disbanding this past October. "Teethed Glory and Injury" could not be a better document to mark the end of the band's lifeline. They draw upon the pallets of sound that made albums like "White Tomb" and "Mammal" so essential. What this band once did in lengthy soundscapes, they now do in angular crystalline blasts of emotion. Fare thee well, Altar of Plagues.

Battle Dagorath- "Cursed Storm of Ages"
An international collaboration that has spawned two previous full-lengths. "Cursed Storm of Ages" is an absolute epic of desolate, snow-crusted landscapes, cold night skies, blood, battle, and fire that stretches over two discs. Cold ambiance, frosty blackened riffs, and Tolkien references. Essential winter metal.

Charnel House- "Black Blood"
I was shocked to learn that Charnel House is a duo hailing from Indiana. It sounds like a strange cult of nomadic doom gypsies gathering for a mid-summer funeral. Otherworldly female vocals rise like ghostly flames. The drummer pounds away like a necromantic shaman. Strange drones, whirring sounds and sparkling chimes spiral around the core assault. Were I a wealthy man, I would have bought every friend and family member a copy of this album.

Csejthe- "Reminiscence"
A powerful work of affecting ambiance and dark romanticism. It's difficult to create a work that is so profoundly emotive without it digressing into gothic cheese, but this Quebecois horde does it brilliantly through measured deliberation (there are a lot of slow, brooding passages that bring to mind falling snow), competent musicianship and deft musical storytelling.

Esben & the Witch- "Wash the Sins Not Only the Face"
Shimmery guitars, driving bass, tribal drums. It's as though the early 4AD roster were caught in a horrible rainstorm, with only a sinister gothic mansion to take refuge in. Call it silly names like "goth pop" or "post-goth" but I call it beautiful and inspired.

Fell Voices- "Regnum Saturni"
Opening with the drone of a harmonium, we transcend the old growth forest and are held aloft in the frozen void above the chaos of distant Saturn. The gauzy veil of buzzing guitars with myriad oppressive melodies within paired with the incessant drums inspires some serious cosmic trancework. Too bad the gray banality of the outside world still exists when it's all over.

Grue- "Casualty of the Psychic Wars"
An amazing mix of yearning vocals and melodies, blast beats, crusty riffs, trippy keyboards and wild aggression.There's also an emotive hardcore urgency to some of this which gives it another layer of might altogether. I guess that's their Boston hometown influence creeping in.

Nahar- "The Strange Inconvenience"
Brutal psychedelic brown acid blackened doom from France. Six songs of punishing guitars and drums with creeping arpeggios and tendrils of post-metal exploration weaving their way through the proceedings.

Njiqahdda- "Serpents in the Sky"
It's become too easy to throw coins on a grid and come up with cycles of buzzwords and descriptive labels for bands that evolve and recreate their sound. It would be lazy of me, as well as downright disrespectful, to try and apply those words to this fucking kaiju of an album. I could almost call "Serpents in the Sky" a dictionary of heavy metal. Styles shift and bend and mutate from thrashy riffing to frenzied picking arpeggios that climb up and down melody lines like tiny mind spiders. The vocals go from defiant shouting to a sneering Stiv Bators croon. Fucking majestic, huge, and monolithic.

Oranssi Pazuzu- "Valonielu"
An enthralling album. These Finnish pyschedelic doomlords continue to refine and evolve their sound. It might be more accessible, maybe a bit cleaner, but "Valonielu" is just as otherworldly as 2011's "Kosmonument." This is what is playing on the starship stereo after you've set the controls for the heart of the sun.

Patrons of the Rotting Gate- "The Rose Coil"
Irish two-man metal horde, members of Kiriath, who I have not heard, but which Metal Archives describes as technical death metal. I usually associate the word "technical" with an emphasis on guitar wankery over substance and emotional weight. Patrons of the Rotting Gate, however, have serious depth and emotion behind what they do. This is also one of the few albums in recent memory that address the themes of atheism without the typical Luciferian trappings. The lyrics are brilliant, something far too many people don't take into consideration. A crushing and magnificent debut.

Seidr- "Ginnungagap"
Like other albums mentioned here, this is a two-volume grimoire of soundworlds created by earth, fire, and cosmos. Seidr use passages of chanting, sitars, flutes, acoustic guitars, and natural ambiance to create a ritualistic trance before ascending into the crushing metallic sorcery that lay within its core. Beautiful.

Skagos- "Anarchic"
Lengthy slabs of sonic excursion through the dark primal woods and into your own subconscious. As a child, I used to have strange dreams where I was desperately looking for something along a forest path or river. Now, as an adult I realize that it was this album all along. Skagos cover an entire world of sounds here.Waves of feedback give way to gentle passages, crystalline passages of frenzied black metal open up into ethereal heights of wonder. Easily my favorite album of the year.

Throne of Katarsis- "The Three Transcendental Keys"
Three lengthy Norwegian black metal rituals, recorded live in studio to analog cassette. Weighty and majestic. Bores a hole into your mind and pours in an ocean of demoniacal wonder.

Yellow Eyes- "Hammer of Night"
Six songs that don't stray far from six minutes in length but with enough sonic intensity and structure to make for an exhilarating and otherworldly experience. A whirlwind of clattering drums and insectoid guitars, but with well-crafted dynamics, torturous cries and ambiance.

For your collective convenience (if you don't feel like clicking individual links), here is a link to a playlist of tracks from Djarum's favorite releases.

Cronesmoon, Gulag, Ekadzati & Anatra: The Many Voices of Zareen Katherine Price

It was not until Record Store Day of last year that I became familiar with the music of Zareen Katherine Price. A friend posted about a sale (I believe it was one tape free with the purchase of three?) her label Milam Records was hosting, so I paid the label's bandcamp page a visit and listened. Within an hour I decided to order a small handful of tapes from Serpentina, Ekadzati, Mare Cognitum, and Greed & Rapacity. A few months later, through wonders of social media, we came to be acquainted. Having enjoyed her previous works, I have elected to review two separate cassettes (released with no label affiliation) featuring songs from many separate projects of hers in which is the sole member (with friend Dan Nahum assisting on drums). For one artist to have so many separate projects might seem silly to some, but it's evident that each of these projects needs its own space and concept, even if the sounds might be complementary when placed on the same cassette tape.

First, we're examining "VII MMXIII", a split between her three projects Ekadzati, Gulag, and Anatra. The album flows sequentially, with Ekadzati contributing two songs, and Gulag and Anatra sharing one each. Wasting no time, Ekadzati's track "Argham" opens things up with ravenous higher register shrieks and trebly tremolo picking backed with constant drumming. The swelling of sounds feels like an ocean storm, tormenting the listener for a couple of minutes before finally engulfing them. Interestingly enough, while writing this review, I took a look at the lyrics, which give a detailed description of what appears to be an intentional drowning. The ominous nature of the music pairs quite well with the lyrical intensity, but it's especially nice when Ekadzati takes a moment to build up tension with the reflective introduction to "Padyam." I really hate track by track reviews, but in a tape with such diverse sounds, this really just makes sense. As soon as the listener is lulled into comfort, it's back into the typhoon of insanity. Unlike its predecessor, the song relents rather than ending with an assault, showing the many different musical sides of Zareen Katherine Price with just one of her projects.

Up next is Gulag, with "Inscribed in Skin." The song lurches in appropriately enough with frantic low-end fixated guitars and some sort of hideous belch. While not wholly removed from black metal, this more greatly resembles a faster and more aggressive take on the cavernous death metal that's become quite fashionable lately. The song's progression sees the pace escalating wildly until a sudden stop with the crash of a cymbal.

Flipping the cassette, we are presented with Anatra's contribution, "Wind Over Water." In stark contrast to the violent chaos of Gulag, the song opens with a repeatedly chiming bell of some sort. Slightly meditative, slightly foreboding, it perfectly sets the pace for this nearly lengthy piece of dark ambient exploration. With the title in mind, one hears the howling static of cold winds blowing over an empty bay. In the distance you might think you hear the echoes of something resembling human sounds, but they never present themselves as anything other than a possibility. While the song is initially maddening, I find myself becoming more immersed in it about halfway in. Smaller, higher pitched sounds occasionally slither in and out, allowing just enough variation for my attention to remain on the sounds. At the cassette's end, I am left neither at peace nor troubled. Perhaps this was intentional. It does not feel like an intended goal was missed. Indeed, I feel like the B-side is the palate cleanser for the aggression and turmoil of the A-side. While each of the three acts stands alone, the pairing works brilliantly here.

The second cassette featured today is still up for sale: "XI MMXIII." This is a split between Gulag and the newest of Price's projects: Cronesmoon. Gulag's song here, "Icosahedral Keys to the Fleshly Gate" instantly feels like a more focused and accessible beast than "Inscribed in Skin," with an intentionally awkward marching pace starting things off before delving straight into a valiant and driven mid-section. Gulag is self-described as "war metal," and the pacing of this song is the strongest evidence I've found so far. Galloping and violent, this feels like far more of a statement of intent, although both songs are quite enjoyable and clearly come from a similar place musically. In another presentation of direct contrast, Cronesmoon follows Gulag with the closest thing Price has created to traditional second wave black metal sounds, "Sister Tongues of Rain." There's certainly a slightly more cerebral and involved way of approaching the music here, almost as if the progressive and psychedelic leanings of modern-day incarnations of more established black metal bands were infused into the classics of the early nineties. While the song is longer than most of Price's other metal-rooted songs, the furious nature of the song makes it feel like it has passed all too quickly, ending the cassette.

With three projects poised for more output (it does appear that Ekadzati is being put to rest, at least for the time being) I can only recommend you keep an eye on her output however you're able. Even if one of her many projects doesn't appeal to you, another just might. Additionally, all music described here can be heard by clicking the links to each of the album titles. Usually bandcamp embed codes work just fine but today they're being a pain. Rather than delaying this review, I'm just going to force you guys to click links. Thanks for your patience.

Into Armageddon's Maw: An Interview & Exclusive Streaming Song from Fury 161

If you keep up with my blog as regularly as I do, you probably recall the streaming single "Purify" by Fury 161 which I shared a few months ago. As pre-orders for their impending full-length album, "Armageddons Maw," have gone live, I feel it's a good time to share a BM&B exclusive interview and streaming song. For those not yet familiar with this project, "Armageddons Maw" is a death industrial album that (depending on your standpoint) either takes the genre's typical sounds and pushes them outward in every direction, or it stands defiantly against the genre just as much as it embraces it. With synthesized melodies washing up against scathing electronic walls and frenzied vocals raging against the very things that society holds dear, this album is one hell of a ride. Whether you're interested in power electronics and death industrial, or if you're just a regular reader checking out a new feature, it's hard for me to recommend this album highly enough. I've had access to the files for a couple months now and I'm simply chomping at the bit waiting for the official release. Without wasting more of your time on my rambling, here is a brief transcript of my chat with the two madmen of Fury 161, followed by an exclusive stream of their track "Spirits" for your enjoyment.

Corvus Rex
Xerxees Bane

BM&B: Okay, welcome and thanks for your time. State your names and duties, if you will.

Corvus Rex: Corvus Rex. Vocals, Treatments, Guitars, Keys, Mixing and mastering.

Xerxees Bane: Xerxees Bane. Sounds, samples, beats, art.

BM&B: Okay gentlemen, since this is a review for a website specializing in music and beer, do you drink? If so, any preferred or recommended beverages?

CR: I drink very little, and sadly no beer. I drink liquor. I would recommend South African cider though. I always have some when I go home.

XB: I am not adverse to the odd drink now and again.My choice of poison is lager. No real lager I'd particularly recommend as there are many to choose from and their effects can be similarly varies. However, I was fond of peach schnapps many moons ago.

BM&B: That does the job just fine. So, how did the two of you first meet and decide to form a musical union in the form of Fury 161?

CR: Xerxees, you answer this one.

XB: Okay, here it goes. The modern miracle of the internet played its part in the formation of Fury 161. Corvus initially posted a Project:Void track on the webpage of a favourite artist (Theologian). I liked what Corvus had posted, and we initially became friends because of that. I was also doing music prior to Fury, under the name Pigrat. Pigrat was influenced by gabba, breakcore, and tribal beats. I sent some of those tracks to Corvus and he saw potential in them...

BM&B: And the rest is history?

XB: Sorta...I've taken some of the elements from Pigrat and mutated the ideas in Fury.

CR: I asked Xerxees to send me a breakdown of one of his tracks, which he did, and I treated, remixed, and remastered it.

XB: Yes, and it sounded suitably rusty, gnarled, crushing...

CR: That was the track that became the instrumental "Black Heart Attack." From there, we discussed joining up as a unit.

BM&B: That song is actually one of my favorites on the album. It stands out as a unique, yet appropriate centerpiece.

CR: It fuses many elements. It also brings a bit of light to the darkness

XB: Yeah, you could go the route of just crushing sounds. However, as Corvus said, a little bit of light makes the darkness that little bit darker.

BM&B: So as an official unit, is there a set songwriting process for Fury 161, or does each song come about in a different way?

CR: There are various ways they come about. Xerxees is always working on music, as am I. When the moment is right, we will then swap these sounds with each other and they will either be accepted by both of us or rejected.

XB: For my part, I don't have any real approach to writing the songs. I have found that if I have a pre-set idea, it never pans out as how I imagined it in my head. I will sift through sounds to find ones that I may find interesting and then will see what comes of them. Some songs are written in a few weeks, and some are years old. One, in fact, dates back to around 2007.

CR: If you think of it, a good song should be timeless.

XB: Agreed, and you know you've done a good song when you can listen to it for your own pleasure and you find nothing about it that you'd change.

BM&B: That makes perfect sense. Knowing that you are both musicians with musical endeavors prior to this, what music has inspired each of you as a whole? What specific music inspired this project?

CR: Each of my bands draws from different influences. Project:Void's harsh power electronics draw influences from sources such as Whitehouse, Sutcliffe Jugend, and Wolf Eyes. Black Crow King is an exploration of how deep doom can go, and draws inspiration from doom, goth, and power electronics. I'm also in a death industrial band called N.D.E.

XB: Personal influences? Napalm Death, Godflesh, Slab, Converter, Test Dept, Adam and the Ants, E-Noid, Rotator...

CR: I think with Fury we never really set out to create a particular sound, it just kinda developed.

XB: Yeah, evolution in progress.

CR: We never said "let's create a death industrial band." We just said "let's join up and see what happens," and brought our combined influences to it. The vocal approach I use has more akin with extreme metal or power electronics. I hope that somewhat explains it.

BM&B: Of course. With your rather unique sets of inspiration and approach in mind, do you feel there are any current artists with whom you share a common bond or a sort of musical kinship?

CR: There are a few bands that share some of the same elements with us, such as Deadwood or Steel Hook Prostheses or other death industrial bands, but we have not really made a bond. I think it is safe to say if the listener is into death industrial, power electronics, or extreme electronic music of any form, then they will hear something they like in Fury.

XB: Ramblack is good too. Hopefully we stand out because we use sounds that the listener may not "expect."

CR: In fact, you may have seen a recent update on our facebook page. We're planning a split with Steel Hook Prostheses.

BM&B: I did see it. I'm quite excited for more details. Musical inspiration aside, what other sources of inspiration do each of you draw upon when creating your music as Fury 161? Whether it's art, nature, politics, etc. Would you like to share what gets your creative juices flowing?

CR: This is very personal for me. Nature, or rather what we are doing to nature, is a huge problem for me, as are politics, mental issues, and my loathing for humanity at large. My music, lyrics, and vocals are a purge for me.

XB: For me, the techniques of John Heartfield play a big inspiration, ie. photomontage, and taking things from their original context and mutating them to our own ends. Film plays a part...a certain Alien film especially.

CR: Ha ha, can't forget Alien.

XB: Nope, and it's a David Fincher film.

Fury 161/Bugs Crawling Out of People

BM&B: So two very different sets of inspiration come together. I like that. Corvus, would you say that as the lyricist, you consider Fury 161 to be a project that is driven by its message, or simply a project that has a lot to say, with music first and message secondary?

CR: I would say it is a project that is driven by the music and has a lot to say as well. Xerxees is just as important as I am. On occasion he also comes up with lyrics. For example, the song "Purify" that was released as a free download had lyrics written by both of us.

XB: I find that when I occasionally attempt lyrics they are not quite my forte, so I leave it to he who does it well.

BM&B: So do you feel that even the moments without lyrics and vocals have their meaning for the dedicated listener?

CR: The opening track "Thanatos" is an instrumental, but it helps set the tone for what is to come.

BM&B: Similar to "Black Heart Attack" then, although each song stands on its own as well, not really needing the greater context.

CR: It flows as an album, but each song has its own story to tell or mood to create.

BM&B: I was actually going to ask about the flow of the album. For an album that works so smoothly, there's a lot of musical territory covered on "Armageddons Maw." How did you manage to compile such contrasting sounds without killing the album's continuity?

XB: Thanks, this is the first album I've ever worked on. It has cohesion, rather than being a set of disjointed pieces. When it comes to writing songs, I sometimes get contrasting sounds that jump into my head, taking a song elsewhere--which I like. For me, it has to be something I'd wanna hear. Dark, but not derivative. Light, but not in a happy, skippy way. The light enlightens the dark! Yin yang. Or Abraxas, if ye prefer.

CR: I think when we decided on songs, they were ones that we knew would work together. The next job was to decide the order. For this, I came up with a list of an order, then Xerxees and I decided on it together and laid the track listing for the album down.

BM&B: That was probably a lot harder than you're making it sound.

CR: No, not really. We have a strange connection when it comes to Fury 161. Nothing seems to be much of a struggly, everything flows. There are no egos in the band, which is a great help.

BM&B: You two do seem to get along quite well. I'm sure that makes things run smoothly.

CR: That it does.

XB: It does, and one day we'll actually meet!

CR: I hate egomaniacs. They are a menace to the world.

BM&B: Fair enough. How has it been working with Canadian label Bugs Crawling Out of People? They seem to have their ducks in a row, so to speak.

CR: It has been pretty easy to work with them. He is interested in the band and what we are doing. He's committed to putting out a quality product and everything is run past us first.

XB: I can't fault them at all. I was aware of them a year or so ago via the releases they had of compUterus and I think...was a release of Pneumatic Detach.

CR: For example, before going to print he sent us a printed mock-up of the digipak to see if we were happy with it.

XB: It was a great feeling to receive a mock-up that has artwork that I spent ages drawing by hand on an actual release.

BM&B: I'm glad to hear you've found a label that treats you with the respect you deserve. Revisiting your comment about actually meeting up, do you think you'll ever try to practice for Fury 161 to become a live act or would you rather keep your music in the studio?

CR: Fury 161 will never be a live act. I have too many issues with people.

XB: I think playing live, even if it was Corvus and myself, just to ourselves, couldbe interesting if not a little tricky. I'm unsure how to go about creating it live.

CR: It would be a bit of a problem creating it live.

Fury 161 shirt

BM&B: That makes sense. I think it holds up well enough as a studio project regardless. I have a question about the artwork related to Fury 161. Perhaps this is for Xerxees, although you are both free to answer. I noticed a lot of mirroring in the art for both "Purify" and "Armageddons Maw," as well as your shirt design. Is symmetry symbolic in a way or was this merely an aesthetic decision?

XB: I'm not sure that symmetry does play a conscious part in the art. Again, I will just try out different ideas and see what works or doesn't. However, there is meaning to the artwork. The double headed bird at the bottom of the lower point of the chaos star is meant, or could be suggested as being both Corvus and myself, in that we are musically not looking in exactly the same direction, but the two heads come together in the same body. Fury 161 is the body.

At the teeth, I thought that not only do people get angry, but animals also. Francis Bacon amde me aware of this with some of his screaming mouth paintings.

BM&B: Interesting, I had been wondering if the teeth were something of a nod to Swans.

CR: I love Swans

XB: Yes, I find there is something quite powerful about that image. First time I heard Swans, I couldn't get my head around them at all. It was a million miles away from what I was used to.

CR: Haha, all hail Swans. Brilliant live as well.

BM&B: I understand that. Many of their recordings are older than I am and are still heavier than anything new bands are doing. That's about it for the questions. Thank you guys so much for your time.

Dalla Nebbia- "The Cusp of the Void" CD (Razed Soul Productions)

American black metal act Dalla Nebbia doesn't just dabble in unorthodox black metal sounds, it revels in taking the traditional and expanding upon it in a majestic way. With "The Cusp of the Void," Dalla Nebbia's debut full-length, they seem poised to place themselves among bands like Enslaved and Agalloch, with songs that feel equally at home in wintry black metal atmospheres as they do pushing the boundaries into slightly less conventional territory.

While galloping drums and meandering guitars are tried and true trademarks of the genre, these only appear to provide a foundation upon which the band builds a strangely familiar yet unique atmosphere. Synths echo stringed instruments, replicating the folk-inspired feeling of fiddles and violins, yet the band doesn't just cash in and head straight into folk landscapes. Instead, as with everything Dalla Nebbia does, they dip their toes in and carry a bit of it with them as they continue on their journey. Even the seemingly acoustic interlude track "Sovereign Moments" builds up into something slightly more present and full-formed than I might have anticipated. It seems fitting to me that these guys end their debut offering with a cover of a classic Windir tune, as they seem to share the same wandering spirit. Their musical products may differ, but the approach and effect on the listener turn out quite similarly. These eight tracks capture the sensation of being surrounded by a white flurry of snow and chaos. It's blindingly beautiful yet potentially lethal. In other words, it's exactly what I love to hear in my black metal.

Five hundred copies of this promising debut have been released by Razed Soul Productions. As always, I recommend purchasing a copy if you're at all interested in this group. However, for skeptics and those of us who can't afford to buy everything we like, the band has the whole album streaming on their bandcamp, with a purchase price set at only $5.

Top Metal Albums

It's New Year's Eve. Time to celebrate the dawn of a new year that will hopefully bring good times and good music for all of us, regardless of how good or bad this past year has been. 2013 has been quite kind to Black Metal & Brews, with my visitor count finally passing the 50,000 mark earlier this month and with many great bands and labels making contact. With so many great albums I heard this year, perusing the lists of other competent writers and trusted musical resources, I see so much great looking stuff that I need to check out. While this list is by no means comprehensive, these 40 albums impressed themselves upon me in one way or another. I'm sure I missed a lot of great stuff that you guys know about, and I'm sure I'll even end up kicking myself for overlooking gems that I heard along the way and forgot while trying to write this list. Please feel free to leave your notes on great tunes I missed or anything you disagree with. I'm nothing without the input of my audience, after all.

Anyway, thanks for an incredible year guys. I'm raising a glass to this blog's success tonight and I hope you'll join me in listening to some of the best tunes of the year to celebrate an incredible year of metal and beer. While writing this post, I'm consuming a delicious bottle of Shmaltz Brewing's He'Brew Jewbelation Reborn. It's got seventeen percent alcohol by volume, paired with seventeen hops and seventeen malts to celebrate their seventeenth anniversary as a brewery. Slightly gimmicky, slightly sweet, and a little bit bitter, almost exactly like the whole ritual of making a year end list. If nothing else, it's potent enough to kick me straight into next year.

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical)
Arbre- "II" (my review)
Blood of the Moon- "MMXII" (my review)
Cloud Rat- "Moksha"
Echtra- "Sky Burial" (my review)
Empty Suits- "Empty Suits" (my review)
Fell Voices- "Regnum Saturni" (my review)
Jungbluth- "Part Ache"
Kjaddai/Vooram/Njiqahdda- "Split"
Lustre- "Wonder"
Lycus- "Tempest"
Oranssi Pazuzu- "Valonielu"
Situs Magus- "Le Grand Oeuvre"
Urzeit- "Urzeit"
Vanyar- "Triumph of Vanishing"
Wormlust- "The Feral Wisdom"


25. Cara Neir- "Portals to a Better, Dead World" (Broken Limbs/Halo of Flies)
Blending more kinds of metal than you can shake a stick at usually results in a mediocre album. Apparently Cara Neir knows how to avoid this folly, because they put bits and pieces of punk, black metal, grindcore, doom, and even classic screamo into this intense full-length and they made it work so well it's painful. And beautiful. And you won't stop listening once you start. Read my review here.


24. Vlk- "Unknown Totems" (Self-Released)
This brief CD release from a relatively unknown band was more impressive than half of the music I heard from established acts this year. This album was a stellar first effort and has been one of my most heavily played albums of the year. Read my review here.


23. Total Negation- "Zur spaten Stunde | Zeitraume" (Temple of Torturous)
Unorthodox black metal seems to be my specialty/preference these days, and this album was among the most compelling examples of how much room is left in the genre. Read my review here.


22. Raspberry Bulbs- "Deformed Worship" (Blackest Ever Black/Personnel)
In many ways, 2013 has been the year of the "grower." Many albums I had anticipated for a long time didn't fill the place I had imagined they would. Instead, most of these albums turned out to be just as great as I would have expected, but in different ways. Shedding some of the more overtly "blackened" aesthetics in favor of a disjointed post-punk inspired approach, Raspberry Bulbs' first album as a full band surprised and impressed me with its rabid approach. While it wasn't the black punk beast I had expected, it turned out to be so much more.


21. Vulture Industries- "The Tower" (Season of Mist)
Vulture Industries have made a name for themselves with their truly unique take on heavy metal. While I really hate the term "progressive," as it does little to really explain the music within, these guys get the term thrown at them frequently. This album branches into more elements of rock than prior efforts, which turns out to be quite appropriate for these guys. With a sound that is equal parts Arcturus, Nick Cave, and Faith No More, "The Tower" surpassed my expectations of this already captivating band.


20. Leucosis- "Leucosis" (Self-Released)
When Leucosis decided to make this monstrously heavy black metal cassette in an edition of only 30 copies, they were either selling themselves short or trying to create something for collectors to squabble over. Whatever their goal may have been, they released one of the heaviest, most impressive albums of the year. Truly crushing black doom that I feel quite fortunate to have in my collection.


19. Fyrnask- "Eldir Nott" (Temple of Torturous)
This album is probably one of the most beautiful black metal albums released all year and was possibly the only release to recreate the thrill I felt when I first discovered some of the genre's classics in my more formative years. Read my review here.


18. CAPA- "This is the Dead Land, This is Cactus Land" (Self-Released)
While this hasn't yet seen a physical release, this album serves as a proper ending to CAPA's conceptual trilogy, with songs that feel every bit as weathered and heavily traveled as the album's lyrical plot would have you believe. Read my review here.


17. Xothist- "Xothist" (Fallen Empire)
The claustrophobic, mechanical horror created here on Xothist's full-length LP technically was not brand new in 2013, but due to its highly limited initial release, I'm considering this as the first opportunity most of us had to hear this brilliance. Enter at your own risk. Read my review here.


16. Paramnesia- "Ce Que Dit La Bouche D'Ombre" (Self-Released)
This EP blindsided me. One of the members of this band sent me a message earlier this year and, as I always do when a band contacts me, I gave it at least one fair listen. That one fair listen became an obsession. The album itself sold out long ago, but you should go download it while you prepare for a full-length from this brilliant group. Read my review here.


15. Ramlord- "Crippled Minds, Sundered Wisdom" (Hypaethral)
These northern crushers have long been beloved here on BM&B, so it was no surprise that this year's full-length was impressive. This is easily the best crust album I came across all year, if that's even an appropriate term for Ramlord's self-described "stenchcore." Read my review here.


14. Ephemer- "Notre Honneur Immortel" (Spectre Sinistre)
This tape (along with a certain LP I'll be mentioning shortly) forced me to put this list on hold until the very end of the year. I've only had a listen five or six times now, but man am I ever blown away. If you enjoyed anything you heard on the first Ephemer release, this brief yet brilliant black metal assault will burrow its way deep into your heart. Had this come out earlier in the year, I'd probably have listened more and placed this even higher. Seriously though, this album is just about perfect.


13. Paysage d'Hiver- "Das Tor" (Kunsthall Produktionen)
The word "dense" comes up often in my reviews. Perhaps my lack of experience producing or recording music is the reason. Or maybe it's because I'm drawn to thick sounds that could fill a room. Regardless of rationale, "Das Tor" is one of the densest black metal albums of the year, conjuring images of blizzards and mountains in my mind. Four songs clock in around seventy-five minutes, so get ready to sit with this one like you're surviving a storm. It will be your sole source of comfort.


12. Recluse- "Recluse" (Graceless)
This vicious demo from Recluse caught me off guard. What seems to be the culmination of a friendship and shared love of Judas Iscariot has led to the birth of this duo, comprised of Cobalt's McSorley and Loss's Meacham. While I've enjoyed the output of each of their more notable projects, this demo is some of the freshest and most defiant black metal I've heard all year. Pure ferocity; take no prisoners. A full-length is currently in the works. I couldn't be more thrilled.


11. Lluvia- "Premonicion de Guerra" (Fallen Empire)
This album was among the reasons I waited until the last day of the year to release this list. With so many truly wonderful December releases, I feel like many other sources might have missed this gem and a few others featured on this list. Read my review for more info.


10. Yellow Eyes- "Hammer of Night" (Sibir Records)
I've followed the career of Yellow Eyes closely, watching them blossom from a trio with a promising demo tape to a four-piece with a respectable degree of attention and a decent following with this, their first LP release. Read my review here.


9. Aosoth- "IV: An Arrow in Heart" (Agonia)
This album was high on my radar right from the start due to the band's history of excellence. This album did nothing to betray their legacy and seems to have garnered even greater attention for them. "IV: An Arrow in Heart" is aggressive, desolate, and impossible to wrap my mind around in all the best ways. Read my review for more info.


8. Portal- "Vexovoid" (Profound Lore)
I have often found Portal's music difficult to describe to the uninitiated. While some bands create such horrific sounds in a chaotic fashion, Portal always delivers a very methodical, controlled approach. While many bands attempt to recreate the flurries of notes or half-rasped, half-barked vocal style, these guys have always had the delicate precision of true professionals. With "Vexovoid," Portal's trademark sound has evolved into something nebulous and slightly more nuanced, without losing its classic ominous feeling. While this album initially felt like more of the same, a listen on a good sound system or with headphones in really yields elements of bleak noise and terrifying ambiance. If the sound isn't intense enough, I'll leave the only music video worth watching from 2013 below for your enjoyment.


7. Aurvandil- "Thrones" (Psychic Violence/Eisenwald)
This one came as something of a late contender in my year, but instantly impressed me in a way few other tapes have done this year. A galloping and brilliant offering of black metal from this project that totally took me to another place as a listener. It's rare for a band I've never heard of to just come in and impress me in such a fashion, but that's exactly what happened here. Grab this tape while it's still available. It should have already sold out by now. If you miss the tape, look out for Eisenwald's vinyl release in early 2014.


6. Morthylla- "Morthylla" (Schattenkult Produktionen)
This is probably the highest ranked release on this list that didn't get the widespread love it truly deserved. This violent and beautiful debut offering from Morthylla not only contained some of the most enjoyable black metal of the year, it also came in a gorgeous, super limited edition box directly from the artist. While that's long sold out, even the standard cassette available from the label is beautifully designed. Read my review for more information.


5. The Ruins of Beverast- "Blood Vaults" (Van Records)
I'll admit that my love for The Ruins of Beverast can sometimes tread into near-obsessive territory. With a catalog of almost consistent perfection, it's really hard to fault this project, which is a full live band for the first time with "Blood Vaults." Still, my first listen left me baffled. There is a clarity on this record that really threw me for a loop. There have always been cleaner passages in The Ruins of Beverast's music, but the trudging beauty displayed on this album really shocked me. I was not pleased. Still, morbid curiosity and serious love forced me to listen again, and slowly the picture became clearer. This album is not intended to showcase the hazy ferocity of "Unlock the Shrine," nor the bleak violence of "Rain Upon the Impure." Instead, "Blood Vaults" stands alone as a monolithic slab of excellent metal that is neither black metal nor funeral doom, yet borrows heavily from each. This process yields something unique and wonderful. First time listeners may be confused, but I urge you to give this behemoth a fair listen. It will likely surprise you just as it surprised me.


4. A Pregnant Light- "Stars Will Fall" & "Domination Harmony" (Colloquial Sound Recordings)
A Pregnant Light continued to dominate my playlists this year with a couple of solid releases. This project of the man identified only as Deathless Maranatha was slightly less prolific this year, possibly due to commitments with other projects such as electronic powerhouse Bodystocking (which graced my electronic/noise list). What Deathless Maranatha lacked in quantity has truly been made up for with quality. These two brief cassettes showcase a sense of harmony that was hinted at on prior offerings, yet was not fully realized to the degree presented here. A Pregnant Light's roots in hardcore punk have always been made clear to the listener, but on these tapes, especially "Stars Will Fall," it seems that all has been laid bare. These two sold out almost immediately, but are both available on the Colloquial Sound bandcamp page.


3. Dressed in Streams- "The Search for Blood" (Colloquial Sound Recordings)
While it's no surprise that multiple Colloquial Sound releases are gracing my list this year, even I'm a bit surprised that Dressed in Streams has surpassed A Pregnant Light on my list with this monumental cassette. With a far more elegant and full formed approach than their prior releases, "The Search for Blood" shows Dressed in Streams properly merging electronic elements with dense black metal for a more complete sound. If this is the direction in which this project is headed, I can only hope for a full-length release of new material in 2014. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that somebody in the band or label is listening.


2. Ash Borer- "Bloodlands" (Gilead Media/Psychic Violence)
While this album was technically an EP, it held within it a vastness and immensity so overpowering in its scope that it feels far more realized than most full-lengths I encountered this year. Read my review here.


1. Cultes Des Ghoules- "Henbane" (Under the Sign of Garazel/Hells Headbangers/Of Crawling Shadows)
I'm not even sure how I can use my words to properly describe the true evil conjured by Cultes Des Ghoules on this year's finest release.  "Henbane" is primarily a mid-paced affair, with even the shortest of its five tracks stretching to just around the nine-minute mark. I personally own the cassette edition of this release, which is beautifully assembled with string holding the whole thing together. Some folks have commented that the vocals on this release are relatively off-putting and unpleasant. While I'll admit that the varied groans and howls can take some getting used to, the popularity of bands like Mayhem and Inquisition leads me to believe that strange vocals aren't too much of an obstacle. The guitars are jagged and vicious in all the best ways, and there's actually a heavy presence of low-end here that really rounds out the music. While many musicians seem to take on esoteric beliefs as a sort of posturing, Cultes Des Ghoules have me pretty convinced that they live a life reflected by their music. Easily the strongest album of the year, and I'm happy to share it here.