My name is Josh Thieler. I love music. I love metal. I love lists. I say many things about metal music that I love in list form below. You know what this is. I don’t need an introduction paragraph.
Top 16 of 2016
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Oranssi Pazuzu is labeled as psychedelic black metal. I don’t know what to say about this record. It is one of my most listened to albums of the year and I’m no closer to understanding it or classifying it than the first time I listened to it. Värähtelijä is incredible. It’s a masterpiece. Listen to it, and you tell me what it is.
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
I said a lot of words about this gorgeous record here.
Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas – Mariner
This record is perfect. Julie Christmas is my queen. Everything she touches is magic. Cult of Luna are always solid, but Julie Christmas takes Mariner from “good sludge” to a near perfect record. Nothing I could say matters, listen to this record.
Altarage – Nihl
I knew Altarage would be in my end of year list from the first minute of the first song. They sound like if Coffinworm tried to write a Portal record. So gross and heavy. The vocals sound to me like water draining out of an old bathtub. My friend was in the car while I was listening to them and he said he thought a passenger plane was flying overhead. The only things keeping this record from being my undisputed #1 is a combination of several songs I felt were too short, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Julie Christmas. If any combination of those three things were not in place, this would absolutely be my favorite record of the year.
Mizmor – Yodh
This record is incredible. Mizmor is a band that I thought was cool before, but I completely fell in love with them on this record. Mizmor play a blackened form of doom that is filled with such weariness and hopelessness that could crush your spirit on the happiest day of your life. Are you obnoxiously happy with a new child/relationship/promotion/fedora? Put on Yodh and watch all of it slip right through your fingers and fade into the nothingness that is the true value of everything on this physical, earthly existence.
Oathbreaker – Rheia
I have always loved Oathbreaker. With “Rheia”, Oathbreaker have taken leaps forward from their prior material (in my opinion). They dropped some of the hardcore aspects of their songs and sound a little less “Deathwishy”. You know what I mean. Oathbreaker seem to have followed the Deafheaven method to success. While increasing the black metal aspects of the album, Oathbreaker of also strongly developed a shoegaze approach to their black metal. I know Deafheaven got a lot of hate for this, but I love Deafheaven. I think Oathbreaker have taken what Deafheaven did and made it so much better.
Skáphe – Skáphe²
“Skáphe²” might be my favorite “nightmare fuel” album of the year. Even a momentary pause between tracks provides a sickening sense of dread. Skaphe marries Blut Aus Nord, Hivelords, and Deathspell Omega, but they somehow manage to be even more terrifying. They label themselves as “asphyxiating black metal”, and while I hate when bands make new genre tags for themselves I feel that this instance is highly appropriate.
Urzeit – Anmoksha
Urzeit is something of a super group with members of Mizmor, Triumvir Foul, Uskumgallu, Ash Borer, and Dagger Lust. As can be expected with the caliber of the other bands that Urzeit’s members play in, this band is fantastic. Urzeit specialize in ferocious, vile, and relentless black metal. Even when they occasionally slow down for a minute, they lose none of their momentum and intensity. I believe that fans of more traditional old school black metal and fans of newer versions of black metal will be able to find common ground on Anmoksha.
Zhrine – Unortheta
Zhrine are becoming known for magnificently melodic and layered black metal. When I refer to this record as “melodic” I don’t want to give the impression that this record is “pretty”; except possibly in the same way that a murderer would find beauty in blood glistening at the end of his/her knife. I never listened to Zhrine until this release came out, and Unortheta completely blew me away. Side note: I just saw Zhrine in concert and it was one of the best performances by any band I’ve ever seen.
CHTHE’ILIST – Le Dernier Crépuscule
Chthe’ilist came out of nowhere for me. They formed in 2010 and released a demo shortly after. “Le Dernier Crepuscule” is their first proper full length, and it sounds like it was conceived by long time death metal veterans. They fit in with the awesome death metal trend which has seen newer bands (Vastum, Cruciamentum, Abyssal) calling back to death metal’s earlier roots with an atmosphere more akin to black metal. The music is awesome, but the vocals really make Chthe’ilist stand out from the pack. The vocals are all over the place with death growls, throat shredding highs, gothic choir, and vocals that I’ve only ever heard in goregrind/pornogrind. Never have I ever heard what I can only describe as a “goregrind laugh”. Listen to “Tales of the Majora Mythos Part 1” at 2:26 and tell me I’m wrong.
Suspiral – Delve Into the Mysteries of Transcendence
Suspiral specialize in murky black metal that raises the hair on the back of your neck equally from fear and excitement. I initially got into Suspiral when they released the 2 song Dawn of Kezef last year. While Delve Into the Mysteries of Transcendence is only 3 tracks long, it clocks in at 33 minutes. The atmosphere is so thick with crushing pressure that each track feels horrendously dense whether they are blasting or crawling at a doom tempo. If Suspiral can do this much with only 3 tracks, I cannot wait to hear more.
Cough – Still They Pray
This is blistering doom that makes your speakers sweat. Still They Pray was produced by Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard. This is the first Cough release in six years, and you can tell that they took their time on this beautifully crafted record. While this definitely sounds like Cough, the tone and production is Electric Wizard. I loved 2010’s Ritual Abuse but I think Cough leveled-up with Still They Pray. This is my favorite doom record of the year.
Seputus – Man Does Not Give
Multi-faceted, punishing record that stands in the gaps between death and grind that enduces vomit from switching between pummeling riffs and dizzying frenzy. The band is made up of the vocalist, drummer and bassist from Pyrrhon. With the pure insanity of Pyrrhon, I don’t know how they had any energy left for this project, but Man Does Not Give from Seputus rules from start to finish.
Uskumgallu – Rotten Limbs in Dreams of Blood
Uskumgallu is a two piece made up of the guitarist and bass player of Urzeit. Where Urzeit blasts through their songs with unrelenting fury, Uskumgallu are not afraid to take their time. The songs will spend minutes building atmosphere and melody before descending into more frenzied black metal terrors. I probably shouldn’t have included both Urzeit and Uskumgallu in my top list but even though they are almost the same members, they are completely different records.
Cobalt – Slow Forever
I said a lot of words about this album here.
Withered – Grief Relic
Withered is another side project/ kind of super group. Withered features Colin (Behold the Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts, Krallice) on bass and Ethan (Primitive Man, Vermin Womb, Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire) on guitar and vocals. This is blackened sludge at the highest caliber that likens more to the filth of Lord Mantis or the atmospheric excellence of the latest Ulcerate record than it does to any of the other bands Withered’s members are a part of.
Vermin Womb – Decline
If you’ve ever thought, “I wish Primitive Man would write a fast record”, then first off, shut up. Primitive Man is amazing. Second, let me introduce you to Vermin Womb. Vermin Womb has Ethan from Primitive Man playing guitar and doing the vocals. Decline is no nonsense grind that swiftly beats you to death. This record is of the most awesomely heavy things you’ll ever hear.
Zao is probably the band I have loved the most consistently, intently, and the longest. This feels like a return to form and an evolution at the same time. This is my favorite Zao record since 2004’s “Funeral of God”. If I had more time with this record, it would probably have cracked my top 16 list.
Gevurah – Hallelujah!
Gevurah specialize in masterfully-crafted, spiritual black metal. I say “spiritual” because spirituality is woven into every fiber of “Hallelujah!” They may not be doing anything ground-breaking musically; Gevurah just do black metal better than most everyone else.
Hesychast – Ageless
One man Russian Orthodox 2nd wave unblack metal. If I had found this record earlier in the year, it would probably be taking one of the top 16 spots.
Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
This record is all over the place. So much happens, and Inter Arma does it all so well. I never listened to this record enough. It’s so good. Also, go see them live.
Ustalost – The Spoor of Vipers
Noisy traditional black metal with keyboards. Sounds like what I thought Burzum would have sounded like if Varg wrote better music and wasn’t a racist dirtbag.
The Lion’s Daughter – Existence is Horror
Harsh and violent sludge of the highest order.
Sylvaine – Wistful
Sylvaine is a one woman black metal band that specializes in shimmering black metal that mixes with more traditional European folk sounds. Features some instrumentation from her boyfriend in Alcest.
Geryon – The Wound and the Bow
Experimental blackened something or other with some of the coolest and most disturbing bass work I’ve ever heard.
Love Sex Machine – Asexual Anger
Love Sex Machine sound like a simpler, more generic version of Indian. I love Indian, and they are no longer a band. So I love Love Sex Machine.
Urfaust – Empty Space Meditation
Massively atmospheric black metal that rarely plays faster than doom. Features awesome additional instrumentation from classical instruments and some more traditional heavy metal vocals.
Nag – Nag
Blackened crust the perfectly breeds old school hardcore with 2nd wave black metal.
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
Atmospheric tech metal. This release spits in the face of anyone who ever thought tech metal had to be devoid of atmosphere and emotion.
Imperial Triumphant – Inceste
Imperial Triumphant had one of my favorite 2 records last year with Abyssal Gods and Inceste is right up there with that record. Imperial Triumphant excel in making some of the most chaotic and terrifying black metal that I have ever heard.
Tombs – All Empires Fall
This EP finds Tombs featuring a new lineup. It takes some of the Goth influence in 2011’s Path of Totality and expands on it, featuring vocals and noise from Fade Kainer (Batillus, Hull, Missing) that brings all new depth as compared to Tombs’ previous catalogue. It may be 5 songs, but these 5 songs are flawless and prophesy of new untold gloom that Tombs will bring upon us in the future.
Lord Mantis – Nice Teeth Whore
I said words about this EP here.
Voidspawn – Pyrrhic
Beautifully toned but brutish death metal.
Anal Trump – That Makes Me Smart!
Donald Trump themed grind from the vocalist of Cattle Decapitation. 30 songs in under 3 minutes.
Nightmarer – Chasm
Blackened death metal featuring 2 members of War From a Harlot’s Mouth.
Cloak – Cloak
Cloak is essentially a Tribulation cover band. I am obsessed enough with Tribulation that even a Tribulation 2.0 release makes it on my end of year list.