Today we have the pleasure of featuring a Best of 2016 list from Twilight Fauna‘s mastermind Paul Ravenwood. These lists are always fun but having the opportunity to see what an artist of Paul’s caliber has been listening to and subsequently loved enough to do this is a treat for us and will be for you as well. You know how these things work so read on — after the jump — to find out what he has in store.
Everyone has a different way of discovering and listening to new music. I’ve never been one to listen to a different album every day. I like to spend time with something. To really digest it. To absorb every note. To understand what the artist is saying and the intentionality behind the work. That type of understanding is something that can only come with time. And with repeated listens.
Every year I find myself hearing a handful of things that really grab on to me and refuse to let go. Those few pieces of music I listen to religiously. Weekly, daily. Hell I’ve been known to put something on repeat and listen to it for an entire day. Or as long as my attention span holds out. I realize doing things this way means missing out on a lot of potential music. It’s a tradeoff but I would rather come out of every year with a handful of albums that are truly meaningful to my life. Albums that I will carry me with me. With that said, here are the albums that really struck me this year in no particular order:
Ashbringer – Yūgen
You know those songs that feel like they were written specifically for you? Truly great music has a way of making things personal. Of putting into words things that you can’t say yourself. Yūgen is full of those moments for me. Every song takes me to a moment in time. They aren’t always happy moments but they’re all important. This is album of the year for me.
Harakiri for the Sky – III. Trauma
I have a real love for mid-tempo black metal. This album fills that need. The production is stellar. Emotional, well written lyrics combined with well-composed songwriting. I don’t know how many times this has been the soundtrack to my drive through the mountains.
Miserable – Uncontrollable
This was the biggest surprise of my year. Not what I typically listen to genre wise but sometimes pure emotion and songwriting cut through everything else. Kristina Esfandiari’s emotionally honest lyrics and raw vocal delivery is something special. She pulls no punches on this and they all hit you right in the gut. Even if you listen and say “this isn’t metal, this isn’t for me”, I urge you to go read the lyrics and show me a metal release with as much heart as this.
Mur – Heartworn
There’s something primal about Mur that really hits close to home. The way the songs flow both individually and together, it feels like you’re experiencing the changing seasons. The yearly cycles of death and rebirth. The migrating birds, the warmth and the cold. Heartworn captures all of it. Every time I’ve listened to Heartworn, it’s taken me on a journey. I’m really looking forward to what the future holds for this band. Check out the track “Cold Mountain”. There are infinite possibilities.
Asunojokei – A Bird in the Fault
A Bird in the Fault is a short album, more like an EP really, but I’ve listened to it more times than I can count. It seems like post-black, shoegazey whatever you call it black metal is all the rage these days. There are a few other bands that folks really go crazy over (not naming names), hearing Asunojokei made me understand why. The song writing is catchy, the melodies and leads are stunning. Despite the lyrics being in Japanese, I find myself humming these tunes all the time. It’s something that gets in your head and stays there in the best kind of way.
Woman is the Earth – Torch of our Final Night
Woman is the Earth is one of those great bands that continues to evolve with each release. By taking their time and through very deliberate song writing, these guys seem to be carving out a sound that is distinctly their own. The earlier releases seem to be firmly grounded in the Cascadian black metal vein, Torch of our Final Night sheds that skin in favor of a more progressive black metal hybrid. Woman of the Earth is cutting their own path, and it’s taking them to exciting places. Total respect.
Panopticon/Waldgeflüster – Split
By my own discrography, you can tell I’m a fan of splits. Especially if they’re done with mutual respect and common vision. It’s abundantly clear these bands had both when putting this together. As far as the music itself, Panopticon’s ability to create heavy music that doesn’t wallow in negativity shines in this release. Waldgeflüster’s side is as emotional as ever. “Der Traumschänder” is an epic 12 minute journey. And with all due respect to both bands’ previous work, the folk covers on here are at times better than the originals.
Mono – Requiem for Hell
Mono has been an incredibly important band in my own development as a musician. The way they are able to create music that doesn’t need words because all the emotion is already there in each note. The way the songs build and just when you think they’re about to ease up, a cymbal rings out and somehow another more chaotic point is reached. It’s hard to put Mono into words, it just needs to be experienced. They’re also one of the few bands where every release is consistently good. There is no weak point in their discography. Requiem for Hell follows that trend.
Arrowwood – Eye of Ivy, Thorn and Moss
It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time in the woods. A lot of my own work involves bringing those moments to life. Sometimes something comes along and does that better than I ever will. With her amazing voice, and personal songwriting Chelsea Robb has given voice to those of us that wander. The sounds of the forests themselves. This is true folk music like you won’t hear it anywhere else written by one of the best vocalists around.
Evergreen Refuge – Anima
I don’t know if there is some unwritten rule about selecting an album you contributed to (I had the opportunity to play flute on this) but Dylan’s music has always stirred something deep inside me. His last few releases have been all acoustic and more on the neofolk side which I also love. Anima though, is a return to the roots of the project and shows that Dylan can craft atmospheric black metal better than anyone. These songs are long, epic, and beautiful.
Lubomyr Melnyk – Illirion
Piano is one of those instruments that still holds great mystery to me. Probably because it’s one I can’t play myself. I tend to be able to lose myself in piano compositions easier than other types of music because my mind doesn’t immediately go to figuring out the arrangement. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. The first time I heard Melnyk play “Sunset”, he was unlike any pianist I had heard before. His flurry of notes filled with emotion, his ability to continually generate overtones and throw them at you in rabid succession…..if there was such a thing as a black metal pianist then he’d fit the bill. This is the equivalent of blast beats and tremolo picking created by one person sitting at a piano, and it’s changed the way I look at the instrument.
Tycho – Epoch
This is another one of those where you’re going to say to yourself “What the hell? I thought this was supposed to be a metal list.” Something you have to realize is that I drink a lot of coffee. And there is nothing better than waking up on a cold mountain morning, making a pot of coffee, putting on a record, and enjoying the moment with friends. In a world where most days feel like chaos, we all need those quiet moments. For a long time, Tycho has been the soundtrack to those mornings for me. Epoch is a solid entry in their discography, and a brilliant follow up to Awake. The next time you find yourself in that situation, grab a large cup of black coffee, put Epoch on, and have a laugh with friends. Trust me on this.
Slaves B.C. – All is Dust and I am Nothing
Slaves B.C. is a band I have something of a personal connection to. The drummer and vocalist for Slaves is a close friend of mine and as of this year is the first person I’ve ever let be a part of Twilight Fauna. Setting aside the fact that Josh is a great human being, from a pure musicianship perspective, All is Dust and I am Nothing made my decision on him becoming my drummer an easy one. There is a groove to these songs you don’t find in a lot of metal these days. The drums on this album are thunderous. And the vocals match that intensity.
Waldgeflüster – Ruinen
Waldgefluster is a band that’s came on strong the last few years. I first took interest with their Meine Fessln LP a few years back. Unfortunately I happened to be listening to that album in 2014 when I got some life shattering news. It’s a strange thing when an album you love gets tied to a moment that isn’t so pleasant to remember. For that reason I had a hard time revisiting Meine Fessln for the longest time. With the wear of time and the changing of circumstances I’ve been relistening to Waldgefluster quite a bit lately. Ruinen dropped at the right time for me I guess. It’s as strong and emotional of an album you’ll find. And the more folk oriented parts are some of the best I’ve heard.
Coldworld – Autumn
I know this was an anticipated album for many, myself included. Almost a decade has passed since the release of Melancholie². The metal landscape has changed so much over the course of that time. Would Autumn hold up? The answer is an absolute yes. The classical instruments are seamlessly blended with black metal riffs. The cleaner, less lo-fi production allows it all to shine through. I’ve heard rumblings about the clean vocals. But whether or not you prefer clean vocals in your black metal they’re brilliantly executed. The clean female vocals that come in at 11:35 are one of the best moments in metal all year.
Thanks to Paul Ravenwood for his time and contribution!