As I’ve probably mentioned here before, I love EP’s and demos almost as much as I love full albums. There’s something about the condensed goodness, coupled with my ever dwindling attention span, that makes me wish these little gems got their own recognition sometimes when it comes to year-end lists. You have to be the change you want to see in the world though, right? So here it is then: my list of favorite shorter releases from this year.
#10: Gatecreeper – Sweltering Madness
REAL IDIOT SHIT! RIFFS ON STUPID! IF YOU EVER READ A BOOK GET THE FUCK OUT!
#9: Witch Vomit – Poisoned Blood
The filthier the death metal is, the better the death metal is, and Portland’s Witch Vomit bring all kinds of nastiness in this nigh on 20 minute offering. This should come as no surprise, seeing as how the band shares members with fellow purveyors of filth Torture Rack and Dagger Lust, but Witch Vomit stand apart from these with their blend of old-school riffs and new school atmosphere. “Doomed in the Realm of the Dead” never fails to get my fists pumping.
#8: Sinmara – Within the Weaves of Infinity
Sinmara: the band so nice they’re on here twice (more on that later). Within the Weaves of Infinity sees the band dialing back the aggression found in their 2014 full-length Aphotic Womb and going for a lighter and more textural sound, and the result works drastically in their favor. Don’t get me wrong, tracks like “Nine Halls” still bring the pain, but there is a much more soaring and atmospheric feel to the band now, and it gives them something to set them apart from their peers in the Icelandic scene.
#7: Moray – Temporal Majesty
Provo, UT’s Moray took me completely by surprise with this demo release, and months later I still have to pick my jaw up off the floor when I put it on. Moray use a base of triumphant melodic black metal as a springboard to launch themselves all over the musical map, but the end result is cohesive, earnest, and unbelievably fun. Don’t believe me? Take one listen to “Dagger” and tell me those riffs aren’t legit. I dare you.
#6: Oranssi Pazuzu – Kevät/Värimyrsky
Kevät/Värimyrsky may be a collection of several of the band’s older songs, but these two tracks feel like some of the most vital material the band has put out, and sound much more in line with last year’s Värähtelijä than previous material. It was a smart move for the band to use these once seemingly out-of-place singles to bolster the hype that has already been building for them, and the result is an EP that delivers even more of the signature weirdness that long-time fans of this Finnish act know and love. Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.
#5: Kaffaljidhma – IV
I am begging you, pleading with you at this point, to listen to this band. The Netherland’s Kaffaljidhma are doing something with the raw black metal template that no one else I have heard even comes close to replicating. Using the aesthetics of lo-fi recording as a dreamy wash rather than an oppressive hiss, and further incorporating shimmering keyboards and skyward melodies to the sound, IV‘s single track, the 12+ minute “Alphecca of the Northern Crown, Sequestered in an Alcove of Lustrous Spires” is a totally engrossing experience that takes the listener on a journey to places far outside of this plane of existence.
#4: Svartidaudi – Untitled
This is a release that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to include on this list for fear of not being able to listen to it. Originally only available at the band’s merch table on their recent tour of Europe and still not available physically for those of us Stateside (attention distros…please…I have holiday cash to burn), this untitled 7″ finally, miraculously found its way to bandcamp, and all the waiting was validated. 14 minutes of bleak, uncompromising black metal done the way only Iceland knows how, by one of my favorite artists in the game.
#3: Khemmis/Spirit Adrift – Fraught With Peril
I’ve recently mentioned how much I love split releases, in part because they often offer bands the creative platform to do something that wouldn’t be part of a larger album. This is how two bands, one from the mountains of Denver, the other from the desert of Arizona, bonded over their love of the traditional Southern music that was part of their culture growing up, and decided to pay tribute to those roots together. Fraught With Peril exudes a genuine love and appreciation for the spirit of the songs here, but shows each band putting their own modern touches on them, be it Khemmis’ sludgy take on “A Conversation With Death,” or Spirit Adrift’s bluesy rendition of the classic “Man of Constant Sorrow.”
#2: False – Hunger
I wrote up a full review for this EP back in July when it first dropped, and I stand by what I said wholeheartedly:
“The ability to balance melody and aggression, in addition to all of the textural elements of the band’s music, is the reason why False is one of the best black metal acts around, and Hunger is living proof of that. Many bands play at this kind of organized chaos, but False make it feel like it’s as easy as breathing, even when pushing themselves out of their usual comfort zone. Hunger may be a short listen, but it is without a doubt some of the most compelling music I have heard all year.”
#1: Sinmara/Misthyrming – Ivory Stone/Hof
How often is it that one of the first proper releases you hear in a given year is the one that ends up being one of your favorites? When you get this caliber of musicianship involved, it’s not hard to see why. This split 10″ EP released in January sees two of the most lauded acts in the current world of black metal go all out and deliver the two best songs of either of the band’s careers. Sinmara’s “Ivory Stone” is lush and textured, with an end section that packs somber melody into the band’s formula. By contrast, Misthyrming’s “Hof” is one of the most bone-shatteringly heavy songs I’ve ever heard in my life, full of absolutely feral aggression. Put these two tracks side by side and you have a primer for all the best things that black metal can be capable of, performed by masters of their craft.
Thanks for looking. Check back here soon for a list of my favorite full-length releases.