Best of 2018: Chris’s Honorable Mentions List

EOY 2018 Header 9C

We’ll save the long-winded rhetoric for the final list.  There’s fifteen albums listed here that are categorized as “Honorable Mentions” because that’s typically how these list things work.  But in reality it’s a disservice to relegate the incredible music contained herein to a tier of “also ran.”  I spent much of the year thinking about what I needed music to do for me, and hunting for the songs, the bands, and the albums that worked – selfishly – for me.  All of the albums listed below work on me and for me: pushing me to move further, holding me back when I’ve gone too far.  I can’t ask for much more than that.  Last year I titled my honorable mentions albums #40-26, but in truth a number can’t define the reinforcement and excitement this music provided.

So let’s dive in and talk about them for a spell. Continue reading

Initial Descent: June 17 – 23, 2018

Khemmis
Khemmis – photo courtesy of Alvino Salcedo

With our fearless editor still banking massive quantities of cocktails on an undisclosed beach I am once again taking keyboard in hand to deliver your weekly dose of Initial Descent.  And there’s some killer tunes arriving on the solar wings of Summer, so let’s get to it.

Khemmis return with their particular blend of melodic doom with Desolation, and it doubles down on everything that worked on their previous albums, but with a slight tweak to engage a classic hard rock vibe. And hey, how about those harsh vocals?  If you’re into black metal then the rest of this paragraph is going to make you very, very happy because first off Unsettling Whispers, the debut LP from Gaerea is a gorgeous dark and brooding example of atmospheric black metal you just might be hearing a lot more about on an upcoming episode of the Nine Circles Audio Thing.  Next up Anicon return with Entropy Mantra, and I make no excuses: these guys have completely keyed into my love of modernizing traditional black metal since their Aphasia EP back in 2015.  The new album just rips with great drumming and blistering guitar lines.  Finally, Sweden’s Craft are back after seven long years with White Noise and Black Metal, and it’s a clarion call to all the crusty, old school black metal you love with just a hint of progression to show you these veterans can take the face off anyone around nowadays.

And that’s just a taste of what came out this week, so check out the list below and let us know in the comments what’s been whispering evil things to you in the dark.   Continue reading

Album Review: Anicon – “Entropy Mantra”

Anicon - Entropy Mantra

With one foot in tradition and another in exploration, Brooklyn’s Anicon have been steadily churning out some of the most engaging and ripping black metal in the past few years.  Never abandoning the tried and true foundations of the genre, each release has sought to fold a sense of adventure through melody, rhythm and counterpoint to create something that never fails to identify with with the genre while simultaneously push against it.  Entropy Mantra captures that sense in what feels like the band’s most realized album to date.   Continue reading

Best of 2016: Dan’s List

Nine Circles Best of 2016 Standard

So yeah, this year sure sucked in a lot of ways, didn’t it?

On a personal level…where to begin? My family said goodbye to our beloved dog, Bailey. I had a rough breakup at the end of April. I got into a deeper rut in my professional life than I’d ever experienced before, which culminated in me quitting my job and leaving New York. I also, briefly, quit Nine Circles. (You didn’t think I’d stay away for good though, did you?)

And that’s just my stuff! Beyond that…well, for starters, pretty much everyone died. Prince, Alan Rickman, Phife Dawg, Craig Sager…I mean, you kind of had to know 2016 was going to be shitty on that front after we lost David goddamn Bowie when the year was scarcely a week old. And that’s all to say nothing of the other shit: escalation of racial tensions across the country, continued apathy toward a changing climate, Christmas Eve / Day and New Year’s Eve / Day both falling on Saturdays and Sundays…it was a lot, man. Oh, and we also elected the personification of an Internet comment section to the presidency. That was neat.

In spite of all that, 2016 wound up being a goddamn banner year for metal. When I first started thinking about this list, I was envisioning maybe a Top 15 – but that quickly grew to a Top 25, and then to its current incarnation: a Top 50, with 20 “ranked” albums and 30 honorable mentions, not to mention EPs. It was just impossible to whittle it down any further; that’s how good metal was this year. Hell, I had a number of albums that featured in my mid-year list that didn’t even make it into the honorable mentions section of this one!

Make no mistake, this year would have felt exponentially shittier without all of those records. In times like these, cueing up a metal record that’s driving you bonkers, throwing your head back and howling at the moon kind of becomes essential to maintaining your sanity. And you know what? Sanity was maintained. (Well, mine at least…I dunno about America’s. All the more reason for America to start listening to more damn metal.)

This year may have thrown every possible pile of feces it could at us, but you know what? We made it through anyway. We’re still here and it’s not. And that’s nothing to turn our noses at. Here are the records that helped make that happen for me:  Continue reading

Best of 2016: Chris’s List

Nine Circles Best of 2016 Standard

End of the year, ladies and gentlemen. The time when lists flow like liquor at an office party, where the online community comes together as one gargantuan digital animal to do what it does best: nitpick, subtweet, and throw so many accusations of pandering, overrated and “hipster” picks that come December 31st we’ll all be sick and tired and never want to do this shit again.

Until next year, of course.  When we’ll do it all over again. Continue reading