Album Review

Top 20 Metal Records Of 2016

I did it! I made another list. I didn’t think it would happen, but it happened. No more lists, though. This is the last one for 2016.

Lots of black metal this year. And I mean lots. But it’s all A+ Amazing. I didn’t hear too much doom (or rather too much premium doom) this year, but, again the doom that was good was really fucking good. There’s tons of weird shit in here that pushes the limits of metal that you should come to expect from my metal lists. Also, I gotta say I’m surprised at the amount of color found on these album covers. 10 of them feature full multi-colored artwork and even more toss in some non-greyscale-but-still-monochromatic flair.

I did something that some of you may find treasonous. I have 2 records tied for first place. So, technically, this is a Top 21 list, but whatever. I spent way too long (like, weeks, maybe even months?) trying to decide which of the two I loved more and just couldn’t settle on one answer for more than a few days. And when I was putting this post together I realized “fuck it, there’s no reason I need to choose one over the other” and thus the Tied For Number 1 spot was born. I’m happy about it and you should be too.

As usual, I try to keep the big names/labels off the list because I’m definitely not a metal blog and I’m sure you all know that The Body, Ash Borer, SubRosa, Cough, ColdWorld, and Primitive Man put out truly outstanding records this year. You don’t need another site to tell you how good they are.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Album Review

Ak’chamel, The Giver Of Illness – Fucking With Spirits (Centipede Farm, 2014)

ak'chamel - fucking with spirits album cover
Ak’chamel, The Giver Of IllnessCancer Eclipsed The Sun (Null Religion Centipede Farm)

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See, this is why I keep this AGB thing going, shit like this record right here. The Giver Of Illness hit me up out of the blue with this tape and with a name like Fucking With Spirits I figured it’d be pretty cool. Well yeah, pretty cool is accurate, but pretty fucking rad as hell is more like it. Ak’chamel calls out some seriously weird ritualistic cult jams that aim to connect with the Nightosphere by way of midnight smoke chants, all manner of beasts hypnotized and speaking in tongues while plinking away on a broken spike fiddle, pounding a ratty drum, and droning on whatever noisemaker they can find, meandering and absolutely fucked, lo-fi doesn’t even begin to describe this stuff, it’s dank as hell with deep warble & crackle sounding like it was recovered from a tape found melting on orange embers, moments of lucidity are nowhere to be found, this is crazy hallucinatory shit that only asks you let go of your preconceptions and just fuckin go with it, let the shamans lead, they’ll show you the Dark Party, and you’ll never want to leave. This is currently free* on Bandcamp (along with a bunch of other Ak’chamel stuff) but it’ll be tape-ified by Null Religion Centipede Farm very soon.

Album Review

Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha (Three Lobed, 2014)

horseback - piedmont apocrphya album cover
HorsebackPiedmont Apocrypha (Three Lobed)
No streaming track because Horseback is big enough now to get an exclusive full album stream before the record is released. Awesome for Horseback, less awesome for you at the moment, but way awesome for you when the full stream goes up in a few weeks.

Oh my fucking god this is where it’s at you guys. It’s like everything Jenks Miller has done as Horseback and otherwise (solo, Mount Moriah, etc) up until this point was specifically just to culminate in the glorious Piedmont Apocrypha. The minimal drone, the blackened psych, the ominous country folk, all of it stirred together in a cocktail of perfect occultish meditations and the harmony among the styles is unbelievable. While quite distinct from his last record (Half Blood), taking the black down a few notches and with way more clean vocals, the darkness and theme of endless change are still in full effect and bleeding through the entire record, starting with the opening line “I was born to lose, I won’t have this form forever” and winding through to the end of the burning 17 minute finale “Chanting Out The Low Shadow,” which itself is like Half Blood boiled down to a single flawless track. This record is both bold and nonchalant, it has no fuckin problem letting a couple tones hang in the air indefinitely, watching them waver & fade, or laying down a free form calming jangle fest, or tossing some field recordings in with wobbly psych guitars & droning organs, and then getting rowdy as fuck with reverb, feedback, and propulsive ritualistic fire summoning magick. Apocrypha comes from another realm, lead by shaman prophets and where a deep understanding of reality comes only through tantric psych & dancing-induced hypnoses. This is the motherfucking jam. Can’t tell you how fucking psyched I am about this record. It’s masterfully cohesive while capturing the range of styles Miller works in. If you remember how crazy I was/am about Half Blood, and then I say this is every bit as good as Half Blood, you’ll know I’m not shitting you and that this is everything you could want in another Horseback record.

Album Review

Owlfood – Destroyers Of The Moon (Behind The Door, 2013)

owlfood - destroyers of the moon album cover
OwlfoodDrift Towards Her (Behind The Door)

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An excellent Boston trio that’s been hiding in the shadows for too long, hopefully this killer new LP will get them the attention they deserve. Destroyers Of The Moon is some dark moody shit, twisting doom drone and neo-folk gloom into sprawling blackened pagan jams, shamanistic chants à la Charalambides spoken over haunted strings and buzzing guitars, a pitch black night spent in the desert, opening the gates to the underworld and conjuring spirits to rain death, acoustic whispers in the smoke with the thrum of fear lurking beneath, dreams interchanged with reality in the throws of hypnosis, a delicate melancholic record of harrowing black folk, beautiful & exceptionally original, only 250 pressed up on the band’s newly minted label, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this.

Album Review

Giles Corey – Giles Corey (Enemies List, 2011)

Giles CoreyBlackest Bile (Enemies List)

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I’m a terrible person. I’ve loved this record from day one (and I mean love) which was almost 2 years ago. I got pumped for the video for “A Sleeping Heart” but never followed up with a full review. Plus, I walk past the site where Giles Corey got crushed on my way to work every day (REPRESENT). Anyway, here’s what I should have written long ago.

Giles Corey is Dan Barrett’s solo project, the dude behind Enemies List and half of the immortal Have A Nice Life, this is his Dust Bowl era spectral folk side where he takes on death, the occult, suicide, depression, and supreme heartache, turning terrible shit into the most powerful & amazing music ever. Depressing as fuck lyrics chanted & crooned & shouted like “I’m going to kill myself,” “I want to feel like I feel when I’m asleep,” and “I open up my heart and let it all in and it kills all my love and hope for everyone,” bleeding through everything, reaching soul wrenching depths, rooted in bittersweetness, even evoking some mid century pop/doo wop sounds, his voice the richest imaginable, so pure & raw, layered a hundred times over surrounding himself in a choir of his own nightmares, armed mostly with just an acoustic guitar and percussion that sounds like an oil drum being pounded in an empty warehouse, kicking the hushed intimacy into enormous bombastic anthems, sometimes bringing in some brass for an extra old timeyness, but always perfect, every fucking song is as good as it could possibly be, Barrett’s song writing is unmatched and inimitable. The original release came in a DVD style case bound by rope to a 150 book filled with a crazy fucking story and lyrics and photos and shit. That’s way sold out but for $5 you can still get the download and it includes digital versions of everything except the rope.

There’s a super weird noise/drone/wtf record he put out “designed to induce possession states” called Deconstructionist, a second full length set for this year (on vinyl!) and, awesome news for you New Englanders, there’s a GC mini-tour coming right up. Three shows, (NY, Boston, & Enemies List HQ), all with Planning For Burial on the lineup, and I’m hosting the Boston show. On Saturday, 2/23 at PA’s Lounge with High Aura’d and Ehnahre helping to usher in the new darkness.

Album Review

Nocht The Only Ghouls – Nocht The Only Ghouls (Vwyrd Wurd, 2011)

Nocht The Only GhoulsSleeping Bär-geist (Vwyrd Wurd)

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Nocht The Only Ghouls. Weird stuff! I think it’s their debut release, but at the very least it’s the first from Vwyrd Wurd, and it’s on vinyl and PWYW at Bandcamp. This conjures some dark days, super fine black folk, lonely guitars emanating from empty attics, overgrown graveyards absent of color, slow & meticulous, sparse & haunted, with subtle electronics, nearly non-existent vocals, and hidden percussion. The electronics become more apparent as the album progresses and by the end of it, it’s turned into more of a dark ambient/drone. Awesome as fuck, an original album of dusty midnight rituals to add to the increasingly large but still sadly small pile of neofolk.

Album Review

Jakob Battick & Friends – The Painful Places Will All Fly From Me (self released, 2011)

Jakob Battick & FriendsThan Even The Night (self released)

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So it has come to this, the final nail in the Jakob Battick & Friends coffin. Originally a limited physical release in 2010, Battick decided to re-release Painful Places for free on Bandcamp as a farewell. Well, this couldn’t be a more fitting finale as this is as fucking sad as it gets. Melancholic and bittersweet, stripped down to its bones, just a couple slow guitars with Battick and and his friends filling in the spaces with their voices, Battick’s rich & resonating, super intimate, like you’re right there with him in a cold, empty church attic. This is the bleakest, most minimal folk you’ve ever heard, Battick can take a few chords and turn them upside down, into something previously unknown, and his voice makes everything incredibly tragic but still uplifting, like he’s fucking Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders for infinity, singing to the world that there’s nothing to worry about ’cause he’s fucking got it, death, death, more death, and it’s all ok because nothing matters. So yeah, this is really fucking good, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t grab a gratis copy. Here’s hoping that Battick isn’t done making music and he’s just retiring the “Friends.” The world would certainly be worse off if he was done for good, so lets make this a public plea for more Battick creations. We (I) need it.

Album Review

Clint Heidorn – Atwater (Ashes Ashes, 2011)

Clint Heidorn2 (Ashes Ashes)

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A new dude self releasing his first album on vinyl with killer packaging, you should already be paying attention. Heidorn is making some stellar tunes on Atwater, channelling a sparser Dirty Three or a dustier & less gloomy Jakob Battick. Truly awesome stuff here. I see it getting labeled a lot as black folk and even black ambient, and I guess, for lack of a better word, I might as well. But this isn’t black. It’s hardly even dark. Somber? Certainly. But this doesn’t conjure any woodland specters or rain the plague down on your soul. It’s an earthy minimalism, guitars, strings, reeds, and a slew of noisemakers echoing in the trees, sprawling out over the leaves on the forest floor. Chill as fuck and absolutely amazing. But I just can’t see the whole haunted spin on this. And as rad as it is using “tree bones” to adorn your hand tinted record jackets, I’m not a big fan of the upside cross imagery. Especially here, where it seems to be pleading its case instead of representing the sound. But clearly Heidorn created Atwater with dark intentions, so I’m not hating. I’m just not on board with the theme. I see Atwater in my own way, and it’s super fucking cool.


Giles Corey – A Sleeping Heart

NEW GILES COREY SONG!! That’s all you need to know. Unless you need to know more, in which case…

Giles Corey is Dan Barrett, proprietor of Enemies List and Have A Nice Life wizard, he brings some olde dusty gloom, and in the case of “A Sleeping Heart,” he does so with a lone guitar and depressive as fuck vocals. The video goes back and forth between a bitchin retro car and Dan spilling his guts in a racquet ball court. It’s directed by Justin Donais, the same dude who made the HANL Live At The Stone DVD. The song comes from his upcoming full length debut, which is obviously one of the releases that you should be be as pumped as possible for this year.