Now that I have put together list a list of Death metal releases that I had not covered last year but were worth listening to, I turn my attention to Black metal and all the albums I discovered too late or completely ignored until I heard of them in a Best of the year list. Among all genres of extreme metal, Black metal is still the one genre that spark the most interest from the music press outside of the specialized website. As an example, Deafheaven was voted Band of the year by the magazine Spin, a publication that featured Kanye West, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar on it’s front page when I wrote this article. Well deserved or not, the popularity of bands like the american shoegaze metal/blackgaze/post black metal show that there is a lot of life in this sub genre originally created as a reaction to Death metal and this list intends to prove that there is a lot more to enjoy in Europe.
Listen to all the songs on Playmoss
Wiegedood – De doden hebben het goed
Featuring musicians from the Belgian hardcore scene (Rise and Fall, White Jazz, AmenRa and Oathbreaker), De doden hebben het goed is the perfect example of how far the influence of black metal has gone by inspiring musicians associated with a scene that had primarily nothing to do with Black metal. Rise and Fall and AmenRa may not have not much to do with the renowned H8000 straight edge scene (Arkangel, Condense, Vitality…), they came from this background and built their identity from the ashes of Integrity‘s albums. Wiegedood plays a style of black metal that owes as much to Darkthrone than to Wolves in the Throne Room. Fierce and intense, they take what’s best in the genre to create one of the most fascinating album of the year. The glacial wind is definitely roaring in the corn fields of Flanders.
Ultha – Pain cleanse everything
German black metal has mostly been associated for me with acts like Secrets of the Moon, progressive and quite far-removed from the atmosphere of the genre, and Dark Fortress, black metal by number without much feeling. Therefore, I could have overlooked Ultha if I had known they were German but I first thought that they were American upon hearing a demo reminding me of the early albums by Xasthur. In reality, Pain cleanse everything does not have much to do with suicidal black metal (apart from the vocals) has it possess much more power than atmospheric value. Ultha plays some powerful black metal full of poisonous riffs and showcase some excellent song writing on Pain cleanse everything. A solid album that does not reinvent the wheel but should not be overlooked.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Stellar
Also from Germany, Der Weg Einer Freiheit takes the basic of post black metal but transforms it into something more scathing while still keeping everything in the realm of metal. From the screeching vocals to the coarse guitar tone, there is much to shatter one’s eardrums in Der Weg Einer Freiheit‘s music, but the aggression is counterbalanced by some soothing acoustic melodies much like at the beginning of Ulver‘s Nattens madrigal but with both aspects combined in one beautiful and coherent song rather than opposed to emphasize one aspect against another.
Aevangelist – Enthrall to the void of bliss
This mysterious american band does not receive the same level of praise as Blut Aus Nord but they are also pushing the boundaries of black metal by injecting industrial textures with the same brutality as the techno organic virus that devours Shinya Tsukamoto‘s salary man in Tetsuo. Aevangelist prove every time that the lessons learned by the multitude experimentation of Arcturus or the Axis of Perdition have not been lost and continue to explore to create some truly deranged and fascinating songs/soundscapes.
Terzij de Horde – Self
Screamo and black metal are now two friendly neighbors, well familiar of each other and ready to share a riffs or two at every occasion. The exchange has led Terzij de Horde to move away from their softer beginning and push their progressive tendencies to include some postcore melodies in their arsenal. The result is an album that surprises at every turn thanks to some complex structures reminiscent of Comity‘s As everything as tragedy, but not as chaotic. A dense but beautiful album that distinguish itself easily from the rest of the pack. I now regret very much to have missed them when they played last year at the Black Heart and I hope to have an occasion to see them this year.