The year 2015 belted out a slew of big as well as underrated works of black metal from all around the world. So we at Metal Wani tasked writer Prateek Kulkarni, our resident purveyor of all things underground in the metal community, to bring you his picks for the Top 10 Black Metal Albums of 2015!
Note: This list does not contain EPs, demos or splits.
Serpents Lair caught my attention with the fantastic demo they released last year, and they continue on the orthodox black metal dissonance with ‘Circumambulating the Stillborn’. There is an immense amount of anger expelled out of this album while it creates hypnotic passages that agitate inner safe spaces. There are doomy sections where the music plods, followed by berserk drumming and angular riffing, and this repeats several times. The Danish band comes close to the sound that the Icelandic black metal scene usually creates, and they are something I would pay close attention to with regard to their future releases.
Obsequiae‘s first full-length ‘Aria of Vernal Tombs’ delivers a fresh display of medieval-style black metal with soothing melodies in abundance, and the artwork gives clear indication of the type of music to come. Beautiful solos, strings and folk-oriented riffs that create mental pictures of medieval landscapes come easy to Obsequiae. Unlike most black metal, the album doesn’t come off as angry or pacey; this is the direction I would like to see more melodic black metal bands go. ‘Aria of Vernal Tombs’ is an album that will please veterans and newcomers of black metal alike.
Hailing from Greece, Awe creates dissonant and hypnotic art in the vein of Deathspell Omega. Their first full-length album ‘Providentia’ features 3 long tracks that propel you into a place of dense anguish. The album waxes and wanes, with its middle part swelling the chaos and brutality while the beginning and end have a calm yet vile demeanor. The creators of this mammoth album are unknown, although they are speculated to have been part of the Greek black metal scene for some time now. The album is convoluted, emotive, very well-written and pushes for contemplation.
It has been only a couple of weeks or so since I listened to ‘Litourgiya’, and it has a certain kind of attraction that made me decide early that this will be on the list. Their label Witching Hour Productions did not reveal much about the members of the Polish band, except that they are from well-known bands, which makes this a supergroup of unknown members. The themes seem to be based on Eastern/Russian orthodoxy, instanced by the artwork and the Slavonic orthodox church-like chants throughout the album. There is a good amount to doom induced into its black metal, which facilitates rapid tempo changes. The melodic riffs are memorable as well.
Imperial Triumphant plays the kind of black metal that is difficult to classify. Their music can be described as a more technical form of black metal with avant-garde, tech-death, psychedelic and other experimental influences. Hailing from New York, the band is growing to be one of the most interesting U.S Black Metal bands. ‘Abyssal Gods’ is an album that hurtles past you like a bullet. It is murky and tumultuous, and the shiver-inducing atmospheric interludes do little to no effect on easing up. A lot of mental convolutions are involved in digesting this album, considering the Gorguts, Portal and Deathspell Omega influences.
As a fan of Acherontas, I was anxiously waiting for their new release, more so because I absolutely loved ‘Vamachara’ and ‘Amenti’. ‘Ma-IoN’ has surpassed both of them in every department to become the band’s best release, in my opinion. Acherontas’ Eastern occult and Tantric themes have always interested me, and the new album delves in it as well, among other occult themes. Acherontas does ambient tracks the way it should be done; they are not fillers or interludes, but are essential parts of the package. The chants, tribalist drums, throat singing and other oriental inclusions create an otherworldly effect on the listener. This album is a must-listen to a patient and open-minded music enthusiast irrespective of whether you like black metal or not.
Iceland does it again. I’m just assuming Iceland is where the opening to the underworld exists, because the amount of evil that comes out in the form of black metal is unusual. This was one of the first albums that I listened to in 2015, and it just took me just the first complete listen to know that it was going to end up in my top 5. The vocals are beast-like and the creepy ambient sections complement the aural assault of dissonance perfectly. The album somehow walks on a tightrope between a meditative atmosphere and a sense of dyspnea, an enjoyable ride throughout. Also, don’t ask me to pronounce the track titles.
Where do I begin? ‘Valis’ is chaos incarnate. At first glance, this might seem like a spastic mess, but the freestyle seems like an intricate arrangements of riffs and pulls you in soon enough. Mastery is a one-man project of “Ephemeral Domignostika” from California, and ‘Valis’ is the first full length from said project. The production is pretty raw and ‘garage’ sounding, but it fucking works. There surely is a method behind this madness, although comprehending it is an uphill task. This suffocating display of dissonance is something to include in your music shelves for a long time.
Coming from one of my favourite black metal scenes – that of France – is VI, formed by members who were also involved with great bands like Antaeus and Aosoth. ‘De Praestigiis Angelorum’, their first full-length, is a fantastic example of fusing melodies and dissonance. There will be comparisons to Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, and there is no denying that there are influences from those bands, but I see unique elements in the album too. The devastating pace of the album is the first thing you will notice, only interrupted by small chilling interludes. The drumming here is true to drummer Blastum‘s name, and along with the great guitar tone makes it a tasty add to the list.
Anything Naas Alcameth touches turns to gold, and ‘The Dreaming I’ confirms it. The album is a perfect blend of menacingly cold riffs and an atmosphere so vile it is nightmarish, and considering the album deals with the surreality of dreams, the final package is impeccable. The ambient interludes are unnerving, and keep the tension at the highest level. There is a bit of Nightbringer floating in the twisted riffs, which get increasingly alluring after each listen. Although it didn’t immediately feel like AOTY, it did take time for me to be completely hypnotized by this, and it steadily crept up to the top of the list.
Slægt – ‘Ildsvanger’
Gnaw Their Tongues – ‘Abyss of Longing Throats’
Serpent Noir – ‘Erotomysticism’
Ibex Angel Order – ‘I’
Dødheimsgard – ‘A Umbra Omega’