The quality of black metal releases definitely picked up at the later parts of the year. The thing I like the most about this list is how varied it is in regards to the different styles of black metal. We’ll see a few return albums and a few debut full lengths here.
- Nox Formulae – ‘The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy’
Nox Formulae’s debut album picks up pieces from second-wave black metal, mostly the riffs, and tailors it to the sensibility and production of modern ritualistic black metal, all while carving melodies that are pretty unique. The band’s themes delve into esoteric Luciferian tradition and magick, and this album is to be treated as a dark grimoire with some original traditional blocks created by the band members. It’s a pretty rounded album for a debut – there are fast tremolo sections and slower grim parts, rugged riffs and beautiful echo-y melodies.
- A.M.S.G. – ‘Hostis Universi Generis’
This time, A.M.S.G. expands upon the black metal sound of the band with better production, more juice in the melodies and vocals that are not overbearing like in the first album ‘Anti-Cosmic Tyranny’. While I’m certain, some followers of the band would not prefer this change from the rawness of their early work to the polished black metal of ‘Hostis Universi Generis’, nothing is to be taken away from the band in regards to the ritualistic effect it has on the listener. The songwriting and the flow of the album has undoubtedly improved, and a set direction is apparent.
- Inquisition – ‘Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith’
Inquisition is arguably one of the greatest black metal bands of recent times, with not a single album below the high bar they have set for themselves. ‘Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Alter Beyond the Celestial Zenith’ is an offering and tribute to the galactic symbol of Satan, consolidating cosmic violence as part of the ever increasing entropy of the Universe, the eternal law. The music is a close-to-perfect representation of this chaos in aural form, as the riffs transcend tellurian existence. No interludes, no fillers – the album flings a barrage of fiery guitar punches. Inquisition hits the sweet spot of spectacular non-noisy production while holding on to their organic sound with this album, and the lushness out of Dagon’s axe is beautifully fluid.
- Antaeus – ‘Condemnation’
Ten years after the legendary album ‘Blood Libels’, Antaeus returns with another sensory assault with Condemnation. Speed has always been Antaeus’ highlight, and Condemnation is yet another spectacle of it. Menthor of Nightbringer fills in for the drums here. The writing is similar to Blood Libels, in that hate and anger are the most prominent emotions driving the music to its vicious culmination. MkM is sick as ever with the vocals and the rapid riffing is thoroughly engaging. Condemnation is a great comeback album and is almost on par with Blood Libels.
- Crimson Moon – ‘Oneironaut’
Crimson Moon is finally back! And a comeback album of grand sorts. ‘Oneironaut’ is one of those albums that capture your attention instantly. Beautifully crafted riffs, fierce drumming, eastern musical influences, occultic atmosphere all culminating together to form a complete ritualistic experience. There are hundreds of bands that are classified under the vague term of ‘orthodox black metal’, but Crimson Moon trumps most of them. The final track is a twenty minute masterpiece of mountainous soundscapes acting like a shorter portrayal of the whole album. One can only hope that Crimson Moon writes more frequently here onwards, but quality over quantity is to live by.
- Skáphe – ‘Skáphe2’
If you thought Skáphe’s first release was promising and exceptional, the second coming blows it out of the water. The band’s latest offering is nothing short of a behemoth that can only be created by tormented souls. Brickwalled dissonance is an overused tool in the scene of Deathspell Omega copycats, but Skáphe’s unique execution of it differentiates it from the rest. The suffocating and nerve-wracking atmosphere, whether it is the aural hammering or the slower distressing sections, makes for a tiresome yet fruitful listening experience. This experimental monstrosity will gain a lot listens and re-listens over the coming years.
- Black Fucking Cancer – ‘Black Fucking Cancer’
Have you waited for an album that reeks the viciousness of VVorldVVithoutEnd for too long? Well, 2016 brings an album which comes close to it. Amidst the mindless violence and rage of the album dwells a demented personality that has a grasp on this array of evil riffs like a charioteer holding the lead ropes of the horses. The slow tempo parts are inhumanely dark, and while long tracks can usually get tiring in this style, the band is quite consistent with keeping up the wretched atmosphere. Black Fucking Cancer is a good example of a band name being extremely apt for the music it plays.
- Void Meditation Cult – ‘Utter the Tongue Of The Dead’
Void Meditation Cult gained an underground following with the 2011 release of their demo ‘Sulfurous Prayers’ for its absolutely filthy style of black metal, with some raw death-doom influences. ‘Utter the Tongue of the Dead’ expands on this unpolished style and more. It’s not just the foul guitar tone, that can cause discomfort on its own accord, but also the riff writing that has this rotten stench to it throughout the album. If you enjoy black metal almost devoid of melody and revel in ghastly atmospheres and brooding diabolic darkness expressed in a raw and primitive form, this should be your go-to album.
- Cultes des Ghoules – ‘Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love’
Cultes des Ghoules is currently one of the most talented bands in the genre, and this time they have created a black metal opera with Coven. While Henbane was downright evil and raw, Coven is exhibitionistic villainy. Over ninety minutes of a telling of a despondent maiden breaking away from the deceit of false appearances and piety and a spiritual rebirth of a life and death pledged to Satan. The pace of the plot controls the pace of the music, and the vocal interplay between characters is fascinating. The riffs are hard hitting and the atmosphere succeeds in placing the listener in the scene. Prepare to get accursed, seduced or awakened – however you want to see it.
- Deathspell Omega – ‘The Synarchy of Molten Bones’
The Kings have retaken the throne, the one which is rightfully theirs. Deathspell Omega comes out with yet another album of which any ‘review’ is unworthy. Decorated by cinematic entrances and exits, the thirty minutes of smothering ambience is an anti-psychotherapy. The melodic components are subdued, and the immense energy and writing of the Fas era is back. In plain words, there’s a lot of things going on simultaneously throughout the album, which makes unravelling nuances a fun exercise. There have been a million copycats of DsO throughout the years, but releases like these separates the masters from everyone else. The sense of breathlessness lingers around for quite some time after the end of the album. The horns beckon for a replay.
Furia – ‘Księżyc milczy luty’
Gevurah – ‘Hallelujah!’
Panphage – ‘Drengskapr’