CVLT Nation’s Top Twelve BLACK METAL Releases of 2016

TWELVE – ULTHA Converging Sins

Relatively new to the black metal scene, Ultha do not rest. Starting off with their demo in 2015, they soon unleashed their debut full-length in Pain Cleanses Every Doubt the same year, and followed that with their participation in a split Bathory cover, alongside Morast, covering the iconic “Raise the Dead.” And just now they are releasing their sophomore record, Converging Sins, stepping up their game significantly.

Through all the music Ultha has released so far, you can feel their adoration towards the black metal genre. Their music is drenched in the aura of the ’90s black metal scene, retaining the traditional aspects of the genre intact. The ferocity is blazing, as the riffs come down like lighting, the howling vocals bring to mind the wolf-like screams of Burzum, and the groove, for the most part, carries on down similar pathways.

Read the full review here

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ELEVEN – ASH BORER The Irrepassable Gate

This absence was strongly felt. Ash Borer, one of the leading black metal bands of the US scene, were keeping extremely active since 2013, releasing a couple of excellent records in their self-titled debut and Cold of Ages, a split with kindred spirits Fell Voices, and the fantastic Bloodlands EP. Three years is a long time to wait, but now they have returned with The Irrepassable Gate, a record that expands their sound further.

The production for the album was helmed by Randall Dunn, and the effect that he had on the work is prominent. The two previous albums had a suitable production for the type of sound that Ash Borer were after; however, Dunn brings it to another level. Able to retain the primal aspect and raw quality that was inherent in Ash Borer’s modus operandi, he manages to also expand their sound, turning it to an all-devouring, thick wall that relentlessly suffocates.

Obviously, Dunn cannot take all the credit for the record, and if it was not for Ash Borer’s unique riff crafting, all this would be meaningless. What these guys are doing is stunning, being able to take on the format of the standard black metal progression, with all its dissonant elements, but also push in aspects that are verging from noise rock to post rock. The cyclothymic mentality, the constant switching of gears on one hand, and the boundless expansion, the wall of sound approach comes together to construct this epic result. It is not an album that just stretches on the time domain, something we are used to seeing with Ash Borer, but also in terms of the panorama, becoming all-encompassing, sometimes with the aid of experimental means, as in feedback and effects, or plain guitar leads.

Read the full review here

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TEN – UADA Devoid of Light

If hailing from Portland has you thinking that Uada is just another bunch of tree hugging hippies who happen to dabble in the dark arts, think again. Devoid is an all-out sensory assault that sounds more akin to something out of Sweden or Norway than anything emanating from the Pacific Northwest. And at a very tight thirty-four minutes in run length, Devoid is also a no-nonsense release too, getting right down to business from the minute you press play till the second this little beasty ends.

Read the full review on Metal-Fi Reviews

 

NINE – 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalkers) 5772

I literally have no fucking idea where these guys came out of; but well, now they are here, so we must acknowledge their existence, cause this is some next level shit that is so good it’s almost impossible to describe. 夢遊病者 – AKA Sleepwalkers – literally came out of fucking nowhere. In fact, I’m not even sure how I found out about them, but I did, and when I did, my mind was blown so far I could barely believe my own ears. Sleepwalkers mix kraut rock, noise rock, black metal, shoegaze and ambient to DEVASTATING effects. The mix of genres they have attempted is as much bizarre as is it amazing. Much like one of those impossible objects designed by Escher, Sleepwalker’s music also seems impossible, yet they materialized it, and they have crafted it and presented it to us with such class, taste and finesse that it will literally steal your senses and lock you into a surreal state of trance and bewilderment, as if you have been drugged by some kind marvelous narcotic. Imagine Can, Faust, US Christmas, Nadja, Grey Daturas, Zeni Geva, Acid Mothers Temple and My Bloody Valentine forced into a darkened tunnel of (early) black metal chaos (Darkthrone, Peste Noire, Dark Funeral, Burzum etc.), and you will (perhaps) be not far from imagining what Sleepwalker are all about.  But simple comparisons, examples and references are hard, and words still can not truly do justice to this music. You really have to hear it to believe it…

Read the full review here

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EIGHT – VERWOED Bodemloos

Formally known as Woudloper, VERWOED emerged in 2014, with a mammoth self-titled demo tape released through Breathe Plastic Records the following year. While sharing similarities in sound and dynamics, VERWOED greatly surpasses Woudloper with this latest release by delving deeper into paranoid, almost hallucinogenic textures, entwined with dense, melodic ambiance that will leave you with one huge mind-fuck of a listening experience that is as terrifying as it is satisfying.

Bodemloos, whose English translation amounts to “Bottomless,” is exactly that – an unending exploration through corridors thick with atmosphere and rich experimentation. Recorded by John Bart Van Der Wal (who also mixed and mastered the album), Bodemloos is as barbaric as it is entrancing. A visceral ascension into a comforting psychosis, if such a thing is possible. Simply put, I did not want it to end.

Read the full review here

 

SEVEN – ISKANDR Heilig Land

Meatbreak NWODBM continues apace, with another incredible release from Haeresis Noviomagi.

The bass lines in this make it. Don’t usually get to say that about BM – but these are so eerie and groovy, really great counterpoints to the trebly sawing, and not just when it drops out. The loping bass riffs underpin the whole thing and make this album a disorienting menace from beginning to end. via Bancamp

SIX – ALKERDEEL Lede

In recent years, with releases like The Abyss Stares Back and Dyodyo Asema, a collaboration with GNAW THEIR TONGUES, Alkerdeel have been exploring realms of blackened, ambient doomnoise and experimenting with material that’s heftier, deeper, and more long-winded than was their initial style. Their split with A DEN OF ROBBERS showcases a very different band, one with immediately accessible classic doom grooves, and abrasive minor-scale noise rock riffs all buried within a lo-fi, static blur. Lede has effectively found a happy medium between those two poles, with a stripped-down production and songwriting style that mixes succinct black n’ roll with epic, atmospheric melodies, even within the span of a single track like closer “Grat Deleenaf.” The record sounds incredibly clean and straightforward, while retaining an underlying air of weirdness and discomfort, a sense of raw, naked vulnerability – made even more apparent by the fact that every instrument seems to instinctually know its place and alternate freely between participating in the warm, repetitive hum, echoing to the forefront on occasion to show off briefly and beautifully, and then reverberating back again. “Regardez Ses Yeux III” begins with an emphasized, catchy black metal riff, accented by thin, prominent guitar tone, and the title track follows suit with a fairly succinct, punky anthem. The band’s trademark inhuman vocals and experimental soundscapes (demonstrated on “Regardez Ses Yeux” I and II) certainly continue to bring the chaos, but overall Lede comes across as the most focused and specifically structured work Alkerdeel have yet composed. It’s a powerful, trancelike album, one that makes it easy to forget that it’s humans who are playing this music…

Read the full review here

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FIVE – ANTAEUS Condemnation

Despite the ten-year gap since their last album, 2006’s monstrous Blood Libels, one listen should be all it takes to convince you that Antaeus are still as utterly merciless and inhumanly intense as ever. And with the drum throne for this album filled by the one-man barrage of Menthor (also of Enthroned and Nightbringer, among others), it should come as no surprise to learn that the level of blastronomic engorgement remains brutally extreme throughout.

At only nine songs (one of which is the aptly-named 51-second intro track, “Something Wicked This Way Comes”) and just over forty-one minutes long, Condemnation is one lean, mean, murder-machine of an album, with only the occasional moment of ominous, oppressive calm (such as occurs during the second half of “End of Days”) to provide respite from the roiling, boiling chaos.

Read the full review via No Clean Singing

 

FOUR – DEATH FORTRESS Deathless March of the Unyielding

The same has always been true for Death Fortress. They like to slow down to go mid-tempo a lot. When they do, they’re special. You can sing along to the vocal parts, and when they blast, you go back to enjoying quality prototypical black metal. They’re awesome. What more can be said?

So, their new album for Fallen Empire Records, Deathless March of the Unyielding, is another album that is going to get end-of-year list considerations. I voted their prior full-length into my top twenty. This album has plenty of competition in 2016, considering it’s been a boon year for black metal. There’s so much underground music getting attention now, people quickly forget the bands that put the moon up the rafters the first time around. While Death Fortress is still a young band, they have already made the impression on me as one of the best black metal bands in operation today.

Read the full review here

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THREE – SPIRE Entropy

Not much is known about SPIRE, except that they hail from Brisbane, Australia. Like a lot of other black metal acts, they are shrouded in mystique and secrecy. A faceless, formless group of musicians that have joined together to create a piece of art, an expression of suffering and despair that bends and morphs through opaque corridors ripe with despondency and decay. Spire manages this flawlessly on their debut LP, Entropy.

The album opens with “Ends,” an ominous and foreboding offering that begins subtly by exuding an uncomfortable build that quickly shifts into an unearthly assault of inharmonious cacophony. From the beginning, it is apparent that Spire’s musical craftsmanship is nothing short of excellent, incorporating atmosphere and ambiance with unhinged, frantic barbarity and precision. “Labyrinthine simmers and stews, slowly trudging through black and murky depths before exploding with intensity, a contrast that Spire has seemingly honed to a specific science.

Read the full review here

 

TWO – URZEIT Anmoksha

Anmoksha is an album conceptually rooted in the Hindu idea of moksha: the escape from the karmic cycle of death and rebirth. Anmoksha, or without moksha, would then be the feeling of never being at peace, stuck in an infinite repeating loop day after day, year after year, lifetime after lifetime. ‘This endless cycle, this Samsara / is a vacuous perseverance / a damned permanence / inverted essence – invisible, omnipresent’ is the wisdom the title track imparts to the listener, told from the perspective of someone who not even in death would be free from the hell of having to live with themselves. Indeed, much of Anmoksha lyrically focuses on the sense of self-hatred that comes from attempting to better oneself and be free of the cycle of rebirth, but knowing the struggle is utterly useless. There is a world-weariness that permeates the lyrics on this album that offsets the frenzied nature of the music that contains them. The song “Bellisunya” sums it up best: ‘And I cannot bear to be alone / cannot stand the sight of myself / sober, drunk, low, or high / I’m still myself… and I hate it.’

Read the full review on Nine Circles

 

ONE – SKÁPHE Skáphe²

Deeply experimental, complex, and dissonant, Skáphe‘s full-length foray into noise avant-garde black metal is the best modern black metal to have incarnated since the beginnings of black metal itself. Largely formless and structureless, the sound on this full-length is about as harrowing as a trip into the mind of a mad scientist.

The songs have only Roman numerals as titles, and largely the songs lack a distinct identity from one another because of the nature of the compositions. The fact that you don’t know what to make out of each song played in sequence reinforces my love for everything experimental. You tend to listen to this album repeatedly, catching a riff here and there, a scream in the sequence of strange drum machine music. This album is as unpredictable as any band that has attempted to evolve black metal away from circa second-wave. Genre aficionados who love fourth wave black metal will easily spend the change in their pockets to get a copy of this.

Read the full review here

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Meghan

Meghan

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing.

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Brad Stokes
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Brad Stokes

Two words: The Reverses.

theconquerorwurm
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theconquerorwurm

Solid list in general. Uada is a snoozefest though. I really liked the new Deathspell, hard to argue with Skaphe2 though.

Yann Galera
Guest

thanks for the discovery – i didn’t know any of them. Here are some BM recommendations from other band who also released bombs this year: Darkthrone, Destroyer 666, Urfaust, Thy Catafalque and Bolzer

Jamal Mohmed
Guest

Skaphe is a great pick, I listened to that one pretty heavily. Urfaust was also up there on my list. There are some interesting releases that went by me and bands I haven’t heard on this list though, will have a lot to listen to.

Metal Mike Tyson
Guest

🏆

Jason Churko
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Sean Hartford Karl Warkentin Videodrome

Mgike Mains
Guest

Was waiting for this list!

Trent
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Trent

“If hailing from Portland has you thinking that Uada is just another bunch of tree hugging hippies who happen to dabble in the dark arts, think again. Devoid is an all-out sensory assault that sounds more akin to something out of Sweden or Norway than anything emanating from the Pacific Northwest.” What fucking band were you guys listening to??? This shit is about as tree hugging, and vaguely cvlt-y/witchy as it gets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVZ2X39mxgU

James Grim Hall
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Mitch Carli Michael Goku Strife

Mattia Alagna
Guest

NO THIS? NO THAT? year ends list announcements are a gathering of fuckbois who think they can do shit better than everyone else while all they are really doing is wasting their life away complaining on social media. if you think you can do better start writing reviews everyday, interview bands, go to shows and review them, start your own music blog and then make your own fucking lists.

Michael Bertoldini
Guest

Amen

Jamal Mohmed
Guest

Holy shit, triggered much? Who fucking cares? Oh wait…

Mattia Alagna
Guest

more like people are triggered by these lists it looks like

Hannes Möbest
Guest

No Deathspell Omega? Urfaust? Not even Panphage?…..

Mnskhtr
Guest
Mnskhtr

Where’s Zhrine?

Carlos Eduardo
Guest

Why not 13?! Me so sad…

Jason Yager
Guest

Cultes des Ghoules. Get someone without a handlebar mustache to make these lists.

Gus Butler
Guest

Gevurah, Void Omnia, Inquisition, Terra, Winterfylleth, AMSG, Urfaust, all deserve to be here. I see lists without Inquisition and I think “this list is going out of its way to showcase new and ‘forward-thinking’ bands.” Which, fine, but call it a Post-Metal list.

Isaac James Baker
Guest

Inquisition’s album is killer! How is it getting no love?

Gus Butler
Guest

I don’t understand. It’s their best record. I get spotlighting new(ish) acts, but those guys deserve respect for uppinh their game. No one wrote better BM riffs this year.

Carlos Eduardo
Guest

I also think bands that have toads as vocalists should get more love!! 😀

Gus Butler
Guest

Right?! It’t hard to get a mic down to their height

C:I:Sun
Guest
C:I:Sun
Lior Delman
Guest

No Nordjevel? No Urfaust? So many bands released excellent albums yet you post about this hipster black metal bands..
Makes no sense to me.

Bran Co
Guest

Tøm Comhaire

Bran Co
Guest

Ba Rt

Ba Rt
Guest

Ash borer!

Jasper Goerlandt
Guest

Vindt gij dat nieuw album van Ash Borer goed, dan? Ik vind die nogal tegenvallen.

Ba Rt
Guest

Ja had er nog niet naar geluisterd. Staat mij ook niet aan. Snap niet wat ze proberen

Ba Rt
Guest

Spijtig

Ba Rt
Guest

De self titled is wel de beste ooit

Nihil Linkola Martin
Guest

Nordjevel, Deathspell Omega, Krater????

Lau Ra
Guest

Domenico

Justin Schulte
Guest

Skaphe,hands down.

Ben Richardson
Guest

Ta!

Per Böhlin
Guest

Noise // ambient // so forth … call me old fashioned but how does some of this even qualify into the black metal genre? Im actually curious.

Andreas Flory
Guest

Same here. UADA seem the only ones having some kind of structure in their songs.

Arkadiusz Zduniak
Guest

why would you expect new stuff from modern wave to sound like stuff from 80’s or 90’s?

Per Böhlin
Guest

My question is how this qualifies as black metal, not questioning progress in general. Sounds nothing like a black metal song.

Mis Ter Moose
Guest

Rink Bergsma Neomi van Aerde

Mis Ter Moose
Guest

The Verwoed album is awesome!!!

Kyle Cooper
Guest

Christian Jake Hunter & Nathan Craig yessssss

Benedikt Walther
Guest

Urfaust? Schammasch? 😒

Emil Mihai
Guest

Nice list, but Urfaust shouldn’t be missed.

Rene Aquarius
Guest

Omar Kleiss

Matthew Rigby
Guest

Kevin James King

Dave W Bratby
Guest

Danny McCooey Will Swindells

Kamiel de Fouw
Guest

No Tarnkappe? No Urfaust? No Winterfylleth? No Standvast? No Arkona?
Should’ve made top 20 😉

Olaf Roukens
Guest

Winterfylleth is the most shittest band I’ve seen live this year..

Jan Buekers
Guest

Feel free to listen to the new EP from Sons Of A Wanted Man (post-metal/black metal from Belgium):
https://soundcloud.com/sonsofawantedman/sets/black-days-black-dust-2016

Toby Hockenbury
Guest

Whaaat no Abbath?

Danny McCooey
Guest

Yeah right

Douglas Seaton
Guest

That Iskandr album is excellent! Glad to see that on this list!

Lara Nhécks
Guest

Gabi Pais

Michael Bertoldini
Guest

Verwoed

Michael Mheiz
Guest

Hm……no A.M.S.G…..no LVTHN…..no URFAUST……Great call on ULTHA !!!

Nick Craggs
Guest

AMSG album of the year.

Gus Butler
Guest

What Leviathan came out?

Michael Mheiz
Guest

Leviathan !??

Gus Butler
Guest

Sorry — read quickly st 4am

Michael Mheiz
Guest

No problem 😊

Niels Vinck
Guest

Erik Bleijenberg

Jason Stevens
Guest

Ward Theunissen

Stefan Baumgartner
Guest

Robert Fröwein Emanuel Rudas