Matt’s Albums of the Decade, Part 2: #100 through #51


Part 1: 190-101

100. Crib 45 – Marching through the Borderlines (#7 of 2014)

Burdened with an unfortunate name held over from their very early days as a nu-metal troupe, this Finnish post-metal powerhouse should not be underestimated. Crib 45 unloads riffs with glacial pacing and neutronium density, like the slow-burning but massively climactic quasi-title track “Borderlines” or the multilayered vocal conclusion of “Into the Abyss”. Teemu Mäntynen’s intense vocal delivery provides the acrid bite that takes otherwise standard, though well-composed, post-metal fare into another dimension of quality.

99. Serpent Column – Mirror in Darkness (#8 of 2019)

Is Serpent Column a more unhinged, manic cousin of math-minded disso-black players like Dodecahedron and Thantifaxath? Or are they simply operating on a level beyond mortal comprehension, à la Mastery or Jute Gyte? Multiple listens fail to provide a definitive answer, but continue to reward and enchant nonetheless.

98. Cult Leader – Lightless Walk (#12 of 2015)

Free from the acoustic morass that would bog down its follow-up, Lightless Walk showcases Cult Leader at their brightest and most brazen. This album, for me, defines and exemplifies the entire ethos of blackened hardcore.

97. Astronoid – Air (#7 of 2016)

“Dream thrash”? Catchy name, bad descriptor. Astronoid is just a pop punk band with a black-metal-influenced drummer. That’s it. Guess what? That’s great! These songs shimmer with glorious melodies and ethereal, breathy vocal harmonies, and the mania of the percussion just serves to enhance that art.

96. Jaga Jazzist – Starfire (#11 of 2015)

Brooding, mystical, and progressive, Jaga Jazzist’s latest work provides us with a vision of what King Crimson might conjure up if they abandoned the rock mindset and fully committed to their jazz leanings. Starfire integrates more electronic, almost glitchy elements once it gets going, a perfect expansion of the band’s classic sound.

95. Hago – Hago (#19 of 2018)

More of that exceptionally rare instrumental brilliance, Hago brings the jazz-prog fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra into a modern metal context with precise technical skill and unique Middle-Eastern melodic sensibility. The rhythmic performance alone makes this album a masterpiece, whether in its high-speed odd-time signature parts or in more subtle extended phrases like in the main theme of “Ancient Secrets”. This album is a delight from start to finish.

CTEBCM review

94. Karas – Karas (#18 of 2018)

Karas came along to fill the void left by Dystopia Nå!’s silence, creating a post-black debut rich with strenuous emotion and cathartic dynamism. A subdued mix makes the album feel immersive in its heaviest moments and ethereal in its lightest. There are more than a few elements of classic forward-thinking metalcore acts like Dead Blue Sky incorporated into the sound (check out a few seconds of “Astray from Veins” and you’ll see what I mean). There are also finely-honed post-rock parts drenched in effects, like in “Bird Canopy Illusion”. There’s so much depth here, stunning for a debut album.

CTEBCM review

93. Súl Ad Astral – Oasis (#17 of 2018)

This international duo plays a brand of post-black metal with lots of modern metal and pop sensibilities tastefully woven into their musical fabric. There are huge, deep guitar tones unusual for the black style, as well as soaring high vocals that would be jarring if they didn’t fit so dang perfectly (my favourite moment on the album is the out-of-nowhere “WHOA-oa WHOA-oa” on “Pennies down the Infinity Well”). It’s an addictive combination of factors that makes for an easy listen and keeps bringing you back for more.

92. Vukari – Aevum (#7 of 2019)

Blistering and visceral, Vukari tear through the catacombs of black metal with harrowing momentum. Aevum, one of the most underrated releases of 2019, features outstanding drum performance alongside tight and technical guitar work, something like a heavier and bleaker spin on the Yellow Eyes black metal sound, or a more authentic version of Abigail Williams.

91. Twilight – Monument to Time End (#5 of 2010)

A supergroup featuring players like Isis’s Aaron Turner, Leviathan’s Wrest, and garbage human being Blake Judd (and later Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore‽), Twilight plays some of the most gorgeously intense Krallice-adjacent USBM. Their pinnacle, Monument to Time End, features a couple of hauntingly memorable performances, including the earworm “Decaying Observer” and the closing riff of “8,000 Years” which is one of my favourite riffs of the decade and climaxes with a gut-wrenching vocal/noise ending.

90. Mitochondrion – Parasignosis (#7 of 2011)

Mitochondrion’s disso-death brilliance comes not only from their ability to generate massive, rancid riffs with fluid drumming propelling them, but also their ability to change course at a moment’s notice and replace ferocious death metal with churning, murky breakdowns or pestilent atmosphere. I mean, the time-warping slowdown four minutes into “Tetravirulence”—what is that‽ There is a looseness to the individual performances that makes their synergy all the more magical. Multilayered, alien vocals are used as the perfect final touch on this engrossingly repulsive album.

89. Ad nauseam – Nihil quam vacuitās ōrdinātum est (#10 of 2015)

Another approach toward dissonant death is to go tighter and cleaner, with surgically crisp production. Such is the tack Ad nauseam took on this, nearly my favourite album of the style. The guitars dazzle with an almost-clean tone, while the drums ring stark and powerful. Check out the whammy-bar-emulating, reality-warping production trick in the middle of “Lost in the Antiverse”, a moment which has stuck with me since I first heard it.

88. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things (#9 of 2015)

Not many bands would feature a 7-versus-3 pararhythm in their songs, but not many bands are Intronaut, and such is the kind of appetite-whetting mathematical ingenuity we are met with on “Digital Gerrymandering”. (They also drop a 5-5-5-6 pattern later in the song, which they definitely lifted from an album I released earlier that year, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!) And don’t even ask me to count out the multilayered shuffle groove at the end. This album finally brought Intronaut up to the level of being more than just a curiosity, but a genuinely entertaining listen.

87. Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic (#8 of 2015)

The unchallenged kings of modern progressive metal gave in to their most Dream Theater-esque proclivities on this 2015 album, perhaps the lightest in their discography, with somewhat mixed results. A handful of classically memorable BTBAM parts are caught up in an overall somewhat less interesting album than what we’re used to from them. Tommy’s vocals and keys/electronics shine, but this album needed a bit of the edge of their other material. Still, a rough BTBAM release is leagues ahead of what many other bands will ever accomplish.

86. Death’s Dynamic Shroud – Heavy Black Heart (#11 of 2017)

Vaporwave was among the more dominant musical developments across this decade, and for my money, the best pure incarnation of the style is found in this album. Glitchily fusing sampled elements of new jack swing, electro-pop, downtempo, and a cameo appearance of Final Fantasy music among other resources, this dizzying sound collage from the Philadelphian mind behind synth-prog project Dinosaur on Fire dwells securely on the fine line between alienating disjointedness and engrossing listenability.

85. Vulture Industries – The Tower (#13 of 2013)

What if A Forest of Stars’s Victorian theatrical shtick were dialed back from a psychedelic black delirium into a gritty rock opera context? The Tower is pretty close to the answer, as Vulture Industries spin dark, melodic prog metal yarns beneath a bold vocal performance. Lots of interesting time signatures (like the title track’s persistent \(\frac{7}{4}\)) and dynamics (“The Hound” is a long dirge that rolls into a thunderous romp in “Blood on the Trail”) to keep things entertaining.

84. Inter arma – Sulphur English (#6 of 2019)

This is the third (and not final) entry from Inter arma, so I don’t need to introduce them again. I felt that Sulphur English took their style up a notch, with a ballsy approach to some of their core ideas. Other bands would say “Hey, let’s have a heavy tom part here”, or “Hey, let’s use a \(\frac{5}{4}\) rhythm there”. Inter arma makes complete songs out of each of those basic building blocks (“Howling Lands” and “The Atavist’s Meridian”, respectively)—and yet they hold your interest fully throughout. There’s also the brooding, balladesque “Stillness” (are you listening, Cult Leader? this is how you do one of these).

83. Nē oblīvīscāris – Citadel (#6 of 2014)

Another band that dominated popular prog-metal consciousness this decade, Citadel finds Nē oblīvīscāris refusing to hold themselves back or to let their weaknesses hold them back. Dan Presland turns in his best effort at emulating human drumming rather than mechanically-programmed rhythms, and the band surrounds his scaffolding with Opethian melodic concepts, highlighted by Tim Charles’s masterful violin and vocals and Brendan Brown’s contortious basslines. Each of the album’s three long suites features tight and engaging instrumentation.

82. Cleric – Regressions (#4 of 2010)

Cleric’s music is almost impossible to write about, because they defy constraint by language. Their songs are not so much music as they are movements of energy, animating waves of chaotic distortion and particles of percussion into some hypostatic duality of audial potential. Inasmuch as genre terms mean anything here, there’s grind, and math, and avant-garde, and all manner of extreme metals soldered together, but again, such terms are generally useless. Regressions is laden with unparalleled ideas, but suffers somewhat as it struggles to maintain coherence within or between its off-kilter songs.

81. Fire-Toolz – Drip Mental (#10 of 2017)

Angel Marcloid’s masterpiece of blackened vaporwave, Drip Mental juxtaposes bright and energized electronic beats with screeching harsh vocals to forge something not approached by any other extreme music. The house-esque pulsing of “All Deth Is U” bleeding into the more midtempo percussive rhythms of “All Deth Is U2”, the industrial grind of “The Graying of the Crocs”, the gritty noise and sample clips of “Busy Beaver Lunch Break” (is that an old-school Dillinger Escape Plan reference I hear?)—Angel drags us everywhere, grinning like a Cheshire cat. The album culminates with the breathtaking synth opus “?”, which is easily my favourite song of 2017 and among the best of the decade. It’s impossible not to drown in the waves of melodic synth that saturate this majestic closer.

CTEBCM review

80. Rosetta – A Determinism of Morality (#3 of 2010)

For their third album, Rosetta shifted up a couple of gears, tastefully injecting some raw hardcore energy into their weary post-metal expressiveness. B J McMurtie’s flighty drumming facilitates this change in dynamics, grounding the compositions while Matt Weed’s dense atmospheric guitars swirl past like clouds. Mike Armine’s voice always had some of that hardcore slant to it, so it fits the music as perfectly as ever. The band continues to be the kings of the slow burn to epic climax, with the tripartite “Release”-“Revolve”-“Renew” suite and massive closing title track exemplifying this principle.

79. Wild Hunt – Afterdream of the Reveller (#16 of 2018)

A masterclass in opaque counterpoint, Afterdream of the Reveller borrows ingredients from black, doom and progressive metal to create something that extends beyond the confines of anything those genres typically offer. While the roots are clearly recognizable, the band’s song dynamics bend like an arc of lightning, erratic and nonlinear, brimming with technique and innovation. This sonic density can be difficult to parse on first listen, but the richness is revealed as you let it sink in.

78. Layma Azur – Zeii (#9 of 2017)

This is an incredible musical work, but a difficult one to write about. Santiago Fradejas abandons genre conventions in favour of pure unadulterated emotional expression through something resembling music. The best way I can describe it is as a kind of alternate-universe follow-up to Kayo Dot’s Coyote. It is dark, mostly clean, almost-freeform, and the whole album kind of… floats, barely tethered to any traditional concept of music, straining constantly to escape.

77. Vaura – Selenelion (#11 of 2012)

Kevin Hufnagel and collaborators (including Kayo Dot mastermind Toby Driver on bass) unlocked a magical world on their first two albums. Selenelion, their debut, is a deep and engaging juxtaposition of post-black metal and ‘80s goth rock elements, skewing more progressive and elaborate in its structures. The balance between styles is incredible, with harsh vocals and baritone cleans playing off each other perfectly and jangly darkwave guitars complementing the distorted metallic riffs. We even get the striking combination of blast beats, falsetto cleans, and natural harmonic on guitar in “Obsidian Damascene Sun”. What a move.

76. Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Piñata (#10 of 2012)

Mind-bending and completely awesome. This Swedish troupe fuses mostly metal and swing, while tossing in bits of other genres like opera for good measure, retaining the energy and aggression of the heavier genre while remaining appealing to fans of the lighter. You have to hear it to believe it, and even then, you might not. Also, to know how to craft a great album, you have to know how to end it. Nothing ticks me off more than an album that just… ends. Diablo Swing Orchestra puts a bow on their marvellous work with the incredible “Justice for Saint Mary”, which rolls and swells with haunting strings before finally fleshing out into a full-on metal groove, and then, just when you think you’ve heard everything they can do, they throw one last curveball that leaves your jaw on the floor. I’m not even going to explain it, just go listen.

75. Owl – You Are the Moon, I Am the Night (#12 of 2013)

Experimental blackened death-doom from German multi-instrumentalist Christian Kolf, Owl’s second release incorporates ambience, gothic, groove and industrial aspects into its massive songs. You might be rightfully recoiling at some of those descriptors, but everything is blended together tastefully into a murky soup of melodic sludge with any possible bitter flavor boiled away. Even the fourteen-minute ambient closing track is wondrous.

74. The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude of a Dream (#6 of 2016)

It’s cheesy, it’s Jesus-y, it’s prog… it’s peak Neal Morse! This double album may not be for everyone, but everyone who loves the classic sound of theatrical progressive rock (me!) will find plenty of appeal here. Mike Portnoy praised this as one of the three best album he’s ever been a part of (and he might not be wrong—this, The Whirlwind and Metropolis, Part 2 make a triumphant triumvirate), and he certainly commits himself to the performance. All the instrumentalists express themselves with panache, overcoming the somewhat tired and trope-filled framework the album sells.

73. Allegaeon – Apoptosis (#5 of 2019)

At first, I thought this was one of the best progressive death metal albums of the decade. It took me a few listens to have the lightbulb-moment realization that there is not, in fact, anything progressive about Apoptosis at all. Yes, the performances are blindingly technical all around, but that just makes it technical melodic death metal. The songs are conventionally structured and almost entirely in \(\frac{4}{4}\) with no tempo changes. Once you can appreciate that fact, though, Allegaeon might have the highest balance of virtuosic skill with excellent songwriting in the metal world.

72. Ion – A Path Unknown (#15 of 2018)

San Francisco’s Ion brought heavy flange to the black metal party on their self-titled debut, but only hinted at what interesting compositions they would venture toward in the future. That future became reality on 2018’s A Path Unknown, which has three (or is it six?) monolithic, psychedelic songs that cover territory from ambient doom to ferocious blackness. Plenty of rumbling double bass undergirds the more intense sections, while the middle track even incorporates some grunge vocals for variety.

71. Respire – Dénouement (#14 of 2018)

Another album that grabs you from the moment you press play, the expansive opening chords of Dénouement jangle ethereally for but a moment before they are met and transformed by blast beats. Respire uses melody to create emotional weight in a way that most heavy bands simply cannot. If the full album lived up to the potential of the first three minutes or so, this would have been much higher on the list. Sadly, the staggering peaks are surrounded with a few too many drooping and dragging valleys, so that the journey lacks a certain character and dynamic; it’s almost as if the album consists entirely of parts that would be the cathartic climax of another album. The craftsmanship on display is breathtaking, but when the band tries to keep taking your breath continuously, the end result is suffocating.

70. The Water Witch – The Heavens in Traction (#9 of 2012)

If you couldn’t get enough of early A Forest of Stars, good news—here’s a “side project” with literally the exact same lineup as their debut, playing fairly similar but somewhat more abstract experimental black metal. Their signature psychedelia and sparseness remain, albeit expressed through a different lens. This stands up well against any of the main band’s work.

69. Caligula’s Horse – In Contact (#8 of 2017)

Jim Grey’s vocals continue to be the best in the business, evoking a more mellifluous Maynard James Keenan, comfortable and majestic whether belting at full volume or quietly lilting along in falsetto. The guitar work, which frequently blurs the line between lead and solo, is stunning and stands tall alongside Grey’s voice to make a combination that no prog fan should be able to resist. The album construction is almost perfect, with diversity between longform prog pieces (“Dream the Dead”, “Graves”), almost-poppy riff-driven songs (“The Hands Are the Hardest”), and brief interludes like the electronic “Love Conquers All”, the dreamy acoustics of “Capulet”, and the skippable spoken-word indulgence “Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall” (the album’s lone misstep). This is unquestionably the band’s best work to date, and should serve to embarrass, and (hopefully) inspire, their prog-metal peers.

68. Ozric Tentacles – Paper Monkeys (#6 of 2011)

It’s hard, and probably pointless, to even describe Ozric Tentacles. Is this rock? Electronic? Dub? What instruments do they use? What effects are put on them? How do humans perform stuff like this? When did this song I’m listening to change from that style to this one? None of these questions are relevant. The Ozrics create organically flowing, uptempo psychedelic music that must be experienced. Some of my favourite stuff to work to, wash dishes to, or just zone out to. “Lemon Kush” is a pristine example of their addictive sound, but if you put it on, you won’t be able to turn the album off. Their whole discography is worth investing your time in.

67. Abstract Void – Back to Reality (#13 of 2018)

Blackwave: a genre mashup that definitely had to happen, but wasn’t necessarily destined to succeed. Abstract Void tried it once on their debut Into the Void, retooled a bit, and finally perfected it on Back to Reality. The synth tones and melodies are so perfectly Outrun you’d almost forget the distorted guitars and screeching vocals existed at all. Electronic beats are complemented with tasteful blasts and double bass, and sparkling keyboard melodies accent the steady backdrop of rhythm guitars. Extremely listenable, totally delightful.

66. The Black Queen – Fever Daydream (#5 of 2016)

A collaboration between electronic composers and Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato, The Black Queen make catchy, classic-sounding darkwave with elements of synthpop and goth rock that make it hard to pin down. In a sense, one might say it’s a more atmospheric spin on synthwave, making it therefore ‘post-synthwave’ for the same reason post-rock and post-metal got their respective nomenclature. Whatever the genre, the brooding melodic framework proves to be a fertile garden for Puciato’s dynamic vocals—a better one, oddly enough, than Dillinger’s chaotic craziness. I can’t help but sing along to the banging chorus of “Ice to Never” and the early-nineties Depeche Mode-worshipping “That Death Cannot Touch”, but equally addictive are more ambient pieces like “The End Where We Begin” and “Maybe We Should / Non-Consent”.

65. Panegyrist – Hierurgy (#12 of 2018)

The visual, musical, and spiritual art of Elijah Tamu took the metal world by storm in 2018, primarily as a result of the release of the unique and promising Hierurgy. With a Christology so orthodox that it appears unorthodox—perhaps akin to Reverorum ib Malacht’s twisted incarnation of Roman Catholicism—Panegyrist spin together threads of progressive black metal with baroque sensibilities, curving at curious angles through liturgical passages like a more honest Батюшка (Batjuška). Rare indeed is the black metal album whose lyrics cry for “Christ aflame” in a positive context! Spirituality aside, the music realized here is meticulously crafted in every phrase and utterly unlike any contemporaries in the genre.

64. Basalte – Vertige (#11 of 2018)

Vertige is a tough album to sell to an impatient listener; a thirty-second snapshot will not suffice. Its four gigantic tracks push and pull throughout their durations, skating from Krallice-like counterpoint layers (which sometimes sound, in the best way, like two different, complementary songs playing at once) to Skagos-like primal blackened viciousness, to swaths of blackened doom. They can even veer all the way to crust on “Acouphène” and to sprawling, stripped-down wails on “Éclat de verre”. Distorted and clean tones dance together in a disorienting miasma, defying traditional categorization of “heavy parts” and “light parts”.

CTEBCM review

63. Wrvth – Wrvth (#7 of 2015)

If your tech death is too sterile, missing some of the raw emotional energy of screamo, Wrvth wrote an album just for you. Razor-sharp on the instrumentation but jam-packed with creativity and substance, Wrvth burns down the boundaries between these two styles—and goes even further at times, like the guest sax spot in “Lured by Knaves” that remains one of my favourite “sax in metal” examples even with the proliferation of the woodwind in modern metal’s arsenal.

62. Colosseum – Chapter 3: Parasomnia (#5 of 2011)

Funeral doom, at its best, aches. You can feel agony through the music. The final album by Finland’s Colosseum, released after singer Juhani Palomäki’s suicide, is permeated with this deep, empty agony, amplified by the fact that you are listening to a voice that will never scream again. The twenty-one-minute opener “Dilapidation and Death” has one of the most haunting, passionately melodic outros you will ever find in the genre—swelling synth pads elevating the guitar leads to create a sound that mirrors the passage from life into afterlife as well as I could ever imagine it being conceived.

61. Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence (#4 of 2019)

Just a shade above what Colosseum is able to achieve, the British titans of funeral doom submit the best performance of their entire career on last year’s A Pyrrhic Existence. They see the twenty-one-minute opener and raise you a twenty-seven-minute monstrosity in “Descent”, then follow that with another seventy minutes of psychedelic, chaotic, warped dissonance, folding drone and electronic aspects into the mix. Some of the off-putting facets of their older sound have been sanded away on this more mature record, leaving a refined, wholly pleasant experience.

60. Vaura – The Missing (#11 of 2013)

Smoothing out some of the rougher edges from their debut, Vaura returned with a more focused and song-oriented approach on The Missing, which led to gems like the title track and “The Fire”. They balance tasteful and reserved incorporation of metallic elements with softer and more overtly post-punk and darkwave references, which dominate songs like “Mare of the Snake” and “The Things that We All Hide”. Sadly, the band would scrap the metal entirely on the eventual follow-up to this album, but the ride was very nice while it lasted.

59. Xanthochroid – Of Erthe and Axen (#7 of 2017)

A stunning, magnum opus dual album, Of Erthe and Axen is an outstanding, majestically orchestrated melding of symphonic folk with progressive black metal, exceptional on both ends of that spectrum and at every point in between. This album is expertly crafted as any fine work of art should be, from the overall concept and album flow to the minute details of every vocal harmony and chord progression. The drumming is precise and dynamic, carrying the metal sections along beautifully, while the bard-like folk interludes feature a cinematic tapestry of instruments and voices that rival any in the genre.

CTEBCM review

58. Fuoco fatuo – Backwater (#6 of 2017)

I once wrote that if you could stretch the instant-death vacuum of an airlock depressurizing into an hour’s worth of time, the accompanying soundtrack would sound like Backwater. This album, probably the decade’s most impressive funeral doom offering, is unrelenting from the moment you press play. The riffs and production combine to form a disorienting onslaught of sound that might best be described as what Portal would sound like if they calmed down and wrote some more conventionally structured songs. Melodies do weave through the ravenous ether, but not to offer hope or respite to the listener. The album is punishing and persistent, yet immersive in a way that makes it easy and engrossing to listen to.

57. Merkabah – Moloch (#5 of 2014)

Several bands attempted to somewhat awkwardly hammer the square peg of jazz into the round hole of black metal this decade. And while there were notable successes, namely Shining’s Blackjazz (as already mentioned) and White Ward’s two full-lengths (keep reading!), those were mostly built on a foundation of black metal composition with accents of jazz instrumentation. Merkabah emerged as the one band who actually sounded like a jazz band playing black metal. You can legitimately draw a line from Ornette Coleman to Merkabah. Even at their most intense, they sound like heavy jazz, never full-blown black metal. Bands aiming to produce true “jazz metal”, not just metal plus a saxophone, should study Moloch. (I mean, really they should study actual jazz, but I digress.)

56. Dystopia Nå! – Dweller on the Threshold (#6 of 2015)

“Progressive” and “post-” generally represent completely different genre sub-styles that rarely overlap. There are almost no true progressive post-metal bands, for example. Yet in Dystopia Nå!, we have a pristine example of a progressive post-black metal band: they commit to bringing progressive metal songwriting techniques into a decidedly black metal framework. It’s in the compositional approach itself, not the musical style; this is not a peer of Enslaved or Borknagar. There’s a hint of Dark Tranquillity in their melodicism and electronic integration (see “Doppelgänger”), Lantlôs in their dreamy cityscapes (see “Winding Stares into Nothing”), Porcupine Tree(‽) in their poppiness (see “My Eyes Are the Atoms of the Sun”), but overall this band is far more than the sum of their parts.

55. Vola – Inmazes (#5 of 2015)

It’s a little shocking how well this album works. Modern metal, almost but not quite djent, characterized by churning guitars and straight-ahead \(\frac{4}{4}\) drum beats, fused with Depeche Mode’s synth and vocals to create a pop-metal master stroke. It is impossible not to headbang along to the thickest riffs, and at the same time impossible not to sing along to the addictive choruses. “Starburn” and “Gutter Moon” are among the highlights, but the album goes up a notch on its closing track, building to one of the best outros of any album this decade.

54. Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax Ⅱ: Future Sequence (#8 of 2012)

As outstanding as this album is, it’s hard not to judge it in light of its two predecessors. For me, Colors was the best album of 2007 and The Great Misdirect the best of 2009. BTBAM caught a minor case of Krallice syndrome here, cursed by their own creativity so that even their continued creativity comes off as less creative. It becomes more difficult to throw listeners a curveballs when throwing curveballs is kind of your signature move. That being said, they do progress a little bit, stringing songs together into another beautiful conceptual work, leaning more heavily on their prog influences than before, and blasting through intense metal passages with characteristic ferocity. But some transitions are very metalcore-y, very BTBAM-y, almost laz-y in their usage. They needed a spark after this release, and they ended up doing that with Coma Ecliptic’s theatrical approach giving them space to reconvene for the excellent Automata.

53. Germ – Wish (#7 of 2012)

Before Abstract Void expertly brought synthwave and black metal together, Germ took just as bold of a step marrying black metal with trance. Simultaneously depressive and cosmic, Tim Yatras juxtaposes his banshee-like wails with soaring synth pads and poppy melodies, breaking things up with occasional clean vocal break and atmospheric interludes. At its most indulgent, the maximalism of this album is unparalleled and endearing; “An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy” and “Breathe in the Sulfur / A Light Meteor Shower” represent this powerful harmonization of styles. This album combines the morbid internal world of the depressed psyche with the universal perspective of the vastness and ultimate emptiness of the solar system.

52. Blut aus Nord – 777, Part Ⅰ: Sect(s) (#4 of 2011)

Vindsval’s discography is a rich and diverse compendium of releases, spanning from horrific dark ambient to virulent black metal. On the first part of his 777 trilogy, the French one-man show began to incorporate electronic elements that would prefigure the act’s later offerings, but kept the intensity and dissonance at maximal levels. The jarring angularity of the closing riff of “Epitome Ⅰ” and the opening riff of “Epitome Ⅴ” are exactly what I’m looking for from Blut aus Nord, and the presence of passages like that makes the relative respite of parts like the first half “Epitome Ⅳ” all the more welcome.

51. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (#4 of 2014)

The undisputed masters of incorporating mathematically minded riffs into dissonant black, Thantifaxath packed uses of \(\frac{15}{8}\), \(\frac{17}{8}\), \(\frac{25}{8}\), and \(\frac{35}{8}\), among others, into their debut. They weave chromatic, almost geometric guitar patterns that often clash against each other to amplify the nerve-frying aura of discomfiture. Much like Blut aus Nord, Thantifaxath uses fairly simple guitar work to develop nightmarish textures.

On March 10 2020, this entry was posted.
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