Black metal continues to flourish in even the most obscure corners of the world like it is the new punk rock for a doomed generation. As we do every year here, the top albums are gathered from every sub-genre, veterans are being honored alongside new American bands who are taking risks to push their music into new places. What we don't have is just a collection of boring blast beats recorded in a trash can. So here are the top ten black metal album of 2016 for you to worship while you are stealing the baby Jesus out of the local Nativity scene.
10- Nevoa- "Re Un "
The atmospheric black metal duo from Portugal that brought the masterful "Absence of Void' are back with a darker and denser offering this time around. In the last minute bellowing vocals come in after they have ridden a droning groove for the bulk of the song. There is a cleaner and more jangling guitar tone to the second song. Around the two minute mark it begins to gain speed. These songs are looser jams than what they gave us on the first album. When the vocals come back in to help build things to more of a boiling point , the guitar gets weirder and then they continue to ebb back and forth like a breeze between roaring thunder storms. This album is much more progressive than the first. This is both a blessing and a curse as it does push their brand of black metal into new places.
9-Destroyer 666- "Wildfire"
It's clear that early Slayer is engraved in this band's dna. I can hear a little Venom in the vocals, but right from the first falsetto scream it's showing you no mercy. The lash out with the chemical warfare of their riffs. They keep up the speed for "Live and Burn". The vocals are well placed. It's a forceful thrash narrative, snarled more than they are screamed or sung.
Immortal has been slugging it out longer than Queensryche over who owns the rights to their name leading guitarist and front man Abbath Doom Occulta decided to just release this album under his own name enlisting Creature aka Kevin Foley who is Benighted's drummer to pound along with Gorgoroth bassist King ov Hell. So a Immortal / Gorgoroth super group is what we are looking at here. It is though the material on this album are the songs that were written as the follow up to the 2009 full-length "All Shall Fall". From the intensity of the first song, I'm ok with the shift away from what I normally think of as the Immortal sound.
7-Black Table- "Obelisk"
Blast beats do show up upon occasion, but are not the sole force propelling these songs, even when they are at their most raging. We have a dark hybrid of many styles meeting and none of them trying to be as cool as the other metal bands from New York work so hard at. Thanks to Billy Anderson this album sounds good. The production really complements the depth of their dynamics.They get things a sonically heavy as it is heavy metal with a juciey coat of darkness draping it , so all the basis are covered here. They also cover way more ground in one song than half of the bands who drag things out for fifteen droning minutes. It's one of the more impressive metal releases I have heard recently.
6-Urfaust "- Empty Space Meditation"
This Dutch band is no stranger here, as they are one of my favorite weird black metalish projects. The songs are all just labelled as meditations. The first meditation is actually just atmosphere you might expect one to meditate to before they blast off into the 2nd meditation that is more snarling and finds them returning to the use of harshly screamed vocals. Keyboards hover over the blasting to create a darker web of cavernous macabre. The more traditional that I have come to expect from this project returns three minutes. It's sung a lighter higher than the more typical booming bellow from their chest voice. They slow out of the blasting into a sonically intense, but still melodic movement before returning to the storm of blast beaten madness. For me returning to it was a little formulaic, but the trve cvltists tend to like keeping simple so this one goes out to them.Overall this album is what you want from Urfaust. The band has added some new textures and layers. It might not be what you typically want from black metal, as they are not the heaviest black metal going, but they are certainly more thoughtful and than most and melodic in a way that doesn't seem like they are begging to be Opeth.
5-Darkthrone- "Arctic Thunder"
Their 16th album opens with a song that debuted on the inner-webs "Tundra Leach" . This one churns at more of a Celtic Frost pace, even when it shifts into higher gear. Nocturno has more of a gurgling gruffness to his voice than we heard on "Underground Resistance". This is a heavier and darker album that takes us back to more of a "Circle the Wagons" like place. I have to ask myself when I want to listen to Darkthrone that is not from their classic era of second wave black metal am I going to reach for this album or "the Cult is Alive" ? Only time will tell, however Fans of the band will find this sit well next to their other work.
4-Inquisition- "Bloodshed across the Empyrean Altar beyond the Celestial Zenith "
Dagon lets the chords ring out with such eerie dissonance you know who this is right from the throttling descent into "From Chaos They Came". Drummer Incubus brings some sinister grooves and really lays into his high hat. Vocally...well it is what it is. The croaked vocals sound a little more relaxed on the opener while every thing else is amped up. "Wings of Anu" feels like it carries a similar vibe to it's throb as the opener, though perhaps dialed back a few degrees. Some of their best work to date.
his band from Belgium opens their third album with an acapella vocal before blasting into a more furious take on black metal. A minute and a half in it ebbs back down into a similar vocal to the one that opened the album. The vocals continue to be one of the things that makes this album sound out. Sometimes the go spastic at other moments like the song "Being Able to Feel Nothing" they are very emotive. Emotion and feeling drove this album to the top of the heap.
The narrative these songs are woven around provides a more personal touch then most black metal band's allow themselves to create. There are no arctic wastelands or occult gibberish to hide behind. In some ways if it was not for the sonic storm cloud raging as this album's heart beat you might mistake this for hardcore. The vocals keep their scathing snarl as a static coat of white noise to a similar effect as Deafheaven. Their approach to black metal is less atmospheric and the ambiance if of a more emotional nature. It is without question one of the better black metal albums I have come across recently and these guys have really stepped up their game when it comes to song writing. http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2016/09/anagnorisis-peripeteia.html