20. Black Curse – Endless Wound (Sepulchral Voice)
In 2015 members of acclaimed acts Primitive Man, Khemmis, and Blood Incantation discussed their love for the early days of extreme metal. That was the time when the lines between black and death metal were blurred, both reveling in an evil spirited nature. The result of this meeting was Malibis, which soon evolved into Black Curse and release debut record
It is a tempest from the past that greets you as the sharp guitar feedback erupts into a venomous onslaught of war metal grandeur in “Charnel Rift”. The fast pace leaves nothing standing in its path as blast beats and double bass merge with the frenzied riffage for a devastating assault. Yet, Black Curse does not possess a singular gear, and soon, they bend this chaotic structure, awakening a deeply dissonant and disturbing interlude. With a similarly apt attitude, they drop the pace, giving birth to moments of towering majesty in the interlude “Lifeless Sanctum”, carrying on this monstrous form in the second half of the title track.
And while through the 38 minutes of
Endless Wound they tick all the boxes for old school black/death, what shines through is the attitude and deep appreciation of the style. It is exactly that quality that makes tracks like “Finality I Behold” sound truly damned and evil, instead of simply cliché and rehashed. – Spyros Stasis
19. Megaton Sword – Blood Hails Steel (Dying Victims Productions)
Listening to Swiss quartet Megaton Sword’s full-length debut for the first time brought me back to my early forays in metal music when each record was a small new world unto itself just waiting to be discovered. Discographies of (proto) epic heavy metal stalwarts like Saxon, Manilla Road, and Manowar were a special pleasure of mine at the time, with their huge riffs and over-the-top delivery providing gateways for the exploration of the broader universe of metal.
In this context, Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire is an instant classic, as it could have existed along with the defining works of those pioneers during the heyday of the genre, and be counted as a proper gem. But it is also an album that sounds equally strong in today’s metal scene. While it’s meaty riffs, galloping rhythms, nifty songwriting, gruff vocal delivery, and grandiose atmosphere carry a certain vintage patina, the music here is all the better for it. Thanks to their pure and simple understanding of the genre and its influences, Megaton Sword have created one of the best (epic) heavy metal releases in recent years. – Antonio Poscic
18. Kevel – Mutatis, Mutandis (I, Voidhanger)
Kevel approach post-metal as an ever-expanding jigsaw puzzle. And as they have based their core and foundations on much of the genre’s principles, they are constantly looking to expand further. The ethereal weavings of progressive sludge crush against the eerie blackened sense in opener “Of Being”, the lead guitars constantly moving through dissonant means while drums erratically switch the narrative from majestically ceremonial to full-blown chaos. The incorporation of a vocalist was another missing piece that Kevel have addressed, able to increase the inherent angst and unpredictability of “The Apophatic ” or awaken the mystical essence of psychedelic overture moments like “Terraforming”.
Traveling further towards outer space, Kevel brilliantly fit their hazy psych-rock movements, altering the weight of their sludge core to deliver stunning moments of overwhelming grandeur in “Cosmic Domination” and “Utopia Planitia”. Still, what separates Mutatis Mutandis is the level of craftsmanship that Kevel have put into this work. The complex structures and furious advances, the fluency of their long-form compositions are perfectly encapsulated throughout the duration of Mutatis Mutandis. A gem brightly shining through the mirk underground. – Spyros Stasis
17. Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity (20 Buck Spin)
Spirit Adrift’s dedication to the heavy metal sound transcends decades. The introduction of “Ride Into The Light” captures the essence of NWOBM, as the sharp riffs combine with the blistering lead work and a tremendous pace dictated by drummer Marcus Bryant. From this 1980s-induced vision, Spirit Adrift travel further back in time to the 1970s with “Astral Levitation” ever so slightly letting go of their pedal to the metal mentality for a beautifully crafted, verging on the progressive composition. Full-on outbreaks of energy provide an injection of rush and purpose as the likes of “Cosmic Conquest” and “Stronger Than Your Pain” unfold, while the epic undercurrent rushes to the surface in the fluid “Screaming From Beyond” and the spiraling “Battle High”.
Spreading exquisite hooks, powerful choruses, and memorable melodies act as powerful earworms, but that does not mean that Spirit Adrift display a superficiality to their compositions. Performing a deep dive with the ten-minute-long opus “Reunited in the Void” showcases their ambitious side, beautifully concluding the record. Once more Spirit Adrift have outdone themselves, the pristine production of Enlightened in Eternity allows their ideas to shine more clearly, and given their prolific output so far, we can hope that they will continue to do so in the near future. – Spyros Stasis
16. Primitive Man – Immersion (Relapse)
Dark and twisted, crushing, overwhelming, and all-consuming. That is the reality for Primitive Man, for the band from Colorado has made a point to weaponize doom and sludge, noise, and power electronics to maximum effect. This much was certain from the release of their debut record Scorn in 2013. Since then, Primitive Man have been on a path of destruction, collaborating with fellow travelers in Northless, Sea Bastard, Hell, and the mighty Unearthly Trance. This spring of productivity has resulted in the exquisite Home Is Where The Hatred Is EP and the punishing Caustic, with the trio now returning with renewed brutality in Immersion.
The primal sense and the animalistic attitude take form, with “The Lifer” coming into view in a darkened cloak through a mist of noise. Harsh feedback, glacial pace, brutally low vocals greet in this domain of despair as Primitive Man deliver a recital of punishment and anguish. Everything is piercing and cruel, as the howling guitars of “Entity” revolve in a spiraling fashion for the entirety of the track to build this otherworldly, verging on the psychedelic, sense. And this is a trip that has gone horribly wrong, as Primitive Man navigate through all this awe-inspiring weight through the processional progression of “Foul”, the synthetic corridors of “∞” and finally closing this savage listen with a sadistic pinnacle in “Consumption”. – Spyros Stasis