MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of December 2020

Post-rock legends Jesu return after seven years, chameleonic rockers Boris collaborate once more with noise fiend Merzbow, and Dan Barrett unleashes Black Wing’s sophomore record.

Cardinal Wyrm – Devotionals (Independent)


There is something deliciously wrong with Cardinal Wyrm’s idea of doom metal that sounds absolutely right. As if phase-shifted just slightly out of our reality, the music of the Bay Area trio murmurs with a strange inflection, creating a loose and rambunctious sound that is as psychedelic as it is menacingly direct. On cuts like “Gannet”, they reach for Voivod-like distorted, acerbic attacks amidst squeaking guitar leads, marching drum rolls, and digging bass lines. Then, they crawl down, way down, and go doom. Elsewhere, they sound like Killing Joke assembling a monster from post-punk and sludge metal on “Mrityunjaya” and “Imposter,” before thrashing away with “Canticle”, and trudging down a slower, twisted path akin to Virus on “Abbess.” And whichever approach they take, the impact is one of mind-bending disorientation. Perhaps trying to lead us into a susceptible state and preparing us to fully absorb Pranjal Tiwari’s persuasive, towering sermons of existential dread. – Antonio Poscic

Dira Mortis – Ancient Breath of Forgotten Misanthropy (Selfmadegod)


The colossal, seething sound grabs you right away. It has everything. Meaty, churning riffs, which drip with dissonance and sonic filth yet retain a melodic edge. Focused blast beats and swirling tremolos, moving forward while staying in place. Screaming guitar leads and solos that might make you wonder whether a resurrected Jeff Hanneman was playing here. Insane and continuous tempo changes and breaks. Growls trapped between black shrieks and brutal death metal growls delivered from abyssal depths. The sound of Dira Mortis—a quartet featuring veterans of the Polish metal scene—is quite simply one of the pinnacles of black and doom tinged death metal. Like Ophis’ Abhorrence in Opulence, the physical and aural experience of Ancient Breath of Forgotten Misanthropy is captivating on its own, then made even more powerful by varied and never-resting songwriting. Gorgeous in its dreadfulness. – Antonio Poscic

Folterkammer – Die Lederpredigt (Gilead Media)


Andromeda Anarchia came into prominence in the extreme metal scene with her guest appearance in Imperial Triumphant’s Vile Luxury and then 2020’s Alphaville. And while with her project Andromeda Anarchia’s DARMATTERS she explores a progressive verging on an experimental rock sound, her other project Folterkammer follows a much more potent and brutal perspective. Joined by Imperial Triumphant’s Zachary Ezrin on guitars, Coffin Sore’s Brendan McGowan on drums, and bassist Darren Hanson, Folterkammer aim to re-establish the connection between classical and operatic music with black metal.

There is a rich tradition that has seen this alchemical experiment, be it through the majestic landscapes of Dimmu Borgir, the vampiric nightmares of Cradle of Filth, or the early days of the mighty Therion. Still, Folterkammer distance themselves from all these recipes and instead start from scratch, connecting the pensive quality of opera in all its tragic exasperations with the bitter traditional black metal demeanor. The impressive ambiance of “Die Nanie” collapses on the Andromeda Anarchia’s cutthroat vocals, while the repetitive riffage and continuing drum pummeling create a circular effect.

From there on it is a true theatre of horror guided by Andromeda Anarchia’s protean vocals, reaching soprano heights with “Die Hymne”, particularly impressive within the pompous orchestrations of “Das Zeugnis” or enacting a choral symmetry with “Das Gebet”. It acts as a counterpoint from the darkness and grim essence of the instrumentation, standing fiercely as the only source of some light within the dim “Die Elegie”. Yet, it does not turn the tide for Die Lederpredigt, making sure that the core of the record remains mean, oppressive, and torturous. An intriguing spin on the classical investigations of black metal, and an excellent introduction to Folterkammer. – Spyros Stasis

Gjoad – Samanon (Antiq)


A product of their Alpine environment, Austria’s Gjoad set forth to make epic, atmospheric music. A new entity, this trio has come together and is now releasing their debut record Samanon through one of the more off-kilter black metal labels out there, Antiq. And while there is an inherent black metal essence, tying nicely to folk motives and ambient leanings, that is not where the entity of Gjoad’s visions lie.

Gjoad approach Samanon as a spiritual experience, meticulously creating mirky passageways through dark forests or impressive climbs through the wild mountain range. Still, in order to achieve this, black metal is only part of the recipe. The folk influence that Gjoad inject into Samanon surpasses the mere melodic twist, with the trio implementing jaw harps and singing bowls alongside their distorted guitars and ritualistic drums. On top of this, the overall approach of Gjoad when it comes to world-building is mostly mirrored through a post-rock mentality.

The loose structures, the exploratory instinct, and the otherworldly ethereal elements establish a transcendental experience, as long-form tracks in opener “Rouh-Samanon” and “Peraht” showcase. It is an experience that is awe-inspiring, becoming overwhelming through the magnificent crescendos of “Gartsang” and “Untar”, but it is also able to plunge the record in less pronounced and mysterious darkness, as with “Hagazussa”. – Spyros Stasis