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.

Grayceon – Mothers Weavers Vultures (Translation Loss)


The instrumental, undulating ending of Giant Squid’s cut “Metridium Field” from their 2006 record Metridium Field has haunted my dreams ever since first hearing it. That specific, organ and guitar-driven section has always seemed to be the culmination of the Californians’ aspirations to meld post-metal, doom, sludge, and progressive rock. The resulting fusion was a success: a stirring, yet kinetic attack.

While violinist and vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz joined them after that album, echoes and reflections of that poignant sound are clearly heard in her own band Grayceon. As if observing Giant Squid’s music under a microscope, Gratz, Zack Farwell, and Max Doyle sequence and isolate their progressive and emotional essence, then explode it into a million colors.

Mothers Weavers Vultures continues this tradition, expanding both in the atmosphere and musical complexity. Here, Gratz’s cello placates the otherwise intricate, grooving songs and heavy sludge riffs with a mournful, lamenting aura. Throughout, the compositions unfold like breathtaking landscapes, moving from mountain ranges of incisive progressive metal, jagged tremolos, and roaring cries to meadows of pensive acoustic folk and flowing melodies. A stunning album. – Antonio Poscic

Heretical Sect – Rapturous Flesh Consumed (Gilead Media)


Approaching blackened death from the black metal side of things, the basis of Heretical Sect’s style on Rapturous Flesh Consumed is in the blazing dissonance and forward momentum of swirling tremolos and incessant blast beats. But on top of that foundation, inspired in part by French avant-black, they layer bits and pieces of death and doom metal, haunted atmospheres, and ritualistic flourishes. As a whole, the album feels like an unholy ritual. A black mass composed of both traditional and modern elements meant to ship us off onto an expertly guided tour of the suburbs of hell. Once there, we’re introduced to the pervasive malevolence, tortured destinies, and brooding anger of its inhabitants, while the music alternately smolders and devilishly cauterizes our souls, bringing pleasure through pain. Until we feel like staying there permanently might not be such a bad thing. – Antonio Poscic

Imha Tarikat – Sternenberster (Prophecy)


Imha Tarikat made their first appearance in the German black metal underground in 2017, with their Kenoboros EP. Divulging without fear into the second black metal wave sound, Imha Tarikat are reinvigorating this retro sound but enhancing it with a few modern takes. These became more apparent with their excellent debut record Kara Ihlas, and Imha Tarikat now dives deeper with their sophomore full-length Sternenberster.

Roughly translating to burster of stars, Sternenberster does not hold back. The majestic start and the mid-pace of “Ekstase ohne Ende” set the scene ablaze with its flamboyant lead work before the full-blown black metal onslaught ensues. Lo-fi vocals, a punishing bass line, and the old school black metal ethos rise from the depths creating an exhilarating ride, that well continues on “Sturm der Erlosang” with its thrashoid extensions. Yet Imha Tariket throw more fuel to this fire, be it through their punk-induced influences augmenting the volatility of their work as in the title track or going for an almost rock ‘n’ roll ride with “Klimax Downpour”.

They even invoke the unholy beast that is Celtic Frost, resulting in the cold and detached weight of “Kreuzpunkt der Schicksale”. And while this recipe is not novel, it is the temperament of Imha Tarikat that propels Sternberster. They fully embrace the retro black metal sound, their punk roots lend them a sense of angst and urgency, making Sternberster feel honest and true. – Spyros Stasis

Jesu – Terminus (Avalanche)


Justin K. Broadrick has a chameleonic ability to mutate his creative output through the years. From the grindcore awakenings of Napalm Death and the early brutal industrial days of Godflesh circa Streetcleaner to the experimentalism of Head of David, the electronic injections of Techno Animal, Broadrick has been in a state of constant flux. And so Jesu came along, in the early 2000s following the end of Godflesh, as Broadrick turned his attention towards the post-metallic realm. Jesu would go on and unleash some of Broadrick’s most beautiful and emotive output, with a series of excellent releases in their self-titled debut and sophomore full-length Conqueror.

As the years went by, numerous collaborations came to the forefront with ZONAL and the return of Godflesh, with Jesu taking the back seat for Broadrick. Now Terminus arrives seven years after Every Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came, and it acts as a nostalgic reminder of post-doom gloominess. Broadrick never leaves any of the trademark weight accompanying all his projects, even when the aim is for something more ethereal. Instead, doom and post-metal are inverted, projected through an indie-pop scope, and with a shoegaze sensibility to achieve maximum effect. The pop sensibilities are clear as daylight, in moments like “Alone” and its infectious earworm chorus let on, or the devastating slow beating of “Sleeping In”.

It is the coalition of the mechanical with the emotive, the cold-blooded with the mystical that makes Terminus so enticing. Structures are abstracted, doom metal motifs are contorted in the likes of “Terminus”, electronic ideas are disfigured in “Consciousness” and lo-fi aesthetics are reconfigured with “Don’t Wake Me Up” and “Give Up”. In the end, Jesu unfold a continuous process of healing and redemption, something essential for our times. – Spyros Stasis