I’ve decided to do something new for 2020 – a second End of Year list. If you’ve missed it, my standard, definitive best of 2020 list can be seen here, and is made up of albums I was lucky enough to get to review. However, this year I want to also highlight some of the many albums that I’ve enjoyed listening to, but for one reason or another never had the chance to review. So, consider this a complementary list of sorts to the main one. Continue reading
Almost every year I think about how challenging it is to compile a definitive best of list, and how subjective it is, etc. Although that’s still true for this collecting of albums, this year, however, has been easier than most. 2020 has been heavy on the black metal for me. It’s been my most reviewed genre, in all its myriad permutations, and this is reflected in the below list.
For the longest of times the bands in positions 5 and 6 vied for top position, but then October and November happened. All of a sudden, unexpectedly, these two months unleashed a wealth of quality, and stole the top four positions in a rampant display of blackened supremacy.
I hope you enjoy the below recommendations of mine and find something new to obsess over. Let me know how you get on.
Let’s dig in… Continue reading
Another year gone by, where does all the time go? Listening to metal I suppose, that’s where. Every year brings more metal delights, so I invite you to partake of 30 of my favourites from the rather metallically fertile 2019. Let me know which ones are your favourites to! Continue reading
Having considered it long and hard, I’ve decided that any form of introductory paragraph with any real substance would simply detract from the list below. As such, all I’ll say is that 2018, like every year, has given us some top quality metal releases. So have a look at my top picks for 2018, and hopefully you’ll find a new band to obsess over…
2017 was an amazing year for music, with so many top-notch albums seeing the light of day. I pretty much say this every year, of course, but that doesn’t seem to stop it being true. With this in mind, the 2017 list was especially hard to put together, and I agonised over this one more than I did for any of the lists in previous years.
As is traditional, I also want to mention some releases by bands that could easily have made it onto the list, and should have by many rights, if only I could have somehow managed to fit them all in –
I urge you to check out all of the above releases, in addition to the ones in the actual list below. I could probably keep adding more bands you should give a listen to, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, I suppose.
So, without further ado, let’s get right down to it… Continue reading
It’s that special time of year once more. With yet another amazing lineup of quality bands both big and small, the UK’s Damnation Festival returns this weekend for another sold out weekend of extremity. So yes, on Saturday 4th November at Leeds University, something colossal will be happening.
It’s an absolutely great lineup, and you can see the full list of bands, including stage times, below – Continue reading
There’s a very special day approaching soon – May 6th 2017. Why is this date so important? Well, if you’re in the UK on that Saturday, it means you can get on down to the Black Cloud All Dayer in Manchester.
The lineup for the day is ridiculously strong. Below we’ll have a look at each of the bands playing in turn. With such a wealth of talent on the bill, it would be foolish to miss this. Continue reading
Yes, it’s that time of year again. 2016 has been a phenomenal year in terms of metal releases, and here I’d like to pay tribute to my top 25.
As always, it was very tough to compile this list into any form of decent order, and I’m sure, (again, as always), that if I were to do this again, the list would look quite different.
I’ve limited the list to a mere 25 releases, so there are necessarily sooooo many good ones that have been missed out. Below are a selection of some of my other favourite releases of 2016, all of which made it into some previous version of my top 25 before I settled on the final one – Continue reading
The UK’s Damnation Festival is fast approaching. Saturday 5th November will see a plethora of top metal bands, large and small, take to the stage in Leeds to show off their music, and there’s a lot to be excited about.
With a whopping 4 stages and a wealth of metal talent spread across many genres and drawn from all over the globe, there’s bound to be something here to satiate even the most jaded of metal tastes. There’s a very good reason it’s my favourite UK festival and seems to only be going from strength to strength every year. Continue reading
Happy new year, Metal fans! So let’s take a look at some of the best releases of 2015.
As usual, I’d like to include the usual disclaimers about the subjective nature of any such list, and how if I were to compile it again at a different time, it would undoubtedly look different.
With that being said, there was a Hell of a lot of good music released in 2015, and the below is just the tip of the iceberg, really.
I have decided on a top-30 this year, although it could easily have been more. Some of the other notable bands that have made it onto the list in previous versions include the following, in no particular order –
Even just right here, that’s a lot of great Metal, nevermind all of the ones I’ve probably forgotten.
So, without further preamble, starting at the bottom and working our way up – I give you the Wonderbox Metal-approved Best of 2015 list…
30 – Vreid – Sólverv
Norwegian Melodic Black Metal that’s sharp, colourful, fast and full of energy and colour. Having loved their precursor band Windir, I still can’t believe I overlooked Vreid for so long. Thankfully, that is now rectified. This is atmospheric in ways that most bands merely aspire too, and Sólverv is a great listen.
Infinight offer sophisticated, maturely-written and well-played Power Metal. They’re the only Power Metal band to make it onto the list this year, with Apex Predator living up to its name in some ways, as this really is a top-tier album. Infinight are all about the songs, and on Apex Predator they certainly deliver.
Nervous Impulse offered up some of the most intense and exhilarating Deathgrind that I’ve heard in a good while, and Time to Panic is 36 minutes of Grade-A Grinding chaos. It’s both heavy and extreme, but still manges to find the time for song-structures and skilled writing.
Traditional Doom Metal with an occult, sinister vibe; Flesh of the Stars are perfectly attuned to their chosen style and Hide is thick with atmosphere and memorable music. Some of the parts of this release are enough to get the hairs standing on end, and Hide is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
Forgotten Tomb return with another album of Depressive Black Metal, this time with a more aggressive slant than some of their previous work. Catchy without sounding commercial, they really have honed their style to a fine killing point, and this album is definitely a keeper.
UK band De Profundis have flourished with their latest release of Death-inspired Technical/Progressive Death Metal. As a band who are striving to be the best they can be and deliver music that’s both challenging and accessible, (for the style), De Profundis succeed and Kingdom of the Blind is a firm favourite at Wonderbox Metal.
A crushing, filthy display of ugly Doom across 65 minutes; Cult of Occult’s latest release is an exemplar of Sludge Metal dragged out to epic Doom lengths. This album positively drips with anti-social scorn and horrible intentions, which means we crave it all the more. We like the abuse.
As Death Metal albums go this is simply gargantuan. Bowel-shaking vocals, monstrous riffs and mysterious, underworld atmospheres make for songs that are heavy and brutal yet still have more emotive qualities to them than most. A very impressive release from this German band.
Symphonic Blackened Death Metal is quite hard to do well, but Tine have it all sewn up nicely. This is a passionate and personal release that exudes emotion and atmosphere amongst the brutality and power. If you only get one Black/Death Metal hybrid release this year then this is the one.
Supreme, sophisticated Black Metal art, with lashings of occult atmosphere and malevolent auras. Near Death Revelations succeeds in capturing the essence of what makes Black Metal so exciting and provocative. Blaze of Perdition easily take up the mantle of leaders and not followers on this album.
20 – Outre – Ghost Chants
More sophisticated Black Metal here, this time from Poland’s Outre. Ghost Chants is an exceptional release that combines Atmospheric Black Metal with Post-Black Metal sensibilities to create transcendental Dark Art. Upon repeated listens there’s always something new to discover.
A veritable Canadian Grindcore institution, Fuck the Facts are always a good listen. This latest album of theirs is no different and presents the listener with a multi-faceted Grind release that demonstrates just how effective the style can be when in the right hands. Challenging and impressive.
This is exotic, sensual music that combines Dark Rock, Trip-Hop and Electro Avant-Garde. It’s something a bit different from everything else on this list and shines all the brighter because of it. This album is a sumptuous feast of aural delights and contains so much WOW-factor it’s hard to credit. Listen and be converted.
17 – Wrvth – Wrvth
Wrvth have produced a hugely impressive experimental/Progressive/Technical Death Metal album that takes a lot of emotive qualities from Post-Metal and works them into its strange brew. An innovative and impressive release from a very talented band.
Here we have Polish Death Metal at the height of its game. Dead God’s Prophet is muscular Death Metal that has a touch of the mystical and the mysterious about it, resulting in an extremely strong album that blows away the competition.
These veteran Death Metallers keep getting better with age, and The Anthropocene Extinction is a perfect example of how Death Metal can be true to its roots while also being cutting edge. This is 46 minutes of quality Death Metal that’s not afraid to do its own thing and succeeds because of this. Savagery and intelligence combined.
Immortal Bird are Death Metal, but only in the loosest of senses. Theirs is a more expansive palette than most bands’, with Empress/Abscess being more refined and all-encompassing of other styles than purely Death Metal. It’s an engrossing listen and indicative of so much that’s good in Extreme Metal.
Polished and professional Progressive Rock that’s been a real fixture of some of my playlists; this is the kind of album that just grows and grows. Since originally writing my review of it I’ve grown to love it more and more. As Darkness Falls contains catchy and memorable songs and takes the listener on a real journey through Winter Calling’s world.
A varied Doom/Sludge Metal release that mixes up sub-genres to create an involving album that has that special secret ingredient, causing it to add up to much greater than the sum of its parts. This is an album that has come to mean a lot to me and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
No Light, Only Fire is the most enjoyable album of Traditional Doom Metal I’ve heard this year. Well-written songs backed up by a thick guitar sound means that this is a sterling release that should be enjoyed by an Metal fan. This is one I can listen to again and again and again.
This is a band who have an individual and interesting take on Progressive Atmospheric Doom. Theirs is music that’s rich and emotive, taking multiple influences and styles and incorporating them into a cohesive whole. The Camel, the Lion, the Child has lots of character and isn’t afraid to be itself.
Another interesting Doom Metal album. This one flirts with Traditional Doom but also injects a nastier Sludge Metal influence into things, resulting in an album that spans both styles very nicely indeed. There’s a lot of hidden gold on Absolution and this is a first-rate album.
Where can you find rabid, brutal Grindcore mixed up with a will to experiment and push boundaries? Why, wherever you find Antigama, that’s where. The Insolent is a force of nature, effortlessly combining savagery and intelligence with ease. Complex brutality for a refined palate.
Cloud Rat deliver us yet more inventive and individual Grindcore. Theirs is an experimental and surprisingly atmospheric and emotive take on the genre, but no less vicious for it. The songs have depth and intensity, and the band have proven what massive talent they have. You need Cloud Rat in your life.
An eagerly awaited release by yours-truly; Secrets of the Sky once again show why their Atmospheric Doom/Post- Metal is an essential listen. This aptly-named album takes the listener on a real journey through vivid soundscapes. Bigger and better than ever before.
Rarely has cloying, suffocating Sludge felt so visceral and nastily enticing. This is a gloomy, heavy, grim masterpiece of atmospheric brutality. Effortlessly combining the beauty of Post-Metal with the dirty horror of Sludge, this album has definitely become a firm favourite of mine.
Mammoth storm play vibrant, colourful Doom with lashings of atmosphere and Post-Metal transcendental qualities. I was very quickly captivated by the immensity of this album and just how compelling and engaging it is. Hugely impressive.
This is a hefty slice of Post-Metal that showcases a varied, multi-textural delivery, rich with evocative and emotive soundscapes. The songs seem to build on themselves until the music acts like waves, reinforcing itself. It’s easy to get wrapped up and lost in their music and Minsk should be way more popular than they are after releasing this gem of an album.
This is a dark and personal trip into the dimly-lit world of all things Doom. The album offers a dark and harrowing musical journey that you’d be foolish not to explore. The level of depth and emotion rawly on display here is staggering, and Un really have created something special.
And here we have it – top spot. This year it has been awarded to Shards of Silver Fade, which is Atmospheric Black Metal of the highest order. This colossal and epic release is a massive 143 minutes in length and every part of it is essential. Highly emotive and deeply moving, this is richly evocative music that you just can’t fail to be touched by. This is an incredibly special album that’s just exceptional and demands attention. I can’t rate this highly enough, which is why it’s my album of the year. Go and find a dark place and listen to it as soon as you can.
I wonder what 2016 will bring? I can’t wait to find out.