Phew. After the metallic overload of the past couple of months, June was a bit calmer. Having said that, I have a great selection of releases for you to salivate over, and I still had to cut a few for the sake of brevity that are definitely worthy of inclusion. Anyway, it’s on with the show! Continue reading
If April saw a lot of high quality albums released, May was ridiculous. Worse than April, I had a shortlist of 23 albums that I judged were fitting of being highlighted. Somehow, I have no idea how, I have managed to get this down to 11. I wanted to get that down to an even 10, but just couldn’t find one to cut. Anyway, here we goooooooo… 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.
As 2014 closes it’s time to take stock of the year and revive the annual End of Year tradition once more. So, are you ready for another best of 2014 list? Of course you are…
As always, the order below is potentially fluid due to the subjective nature of music, etc.
A lot of good music was released in 2014. Before we delve into the main event, (this year it’s a top 25 list), I want to acknowledge a few runner ups. The following bands all produced some great sounding releases in 2014 but ultimately didn’t reach into the 25 best ones. So here they are, in no particular order –
What a great bunch of albums! There are loads more that I could mention of course, but those are the cream of the crop that spring to mind at the moment. I know I’m bound to be accidentally overlooking some though – it’s inevitable.
Okay then, starting at the bottom and working our way up – I give you the Wonderbox Metal-approved Best of 2014 list…
Fallujah start us off at number 25 with their unique take on Death Metal with their very impressive album The Flesh Prevails. Boasting Progressive/Technical Atmospheric Death Metal songs that positively drip with emotion and feeling, Fallujah unleashed a monster on the Death Metal world. After living with this album for a while now it really is a very enjoyable listen, and any band trying to do something a bit different from the norm – and doing it extremely well – should be supported.
At number 24 we have Insense with De:Evolution. Theirs is a highly developed take on Modern Metal that’s full of atmosphere, feeling and top quality songwriting. Insense have a great singer and music to match; full of melody, hooks and enough heaviness to sink a battleship. They also have a suitably massive sound that allows them the space to do what they do best. Insense are the real deal.
Tongues are at number 23 with Thelésis Ignis. Actually an EP rather than an album, it’s so damn good it still warrants inclusion in this list. They play otherwordly Black Metal that immediately grabs your attention and forces you to recognise that a new and important player has just burst into the Black Metal arena. All fans of soul-eating Black Metal should seek this out and pay tribute.
At number 22 sit Columns with their devastating début album Please Explode. This is groovy and passionate Grindcore that’s dynamic and purposeful. There are no wasted moments on this album and Columns are poised to become forerunners of the genre if this collection of tracks is anything to go by. As the only Grind band to sneak into my list this year, (despite some notable releases), Columns have everything to play for in the future.
The mighty Threshold are at number 21 with For the Journey. Threshold are always a pleasure to listen to and this latest album of theirs, (their tenth), is no exception. This is an album of masterly crafted songs full of Progressive Metal treasures and catchy melodies. Threshold have released an album that does them justice as the veterans and leaders that they are.
At 20th place we have Salvaticus with Hidden Manna. A little-known Black Metal band from the US, this album made a huge impact with me as it really drew me into its dark embrace and is an album very easy to get lost in. A raw brand of Black Metal that’s almost on the cusp of bordering on Post-Black Metal but doesn’t quite fully transition due to the inherent Blackness and purity of intent of the music. An exceptional release.
At number 19 is The Great Old Ones with Tekeli-li. This is a real journey of an album that spans Black Metal with a good spread of Post-Metal thrown in. Depth, longevity and class are synonymous with The Great Old Ones and Tekeli-li is a great example of why. In an album of dark moods and emotional resonance there is enough here to satisfy any Extreme Metal fan.
Fisthammer dominate position 18 with the infallible Infallible. Cheap puns aside, this is a truly remarkable album, full of exceptional songs and crushing delivery. Melding a Brutal Death Metal core with a varied and wider Metal approach, Infallible is an album that combines a lot of different influences. Death Metal may be at the beating heart of Fisthammer but there’s a lot of enhancements here too. Pulverising.
At 17 is the enigmatic Dust Sculptures with Far Above the Pines. A Post-Black Metal album that seemingly came out of nowhere, fully realised and ambitious in scope. Taking a Black Metal base and building into it elements of Shoegaze, Progressive Rock and latter-day Anathema; Far Above the Pines is a very impressive release. If you enjoy expansive music that is both intimate and revealing then this is a release you must track down.
In at number 16 is the legendary Cannibal Corpse with A Skeletal Domain. Who can argue with the Death Metal masters? Whenever they release an album you know at the very least it’s going to be good. A Skeletal Domain though was a very, very good release. With such choice cuts as High Velocity Impact Spatter, Kill or Become and Vector of Cruelty A Skeletal Domain has featured heavily on my playlist this year.
A change of pace at number 15; here we have Lethe with When Dreams Become Nightmares. An intriguing project featuring members of Eluveitie and Manes, Lethe play dark and multi-textured experimental music that combines catchiness and intellect to produce a very accomplished and sophisticated dark Rock album. With a wide range of moods and emotions to explore, When Dreams Become Nightmares is an album that keeps on giving.
The Wolves of Avalon take the 14th spot with Boudicca’s Last Stand. An ambitious and impressive release, this is a heavily orchestrated album that features wonderfully diverse instrumentation and female accompaniment. Iceni Queen Unfurl’d In a Tempest of Crows is definitely one of my favourite songs of the year and the whole album is rich in delights and highlights. It’s an hour of interesting, captivating and unique Metal.
Riddle of Steel by Sons of Crom takes the 13th position. An album of epic Viking-influenced Heavy/Black/Folk Metal that’s awash with so many gorgeous melodies and harmonies it’s a veritable embarrassment of riches. This is a shockingly grandiose album that is very easy on the ear and doesn’t just hold up to repeated listens it positively demands them. Epic Viking-Metal rarely sounds as good as this.
At number 12 we have Apostle of Solitude with Of Woe and Wounds; crunchy Doom Metal with a flavour half-way between old and new. This is an album that connected with me instantly and has the kind of direct appeal of a band who are hitting their stride. Strong songwriting, massive grooves and catchy harmonies mean this is an album I’ll regularly revisit. The songs on this album have a longevity about them that most bands would kill for. Great stuff.
In 11th position is the mythical Eyehategod with their self-titled album, the first in 14 years. I love Eyehategod and this album being in my end of year list is a no brainer really. The band that essentially invented Sludge have done it again with an album filled with negative anthems and a flawless delivery of everything I love about them. Why they aren’t higher up this list is beyond me. What was I thinking?
Usnea are in 10th position with Random Cosmic Violence. Usnea are pretty much the best Blackened Doom band there is, and ever since 2013’s amazing self-titled début I’ve been wanting more. After a brief tease with their split with Ruins, they unleashed their new album and I was a very happy camper indeed. For a band that’s swathed in darkness it’s an important plus that they still write actual songs, just long, heavy, grim ones.
At number 9 is Hyperion by Dirge. This is an album that I fell in love with from the cover alone, and I was extremely pleased that the music matched expectations. Hyperion is crushingly heavy Doom with elements of Post-Metal, Sludge and an Electonic/Industrial flavour. A wide vocal variety and expertly compsoed tracks elevate Hyperion to the ranks of the very best the genre has to offer.
In 8th position are Enabler with La Fin Absolue Monde. Well, what can you say about an album that’s the aural equivalent of an adrenaline shot? This is aggressive Hardcore that specialises in dynamic, emotive songs that are just master crafted examples of the angry arts. Putting lesser bands to shame, Enabler have created a top quality album that screams out to be heard again and again. Leaders, definitely not followers.
At 7th is All Seeing Eyes with Trinity Road. An almost obscenely long release at 1 hour, 48 minutes in length; this duration is only matched by the equally-obscenely talented musicians and their formidable songwriting skills. The album never gets tiring or boring; this is Power Metal at its best and most engaging. As I stated in the review – this is a stunning album and I absolutely love it. What more can I say?
Sorxe are at number 6 with Surrounded by Shadows. Sorxe play textured Doom/Sludge with layered vocals and two bassists. It’s heavy and it’s pretty, both at the same time. With diverse and well-written songs, Surrounded by Shadows is a masterpiece of light and shade. An album this good is just pure listening gold and everyone should get to experience Sorxe as they were intended to – loud.
Wolvhammer are in position 5 with Clawing Into Black Sun. A colossal album and the highest-placed Black Metal release this year. Clawing Into Black Sun has it all, from the groovy catchiness of tracks like Slaves to the Grime to the dark majesty of A Light That Doesn’t Yield. This is a phenomenal album that places songs at the centre of the darkness and no other band has managed to touch them this year for sheer blackness of heart.
At number 4 is Lae with Break the Clasp. This was an unexpected hit with me as I hadn’t heard of them before and wasn’t expecting much but they just blew me away with their hauntingly beautiful sound. Featuring the vocal talents of Steve Austin from Today is the Day; this is an album of heartbreaking depth and personal revelation. The songs managed to connect with me intimately with real passion and feeling. A stunning album.
In the 3rd position is Temple of Void with Of Terror and the Supernatural. Doom Metal and Old-School Death Metal collide to create one of the year’s best releases. This album boasts exceptional songs; crawling Death Metal-laced Doom has never sounded so good. This is an album that gives the listener that rarest of things – real substance and content combined with an excited adrenaline rush at hearing something that’s ultimately just pure-blood Metal.
At number 2 is Execration with Morbid Dimensions. This is non-typical Death Metal that takes elements of other genres, (Doom, Progressive Metal, Black Metal), and makes it their own. Morbid Dimensions is such a ridiculously strong release it’s just silly. The sheer quality of the songs here…these are the rightful heirs to the throne of Death in my mind. This very nearly made it into the coveted number 1 position, as this album is just that damn good.
Finally we come to the number 1 slot, and this is taken by Inter Arma with the absolutely amazing The Cavern. What can you say about this? It’s just a perfect slab of colossal Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal. At three quarters of an hour in length this single, phenomenal track does pretty much everything you could want it to. I cannot stop listening to this and show no signs of getting bored with it in the future, either. Releases like this are the reason that I still love heavy music so much. The Cavern is definitely my pick of 2014 and it’s going to be a long time before something tops it I feel. Just brilliant.
And there you have it! It’s been a great year for quality Metal, and here’s to 2015!
Happy New Year!