Monthly Playlist: May 2022

We’ve finally got some gig announcements in the pipeline, but in the meantime you can check out our usual wafflings about what we’ve been listening to of late, as well as a playlist of the tracks.

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Nick – Guitar

Parkway Drive – Idols and Anchors

Recently found myself watching back live videos of Parkway Drive and blissfully recalled what an important band they were for me in my formative years. Whilst I certainly have a greater affinity for their pre-Ire discography, I still hold a great deal of respect for the arena-dominating direction they’ve taken in more recent years. Undoubtedly one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and by all accounts a wholesome bunch of dudes.

And So I Watch You From Afar – Jettison (Full Score)

Listened to a couple of tracks whilst in the shower and thought it was kinda wack. Then realised it was mostly the sound of our extremely powerful shower (it’s like a jet engine). Listened to the album in full on good speakers with my eyes closed and laughed at my past self thinking it was anything less than magnificent.

Allegaeon – Vermin

Been consuming a lot of tech death recently and Allegaeon’s latest has definitely been the pick of the bunch. There’s something delightfully masochistic about listening to better musicians play riffs that I’m too garbage to play myself.

Party Cannon – The Dirty Bubble

Anything that features Dennis Reynolds is an automatic 10.

Ho99o9 – SKINHEAD ft. Saul Williams

Death Grips but with riffs. Death Griffs? Death Licks? Riff Riffs? Dick Legs? I don’t know, anyway it’s good shit.

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Joe – Vocals

Coldworld – Horizons (not on Spotify so not in the playlist – check it out here: https://coldworldofficial.bandcamp.com/album/toteninsel)

Excellent atmospheric black metal band, this one from their split with Farsot managed to escape me until recently, but it’s more awesomeness with a nautical-esque mid section.

Wolvencrown – Infernal Throne

Been enjoying our labelmates Wolvencrown for some time now and was lucky enough to see them live recently. This is one of my favourite tracks.

Darkthrone – The Pagan Winter

Sometimes you just have to go old school…

Rolo Tomassi – Prescience

The latest album is solid, but taken a little bit of time to grow on me. This track has an eerieness to it throughout and the vocals verge on black metal. Top banana.

Artificial Brain – Estranged From Orbit

Science fiction themed tech death that sounds like a rusty junk yard floating into Uranus.

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Richard – Bass

Kluizenaer – Verweigerung (not on Spotify so not in the playlist – check it out here: https://kluizenaer.bandcamp.com/album/ein-abbild-der-leere)

These guys are a great new discovery for me and are certainly in contention for my current album of the year. Nasty, ambient-soaked, noisy atmospheric black metal guaranteed to give you the willies and make you do the stank face.

Altar of Plagues – Twelve Was Ruin

Along similar musical lines, I’ve been revisiting these much-missed Irish black metal legends recently, with their swansong Teethed Glory and Injury finally really clicking with me after I didn’t really understand it when I first heard it many years ago. Ferocious, ominous and shot through with industrial weirdness, Altar of Plagues really went out with a bang.

Primitive Man – Loathe

I saw Primitive Man in Sheffield recently for the fourth time and it was, as it is always, one of the most oppressively horrible but immensely enjoyable times I’ve had at a gig in recent memory, further cementing them as my go-to nasty sludge/doom band, an all-time favourite act overall, and a high-water mark for nihilistic brutality. Though they’re notorious for abandoning their past material and only playing newer stuff, this track off their 2015 EP Home is Where the Hatred Is never fails to get me going.

Chali 2na – 4 Be Be

Breaking up the tirades of grim metal, here’s the smoothest voice in hip-hop – Jurassic 5’s baritone icon Chali 2na – in full reflective, sombre mode eulogizing a dead relative in rap form. His debut solo album Fish Outta Water is definitely a mixed bag, but this and a few other highlights are sublime, and its all worthwhile just to hear his silky tones over full songs, because any J5 fan is lying to themselves if they say his verses aren’t their favourite.

Dirge – Epicentre

Surprise surprise, we’re back in unpleasant waters. This time it’s in the form of the expansive, introspective and utterly crushing post metal from these oft-overlooked Frenchmen who called it quits in 2019 seemingly through frustration at never gaining any traction. Dirge are certainly not for the faint of heart or the short of attention span (the stellar title track of the album this song is on makes up half of the album’s two hour runtime on its own), but if you’re a fan of Neurosis and contemplating existence, then get stuck in.

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Chris – Guitar

High Noon – Wolfhand

“Dark Cowboy ambient” is the best descriptor I have for this very enjoyable band/album. It has some weight and some riffiness but mostly it’s about the vibes of spending a cold night in the desert fending off coyotes!

Bad Luck – Otoboke Beaver

Shouty Japanese riot grrl punk isn’t my usual go-to genre, but I definitely have a soft spot for it. This is nothing more complex than a 2-minute chunk of shouty punk aggression, and sometimes that’s all you need.

ΛΔΛΜ – …And Then There Was Light

This band are impossible to Google (thanks to the funky symbols comprising their name) so I have been able to find out very little about them, but I’m very much a fan of this kind of chilled out atmosphere.

Amon Amarth – Valhall Awaits Me

Show me someone who doesn’t love the cheesy Viking melodeath of Amon Amarth and I’ll show you a liar. This track is on here because I greatly enjoyed Robert Egger’s new movie The Northman this month, and couldn’t get this song out of my head afterwards. Skøl!

Sylvaine – Mono No Aware

Atmo-black metal recommended to me by the erstwhile Gaz of Heel Turn Promotions – more big atmospheres and melancholic melody to really make you think about the inevitability of death. Cheerful thoughts for a Tuesday afternoon!

Monthly Playlist: April 2022

Another of our monthly playlists to go alongside the video content that is now coming thick and fast too (make sure to subscribe to us on YouTube!). Check out this month’s picks in the playlist below, along with some of us waffling about our picks.

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Richard – Bass

40 Watt Sun – Behind My Eyes

Patrick Walker has returned to make us all cry once more. 2016’s Wider Than the Sky was a flawless album in my opinion, so I wasn’t sure how he’d be able to take that sound any further, but by making the wise decision to mix it up slightly without changing the tempo or the emotion, he’s crafted another winner. There’s more variety in Perfect Light‘s  instrumentation and tonality, but it’s still the same achingly beautiful, unendingly sorrowful core. Alternatively, as a friend put it to me recently, it’s R.E.M. played in slow motion.

Radwall – Red Rain

I came across this track on reddit of all places, but it won me over instantly. Radwall (a band I had never heard of before) have covered my favourite Peter Gabriel song specifically in the style of Ocean Machine, Devin Townsend’s iconic debut solo album. Not only does this feel like a cover custom made for my musical interests, it is an incredibly convincing impression. Wild.

Kurokuma – Ololiuqui

Sheffield’s premier tribal doom outfit have kept us waiting for their debut album for years, so it’s a good thing it’s so good. It grooves, drones, funks and dirges in all the right places, and the Aztec aesthetic and theme really suits their earthy tones.

Fallujah – The Night Reveals

I’ve been revelling in an out-of-character resurgence in interest in technical death metal of late, and part of that has been getting immersed in Fallujah’s proggy 2014 album The Flesh Prevails. The surging melodies are what set this band apart, without coming close to diluting the aggression or technical acrobatics.

Foo Fighters – Arlandria

I couldn’t let this month pass without mentioning the tragic loss of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. Foo Fighters were a big band for me as a teen and I still return to some of their stuff with some regularity. Perhaps controversially, I think it was around 2007-11 that they really hit their stride with consistency over full albums, and Wasting Light might be my favourite (and also the most recent of theirs I’ve listened to… oops). By all accounts, Hawkins seemed a real force for good in the music world, as well as a powerhouse of a drummer. I can’t imagine what Dave Grohl is going through having this kind of tragedy happen a second time in his career. RIP.

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Nick – Guitar

Sea Power – Fire Escape In The Sea

Half an hour into this album and I was already loving every second of it, but then I get to this track and immediately recognise the instrumental from one of my all-time favourite video games. That game of course being the incomparable Disco Elysium, of which Sea Power composed the score for. It’s a great track that reflects the dreamy yet dystopian landscape of Martinaise, and the addition of vocals give the track a whole new personality. Me gusta.

Wilderun – Exhaler

This is easily one of the most polished and exquisitely produced prog metal albums I’ve heard on a while. The sheer volume of electronic and orchestral layers give an unrivalled density to an album that’s already chock full of big riffs and noodly goodness. J’adore.

E-L-R – Fleurs of Decay

Had the pleasure of playing alongside ELR a few years ago when they did a little tour with Hundred Year Old Man. The zenith of that gig was ELR joining HYOM on stage to perform a number of collaborative tracks. I hope that one day these tracks will be released into the world. Regardless, their new album Vexier is a more than worthy continuation of their ethereal, psychedelic purl.

beabadoobee – Talk

Exquisite fuzz rock meets bedroom pop track. beabadoobee’s debut album was an absolute gem and one of my picks from 2020. I was already looking forward to her next full length release (slated to come out in a few months time) and that excitement is growing exponentially if this track is anything to go by.

Earthless – Death To The Red Sun

A delicious slice of semi-improvised psych and an explosive coda to their latest album. My condolences to Isaiah’s wah pedal, mans must be knackered.

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Chris – Guitar

CHVRCHES – How Not to Drown

I went to see CHVRCHES for the first time this month (with Richard and others) and it was a delightful evening of lush synth-heavy pop and catchy hooks. CHVRCHES just seem to get better with each album, and this is the stand-out (for me) of their most recent release.

Ibaraki (w/Gerard Way) – Rōnin

I’ve raved about Matt Heafy doing proper black metal on this blog before, but this is the strongest track he’s released so far – melodic vocals, catchy vocal lines and some BIG RIFFS for Gerard Way (?!) to shriek over. I never thought this collab would sound like this, but I’m delighted with the result!

Litany for the Whale – Something in the Way

Fronted by an American friend of mine (Michael W Conrad, of DC Comics fame), Litany for the Whale are a post-hardcore act with some filthy tones and crunchy riffs. This cover of one of the most mournful Nirvana songs dials up the anthemic feels into a climax that feels like being crushed by a lead slab.

Konvent – Into the Distance

Speaking of crunchy riffs – heavy (but not impenetrably so) doom abides here, from Denmark’s Konvent. This is one of a couple of BandCamp discoveries this month and perfect for clearing out the winter cobwebs as we tentatively step into spring.

Véhémence – De feu et d’acier

My second BandCamp discovery comes from France: atmospheric, medieval black metal with plenty of melody and folkish elements, but without veering into cheese territory. They basically sound like a 14th century battlefield full of bright, blood-stained banners (if said battle was soundtracked by Batushka!)

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Joe – Vocals

<Code> – Brass Dog

The gramophone stylised opening that repeats throughout combined with riffy, but grim sounding black metal is just glorious. Unsung greats of UKBM who don’t get nearly enough credit.

Pure Wrath – Footprints of the Lost Child

Indonesian atmospheric black metal with a similar cadence to Drudkh and Winterfylleth, with added keyboard flourish. Beautiful album artwork too.

Nature Morte – Night’s Silence

Exceptional post-black metal from France, surely one of my favourite albums from last year. This oozes atmosphere and reflection.

Urfaust – Hypnotisch Bevel De Daimonische Mensch

Eerie nightmare fuel, like music for a 1996 Quake level. Love everything about it. Guaranteed to give you the willies.

Sun of the Dying – Orion

Reminiscent of early Swallow the Sun with hints of My Dying Bride. There’s an instrumental mid-section to this track so beautiful it really made me smile the first time I heard it.

Monthly Playlist: March 2022

Yes, we’ve got more varied blog and video content now (make sure to subscribe to us on YouTube!), but that doesn’t mean we’re done with our monthly playlist nonsense. Check out this month’s picks in the playlist below, along with some of us waffling about our picks.

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Richard – Bass

Gilmore Trail – Echoes of Solitude
Our good friends, Sheffield’s post rock visionaries Gilmore Trail, have recently released their third album and it is simply sublime – and I would say the same if I wasn’t biased, which I definitely am. They’ve really upped their game on all fronts, including going properly metal for the first time at a few points, but this track is just an absolute powerhouse of emotion, with warm synth strings and a wonderful guest saxophone spot adding a very special extra layer of melody at the song’s apex.

SOPHIE – Face Shopping
I’m several years behind Nick and the rest of the world in getting into wild electronic experimentalist SOPHIE, and sadly too late to ever have a chance to see her live after her tragic death a few years ago. Regardless, I’ve been absolutely rinsing her ludicrously titled album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides this year. Joyous, in-your-face, punchy, weird and catchy as hell, this is manic electro-pop like nothing else.

Stomach Earth – Watchers
I heard the self-titled Stomach Earth a few years back but for some reason didn’t go back to it until a recent doomy phase took hold, and by god am I glad I remembered about it. Earthy, crushing, death-metal-infused funeral doom that rolls forwards with viscerally huge riffs and vocals pitched so low that they’ll rattle the brains out of your skull via your various facial orifices.

Genesis – Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
I’ve also enjoyed a big return to daft 70s prog of late, mainly the big names that – like probably most of the few fans my own age – I got into via my dad. Peter Gabriel fronting Genesis has to be one of the greatest periods of musical history for flambouyant showmanship and over-the-top musical excess, but it’s also packed with unique melodies and a playful spirit that still lives on all these years later.

Shape of Despair – …to Live for My Death…
Shape of Despair are a band I’ve also been shamefully slow to get round to, and doing so recently has been a gloriously dismal time. MIsery that is composed and crafted in meaningful and engaging ways that really draw you into their mournful narrative, rather than just hitting the right cry buttons. TL;DR – boohoo, big growly metal band are sad for 17 minutes and it’s great.

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Chris – Guitar

Venom Prison – Comfort of Complicity

I’ve never really gotten into Venom Prison before – not for any specific reason, purely because there’s too much music in the world to keep up with all of it. I’m very glad that our vocalist Joe raved about their new album Erebos, because it absolutely slaps, and this track is a particular highlight. Death metal with interesting vocals and song structures about Greek mythology! PUMP IT INTO MY VEINS

Zeal & Ardor – Death to the Holy

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the new Z&A and it doesn’t disappoint – it might not quite reach the lofty heights of Stranger Fruit but it comes very close indeed. There are a lot of great tracks on the record, so it was hard to pick just one, but this one in particular highlights some wonderfully demonic shrieking vocals from Manuel Gagneux. Try not to join in, I dare you.

Florence + The Machine – King

Regular readers of this blog will recall me raving about Florence + The Machine not too long ago – and now they’re back with new material, a delightful surprise of a track which showcases Florence’s unique and powerful vocals to perfection.

Jinjer – Pisces

I actually only learned this month that Jinjer are from Ukraine – I (like most other people, it seems) found them via a studio performance video they did which showed off vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk’s masterful command of both a guttural death metal roar and soulful clean vocals, but didn’t register their country of origin. That obviously takes on a new significance this month, given world events…

Hoth – The Unholy Conception

I’m choosing to believe this band took their name from the frostbitten Star Wars planet featured in The Empire Strikes Back, and refuse to check and see if I’m right. Melodic blackened death metal with a pleasantly bouncy production and some intricate riffs, this track puts me in mind of early Dissection with the reverb turned right down (and presumably without the whole “stabbed someone, went to jail, got out, committed ritualistic Satanic suicide” thing..!)

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Nick – Guitar

Bishop – Untitled II

A rancid concoction of noise and blackened sludge. Make sure you listen to this within the confines of your own home because you’ll feel like you need a shower straight after, and you might vomit as well. But I mean all that in a good way of course.

Sylvaine – Fortapt

Prepare to have all your subdued emotions brought violently into the fore. This track is a highlight from a sublime album that is all highlight. Beautifully arranged and performed black metal/shoegaze and probably the strongest record of her career thus far.

Abraham – Fear Overthrown

Switzerland are fucking good at churning out great post-metal bands it seems. Abraham are one of them, and their new record is of the gnarliest variety. It will come as no surprise that they’ve played with Cult of Luna and The Ocean and if either of those tickle your turnips then Abraham will be right up your boulevard.

Dream Division – Wolf

An ode to 80s horror b-movies featuring delicious ambient synths and spoken word. I checked the artist’s bio whilst typing this and was shocked beyond belief to find that he is into John Carpenter (I was not shocked) and I am 100% here for it.

Avril Lavinge – All I Wanted feat. Mark Hoppus

Honestly this is a fairly bog standard albeit very fun pop-punk track, but she is royalty and punk wouldn’t exist without her so I can forgive the lack of esotericism.

BA’AL RIG RUNDOWN | CHRIS – GUITAR

For our first proper video, our newest guitarist Chris (who joined us last year) runs us through his guitar rig.

GEAR

Dean Icon Baritone – mahogany, EMG 81/85 pickups

Kemper Profiler Powerhead w/ 600W power amp, paired with a Kemper Remote and a Mission Engineering KP1-EP expression pedal

Digitech Jam-Man (for samples)

Monthly Playlist: February 2022

We’ve finally got some other exciting content on the way for our blog/site, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop banging on about the tunes we’ve been listening to. Check out some of our picks below.

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Chris – Guitar

Show Me A Dinosaur – Sunflower

Terrible band name, great song. This is firmly in the vein of New Bermuda-era Deafheaven, with a similar vocal style and a similar warmth to the production – given that Deafheaven’s newest album didn’t click with me anywhere near as much as their previous material, this was a welcome find.

Chthonic – Rise of the Shadows

Mirror of Retribution is probably still my favourite album by Taiwanese black/death metallers Chthonic, with a stacked tracklist and fascinating themes of Taoist hell and myth. This song is crammed with absolutely huge riffs and perfectly-pitched vocals, making it a real standout on a great album.

With the Dead – Crown of Burning Stars

Lee Dorian is one of my favourite vocalists (OOH YEAHHH?!) and this project marries his classic vocals with utterly filthy, bone-crushingly heavy doom/sludge riffs. Seeing them at Roadburn in 2016 was a true treat, and this track is just pure Dorian heavy goodness.

Sabaton – Primo Victoria

Look, sometimes you just want to listen to cheesy power metal, okay? I’ve been watching a bunch of WW2 documentary content this month, and this track remains my unshakeable mental soundtrack to the D-Day landings thanks to a great sing-along chorus. TO THE GATES OF HELL!

Ibaraki – Tamashii No Houkai

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time – atmospheric black metal based on Japanese mythology, created by Matt Heafy (guitarist/vocalist of Trivium, who I fully idolised in my teenage years) with Ihsahn of Emperor. The first track from this project does not disappoint – it has similar vibes to Ihsahn’s heavier solo material, but you can clearly hear Heafy’s influence and penchant for vocal hooks as well. I’m excited to hear more!

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Nick – Guitar

Boundaries – The Devil’s Breath

A tasty little hardcore track from last year with an outrageous breakdown in the second half. I listened to this on my walk to work and got there nearly ten minutes quicker than normal, not even kidding.

Dance With The Dead – Kiss of the Creature

Why did no one tell there was a synthwave/metal band inspired by John Carpenter? I mean I know that phrase applies to a lot of bands, but why did no one tell me about this one in particular?

Seven Nines and Tens – Fight For Your Right To Partial Relevance

A hidden gem discovered by chance scrolling through recent releases on Bandcamp. A band I’d never before heard of, SNaT are a grungy shoegaze post-metal via 70s psychedelic rock band and their new album is all trill and no fill, check it out.

Sleep Token/Loathe – Is It Really You?

My favourite band of 2021 covering my favourite band of 2020. Have I slipped into a coma and started experiencing my wildest dreams or something?

Devin Townsend Band – Deadhead

After several years of light encouragement, I finally relented and listened/was forced to listen to a track that Richard has often dubbed the greatest song ever written. I still stand my believe that the epithet belongs to ‘September’ by Earth Wind and Fire, but this track is pretty damn good, and proof were it ever needed that simple melodies with great harmony are without parallel.

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Richard – Bass

Meshuggah – Stengah

The announcement of a new Meshuggah album has had me going back to the classics and absolutely rinsing them this past few weeks. Nothing is a favourite of mine for it’s unparalleled groove. Even now, well past the era of djent bands aping their guitar tones and some of their dizzying polyrhythms, there’s still no one who sounds like these truly alien machine beings. Crushing.

My Dying Bride – Christliar

Alongside a Meshuggah binge I’ve been having a bit of a MDB resurgence too, mainly after a long chat about them whilst hanging out with Joe from Ethereal Shroud recently. The Light at the End of the World is my go-to choice of album from them, and this track starts out in churning riff territory before evolving into a plaintive cry-fest, as per.

Ian William Craig – Contain [Astoria Version]

I discovered Ian William Craig at the end of last year and enjoyed getting dragged into his world of glitchy ambience, punctuated with a strong melodicism and some haunting vocals. It’s like a little lost robot singing lonesome tunes from the centre of an electrical storm on a distant planet. Or something.

Anomalie – Vision V: Starless Nights

Riff-driven post-black metal from the live guitarist for Harakiri for the Sky. Catchy melodies, tons of emotion, heavy riffs – you don’t need much more. Whole album (you guessed it: it’s called Visions) recommended as a cohesive experience.

Woman is the Earth – Lungcrusher

Atmospheric black metal from the WITTR playbook, but with some nice textural and compositional intricacies that make it their own. Good shit.

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Luke – Drums

Arch Echo – Red Letter

As I’ve come to expect from this band, their new single makes me feel like I’m having a lot of fun in a djenty, jazzy video game. This band just know how to make me smile.

Meshuggah – Abysmal Eye

They are back in full force with a heavy, driving master piece. The classic Meshuggah approach of polymeters builds up to some really fun rhythmic stuff in the middle of the song before calming back down to pure headbanging groove which I cannot wait to experience live!

Albums of the Year 2021

Timely as ever, a few of us have selected our album highlights from last year. As ever, we were spoiled for quality new music and we’re so thankful to every artist who made the year more bearable. A track from each of our picks is included in the Spotify playlist too, for you to get stuck into as you read…

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Chris – Guitar

Every year, I struggle with the pull between listening to new music and going back to my comfort listens – especially given the state of the world, there’s a lot to be said for the warm blanket of an album that you know inside and out. It was tough to populate a top 10 list this year, but that isn’t a reflection on the number of quality releases – more my relative inability to absorb new albums particularly fast! Nevertheless, here are the ten albums that particularly stuck with me this year and soundtracked a tumultuous, terrible, and sometimes triumphant 2021.

10. Panopticon – …And Again Into the Light

And Again Into The Light | Panopticon

Folk and metal, the two great tastes that taste great together. Except, despite my 10-year history in Northern Oak, I’ve always been quite leery of the “mead and wenches” variety of folk metal which favours cheesiness over actually trying to write good songs. Thank fuck, then, for Panopticon – a solo project from Austin Lunn, who mashes together mournful American folk/bluegrass with melodic black metal and does a damn fine job of it. Powerful, relentless and cathartic.

9. Underdark – Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry

Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry | Underdark

I’d probably class this as more of an EP than an album, at 36 minutes – but quibbling aside, it’s a tumultuous blast of fierce post-black metal with a staunchly antifascist/pro-LGBTQ stance that ticks a lot of my boxes. If I have one criticism it’s that the vocals are mixed a little too low, which means they’re occasionally overpowered by the music – having seen them live earlier in the year I know that vocalist Abi has some serious lungs, so hopefully they’ll address that on future releases.

8. Noctule – Wretched Abyss

Wretched Abyss | Noctule

“Melodic black metal inspired by the videogame Skyrim” feels like the most “me” sentence ever written, and I’m pleased to confirm that this solo album from Serena Cherry of Svalbard absolutely nailed the brief – every track on this release evokes the wintry mountains of Skyrim, wrapped in atmospheric production and peppered with soaring leads. Serena is apparently working on more tracks for a follow-up, which is great news!

7. Maybeshewill – No Feeling is Final

No Feeling Is Final | Maybeshewill | Bird's Robe Records

I wasn’t expecting to get a new Maybeshewill album this year – the last I heard, the band had split up, so this was a delightful surprise. It doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of their previous releases (particularly the extremely post-rock-titled I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone) but it’s still a very well-constructed chunk of ambient post-rock from a band with masterful control over their sound.

6. Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

TRIBULATION | Where the Gloom Becomes Sound

Just scraping into consideration (by virtue of being released in January 2021, which feels like a decade ago and yesterday all at once) is this follow-up to the incredible Down Below – and while it doesn’t quite match up to the previous album, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Tribulation’s sound is hard to pigeonhole easily – guttural death vocals and some pretty bouncy riffs and melodic guitar lines – but it’s absolutely, 100% my shit.

5. CHVRCHES – Screen Violence

Chvrches: Screen Violence Album Review | Pitchfork

CHVRCHES are probably the most consistent band I know – every album they’ve released has a high number of bangers and is overall very enjoyable. Screen Violence just continues that trend – it doesn’t really stray from their formula, but when the formula works so well, why should it? This was another album that I kept coming back to this year – it falls into the “comfort listening” category for me, and I’m excited to (hopefully) see them live in 2022.

4. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

Album Review: SPIRITBOX Eternal Blue

If Taylor Swift got into djent, it’d probably sound a bit like this. Delightful pop vocals on top of some big, meaty riffs – crucially, this album doesn’t fall into the trap of recycling tired breakdown after tired breakdown, which is what often turns me off djent. They’re comfortable with melodic riffs that compliment the soaring vocals, and know when to apply light and shade. Now, does anybody have Tay-Tay’s number so I can talk to her about guesting on the next Ba’al album..?

3. Daniel Hart – The Green Knight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Daniel Hart: The Green Knight - Soundtrack - Milan Records

I listen to a lot of soundtracks (both movie and videogame) because I love the way that music can deepen my appreciation of another piece of media. In the case of The Green Knight, the music was absolutely integral to the whole (spellbinding) experience I had with the film – it complimented the bleak, fantastical landscapes perfectly and suffused the whole thing with an otherworldly medieval vibe. The OST stands alone as a worthwhile listen even if you haven’t watched the movie, which is a rare feat.

2. VOLA – Witness

Witness | VOLA

I’d never heard of VOLA before 2021 – Luke mentioned them in our band chat so I went to check out this album, and was absolutely blown away by it. The main thing that characterises Witness is extremely catchy hooks, both vocally and musically – this is music to sing along to in the car, but with the added frisson of some excellent djent-inspired breakdowns and proggy time signature fuckery. Highly recommended, but be warned, you won’t be able to get the choruses out of your head…

1. Wolves in the Throne Room – Primordial Arcana

Primordial Arcana | WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM

Less ambient and drifting than their previous albums, with a greater sense of urgency and snarl, but without sacrificing the atmosphere – I think Primordial Arcana is my new favourite Wolves album, narrowly beating out the transcendent Celestial Lineage. I decided not to listen to this album until I could sit down with the vinyl and give it my full attention – and then I kept coming back to it throughout the back half of 2021, finding new things to love each time. Listen to this album, journey into the mountains and revel in the magick and majesty of nature.

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Richard – Bass

2021 has been another bumper year for great music. I listened to 75 albums this year, which is a total I’m very pleased with. As ever, a top 10 was an incredible challenge, and I had about 30 that could have made it in… Those that came closest were Hong Kong Express (specifically ‘L.Y.F’ out of the several albums he released this year), Ed Scissor & Lamplighter, Mol, The Hyena Kill, Amenra, Emma Ruth Rundle, Wolves in the Throne Room, Autarkh, Hellish Form and finally the album with which I had the most stupid fun this year: Kurupt FM.

10. Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready

Lingua Ignota - Sinner Get Ready - Vinyl LPx2 – Rough Trade

Stripping away almost all of the industrial/drone/metal elements to her sound this time around, Lingua Ignota continues to make some of the most emotionally punishing and anguished left-field music going. The orchestrations and additional instruments this time around allow for both some of her most beautiful music so far as well as some of the most sinister and disturbing. Listening back to this after the revelations came out about Kristin’s horrifying personal ordeals this past few years, it’s impossible not to be deeply moved and powerfully affected. Not an easy listen.

9. Violet Cold – Empire of Love

Empire Of Love | Violet Cold

As I’ve mentioned here before, this is the album that finally got me properly into Violet Cold and had me exploring his other records, where before I’d been so-so on what I knew. I’d be lying if the blatantly pro-equality and anti-fascist message (shown in the face of great adversity) wasn’t part of the reason I like this album so much, but it’s mainly just the overall euphoric, passionate and uplifting feel to this exploratory and eclectic post-black metal. Earlier this year I was sure this would be top 3 material, but over time I’ve realised I’m not the biggest fan of the first couple of tracks, which feel a bit clunky. The rest is stellar, though.

8. Other Joe – Jealousy Tulip

Jealousy Tulip | Other Joe

Other Joe is an ambient artist I discovered from a BandCamp email a few years back and one who I’ve enjoyed since, but never would have expected to end up in my albums of the year. In truth this was battling it out with Hong Kong Express’ album L.Y.F. for this spot in my top 10, as they both fill similar needs in my listening life: atmospheric, otherworldly, slightly melancholic, nostalgic and urban soundscapes. In the end, Jealousy Tulip won out just because of it’s more varied textures and more forthright beats which lend a slight sense of the sinister to some tracks.

7. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever Album Review | Pitchfork

There’s a pattern emerging: this is another album I would never have expected to make it to my top 10, but here we are. I enjoyed Billie’s debut in 2019 when it first made waves, but aside from the standout, bass-heavy bangers, I didn’t go back to it too much. On her second outing, there’s a lot more variety and pretty much all of it lands for me. Sure, the aforementioned minimal bass wobbles aren’t there so much this time, but there are plenty of sultry grooves, atmospheric and soulful pop cuts and even a climactic outburst of heartfelt rock. The mid-album spoken word callout to all those who unfairly malign her for her appearance is just the cherry on top that makes Happier Than Ever even greater.

6. Rivers of Nihil – The Work

Album Review: RIVERS OF NIHIL The Work

Whilst I did really enjoy 2018’s tech-death sax-fest Where Owls Know My Name, I never quite fully boarded the hype train and found it a little bit sterile after a while and stopped going back to it. Enter The Work, one of the most bafflingly ambitious releases I heard this year. There’s still plenty of technical brutality (and still a little sax goodness), but this time around there’s also a ton of other stuff going on, ranging from spacey synth noises, classic heavy metal leads, rich ambient textures and everything in between. Describing it accurately is pretty hard as I still don’t feel like I’ve fully got my head around it yet, but what I do know is that it is excellent.

5. Der Weg Einer Freheit – Noktvrn

Album Review: DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT Noktvrn

This is by far the least surprising pick on my list, as I’ve been banging on about my undying love for DWEF since I was put onto them in mid-2019. On Noktvrn, the Germans continue their mastery of wringing immensely powerful atmospheres out of unstoppably powerful, precise and high definition black metal battery. Though it doesn’t quite match up to their previous effort – one of my favourite black metal records of all time – the range on display this time is wider, taking in some electronica, increased clean vocals and some other brief, surprising turns, making it something fresh for the band without sacrificing any of their strengths.

4. Voices – Breaking the Trauma Bond

Breaking the Trauma Bond | Voices

For my penultimate surprise (to myself) for the year, I was taken aback at how much this album got under my skin. Successfully mixing the gothic and melody-focused elements of their last album with a return to the brutality of the stunning London that preceded it, Breaking the Trauma Bond is equal parts infectious hook and savage death metal riffery. Each time I listened to this album I forgot just how many strong moments there are, and how many of the random tunes I’d had in my head in the previous week were from it. Yes, it’s possibly a bit long, but it’s catchy, aggressive and steeped in the band’s unique voice (SEE WHAT I DID THERE).

3. Black Country, New Road – For the First Time

Black Country, New Road: For the first time Album Review | Pitchfork

I’ve spoken about this album at length already, including reviewing it for an online publication, but I still can’t stop adding my voice to the burgeoning critical response this band are getting from all manner of people much cooler than me. Mash up some Slint, Oxbow, Swans, Black Midi and Jewish klezmer music, add a rambling and warbling storyteller up front and wrap it all up into the shape of a band who are young enough to make you want to throw all of your instruments away and give up and you’ll get close to this post-everything collective of musical wizards.

2. BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is Burning and Now Everyone Knows It Could Happen Again

The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again | BRUIT  ≤

The final time I’ll say I surprised myself this year is here. After hearing about them from that mind-bogglingly stacked ArcTanGent lineup (god I hope I actually get to go this year), I checked this out and was blown away – post rock almost never grabs me as much as this did on first listen. It’s simultaneously doing what the greats have done before (think the expansive tones of Godspeed! You Black Emperor with some of the bubbling electronics of 65daysofstatic) and doing something that feels totally fresh, all within an absolute cavern of reverb and drenched with passion. The band are strongly anti-Spotify, so they’re not on our playlist, but I urge you to head to their BandCamp and listen to ‘Industry’.

1. Daniel Avery – Together in Static

Together in Static | Daniel Avery

After a lot of complex and affecting melodrama in the top half of my top 10, my number one pick for the year is a much more restrained affair. Though I refrained from making a final call until recently, in my heart of hearts I think I knew this was my AOTY from pretty early on. Known as a DJ of big room tech-house bangers, here Daniel Avery mixes a little of that with a lot of much more minimal and laid-back grooves and beats that hold you in a warm, nostalgic embrace that conjures up all your best emotions without letting you become overwhelmed. It’s unassuming but captivating; warm but emotive. Basically, it’s good.

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Nick – Guitar

10. Ethereal Shroud – Trisagion

Trisagion | Ethereal Shroud

This album would have been higher up my list but unfortunately Richard played bass on it which is obviously extremely uncool, so unfortunately it will have to settle for tenth. Jokes aside this is quite simply an astounding work of bleak music, using an array of stylistic tools to navigate an intense emotional journey. I understand that Trisagion was the product of many years of work, and it can only be said that the time put into this album was worth it, it’s about as good as blackened doom gets.

9. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert Album Review | Pitchfork

Grey Area was one of my favourite hip-hop albums of 2019, and Introvert is without doubt my favourite of 2022. Anchored by some excellent production and intimate lyricism, this album presents an artist at the peak of her powers and she only seems to be getting stronger.

8. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe – Bloodmoon: I

Converge: Bloodmoon: I Album Review | Pitchfork

Two artists that I like but have never particularly loved combine to create an album that I inexplicably adore. That’s the story of Bloodmoon: I. The album is the centrepiece of a Venn diagram of the two, with stunning vocals from Wolfe and intricate, haunting aggression from the Converge crew. Bloodmoon: 1 implies that there may be a Bloodmoon: 2 – here’s hoping anyway.

7. Erdve – Savigaila

ALBUM REVIEW: Savigaila - Erdve - Distorted Sound Magazine

Probably the heaviest slab of absolute disgust I heard all year, which says a lot given my inclination towards disgusting slabs. Albums like this blur the lines between hardcore, sludge, metal and basically anything you would define as heavy, to the point at which it deserves its own genre I have ingeniously coined “heavy ass shit”.

6. Five The Hierophant – Through Aureate Void

Through Aureate Void | Five the Hierophant

I have a thing for post-metal with brass and woodwind instruments, so I Stan this album hard. It probably would have been my post-metal album of the year based just on the bits that were ‘metal’ anyway but the bits that aren’t ‘metal’ push it into a whole other void (audible groans from around the room).

5. Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready

Lingua Ignota - Sinner Get Ready - Vinyl LPx2 – Rough Trade

Recent revelations made the impact of this album all the more insidious. This is about as emotionally raw that music comes and I’ve never heard tragedy portrayed in such a devastating manner as this. Chilling and beautiful in equal measure, there really is no one quite like Kristen Hayter. Her story will leave its mark on extreme music for generations, of that I am sure.

4. VOLA – Witness

Witness | VOLA

I was a relative latecomer to the VOLA hypetrain, discovering them around the time that Applause of a Distant Crowd released. I was immediately enamoured and the wait for new material felt like an age. Whilst certainly not the proggiest, nor the heaviest, nor the poppiest prog band around, they’re among the finest songwriters the genre has to offer, consistently ploughing out some of the hardest hitting riffs and most euphoric choruses you’ll hear out of the genre. Pretty much as soon as ‘Head Mounted Sideways’ dropped I was already considering this album as a potential AOTY contender, then they released the whole album and their spot was confirmed.

3. Biffy Clyro – The Myth of the Happily Ever After

Biffy Clyro - The Myth Of The Happily Ever After | Reviews | Clash Magazine

For a band 27 years (I know right) into their career to still sound so youthful and dynamic is a testament to one of the finest alt-rock bands the UK has ever produced. Their first taste of proper mainstream success over a decade ago could have seen them tumble into a vat of mediocrity, as is so often the case. I saw them headline Leeds Festival back in 2013 when they started to hit their commercial peak and drift away from the proggy peculiarity that we all loved. But here they still are sounding as fresh and unique as ever, trying new things and believing enough in their own sound to bring them success.

2. Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders/The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders &amp; The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises  (2021, CD) - Discogs

3 artists of wildly different genres combine to sound like they’d been playing together for decades. Whilst Sanders effectively acts as the album’s voice, performing with incomparable soul, the work of Floating Points and The London Symphony Orchestra is a dynamic and intricate centrepiece in its own right, and is perhaps one of the finest collaborations of classical and electronic music ever produced. As an album you could loosely define as ambient, I thought I’d give this album a go whilst I did some work. I got no work done.

1. Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

This Place Will Become Your Tomb by Sleep Token on Amazon Music -  Amazon.co.uk

Probably the most divisive name on my list, Sleep Token were nevertheless my most streamed artist of 2021, and the only band I’ve been to see live as a punter in a good few years, so I can’t argue against this album taking the top spot. Their saccharine brand of pop, post-rock and djent may not be for everyone, but none can deny that Vessel carries an astounding voice, and boy do this band know how to turn you into a blubbery mess. This Place Will Become Your Tomb is the break-up album you never knew you needed.

Monthly Playlist: December 2021

One final playlist from us before the year is out. Get decidedly un-festive with us below as some of us detail what we’ve been listening to recently.

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Nick – Guitar

Kowloon Walled City – Splicing

I love the raw emptiness of this new album, between the simplicity of its instrumentation, the closeness of the production and the honesty of the performances, it’s one that makes you feel like you’re just sat in the room with them. And dang if that guitar tone ain’t fucking great I don’t know what is.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Return

As per the above, there’s such a delicate intimacy to this. You can hear every vocal wobble and all the natural ambience of playing music on wooden contrivance. This is not an album that slaps in the traditional sense but the sentiment remains the same.

Bohren & der Club of Gore – The Art of Coffins

Recently fallen down the rabbit hole of darkjazz thanks in no small part to this band (and of course The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble). I think I may have found my new favourite niche.

Chelsea Carmichael – All We Know

Delicious slice of psychedelic jazz and a late contender for album of the year. Beautiful harmony of acoustic jazz and subtle layers of electronics and noise make this such an interesting yet satisfying listen.

Poppy – Bloom

Just a great song to be honest. A little less garish than her usual output and stands as proof that she is an all round great songwriter, whether she’s mashing up genres or not. The chorus vocals stayed with me for quite a while after I first heard this one.

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Chris – Guitar

Heaven & Hell – Bible Black

Show me someone who doesn’t love Dio and I’ll show you a person without joy in their life. This album is stuffed with prime Iommi riffs and a lovely, weighty production to compliment the mighty vocals. You’re reading from the Bible Black!!

Maybeshewill – The Weight of Light

I had no idea we were getting a new Maybeshewill album, so this was a pleasant discovery – both their previous albums (Not For Want of Trying and I Was Here For A Moment) are spectacular, and this just continues the standard. Great instrumental post-rock.

Two Man Advantage – Bastard of the Ice

Sometimes you need a hardcore punk who write songs exclusively about ice hockey to brighten up your month. Enter Two Man Advantage, a band who are very good at just that. I don’t have any deep observations here, I just love ice hockey and music associated with it!

Bon Iver – Perth

Tranquil, fragile indie folk from one of my favourite albums ever released. I managed to pick up a vinyl of this and it was a joy to revisit it again – every song is full of inherent sadness but also hope, a kind of wistful, transportive longing for simpler times.

Aoife Fhearraigh – The Best is Yet To Come

Celtic folk-pop with a beautiful, soaring vocal line. I confess that my attachment to this is largely because it plays over the end credits of one of the best videogames ever made (Metal Gear Solid) but it’s an excellent song in it’s own right and worth your time.

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Richard – Bass

Kelly Lee Owens – On

After many COVID-based reschedules, I finally got to see Kelly Lee Owens live recently and it was magical. Whilst there are some artists around who mix dreamy, atmospheric pop with harder dance music, you’d be hard pushed to find any that go as far into the banging house and techno beats as Owen does, and live those moments were absolutely pounding. This track pretty well summarises the two extremes of her sound; if you listen to just the start and then just the end they don’t sound like the same song, and yet as a whole piece it flows perfectly.

Porcupine Tree – Anaesthetize

Somehow I’m the only one in Ba’al excited by the Porcupine Tree reunion, but I’m going to keep shouting about it anyway (even though the exclusion of Colin Edwin and John Wesley is quite criminal), and protest via the medium of a 17min song. As much as In Absentia is their best album for me – in fact, one of the best of all time – for some reason it’s the chorus to this epic that I’ve had stuck in my head since scrambling to buy tickets for their one (!) UK show next September (!).

Recoil – Shunt

Recoil is a project by Alan Wilder, formerly of Depeche Mode, who turns his hand to dark trip-hop meanderings to great effect. Though the album that this track is from, Unsound Methods, loses it’s way a bit in the middle with some bizarre and clunkily written spoken word about shagging, when they nail it these sultry grooves stand up against the greats of the genre.

Opeth – The Grand Conjuration

Though Ghost Reveries is far from my top Opeth album, it’s taken on a new meaning recently due to the loss of a close friend of ours, who sadly passed away last month. Thanks to a very generous family, I wound up with his CD of this album and I’ve been jamming it in my car in his memory. RIP Dario, gone far too soon.

CHVRCHES – Asking for a Friend

Since my two top picks for this month weren’t on Spotify (BRUIT ≤ and Anti-God Hand – both amazing bands you should check out on BandCamp), I’ve added in this cut from the most recent CHVRCHES album. As an album I think it’s a bit inconsistent compared to their earlier stuff, but the best tracks absolutely go toe-to-toe with the band’s all-time bangers, and this is one of them.