TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a themed list devoted to grouping together albums of similar interest that I missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I have a policy of covering 99% of everything I receive in some form, be it mini-review or full-feature, so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way.
Here I present a ten album sampler of some of the best black metal releases released this year. Consider it my way of making sure I cover as many late year releases before 2019 ends. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because I couldn’t manage the time for a long-form review or because I really didn’t have more than a paragraph or two worth of insight beyond banal description. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more albums from different styles, genres, themes, etc.
Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because I am not doing full reviews for these releases! I always have some quality control in mind and look for expressive, meaningful, or just damn heavy releases that hold value without gimmickry or bland plagiarism. This weeks focus was curated for the sake of many of my friends doing “Nothing but Black Metal November” lists every year on RateYourMusic/Sonemic, I won’t be sticking to only black metal releases as a whole but Ten From the Tomb will be covering black metal for the next three weeks. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate the friendly and positive interactions I’ve had with all thus far. Think my opinions are trash and that I suck? Want to totally tell me off, bro? Click away and let’s all live more sensible lives full of meaningful interactions. I’m too old and bored with people to care.
|Title [Type/Year]||Hearts of No Light [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Prosthetic Records|
Swiss black metal project Schammasch are most often touted as a sort of mid-tier avant-black messiah, an underdog that folks haven’t yet connected with on a broader scale, at least not as much as similarly ambitious groups like Sinmara or Svartidauði. Back in 2014 when ‘Contradiction’ came out I fully agreed with this sentiment but since then they’ve focused on very drawn-out and somewhat shapeless epics that aren’t daring so much as they are long-winded and intricate in their ambiance. At ~68 minutes ‘Hearts of No Light’ is a smart alternative to 2016’s ‘Triangle’ which’d been a triple album with little to say and appeared too ‘in love with…’ its own voice at nearly 2 hours in length. Post-rock dalliance, progressive metal anti-structures, and some absolutely laughable clean vocal experiments make for an uncannily quiet black metal record that truly wants to be a later neo-prog Alchemist record more than it does the next Blut Aus Nord. “A Paradigm of Beauty” is the peak of this as it ends up sounding like a gothic post-punk band buried beneath an overzealous post-metal band. While my thoughts seem harsh it is only because I am soured by the step away from what made ‘Contradiction’ effective, and I don’t think addressing this band as ‘black metal’ should be emphasized, they have very clearly wanted to burst out of that extreme metal box these last five or so years.
|Title [Type/Year]||Death Leading [LP/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from W.T.C. Productions|
Here is another band that’d put out a remarkable black metal record in 2014 but these Germans are much more calculated, putting themselves into their craft in the interim and not getting lost in the weeds of trends. Dysangelium still very much express as an occult black metal band leaning towards orthodoxy and well, so much so that ‘Death Leading’ served as a remedy to the dashed expectations of Mayhem‘s most recent work. That isn’t to say that it is is even in the same style as ‘Daemon’ but it filled that void in my own head. ‘Death Leading’ is voiced in a brutish way but this barked spectre often multiplies into a fearsome tyrant’s call, enhancing the violent and sometimes disordered attacks within. Although I believe Studio Emissary’s touch upon ‘Thánatos Áskēsis’ pushed it over the edge into interesting, this release almost swerves towards the fidelity of a Vendetta Records release, providing a more bluntly textural listen. Aesthetics aside, it is the guitar work and the vocal personality within ‘Death Leading’ that’d been worth returning to for several listens sounding a bit like a collection of ‘Celtic Frost moments from Norwegian bands’ in the 90’s while ramping up the layers of rhythm guitar interest twofold. Austerity goes a long way with this type of black metal but ultimately the guitarists make this record worth returning to.
|Title [Type/Year]||Doctrine [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from BlackSeed Productions|
In many ways BlackSeed Productions contains the auld defiant heart of black metal in Spain, or at least they’ve had their ears attuned to some of the very best black and death metal from the dark corners of the country since the very earliest days. But I don’t intend to kiss ass, only to convey that Spain is rife with fantastically dark and incredible musicians yet underappreciated in Europe and North America. A good case could be made along those lines for newcomers Qayin Regis, an omen of the occult to come and a record that stews deeply in its own atmospherics within extended ~10 minute black metal compositions. An arcane and aggressive spirit drives the performances which tread into blurry death metal textures as often as they cut with knife-like black metal riffs. Atmospherics are the driving force here and that is where I lose sight of ‘Doctrine’ as a whole, sorting out the differences between each track and absorbing their respective energies leaves me wanting that ‘breakthrough’ moment where they cross the line, go too far, and surprise — “Neenia Ataecina” comes close, though.
|Title [Type/Year]||Venenare [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Eisenwald|
German metal tends to hold a righteous absolutist perspective yet the greater black metal output has never been bleakly traditional, in fact some of the most austere freaks would arise from the 90’s as wickedly diverse stars beyond. Krater are unorthodox without sounding it, a gorgeously dark-grey blanket of atmospheric heroics flapping in the winds of deep-black nihilism. A malaise courses over me as I am reminded what feeble idiocy existence is until a very slight celestial hug of modernist black metal theatrics devours that feeling, invaginating that self-hatred into a pocketed and festering cyst. The trip doesn’t really sink in until “Stellar Sparks” has expressed so, the album opens up dramatically beyond that point. As with Dysangelium‘s album, I’d recommend stewing with this record for a while and letting it pour itself out at its own pace; ‘Venenare’ is much more exploration-bound and contemplative than I’d expected.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ir [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Indisciplinarian|
Orm is a paradigm shift away from their original formation as By the Patient, a band that would begin playing a variation of melodic black/death metal that would become increasingly eclectic across three full-lengths. Now sans that vocalist and a four piece, these Danish fellowes turn their melodic ambitions towards epics that are structured as great, lofty 20+ minute melodic black metal songs. I’d like to relate their sound to something like Nocternity but only if trading that austerity for something more personal and modern. Don’t worry, though, it isn’t a post-black metal album by any means. When I say ‘epic’ I mean each song is literally half of the album, developing as one song in several parts. It’ll be quite a normal full listen for a progressive metal fan but the typical melodic black metal fan might not find a great deal of variety in the ‘melodic’ part of that equation. ‘Ir’ is appealing from several different angles but as two whole and beautifully rounded musical statements it is easily one of my favorite woodsy, earnest, atmospheric black metal experiences of the year. The issue comes with “Hey, where are the riffs?” and I do not always have the attention span for something this cinematic and drawn-out. I love the build but I wanted the pay-off to be more of a bang as “Bær Solen Ud” ended.
|Title [Type/Year]||Oberpfälzer Wald [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Purity Through Fire|
Proudly Bavarian black metal act Valosta Varjoon are entirely focused on the celebration of the forested Upper Palatine area between Czech and Germany, hence ‘Oberpfälzer Wald’ and despite the use of a Finnish phrase for a name. Satanic Warmaster is surely some influence on thier style but the hooks within each song come from a dreary, depressive-rock tinged black metal style a la Austere‘s ‘To Lay Like Old Ashes’, minus the howling screams. Upright, stately, and serious in tone I’d begin to feel like there was no ‘attack’ beyond the restraint of the vocals and only the by-the-numbers melodious nature of the album makes up for this lack of brutality. “Der Schwarze Tod” is the major highlight for me.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ecosystem [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Aural Music|
Like a howling ghost-possessed orchestral gust of acoustic Dornenreich circa the late 90’s San Francisco, California based Green Metal band Botanist pound seed-holes in the Earth in order to plant the hammered dulcimer’s percussive piano-esque tones as a point of enrichment for your distortion-addled brains. ‘Ecosystem’ is a haunting and dissonant swaying of avant-garde post-black metal that yet retains their ‘black metal-ness’ in pacing and performance. Though it lacks the anxietous horror of recent Pensées Nocturnes records, I’d imagine this is just odd enough to pique that same knack for theatricality from an entirely different point of view and instrumentation. Otherwise it’ll sound like meekly gothic extreme metal with an oddly percussive piano sound leading the way. I’ve seen some raw comments about the vocals but I think they create a sound that matches up well with German avant-black/dark metal in the 90’s, only with a conscious knowledge of post-rock music as the modal informant.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ice, Vapor and Crooked Arrows [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Terratur Possessions|
Kêres is a characteristically Finnish atmospheric black metal record that is brutally raw in terms of its nuclear static rusted production sound that screams in the ear like a thousand knives. Otherwise this is the fellow who is best known for Circle of Ouroboros and the underrated Rahu, his exploration of black metal influences is typically broad and in this case there are shoegazing, goth-rock/adjacent guitar lead-driven songs (“At the Arch of Victories”) set alongside ghostly Bathory-isms (“Grail Dance”) to great effect. The sound was just too raw for full listens without a break, or at mid-volume but I did ultimately like it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Veritas [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions|
A modern progressive metal album played in the black metal style, ‘Veritas’ is a grand leap beyond their self-titled debut back in 2014 in terms of fidelity and general expansion of their sound. Members/ex-members of Barús and Caïnan Dawn should suggest the level of groove and attention to detail that is to be found in this evolution of Maïeutiste‘s “socratic black metal”. When I’d suggest they are progressive I’d say the best reference point would probably be something further from Opeth and towards some alternative metal textures as the album progresses (“Universum”). Definitely check this out if you liked Steorrah‘s album last year.
|Title [Type/Year]||Depleted Light and the Death of Uniqueness [LP/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Osmose Productions|
I am a sucker for an early-to-mid 90’s Swedish black metal album with its death metal remnants in full swing and that void is well-torn into on this debut from Turkish black/death metal band Horrocious. Shades of early Marduk, Impiety, Ondskapt, and the second Sacramentum album blacken the skies throughout ‘Depleted Light and the Death of Uniqueness’ and it’d likely sit well with fans of ‘Opus Nocturne’. The production sound is not far from that of their other project Sarinvomit but with a more present, spacious quality that gives some depth to their brutal and insistent sound.
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