Archive for December, 2015

I love doom. 2015’s doom has been in some places, magnificent. It is the most primal and emotional subgenre; the closest to the progenitor riffs of Iommi and ghostly wail of Ozzy. There has been some triumphs this year in this genre, and here are the Killchain top 10. It contains some of the same albums I put forward to the Sleeping Shaman as my top ten, but some have changed.

10. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper: A last minute addition to the list, where the Deadbeats swoop in to amaze with their groove ridden psychedelic doom. The journey continues deeper into the bowels of doom

9. A Dream of Poe – An Infinity Emerged: An album designed to wring pure emotion from you in every way. Crooning vocals, mourning riffs and a creaking atmosphere builds into one of the gloomiest pieces of gothic doom art this year. Affecting in the most primal way.

8. Thorr-Axe – The Gates of Winter: Another masterpiece of riffing, a crushing swing of the doom sword to smote the enemies below. Thorr-Axe blend some hardcore tinges into their swelling post metal/doom mix, and the result is a heady album of bludgeon and glacial power.

7. Paradise Lost – A Plague Within: Yorkshire doom masters bring the heavy, the gothic melancholy, and just about everything else in their arsenal to create a monolithic slab of deathly doom majesty. Another prime example of how the golden oldies never fail to amaze or deliver.

6. Pentagram – Curious Volume: A triumphant return for one of doom’s legends. ‘Curious Volume’ sees Pentagram regain their place as one of doom’s figureheads with swaggering groove, achingly heavy riffs and Liebling’s soulful croon sounding better than it has in years. Don’t close the casket on them yet…

5. Shrine of the Serpent – Shrine of the Serpent: A pure evilness abounds in this three track crushing death/doom from these US newcomers. This is the sound of misery crushing you into nothing, with a fetid stench of death about every riff and every vomited incantation. Doomed to destroy

4. High on Fire: Luminiferous: RIFFS! That’s pretty much the whole modus operandi for High on Fire, and ‘Luminiferous’ delivers a metric fuckton of riffs. Matt Pike and co have always possessed this primal power in voice, riff and drum, and ‘Luminiferous’ may be their most definite statement yet.

3. Lucifer – Lucifer I: The sultry, smoky occult doom stylings of Lucifer bring me back to the feelings of joy last year when I encountered Mount Salem for the first time. The groove and the simple beauty of each riff is hypnotic, while the vocal hooks keep you from wandering. Stunning.

2. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower: The band you rely on to fill Electric Wizard’s space when they’re off watching horror movies and smoking weed. Windhand have an uncanny knack of writing these dense, monolithic riffs that rumble through your very bones. Psychedelic groove that drags you to the void

1.Undersmile – Anhedonia: The scorching primal beauty of ‘Anhedonia’ is clear for everyone to see. Balancing heft with glacial beauty, melancholy with crushing power of riff, Undersmile’s 2015 effort was one of the finest records in any genre I got this year.

Death metal has been particularly healthy this year in the world of the Killchain. I’ve heard some storming releases, and to whittle it down to only ten seems unfair to the many great records I heard this year. I’m genuinely sorry to anyone I’ve reviewed that hasn’t made it in, because I’ve been totally into almost everything I’ve been sent! But it has to be done, and this is it!

10. Tormention – Chaotic Delusions: A solid, chunky death metal riff war machine of a record. Who needs to reinvent the wheel when the wheel has rarely sounded this good. Tormention crush and batter you into submission.

9. Kataklysm – Of Ghosts and Gods: Superb guitar harmonies mesh with a bombardment of double kicks, guttural but understandable roars and flesh searing riffs. Kataklysm may be getting a bit more melodic, but ‘Of Ghosts and Gods’ will still destroy a pit at ten feet.

8. Desecresy – Stoic Death: A slow, grinding album of Finnish death supreme, where speed has been traded in for a malevolent drudge through some of the darkest waters. Unholy, crawling chaos.

7. Putrevore – Tentacles of Horror: Probably my favourite of all Rogga Johansson’s releases this year, Putrevore smash you into the ground with pure, gurgling death metal. Viciously sludgy and with a simply awesome guitar tone, Putrevore slay.

6. Austerymn – Sepulcrum Viventium: A killer debut of pure Swedeath worship, the UK’s answer to Dismember pulled out all the stops to create a memorably brutal record with razor sharp song writing and crushing heaviness.

5. Obituary – Inked in Blood: Legends fade over time, but Obituary don’t. Still as strong today as they were when they dropped ‘Slowly We Rot’. Iconic vocal belches pepper an album built on heavy as fuck riffing and an atmosphere of reeking death.

4. Abyssus – Into the Abyss: Out Obituary-ing Obituary is no mean feat, but Greek death metal squad Abyssus manage to create one of the finest Floridian death metal albums never to come out of Morrisound. I love the raw, uncompromisingly 90s feel about it, taking me back to the heady days when death metal was a little bit more simple!

3. Shrapnel Storm – Mother War: Filling the Bolt Thrower shaped void in my life, Shrapnel Storm has spun more often than I ever thought it could this year. The band just execute a brand of deathly groove that is totally addictive. The rumble of tanks is alive and well

2. Necrocosm – Damnation Doctrine: Spiralling tech death metal with oodles of melody and stunning fretwork. ‘Damnation Doctrine’ is one of metal’s finest debuts, and is held off the top spot by one of death metal’s most influential and untouchable bands.

1.Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed: Flailing, raging technicality meets the ancient power of the pyramids once again as Nile emerge from their tombs, laying upon us another blueprint of apocalyptic, ancient death. Once again proving that they are the greatest death metal outfit going, ‘What Should Not Be Unearthed’ is endlessly stunning.

Raventale - Dark Substance of Dharma

Another day, another one man atmospheric black metal band. Another one from the Ukraine too. Whatever Raventale do on their new record, it has to be impressive otherwise they’ll vanish into all the other Wolves in the Throne Room/Drudkh clones out there. ‘Dark Substance of Dharma’ is their seventh full length, so they are obviously doing something right so far.

After the obligatory nature sounds intro, complete with raven calls and moody ambience, second track ‘Destroying the Seeds of Karma’, channels vintage Burzum with its hypnotic, thrumming buzz. There’s an almost soothing background soar to each track, easily missed when you are focus on the rasping vocal and the thudding drums. As satisfyingly dense as you’ll find an atmospheric black metal record, and yet diverse in its attack, like the almost ‘catchy’ riffs in the title track, which then dissolves out into the epic and bleak soundscape.

As epic as Raventale can be, they can also be raw and straight at your jugular, such as in the rabid ‘Kali’s Hunger’, which is a roaring, scalding piece of black metal. The melodic yet nasty ‘Red Laugh’s Walking’ is another highlight, as is the moody rage of ‘I Am the Black Tara’. ‘Dark Substance of Dharma’ is indeed a record of substance. A record that proves that there is still plenty to be done in the world of blackened atmosphere. Starkly savage and soothingly black, Raventale have impressed with this album.


Early releases in a band’s career can really show you where they are going, and sometimes can show you just how good they are going to be. Here’s my favourites from this year, and why a demo is still as important as ever.

10. Funerary Bell – Graveyard Seance: in a year where black metal didn’t strike me as often as I’d like, Funerary Bell’s EP gave me hope that the genre still has a lot of merit. Injected with menace, and a ghostly shriek pushes them onto my list.

9. Gaijin – Gaijin: Technical death metal carnage from a band who will be very interesting to keep an eye on.

8. Heathen Beast – The Carnage of Godhra: What would become the last third of ‘Trident’, ‘The Carnage at Godhra’ is a brutal piece of quality, chunky black metal that benefits from dashes of ethnic instrumentation and socio-political lyrics.

7. Exenemy – Overture: One of the finer bits of traditional and power metal I’ve come across this year, Exenemy rip some high quality riffs with oodles of melody. Killer stuff.

6. Heaven Abhorred – Opening the Gate: Raw, malevolent black metal goodness. Channeling second wave black metal legends, Heaven Abhorred are another to keep an eye on.

5. Severe Lacerations – Incantation of Sorrow: Killer North West death metal with a ruthless streak a mile long, this will be a band to keep an eye on. Brutality plain and simple.

4. Mist – Inan: What a beautiful piece of doom this is. Reminding me of my favourite record from last year, Mount Salem’s ‘Endless’, Mist have perfected this kind of Sabbathian groove. I love it

3. Hellripper – The Manifestation of Evil: Oh my fucking christ this slays. It slays so hard I bought the tape, and I don’t have a tape player! ‘Total Mayhem’ could be my favourite song of the year, although it has some stiff competition.

2. Runemaster-  Futhark Dawning: This is prime heavy metal. This is metal at it’s beating, stone heavy heart. Each anthem is catchy, each riff is killer, and the simple fact that it channels such a primal feeling of joy means that its a favourite.

1. Plague Rider – Paroxysm: This is one of the weirdest death metal mindfucks I’ve heard in ages, and that simple fact puts it to number one. Plague Rider are in no way afraid to do anything they need to create something truly special. ‘Paroxysm’ is my number one for its fearless invention and its brutality.

I did a full genre by genre breakdown last year, and while I’ll try to put that together in the next few days, I thought I ‘d start with my overall favourites. I spent 2015 listening to a shitload of independent, underground stuff, and a lot of older stuff. My favourite non-2015 record of the year was ‘British Steel’, closely followed by Accept’s superlative ‘Balls to the Wall’. It was clearly a classic metal year.I’ve also not heard anywhere near as many of the records I wanted to. So there’s probably been a few good ones you’re wondering why are missing. Tell me, so I can find them!

I’m adding a late disclaimer to this; at point of writing I haven’t heard the new Baroness record. It’d probably be in here, but its not fair to these other great records to stick it in just because I’m guessing how good it is.

10. Zgard – Totem: A Ukrainian windswept masterpiece of folky black metal. ‘Totem’ proved that while fellow countryman Drudkh has perfected the style, there are still bands that can challenge the supremacy. Majestic.

9. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within: What can be said? Yorkshire doom lords return with one of this year’s finest pieces of gothic misery. Proof that you can always rely on the old guard to bring it.

8. Plague Rider – Paroxysm: Only EP to make this list, English tech death stars Plague Rider makes this kind of mind bending death metal look easy. I cannot wait to hear what is coming next.

7. Islay – The Angels Share: German melodeath underground heroes Islay have written one of 2015’s most impressive records. ‘The Angels Share’ is an odyssey, owing debts to At the Gates and Amon Amarth, but always remaining their own.

6. Heathen Beast – Trident: One of India’s brightest hopes, and one of their most talented acts, Heathen Beast bring to you scathing, black metal with enough unique ethnic touches to make them stand out and be instantly recognisable.

5. Chiral – Night Sky: In a year where Sivjr Yar pushed him close, Chiral brought out my favourite black metal of the year. Epic in scope, majestic in execution, and truly heart-wrenching at points, ‘Night Sky’ is how atmospheric black metal should be done.

4. Undersmile – Anhedonia: A scorching, dynamic slab of proper British doom. Melancholy and bleak, but always vital and alive. ‘Atacama Sunrise’ is one of my favourite songs of this year, and it is my top doom record of 2015.

3. Shrapnel Storm – Mother War: In a year of epic death metal, Shrapnel Storm’s album kept getting played. Maybe it’s satisfying my craving for more Bolt Thrower, I don’t know, but maybe its just because it is a crushing machine of riffs and death. Love it.

2. Necrocosm – Damnation Doctrine: In any year where there WASN’T a new Nile record, this would have been my top record. I love the complexity, the unhinged savagery but also the supreme melodic flair with which these guys kill. ‘Damnation Doctrine’ needs to be the death metal record you hear this year

NUMBER ONE: Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed: I love Nile. I love everything they do. I loved this album before I heard it. But then I did. I heard how Karl Sanders and co had brought their signature sound to yet more intricate, punishing and most importantly GREAT death metal. Writing songs for themselves should be what they do more often, we are all just lucky to hear it.

Did I miss anything essential? Please let me know and I hope you seek out and support all the artists here.


Dread Ritual EP cover art

American death metallers Church of Misery’s ‘Dread Ritual’ cassette was released earlier in the year, but with a 7″ vinyl version coming up, the band has asked me to have a listen and see what I think. First of all, I love this cover. It’s got a very Lovecraftian feel, with an unholy ritual summoning an eldritch creature. It’s badass.

When the title tracks kicks in with its otherworldly effects, then a vintage dragging death metal riff, you know you’re in for something rather special. This is a belching, lurching slab of primal death metal. There’s dashes of early Swedeath, Autopsy and . ‘Pursuing Horrors’ is equally disturbing. It’s got such a unique approach, not all hell for leather and yet not just sludgy ‘old school’ death metal. There’s something inherently heavy and yet eerie about them. Thier take on Impetigo’s ‘Staph Terrorist’ adds a bloodcurdling rattle to the thrashy original.

I like where Church of Disgust are going with their particular brand of death metal. There’s something very otherworldly about them, something I can’t quite put my finger on. But it’s very good. Get a copy of this if you can!

Italian death metallers Daemoniac recored their newest mini CD ‘Lord of Immolation’ at Sunlight Studios. Which means only one thing; this is burning, raging death metal in its finest, Swedish form. Containing members of legendary Italian death metal band Horrid, this should be rather good.

You can feel the putrid corpse of early 90s death reeking from every riff, every ragged chainsaw riff that bursts from the savage ‘Away from Christ’. The murky, graveyard groove of ‘Demonic Possession’ descends to hell, riffs in tow. Daemoniac’s sound is so authentic they should have been in Daniel Ekeroth’s book! Their Crematory cover, the skull rattling ‘Chunks of Flesh’ is great, as is the churning ‘Desecration of Christianity’.

Short but ultimately a great taster for fans new to Daemoniac, like me. Italy has been known for producing some great death metal acts, and Daemoniac should join them soon. ‘Lord of Immolation’ is a ripping set of death metal songs with a deep Swedish influence, but enough of their own magic to keep them interesting. Love it

Canadian metallers Odium are onto their third record of hard hitting melodic death metal, and while this is my first experience with them, it is unlikely to be my last. ‘Terraform’ is 47 minutes of quality, ripping metal with tons of awesome guitar riffs.

Opening intro track ‘Odyssey’ sets the tone, a looming ambience creating an air of mystery which ‘Feral Inversion’ punctures with a melodic yet brutal double kick attack. Main influences seem to be Soilwork, along with some more modern thrash bands. The guitarwork is strong, and there are some great fluid soloing sections. Too many bands have wrecked the term ‘melodic death metal’ by being goddamn mediocre. Odium are both melodic and deathly, and it works so well.

Like Necrocosm before them this year, Odium are showing the world that death metal can still be brutal and contain melodies that keep you addicted. Listen to the rabid fury of ‘Centipedes’, or the soaring ‘Return to Form’ to show just how both elements can gel seemlessly. ‘Terraform’ is a solid album of memorable yet interesting and complex metal songs. There are subtle nuances to the formula, like the gothic piano intro to the chugging ‘Dead’, or the scathing Hypocrisy-esque ‘Failure II’. Andrew Fullerton’s clean vocals aren’t grating in anyway, and his growl is impressively variable.

‘Terraform’ may be a last minute addition to my favourite albums this year. They remind me of how I felt the first time I heard Scar Symmetry; a band who can meld heavy and melody without breaking a sweat. Odium are killer, and if you appreciate well formed metal that’ll infect your brain with tunes, this is the one.

Originally published here:

I used to review a lot more for The Sleeping Shaman than I do now, simply to help Lee out when he needs reviews done. He gave me a good break into writing, a place to work on my style and my prose. My blog has taken off to an extent now, and with all the review requests I get, I find it harder and harder to do stuff for him. But I love The Sleeping Shaman, because it brings me such great doom records I’d have never found otherwise.

This one is a lot shorter than I normally do for him, as I only had eight minutes of music to write about! You should definitely check it out though.

Owl - Aeon Cult

‘Aeon Cult’ is shorter than some of Owl’s previous songs, let alone releases! This EP is the third release in a year from Owl, following on from ‘Into the Absolute’ and ‘The Last Walk’ in 2014. It continues their progression through the weirder fringes of doom.

Opener ‘The Abyss’ brings jangling discord to a crushing riff pattern, adopting an almost Meshuggah type groove within a monolithic doom framework. Churning heaviness plunders new depths, and the ethereal weirdness of ‘Ravage’ bellows with primal thunder. The slow and deliberate percussive assault underpins the groove and provides a base for each lumbering, tectonic riff. You can almost imagine yourself becoming that album cover, as each uneasy riff is piped into your brain. Your face contorts, attempting to understand just why you feel sick but yet mesmerised.

The stomping ‘Mollusk Prince’ closes the EP with a flourish; an unstoppable juggernaut of doom that comes on slow but steady, relentless, unbreakable. It’s difficult to explain what is so good about this EP. It’s almost painfully short for the style, to the point where you’re totally ready to fall into the void and follow the path it is taking you. Then it’s over. The good thing is, if you put it straight back on, the feeling remains. Each listen reveals new strangeness in the background of the music. Odd effects loom in the murk, while the slightly manic vocal delivery gives you an extra dose of brutality.

‘Aeon Cult’ is probably too short to jump up anyone’s best of lists at the end of the year. But I’ll tell you what, Owl have this addictive, sickening groove and an eerie, esoteric ambience about their riffing that is captivating. Short but ultimately, supremely sweet.

Cryptopsy - The Book of Suffering (Tome 1)

Ah Cryptopsy. Canadian technical death metal legends and pioneers. Creators of some of metal’s most dazzlingly brutal and stunning complex albums, their recent history is a little more spotty. 2008’s ‘The Unspoken King’ was roundly trounced by the press, but 2012’s self titled album was better received. Will the first tome of ‘The Book of Suffering’ regain them more fans?

Opener ‘Detritus (The One They Kept)’ launches into blasting, twisting death metal carnage. Juddering time changes switch between a sickening groove and serious blasting. This is more like the Cryptopsy of old, with impossibly complex patterns crushing all before them. I have to say, I’m impressed. ‘The Knife, the Head and What Remains’ is a thrashing, flailing piece of extremity. For all their recent sins, the band’s critics cannot fault ‘The Book of Suffering: Tome 1’ for its reignition of the technical death metal flame.

‘Halothane Glow’ and closer ‘Framed By Blood’ are two more slabs of insanely complex and technical death metal songs. Nothing works better than Cryptopsy in full flow, and their essence has returned here. The brutality and intricacies mesh so well that if this was from a band with much less of a legendary pedigree, we’d all be hailing them as the next big thing. ‘The Book of Suffering : Tome 1’ is an excellent start, let’s hope Cryptopsy continue along this path to redemption