Posts Tagged ‘Totem’

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.


Zgard - Totem

A Ukrainian one man pagan black metal project? That’s Drudkh isn’t it? Well, no, apparently that model of music seems to be very popular in the frozen forests of eastern Europe, and here we have Zgard, whose fifth album, ‘Totem’ weaves a raging torrent of black metal with Slavic folklore and woodwind to create a tribute to the Veles, ancient Slavic god of sorcerors. Sounds esoteric, doesn’t it?

But that is all nonsense if the music doesn’t match up. After a moody and thoroughly menacing intro raises images of forest rituals and ancient incantations, ‘Land of Legends’ thrusts you headlong into that icy world of centuries past, where thudding blastbeats and thrumming guitar meet flute and scathing vocals. ‘Descendants of the Thunder’ rumbles like its namesake, with a satisfying thickness to its riffing. There’s a pagan influence on here that is subtle, not overbearing. The music stops at points to let chanting through, ethereal sections that enhance the ancient worship on display here.

The title track is the most Drudkh like, especially in its simply brilliant intro. Zgard take a fuller, more rounded sound that Drudkh do, and it benefits them immensely I think, allowing their sound to gain a bit of power and a sense of scale. The melancholy paganism of ‘Sorrow’ and the howling torrent of ‘Forgive Us Nature’ showcases the diversity of Zgard’s music, who can shift seamlessly from emotional acoustics to scathing blackened fury.

‘Totem’ is an excellent album that highlights just why pagan black metal is so good when done right. Zgard unleash every weapon in their arsenal to create music that is affecting on primal and personal levels. I love it, and so should you.