Here are my favorite releases of 2016 … SO FAR.

Seven Sisters Of Sleep – Ezekiel’s Hags (Relapse)
Abrasive sludge and doom with sweet riffs and a fully-focused approach to their arrangements that doesn’t drag on like a certain labelmate’s (rhymes with “waves at me”) album also released this year. <Bandcamp>

Primitive Weapons – The Future Of Death (Party Smasher Inc)
Building further on one of my favorite 2012 releases, this Brooklyn mainstay pumps out another release with infectious, 90’s post-hardcore riffs and anthems. <Bandcamp>

Mars Red Sky – APEX III, Praise For The Burning Soul (Listenable)
Delicious, psychedelic French doom laced with ghostly vocals for fans of early Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Melvins, and Tame Impala. Self-described in the latest Decibel as “Simon Sabbath” and “Black Garfunkel”. <Bandcamp>

Orannsi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä (20 Buck Spin)
On the topic of psychedelics, nobody will force the journey to the center of the mind quite like this Finnish avant-garde quintet. Lose yourself in the cosmos. <Bandcamp>

UADA – Devoid Of Light (Eisenwald)
This Portland band is the new torchbearer of raw black metal, but the added groove, production, and melody is what turned my head. The change at the 3:30 mark of the title track (above) is worth the price alone. <Bandcamp>

Obsidian Kingdom – A Year With No Summer (Season Of Mist)
Gorgeous prog-rock from Barcelona that paints a dark and somber, post-apocalyptic soundscape. Centerpiece “The Kandinsky Group” is a must listen. <Bandcamp>

Herder – Fergean (Reflections)
Hard-hitting Dutch sludge and doom that crushes with head-noddin’, upbeat rock riffers as well as evil, drag-in-the-mud slowburners. FFO early Mastodon. <Noisey stream>

Zhrine – Unortheta (Season Of Mist)
Iceland has been knockin’ it out of the park lately, and this release is no exception. Perfect blend of black, death, and post-metal with an extremely versatile vocalist. <Bandcamp>

Spotlights – Tidals (Crowquill)
Whether you’re a fan of indie rock, shoegaze, doom, alternative, sludge, or just all things heavy and post-whatever, this larger-than-life, wall-of-sound album will rattle your brain and shake your bones. <Bandcamp>

Poison Headache – S/T (Metal Blade)
Intense and destructive metallic hardcore that harkens back to the 90’s with its bruising buzzsaw guitars, get-in-the-pit riffs, and bone-crushing breakdowns. FFO: Trap Them, Black Breath, Converge. <Bandcamp>

Wode – S/T (Broken Limbs)
Visceral British black metal that hits hard right out of the starting gate. It’s an extremely promising debut with a rich production. “Plagues Of Insomnia” has been my go-to when I need a “hot single” to jam. <Bandcamp>

Entropia – Ufonaut (Arachnophobia)
If anyone is getting tired of black metal, look no further than this Polish outfit for the most unique take on the genre. The 4:15 mark of “Mandala” ignites black metal into outer space. Batshit-crazy great stuff. <Bandcamp>

Cough – Still They Pray (Relapse)
Sure, hearing “Virginia” and “sludge/doom” together may seem overdone, but Cough has been around a while and is the mainstay for a reason. The melancholy arrangements and the desperate, throaty vocals of Parker Chandler are not to be ignored. <Bandcamp>

Weekend Nachos – Apology (Relapse)
While this may not be my favorite album of theirs, it’s a great way to go out for one of the best powerviolence/grind bands out there. This Chicago destructive force will be grossly missed! <Bandcamp>

Ecferus – Pangaea (I, Voidhanger)
I am not one for having much patriotic pride, but I’ll be damned when a black metal release of this caliber comes from the US, from one person, and from INDIANA. So much promise, and this over-achieving a-hole still has another “mini-album” soon to be released. Midwest pride? Definitely. <Bandcamp>

Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner (Indie Recordings)
I’ve been a fan of vocalist Julie Christmas since her time in noise/sludge band Made Out Of Babies, so this was an obvious must-listen for me, and the collaboration with glacial-paced, Swedish behemoths COL could not be a more fitting, heavenly match.

Sealclubber – Stoical (Medusa Crush Recordings)
Unfortunate name, but this is a pretty impressive debut from the UK, mixing sludge, crust, and hardcore into an expansive but digestible package. Highlight “Vows Of Silence” will win over any Neurosis fan. <Bandcamp>

No Vale Nada – Demain (self-released)
Tasty, chaotic hardcore with plenty of Converge undertones that locks a fierce vise grip and refuses to let go until its half-hour of spastic destruction is complete. <Bandcamp>

Église – S/T (Angry Music)
If they haven’t already, this Danish hardcore band should tour with No Vale Nada (France), because their attack is equally fierce and relentless. Centerpiece “Have I Become Hell” is one powerful slowburn.  <Bandcamp>

Oaken – King Beast (Alerta Antifascista)
MAMMOTH-sounding blend of experimental psych/sludge/doom that will warp the mind, tingle the spine, and caress the soul. As the running theme of the bands featured here, this is ANOTHER debut showing impressive maturity. <Bandcamp>


So those are my favorite 20 albums of 2016… so far. I’m missing a couple, I know. Some were just released (Vukari). Some came out a little while ago, but I have yet to digest (Schammasch). And I’m on the fence with others (Nails, Cobalt).

Most of the above albums are streaming on my Spotify playlist. Contact me at my Facebook, Twitter, or Bandcamp pages.

Before I leave, I didn’t get into this album as a whole, but this song and video is the goddamn best so it has to be on this list somewhere. MJ dancing at the end really gets the waterworks going!

Thanks for reading!





1.  Deafheaven    New Bermuda
2. Vattnet Viskar Settler
3. Bell Witch Four Phantoms
4. Infera Bruo In Conjuration
5. Dead to a Dying World Litany
6. VI De praestgiis angelorum
7.  IZAH Sistere
8.  Der Weg Einer Freiheit Stellar
9.  Mispyrming Songvar elds og oreidu
10 Horrendous Anareta
11 Tribulation Children of the Night
12 Mgla Exercises in Futility
13 Wiegedood  De Doden Hebben Het Goed
14 Amestigon Thier
15 Locrian Infinite Dissolution
16 Abyssal Antikatastaseis
17 Minsk The Crash & The Draw
18 Panopticon Autumn Eternal
19 Barshasketh Aphidian honosis
20 Murg Varg & Bjorn
21 False.  Untitled
22 Vanum Realm of Sacrifice
23 Elder Lore
24 Leviathan Scar Sighted
25 Desolate Shrine Heart of the Netherworld
26 Slugdge Dim & Slimeridden Kingdoms
27 Sivyj Yar  Burial Shrouds
28 Vargnatt Grausammler
29 Fluisteraars Luwte
30 Bosse de Nage All fours.
32 Swarm of the Sun The Rifts
33 Vallendusk Homeward Path
34 Sannhet  Revisionist
35 Grift  Syner
36 Dynfari Vegferd timans
37 Sulphur Aeon Gateway to the Antisphere
38 Nevoa Absence of void
39 Hope Drone Cloak of Ash
40 Obsequiae Aria of vernal tombs
41 Gravsang La Dine Taarer Livet Begrave
42 Antlers A Gaze into the the Abyss
43 Akhlys The Dreaming I
44 A Forest of Stars   Beware the Sword You Cannot See
45 Krallice Ygg Huur
46 Yautja Songs of Lament
47 Spectral Wound Terra Nullius
48 Howls of Ebb The Marrow Veil
49 Enisum Apitanian Lands
50 Ecferus Prehistory

1.      Deafheaven – New Bermuda
2.      Vattnet Viskar – Settler
3.      Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar
4.      Desolate Shrine – The Heart of the Netherworld
5.      Misthyrming – Songvar elds og oreidu
6.      Mgla – Exercises in Futility
7.      Infera Bruo – In Conjuration
8.      Amestigon – Thier
9.      VI – De Praestgiis Angelorum
10.     Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
11.     False – Untitled
12.     Vallendusk – Homeward Path
13.     Izah – Sistere
14.     Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed
15.     Minsk – The Crash and the Draw
16.     Tempel – The Moon Lit Our Path
17.     Vargnatt – Grausammler
18.     Dead to a Dying World – Litany
19.     Au-Dessus – Au-Dessus
20.     Bosse-de-Nage – All Fours
21.     Tribulation – The Children of the Night
22.     A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See
23.     Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
24.     *Yautja – Songs of Lament
25.     Antlers – A Gaze into the Abyss
26.     Azavatar – Azavatar
27.     Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis
28.     Akhlys – The Dreaming I
29.     Infesting Swarm – Desolation Road
30.     Ultha – Pain Cleanses Every Doubt
31.     Slugdge – Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms
32.     Horrendous – Anareta
33.     Murg – Varg & Bjorn
34.     The Order of Apollyon – The Sword and the Dagger
35.     Abyssal – Antikatastaseis
36.     Fluisteraars – Luwte
37.     Crom Dubh – Heimweh
38.     Dynfari – Vegferd Timans
39.     Lluvia – Eternidad Solemne
40.     A Swarm of the Sun – The Rifts
41.     Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
42.     Spectral Wound – Terra Nullius
43.     Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
44.     Grift – Syner
45.     Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the Antisphere
46.     Sannhet – Revisionist
47.     *Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament
48.     Sivyj Yar – Burial Shrouds
49.     Leviathan – Scar Sighted
50.     Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

1. MARLON WILLIAMS – Marlon Williams
2. OTHER LIVES – Rituals
3. CASPIAN – dust and disquiet
4. FOALS – what went down
5. KURT VILE – b’lieve i’m going down
6. BEACH HOUSE – depression cherry
7. SAN FERMIN – jackrabbit
8. JAMIE XX – in colour
9. SUFJAN STEVENS – carrie and lowell
10. TAME IMPALA – currents

1))) VHOL – Deeper Than Sky
2))) Elder – Lore
3))) Infera Bruo – In Conjuration
4))) Slugdge – Dim And Slimeridden Kingdoms
5))) Minsk – The Crash And The Draw
6))) Tribulation – The Children Of The Night
7))) Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar
8))) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
9))) Vattnet Viskar – Settler
10))) VI – De Praestigii Angelorum
Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death
Ur Draugr – With Hunger Undying
Yautja – Songs Of Lament
Fight Amp – Constantly Off
Fuck The Facts – Desire Will Rot
Monolord – Vaenir
Mutoid Man – Bleeder
Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess
Planks – Perished Bodies
Call Of The Void – Ageless
Ghost – Meliora
Plaguewielder-  Succumb To The Ash
The Clearing Path – Watershed Between Earth And Firmament
Moloken – All Is Left To See
Abigail Williams – The Accuser
Krallice – Ygg Hur
Lucifer – I
Black Fast – Terms Of Surrender
Sweet Cobra – Earth

Posted in: Lists by Justin No Comments



Another great year of music! I have to give shouts to metal friends Matt and Eric, who turned me onto a good chunk of the material below (especially the black metal). I normally would have listened once and passed, but when someone you know, and whose tastes you respect, gives a nudge, it’s a welcomed push. On that same point, there are countless albums I wish I could have given more time.

Starting off with honorable mentions:
Cloud Rat – Qliphoth (Dead Tank)
MAKE – The Golden Veil (self-released)
Behold! The Monolith – Architects Of The Void (Arctic Forest)
Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Ipecac)
Abrams – Lust. Love. Lost. (self-released)
Ruby The Hatchet – Valley Of The Snake (Tee Pee)
Torche – Restarter (Relapse)
Myrkur – M (Relapse)
Author & Punisher – Melk En Honing (Housecore)
Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed (Consouling Sounds)

The following 30 are in no particular order, save for the top 10:

Sweet Cobra – Earth (Magic Bullet)
I was introduced to Sweet Cobra about ten years ago with their monstrous debut, Praise, and bassist/vocalist Botchy’s threatening, “It’s too late to run motherfucker!” Their hardcore/sludge has evolved into full-on post-indie/rock while maintaining their trademark down-tuned guitars and thunderous drums. “Future Ghosts” is a blistering stomper and great reintroduction to the band, “Sunburned Sons” has riffs and twists galore, and closer “Walls” sends it off on a high note. Sweet Cobra forever.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Black Fast – Terms Of Surrender (eOne)
There needs to be one really good thrash album on a metalhead’s year-end list (sorry, Revocation). Last year was Iron Reagan for me, and this year, there’s no better contender than St. Louis’s own Black Fast. And yes, they play as their name suggests! Shrieking vocals, shredding guitars, galloping double-kicks, and fist-pumping numbers like “To Propagate The Void” and “I Conspire” to close the book on the so-called “revival” fad. With Black Fast around, this shit will never die.

Stream the rest at Noisey.

Lucifer – I (Rise Above)
Occult-metal is something I usually shrug off, but this one got a considerable amount of buzz so I watched the promo video for “Izrael”. The chunky guitars and the soar-to-the-skies chorus reeled me in right away. Whatever I say could depict any band in this oversaturated genre, but seriously that chorus! Ahhhhhh AAHHHHHHH ahhhhhh.. Takes it to another level! The rest of album equally delivers with ethereal, eerie, doomy rock (shoot, there I went with the typical adjectives).

Krallice – Ygg Hur (self-released)
It took me a while, and their previous albums never clicked, but I like to think I’m close to understanding Krallice. Their dizzying technical black metal is all over the place, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t want to come back to it, just to discover something new each listen. And I’m all about a metal release where you can actually hear some sick bass guitar in the mix. Choice cuts: “Wastes Of Ocean”, “Tyranny Of Thought”.

Abigail Williams – The Accuser (Candlelight)
I almost missed this one because I always thought this band was a crappy symphonic metal/deathcore band. Turns out, I was not mistaken. Many lineup and sonic changes later, they put out one hell of a psychedelic/post-rock black metal album. In the same league as Nachtmystium were in their heyday, equally capable of blasting as they are with a somber, driving serenade. Choice cuts: “Forever Kingdom Of Dirt”, “Godhead”.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Moloken – All Is Left To See (Temple Of Torturous)
Swedish sludge mixed with atmospheric, post-hardcore, and black metal accents. It’s very progressive and experimental but tightly wrapped in a 30-minute package. Some songs don’t quite resolve but rather are woven into the next so the entire album flies by. The bass has loud percussive clangs, the vocals and guitars are super aggressive, and even some awesome 90’s grunge sound makes its way into the banger “I Dig Deeper”.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

The Clearing Path – Watershed Between Earth And Firmament (Avantgarde Music)
This was a very refreshing black metal release for me, and hard to fathom it’s the superb talent of one Italian dude. Sound is huge and the songwriting worms its way around effortlessly. Harsh vocals, clean vocals, shredding and acoustic guitars, keyboard and string touches.. he uses everything in the book to create a deep, dark, and extremely emotional experience, closing it all with one of the most gd beautiful things I ever did hear! (“This River Will Carry Me Towards The Grandest Light”)

Plaguewielder – Succumb To The Ash (Dullest)
I guess I’m a sucker for sprinkled keyboards over my blackened sludge. This Ohio band can lay down a filthy southern-style riff one track and then drift off the Earth with some fantastic piano interludes the next. The album circles around the Tibetan Book Of The Dead and as you will witness with the “Palms Of The Earth” video and the accompanying dirge, the world is a messed up place! This is a wonderful slab of doom and grime. Mmmm!

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Ghost – Meliora (Loma Vista)
I don’t know if they’ll ever hit EVERYTHING out of the park, but they came pretty close with Meliora. Everyone has an opinion on these guys, but I’ll never get tired of the imagery or showmanship, or most importantly, the wonderfully-crafted songs.  “Cirice” is my song of the year, “From The Pinnacle To The Pit” is one heavy-hitting growler, “He Is” is the sexiest satanic ballad, and nothing churns my insides quite like “Mummy Dust”. Cry for absolution! ALL HAIL GHOST.

Stream the rest of the album here.

Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V. (Prosthetic)
I know any time I come across England’s Dragged Into Sunlight, it’s going to be an extremely unnerving, uncomfortable listen. 2012’s Widowmaker completely ruled my being for some time, and this year’s collaboration with industrial/noise/mess wizard Gnaw Their Tongues has proven another opportunity to make everyone squirm. Just plain aggressive, exposing, disgusting madness with serial killer testimonies as interludes (because, of course?). “Alchemy In The Subyear” has that kind of outro that will haunt your dreams.

Call Of The Void – Ageless (Relapse)
Last year I was spoiled with great hardcore releases like Trap Them and Baptists, and this year has been pretty all right too! Thanks to Denver’s Call Of The Void, who kicked off the year with a blistering release. Aside from two short interludes (to catch a breath), this one doesn’t let up at all. The crust, grind, and d-beat is murderous, and I don’t think I’ve ever lost my shit more than the unveiling of the final breakdown during “Ageless”. Ughhhhhh!

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Planks – Perished Bodies (Golden Antenna)
This is the final album from the German sludge/doom trio, and they definitely leave on a high note. Or low note, as Perished Bodies is pretty dark stuff, the third part of a “self-invoked apocalypse” concept. Aside from the heavy-as-brick guitars and drums, there’s some wondrous floating moments (“Only Now”) and a sweet darkwave jam in the form of “She Is Alone”. Must hear: “The Sacrifist, Pt. 1 (Through Dirge And Death)”.

Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess (Manatee Rampage)
This one hooked me right from the start. Similar to Converge-style hardcore, with the fist-pumping guitars and Rae Amitay’s vicious screaming, except with an unlimited supply of blast beats. It barely lets up at all during its 31-minute running time. Death, black, crust, sludge, punk, thrash, grind, hardcore: just come get at this! Chaos and desperation never sounded better. Choice cuts: “Neoplastic”, “The Sycophant”.

Mutoid Man – Bleeder (Sargent House)
MM is one non-stop riff machine, and every frantic change feels like it’s going to fall off the rails, but that shit isn’t happening with Converge’s Ben Koller behind the kit (perhaps metal’s best drummer). Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky noodles like crazy but does so in a head-bang-along fashion. No flash, just an extreme outpouring of rock, groove, and tight-as-hell punk prowess. Just try to keep up! Choice cuts: “Soft Spot In My Skull”, “Reptilian Soul”.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Monolord – Vænir (RidingEasy)
If you told me I’d be all about a epic doom band with lots of fuzz (as others have described), I would have said, “no way”. ‘Fuzz’ is a misconception. It’s so much more. It’s dirty, crunchy, and massive; sounds like an army. There’s little stoner jamming happening here (also a big turnoff of mine), just heavy, wall-shaking riffs. If you like doom (or even if you sometimes like doom), there’s no passing on this Swedish gem.

Fuck The Facts – Desire Will Rot (Noise Salvation)
This Ottawa band always slays. I always try to follow what guitarist/founder Topon Das is doing with his Apartment 2 Studio because his shit always sounds great. This is obviously no exception. Their chaotic grindcore is thick as bricks, and I’ll never tire of the way Mel Mongeon and Marc Bourgon trade menacing screams. Never to put the same album (or EP, split, whatever bountiful releases they have), their progressive, experimental side shines here with abysmal closer, “Nothing Changes”.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Fight Amp – Constantly Off (Brutal Panda)
When you want to hear some gnarly, aggressive guitar tone and heavy, sludgy riffs, you listen to this. They get labeled noise rock, but I think that’s more of a 90’s grunge influence everyone is hearing. It’s just great, driving, full-on rock music with loud instruments and howling vocals. I even fell (super hard) for the gradual increasing tempo at the album’s end on “Happy Joyful Life” (video). Oh man did I ever fall for it.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Yautja – Songs Of Lament (Forcefield)
This is a continuation of last year’s awesome and personal favorite, Songs Of Descent. I couldn’t get enough bone-crushing sludge, crust, and grind, and while this one is an EP (over the 20-min mark, thanks to hypnotic closer “Crumbling”), it still has plenty to offer and satisfy those looking for loud and destructive riffs and earth-shattering barking vocals. Caught these guys on tour earlier in the year, and they blew minds and eardrums. So good!

Ur Draugr – With Hunger Undying (ATMF)
List decisions can become confusing with the non-stop flow of albums, especially when they’re released the first week of December. Just when you think you have it locked down, something out of left field like Australia’s Ur Draugr hits with an exciting twist on death metal. While it’s a challenging listen, it’s never TOO much. I always found myself coming back to relive traumatic moments like the title track and “Augur Incarnate” and the darkly beautiful “Solace Within Torpor”. Don’t let this one pass you by! Also, I can’t stop staring at this gorgeous artwork.

Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death (Southern Lord)
I was a bit reluctant to this one at first, as I really enjoyed Black Breath’s hardcore crust sound. They shed that for a more death metal attack here, but thankfully they didn’t shed the buzzsaw “MT-2” guitar tone we all know and love. Nor are there any shortage of fist-pumping riffs. “Slaves Beyond Death” and “A Place Of Insane Cruelty” come stomping right out of the gate, and as a whole, the eight songs are more developed in length and structure. I welcome this new Black Breath incarnate!

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

#10))) VI – De Praestigii Angelorum (Agonia)
If you want some black metal without any of the pretty interludes, and if you want your black metal to sound raw without sounding like it’s playing through a telephone, you go to this French band. It’s a hard-hitting attack, all killer no filler, and as a result, the songs hover around the 5-minute mark, instead of your average 10 or 15. My favorite track “Il est trop tard pour rendre gloire…” sums up the psycho chaos freakout best, where that snare drum is just running laps around everybody.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.


#9))) Vattnet Viskar – Settler (Century Media)
Probably the saddest album art ever presented, Vattnet Viskar says Settler is inspired by themes surrounding the 1986 Challenger explosion. So, as you can imagine, there are feelings of hope as well as despair and tragedy scattered throughout. The production is very much black metal, maybe a little bit too compressed at times, but ultimately this is larger than life, heavy as can be, atmospheric doom. Choice cuts: “Yearn“, “Settler“.

#8))) Deafheaven – New Bermuda (Anti-)
This is another album that’s been written about to death, so I’ll be brief. I never got Sunbather, and I went into New Bermuda with very low expectations. Yeah their formula; *that* scream and the “pretty” post-rock moments peppered with blast beats. But this clicked. I love the heavy parts, but I find myself clamoring for those majestic moments too. The best part is they’re sliced right into the song so you’re not stuck listening to some hokey interlude. It’s all dark as hell though. “Baby Blue” really cuts to the core, and that change at the 3-min mark of “Come Back”.

#7))) Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar (Season Of Mist)
German black metal! But it’s not what you’d normally expect. The first blasts don’t even occur until five minutes into the opening track. When they’re not blasting and tremolo picking, they’re creating a dark and bleak but painfully melodic atmosphere without any of the shoegaze or post-genre tags. If you missed this earlier in the year, there’s no better time than the bitter cold winter to become acquainted. Choice cuts: “Repulsion”, “Eiswanderer”.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

#6))) Tribulation – The Children Of The Night (Century Media)
Despite all the rave reviews for this awesome Swedish group, I am not new to the bandwagon. I was all about their 2013 release, The Formulas Of Death, and how they injected such craft songwriting and psychedelics into an album that went well against said formula. Children continues on those theatrics and creates another enjoyable, mysterious ride. “Själaflykt” and “Cauda Pavonis” could easily be part of a demented film score, and “Strange Gateways Beckon” will always give me the willies.

#5))) Minsk – The Crash And The Draw (Relapse)
Out of all the heavy and emotional metal albums released this year, Minsk is the one that made me feel ALL the feelings. I’m talking goosebumps, eyes in the back of your head, hair on the back of your neck, spine-tingling convulsions. At seventy-five minutes in length, it’s a long journey but the rewards are there, even if they don’t appear until the final two minutes of a song (“The Way Is Through”). There’s no denying the gorgeous, gigantic production, allowing all the psychedelic and doom layers to flourish with those monstrous tribal drums. Must hear: “Within And Without”.

#4))) Slugdge – Dim And Slimeridden Kingdoms (self-released)
Just two dudes from the UK; self-produced, self-recorded, self-released. All songs are slug-themed and punny, but this is no novelty band. There is considerable amount of depth here. All tracks expertly mix grind and black metal into their brand of death, but there’s plenty of idealistic prog arrangements and memorable riffs that had me coming back over and over again. See “The Toxic Salts” or “Pellet In The Head” for prime examples. Oh, and all of this goodness is available for download at “name your price”. I love these guys! And the mollusks, of course.

#3))) Infera Bruo – In Conjuration (Bindrune/Eihwaz)
This is the highest-placing black metal release on my list, and it’s because Boston’s Infera Bruo is the complete package. Much like a USBM personal favorite WOE, Infera Bruo blasts like hell but they also know when to let it breathe. When THAT riff on “Proclamation – Part III” hits, you’ll know what I’m talking about (I absolutely lose my shit). Vocals are nasty at times, clean at others, and the keyboard inflections are not overly symphonic but a welcome companion, and altogether it’s a rich-sounding production. Also see “Send My Ashes North”.

Stream the rest above or on Bandcamp.

#2))) Elder – Lore (Armageddon Shop)
Heavy prog, psychedelic space, classic post-metal, whatever you want to call it… this is a massive album. Just don’t fucking call it stoner rock because that desert bullshit (most of it anyway) doesn’t hold a light to this overpowering trio. It might harken back to the early 00’s with intricate Mastodon and Baroness tendencies, but this isn’t soft at all. The songs are long, but the “jams” (again, excuse any negative connotations) are so well done, and they’re just monsters! This album’s hour just flies by.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

#1))) VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky (Profound Lore)
Well, they did it again. This awesome band’s debut was my #1 of 2013, and they delivered another METAL OF ALL METAL albums. Deeper Than Sky just makes me feel ALIVE. It’s all because of the band. They all might be my favorite respective musicians in the genre. I love John Cobbett’s guitar tone and soaring leads. I could listen to Aesop Dekker gallop all day long. And Mike Scheidt is the most versatile vocalist in metal. He can growl and bark like a beast in YOB, but in VHÖL , he can reach Rob Halford levels. They really built further upon their debut here with the twists and turns of the 12-minute title track, and then there’s “Paino”. THRASH PIANO. Thank you, VHÖL , for not being a one-off supergroup release.


Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback via email (“justin @ goodshakes.com”) or Facebook page. The albums that are available for streaming on Spotify are available here.

Cheers to 2015! Happy 2016!



Another year gone already? Ugh, well, instead of reflecting, dwelling, or making excuses with my life or this abandoned website, I’d like to inform you of my favorite albums from the year. To save myself from the arduous task at hand, the only album that’s ACTUALLY ranked of the following 30 is #1 (see bottom of page). Let’s get to it!

And if you want to listen as you read, all albums (save for one) can be found on my Spotify playlist.

Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (Dark Descent)
This anonymous Canadian trio does what you’d expect from a North American black metal band… tremolo picking, shrieking vocals, blast beats. What they do to set themselves apart from their peers is the well-arranged, melodic atmospheric sprinkles between the chaos. Gregorian chants and a somber string section all poke and hit where it hurts. It’s depressing at times, catchy at even more times, and as a breath of fresh air in the BM community: it doesn’t sound like lo-fi, tinny, cassette-quality shit!

Divider – All Barren (Glory Kid Limited)
NYC hardcore with plenty of crust, sludge, and doom to administer a swift half-hour of relentless punishment. It’s some angry shit all right, but they really show off their dynamic arrangements with the dark ‘n gloomy “Viscera”, and man alive, if you stick around for the finale, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with “Silently Marching”, a driving, somber anthem that might actually invoke a feeling of hope, albeit a small one. If nothing else, it showcases their diverse approach to hardcore and presents a creative segue to another album.

YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot)
With the mighty YOB, you know you’re going to get the bonecrushing doom with thunderous drums, downtuned guitars, and Mike Scheidt’s versatile arsenal of melodic screeches. While the four songs presented here aren’t exactly reinventing the machine, nothing grabbed me in a fierce chokehold this year like the ominous gallops of “Nothing To Win”. It’s loud, BIG, and had me on nonstop repeated listens. Top the album off with a beautiful, majestic, heavy song like “Marrow” and you have another 2014 “winner“.

The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader (Heavenly Recordings)
Arctic Monkeys meets Jack White and Nirvana. Psychedelic-surf-garage-grunge, whatever you want to call it, I’m a sucker for the slew of egyptian riffs being haplessly thrown about, courtesy of this British trio debut’s album. “Digsaw” might sound a bit too reminiscent of “Love Buzz”, but that’s not Nirvana’s song anyway so you can’t fault them for it. The band really gels during intoxicating jams like “Gravedweller” and “Robe For Juda” without sounding too kitschy.

Moab – Billow (Scion AV)
This SoCal trio provided a powerful followup to a 2011 year-end favorite, Av Ovo. They continue the spiritual classic rock vibe, but really it comes down to the low-end guitar and high-pitched vocals, which have only gotten better with time. It has a “desert” feel to it without going too far off the stoner deep end (“Nothing Escapes”), and “Whittled Away” serves as a reminder that rock will never die. Oh, and the melancholy “No Soul” just oozes DEEP-ROOTED EMOTIVE METAL. Something for everyone, folks.

Download and stream for free from Scion AV.

Raspberry Bulbs – Privacy (Blackest Ever Black)
Well this one certainly caught me by surprise. On one end of the spectrum, there’s the punk and garage sound, packed with power chords and four-on-the-floor drums. But goddamn does this sound evil as hell, with the black metal vocals, lo-fi recording approach, and horror musical interludes. Highlight of the album: “Light Surrounds Me” is just a scorcher of a track; it’ll make you want to run everyone off the highway with your middle finger proudly waving behind.

Iron Reagan – The Tyranny Of Will (Relapse)
I caught these guys at Dark Lord Day back in April, and they described their band as “sensual thrash”. Of course they won over the beer-loving crowd in a matter of moments – what else do you expect from a group featuring dudes from Municipal Waste? This one was just an overall infectious thrash album for me, from the “flash mosh” video above “Miserable Failure” (SO GOOD) to blistering songs like “Bleeding Frenzy” and “In Greed We Trust”. And let’s not forget the ever-popular “Your Kid’s An Asshole” (the best 12 seconds, especially at DLD). I just hope it’s not “Four More Years” ’til the next one.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Lazer/Wulf – The Beast Of Left And Right (Retro Futurist)
I might have passed on this incredible release because I read reports of an instrumental technical metal band. It’s easy to jump to conclusions: wankery, show-offs, non-catchy riff after the next, but I’m really glad I didn’t sleep on this one. Sure, they’re technical, but every note feels like it belongs. It’s a lovely hodgepodge of genres, being more akin to Lightning Bolt than your run-of-the-mill djent bands. And there are vocals, just not very many. Also, the artwork and the music itself is supposed to resemble an intricate palindrome. Talk about some next-level shit! Plain and simple, this trio is damn good.

Code Orange – I Am King (Deathwish)
Another alum of my year-end list with their excellent release of 2012, Love Is Love//Return To Dust, Code Orange delivers again. While the previous release felt more like a “spastic live show set to tape”, I Am King is definitely more mature and cohesive. It still manages to harness their hardcore roots, but more in-depth grunge and shoegaze influences can be felt on “Dreams In Inertia” and “Starve”. But the rest of us be damned if we still don’t get caught in some of the slowest. breakdowns. ever.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Generation Of Vipers – Coffin Wisdom (Translation Loss)
Crusty, noisy, nasty, hardcore sludge from Knoxville. If you want to add any “post-” tags, feel free. It’s a raw and ugly album featuring ferocious barks teamed with some delicious distorted guitar and bass. It follows a midtempo feel throughout with some nice groove (“Dark Matter”), but there’s also some slow burners (“You Deserve This” & “Haunted”). It’s a beatdown for sure, but the closer “Crawling On The Ceiling” puts the bow on the box for me. Overall, a rock solid album with top-notch production.

Oozing Wound – Earth Suck (Thrill Jockey)
Now this is a METAL band. Equal parts doom and thrash and a whole-lotta-heavy, this Chicago trio rips and shreds all over their sophomore effort, Earth Suck. Look no further than that massive, hypnotic upbeat guitar riff on “Going Through The Motions Til I Die” (YES!), as it will snatch you up quicker than you know what hit ya. Add some satirical lyrical observations from such tongue-in-cheek tunes like “Colonel’s Kernel” and “Hippie Speedball”, this release is just a damn good time.

Myrkur – S/T (Relapse)
There was a lot of hype and mystique surrounding this one-woman-black metal project that proved it difficult to not pay attention. Technically an EP (but 25 mins in length so it’s longer than other LPs listed here), Myrkur is the perfect introduction to a project that I’ll be keeping tabs on for the future. It’s scary, majestic, heavy, serene, and dark. Take standout track “Nattens Barn” for example: starts off with just choir vocals before the blasts kick in, only to drop off for a quiet guitar riff and then rattle back into a pounding gallop of sorts. If this is just a sample of what’s to come, then I can’t wait for the finished product.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Atriarch – An Unending Pathway (Relapse)
Portland group blending metal with darkwave, goth, psychedelic, rock, doom, black metal, and punk, creating a big evil sound. The vocals are a combination of chants and good clean singing, thankfully not too akin to Bauhaus so you can leave the eyeliner at home. They really know how to twist one riff into something greater with “Collapse”, a snakecharmer of a song, and “Bereavement” really shows off their signature hybrid of blasts one minute and crushing doom the next. Best to listen to this one in the dead of the night.

Baptists – Bloodmines (Southern Lord)
Vancouver hardcore band back and destroying the sophomore slump with Bloodmines, an album that plays heavily to Converge’s dynamic of bruising, breakneck hardcore jams (“Harm Induction”, “Dissembler”) intertwined with slow and sludgy draggers like “Vistas” and the forever-be-doomed title track. The vocals are throaty and frantic, the drums are tight as fuck, and having Kurt Ballou as producer never hurts either. This one really packs a wallop in its twenty-five minutes of destruction.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Wizard Rifle – Here In The Deadlights (Seventh Rule)
This NYC-by-way-of-Portland group ranked pretty high on my 2012 list with their debut, Speak Loud Say Nothing, something that truly caught me by surprise with how many influences could be felt on any given song. The new one has definitely expanded on their signature sound, again injecting noise, punk, psychedelic, sludge, skronk, spazz !$%^@$# all the while churning out wondrous chants and harmonies. The dips and turns and creative fireworks can best be felt on the 9-minute opus “Psychodynamo”. A truly talented trio, these chaps.

Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World (Last Gang)
Whenever I was having a bummer day at work, I’d throw this album on. The hooks, the riffs, the grooves, THAT BASS TONE. It’s nothing revolutionary from the now 10-year-old classic You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, but there’s no denying the fun, stomping intensity of tracks like “Crystal Ball”, “Trainwreck 1979”, and my personal favorite, “Gemini”. Dance, headbang, or pump your fist to this good time.

Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings (Good To Die)
Some great Pacific Northwest rock here. Very loud, very metallic and noisy, and also very good use of dynamics. Take “You Look Smashing”, which the guitar just splatters all over the place while the bass holds the one-note down before exploding into a giant chorus of spazzy drums. I enjoy the simplicity, with just enough quirk, of the song arrangements that make it so easy to get on board. All in all, their sound is big, commanding, and abrasive as much as it is sweet, charming, and sassy.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Hark – Crystalline (Season Of Mist)
This one is a non-stop riff machine. Here we have a Welsh trio whom I can’t simply call stoner nor doom nor sludge metal, but they’re just heavy as can be. A wonderful rock trio, showing they can bring the groove back after thrashing about the madness on “Black Hole South West”. And really, nobody needs a better intro than the first sweet goddamn riff of the entire album, “Palendromeda” (sheeeeeit!). Let those beards fly proudly. Also, those vocals. THOSE VOCALS. Raise your glass to these gents, and “raise your gallows” to all the other humdrum out there.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Nux Vomica – S/T (Relapse)
With only three songs, each surpassing the ten-minute mark, you would think Portland’s Nux Vomica is a drony doom band, but rather they seamlessly mix hardcore, crust, sludge, death metal, black metal, and probably ten other metal subgenres. Each song is expertly crafted, maintains its intensity from start to finish, and as already mentioned, does not drag on whatsoever. I kept coming back to this one time and time again, and that won’t cease as we cross into 2015.

Take Over And Destroy – Vacant Face (self-released)
Barely a year has passed since TOAD’s last full-length, Endless Night, and that’s no small feat considering their mature songwriting and arrangements. I can’t say there’s a better way to describe them than they do: “An American rock & roll band from the 1970’s trapped inside of a Scandinavian metal band from the early 1990’s, scoring a John Carpenter film.” It’s a dark, spooky, haunting good time, all the while making sure there’s enough black ‘n roll to hold it together. But man, I’m a sucker for vocalist Andrew Leemont’s hybrid screams and deep ghoulish howls. And that goddamn organ. Those harmonized guitar leads… so much to explore here. As far as I’m concerned, any release of theirs will automatically land on my year-end list (2013, 2014, ???).

Trap Them – Blissfucker (Prosthetic)
Back with their filthy, gritty, and raw hardcore crust, Trap Them has given us fans what we’ve come to expect over the years: relentless and throaty screams, abrasive razorblade guitar tone, and another 45 minutes of absolute bangers. The riffs are plentiful in “Organic Infernal” and “Gift And Gift Unsteady”, but really it was the lengthy, slow-burning dirge (“Savage Climbers” and “Let Each Fall And Every Sedition Symptom”) that bowled me over this year. And ultimately, they are one of few current bands that have perfected the “black ‘n roll” sound.

Oxcross – Tree And Stone (Crown And Throne)
Salt Lake City band with bone-crunching sludge, well-arranged songs, and the high-intensity vocals and harmonies to top it all off. For those who were into the great BLACK SLEEP OF KALI (educate yourself!), your prayers have been answered. Highly recommended if you like your riffs meaty and guitar tone big and rumbling. I’ll only say they’re reminiscent of early Baroness and Mastodon to get you to listen to them, but they really forge their own sound on epic tracks like “Rising & Falling” and “Fiery Fields”.

Secret Cutter – S/T (self-released)
This trio plays a raw, uncompromising fury of sludge, doom, and grind. It’s just plain big ol’ mean and ugly. Once I heard the breakstop-weirdly-egyptian riff of “17.5 Dead Air”, I was instantly sold. There’s just this inexplicable energy and vibe painted all over Secret Cutter. They are certainly a unique and eclectic bunch, and really has me guessing where they’ll take the next album. The only downfall is that it ends all too soon. Don’t miss other hot tracks: “Vow Of Poverty” and “Shake The Malevolent”.

Kruger – Adam & Steve (Listenable)
It’s hard not to fall in love with this Swiss sludge band. First and foremost, their sound is big, loud, and an absolute wall of fury. But aside from that, get a load out of their latest video, whose meat-dancing premise is enough to make Peter Gabriel squirm. They’ve always straddled the satirical line, whether it be one of their first albums I heard, Built For Speed, a muscle car concept album, or Adam & Steve, which calls out right-wing homophobes. I dare you to not chant along to the outro of the title track or crack a smile when “look at all the hipsters eating from the tree” is bellowed on “Herbivores”. This is a different breed of sludge, and I can dig it.

Stream the rest on Bandcamp.

Yautja – Songs Of Descent (Forcefield)
This Nashville trio is a hodge-podge of hardcore, grind, death metal, crust, and sludge. They utilize their schizophrenic tendencies quite well, be it the blistering fast openers “Denihilist” and “Blinders” or the minute-long crusher “Concrete Tongue”. The mid-tempo crushers “Faith Resigned” and “Of Descent” are also not to be ignored. Neither is that drummer. Man alive, DUDE CAN PLAY. Complete metal package right here, folks.

Young Widows – Easy Pain (Temporary Residence Ltd)
They have always been known for being a little off-the-wall, but latest release Easy Pain brings more of the indie rock/stomp back. And you get that no-wave SONIC YOUTH vibe on the creeptastic yet foot-tappin’ track “Kerosene Girl”. This was honestly one of the most fun and interesting listens this year, and the production adds a mysterious element to the mix. It’s not necessarily “dark” per se, but it will definitely make your imagination run wild.

Stream “Kerosene Girl” here.

Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (Profound Lore)
Plenty has been written about the long-term, critically-acclaimed Agalloch, and while I always pressed “snooze” on them in the past, this latest release tones down the folk and ambient touches and ups the rock and metal, all without sacrificing their trademark sound. I was happy to have caught their excellent show at the High Noon Saloon earlier this year. Any opportunity to see and hear drummer Aesop Dekker is a delight. The “whisper screams” might annoy some, but the sheer gravity of tracks like “Vales Beyond Dimension” and “Dark Matter Gods” only demonstrate Agalloch’s will to continually push the limits of heavy metal.

Giant Squid – Minoans (Translation Loss)
As lush as it’s sinister, beautiful as it’s melancholy, San Fran’s Giant Squid has been infecting the metal community with their unique blend of emotive sludge/doom/gloom for the past decade. Armed with the traditional rock instrumentation as well as cello, pianos, and the most haunting set of vocal harmonies in heavy music, they vividly create the illusion of being swept away at sea or feeling the calm before the storm like in the super-builder “Sir Arthur Evans”. Lyrically, it’s a concept album based on the Bronze age civilization. So yeah, they are just as deep as their moniker suggests. And I haven’t even come close to fully digesting this magnificent, complex beast.

Bastard Sapling – Instinct Is Forever (Gilead Media/Forcefield)
This is one of those black metal albums that grabbed me from the get-go. First off, Bastard Sapling shares some of the members of INTER ARMA, one of my favorites from last year (their ep this year was good too!), and you can hear some of that “luscious waves of heavy” on some of the interludes like “Elder” and “Lantern At The End Of Time”. Speaking of the latter, it guest features WINDHAND’s Dorthia Cattrell in more of a prominent vocal role, and thank goodness for that. Other highlights while I’m on a stream of consciousness: THAT change around the 5-min mark of “The Opal Chamber”, the psycho chanting of “THERE IS A KILLER. IN US ALL”, and shit, I could listen to the outro of the album’s closer, “Forbidden Sorrow”, on endless repeat.


Stoneburner – Life Drawing (Neurot)
It happens every year. I hear one particular album, regardless of the time of the year, and I just know that nothing else will surpass come December. This is obviously that album. Hailing from Portand, Stoneburner is a relatively new band, and this is their second album, two years after their debut, Sickness Will Pass. I’ll admit I tried to get into that one, as all the elements were there, but it just wasn’t quite developed. I can’t even begin to describe how advanced Life Drawing sounds in comparison. At their very core, they are sludge and doom, but I’ll be damned if they don’t use every curveball in the book on this one. It’s quiet, it’s loud, one minute the vocals are barely whispering and the next they’re erupting into nightmarish screams. They’ll take you on a psychedelic ride through all the leaps and bounds only to smash you on the head halfway through a ten-minute gonzo journey (“Pale New Eyes”). The epitome of what I’m really getting at leads to the track “Done”, which begins with a mind-altering intro, akin to a Danny Elfman score, and from there it bounces this way and that and all over the place, all without question that this is some magical sludge.

So like I said, this album was released back in April, and I never doubted for a moment that Life Drawing would be my biggest takeaway from 2014. It’s unique, creative, horrific, crazy, and will be used as a benchmark for other bands in this heavy metal realm. HOORAY!


Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback (“justin @ goodshakes.com”) or my Facebook page. All of the albums above (except Moab) can be listened to in their entirety on my Spotify playlist.

Happy New Year!



So I’ve nearly neglected updating this website entirely, but in lieu of apologizing or explaining, I am going to briefly share my favorite releases through the mid-year point (yes, I realize July is past that point, but something is better than nothing?). This goes without saying, but click on the Bandcamp links for the full album streams and purchasing the music directly from the artists.

In no particular order…

Secret Cutter – Secret Cutter (self-released)
This trio plays a raw, uncompromising fury of sludge, doom, and grind. It’s just plain big ol’ mean and ugly. Highlights: “17.5 Dead Air”, “Vow Of Poverty”, and “Shake The Malevolent”.

Yautja – Songs Of Descent (Forcefield)
This Nashville trio is a hodge-podge of hardcore, grind, death metal, crust, and sludge. They utilize their schizophrenic tendencies quite well, be it the blistering fast openers “Denihilist” and “Blinders” or the minute-long crusher “Concrete Tongue”.

Drawers – Drawers (Kaotoxin)
Super-downtuned French sludge band that aligns themselves with the high-energy heaviness of TORCHE. There’s plenty of infectious, hook-laden, heavy-chuggin’ grooves. Good times.

Wild Throne – Blood Maker (Brutal Panda)
This Pacific Northwest trio clearly demonstrates metal influences on this three-song EP, but all in all, they’re just a really fucking good rock band. I can’t wait for the full-length. So much promise here.

Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings (Good To Die)
More Pacific Northwest love here, as CL shows off their lovely, noisy mess. Not exactly hardcore or metal, but rather an awkward fuzz stomp filled with energetic, sexy riffs.

Stoneburner – Life Drawing (Neurot)
Another PNW band here, Stoneburner seriously expanded on their first brushed-off release, Sickness Will Pass, with all sorts of experimental sludge psychedelics. The song “Done” really sealed it for me.
Full album stream @ Decibel.

Nux Vomica – Nux Vomica (Relapse)
With only three songs, each surpassing the ten-minute mark, you would think Portland’s (yup) Nux Vomica is a drony doom band, but rather they mix up hardcore, crust, sludge, death metal, black metal, and probably ten other metal subgenres. Each song is expertly crafted and maintains an intense flow throughout.

Hark – Crystalline (Season Of Mist)
Unleashing heavy grooves and catchy riff-after-riff, this Welsh trio has simply put out one of the best rock records this year. Vocals, rhythm, soaring leads… it’s all there.

Ghoul – Hang Ten (Tankcrimes)
If you don’t like Ghoul, then you don’t like fun, or life. Stream the full EP of surf/thrash bliss in the YouTube window above.

Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (Profound Lore)
Plenty has been written about the long-term, critically-acclaimed Agalloch, and while I always pressed “snooze” on them in the past, this latest release tones down the folk/ambient and ups the rock and metal, all without sacrificing their trademark sound. I was happy to have caught their excellent show at the High Noon Saloon last month.

Jar’d Loose – Turns 13 (The Path Less Traveled)
Chicago noise rock with plenty of muck and grunge to toss around. Vocals really set the band apart from its peers, especially when those screeches “croon” over acoustic ditty “Isthmus”.

Oxcross – Tree And Stone (self-released)
Salt Lake City band with bone-crunching sludge, well-arranged songs, and the high-intensity vocals and harmonies to top it all off. For those who were into the great BLACK SLEEP OF KALI (educate yourself!), your prayers have been answered.

The Great Sabatini – Dog Years (Solar Flare)
Schizophrenic hardcore but still plenty of downtuned riffs to keep anyone entertained for an intense half-hour. This one’s a little more focused than their previous release, but that’s not to say there’s still not a curveball or two lurking.

Young Widows – Easy Pain (Temporary Residence Ltd)
They have always been known for being a little off-the-wall, but latest release Easy Pain brings more of the indie rock/stomp back. And you get that no-wave SONIC YOUTH vibe on the creeptastic “Kerosene Girl”.

Moab – Billow (Scion AV)
This SoCal trio is back with their follow up to one of my 2011 year-end favorites, Ab Ovo, and I was on board from the first few notes of Billow. It continues the spiritual classic rock vibe, but really it comes down to the low-end guitar and high-pitched vocals, which have only gotten better with time. The melancholy “No Soul” just oozes SOUL METAL.
Free album stream & download from Scion AV.

Thanks again for tuning in! Hope to talk to you next time! Please leave feedback on my Facebook page. And you can listen to most of the above-mentioned music on my Spotify playlist.