Manii – Skuggeheimen
This one is “outside” the list, since it does not contain any new material, but rather just a re-recording of two tracks from the second and third Manes demos (for those not familiar with Manii, they are -since 2011- the old-school aspect of Manes), which are however still throbbing with perfection. Less eerie, the guitar perhaps a tad more highlighted than in the original versions, yet carrying this unearthly wind that is associated with Manes’ demo years.
10. Nécropole – Ostara (Demo)
A French trio delivering old-school black metal via the Finnish vein (namely the Sargeist, Satanic Warmaster style – melodic guitars sprinkled with a bit of fuzziness in the production, into a channel of passionate impetuosity), in this, their second demo. Not much diversity mood-wise, this is a monolithic cascade streaming rapidly through frozen landscapes.
9. Ithaqua – Initiation To Obscure Mysteries (Demo)
A demo release writhing with nostalgia for the early Greek black metal scene. Perhaps a bit lacking in the originality department, though I suspect that this was something done on purpose. Old Rotting Christ (“Passage To Arcturo” era) worship more or less. Highly enjoyable. Full review here.
8. Loputon Suo – S-T (Demo)
An essentially melodic black metal discographic debut for those Finns, though the somewhat raw production may well obfuscate the fact upon first listen. The guitar ideas in this short (exactly 12 minutes) demo are quite memorable, reminiscent of the flawing, mountainous mentality of both Bolzer and The Ruins of Beverast; dark majesty sums it up quite nicely as far as terms are considered.
7. Cosmic Church – Vigilia (EP)
The Finnish masters of atmospheric, landscape-y black metal returned this year with both a 3-way split (“Beyond The Mirror Of Worlds” with Blood Red Fog and Shroud of Satan) and the “Vigilia” ep. In the 33 minutes of this release, Luxixul Sumering Auter, the single member behind the band, offers us another dose of well-played and compositionally-fluent long-winded black metal, able to create a masterful degree of atmosphere, with a pinch of folk melodies embedded in some of the riffs.
6. Gatekeeper/Eternal Champion – Retaliator/Vigilance (Split)
Shifting of focus with this one, from black to epic metal. Both Gatekeeper and Eternal Champion are among the best new underground bands of the genre, and this collaboration between them is an exemplar gem. The release brings together more or less all of the bands’ past material, and showcases the grandeur of both. Mandatory for all epic/doom metal fans.
5. Grimoire – L’Aorasie des Spectres Reveurs (EP)
One-man black metal band from Quebec. It is not overtly difficult to take a correct guess as to Grimoire’s style; atmospheric (in a nostalgic, crave-for-past-glories way) black metal, with a furious edge, graced with excellent guitar riffing (simple yet highly effective in conjuring pure epicness), sparse use of beautiful keyboards, and above all a highly evocative mythical atmosphere. The vocals are more or less of the typical black metal variety, quite passionate, but where they truly shine is when they go for a clean, desperate and hugely epic hue, as in the ending of “Tragedie des Ombres”. Just under 25 minutes, this EP is pure gold, highly recommended for fans of Forteresse and Ephemer, but also for anyone into quality atmospheric black metal.
4. Spectral Lore – Gnosis (EP)
The single best Greek black metal band of our times returned this year with 2 lengthy ep’s (at least – supposedly there would also be a third one before the year’s end, though it seems unlikely now). And while in “Voyager” Ayloss took a deep dive in the space ambient/electronics genre, in “Gnosis” he returns on more traditional (a.k.a. Metal) forms, through which he tries to create an image of oriental music as it lies in his mind’s eye. The result is a 50-minutes long EP, that bears the distinctive Spectral Lore multi-layered guitar mentality, infuses the whole with certain oriental/Greek melodic parts, conjuring up an archaic atmosphere of historical hue (instead of the almost atemporal majesty of his past albums). By far the most complex and grand in scope release of the list.
3. Black Sword Thunder Attack – Promo
While chasing the phantom of the full-length album (which was to be released in this year, but was sadly delayed for an unspecified amount of time), this promo’s six minutes can showcase the pure epic genius of this Greek band, which draws deeply from the well of Lordian Guard (no only as far as the amazingly epic female vocals are concerned), infusing it with a bit of solid galloping. Their album-to-come is one of my most anticipated things for 2016 (hopefully). (It seems that there is no youtube or bandcamp version, so the link concerns their 2013 demo, whose first track appears also in the promo)
2. Belketre – Ryan Èvn-a (EP)
The return of one of Les Legions Noires members in 2015 was an unexpected event. The fact that the accompanying release, the “Ryan Èvn-a” EP, was an intriguing masterpiece of raw, agile, guitar-based black metal of grotesque production (the sound layers are bizarrely engineered, in a completely unorthodox way) was a most positive surprise. Not much to be said here, this is one of the most original releases of this year. The production may well dissuade a portion of the audience, but for me this, along with the guitar parts, is “Ryan evn-a’s” true advantage.
1. Necromancy – Ancient Wrath (EP)
Necromancy, essentially Necromantia’s earliest facet, are back after more than 25 years, with an ep containing 3 tracks steeped in the early Greek scene’s darkest majesty, reminding us why early Necromantia were among the darkest sounding bands of all time. For more check this amazing review (in Greek).