2016 – Top 20 Albums

indstries

For the top 20 demos and EPs check here


20. Bölzer – Hero

Probably this year’s most controversial and loved-to-be-hated release, “Hero” is a masterpiece that grows with each listen, almost justifies the whole hype around the Swiss’ name. Yes, the vocals need some time to be digested, especially if someone has no contact with the deathrock scene, but the songwriting is excellent, as is the concept, and though not as outwardly impressive as “Aura” was, “Hero” is a multi-layered monstrosity, much deeper than the excellent and much-revered EP.


19. Skáphe – Skáphe²

Skáphe²” is a beautiful beast of an album. It stands way beyond and above the snoring boredom that characterizes most of the albums of this chaotic type, blazing as dark incense inside the listener’s mind during its 35 minutes of duration, guiding the audience in a grotesque journey through occult lands of non-Euclidean geometry. It is the audio equivalent of fever mentality, and thus it certainly is not an easy album to tackle, yet it rewards with an experience that keeps calling the listener back to it, more so because this experience is inaccessible outside the record per se. An excellent specimen of contemporary black metal. Full review here.


18. Panphage – Drengskapr

Not much to say about this Swede, those who followed the blog last year may remember my love for his works. Continuing on the relentless path of folk-influenced frigid black metal riffs, a la early Taake and other mid/late ’90s artists, with vocals that are immensely satisfying, and excellent song-writing skills, Panphage has been established as one of the best thing to come out of Scandinavia during the past years. Nordic black metal of the highest quality.


17. Antaeus – Condemnation

“Condemnation” is the comeback that we would have expected if we had anticipated a reanimation of Antaeus. It maybe too close to what we expected, the French may well have pulled it off quite safely, they were perhaps never interested in diversity. The thing is, that listening to this album, one thinks that the band had pressed “Pause” for ten years, and as soon as “Continue” was triggered they kept playing like no time passed – with just a slightly more robust production. The album is not innovative, the tracks may have similarities, yet “Condemnation” forces you to furiously reach for invisible oranges throughout its duration – thus fulfilling excellently its unholy role. Full review here.


16. Battle Dagorath – I – Dark Dragons Of The Cosmos

The cosmic black metal release of the year unites the ungodly dark spaces of Darkspace with the nocturnal atmosphere of early Emperor, not denying itself a plunge in some well structured melody (usually in the form of guitar leads). Cold, majestic, and just as extravagant as is necessary, Battle Dagorath’s fourth album is what traditional black metal is all about – an extraordinary work.


15. Arizmenda – Beneath This Reality Of Flesh

Crepusculo Negro’s production was quite scarce this year, with only two full-lengths coming out, the Shataan one and Arizmenda’s “Beneath This Reality Of Flesh” (edit: apparently there is another Arizmenda full-length, “Despairs Depths Descended,” out on December 18th via Androgony Whore records) being the only new things released. Arizmenda continue to trot upon a path of maniacal, thin guitared black metal, with unconventional compositional structure and surpringly catchy leads. An overdose of aggressive and weird guitar-work, Arizmenda remain the most extreme among Crepusculo’s roster.


14. Aenaon – Hypnosophy

Aenaon, as Hail Spirit Noir, succeed in presenting three out of three great albums, seemingly effortlessly, a thing to be admired, but also leading to puzzlement as far as what kind of improvement can we expect in the future. “Hypnosophy” is a kaleidoscope wandering through a never-ending celebration, which, despite the use of instruments unorthodox as far as black metal is concerned (apart from the saxophone there are also string ones like bouzouki and shitar – building up to a kind of ethnic essence in parts), has not severed its ties with the mothership genre – the album’s beginning and ending clearly state so. Full review here.


13. Tardigrada – Emotionale Odnis

Expansive, passionate, archaic, like a wraith gliding over castle ruins, Tardigrada’s debut was among the things that I highly anticipated since their 2012 demo (review here), and thankfully it did not disappoint me at the least. This is a case study on how black metal can be romantic – drawing upon the artistic and philosophic movement meaning of the word obviously, not its contemporary and vernacular one. Soaring guitars, a grandly thin production, this is how nostalgic atmospheric black metal is done.


12. Naðra – Allir Vegir til Glotunar

Passionate, utterly frigid, melodic and imbued with the pagan spirit of a decade gone by, “ Allir vegir til glötunar” is an ode to the early Icelandic black metal scene, boasting some of the best riffing that can be traced back to contemporary Iceland (and not only). I had written in the review that it was an early yet strong contestant for this year’s end list, and I have not changed my mind since then. Better than the 95% of the black metal torrent that is coming from this particular land during recent years. Full review here.


11. A Diadem of Dead Stars – Kingdoms Bathed In Golden Light

Who would expect that what Wolves In The Throne Room sowed would find nurturing land near the Pagasetic Gulf of Greece? However, it seems that the Volos-based Pilgrim manages to shine with his sophomore album in a sub-scene that seems to be plagued by lukewarm clones of 2-3 archetypal bands. Sporting a genuine knack for composition excellence and an atmosphere that is more reminiscent of Northern vastness rather than Greek countryside, the album’s five tracks are the best species of Cascadian black metal for 2016.


10. Virus – Memento Collider

The album is a mesmerizing, flowing-yet-solid whole, which unfolds into labyrinthine tracks of jazz attitude, tracks that dissolve and restructure themselves with a protean ease and grace. This fluctuating character does not make the album tiresome, as would be the case in lesser bands, but on the contrary captivates its listener with an almost summery felicity – quite a paradox if you think of its density and diversity. The keys to the album’s brilliance seem to be the absence of solemnity (pretentious or otherwise), Czral’s compositional genius, and the amazing chemistry between the band’s members. The result is something oscillating between the liquid and solid states of being, a physical paradox brought to life before the listener. Time will show if this is the band’s greatest moment. Until then, Memento Collider is certainly Virus’s most ample and feel-good creation. Full review here.


9. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

Steeped in kraut rock and psychedelia, yet never straying from the extreme metal path, “Värähtelijä” functions as a thick hallucinatory fog, with high points its ominous rhythms, the obsessive jazz passes and the keyboard “infinite space” glamour. Each listening session is like wandering in an astral museum of curiosities, with distorting mirrors in each corridor. With their latest and maybe best album to date, Oranssi Pazuzu may well be truly expanding extreme metal boundaries. Full review (in Greek) here.


8. Book Of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda

Though unequivocally anarchistic, Book of Sand retains in its latest opus that spark that is missing from most of the artists of the RABM sub-genre: ominousness; the “occult” in the album title is not just décor left over from the genre conventions. Herein lies atmosphere that many, so-called occult bands would love to permeate their works. This is an album that one can listen to and feel the blood falling upon the grains of sand as the ritual is performed. This is black metal done right, dark, slithering, raw, menacing, otherworldly. Full review here.


7. Hail Spirit Noir – Mayhem In Blue

Three out of three for Thessaloniki’s avant-garde black metallers, which remain at the forefront of the Greek (and why not, international) extreme/bizarre scene. Despite the increase of the keyboard role and the long dives in the ’70s landscape, “Mayhem In Blue’s” heart remains dark; here lies a shade so deep that not even the hand of God can extirpate. Oh, and “Lost In Satan’s Charms” is easily among the top ten tracks of 2016. Full review (in Greek) here.


6. Agatus – The Eternalist

As with Zemial, Agatus continue to disregard any solid boundaries between musical genres, focusing on converging all their music influences on a diamond of untarnished epic/lyrical metal, straight out of the ’80s forge, with a pinch of winks towards their extreme past. This is what “complete, whole metal album” means. This is heavy metal at its finest.


5. Cultes des Ghoules – Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love

The Polish had ravaged the whole scene with 2013’s Henbane, the epitome of dark medieval folk witchcraft. Last year’s “The Rise Of Lucifer” EP was somewhat underwhelming, but enter this autumn’s “Coven,” a magnificently ambitious double record, drawing upon the spirit of Master’s Hammer “The Jilemnice Occultist,” yet retaining the band’s characteristic crunchy medieval sound. As for the concept, it is a grand occult play, with a medieval setting, centering on witchcraft obviously. The sort of witchcraft that is inscribed with dark blood upon yellowed pages and human skin. This band may well be the single more graphically black metal entity in the world right now.


4. ΟΔΟΣ 55 – ΟΔΟΣ 55

In their sophomore full-length, Athens’ ΟΔΟΣ 55 build upon the synthwave motif of their past releases, spreading through seven solid rays/tracks a bionic view towards contemporary society. Hypnotic, ravenous, revolutionary music to dance to, their material easily dissolves any thoughts about the staleness of the resurrected ’80s post-punk/new wave Greek scene, and gazes at the present with confidence, a true child of recent times and social conditions. Full review (in Greek) here.


3. Candelabrum – Necrotelepathy

There is black fire burning in the subterranean places of Portugal during the past years. Last year it was Black Cilice (which most probably shares members with Candelabrum), this year’s Iberian peninsula revelation is Candelabrum’s debut, “Necrotelepathy,” which seethes with spectral ritualistic high-pitched black metal of the highest hypnotic atmosphere. This is how I envision the kind of black metal that is to be heard while strolling among bones and sunless underground places, while ghosts wail all around, and deathless occultists stir in their dusty graves.


2. Eternal Champion – The Armor Of Ire

The extraordinary thing with “The Armor Of Ire” is its resistance towards characterizing it as outdated, despite its deep roots towards the past, despite its non-originality. Eternal Champion presented us with an album of timeless epic heavy metal, which continues on the excellent tradition of recent years. Lyrical, combative, rough, magical, the Americans’ debut radiates with an effortless sincerity and momentum, and contains several tracks that are already lying side by side with genre hymns upon the epic pantheon. Full review (in Greek) here.


1.Ψ.Χ – Το Φως Το Αληθινό

It was several years before the spectres behind Ψ.Χ. decided to gather the tracks haunting the internet since 2008, to add a bunch of new ones, and “release” the whole in a quite unconventional way (namely they sent a CD-r copy of it to the Greek METAL HAMMER magazine, addressed to a particular editor, urging him to spread it in whatever way he chooses – you can find the album here, along with the booklet). The result is an unbelievably black creation, its spirit closer to the menacing spectrum of black metal than any other release in quite a long time. Full of ravishing grimness (and with a twist before the end), its breath is seemingly coming from a demented interpretation of a tuberculous “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” Welcome (back) Menace to Black Metal (once more), gliding on nightwings to snuff out the candles, to be immersed in Tradition, making the hearths cough like sickness incarnate. Full review (in Greek) here.

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Two From This Year’s Vault – part 2

Humanitas Error Est – Human Pathomorphism (Satanath Records)

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In their debut these Germans make a decent attempt at mixing the guitar-sound aesthetics of clinical, “intelligent” black metal (the kind of late 90s Satyricon, album-era Thorns, etc – this legacy is also evident in the best riffs of this album) with some generic but beautiful-in-moments Swedish black metal extremity (Dark Funeral, Marduk, etc) as far as most of the riff content is concerned. Song structures are somewhat complex, befitting the futuristic edge. Vocal-wise there is a multitude of generic black metal growling, but the Dani Filth-esque passionate growls (of the kind that seems to keep echoing in the throat while being uttered) are clearly standing out above the rest. Some samples thrown in add to the industrial/futuristic atmosphere. The release does try to sound extreme, a bit too much occasionally, and the riffs are not highly original, but all in all this is an album that certainly has its moments, especially for the kind of listener that feels nostalgic about the “intelligent” Norwegian wave. Still, Plutonium’s debut (“One Size Fits All”) probably remains the best retro-intelligent release of the last ten years.

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Morar – Wahlheim (Nebular Winter Records)

morar

Since 2013’s really nice “Chants Of Ossian” demo, this act dabbles in obscurity, stating no member names and (until very recently) no country of origin (last time I checked their entry in Enyclopaedia Metallum the country was Greenland). Their debut full-length (which was one of the things that I keenly anticipated) was scheduled to be released last year, but apparently it had to be delayed a bit, hitting their bandcamp in mid-January.

What one can find inside this album with the evocative cover photography is highly melodic atmospheric black metal with a knack for NWOSDM-style leads and (by extension) the occasional heavy metal riffing. Old Emperor’s starry haze is here, in the album’s two best tracks, “Afflications” and “Thee To Scorn,” while the hauntingly melodic, almost lullaby-like, “’Tis Night” is following just behind in quality terms. In general, the band has traded some of the demo’s darkness (and rawer production) for a more folky (some excellent riffs draw upon pure folkish melodies) and flowing side. The thing is, where their character truly shine is in the less formalised (chaotic if you want) side of their music, the most purely black metal (aesthetically) one, rather than in the melodic leads which evoke heavy metal clarity. Nevertheless, this is a good album of melodic nature-worship black metal, with three excellent tracks, reminiscent of past days of glory.

2015 – Top 20 Albums

indstries
For albums 21-40 see here.
For 10 best non-full-length releases see here.

20. Y – De Occulta Philosophia

Somewhere between noise and harsh black metal with an all-consuming occult feeling, one and a half hour of wanderings in dungeon corridors. Including some of the most diverse and interesting vocals that one can hear today. The intelligence behind This Is Past delivers an onslaught of mysticism. Bonus Track: this radio show, which is one of the most imposing and atmospheric things that I have heard.

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19. Arcturus – Arcturian

I had long waited for this album, namely a worthy successor to “The Sham Mirrors” (“Sideshow Symphonies” didn’t quite convince me). Sverd&co return to the glories of days past, creating an album that sounds refreshing, showcasing a band tightly bonded. ICS Vortex’s performance is magnificent, reminiscent of Garm’s glory days. One of the most flowing and catchy albums of this year. Full review here.

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18. Batushka – Litourgyia

An album that came out of nowhere at the year’s end, exhibiting an orthodox painting in its cover, teasing us with the members’ supposed identities, and hyping very quickly. The thing is, that “Litourgyia” lives up to most of the hype; it sports amazing monastic/psalm-like vocals, is permeated with a deeply devout atmosphere, and riff-wise the things are getting more interesting with each successive listening session.

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17. Death Karma – The History Of Death & Burial Rituals part I

The magic of Cult Of Fire resides within this project of 2 of the Czech masters. Highly varied black metal, which roams through six countries, gazing upon the (pre-)burial rituals of each with a different sonic lens, always within the genre territory. An album that sees face to face with Cult Of Fire’s latest opus, and proves (along with this year’s Malokarpatan album) that Central/Eastern Europe is a matrix of ingenious extreme metal. Full review here.

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16. Awe – Providentia

One of the most non-conformist albums of 2015, “Providentia” moves beyond the boundaries of orthodox black metal per se, implementing a bucketload of guitar ideas, which make the careful listener return again and again in this multi-layered masterpiece. It certainly takes a lot of courage to immerse oneself in the complexity of the album, but the result is certainly rewarding. Full review here.

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15. Black Cilice – Mysteries

This Portuguese black metal band has been very active for the last 6 years, but it was only with this year’s “Mysteries” that they got in my radar. Raw (more production- than compositionally- wise) black metal with an almost ritualistic core, that nevertheless includes some of the most fulfilling of this year’s riffs. A work of art to be listened to in dark isolation, an ode to the spirit of true black metal.

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14. Mûspellzheimr – Hyldest Til Trolddommens Flamme

If you are asking for the best traditional (in the strict ’90s sense) black metal album of 2015 search no more. The Danish have crafted an album that gazes steadily upon the frosty darkness of the Scandinavian scene of days past, and has the glamour of such grand artists as Kampfar, Setherial, and first-album Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar. Most people seem to have fallen for Slaegt this year, but for me there is no doubt about the best Danish black metal act.

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13. False – Untitled

Gilead Media has nailed two brilliant albums this year, the first being False’s debut, “Untitled”. Black metal steeped in both American and European tradition, drawing just a bit from the cascadian scene, creating a study in negativity and the archaic. Graced with brilliant compositions and more than satisfactory vocals from Rachel, “Untitled” is an album to return to, again and again.

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12. Hæthen – Shaped by Aeolian Winds

Firstly, this album has the best cover art of 2015 by far. Secondly, Hæthens debut album is an atmospheric ode to nature and the past, filtered through the prism of early Enslaved and Emperor, as well as Wolves In The Throne Room. Deeply pagan throughout, with a hint of eeriness production-wise, “Shaped by Aeolian Winds” is the definite winter album of the list. Full review here.

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11. Pale Chalice – Negate the Infinite & Miraculous

The second album of Gilead Media in the list, Pale Chalice’s debut is not so far from False’s sound, though it is more deeply rooted in the European scene. Highly agile guitars, which do not shy from melodic outbreaks, and some of the most suggestive song titles of 2015, like Fragile Bones Cradling Tallow ”. What shines above all however is its passionate, occult atmosphere; a nocturnal album that pleads for solitary listenings. Full review here.

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10. Enforcer – From Beyond

It’s almost impossible to skip an Enforcer release on a year list. With their fourth album the Swedes keep delivering excellent heavy metal, whose caliber is on par with the grand ’80s monsters. A bit more introspective than their previous works (take for instance the magnificent “Below The Slumber”), it nevertheless has all the trademarks of this amazing band that we are privileged to experience in out time.

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9. Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden

Just listen to “Into The Holy Of Holies”. “Out Of The Garden” is epic doom metal done right, and simultaneously managing not sound like another Candlemass/Solitude Aeturnus clone. Riffs here are plain majesty. It is quite a rare thing the existence of a doom album in my end year top list, yet Crypt Sermon was nailed there since this album came out.

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8. Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu

Noxious, maelstromic black metal, which draws upon the darkest side of the orthodox genre (Svartidaudi, Numinous), and wanders through subterranean passages with majestic skill. Top-notch riffing, suffocating atmosphere, and vocals full of command; the necrotic spirit of black metal breathes mightily in here. Another masterpiece from Iceland, following on the tradition of Wormlust, Sinmara and Svartidaudi.

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7. Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega

Well, a new Dødheimsgard after 8 years is definitely cause for celebration, especially since it is so much better than its predecessor, fighting toe to toe with “666 International” (as far as I am concerned) in quality terms. We had missed Vicotnik’s ingenious riffs, doubly so their being accompanied by Aldrahn’s voice. The storm of ideas that coexist in this one is threatening to the listener’s sanity (and a bit to the album’s cohesion to be honest). Full review here.

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6. Terminus – The Reaper’s Spiral

Good old epic heavy metal. Whoever had heard the “Into Exile” demo (whose four tracks are part of the album) was on the lookout, with the uttermost attention for this debut. Not much to say here, Terminus are the last link on a long chain that contains bands such as Lord Weird Slough Feg, Isen Torr, Borrowed Time, etc. Pure epicness deserves pure praise.

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5. Panphage – Storm

I recently reviewed this album, and I stand by my opinion, that if this album was released somewhere in the late ’90s it would be considered a classic. Black metal with a folk soul, with guitar parts that are begging to be listened to again and again. This year’s shining jewel and example of the Swedish underground scene’s blazing quality. Full review here.

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4. Volahn/Arizmenda/Kallathon/Shataan – Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons

It is indeed rare the year in which a Crepusculo Negro release is not part of my list. There was not a full album from any of its bands in 2015, but this 4-way split more than made up for it. A tour of the desert, the jungles, and the dungeons (in Arizmenda’s case) of Central America, this is like a fist of devotion raised towards the indigenous gods of the continent. Full review here.

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3. Nocternity – Harps of the Ancient Temples

Taking a different approach, more hypnotic and subdued (not in a bad way), without moments of elation, “Harps of the Ancient Temples” showcases a band that has matured in an elegant way. Mesmerizing mid-tempo black metal of refreshing clarity and originality. If one searches for influences, he may well stumble into the middle tracks of “Hvis Lysset Tar Oss” and the gloomiest parts of “Filosofem”, as well as the more shadowy parts of “Thorns”, all filtered through Khal Drogo’s personal mark. Minimalistic in many ways, Nocternity’s new opus is an album that breezes, not blasts, its path through the listener without much effort, without climaxes, and ends up winning you all the way.

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2. Trial – Vessel

Can’t really say much about this masterpiece. Maybe the best example, in recent years, of ’80s heavy metal revival, focusing on US power, classic British metal, and Mercyful Fate guitars, this is just amazing. Each of these songs is an artifact to be treasured and exhibited next to the Classics.

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1. Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War

This album is the “Hammerheart” of our times, simple as that. Full review here.

2015 – The Good Albums (21-40)

indstries

An alphabetically sorted list of 2015 albums that did not quite make it to the top-20, yet are just a step below. I found that ranking them was time-consuming and non-essential, since the difference in quality between them was almost non-existent, hence the alphabetic hierarchy.

A Forest Of Stars – Beware The Sword You Cannot See

In their fourth album, the British avant-garde band continue their exploration of atmospheric and narrative aspects of metal, distancing themselves even more from traditional black metal, yet managing to maintain a high level of quality, just a step down in comparison to their first three masterpieces. Full review here.

 

Akhlys – The Dreaming I

Nightbinger’s Naas Alcameth delivered with his side project’s sophomore album a frigidly thin, ambient-like black metal, with abstract structure, that conjures almost effortlessly a spectral soundscape of the night void. A fine species of hypnotic dark music. Full review here.

 

Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of Witches

Well, this one is the first more-than-decent album of CoF in more than 10 years, so it must be mentioned. They have finally managed to pull off some excellent riffs, that though they are well below the masterpiece level of the 90’s, are an oasis for those who have silently been following them all these years.

 

Délétère – Les heures de la Peste
https://youtu.be/Bo_VdeTYxOA
Quebec is bound to appear once or more times in my end-year lists. Délétère, after 2 promising demos released their debut, which stands steadily upon the Quebecois sub-genre, yet manages to instil a dark sense of occult upon it, mainly through the lo-fi, fluctuating production, which results in eeriness aplenty. Full review here.

Diabolicum – IA Pazuzu

The return of the industrial/clinical black metal Swedes was triumphant, creating an album that was based on the fantastic “The Grandeur Of Hell”, sporting a degree of variety that was unexpected and more than welcome. Full review here.

 

Drowning the Light – From the Abyss

From the Australians with the huge discography, came one of 2015’s most pluralistic takes on the early Norwegian sound, full of devotion to early Emperor, Gehenna, and all the atmospheric sub-genre in particular. If only its duration was somewhat shorter, it could well climb pretty high. Full review here.

Ethereal Shroud – They became the falling Ash

A UK black metal band is always welcome in end-year-lists, especially if it plays a sort of atmospheric BM that manages to create magnificent vistas of the dark side of nature. A mix of Summoning and Paysage D’Hiver would be the right decription.

Grafvitnir – Necrosophia

This is a last minute entry (figuratively speaking), that is bound to bring smiles to all old-Dissection fans. Excellent songwriting, close to the spirit of Nödtveidt’s band (meaning well-structured and flowing riffs), “Necrosophia” showcases a band that may not be the most original, yet manages to convey the 90’s occult spirit, along with blazing compositions.

Haukruunu – Havulinnaan

Epic black metal, drawing from epic-era Bathory (just listen to “Kuvastaja”), crossovering it with Scandinavian black metal riffing of a frosty nature. Nature- and past-worshiping, this is pagan black metal of raw elegance.

 

Malokarpatan – Stridžie Dni

Certain albums can fix your interest and positively bias you even before you listen them. That’s the case with those Slovakians and their debut, which is graced with an outstanding (and unusual, as far as black metal art goes) cover art, and a folklore lyrical content. Their style is an amalgam of Venom and Negative Plane, with much rawer production than either of these bands. If one, however, manages to dive under the murky surface, one can discover a multitude of excellent ideas accompanying the telling of dark tales from the Slovakian countryside.

Mgla – Exercises In Futility

The Polish masters’ third album was received with high acclaim almost universally, and though I tend to find it a bit predictable, and simplistic, riff-wise, it remains a release with high quality, and some of the best melodic riffs one can listen to in 2015. Full review here.

 

Nahtrunar – Symbolismus

It takes a lot of courage to kick off your album with “En Vind Av Sorg’s” riff, and not sound like a Darkthrone copy, yet these Austrians somehow manage it. Coming with an innate sense of romantic melody, this one is a prime example of black metal soundscaping.

 

Nechochwen – Heart Of Akamon

This was quite a surprise. The project of one of
Obsequiae’s members, this is epic black metal done rightly, in the vein of Falkenbach or early Solstafir. It would be higher, if not for the odd (early) Opeth influence, that mellows down the overall image. Nonetheless, an excellent album.

Nettlecarrier – Black Coffin Rites
https://youtu.be/nLpGXfRFPaQ
Nettlecarrier’s sophomore album follows on the tradition of the debut as one of the best examples of second-wave black metal of nowadays. Darjthrone and Gorgoroth worship of the highest qualitative caliber. Full review here.

Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs

The US riff-masters (with a deeply folk soul) returned after 4 years, with an album that follows upon the tradition of the amazing debut, is somewhat mellower, yet retains all the distinctive elements of the band, especially the excellent riffing.

 

Outre – Ghost Chants

One of the few examples of really interesting and refreshing orthodox black metal nowadays, this album a somewhat traditional mindset into Deathspell Omega sound, accompanied by some of the best vocals that one can hear nowadays. Full review here.

 

Revenge – Behold.Total.Rejection

Outstanding Grind.Noise.Black_Death_Terror from the Canadian masters of extremity, which (at least in my ears) have long surpassed their legendary compatriots (Blasphemy and Conqueror). A beast of an album, that emits uncontrolled sonic chaos.

 

Sacral Rage – Illusions In Infinite Void

US power metal, with a bit of Watchtower weirdness thrown in is definitely my cup of tea. I had high expectations from this album, and the Greek band did not disappoint me, though a fluctuation of quality throughout the album is evident. Nevertheless, a grand debut, and my radar is definitely on them and their sophomore attempt.

 

Saligia – Fønix

This one was startling, in a good way. From the traditional second-wave black metal of their debut, Saligia turn to a more earthly disposition, somewhat doomier, somewhat crunchier, with a hint of epicness in the clean vocals.

 

Serpent Noir – Erotomysticism

A surprising turn of sonic direction for this Greek band, which slow down their black metal, imbuing it with psychedelic elements, yet retaining a deep sense of the occult, as well as the quality that permeated their debut.

 

Visigoth – The Revenant King

This one boasts some of the best songs of this year, with “Dungeon Master” being right on the top, but the bit of a groovy edge spoils the fun for some of us. A solid example of traditional epic metal, nevertheless.

Iron Maiden – Book of Souls (first impressions)

IRON-MAIDEN-The-Book-of-Souls-3LP

Ένα ένα τα κομμάτια, 2 λόγια, με 2 ακροάσεις έκαστο, (ήταν) Live ανταπόκριση (όταν το έγραφα):

If Eternity Should Fail: Συμπαθητικό άριφφο κουπλέ, η γέφυρα ξεσπαθώνει, το ρεφρέν αδιάφορο, εκεί στα σόλο καλά το πάει, όχι κάτι τρομερό.

Καλά, το Speed Of Light για τα πανηγύρια, πάμε στο επόμενο.

The Great Unknown: Αδιάφορο καινούριας Maiden εποχής κομμάτι, το έχουμε ακούσει ανά τμήματα ολόκληρο παλιότερα, moving onwards.

The Red and the Black: Το πρώτο από τα άνω του δεκαλέπτου του δίσκου, παίρνει μπρος η μηχανή, Heaven & Hell καλπασμός, καμπόση επικοφολκίζουσα αισθητική με κάτι ωραία περάσματα από 80’ς καθαρό ήχο α λα Europe, ή κάτι AOR σχεδόν ξερω γω , αυτά τα ω-ω-ω-ω να μην είχε μόνο. A, και κάτι γυρίσματα καρμπόν νομίζω από προσωπική πορεία Dickinson μετά το σόλο. Το παρατραβάνε λίγο σε διάρκεια (13:33). Καλό όμως όπως και να έχει, πρώτη πραγματική αναλαμπή.

When the River Runs Deep: Δεύτερο γρήγορο σχετικά κομμάτι, αδιάφορα γυμνασιακό. Το πέρασα στη 2η ακρόαση.

The Book of Souls: Προσπαθεί, τεντώνεται, αναδύεται σαν σε εντολή φακίρη, ευχάριστο, και μάλλον τα καταφέρνει να ξεχωρίσει, κοινώς δεύτερη κομματάρα. Δίνει και πόνο προς το τέλος. Έπος με τα όλα του. Καλύτερο μέχρι στιγμής, καλύτερο μάλλον από ότι έχω ακούσει μετά το 2000 από Maiden.

Death or Glory:  Η δεύτερη πλευρά μπήκε με πολύ ωραίο τρόπο, δεν περίμενα καλό γρήγορο κομμάτι από Maiden πλέον, και μου έκατσε στο λαιμό (με την πολύ καλή έννοια). Δεν είναι κάτι ιδιαίτερο επιμέρους (αν και η εισαγωγή είναι θεόλστατη) αλλά σα σύνολο αγνό κοπάνημα. Ο Dickinson έχει πάρει τα πάνω του εδώ και κάποια κομμάτια.

Shadows of the Valley: Ναι, ξεκινάει σαν το Wasted Years, Κάτι από Fallen Angel του Brave New World, πολύ ωραία περφόρμανς του Dickinson. Όχι κάτι ρηξικέλευθο, αλλά μάλλον κολλητικό. Ακόμη ένα καλό στη 2η πλευρά, φαίνεται να κλείνει προς τα εδώ η πλάστιγγα του δίσκου. Δυστυχώς πάλι ω-ω-ω-ω-ω προς το τελείωμα.

Tears of a Clown: Πιασάρικο, hype-ιασμένο από ότι είχα διαβάσει, πολύ πιασάρικο. Τίμιο κομμάτι, όχι να τρελαίνεσαι, αλλά διατηρεί την δάδα των εύπεπτων mid/ελαφρώς γρήγορων maiden-ικών κομματιών.

The Man of Sorrows: Ξεκινάει με μερακλίδικο ακουστικό/μπλουζιάρικο στέναγμα και επακόλουθη αναμενόμενη αλλά ωραία ερμηνεία Dickinson. Έχει κάτι από αυτή την σα-να-πετάω-πιάτα σπαραξικάρδια συνταγή εκεί στην αρχή. Μετά εξελίσσεται πιο στρωτά αλλά μελωδικά κι ωραία. Παιδιά, κιθαράρες. Από τις καλύτερες του δίσκου. (Ο τίτλος τουλάχιστον αμφιλεγόμενος, να βγάλετε και ένα The Tears of the Dragon σε κάποια φάση) Εξαιρετικό κομμάτι.

Empire of the Clouds: Πληκτράκια στην αρχή, φολκίζοντα και ευήλια, τα 8 πρώτα λεπτά θεσπέσια, με καταπληκτικά φωνητικά να καθοδηούν τις πανέμορφες συνθετικές γραμμές, πλήρεις μελωδιών. Έχει κάτι από την εναλλαγή του ομώνυμου Seventh Son (εντός πολλών παρενθέσεων). Ανέβασμα πυγμής με σταδιακή στεντόρια ανάπτυξη της Φωνής και των επιρροών. Ήρεμο και συννάμα τερατώδες κομμάτι. Πετάει βέβαια κι ένα τσιφτετέλι από τα σύνηθή του ο Harris (αν και Dickinson το έγραψε). Συν το ουροβόρο τελείωμα με κάποιες ιντριγκαδόρικες πληκτράδικες πιναλιές. Να ένα έπος κοινώς.

2015: A first retrospect

Top notch Albums:

Awe / Vacantfield / End – Moerae

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A mighty collaboration, a split release of extraordinary thematic cohesion. Review here.

Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden

cryptsermon

(Epic) doom metal, of great heaviness and terrific guitar work. Memorable tracks, most of them of stellar status.

Death Karma – The History Of Death & Burial Rituals part I deathkarma

A grandiose continuation of Cult of Fire’s last year ep, a release with an interesting concept, which is nicely reflected in the songs’ variant character. Review here.

Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega

dhg

The band’s highly anticipated album was definitely worth the wait, and despite the superabundance of guitar ideas, some of which were somewhat unstably incorporated in the record, it is a masterpiece crowned by the amazing vocals of Aldrahn.

https://youtu.be/QJrI07bNfnc

Enforcer – From Beyond

Print

Another great album for the Swedes, a bit more complex than their previous releases, a masterpiece nevertheless.

https://youtu.be/wP6miIjreHQ

Haethen – Shaped by Aeolian Winds haethen

Pagan black metal of quality is a thing always worthy of note. This US band delivers it spotlessly, wrapped in an amazing cover art. Review here.

Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War macabreomen

Alexandros’ second full-length was definitely worth the wait. Epic metal of Quorthonesque soul, teeming with emotion, embedded with folk melodies and ancient spirit. A masterpiece, that along with Atlantean Kodex’s “The White Goddess”, holds the scepters of this decade’s epic metal. Review soon to come.

Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu

myspyr

Icelandic black metal has started to become saturated, what with most of the new bands playing a certain take on orthodox black metal, but Misþyrming triumph on sheer darkness alone. Highly memorable riffing, and pitch black atmosphere.

Sacral Rage – Illusions in Infinite Void sacralrage

Since last year, “Panic in Urals” had me on the lookout for these Watchtower/US Power worshiping Greeks. “Illusions in Infinite Void” is amazing, well-executed, not flawless, but definitely a hell-of-a-debut.

Nocternity – Harps of the Ancient Temples nocternity

It’s been 12 years since “Onyx”. Khal Drogo’s sound has been minimalised, adapting a hypnotic quality, not unlike “Hvis Lysset tar Oss”. Through a guitar work exquisite, the album flaws gracefully, quite more easily digestible than its precursor. Review soon to come.

Trial – Vessel

trialvessel

A personal favourite of mine, these Swedes’ sophomore album blends nicely the edges of NWOBHM, US Power/Progressive, and King Diamond, carving a niche of its own. Containing some of the most well-written compositions that I’ve heard this year, it is perhaps the most enjoyable of this year’s releases up to now.

https://youtu.be/cznW4_jo3TY

    More than Adequate Albums:

A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword you cannot see

The British deliver yet another opus of psychedelic black metal. None of their releases seems to have let down my expectations. Review here.

Acherontas – Ma ION

Another passionate release from these Greeks. The only flaw is the album’s duration; it seems that the songs are a bit more drawn out than they should. Still, inside this record lie some amazing riffs.

Deletere – Les heures de la Peste

These Canadians had picked my interest with their “Inopia et Morbo” demo. Their first full-length is an excellent species of Metal Noir Quebecois, with a handful of rawness thrown in. Review soon to come.

https://youtu.be/SwKmng0p4sw

Dödfödd – Demo 15

A guitar-less release of with great dungeon atmosphere, another solid release from Sir N. Review here.

Embrace of Thorns – Darkness Inpenetrable Voluminous, extremely thick black/death from Greece. The Athenians are veterans of the scene, and keep spitting out blasphemous recordings. Review soon to come.

Goatblood / Nuclear Perversions – Rex Judaeorum/Wolves Of Apocalypse

A great black/thrash release, with Goatblood’s side being a little more closer to my taste. Their full-length is soon to be released.

Grimoire – L’Aorasie des Spectres Reveurs

Atmospheric black metal from Quebec, creating highly vivid soundscapes. A bit on the chillingly romantic side, especially recommended for Ephemer fans.

Ithaqua – Initiation To Obscure Mysteries

Early 90’s Greek black metal worship. Highly nostalgic, not much original, but extremely enjoyable, with excellent lyrics. Review here.

Katavasia – Sacrilegious Testament

A super-group playing old school Greek black metal. Well-rendered compositions, top of the notch vocals, and this “Thy Mighty Contract” feeling overflowing.

Kjeld – Skym

Dutch atmospheric black metal of freezing tempereature and Scandinavian temperament. For those old-schoolers that never abandoned the 90’s scene. Review here.

https://youtu.be/AlP6f_Vi4SU

Leviathan – Scar Sighted

Wrest’s comeback is more than satisfactory, leaving behind the urban chaos of his last album. Here lies the inhuman, cosmological spirit of “Massive Conspiracy against all Life”. Review here.

Nettlecarrier – Black Coffin Rites

Another highly enjoyable release from these Norwegians. Total second wave worship, with great guitar riffing. Review here.

https://youtu.be/nLpGXfRFPaQ

Outre – Ghost Chants

One of the best orthodox black metal releases that I’ve heard in quite a long time. Poland is a staple of quality black metal, and Outre proves it once more. If only we can have a new Cultes des Ghoules release this year… Review here.

Slaegt – Ildsvanger

Minimalistic raw black metal from Denmark with punk attitude scattered around. A release spot on the spirit of band isolation.

Tome of the Unreplenished – Innerstanding

Diastric atmospheric black metal from Cyprus, highly majestic and image evoking. Review here.

Uitzichtloos – De Oogst

Hypnotic black metal from Netherlands with shrieking vocals and frosty breath. The dutch scene is definitely riding mightily during the last few years.

Vassafor / Temple Nightside – Call of the Maelstrom

Total fucking DARKNESS. Brutal black/death, grandiose as the Abyss, thick as Hell. Vassafor’s side is the highlight for me.

Visigoth – The Revenant King

If this album’s sound was not infested with some heavy/groovy moments, it would feature on the top list. “Dungeon Master” could very well be among my top 10 songs of the year. Stille, the vocals are great, the guitar work more than adequate, and this is a very good record of epic metal.

https://youtu.be/2oclDVweTR4

Vivus Humare – Einkehr

A release with shaky character but great ideas, closing with a killer a la “De Mysteriis” song. If only they follow on this path on their next release. Review here.

Sorcerer – In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross

Finally, these veterans’ debut is out. Memorable songs which know how to be highly epic. Unfortunately there is an abundance of groovier moments here too, which don’t let the album shine.

https://youtu.be/ZxAJ6i_jKkY

Heathen – Heathen

This cassette release from Norway, through (the quite interesting) Caligari Records, is akin to Burzum’s debut rawness, a bit more hypnotic, containing a few ambient as well. Review soon to come.

The Rest (Albums that didn’t convince me or are not my cup of tea, also those that I didn’t listen to as much I would like in order to be certain):

Abominor – Opus decay (What I said earlier about the saturation of Icelandic scene. Not bad per se, but neither is it memorable. Great cover though.)

Akhlys – The Dreaming I (This one I have not given many spins, but although it takes off great, it becomes kinda boring from the long middle track onwards. Still, I am not certain.)

Caina – Setter of Unseen Snares (Never was much of a fan of Caina, and this album feels small, in most of its aspects.)

Code – mut (Code have left black metal behind, turning to a watered down version of late Anathema, with great vocals though.)

Corpus Christii – PaleMoon (Still do not have a clear opinion about this one. There are great riffs in here, but also tiring moments.)

Decline Of The I – Rebellion (That one is interesting post black metal, with quite a bit of experimentation. Quite good, but not my style of black metal.)

Devathorn – Vittra (This one I found somewhat stretching-in-order-to-sound-extreme, in a bad way. Not given it as many listens as I would like however, probably will revisit.)

Devouring Star – Through lung and heart ( A lot of hype about this one, and without a good cause as far as I am concerned. Typical orthodoxy black metal, not memorable. Great cover art though.)

Dhampyr – Oceanclots (This one is strange, and definitely needs more spins. There are certainly god ideas in here, but maybe a tad to many. Will be returning.)

Dynfari – Vegferð tímans (Pagan black metal, to which I have not listened much. Didn’t click, but it has a certain quality.)

Enslaved – In Times (Late Enslaved are definitely not to my liking, thus I cannot say much about this one.)

https://youtu.be/a640Wu6PQbs

Ereb Altor – Nattramn(After their first 2 great albums, Ereb Altor have been declining in my eyes. This one certainly has its moments, but didn’t convince me.)

Hacavitz – Darkness Beyond(On first listening to this one I was excited, but after a few more spins it was reveealed as well-played but not much inspired second wave black metal.)

Helrunar – Niederkunfft(Maybe the greatest disappointment of the year so far. Loved their earlier works, but in this album they have left behind their pagan days, adding some unacceptable for me heaviness.)

Imperial Triumphant – Abyssal Gods(Great moments in this one, black/death of experimental character, with lots of extremity, needs more listenings to, will probably rise in my esteem.)

Liturgy – The Ark Work(At first I thought it was a joke leak. Then I listened to it a few times, deleting it after that. Then I gave it another shot. The vocals are highly dubious. It has its moments though.)

https://youtu.be/ebxIwwhV5MA

Maléfices – Hurlemort(Metal Noir Quebacois, of good quality. A solid release.)

https://youtu.be/twrEHqoUhRk

Marduk – Frontschwein(A good release from the Swede veterans. Not up to par with their (much) older releases, but definitely worth a listen or two.)

https://youtu.be/0yPOqlrCl1I

Negura bunget – Tau(The Romanians’ works after the divide are not up to par with their mighty past. This rule applies to this year’s record too.)

Pulsar Colony – Cosmic Manifestations(I’d like this one to be more experimental, but as it is, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it – it is without many high moments.)

Solefald – World Metal.Kosmopolis Sud(Not a fan of the band lately, this one was quite boring and inessential.)

https://youtu.be/qWgon-a7qks

Swarþ – Veneficivm(Good material here, but not of the abyssal quality that blazed in their demo releases. Waiting for a full-length.)

Tribulation -The Children Of The Night(Their previous album was a masterpiece of death metal experimentation, this one is hard rock with harsh vocals, definitely not my thing.)

https://youtu.be/DMt0YdsJMaE

Shining – IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends(A good release from Kravforth, nothing more, have long been distanced by the band’s material.)

https://youtu.be/zKuiPkVrxwE

Albums I expect on the next part of the year:

Black Sword Thunder Attack – TBA

Djevel – Saa Raa Og Kald

Goatblood – Adoration of Blasphemy & War

In the Woods… – TBA

Midnight Odyssey – Shards of Silver fade

Morar – TBA

Nawaharjan – Lokabrenna

Ninkharsag – Blood of Celestial Kings

Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs

2014 – Top 20 albums(part 2)

1. Spectral Lore – III

SPECTRAL LORE_III_front_cover

Review εδώ.

2. The Deathtrip – Deep Drone Master

deepdrone

Review εδώ.

3. Emptiness – Nothing but the Whole

Emptiness-Nothing_but_the_Whole

Review εδώ.

 

4. Volahn – Aq’Ab’Al

volahn

Το “Dimensiones del Trance Kosmico” ήταν το παρθενικό άλμπουμ της Crepusculo Negro, και μια από τις καλύτερες κυκλοφορίες της. 6 χρόνια (και 3 split) αργότερα οι Volahn επιστρέφουν με το δεύτερο full-length, “Aq’Ab’Al”, μια δαιδαλώδη περιπλάνηση εντός της στοιχειωμένης κεντρικοαμερικανικής ζούγκλας. Ο κίνδυνος διαγράφεται στην ακρόαση της τριζάτης παραγωγής(πολύ καλύτερης από αυτήν του φετινού Arizmenda), στα τεχνικό-thrash-όσον-αφορά-ποικιλία-και-εναλλαγή ριφ, στα υπνωτικά ακουστικά σημεία(θεματολογικές ματιές στα αντίστοιχα του “Drawing down the Moon”). Εύκαμπτες συνδέσεις μεταξύ των ριφ, πλαστικότητα, και τα φτερά του Quetzalcoatl να υψώνονται σκοτεινότερα πάντων μέσα από την Πυραμίδα.

5. A Pregnant Light – My game doesn’t have a name

apregnantlight

Μέχρι φέτος ήξερα την Colloquial Sound ως την εταιρία που είχε κυκλοφορήσει τις κασέτες των πολύ καλών Dressed in Streams. Εντός του ’14 έμαθα πως έχει ένα μικρό αλλά άκρως συμπαθητικό ρόστερ (εντάξει, κατά βάση projects του ιδιοκτήτη της Damian Master) με ιδιάζουσα αισθητική. Από τις φετινές κυκλοφορίες της η μπάντα που ξεχώρισα ήταν οι A Pregnant Light, αρχικά με τη συλλογή “Before I came”, και πολύ πρόσφατα με το πρώτο full-length. Το “My game doesn’t have a name” φοράει αλαφροΐσκιωτο μανδύα, κάνει ζογκλερικά με τα όρια μεταξύ black metal και post-punk, αλλά με έναν τελείως φρέσκο τρόπο, και καταλήγει σε απαράδεκτα κολλητικά κομμάτια τροφοδοτούμενα από μελωδιάρες.

6. Hail Spirit Noir – Oi Magoi

Hail-Spirit-Noir-Oi-Magoi1

Review εδώ.

7. Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith

marecogn

Τον γνώρισα από το περσινό split “Sol” με τους Spectral Lore. Εκεί ο Jacob Buczarski άφησε υποσχέσεις, αλλά ο φετινός Μονόλιθος ξεπέρασε κάθε προσδοκία. 4 μεγάλα κομμάτια, συνολικής διάρκειας 50 λεπτών. Ατμοσφαιρικό, ταξιδιάρικο, πολυπλόκαμο black metal, το οποίο ναυσιπλοεί επί της μονοτονίας με ιστιαίες lead κιθάρες. Περιπετειώδες με τελικό στόχο την ανάταση, το “Phobos Monolith” είναι η μια πλευρά του νομίσματος που κόπηκε πέρυσι με τη συνεργασία του Ayloss με τον Buczarski. Η άλλη πλευρά είναι στην κορυφή της λίστας.

8. Empire of the Moon – Πανσέληνος

empireofmoon

Από το intro με τα Ravenloft-ικά πλήκτρα μυρίζεσαι τι παίζει εδώ. Και το “Mastery of Blood” με το καλημέρα σε επιβεβαιώνει: Σα να μην πέρασε μια μέρα από την ελληνική σκηνή του ’92-’95. Μεγαλειώδη ριφ, υπερκαβλάντικα spoken parts με echo, καταχνιασμένη ατμόσφαιρα, Νεκρομαντεία. Ένα εικόνισμα του “Crossing the Fiery Path” κρέμεται πάνω από τα 40 λεπτά του δίσκου. Τον είχαμε ανάγκη αυτό το δίσκο, και όχι μόνο για νοσταλγική ενδοσκόπηση.

9. Hateful Abandon – Liars/Bastards

hatefulabandon

Τι έχουμε εδώ; 2 Άγγλους, οι οποίοι αναμοχλεύουν το υπνωτικό industrial-έ post-punk τους με τρίμματα black metal. Θα θυμίσουν Tombs αλλά χωρίς τη sludge-ιά. Μια επιβλητικότητα είναι διάχυτη, ενίοτε με Pornography-ικά (α λα “Hanging Garden”) τύμπανα. Γεωμετρικά στην ανάπτυξή τους πλήκτρα, τετράγωνες ροές. Όποιος έχει ακούσει το ομώνυμο του “Destroy the Light” των Circle of Animals μπορεί να πάρει μια ιδέα. Ίσως και όποιος στάθηκε στα πειραματικά σημεία των Γερμανών Essenz.

 

 

10. Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Prophecy

memoria3

Review εδώ.

Εδώ το πρώτο μέρος.