Label: Peaceville Records
For a long time, Mental Funeral was the only Autopsy album I had heard. Whilst that might seem a borderline blasphemous statement to some, take a step back and consider just how good this album is. When an album is this close to being perfect, there’s always the worry that other releases wouldn’t stand up in comparison, and as a result somehow spoil them. To some extent, it’s a needless worry – Autopsy have never released an out-and-out bad album – but at the same time, I don’t think anything they do will ever compare to Mental Funeral for me.
Label: Death Kvlt Productions
Fangs is an aptly named EP. The debut release from one-man band Husk is the sound of teeth and claws; of watchful eyes in the night; of terror come to life, unleashing violence upon innocent flesh. The three tracks of raw black metal on Fangs are minimalist in approach, with a commitment to atmosphere; but whilst that word usually implies something meditative and hypnotic, in this instance it is an aura of tension and dread, and the promise of death.
Label: Dark Descent Records
Can I confess something? I didn’t really “get” Starspawn on first listen. The debut full-length from Blood Incantation was good, sure, but I didn’t quite understand the reverence some people held it in upon release. But on subsequent listens, some time and distance removed from the initial hype – yes! This record revealed itself to be one of the most death metal releases not just of 2016, but of the past decade. This album is phenomenal.
Label: Cursed Records
2017 was a great year for death metal, with a lot of the old stalwarts releasing killer albums – Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Autopsy… they all absolutely nailed it. Judging by Disequilibrium, the debut full-length from Fallen Utopia, the new generation of death metal acts are determined not to have the elder statesmen of the genre hog all the accolades though, as this is a storming piece of modern death. Full of crushing riffs, moments of technical prowess, and moving with a self-confidence that is utterly infectious, Disequilibrium is a very strong debut indeed.
Label: Colectivo Casa Amarela
I’ve long been a fan of the music of Aires, with his mix of field recordings, ambient, and drones having a calming, meditative quality to them. Those feelings are present on latest recording Naturalismo, which carries a restorative, positive feeling to its minimalist sounds. This is music for not so much unwinding at the end of the day, but of letting yourself unfurl, of releasing every bit of tension within body and mind, and emerging from the process feeling refreshed.
Label: Carnal Records
A howling gale comes from the north, with razor-sharp winds that cut to the icy bone and chill to the core. Such is the sound of Grafvitnir, and the Swedish veterans demonstrate all their experience on fifth album Keys to the Mysteries Beyond. Built upon a foundation of Satanism, this album is black metal to the core, recalling the likes of Watain, Marduk, and hints of Dissection in its vicious attack, with just the right amount of dark melodies in the mix.
Label: Ravenwood Recordings / Fragile Branch Recordings
I’ve recently found myself wanting the audio equivalent of returning home after a long week travelling for work; of a sense of familiarity and belonging, after an extended period of isolation and disconnect. Fire of the Spirit has been meeting that need perfectly, with Twilight Fauna‘s brand of black metal and traditional folk producing a warm, all-encompassing atmosphere that is remarkably refreshing for the soul.