Monday, May 30, 2016

Albums of the decade so far

Each year of the 2010s has showcased the great diversity of modern metal. 2016 is also shaping up to be a memorable year, and we have yet to hear new Be'Lakor, Meshuggah, and Gojira! Below I will share ten of my favorite albums of the 2010s so far, in no order.

Thy Catafalque - Sgurr
Sgurr feels like a sleek, cold utopian future. Sgurr feels like climbing mountains, taking in all the sights of nature, like a stream of water. Sgurr feels organic as it feels mechanical. Thy Catafalque's sophomore Season of Mist release continues the project's indifference towards boundaries of music, much less subgenres. Songs blend and shift from black metal, to industrial, to thrash/death metal, all styles featuring heavy electronic undertones. Mastermind Tamas Katai's immense creativity shines through the songwriting, as well as his fantastic senses of dynamics and melody. Some of these songs have enough good ideas for entire EPs!

Mgla - Exercises in Futility
Exercises in Futility is an inviting experience of a modern black metal album. While Mgla play dark, ominous music and bark rasping, nihilistic lyrics, their music is very melodic, and even features midtempo headbang grooves. One of the first things you will notice about Mgla is their phenomenal drummer. Blast beats abound in Mgla's work, but drummer Darkside accents the beats with fascinating syncopated cymbal-work. Mgla play hypnotic, modernized-Burzum-school black metal, and Darkside's work on the kit keeps every riff interesting.

Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel
Explosive. Epic. Progressive. Melodic. Internet-metal sensation Ne Obliviscaris delivered a possibly-timeless progressive extreme metal album in 2014's Citadel. "Progressive extreme metal" because these guys don't solidly fit into one subgenre. Their melodic black metal influence is perhaps more noticeable than others, but their music is overall a massive synthesis of styles, featuring jazzy breaks not unlike a more upbeat Opeth. Citadel features some outstanding songwriting, each of the three metal tracks presenting a musical journey through buildups, massive dynamic explosions, and in most cases a moving climax, though not in the spirit of "crescendocore."

NeO stick in a listener's mind from their fantastic attention to detail and incredibly satisfying explosiveness. Notably on Citadel, the harsh and clean vocalists sometimes simultaneously sing different lyrics - this is music worth following the lyrics for.

Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith
Melodic/atmospheric outer space black metal done very, very well. On Phobos Monolith, Mare Cognitum present thoroughly great songwriting, a fantastic sense of melody and dynamics, and outstanding musicianship. All four songs on this album feature fantastic layering, enveloping ambiance, and outstanding drumming. Mare Cognitum also incorporate some death metal riffs, which never feel out-of-place in this majestic journey through mystical space. The dynamic releases on Phobos Monolith are particularly satisfying.

Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika
Moonsorrow are, straight-up, a phenomenal band. They've never let up on their originality, ambition and epic scope. Jumalten Aika is in those ways what you would expect from Moonsorrow, yet it is its own beast, and in many ways sees Moonsorrow evolve further. There are more parts per song on Jumalten Aika than on the similarly-dark and aggressive Verisakeet, and each of these parts tend to feature more noticeable layering. Jumalten Aika features outstanding songwriting, loads of memorable riffs and dynamic changes, and a captivating vibe that is equal parts folk metal-fist-pump and an epic journey through cold and treacherous landscapes.

Ash Borer/Fell Voices - Split LP
The best songs of two of the best post-black metal bands today. Ash Borer and Fell Voices' split LP turned heads in the underground black metal scene when it was released, and remains a hidden monolith of the style. The cryptic artwork and lack of song titles or lyrics give a decent impression of the vibes you're in for. Both bands clearly put their all into these 17-20+ minute songs. Ash Borer's track jumps right into intensity, and moves from part to part of flowing, tense black metal riffs, until a focused buildup into one of the greatest releases in post-black metal I've experienced. Fell Voices' song is a somber, cold and lonely experience, with a larger dynamic range than most of Ash Borer's part of this split. Both tracks feature phenomenal drumming, Ash Borer's drumming entailing interesting syncopation and Fell Voices' sometimes breaking to ludicrous blast beats.

Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury
With Teethed Glory and Injury, Altar of Plagues created a work of art out of modern black metal. There is a strong and very dark industrial vibe throughout this album. One of the first differences you'll notice between Teethed Glory and Injury and Altar of Plagues' earlier works are the number of songs and their lengths. Both White Tomb and Mammal featured four ~10+ minute songs of 'crescendocore' post-black metal done very well. Teethed Glory and Injury retains its post-black metal songwriting style, but completes its ideas in shorter times, with faster tension. Parts of this album are jarringly dissonant, as others are somber and captivating. Altar of Plagues ended their career with this album - in my opinion, this was a great artistic decision, as Teethed Glory and Injury feels like a statement in this style.

Uneven Structure - Februus
Top-tier prog-djent. Uneven Structure once called themselves "post-metal without guitar cabinets," which fits them funnily well. This is indeed post-metal, utilizing massive ambient soundscapes and huge dynamic releases - the main difference versus most post-metal is Uneven Structure's infectiously groovy djent riffs. Februus is packed with memorable riffs! This is a nuanced album, very worth multiple listens. Their lyrical concept of an entity learning its place is also worth a Google.

Alcest - Ecailles de Lune
Alcest at the top of their game, in my opinion. Neige's songwriting benefits greatly from the added dynamic range of black metal, versus the very light blackened influences on preceding album Souvenirs(...). Ecailles de Lune is full of warm, melancholic and heartbreaking melodies. Parts will hypnotize you, others will move your neck as well as your heart. Neige's shrieks on Ecailes de Lune are great - they feel like a drowning spirit, screaming as it falls into the ocean.

Behemoth - The Satanist
The Satanist is something else. Crafted with newfound resolve after mainman Nergal's struggle with leukemia, this album is furious, dark and massive. The Satanist is full of memorable riffs, haunting ambiance, huge blast beats and Nergal's exceptionally angry-sounding screaming, and there is no filler to be found. This is twisted, evil music, and you will have riffs such as on "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer" playing in your head for days. This album shows a band done fucking around, I am very curious to see how this revived fury carries over to Behemoth's next album.

Thank you for reading, I hope at least one metal nerd finds an album they enjoy from this. What are your favorite albums of this decade so far?

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