Metalmance’s Top 20 Albums of the Decade

20 of the best albums from 2010-2019.

Album of the Year lists aren’t enough this year. 2019 heralds the end of one of the best decades of metal. Emerging genres have really come to the fore in the past ten years (blackgaze anyone?) whereas we’re all surprised at how metalcore has survived and evolved. With technology advancing, the decade has also seen different consumer habits as well as advances in music technology as a whole. But that’s enough faff and chat. Without further ado, behold my Top 20 Albums of the Decade!


 

20. ORPHANED LANDAll Is One. Release date: 24 June 2013.

I’ve always enjoyed oriental music but hearing it in a metal context was a phenomenal concept to me. When I finally checked out Israel’s ORPHANED LAND I fell in love immediately. To me, they’re still the best ‘oriental metal’ band out there. They mix traditional instruments, metal elements and heartfelt messages so seamlessly it’s hard not to fall under their spell. All Is One is a superb example of the epic anthems they create to help reunite people of all faiths, race and genders. Tracks such as the title track, Freedom and Children emphasise their mission, all the while keeping tracks catchy and heavy. A must-listen for all.


 

19. SLEEPING WITH SIRENSFeel. Release date: 4 June 2013.

Now before you close this post and avoid my blog forever, hear me out here. Every track on SLEEPING WITH SIREN’s Feel is absolute gold. There’s a song for every occasion and emotion and it beckoned the start of their retreat from poisonous emo-pop-punk to the boring rock music they create today. With Feel they get it just right. Personally for me, this album dropped at a huge transitional period of my life so tracks such as Free Now, Congratulations and Satellites became anthems of this time. It’s not only teenagers who relate to Kellin Quinn and co. and their lyrics are more honest and relatable than many of their peers (FALLING IN REVERSE I’m looking at you).


 

18. TESSERACTOne. Release date: 22 March 2011.

I just had to include something by TESSERACT in this list. It was a tough choice between One and Polaris, but I chose One in the end as it was unlike anything I had heard in the metal world. Yeah there was PERIPHERY as well but for me, TESSERACT had a little something extra…mainly the vocal expertise of Daniel Tompkins. The first track I heard was The Impossible – Concealing Fate Part. 3 and I will never forget its melodies, djent and overwhelming atmosphere. In a way One signifies the innocence of the beginning of the djent genre before it became oversaturated by awful bands and copycats. Today it’s evolved into a whole new progressive metal beast but it’s good to look back on One and see how far metal has come.


 

17. AVASTMother Culture. Release date: 26 October 2018.

This decade saw the rise of blackgaze as a genre and it is one of the best things to have ever happened for metal. Mixing black metal and shoegaze to create highly emotive extreme metal is a dream come true. Only a handful of bands are getting the formula right and Norway’s AVAST is one of those bands. Last year’s debut album Mother Culture is a superb example of the heavier end of the genre. Tracks such as the title track and The Birth Of Man show some of the best that AVAST have to offer, but their instrumental tracks also trigger a strong emotional response. Powerful, climatic and devastating, Mother Culture is an important album.


 

16. MOTIONLESS IN WHITEReincarnate. Release date: 15 September 2014.

reincarnate

Metalcore is alive and well and MOTIONLESS IN WHITE have helped the survival of the gothic strain of it. Reincarnate saw the band at their most industrial, experimental and arguably…their catchiest. The guest features on this album are spot on, with the likes of Dani Filth, Maria Brink and Tim Skold making Reincarnate a goth’s wet dream. There is absolutely no filler on this album like a lot of their others, with tracks Break The Cycle and Wasp being some of the best keyboard-led metalcore for years. Now if only MOTIONLESS IN WHITE took the blueprint for The Final Dictvm for the latest albums…


 

15. TIMES OF GRACEHymn of a Broken Man. Release date: 18 January 2011.

I am one of those fans who think the new Jesse Leach-era KILLSWICTH ENGAGE has never surpassed what Leach and Adam D achieved with Hymn of a Broken Man. Yes, TIMES OF GRACE was always meant to be a more melodic and honest project, and remember Howard Jones was still in KILLSWITCH ENGAGE at this point, but Hymn of a Broken Man is one of the most beautiful albums created this decade and few have surpassed its melodic prowess. Live in Love, Where The Spirit Leads Me and Willing are some of the most stirring metal tracks this decade has seen. It’s just a shame the duo decided to lead the album with one of the weaker tracks, Strength in Numbers. Let’s hope they release a new album next year.


 

14. 65DAYSOFSTATICWe Were Exploding Anyway. Release date: 26 April 2010.

65dos

We Were Exploding Anyway was everything I wanted from 65DAYSOFSTATIC. The Sheffield post-rockers have always pushed the boundaries of the genre and have created the most phenomenal sounds. With this album, the band were their most ‘dancey’ and it even saw the inclusion of vocals on Come to Me, but they were very cleverly sliced and used as samples. Mountainhead, Crash Tactics and Piano Fights are some of the most genius songs 65DOS have written and the album as a whole is a delight from start to finish.


 

13. BLEEDING THROUGHThe Great Fire. Release date: 31 January 2012.

The Great Fire

Before the Orange County crew split up in 2014 (and reformed in 2018) the metalcore darlings dropped one of their finest albums to date, The Great Fire. This glorious slab of brutality incorporates every genre that BLEEDING THROUGH can execute so well, metalcore, hardcore, punk, black metal, melodic death metal…tracks like Goodbye To Death and Everything You Love Is Gone are perfect examples of their melting pot of styles. No metalcore band have achieved this again.


 

12. ABORTEDRetrogore. Release date: 22 April 2016.

retrogore

I must admit I was a bit late to the ABORTED fandom, but once I finally got there I was besotted. Retrogore was my first exposure to the Belgian death metallers and it’s still my favourite. Everything just seems to gel on this record and the blackened elements which play a big part on 2018’s Terrorvision come to the fore on this record. Termination Redux and Divine Impediment are brutal gems, dark death metal at its best. The band aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, constantly evolving to remain one of the most terrifying bands out there.


 

11. NORDIC GIANTSA Séance of Dark Delusions. Release date: 20 April 2015.

nordic giants

NORDIC GIANTS are always best to experience live, but 2015’s masterpiece A Séance of Dark Delusions brilliantly captures the intense material this post-rock duo create. The guest vocalists on this album are all outstanding with standout tracks being Dissolve (with SATURDAY SUN), Rapture (with Beth Cannon) and the superb Futures Dark (with Nadine Wild-Palmer). Each tracks tells its own story and every track with vocals could easily be a radio hit, making NORDIC GIANTS your favourite secret.


 

10. EIGHTEEN VISIONSXVIII. Release date: 2 June 2017.

XVIII

C’mon you knew EIGHTEEN VISIONS were going to make an appearance. This was the comeback of the decade for me. In true 18V fashion, their comeback album XVIII sounded unlike anything they have recorded before. The throwback references to earlier material (film samples, insects buzzing and the objects in the artwork) create a nostalgic record which still bludgeons you with modern, crunchy metal. Songs such as Oath and Live Again are the perfect tributes to the band’s roots and their late bassist Mick Morris (RIP). This is definitely an album for the loyal fans, but any lover of heavy, crushing metal will equally enjoy this album.


 

9. SOILWORKThe Ride Majestic. Release date: 28 August 2015.

soilwork

The kings of melodic death metal, SOILWORK seem to get better with age. The Ride Majestic is a sublime album by the modern version of SOILWORK. This is an absolute belter from start to finish. Some old school fans look down on it for not being Natural Born Chaos 2.0, but this album is the full package. The vocals, lyrics, instrumentation, flow of the album are outstanding. When their peers are crashing and burning, SOILWORK have evolved and grown to be the melodic death metal darlings they are today. The title track, Death In General and the stirring finale Father and Son, Watching the World Go Down are some of my favourite songs of the decade. The fact that the band are still going strong is a blessing.


 

8. BLACK CROWN INITIATE Selves We Cannot Forgive. Release date: 22 July 2016.

blackcrowninitiateselves

Selves We Cannot Forgive was my first ever Album of the Year when I started this blog back in 2016. It has stood the test of time and cemented itself as one of my favourite progressive death metal records of all time. There has been a surge of progressive death metal bands in the past few years and BLACK CROWN INITIATE remain one of the best. This album exhibits the best aspects of the genre, with tracks such as Belie The Machine and For Red Cloud providing the brutality, and the title track and Again providing the soaring melodies. This album has it all.


 

7. DYSCARNATEAnd So It Came To Pass. Release date: 27 February 2012.

and so it came to pass

DYSCARNATE’s last album With All Their Might topped my AOTY list back in 2017, but I couldn’t have two of their albums in my top 20 of the decade so I’ve opted for their phenomenal second album And So It Came To Pass. If you’re still unfamiliar with this death metal trio (yes, they’re a trio and still heavier than most bands) then you are seriously missing a trick here. A band haven’t been this brutally groovy since…well…forever. And So It Came To Pass is a tremendous example of this, with The Promethean, In The Face of Armageddon and A Drone In The Hive bringing the hardest bangers of the album. Fingers crossed there will be a new album in the new year!


 

6. DREAMSHADEThe Gift of Life. Release date: 25 January 2013. 

gift of life

DREAMSHADE are always such a treat. These Swiss metalcore lovelies are still relatively unknown yet every album is an absolute blinder. 2013’s album The Gift of Life saw the band hit their stride. Photographs, Your Voice and Consumed Future are some of the best metalcore tracks you haven’t heard yet. Not only do DREAMSHADE write catchy songs but somehow their riffs are hella catchy too. A super slick and polished beast, DREAMSHADE are currently working on a new album and it promises to be another stellar effort.


 

5. DISTORTED HARMONYChain Reaction. Release date: 9 July 2014.

chain reaction

Discovering DISTORTED HARMONY was one of the best things I did in the past few years. Their progressive metal is fuelled by melodies and heart. Their second album Chain Reaction has just the right amount of technicality and melody to make it a beautifully balanced record. The charm and passion oozes out of this record with tracks such as Every Time She Smiles, Hollow and Natural Selection being some of the most stirring. With the ever-growing prog metal scene it takes something special to standout from the rest of the pack these days, these guys have got it.


 

4. MAYBESHEWILLI Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone. Release date: 30 May 2011. 

maybeshewill

So this is my third and final post-rock album in this list. I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone is my favourite of them all, for a number of reasons. The main one being, the album triggers the biggest emotional response of any album without vocals. It demonstrates the sheer, emotional power that rock instruments have. The melodies and climaxes are sublime, there’s no other post-rock albums quite like this one. Another reason why this ranks so highly is because MAYBESHEWILL were one of the pioneers of British post-rock and they are very sorely missed by fans. Just listen to the song Accolades, Critical Distance and Red Paper Lanterns and you’ll see what I mean.


 

3. EARTHSIDEA Dream In Static. Release date: 23 October 2015.

earthside

There are few bands who make a huge impact with their debut album like EARTHSIDE have. This is modern prog rock at its finest. But the thing that EARTHSIDE has that sets them apart from the rest is their expert musicianship. Each member is an incredibly talented musician and this talent can be heard in the ambition of their tracks. They execute their brilliance without any pretentious fluff and they scored some of the best vocalists in the business to elevate their tracks to new levels (see: Crater, the title track and Mob Mentality). With a new album being recorded as we speak, we can expect big things from the rising proggers.


 

2. MØLJord. Release date: 13 April 2018.

mol

It’s probably no surprise MØL have ranked so highly on this list, considering they were my Album of the Year last year. It’s been warming to see Jord resonating with other people so strongly. Songs such as Storm, Bruma and Penumbra are some of the most striking blackgaze tracks of the past decade. Their shoegaze riffs, black metal vocals and chilling melodies add up to a spectacular album. I’ve already written so many words about this album but I never run out of praise to say about it. Emotion and soul drip from every note and syllable screamed. A phenomenal album by one of the most promising acts around.


 

1 . ANAAL NATHRAKHVanitas. Release date: 23 October 2012.

vanitas

Behold, my album of the decade! ANAAL NATHRAKH have always been one of the best extreme metal acts from Britain, but 2012’s Vanitas shows the band at their most ambitious and polished. These songs are huge! I honestly don’t know where to start with this album. A lot of their albums prior (and after) have a few standout tracks and the rest are forgettable. Vanitas has banger after banger, with every track being its own individual beast you’ll remember for a long time to come. Yes, Forging Towards The Sunset and To Spite The Face are incredible, but can we just talk about album finale A Metaphor For The Dead? With one of the most climatic choruses the band have ever written, along with some of the most devastating riffs, it has gone down in history as my favourite album closer of all time. A strong statement I know but once you hear it for yourself, you may agree! Every great album needs a powerful closer and Vanitas concludes in such a roaring fashion, you feel compelled to start over again. After seven years no album has topped this for me.

Rivers of Nihil/Black Crown Initiate/Møl/Orbit Culture

The Dome, London. 2 October 2019.

Considering the show is starting early on a weeknight, there is still a generous crowd gathering for Swedish death metal troupe ORBIT CULTURE who are opening the show. Their riffs thump enough to get the audience in the mood for a night of blistering metal. However, it’s not until the band play new single Nensha that things start to get interesting. Once the band get more material and live experience under their belts then maybe they will have more of an impact.

It’s reassuring to see so many members of the audience wearing MØL tshirts tonight. Knowledge of their stunning live show has been spreading and there are many curious onlookers this evening. Front man Kim Song Sternkopf has not lost an ounce of his power and energy on this mammoth tour and is as captivating as ever. Screaming every word with such passion and intensity is incredibly moving as a spectator. A short spell in the crowd enables some fans to scream along with Sternkopf and everyone wants part of the action. The band play tracks from their debut album Jord – with the blackgaze sounding as equally superb and moving in the live setting. Guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen is the contemplative counterpart to Sternkopf’s fiery persona, and the guitar notes shimmer over the crowd. Their live show is quickly becoming legendary. Surely we are due a MØL headline tour next?

After MØL stunned us into silence, it’s the turn of progressive death metal heavyweights BLACK CROWN INITIATE to pummel us into submission. Driving fans wild by playing the majority of their debut EP Song of the Crippled Bull and other older gems, the crowd were going fanatic! New song Years in Frigid Light sounds immense live and was lapped up gratefully by fans. Bassist Nick Shaw and guitarist Ethan McKenna spend the set flexing their faces making damn-good-riff expressions while drummer Sam Santiago proves he might possibly be an actual machine. Andy Thomas amazed with his impeccable voice, while front man James Dorton sounds as colossal live as he does on record, his penetrating growls commanding the crowd. With their long-awaited new album rearing its head soon, you can expect to see more (hopefully) from these prog death titans.

It’s been an epic night so far with MØL and BLACK CROWN INITIATE providing headline-worthy sets. RIVERS OF NIHIL had hard acts to follow but, my word, they were phenomenal! Listening to last album Where Owls Know My Name in full is always a treat, but hearing it in full live…? Nothing short of sublime. Throw in numerous spots by a real life sax man (a headbanging one at that) and you’ve got yourself an other-worldly experience. Front man Jake Dieffenbach is extremely striking in his unusual attire but his roars are formidable. With extremely brutal circle pits and a wall of death, the crowd were running riot. Being one member short tonight (guitarist Jon Topore was unfortunately in hospital) didn’t deter the band from delivering one of the tightest sets I’ve seen all year. After selling out The Dome and getting the whole venue moving, it won’t be long before RIVERS OF NIHIL sell out bigger venues. Watch this space.

Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018: 10 to 1

The final 10. The all important No. 1.

Here it is! My final instalment of Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018. Thanks for joining me on my Top Releases of the Year journey, it’s been fun! I won’t delay you any further, I’m sure you’re dying to know who has won my top spot! You may proceed. See you next year!

10

NIGHTMARERCacophony of Terror

One of the heaviest, darkest, most terrifying releases of the year, I’ve been besotted with Cacophony of Terror by NIGHTMARER since its release back in March. The dissonant tones and insanely heavy riffs are what keeps me coming back again and again. The seamless transition between opening track The Descent and Stahlwald has got to be one of my favourite album moments of 2018. These two tracks together are mindblowing and the ridiculous riff and crushing atmosphere in the latter will leave you chuckling at just how heavy NIGHTMARER are. Read more of my [dark] thoughts on Cacophony of Terror in the roundup below.

Roundup – May 2018

9

SKYHARBORSunshine Dust

It’s been a strong year for progressive metal releases and one big surprise this year has been SKYHARBOR’s new album, Sunshine Dust. Usually TESSERACT and MONUMENTS lead the way in the progressive metal/djent scene, but for me SKYHARBOR have risen high above the rest this year with their new release. New vocalist Eric Emery plays a big part in this with his terrific warbles, but the songs as a whole are more focussed and melodic compared to their previous releases. Standout tracks Out of Time, Synthetic Hands and the phenomenal title track will leave you dreaming for days. Fantastic stuff. Read my full review via the link below.  

Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust

8

ABORTEDTerrorVision

The Belgian death metal/grindcore Kings are back and with TerrorVision, their 10th studio album, they’ve unleashed their most blackened release yet. TerrorVision is everything I wanted the new BEHEMOTH to be. ABORTED have achieved an album so punishing, so unforgiving, so relentless it is a ferocious ride from start to finish. It’s amazing how something that sounds so polished can still sound extremely brutal and I think that proves the beastly talent of these Belgians. 

7

WITHIN DESTRUCTIOND E A T H W I S H

There’s a mad genius to D E A T H W I S H, the third album by Slovenian deathcore/slam band (there I’ve said it) WITHIN DESTRUCTION. This album is exceptionally brutal but it’s executed remarkably well making it an incredibly enjoyable listen. You know it must be a good record if Unique Leader Records picked the band up after the album was released in March. The title track is a slab of perfection, with brilliant guest vocals by VULVODYNIA’s Duncan Bentley. The pace, the riffage, the aural assault of the track is superb and sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Tracks like Extinction and Darkness Swallows Life demonstrate the awesome vocal talent of the band’s frontman Rok Rupnik, but I find penultimate track Death Awaits Us All is their most mature offering on D E A T H W I S H. The darkness of this song is suffocating and guarantees an enthralling listen. Do not ignore this album.

Roundup – April 2018

6

VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGEOdyssey: The Founder of Dreams

When I first listened to Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams and included it in my last roundup, I quite liked it but I didn’t realise how much I’d end up loving it and having it on repeat since. When this album clicked after a few listens, the sheer brilliance of the songwriting and lyrics was completely overwhelming. The delicate riffs and considered components of each song results in an absolute winner of an album. It’s rare to hear a record with not only heart-wrenching lyrics, but vocals too that make you believe every single the word. On this album, vocalist Ashe O’Hara ensures listeners feels the pain, the hope, the despair, the passion. It’s an unforgettable rollercoaster and singles Nine Levels and Vestibule of Hell are surprisingly heavy which fills out the album to be the perfect package. The real deal.

Roundup – November 2018

5

HARM’S WAYPosthuman

This is the CD I’ve played the most in my car this year; beefy, bold and hella heavy, no I’m not just describing HARM’S WAY frontman, I’m talking about how Posthuman is one of the most brutal records on the planet. Released way back in February, this album is guaranteed to make you pull the filthy riff face. For months nothing surpassed this record for me, and no matter how many times I listen to it, it never loses its punch. It’s not just any hardcore record though, no no, the industrial elements of tracks such as Last Man and the powerviolence thread that runs throughout makes Posthuman stupidly addictive to return to.

Roundup – April 2018

4

VOLAApplause of a Distant Crowd

I absolutely adore VOLA’s first album InMazes so I’m ashamed to admit my expectations weren’t too high for their second album as I thought it wouldn’t match its predecessor. How wrong I was. Applause of the Distant Crowd blows everything VOLA have previously done out the water. Thankfully the band have dropped most of the djent and have released one of the best progressive records of the year. With this album, the band have shown the world how good they are at creating stunning soundscapes. Applause of a Distant Crowd shimmers with dreamy notes and haunting vocals. There are still lots of heavy lil nuggets and surprises along the way. For me the best moment of the album is the KATATONIA-esque Still, which is an utterly mesmerising track. The songs Alien Shivers, Ghosts and Smartfriend are some of the best singles of the year, yet the album is still full of stunning moments. Believe the hype.

3

AVASTMother Culture

I know what you’re thinking. Who?? Who are AVAST? In October I reviewed the Norwegians’ debut album Mother Culture and I’ve been slightly obsessed ever since. 2018 has seen the rise of blackgaze bands and AVAST are still extremely new on the scene but my word, they’re one of the most intense and blissfully beautiful blackgaze bands around. On the more black metal end of blackgaze than shoegaze, the songs sound like WINTERFYLLETH if they gazed at their shoes a bit more. The mesmerising soundscapes AVAST also produce are captivatingly beautiful, if I listen to this album I have to make sure I’m not doing anything else. This album requires your full attention and concentration. I don’t want to say too much more about it as my full review below and the album as a whole speaks for itself. But promise me you’ll check it out, it’ll be one of the best things you do this year.

Avast – Mother Culture

2

EXOCRINEMolten Giant

After WITHIN DESTRUCTION’s D E A T H W I S H came out I wasn’t sure there was enough room in my life for another monster-themed album this year. I was wrong…again. French progressive death metal group EXOCRINE entered my life with their blistering new album Molten Giant and I haven’t looked back since. What I like about EXOCRINE is they leave all the bullshit out and get on with it. Molten Giant is a superb accomplishment and each song is of the highest calibre of prog death. It’s been fantastic to see the band really gaining momentum in the tech and prog death scene, and rightfully so. Tracks such as Scorched Human Society, Backdraft and Flamewalkers really showcase just how technically magnificent and brutal EXOCRINE are. Congratulations to EXOCRINE on releasing my favourite death metal album of 2018!

Exocrine – Molten Giant

1

MØLJord 

Here it is! My album of the year. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to most of you considering I’ve been singing the praises of MØL since they released their debut album Jord back in April (I may as well change my name to Mølmance while I’m here). Throughout these Top 40 Releases of 2018 posts I’ve mentioned how my wanting to return to albums has been a factor in where I’ve ranked releases. Jord is the opposite. Jord is one of those albums where you savour every listen and limit yourself to how often you experience it so you avoid becoming bored of the record or over listening to it. Below you can read my full review of the album as well as my interview with the band which they did before their very first UK show at The Black Heart, Camden.

At first I wondered if it was just me who felt an over-emotional response to Jord, but after seeing other people’s reactions during the year and seeing the band fill the room to the brim at Damnation Festival, it’s safe to say I’m not alone. There is something truly special and unique about MØL. From their powerful blackgaze tunes and their mesmerising sound, to their phenomenal live show (it’s becoming legendary) the band are storming on all fronts and remaining humble with it. They get the balance between black metal and shoegaze just right, resulting in stunningly deep textures and soundscapes. I could rave on all day about how much I admire this band but an analysis will never do their music justice. Jord isn’t just an album, it is an experience. Jord is my Top Release of 2018.

Møl – Jord

INTERVIEW: MØL


Damnation Festival 2018

3 November 2018. Leeds University Union.

The second I stepped out of Damnation Festival last year I already decided I would return again in 2018. The atmosphere and variety of bands for this awesome in-door festival is unparalleled and it does feel lovingly unique. Each new line-up announcement throughout the year whetted my appetite more until the day finally came where I would once again be at Damnation. As soon as doors opened, the positive energy of extreme metal’s finest punters poured into each of the venues and the merch area.

The bars were already heaving with battle-jacket-clad metal fans as I wandered down to the Tone MGMT Stage to witness LEECHED opening the festival. The band’s debut album You Took The Sun When You Left is a gritty and dark affair, so it was no surprise their set was equally as suffocating. Backlit and shrouded with smoke, the hardcore metallers from Manchester were an intense group with their gruff vocals, blackened riffs and power violence elements. It’s hard to keep your eyes off drummer Tom Hansell; one because of his impressive myriad of tattoos and two, because it becomes clear he’s the secret weapon for LEECHED with his ferocious drumming and hardcore vocals. An excellent start to the day.

It would have been rude not to catch progressive darlings CALIGULA’S HORSE on the Eyesore Merch Stage as they did come all the way from Australia, but also because they’re one of THE most exciting progressive metal bands on the planet right now (they’re better than LEPROUS, there I said it). Starting their set with Dream the Dead off last year’s In Contact, the Aussie troupe mesmerised and stunned the crowd with their majestic set. On record they can sound quite soft, but in a live setting they’re surprisingly heavy. It’s clear they made new fans this afternoon judging by some of the expressions of delight in the curious crowd.

I sneaked off before the end of CALIGULA’s HORSE’s set to make my way to the Cult Never Dies Stage to get a good spot to witness MØL strut their stuff. The venue was already packed full with people, endorsing a one in, one out policy when the set started. I was close enough to see frontman Kim Song Sternkopf scream in the faces of the people down the front, in his madman-godlike state throughout the set. The Danish blackgaze group have rapidly gained a fanbase this year after the successful release of their debut album Jord and judging by the volume of people in the room, it proves there is a real buzz about this band right now. Having seen them at their debut London show earlier in the year supporting SVALBARD, I knew what to expect but their intensity and sheer blackgaze perfection still astounded me. It’s just a shame the fire alarm interrupted the set…

Once all the fuss (and annoyance) of the fire alarm had died down I headed to the Jagermeister Stage to see NE OBLIVISCARIS absolutely tear up the room with their extreme progressive metal. Their tight sound cut through the room like a knife; they were absolute perfection. The guitars sung and clean vocalist and violinist Tim Charles could do no wrong. The professionalism of the band resonated round the room, proving they were masters at their craft. Clearly owning the biggest stage in the students’ union, I wouldn’t be surprised if the band headline a few years down the line.

Having said this, I’m surprised Birmingham’s ANAAL NATHRAKH are yet to headline a Damnation as their set is always a killer. Easily whipping up the most brutal crowd of the day, the black metal veterans prove their worth with their stellar set of songs old and new. Forward! off new album A New Kind of Horror sounds equally as punishing as older classics Forging Towards the Sunset and Depravity Favours the Bold. The fighting pit in the middle of the room showed the fans’ appreciation of the band’s unforgiving music. Throw in a pair of knickers on the stage and you got yourself a legendary Damnation performance.

If I wanted to find something a bit more soothing then I was never going to find it with CELESTE on the Tone MGMT Stage. The French experimental metallers hypnotised the crowd with their unique aesthetic. Lit only by a red light strapped to each member’s head, it created an eerie – heck- celestial atmosphere which superbly suited the dissonant tones of their music. A severely underrated band, I was especially pleased to see a large turnout for them.

It was truly special to see death metal legends ENTOMBED A.D. tear up the Jagermeister Stage. They sounded bigger and more badass as ever with frontman L-G Petrov pacing up and down the stage commanding the crowd with his epic growls. Death metal never sounded so good but I needed to hop along to the Tone MGMT Stage to get a decent spot to see BATUSHKA deliver their sermon. I wish I hadn’t bothered and gone to see MONUMENTS instead as the room was absolutely packed to the brim for BATUSHKA. The majority of people couldn’t see the stage, let alone move and the band came on late so a lot of the crowd were getting agitated and impatient while people pushed past to try and find a better viewing position. The set was a prime example of the wrong choice of stage for a band, but from what I could see (very little) the black metal band from Poland were visually stunning. I’ll try and see them another time when I’m also not being crushed slowly to death.

To recover, I went back to the Jagermeister stage to see the mighty IHSAHN play an utterly mesmerising set. A legend in the black metal scene and a respectable solo artist in his own right, IHSAHN proved his worth tonight playing the best selection of songs from his albums. Songs from new album Amr sounded fuller live than they do on record, but a personal highlight for me was hearing Celestial Violence from 2016’s Arktis resonate around the room. His black metal vocals have always been perfection but tonight his clean vocals also got the recognition they deserve. A stellar set of magical proportions, IHSAHN just keeps getting better when it wasn’t thought possible.

I regrettably missed THE OCEAN’s set but before I stumbled back to the hotel I couldn’t leave without seeing grindcore legends NAPALM DEATH smash some skulls and rip up the Jagermeister Stage. Excluding the fire alarm earlier, today has truly been a fantastic day of metal. The festival already promise their biggest band yet for next year and I can’t wait to see who will be announced first. Damnation is a festival I’d recommend to everyone. See you next year.

Svalbard/Møl/Group of Man

The Black Heart, Camden. 24 May 2018.

A sold out show at The Black Heart is always going to be a hot and sweaty affair. It’s also a special evening as it’s the album release show for SVALBARD, the first ever UK show for MØL and also an album release date for GROUP OF MAN. All of whom had their most recent records released by Holy Roar Records. A bit of a Holy Roar showcase if you will.

Heading upstairs just as opening act GROUP OF MAN are about to start and the room is almost full to capacity already. The UK post-hardcore troupe recently released EP What We Got In Common and the band were bouncing off it. Post-hardcore with a bit of groove, it took a while for the crowd to feel it but by the end of their set, they had the room nodding along and cheering. A good start.

Now for something a bit different. It’s no secret I’ve become a massive MØL fan, having reviewed their debut album Jord which was released in April and interviewing the lovely chaps just before this very show. MØL’s music needs an equally powerful and emotive live response so my expectations were very high and I was anticipating the atmosphere the Danish blackgaze group would evoke. Let’s just say I was not disappointed. As soon as MØL kicked in with Penumbra, the crowd was enraptured with the intense performance and huge sound the band produced. Frontman Kim Song Sternkopf is an absolute madman on stage, almost knocking people off their feet with a swing of his mic stand. His voice held out live too, in fact all the components of MØL sounded on par. Playing the songs Storm, Ligament and Vakuum, it all amazingly sounds like it does on record. When the band finished with the title track, Kim was in the crowd almost reducing the Black Heart to rubble. MØL are one of those bands you feel lucky to have seen in a small venue. Catch them before they get huge!

After the stunning performance by MØL, tonight’s headliners SVALBARD had a hard act to follow. By now the venue was heaving with hot and sweaty bodies but everyone was in high spirits. Serena Cherry and co took the stage and they were thrilled to see the turnout for their release show for It’s Hard To Have Hope. Considering the intense topics covered in the album, there was a strong sense of fun and positivity in the room, with the band members clearly having fun and sharing jokes with the crowd. Playing songs from the new album and One Day All This Will End, the band were amazed at the amount of people who already knew the words to new songs such as Unpaid Intern and Revenge Porn with the rest of the set being well received and increasingly chaotic. Serena took a moment in between songs to thank Holy Roar Records for their support and great work ethic. And seeing the quality of the roster tonight and the stellar performances from the bands, you have to agree Holy Roar are onto something special.

Link to my interview with SVALBARD can be found here: Q&A with Svalbard

Link to album review of It’s Hard To Have Hope is here: Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Link to my interview with MØL can be found here: INTERVIEW: MØL

Link to my album review of Jord is here: Møl – Jord

 

 

INTERVIEW: MØL

A conversation with the Danish blackgaze group about their album, music and the year ahead.

Relaxing downstairs at Camden’s Brew Dog, MØL vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf and guitarist Frederik Lippert are in high spirits and excited about the events of the day. Having flown over from Denmark that morning Frederik tells me this is their first ‘flying gig’, their first time flying over as a band and first time in the UK. “A lot of firsts” laughs Frederik as the other members of MØL join us in the booth; guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen, bassist Holger Rumph-Frost and drummer Ken Lund Klejs. First thing I wanted to do was learn how to pronounce MØL (meaning moth) correctly, it’s more like ‘moel’, “or ‘mooel’ if you’re from Copenhagen” jokes Nicolai. The title for their debut album Jord (meaning earth) is pronounced ‘yor’, with the ‘d’ being silent and the ‘j’ having the European ‘y’ sound. Having got to grips with the Danish it was time to get the lowdown on the life of MØL…

Before MØL, were you in bands before? How did you guys come together as a band?

Nicolai: Ken and I played in a shoegaze band which broke apart when I moved to England to study. We wanted to continue making shoegaze music and wanted to be harder I guess.

Ken: It kinda took over and we just did more our own thing, whatever we wanted to do. I’ve been very much influenced by heavy metal, metal in general and with the shoegaze it kinda moved into something else.

Nicolai: It was around that time we started exploring the boundaries of shoegaze, bands like ALCEST were moving into it and other European bands. That’s what kind of inspired it.

Holger: I’ve played in another band before and it was something completely different. It was like melodic death metal and I met Nicolai in coalition with another project and we just started talking about our common interest in black metal and shoegaze music and it was natural for me to join when there was an open spot for a bass player.

Ken: Frederik joined when I tried to form another different project and he came in…

Frederik: I didn’t know what it was we were trying to do…

Ken: No it didn’t become anything and it was like “hey! Would you play in this shoegazey thing we’re doing?”. And he was like “yeah ok” and then we, er…dissolved.

Kim: That didn’t work, but you had another idea with Nicolai.

Ken: Yeah, so we had my cousin on bass, he left the band and we had Steffen on vocals who also is not in the band anymore. And then we got Kim two years ago and that also added a whole new level to the sound of MØL.

Kim: I originally came from death metal and I also play in another band where I do post-hardcore and chaotic-hardcore stuff. So I played in a technical death metal band called 100 KNIVES INSIDE before and I actually knew the guys. I think I took photos of your second gig…

Nicolai: That’s when I broke my collar bone and so we had Simon as a stand in.

Frederik: Ah yes Simon from the Danish black metal band SUNKEN.

Kim: So it’s a mish-mash of a lot of different bands. Steffen stopped doing the band and I think our manager, Mirza actually hinted that I was pretty fond of the music so we kind of found out that it would actually fit. I think for me, I’ve always been drawn to more atmospheric music and something that’s more moody, but the other bands that I’ve played in I’ve never really had the chance to explore that realm so it’s really something that taps into something. That’s what I’m really fond of, that mood, I only get that from post-rock or classical music.

I was wondering this, if some members were more shoegaze than others or how the sound came about. So with the whole ‘blackgaze’ thing, is that something you were aspiring to, or are you happy to just fall under that bracket?

Holger: That’s a good question. When Ken started this shoegaze project, there was then a huge wave with DEAFHEAVEN and SUNBATHER and so on, also ALCEST. We’re doing an abnormal thing combining these two genres and I don’t think we’re inspired so much, I don’t think we can deny that.

Ken: I mean I hadn’t heard of SUNBATHER before we started to be honest. We were doing black metal, I love black metal and especially symphonic metal, so we kinda just edited it in and when we heard those bands as well we were like cool! That really sounds nice. You know, we’re the only ones doing it. What we were doing wasn’t actually solid enough because other people as well were doing it.

Kim: I also think because a lot of people are comparing us with DEAFHEAVEN so you think you kind of want to break away from that, although it’s not a bad thing. But we definitely want to do our own thing.

I suppose the danger of being seen as part of a trend is when that trend ends it might spell the end. So how do you see your sound evolving?

Ken: I guess just doing whatever we wanna do still I guess!

Kim: The transition from the previous EP to now I think, there’s like a really distinct prioritisation of some certain elements, especially in some of your guitar work…[Nicolai]

Nicolai: What are you thinking?

Kim: It’s got kinda heavier. Not as typical gaze but it’s more rocky.

Nicolai: Yeah I think it’s a good way to put it. There’s a focus on writing the metal parts to work and of course combining them with shoegaze parts and making them flow together.

Ken: And in general we’re better musicians now so we can do more things that we actually want to do and that’s important for MØL because we’re doing it so much. And Kim also put a whole new level on the singing and the lyrics and with everything mixed in it made a lot of difference.

Kim: The instrumentation, the whole picture, what really got me on board was the opportunity to be kinda a part of the orchestration, so that I don’t just specifically sound like a vocalist but as an instrument on the same level as everybody else in the band, contributing to this sound. So it’s relaxing to you you’re not the one driving the whole show that you usually do as a frontman in a death metal or hardcore act for that matter, so relying on this intense atmosphere that we’re trying to create that’s really something that’s brought a new dimension into my songwriting or at least my way of using vocals. So I think the main thing about where I come from I really thought about not doing purely high pitched vocals all the way through, so I think the variation that I provide with some death metal growls and some hardcore vocals as well, that can support this dynamic of all the shifts and stuff that actually happens throughout the whole album.

The album has been out for about a month now, so how has the response been? How have you been finding it all? Because you’ve been getting some pretty good responses!

Frederik: It feels like we’ve had several months of good feedback in a short amount of time so we’re very grateful for the response we’ve got.

Ken: The opportunities we’ve been offered have been the greatest already.

Kim: But it’s also because half a year ago we were recording this album and were planning on releasing it on our Danish management, so none of this was even in our minds back then. And then Holy Roar came in the picture and then suddenly everything just blew up.

Ken: That opened up a new door and the response we got and the great PR work they made and all of a sudden..boom! In come the offers and we have a lot in store. We can’t say anything [laughs]. We got some goodies coming.

I’m looking forward to hearing that! You’ve got Arctangent and Damnation festival coming up, what else are you looking forward to this year?

Ken: Seeing other bands at Damnation [laughs].

Frederik: And Arctangent.

Kim: We have some touring in store but that will be revealed later.

Holger: In general just getting out and playing more shows like we’re doing now with this tour. That is at least for me, what it’s all about. Getting out and meeting new people and playing some music.

Ken: It’s funny you make music sort of for yourself, but then you see all these people on Instagram upload the album, the album that we made, it’s really touching. It’s like damn, this guy gets it! [laughs]

Holger: Also the fact that, at least I don’t have any reference of whether is it good is it bad, it’s just something that I like and we like and we think it’s good music and then the fact other people like us is really touching.

Kim: All those personal messages we have over the past month has just been really overwhelming. I think it takes a lot of courage to listen to something and think I’m gonna write to those guys, I’m gonna say this really means something to me.

Especially with new bands, some people still don’t check out new bands.

Kim: Yes you know, it is an oversaturated market and with all the streaming services to even get noticed just a little bit, that just doesn’t happen everyday. We’re really grateful. And talking about the lyrical context and the theme of the whole album like…I joined MØL at a time where I was kind of in a down-low period, so I was burned out with stress so this album kind of is a way of processing that really awful period in my life and that’s just really weird, you know performing those songs live because as a vocalist you’re actually sharing a pretty private place.

So does it become really cathartic to perform it live?

Frederik: It’s amazing to see people share the same feelings.

Kim: I think that’s the essence of both our concepts, much of what we experience of the band is the feeling that you get to get to project or share with the audience. That’s something of substance.

For me personally, when I first heard Jord I just latched onto the emotion and I could just immerse myself in it and then when I did my review, when I read more after I wrote mine everyone else seemed to have the same experience. So it seems a lot of people not necessarily relates to the lyrics, but relates to the emotion that comes out of the music. And I’m really interested to see how that translates live. So how would you describe your live show?

Nicolai: It’s going to be a lot different tonight, it’s quite a smaller stage to what we’re used to. We used to have a light show and also smoke, so it’s going to be…

Frederik: Bare bones tonight.

Holger: But we have a lot of experience with these closer support shows. We did a Europe tour about two years ago, which were mostly sports and smaller places.

Kim: That was before my time so I’m still looking forward to it.

Frederik: We played in an abandoned orphanage which we found out the day after we slept in there overnight.

Ken: So we’re cursed from now on but that’s fine.

Frederik: That was Germany.

Ken: A wine cellar in Paris…some really cool places.

Frederik: Unique experiences.

Ken: The mood kinda changes we often feel the room, sometimes the smaller shows get more intense and ferocious because the sound in general in the room compresses it. Then larger venues are maybe more mellow. It’s kinda reading the room and the sound you have and take it from there.

Kim: I think it’s cool at this point we can encompass both kinda shows, either the more intimate, intense, small pub show and the big live set-up. We recently got a light technician who does some shows with us, they made like a whole LED panel and stuff and we do usually bring strobe lights and fog machines. This will be a bit more plain…

Ken: Straight in your face. But it will be good.

On a last note, so with my blog I focus on new and up and coming bands. Are there any bands on your radar that people should check out?

Frederik: I’ll start, there’s a Norwegian black metal band called CHÊNE. They’re really amazing guys, I really recommend checking them out.

Holger: We’ve been jamming that hard.

Frederik: Their album is called Atlas.

Nicolai: I’m gonna go for a Copenhagen band called WOES, because their second album is really good and they’re kinda this hardcore/melodic hardcore. Really, really good.

Ken: ASTRONOID I guess. It’s not a new band.

Holger: They’re not a new band but they’ve just toured with TESSERACT.

Ken: It’s kinda the same sound as us but much lighter and happier. I think it’s a cool mix. And more symphonic. It shouldn’t work, it’s like spacegaze/powergaze [laughs].

Holger: I know you’ll pick these [Kim] but I’m gonna pick CABAL, from Copenhagen.

Yep, yeah I know them. I reviewed Mark Of Rot then I found out you [Kim] did the artwork…

Kim: Yeah, I have another one. I have some good friends in a band called TELOS and they just released a two track EP called HELIOS/SELÊNÊ.

And there we have it. The history and musical style of MØL explained by the band themselves. They then had to dash off to soundcheck and considering they mentioned the plainer stage show they were anticipating tonight, no one could expect the incredible performance that was to come. My gig review will be up soon. All will be revealed. M

Roundup – April 2018

My top picks from April.

If you’ve been with me since the beginning then you might remember the time I used to do a weekly roundup of my favourite artists and songs from the last seven days. Unfortunately due to a busy schedule I had to give that up, but now I am resurrecting it as a monthly roundup. I’ll aim to feature my top 3 albums of the month, what else I’ve been enjoying and other interchanging sections. Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy this first roundup!

 


 

Metalmance Top 3 Albums from April

We’ve been utterly spoilt by the releases this month. You have probably gauged from my recent reviews that it has been a hard choice to only pick 3, but here we go…

Link to reviews after each entry.

1. MØL – Jord. Release date: 13 April 2018.

molWhen I reviewed Jord back in March, MØL were relatively unknown but their blackgaze material completely blew me away and I’ve been besotted with the album ever since. Obviously I am not alone with this as the band have absolutely exploded this month with their single Bruma being aired by the likes of the BBC and Kerrang! Jord is possibly the best debut album you will hear all year; a passionate, mesmerising and incredible masterpiece. The band will be playing their first UK shows next month, so be sure to catch them then.

Møl – Jord Metalmance Review

 

2. VALIS ABLAZE – Boundless. Release date: 6 April 2018.

Boundless

These Bristolian tech metallers are always a joy to review and while reviewing the band’s debut album Boundless, it dawned on me just how hard VALIS ABLAZE have worked, and are still working, to get where they are today. They’re still at the start of their careers but they have put in the hard graft to build their strong foundations in the scene. Their admirable work ethic and impeccable song writing will only proper the band further. One of the most promising British bands around, Boundless is only the beginning.

Valis Ablaze – Boundless Metalmance Review

 

3. MIDAS FALL – Evaporate. Release date: 15 April 2018.

EvaporateSomething a bit different, MIDAS FALL chuck enchanting melodies and spellbinding soundscapes into one big melting pot, and out of it the glorious album Evaporate is born. Chilling and beautiful, it will appeal to a vast array of alternative fans, from post-rock enthusiasts, to gothic admirers. There are many fascinating components to their work making you eager to return to the record again and again. With only two members, they’re proof that less is more. Delightful stuff.

 

Midas Fall – Evaporate Metalmance Review

 


 

On the playlist…

Albums that were not released this month but have been on heavy rotation the past four weeks.

WITHIN DESTRUCTION – D E A T H W I S H. Release date: 30 March 2018.

Within Destruction

Everyone’s favourite Slovenians are back, and this time with a contender for extreme metal album of the year! After the beastly Void, it was always going to be a challenge to top this album – but somehow WITHIN DESTRUCTION have topped it with the absolute slamming deathcore masterpiece, D E A T H W I S H. Chock full with references of the impending extinction of man, it may be common lyrical material, but bloody hell WITHIN DESTRUCTION know how to execute it well. Add to that the sheer brutality that is on display here and you’ve got a winner.

 

HARM’S WAY – Posthuman. Release date: 9 February 2018.

Harm's Way

This has got to be one of my contenders for album of the year. Posthuman is an absolutely brutal output from hardcore mob HARM’S WAY. Completely unforgiving and utterly devastating from the get-go, Posthuman also features some industrial elements and irresistible groove. It’s not just hardcore, there’s also a power violence influence here too, akin to NAILS. This album is heavy, heavy, heavy but never, ever boring. Each track is an absolute fiendish delight to listen to and every hard-as-nails album which will be released this year will have to live up to this. Posthuman will be a challenging effort to beat.

 


 

It ain’t metal, but I like it…

ELEANOR MARSH – Splashes of Colour. Release date: 24 March 2018.

Eleanor MarshYes, I know it was released in March but I didn’t actually discover Splashes of Colour until this month. And I’m glad I did; ELEANOR MARSH is a talented singer-songwriter based in Suffolk and this charming album covers topics from heartbreak and love to travelling and the countryside. A beautiful folky stance coupled with a delicate song writing approach, results in a wonderful collection of heartfelt songs. MARSH’s voice and instrumentation has a gorgeous organic sound which makes it perfect for relaxed days and times when you need something gentle to listen to.

 

Møl – Jord

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 13 April 2018.

I’ve already said it once this year, but I’m going to say it again – Denmark sure has its finger on the pulse of metal at the moment, and their latest export MØL can be added to the list of hottest bands to watch. MØL are blistering yet charming in equal measures. Their brand of ‘black shoegaze’ is nothing short of mesmerising. At times it sounds like the torture of a soul, but other times it sounds oddly soothing; you’re swept up in a whirlwind of dark emotion, then you’re set down in an array of screams and twinkly instrumentation. On paper it shouldn’t work, but it does. MØL have a winning formula with debut album Jord and hopefully they’ll stick to it.

The word ‘jord’ means land/earth and this nicely translates to the sprawling mass of heaviness MØL supply. Shoegaze provides the foundations while black metal influences are firmly rooted in, but the blooms are the spellbinding cascades of feeling MØL conjure. A perfect example of this is opening track Storm. Easing in with a scattering of bold notes, the song soon blooms into a huge wall of sound. The amazing blackened screams of frontman Kim Song Sternkopf are mixed brilliantly with the triumphant guitars. It oddly sounds like black metal indie but it’s far more ambitious than that. The ‘calmer’ moments of the song sound a tad KVELERTAK but the ending rings and resonates in a glorious haze.

The surreal and beautiful Penumbra is a standout track, with its fast riffing and drumming and soaring instrumentation. It sounds like the lovechild of EASTERN FRONT and EDITORS; an unusual but winning combination for sure. The middle eight showcases the band’s ability to pen a tranquil metal tune, before bursting with that black shoegaze sound you’re already falling in love with. For me, the vocals and riffs create an overwhelming atmosphere of feeling, they just hit an emotional nerve. This feeling continues with Bruma, an absolutely spectacular tune of massive proportions. Yes, the heavy breaks are impressive, but the quieter moments provide a mesmerising depth. MØL only need to strike one note and they have filled the mind and soul with an glowing warmth.

Vakuum starts as a straight-up metal track, with the extreme influences coming to the fore, but beautiful guitars interrupt the beastly ruckus to stamp that fantastic shoegaze sound all over it. This steps up a notch with Lambda, a beautiful instrumental piece that fans of MAYBESHEWILL and PELICAN will adore. This post-rock masterpiece enables you to reflect for a moment; it is quite quite a neutral song but has such a strong ‘colour’ you still find yourself swooning along.

The instrumental interlude is soon shattered by the WINTERFYLLETH-esque Ligament. The relentless pace and gut-wrenching screams gets the heart pumping but your pulse is allowed to slow down a bit when the melodic riffs sneak their way in. MØL both ignite and soothe the soul, it’s a wonderful combination. Ligament is the longest song on Jord but it is in no way a slog to get through. It is not easy to predict what shape the song will form, but there is an unexpected, yet nicely executed element towards the end. I won’t spoil it for you, it is one song you will have to indulge in yourself.

It’s tricky to describe Virga without using an oxymoron, but this song is morbidly upbeat. The screams aren’t the most optimistic yet the riffs are so uplifting your spirits can’t help but be raised. The drumming at the end reminds me of One Time For All Time-era 65DAYSOFSTATIC, providing a sense of warming familiarity. MØL do not follow a routine, unlike your typical metal form of screams/clean/sceams/clean. There is no soft/heavy/soft/heavy and this unpredictability of it makes it exciting. This also stands true for the title track, which is also the finale of Jord. The beginning has quite a techy start with its heavy riffs and dark groove. The first half has a menacing ambiance whereas the second consists of surreal melodies and a spellbinding climax. Before you know it, Jord has come to an end and you’re left awestruck and eager for more. Eight tracks might not seem enough for such an impressive release, but it works in MØL’s favour as they don’t out-welcome their stay. Jord is is a spectacular debut album and you can’t help but feel curious about what the band have up their sleeves for album number two.