10. Grand Magus – Hammer Of The North
Easily the best true metal/Doom band around at the moment – this band can do no wrong! Perhaps not quite as amazing as Iron Will, but essential none-the-less. I was initially a bit annoyed when Grand Magus abandoned their doom roots but with their last two releases they’ve blown any doubts I might have harboured right out the water!
9. Grave Miasma – Realm Of Evoked Doom
Along with Diamanthian and Cruciamentum, one of the best old school DM bands to come out of the UK for ages. Realm Of Evoked Doom is both an EP and a reissue so I’m kind of cheating here. I couldn’t care less though as this is an essential release for all old school DM fans. It manages to conjure up some serious occult atmosphere, sounding like it was recorded in a subterranean cave. You’ll find no pig squeels or gravity blasts here, just good old evil sounding DM!
8. Castevet – Mounds Of Ash
Oooohhh I’ve chosen a trendy album! Like the excellent Krallice this is likely to be denounced by the true black metal warriors out there. Oh well, they’re missing out. The hardcore/post-hardcore influence is immediately apparent but really works in this case. In fact the sound is not a million miles away from Krallice in places but it has a thicker, heavier sound. Well worth a listen if you don’t mind a bit of cross-genre pollination.
7. Ghast – Terrible Cemetery
I was really looking forward to this EP after their masterful first album. Did it live up to expectations? Ohhhh aye! Another two tracker, it continues where the first album left off. The thing that really sets Ghast apart is that they sound like they’re about to fall apart at any second – everything is pushed to the limits. The drums, guitar and bass are all in time but you get the feeling they could implode at any moment. Combine this with some seriously tormented vocals and you’ve got a winner!
6. Abigor – Time Is The Sulphur In The Veins Of The Saint…
Following on from where Fractal Possession left off, these Austrians have unleashed another technical black metal masterpiece. The only real difference between this release and its predecessor is that the two songs are seriously lengthy affairs, both clocking in around the twenty minute mark. Hallelujah indeed!
5. Watain – Lawless Darkness
It seems that a lot of folk were disappointed by this release. I really don’t know where they are coming from. Sure, there are quite a few 80s hard rock influences coming through at points but when the riffs are that good, how can you complain?
4. A Forest of Stars – Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring
One of the odder UKBM bands you’re likely to hear. They dress in Victorian garb, drink tea and play a superb brand of post black metal. Their songs are almost always lengthy with long ambient passages and unpredictable structures. The use of keyboards is tasteful, never dominating the guitars and the use of violin adds that little something extra.
3. Burial – Dissidence
UKBM seems to be going from strength to strength and Burial is yet another band that provides further evidence of this. However, unlike the Winterfylleths and Wodensthrones of this world you’ll not find any heathen elements here. This is straight up death/black metal – brutal and relentless!
2. Nightbringer – Apocalypse Sun
Bit of a grower this one! I didn’t really rate this until a drunken, early morning listening session in Manchester. It’s a very intense listening experience with the blasts and tremolo picking rarely letting up but it never becomes monotonous. It’s definitely got that UGBM feel and just gets better and better with each listen.
1. Deathspell Omega – Paracletus
DsO are one of those rare bands that are consistently good….almost annoyingly good! After Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice I reckon this is their best effort to date. It’s got the dissonance and density that you’d expect from their second phase but at the same time it has some of the most memorable melodies you’re likely to hear. My favourite of the year.
Ten doesn’t seem quite enough for this year so I’d also like to plug The Mercian Sphere by Winterfylleth, Hooded Menace’s Never Cross the Dead and A Great Work Of Ages by Stargazer – both stunning albums!