[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Bhleg - Draumr Ást (Bindrune)
The debut album from this Gothenburg duo consists of raw, yet atmospheric, black metal. This is the strain of black metal that sounds like it was recorded with a 20-watt Crate amp, but the riffs and song structures are interesting and the vocals don’t detract from the proceedings. That’s pretty much all I ask for from a black metal album. There are also some nature sounds and synth passages, if that kind of thing floats your boat.
Bog Oak - A Treatise on Resurrection and The Afterlife (Svart)
The California trio serves up some crushing doom on their debut EP, with the female vocals alternating between blackened rasps and haunting cleans. Despite having only 4 tracks and 20 minutes of play time, the band has definitely established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the doom/sludge scene. Personally, I’d like to see them explore the clean vocal side a bit more, but either way I’m looking forward to a full-length release.
The Flight of Sleipnir - V (Napalm)
When a band is described as stoner/doom/folk metal, there’s a pretty good chance their going to end up in my recommendations column. Fortunately, the Arvada, CO duo doesn’t disappoint with their 5th album. The riffs are definitely in the doom sphere, while the vocals meander between harsh and mellow. The usual folk elements are largely absent, aside from a keyboard flute part in one track, but the overall album has a definite folk feel to it.
Mors Principium Est - Dawn of the 5th Era (AFM)
There’s not a whole lot of unexplored territory in the melodic death genre, but if you can take the tried and true sound and deliver a solid album, I’m going to listen to it. That’s exactly what this Finnish quintet accomplished on their 5th album. This record is up there with anything that came out of Sweden in the 90’s. There are plenty of face-melting riffs and melodic leads and the vocals are top-notch for the genre. Also, apparently these guys don’t know they’re from Finland because they didn’t ruin the whole thing with over-the-top keyboards like all of their fellow countrymen.
My Shameful - Hollow (Moscow Funeral League)
Shifting seamlessly between funeral-paced doom and neck-breaking death metal, this Finnish/German trio delivers a stunning record with their sixth release. Even while the drums are going crazy, the melodies remain slow and creepy. I’m especially fond of the single note guitar parts that ring over top of the fuzz throughout the album. All of the tracks clock in over 6:30, but the riffs remain stuck in your head for days. Further proof that the best doom is coming out of Russia these days, even if it’s just the location of the label.
Obscurity - Vintar (Trollzorn)
The German quintet deals out some nasty Viking metal on their 7th release. Alternating between huge, Amon Amarth-style riffs and black metal tremolo picking, these dudes create a solid balance without ever sounding derivative. I believe all of the lyrics are in German, but I assume they’re telling tales of Vikings laying waste to inferior foes, and that’s always fantastic. The guitars are the star of the show here, though. This is the week’s top straightforward headbanger.