In response to the fact that there was a LOT of excellent black metal in 2015, I have compiled another list for those who prefer Darkthrone and Mayhem to Deafheaven and Vattnet Viskar. The only reason these did not make the original cut is that kvlt BM doesn't often lend itself well to innovation, which I consider to be an important factor in determining the most notable releases of a given year. That having been said, here are my favorite straight unholy BM releases of the past year.
"Under Beastcraft" very early on became one of my favorite songs of 2015. This album from Portugal band Corpus Christii is a solid representation of everything that was great about the early second wave of black metal. It's raw, uncompromising, and so freaking unholy. I'm no Satanist by any means, but I still love the hell out of this album.
After being a little bummed out with the lackluster follow up to Ascension's incredible Consolamentum, I was happy to hear this release from Blaze of Perdition. The album shares a lot of the qualities I greatly enjoyed about that album while making it their own. Modern, wall-of-sound production suits the release well, but doesn't stop it from being grim enough to make this list.
Bump up the theatrics for this one. I was largely reminded of the more unusual moments of early Gorgoroth's Pest when it came to the sometimes over-the-top vocal delivery. While some BM albums can be pretty consistent (and sometimes boring) in the vox department, Outre is not that band. The result here is Shakespeare from the mind of a violent Schizophrenic. And that's not even to mention the ferocious drums and guitar.
I can't remember how I happened upon this group. I believe I was randomly browsing someone's Choose Your Price Bandcamp collection and stumbled upon their debut. It's unfortunate that I have not seen them turn up anywhere outside of that, because this album rules. It walks the line perfectly between atmospheric and pure second way. Extra points for perfectly executing the purposefully lo-fi production.
Two long tracks, one outcome: your insanity. The mixture of hypnotic groove with the raw and cavernous aesthetic here is masterful. This was another group I happened upon on Bandcamp and have not seen anywhere else. Spread the word, because these guys know what they're doing, and it should frighten you.
I hesitated to on this one due to the folk instrumentation, but this is still black metal to the core. Think of it as Emperor with flutes and other folk instruments replacing much of the symphonic additions. Furthermore, I quite nearly included this on the Top 10 albums list, but I ultimately went with the equally excellent Umbras de Barbagia. In any case, Selvans is more than worthy of your black heart's attention.
"Massvandring & Blodbad" was another fast favorite of 2015 for me. Borrowing heavily from Taake's overall style and aesthetic, Murg are another group that truly celebrates the early second wave of BM without falling into cliche. There seems the be a genuine care for the genre, and the writing reflects that. No wannabes here. This is the real deal. I can't wait to hear a follow-up.
Blew me away. It didn't hurt that the cover art drew me like a moth to the flame, but what is held within this album is every bit as enjoyable. Deathy vocals take firm hold of an otherwise tremolo and blastbeat-heavy black metal affair. Lots of string bending on this one, making it often sound like a swarm of devouring insects. Dissonant, discordant, devious. Love it.
I was pleased to find a hard promo of this in my mailbox, but Mephorash finds itself on this list for far more than gifts. This album is a methodical black mass full of twisting and turning corridors...all of which lead to doom and hellfire. Ending much as it begins, it is no wonder that my original review labeled this "Ouroboros."
I was already impressed by these guys on their their 3-way split, Moerae, but with Providentia I was able to see that these guys can hold their own for a full release. At only three tracks, this album still spans almost an hour. The first time I listened to it, I went 4 spins in a row. Some might argue that the vocals are a bit deep and deathy to be truly "kvlt" enough for BM, but to that I say hogwash. "You will be sinking into a blissfully dark abyss of tremolo, blastbeats, deep growls, and atmosphere."
My word this album is epic. All of the instrumentation is incredible in its own right, but the overall composition of how it comes together is even more impressive. Stunning, reverb-tinged vocals traverse a landscape of ever-changing drum patterns and layered guitars. It's atmospheric, but never repetetive. More please.
Ah look, Akhlys managed to sneak its way onto both of these lists. Well, it's for good reason. The Dreaming I is a really interesting album that only grows on me each time I muster the strength to press play. It's experiential, but never boring. Truly, this is the sound of nightmares. And it never ceases to amaze me how consistent this album is while still offering a few surprises, sometimes when least expected.