My Top Ten Albums of 2017


Hello! I hope you all had a great start into the year. In my first post of the new year, I’d like to show you my list of favorite albums of 2017. These albums all had a strong impact on me, impressed me in a special way or were just outstandingly entertaining. I don’t claim that these are indeed the “best” albums of the year, objectively, but these are the ones that I like the most. So, without further ado, here are my top ten favorite albums of 2017:

10. A Hill To Die Upon – Via Artis Via Mortis

A1aPGwg86YL._SL1500_.jpgThis album is, in my humble opinion, a Blackened Death Metal masterpiece. The album is a varied and interesting work that takes a few unexpected turns – both musically and lyrically – but remains coherent in atmosphere and tonality. An atmospheric and dark album with fantastic lyrics and interesting songwriting.



9. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun


The dark Neo-Folk sound which has become Chelsea Wolfe’s trademark over the years is still present on her newest album, but this time it has been dragged through mud and sludge and thrown into an abyss from which it slowly crawls out to find its way into your soul. Heavy, sometimes almost droning riffs, drenched in reverb, hard and heavy, powerful drumming, dark electronics, and Chelsea’s impending vocals singing about everything that’s not right with this world and her own personal demons fuse into intimidating walls of sound that are repeatedly broken down by moments of whispering calmness.
“Hiss Spun” is Wolfe’s most refined work to date, as it is a logical culmination of all the musical elements that characterized her previous works and an outstandingly captivating and varied record in its own right.

8. Fen – Winter

a1318273058_10.jpgFen have perfected their style of atmospheric, Post-Rock influenced Black Metal and provide us with an intriguing concept album that is progressive, musically immaculate, versatile and atmospheric.
The balance between frostbitten and furious Black Metal and contemplative, melancholic calm passages is as close to perfection as an album can probably get.
An absolutely stunning piece of music, full of melody, atmosphere and power.

7. Ne Obliviscaris – Urn

a3365015821_10.jpgAnother masterpiece by one of the most consistently fantastic Metal bands of the decade. On this album, the band further perfected their distinct sound, an intriguing mixture of Melodic Death, Black and, most prominently, Progressive Metal. “Urn” is a streamlined and coherent, yet surprising and inspiring album that everyone should listen to.



6. Boris – Dear

a3010870023_10.jpgThis album is probably one of, if not the most interesting and diverse and at the same time most coherent Drone albums I’ve ever heard. It’s also one of the heaviest. The intense atmosphere created by the slow and dark riffs and the emotional vocals is crushingly beautiful, cold and eerie at the same time. The album also has some beautiful calm, atmospheric passages that balance out the heaviness of the rest of the album perfectly and add another emotional layer to it. Incredible stuff.

5. Black Kirin – Nanking Massacre

a0550747135_10.jpgBlack Kirin blend various forms of Extreme Metal, Chinese folk music and operatic elements together into a very unique sounding and highly entertaining album. The lyrical topic of the album, the incredibly gruesome and devastating Nanking Massacre of 1937, gives it a very emotional dimension that won’t leave you untouched.


4. White Ward – Futility Report

a2142312175_10.jpgAn incredibly fascinating debut album on which the band melts elements of Black Metal, Post-Rock and Jazz together. The result is an impressively powerful and emotional album that is mesmerizing and continuously surprising from start to finish.
One of the best and most creative albums of the year. Go and check it out if you are a fan of experimental music!



3. Wode – Servants of the Countercosmos

cover[…] From the atmospheric intro to the acoustic guitar outro the album takes you on a highly entertaining and brilliantly written musical journey through everything we love about Black Metal (or extreme Metal in general) […].
Full review: Wode – Servants of the Countercosmos.



2. Leprous – Malina

Malina.jpg“Malina” shows the band moving away from almost any Extreme Metal elements that they used in the past and moving forward to a more atmospheric, more emotional, “ethereal” sound. What hasn’t changed is the band’s outstanding talent for brilliant songwriting and their love for experimentation. Odd time signatures, weird instrumentation and interesting song structures – it’s all there. But the album doesn’t come off as too technical – thanks to the focused and intelligent songwriting. While the music itself is nothing short of brilliant, Einar Solbergs distinctive crystal clear vocals remain one of my favorite elements of Leprous‘ sound. I don’t know what it is but his vocals are cold and emotional at the same time, they have something very special to them that only very few singers have.
Yes, “Malina” is less “heavy” than Leprous‘ earlier material, but that’s a great thing because it lets the band expand their sound further than ever before.
If you are looking for an album that is progressive, experimental, atmospheric, surprising, technical, emotionally touching and just overall mesmerizing from start to finish, look no further than “Malina”

1. Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Finisterre

Der-Weg-Einer-Freiheit-Finisterre.jpgFinisterre. The end of the world. The end of a journey. The end of a life. The beginning of something new? Whereto do you go when everything around you perishes? And what will remain when you are gone?
Der Weg Einer Freiheit ask questions of final importance, they mourn the transitoriness of human existence, they open doors into the darkest chambers of human nature.
On strings of fire, drums of war, they evoke a symphony of darkness and despair. These songs are drenched in pain, passion and rage. They come slowly, like dark waves of sound, until they crush around you with furious force.
“Finisterre” is an album that I have listened to countless times this year. No other album this year had an impact on me quite as this one. And no other album this year felt so … perfect, right from the first listen on. This is not only my favorite album of the year but also one of the best Black Metal albums I’ve ever heard.
The album is full of breathtakingly beautiful melodies and has an incredibly captivating atmosphere. This album is far from being your typical Atmospheric Black Metal album, though. Singer, songwriter and lead guitarist Nikita Kamprad is an absolute beast on guitar and vocals and a master composer whose talent for captivating, coherent, yet immensely interesting compositions shows on this album, more than ever before. Both lyrics and music are incredibly well written and harmonize perfectly together, creating a sense of deep melancholy in the listener.
“Finisterre” is DWEF through and through, but it is also very different from the band’s previous records in the sense that the band added more progressive elements, e.g. clean vocals, cello and almost jazzy acoustic sections to their sound.
“Finisterre” is an album that you will listen to over and over again without it losing any of its initial fascination. In my opinion, Der Weg Einer Freiheit have not only outdone themselves but also crafted nothing short of a Black Metal masterpiece with this album that proves that they stand head and shoulders above most modern Black Metal acts.

Well, that’s it. One final goodbye to 2017. 2018 will have to work hard to get as good as this year. BTW, my posting schedule will stay the same this year as it was last year: non-existent. And with that, thanks for reading, have a great year and STAY METAL!





Arkheron Thodol – Thaw (2017)


Arkheron Thodol – Thaw
April 20th, 2017 (USA); Self-released
LP (57 min.)
Atmospheric Black Metal, Blackened Funeral Doom Metal, Post-Black Metal, Folk Metal

Kelly Elfstrom – Vocals
Shiloh McBee – Drums
Tanner Erhart – Bass
Mycah Tippit – Guitars

Track list:
01. I. Catalyst/Thresholds of Frost
02. II. The Reins of a Storm
03. III. Gnosis
04. IV. Spiritum Viridis
05. V. Within the Lucid Deep
06. VI. Sapling
07. VII. To Breathe; The Offering

Because Black Metal originated in Europe and is commonly seen as a “European” genre of Metal, many seem to forget (or ignore) how many great Black Metal bands there are on the other side of the big sea. Among those who do not ignore that fact, the US-American Black Metal scene is primarily known and loved for their atmospheric, folk and nature influenced style of Black Metal¹. The American scene gave birth to some of the greatest bands and artists in that particular subgenre. Bands like Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room and Panopticon are loved by Black Metal fans internationally. Those are only some of the rather “popular” bands in the scene, but there are many, many more great bands in the underground.

Arkheron Thodol is one of those bands. Hailing from Bozeman, Montana, Arkheron Thodol is an unsigned/independent band that was founded in 2012 and currently consists of four members. In 2015 the band released their 18 min debut EP “Oneironaut” (which I haven’t listened to yet). “Thaw” is the band’s first full-length record.

I was really happy when I received an email from the band asking me to review this album, because Atmospheric Black Metal is one of my favorite subgenres of Metal and I honestly can’t get enough of it. While I really enjoy other subgenres of Black Metal, as well, none of them really touches me on an emotional level the way many Atmospheric Black Metal bands do. Only if they’re good, of course. And this album is good. It’s actually much more than just “good”. It might be one of the best albums of 2017 I’ve heard so far.

The music on “Thaw” is a combination of many different styles of music, like Funeral Doom Metal, Folk and Ambient, all masterly melted together on the foundation of Atmospheric and Melodic Black Metal.

The first track of the album begins with a folky acoustic passage that is followed by melodic doomy guitar riffs and earshattering vocals. After a short acoustic passage the song’s tempo is then increased and the guitars and vocals become more aggressive and Blackened. The song than ends with an acoustic Folk passage. This structure and the contrast between beautifully melodic and atmospheric parts and raw passages is representative for the whole album. It is one of the reasons why “Thaw” is so entertaining and interesting. The band manages to create atmosphere without being too repetitive and one-dimensional – unlike many other bands in the genre. Their best characteristic is variety and versatility. And while the elements of their music generally aren’t anything completely new in the genre, Arkheron Thodol‘s music is still quite unique in the way those elements are put together.

Besides acoustic passages in most of the tracks on “Thaw”, there are also a few completely acoustic tracks on this album, which is again pretty common for the genre, but they are very well played and placed on the album, which makes them stand out from many other songs of that kind I’ve heard.

Another pretty cool element of the music on “Thaw” are the ambient and spoken word parts. Fun fact: This is the second album I’ve heard this year that features a spoken word passage from the Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man” (the other one being “The Storm Before The Calm” by Death Therapy).

Generally, “Thaw” is well structured and produced, every song on the album is very well written, the musicians know what they are doing and the vocals are fantastic, as well. “Thaw” has beautiful melodies, great riffs and an absolutely captivating atmosphere. It really brings the best out of Folk, Doom and Black Metal together. I actually don’t have anything negative to say about the music, except for it maybe being a bit to “generic” in the sense that the music is not exactly anything “innovative”. But to be honest, if the music is good and manages to intrigue and entertain me, that doesn’t bother me at all, especially not in the genre of Black Metal.

But not only the music on “Thaw” is great, the lyrical concept of the album is pretty awesome, as well. It is quite complex, so I let Mycah Tippit, guitarist of the band, explain it to you instead of trying to summarize it myself:

Thematically, the album Thaw tells the story of someone awakening to a new depth of consciousness, and a more fully embraced sovereignty. However, before this path can be truly realized, one must clearly see the extent of the artificially created social programming that colors their experiences. Then they must make a focused effort to dismantle these behaviors. It is this conditioning or programming that forms the ice that must be thawed to release the true self. Thaw is the melting away of the force field that blocks one from experiencing the truth of our shared experiences. Thaw is the story of our species and its quest to fully connect and unify itself. The album touches on social issues regarding personal sovereignty and a harmonious symbiosis with the natural world.

To sum it up, if you like your Black Metal atmospheric and melodic or if you generally are a fan of atmospheric, yet extreme music, this album is for you and you should definitely check it out. As for myself, I’d say this album is a strong contender for my Top 10 of 2017 already, but we’ll see what the rest of the year will bring. Either way, go ahead and listen to the two tracks that are available for streaming on bandcamp and preorder the album if you like what you hear.

“Thaw” will be released April 20th, 2017 and can be preordered on bandcamp.

The band on facebook: Arkheron Thodol

Review Thaw 2

¹) Some of those bands are often summarized under the genre tag “Cascadian Black Metal”, which is, much like “Norwegian Black Metal” or “Swedish Black Metal” often used to describe the specific sound of certain bands, even if they are not Norwegian, Swedish or Cascadian. I do not use these terms as genre descriptions because I often find them to be rather confusing and misleading.

Ensiferum – Ensiferum (2001)


Ensiferum – Ensiferum
January 7th, 2001 (Finland); Spinefarm Records
LP (55 min.)
Epic Folk Metal

Track list:
01. Intro
02. Hero in a Dream
03. Token of Time
04. Guardians of Fate
05. Old Man (Väinämöinen)
06. Little Dreamer (Väinämöinen Part II)
07. Abandoned
08. Windrider
09. Treacherous Gods
10. Eternal Wait
11. Battle Song
12. Goblins’ Dance

There are several bands that I could credit for getting me into Metal. Some of them are System Of A Down, Narnia, Nightwish, Skillet, then later Demon Hunter, Red and Theocracy. But there is one band that I always name when asked which Metal band was the first one I listened to. I hold them alone responsible for sparking my interest in heavy music. This band is Ensiferum. I even know the one single song that made me say: “This is it. This is the kind of music I want to listen to!” This song was “Wanderer” from their third full length record Victory Songs. Another song that was absolutely essential for me at that time was “La iLai Hei” from their second album Iron. Generally, these two albums were the ones that I listened to most of the time. Yet, the album that grew to become my favorite by them over the years is their self titled debut album Ensiferum.

Ensiferum can be considered as one of the pioneer bands of Viking Metal. Their music is an amalgamation of Melodic Death Metal, Folk, symphonic elements and vocals that range from throat ripping Blackened Death growls to epic male choirs.
There is hardly anything about this album that I don’t like. It has beautiful melodies, fantastic solos, great vocals, epic lyrics, a huge level of variation and emotion throughout.
From catchy, fast paced songs like “Guardians Of Fate” to martial war chants like “Battle Song”, slower, almost depressive tunes like “Old Man”, bottle xylophone decorated Blackened craziness (“Goblins’ Dance”) and huge, epic, atmospheric hymns like “Treacherous Gods”, Ensiferum explore the different dimensions of the genre on this album and create a ridiculously entertaining, amazing and surprising work of musical art. From a technical standpoint the music on this album maybe isn’t the most challenging to play but the songwriting talent is outstanding, in my opinion. The balance between atmosphere and melody, Folk and Metal elements, slow and fast songs, clean vocals and growls and all the other elements of Ensiferum‘s music is as close to perfection as a Viking Metal album can get.
Do yourself a favor and listen to this classic if you haven’t already!

Listen to the album on Spotify.