Hi everyone! I know I haven’t been writing a whole lot these past few years. I hope all of that is about to change and I know I’m the only one who can change it. However, I have been listening. And in listening, I had to be honest with myself and admit I hate reviewing music. The point of my reviews has generally only been to convince readers that it’s what they should be listening to. And what’s the point of that, really? In a world where new albums are practically dropped into our laps the second they’re released, I don’t need a thousand words for that, or even one hundred. What I am going to try and do this year, if I might be so bold as to make some sort of writing resolution, is twofold: I’m going to dig deep and think outside-the-box. And in doing that, 2017 will hopefully get some worthwhile features out of me. With that being said, here is the first one. I hope that you enjoy it, and I hope that I’ll have the energy to put my fingers in high gear for the upcoming year.
Spotify is an interesting program that is in need of no introduction. In most cases, it works great, especially when you’re often on-the-go and an album pops into your head that you feel like listening to. It also has a “similar artists” feature that is surprisingly effective for finding new music. There is no way a serious lover of music will ever be happy with any one application for listening to music that they do not yet own, but in my experience it’s definitely the best one out there. It’s certainly not for everybody, either. The quality of the songs is generally far beneath album quality, the dates and chronology of album releases are often topsy-turvy, and there’s a lot of obvious albums missing from Spotify. The point of this feature, though, isn’t to weigh the pros and cons of Spotify, but rather to spotlight a number of bands who do not get nearly enough attention on the application. If Spotify is a litmus test for popularity, we are failing some of the best stuff every genre has to offer, and Spotify’s similar artist algorithm is failing them as well.
More often than not, quality bands that fail to emerge from relative obscurity usually just don’t know how to market themselves. In some rare instances, bands only want a die-hard following and literally nothing else, but not every musician has that luxury, as failing to generate revenue can oftentimes mean having to turn off the amps for good. The beauty of Spotify’s “Monthly Listeners” feature is that it doesn’t just state how many people like a certain band, but rather adjusts the listener count within a 30-day period. Ultimately, the secondary goal here is to get you all to go out and support these bands, not just to make Spotify playlists. But the primary goal is to give our readers suggestions for great, undiscovered music. Sure, some of these bands are probably not good enough to acheive commercial success. But how good does a band have to be to achieve that? Limp Bizkit has over THREE MILLION monthly listeners. Pantera has over one million. The “Chillin’ On A Dirt Road” pop-country playlist has nearly six hundred thousand. Oh, and Tim McGraw has more monthly listeners than Iron Maiden. Remember to include that when you discuss the world’s problems over dinner.
Believe me when I say, how some of these albums aren’t more popular still has me scratching my head. Perhaps poor marketing is to blame. But it doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it. It’s the beginning of a new year, so let’s take advantage of not being overwhelmed by new releases and start combing back though the catacombs of gems that have fallen by the wayside. If you didn’t know this, ten whole US dollars will unlock ad-free access to these ten bands, and even Tim McGraw. So get your ten for ten, or better yet, take that money and buy one of these albums! Who knows, your most listened to album this year could be… something from the past.
N.K.V.D.[97 Monthly Listeners]
Ominously oppressive industrial black metal that does not discriminate with its fascination of Stalin, Milosevic, Hitler and Kadyrov alike! Thankfully, the music expresses a mere morbid curiosity from the horrors unleashed by these men, and not an endorsement. 2016 saw the re-release of all of the band’s early material on one compilation, which is available on bandcamp. The sole member of N.K.V.D., Loïc.F, is also in Autokrator, a similar band in the Krucyator Productions / Avantgarde / Godz ov War record label circles. But beware, N.K.V.D. is sure to bring out the dictator in all of us.
For Fans Of: Anaal Nathrakh, King-era Gorgoroth, Autokrator
AMESTIGON[92 Monthly Listeners]
Still smouldering after its 2015 release, Thier, Austria’s Amestigon has managed to stay under the radar after two incredibly solid full-lengths. Although Thurisaz left the band in 1998, co-founding member Tharen has kept the band afloat for almost twenty years. No less impressive is that Amestigon has maintained the same lineup since Thurisaz’s departure. Perhaps Amestigon really is just like hot lava; from afar, it’s a slow-moving, softly crackling black mass, but anyone entrenched in that shit is going to liquify in seconds. Let this track be the springboard to your next face-melting extravaganza!
FFO: Abigor, Most black metal on the World Terror Committee label
SORGELDOM[54 Monthly Listeners]
Apparently, if I had a dollar for every person that read my gleaming reviews of half of the Sorgeldom full-lengths, I’d still be broke-as-a-joke. It’s okay, though, because it’s never too late to get into one of the most oddly satisfying, kinda-shoegazey-but-kinda-not bands out there! Aside from the one weird album that the band literally recorded in a forest with a generator (the picture at the top of this article is a Sorgeldom band shot, by the way), its three offerings from Nordvis / Frostscald records are absolutely stellar. A must have for anyone looking to really broaden their collection with black metal that’s firmly rooted in tradition yet still ventures way off the beaten path.
FFO: LIK, people who care about badass basslines, Totale Vernichtung meets Slowdive
PACT[?? Monthly Listeners]
Spotify doesn’t have its shit together, clearly, because Pact’s discography is mixed up with another non-metal artist’s. Either way, the two artists have LESS THAN 100 PLAYS COMBINED. If there was ever a band that I thought had the potential to take Negative Plane’s crown for the kings of USBM, it was Pact. Well, that was my impression immediately after the release of its debut, The Dragon Lineage of Satan. Unfortunately, the band’s sophomore effort was quite the dud, and led to the eventual dissipation of the band alltogether (apparently the band now goes by Pact Infernal and the music I have found sounds more like it belongs on Cold Meat Industry Records than anything else. *Shrugs*. At least we were still given one great record, which is more than the majority of USBM bands are capable of. ZING!
FFO: Negative Plane, Aosoth, Portal
GRAUPEL[47 Monthly Listeners]
If it’s thick, dark, penetrating atmosphere you want, look no further. Hailing from Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Graupel shares members with Verdunkeln, Kermania, Endstille, Graven, Desecration, and the almighty Nagelfar. Although drummer Ratatyske borrows a lot of mid-paced groove from Beverast‘s Meilenwald, the rhythm sections take a bit more of a backseat to well-composed, repetitive melodies with a little bit of classic, undistorted 80’s new wave guitar parts peeking out from the fuzziness from time-to-time. Although I believe this band has seen a fair amount of popularity in Northern Germany, there are a surprisingly few Spotify users who have had Graupel recommended to them. Those looking to fulfill hauntingly long and lonely walks in the park at night need look no further.
FFO: Verdunkeln, Lunar Aurora, Nagelfar, Filosofem-era Burzum
ORDER OF ORIAS[46 Monthly Listeners]
Australian black metal bands just have a knack for falling by the wayside (Crowned anyone?), and I sure hope that isn’t going to be the case with Order Of Orias. Although the band probably put itself on the map a little bit more with its most recent split with adorable, Dijon mustard-loving cohorts Aosoth, its first and only full length Inverse is certainly worth visiting. It’s also worth mentioning that Orias‘ guitarist is a live musician for Ignivomous. This two-piece brings down the hammer, hard. Give the band a shot if you’re in the mood for some mechanically sound, heavy black metal. One thing is for certain: The second album, if there ever is one, will be highly anticipated (along with every single album promo that we get in the mail, including debuts. Seriously, labels, we love you, but stop using this term for quite literally everything).
FFO: Aosoth, Ascension (Ger), Antaeus, Clandestine Blaze
KRIEGSMASCHINE[41 Monthly Listeners]
Okay so… a lot of people talk about Mgla. Even casual fans of the genre quickly learned of the duo’s magnitude with its release of With Hearts Toward None. What most people don’t talk about is the only other band on the No Solace roster, Kriegsmaschine. The thing is, Kriegsmaschine is Mgla plus one other member. His name? Konrad Ramotowski AKA Destroyer. So yeah, he’s got a badass name alright, and like loose shrapnel tearing through the toughest of sinew, the dude can shred. The cool thing is this: with Kriegsmaschine, you get the alter-egos of one of the best duos in metal PLUS one, and it sounds nothing like Mgla. This is war-obsessed metal at its absolute pinnacle, and although Spotify only features its latest split with Infernal War, two songs are better than none. Hands down the most musically competent band on this entire list, and the songwriting also kicks serious ass.
FFO: Truppensturm, Mgla, Deathspell Omega, Szron, Furia
THE CREVICES BELOW[27 Monthly Listeners]
Okay, so from here on out, we’re getting into straight what the fuck territory in regards to the lack of popularity of the remaining three bands. The Crevices Below was operated solely by Dis Pater, the mastermind also exclusively behind Midnight Odyssey and Tempestuous Fall. That makes the Converge, Rivers of Hell three-way split between all three bands, well, interesting to say the least. Look, I don’t need to bog you down with any more of my words. Below The Crevices is one of the best black metal albums of the decade. Period. There are absolutely ZERO excuses to not listen to this. Anyone who has read this far down should buy the record. However, if you need a preview, the entire thing is up on Spotify.
FFO: Spectral Lore, Crowned (Aus), The Cure (only good), Whatever Dis Pater does next
RAHU[13 Monthly Listeners]
Now this thing is pretty much impossible to find even if you type in the band’s name on Spotify. Having forgotten the name of Rahu‘s full-length (it’s a mouthful), I believe I had to scroll through fifty other bands not named Rahu to even find the album I wanted when a song randomly popped into my head while I was on a road trip. Needless to say, duo Kobalt and Atvar (Circle of Ouroborus, Venus Star and a slew of other bands) compiled some of the most lush, delicate melodies any black metal band had to offer in 2012 with its release of The Quest for The Vajra of Shadows. Much like the Drudkh of old and the Cosmic Church of new, Rahu and Ahdistuksen Aihio have released embrace-filled-yet-non-contrived black metal that is very hard to come by. Vajra is worth every second of your time. And the leads… my God, the leads.
FFO: All of the bands I mentioned in the paragraph above
W.A.I.L.[8 Monthly Listeners]
I’m going to let all of you in on a little secret of mine since you came this far! W.A.I.L. recorded its second full-length. Now that doesn’t sound like much of a big deal or a great secret when you leave out the fact that I received the promo-tape in the mail from Finland THREE YEARS AGO, but the thing has still not been released, and praise the other journalists that received it for not leaking the bastard. Apparently, W.A.I.L. was absolutely shafted by some artist from whom it purchased the upcoming album’s layout art, and it was never completed. I believe an American label had the same problem (see: Dark Descent’s Matt Calvert). Needless to say, the new album is among the greatest Black/Death/Doom mashups I’ve ever heard, and I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I’m scratching my head as to why Ahdistuksen Aihio has yet to castrate this artist / thief. Regardless, meine freunde, W.A.I.L.‘s first full-length, Wisdom Through Agony into Illumination and Lunacy is up on Spotify, and it appears it’s getting a whopping total of eight listeners per month. Now I want you all to go and give this band some God. Damn. Listens. Thank you.
FFO: The gnarliest death/doom you’ve ever put into your ears meets Children of Mäani.