DARK MATTER WEBZINE'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2021
As the early days of 2022 bring forth a series of catastrophes that so far have included a devastating war in Europe, biblical-style storms and skyrocketing living costs; the disaster that was 2021 now induces a sense of wistful nostalgia. Though we suffered for some time under prolonged Covid misery, lockdown did, finally, come to an end and live music – the lifeblood of every avid metalhead – came roaring back to grateful audiences. And despite a deepening despair at the continuing bleakness of world events, a number of staggeringly good album releases provided solace, from darkly beautiful, blackened melodies to brutal slabs of cathartic rage. As per tradition, Dark Matter have put together a small selection of choice morsels from the year for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!
Centred around a bleak vision of a desolate cathedral, Mork’s latest exquisitely crafted black metal elegy channels the spirit of the true Norwegian sound without the rasping raw production. Moving away from the destructive tendencies of a genre which left the scorched ashes of church buildings in its wake, Mork instead take inspiration from the dark majesty of ecclesiastical architecture. While their elegant melodies soar like spires, the gloomy atmospherics are as shadowy as sepulchral crofts and cloisters and every fierce riff drips with the malevolent intent that ignited those early infernal fires.
SWALLOW THE SUN
Swallow the Sun’s latest gloomy meditation on the inherent misery of the human condition is inspired by the ‘moonflowers that bloom at the darkest hour of the night’ as guitarist Juha Raivio explains. Conceived during the seemingly endless lockdowns of the past year or so, 'Moonflowers' is another fine example of the band’s sombre blend of dusky death/doom, the mournful melodies and cascading metal riffs coming together in an emotional, gloom-laden catharsis. Anyone who has ever felt lost and alone can take comfort in this rare bloom’s enveloping embrace.
'Slain in the Spirit'
Necronautical continue to flourish as they explore fresh thematic territories and weave progressive elements into their traditional black metal. 'Slain in the Spirit' delves into the realms of mysticism with soaring, operatic vocals, occult symphonies and raging crescendos that add a sense of grandeur to the wandering, manic sound. Bewilderingly experimental yet beautiful, this is another black jewel from these accomplished seekers of darkness.
'Where Fear and Weapons Meet'
1914 draw once again on the imagery of World War I to deliver an ear-shattering onslaught of blackened death for their latest pulverising release. While rapid-fire blasts of pure noise combine with doom to convey the unrelenting horror of the trenches, the lyrics and underlying melodies tell human stories of desperate poignancy. Utilising the sombre gravity of Nick Holmes’ guest vocals and the haunting melancholy of anti-war ditties of the era, 'Where Fear and Weapons Meet' is less a battle cry and more a raging call to honour the millions of lives lost. Lest we forget.
Melodic death titans Hypocrisy may have moved away from their obsession with flying saucers, but the edgy paranoia remains, sharpened by lockdown isolation and infused into every manic note. Blistering epic 'Worship' explores conspiracy theories about government manipulation, the deranged riffs and insane tempos perfectly nailing the nagging hysteria accompanying the bombardment of conflicting information in our internet age. Older and wiser they may be, their themes more serious, but this is classic, batshit crazy Hypocrisy nevertheless.
Death metal merchants Asphyx roar back on to the scene with their latest slice, a high-concept sci-fi release centred on a Lovecraftian monster travelling through space and devouring worlds. An epic beast that spans both galaxies and genres, 'Necroceros' balances brutal death and blasts of breathless thrash with interludes of sludge-dragging, heavy-hearted doom. As beautifully crafted and diverse as ever, Asphyx continue to build on their characteristic shredding sound with ever deeper layers of darkness.
Though they rarely deviate from their familiar, gore-blasted territory, the brutalising death metal of hardened veterans Cannibal Corpse always packs a serious punch with fans. Revelling in gleeful evocations of dismemberment and torture of which any splatter movie sadist would be proud, 'Violence Unimagined' will eviscerate your ears with its absolute unrelenting aggression. Hardly original, but bloody good fun as usual.
AT THE GATES
'The Nightmare of Being'
The apocalyptic shores of At the Gates’ volcanic sound, where waves of grandiose melody collide with hard rock heaviness, is fertile soil. Pioneers of melodic death, their latest release showcases the skill, agility and fluidity of form that inspired countless followers. A little more experimental than previous releases, 'The Nightmare of Being' throws in elements of darkening doom and some moving baritone saxophone, while capturing all the raging power and fury of their peerless style.
Old school veterans Carcass prove they still have a few tricks up their sleeves with their latest savage smash, balancing their unique goregrind ferocity against a contemporary edge that cuts like a knife. 'Torn Arteries' blends the muscular riffage and coarse vocals of their 'Reek of Putrefaction' roots and the melodic majesty of their 'Heartwork' days with more sophisticated, modern techniques. Despite an eight-year hiatus between albums, Carcass will always be a force to be reckoned with.
Cradle of Filth
'Existence is Futile'
With its rollicking riffs, classical chords billowing like purple drapes in a haunted mansion and Dani Filth screeching his little lungs out like a demented dark pixie, Cradle of Filth’s latest fantasy epic has all the gothic indulgence fans have come to love. Plunging headlong into schlocky horror movie themes with more gutsy vigour than usual, Cradle spice things up with notes of added melodrama and lashings of unhinged Victoriana. Chiming with midnight bells and wreathed in graveyard mists, 'Existence is Futile' aims with unashamed abandon for a truly cinematic scale.