Another week buzzed us all by, finding some of us content, some happy, more miserable, and some teetering on the edge. I'm not afraid to say I was relatively content, and yet am also not afraid to say I am absolutely terrified of the world around me, of my self, and of my family's future – while recognizing, of course, that a lot of people are terrified all day, every day. I hope this small corner of the endless space that is, well, this, serves as some minimal solace to anyone. In that spirit check out our latest attempt at collective solace vis-a-vis our The War inside My Head interview with Mania and Phobonoid – they released a highly recommended split that's well worth listening but also had some very interesting musical recommendations, so win-win all around. Other than that stay safe, help out those you love, help out some of the people who detest, and follow us everywhere (FacebookInstagramSpotify, Patreon), listen to our shitty podcast (YouTubeSpotifyApple), and check out our amazing compilation albums.

1. Empress – "Golden Orb," from Wait 'Til Night (Doom Metal – Brilliant Emperor Records). Australia's Empress is like a jolt of electricity to the soul, combining etherial, atmospheric doom with spurts of black-like fury. Gothic, pensive, dark, their music is a black seduction and, upon listening to their lead single, "Golden Orb," instantly one of my most anticipated albums from this latter part of 2020. As a long-time fan of True Widow, and as a firm believer that True Widow is one of perhaps three top current bands, the fact that Empress elicits even a comparison with that band is really everything you need to know. Stunning, beautiful, great. FFO: True Widow, Rope Sect, Chelsea Wolf.

2. Tuli – "Kuu," from Hehku (Atmospheric Black Metal – Independent). So here's my favorite piece of atmospheric bm of the week, quite easily, and a very pleasant surprise at that. A brand new project hailing from western Russia and delivering one short introductory track and one realized instrumental track on their debut EP. Poignant, emotional, melancholy, and highlighted by some pretty phenomenal performances, with special notice given to the subdued yet eloquent drum work here. Drums are the essential component of every musical piece, we all know that, but they're especially crucial in a genre as vibe-laden and as melodic as atmospheric black metal and the organic, vibrant, passionate drum sound here is just great. FFO: Eldamar, Mesarthim, Arx Atrata.

3. Bleeding Out – "Realm of Silence," from Lifelong Death Fantasy (Death Metal – Profound Lore Records). I kind of had it in my head that this was going to be something of a melancholy post this week. And while that may be the case, for whatever reason, here's a short dismemberment break courtesy of Toronto's Bleeding Out. After releasing a few demos and a cool split with Brooklyn maniacs Skullshitter the grinding death quartet is set to release their debut full-length and judging by the first song out it'll provide the perfect soundtrack for, as the title suggests, a myriad of death fantasies. Enormous guitar tone, tight-yet-ugly performances, a Coalesce-like vocal performance and enough dynamics and change ups to keep this one short song interesting and oppressively crushing. FFO: Cloud Rat, Cannibal Corpse, Jesus Piece.

4. Forêt Endormie – "Les champs négligés," from Une voile déchirée (Folk/Classical – Red Nebula). A stunning work of folk-laden classical-style compositions, composed and performed by some of the most talented members of, shall we say, some of the most forward thinking and progressive metal bands out at the moment, including the project's main songwriter, Falls of Rauros' Jordan Guerette as well as Dreadnaught's Lauren Vieira, along with a distinguished non-metal constituency in Emmett Harrity, Sarah Mueller, Maria Wagner, and David Yearwood. Stunning, melodic-yet-disturbing music that seems to be both extremely relaxing and centering as well as the soundtrack to some off-kilter nightmare. Gorgeous. FFO: Seaven Teares, maudlin of the well, Eluvium.

5. Aran – "Ikuisuus," from Veden varjoista (Black Metal – Independent). There's quite a bit to digest in the debut EP from Finnish one-man black metal act Aran but the one thing I'm left with is how deft he is in incorporating both tons of atmosphere and melody along with a harsh, menacing quality. Those don't always mesh well, the bright and the dark, if you will, but they're blended perfectly in this release and especially, I think, in this song. The intro almost sounds like the melodic version of a Drastus song which, if you've heard Drastus, you would know is a very strange combination. And yet Aran pulls it off, delivering one of the most satisfying, impressive black metal debuts all year. FFO: Wolves in the Throne Room, Silver Knife, Turia.

6. Cenobite – "Plague Dominion," from Dark Dimension (Death Metal – Independent). Saint Petersburg's Cenobite released what for me was one of the best and most unique death metal demos of the year. It was ruthless, harsh and somehow still melodic with a lot of very interesting choices in terms of structure and atmosphere. So following quick on the heels of that banger they released their debut full-length that includes the songs featured on said demo as well as some others. Some of what made that demo special is sadly missing, especially that "being recorded in a mouldy dengeon" feel to the production. But most of what made that collection of songs stand out is front and center, with tighter performances of some pretty stellar stuff. Don't ever dare sleep on these dudes, you have been warned. FFO: Entombed, Napalm Death, Cerebral Rot.

7. Felgrave – "Millennium Shroud," from A Waning Light (Death/Doom – Independent). I can't really remember when was the last time I heard a band's debut that was as accomplished and thought out as this stunning debut from one-man death/doom/black outfit Felgrave. Hailing from Norway (by way of Australia) Felgrave deliver a ridiculously beautiful set of songs drawing equally from black metal, doom metal, and death metal to create a unique, and all-enveloping atmosphere. I don't say this much but getting some serious The Ruins of Beverast vibes here and that's just one of my favorite bands ever so there. Incredible, and thanks so much for the great We Riff in a Society for the head's up. FFO: The Ruins of Beverast, Urfaust, Fyrnask.

8. Núll – "None," from Entity (Black Metal/Doom – Van Records). Iceland's Núll (o) return from a significant gap from their 2014 debut with what could only be called a mega-rave of despondent doom and black metal aggression. The riffs, the pacing, the dynamics, the emotional performances, the un-emotional performances, the motherfucking clean vocals of a very sad angel, and the almost hardcore yell of pain all meld together to fashion what has to be one of the most impressive black metal releases of the year, and probably the best doom/black hybrid I've heard in a good while. Obivously this collective doesn't suffer from a shortage of notable talent, with members hailing from some of the most significant members of the Icelandic black metal scene, but it isn't often that that amount of potential and feel is actually utilized to make wonderful music. Which this album is, if you've missed the point – quite wonderful. FFO: Skaphe, Misþyrming, The Ruins of Beverast.

9. Ultha – "Forever Always Comes To An End," from Floors Of Heaven (Black Metal – Vendetta Records). So, did Ultha, the enigmatic, incredibly talented, and wonderful German black metal duo quintet, ever break up? What's up with that? Because it seems that ever since they released that message a while back about taking a hiatus or something they have been putting out more music than ever. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, since before breaking up they were the producers of some of the best black metal around and since kinda maybe I don't know breaking up they have kept that level. A surprising two-song EP that's just as emotively crushing and instrumentally mesmerizing as ever. Don't break up guys, there's a shortage of perfect black metal in the world, it be a pity to damage yours. FFO: Fluisteraars, Vukari, Yellow Eyes.


ONE – French black metal master Drastus has released a CD, vinyl version of some of his past material under the title Venoms. You can get it here, and read my interview with him here.

TWO – Old Man Gloom have released their Roadburn 2019 performance with Zozobra via Roadburn Records.

THREE – I think I may have stumbled upon a very intriguing black metal demo here, might need some time to digest.

FOUR – My oldest is doing OK in first grade – so far – mainly through the kindness of other children. Kind kids are the best, there should be more.

FIVE – American doom band Un is reissuing its remastering/reissuing their debut LP via Translation Loss. Not too late to catch up on these fine people, some of the best heavy doom around.

ONE LAST THING, PROMISE: A good few very important albums celebrated significant anniversaries this passing week, including Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (40 years), Painkiller (30 years), and Speak English or Die! (35 years).