Dynfari - Myrkurs er þörf (2020)

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Finally seeing the light of day after a COVID related delay, today we have our favorite album of 2020 so far: Dynfari’s “Myrkurs er þörf”. Slowly improving over each of their previous albums, this Icelandic outfit has managed to achieve near perfection with the eight tracks and 46 minutes of music in this release. Perfectly combining Post-Black Metal and Atmospheric Black Metal, the album is full of melancholy and lush atmospheres.

Opening with the mood setting bleakness of “Dauðans dimmu dagar”, the song slowly builds up with a majestic Lantlôs-esque opening as it transitions with magical distorted guitars and perfect pacing. On “Langar nætur (í botnlausum spíralstiga)” the mood takes a turn with more sweeping guitar melodies, intricate guitar solos, and a combination of dreamy clean vocals and harsh screams. This track creates a very dynamic and yet enveloping atmosphere that will hypnotize you as tracks like the album title track continue to build up on it.

Hinayana - Death Of The Cosmic (2020)

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Hooking us instantly into their highly polished Melodic Death Metal sound, today we have Hinayana and their major label debut EP “Death of the Cosmic”. Delivering 23 minutes of pure headbanging greatness, this release is of similar quality to anything that bands like Omnium Gatherum, Insomnium and Dark Tranquility have released. If you are a fan of the genre, it is quite nice that Napalm Records is giving the band the push they need to reach a wider audience with their killer music.

The album title opener creates a very mystical atmosphere with lush keyboards as the crafty guitars make their way. The band’s music is quite refined and this track showcases an exciting combination of melodic riffs, traditional growls, and a very lively vibe. After the brilliant opener, “Cold Conception” takes a bit of a step back and delivers a more stylized approach with intricate drum patterns and crafty guitar solos. While the band’s sound is typical of the genre, their unique and more atmospheric take on it sets them apart from the rest.

Kryptamok - Verisaarna (2020)

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Arriving to our review queue at the start of the pandemic craziness, we almost didn’t get to fully enjoy to Kryptamok’s debut full-length release “Verisaarna”. Being huge fans of Finnish Black Metal, this would have been a great mistake as this release unleashes nearly 40 minutes of raw traditional BM that oozes brutality and punishment. Led by Hex Inferi (ex-Horna), this project is straight to the point and savage with their musical execution.

Leading with the chaotic onslaughts of “Loputon, Totaalinen Sota”, this band means serious business as the incisive guitar riffs lead to punkish drumming, flanked by a vicious snarl. We particularly enjoy how old-school synths add a comfortable level of atmospherics to this and other tracks like the pummeling “Apokalypsin Epilooki”, and the headbanging inducing “Saastan Rekviemi”. Without the need for anything fancy, Krptamok creates a very hellish sound that balances brutality and melody.

Descend - The Deviant (2020)

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Breaking the funk of multiple weeks of non-stop Black Metal releases being reviewed, today we have an excellent Progressive/Melodic Death Metal outfit from Sweden named: Descend. Combining elements of bands like Opeth, Cynic, In Mourning, and Persefone, “The Deviant” is one hell of a cinematic experience filled with technical intricacies and superbly catchy songwriting.

Warming up the listener with the melodic instrumental opener “Avalin”, the band nicely builds up to the proggy melodies of “Blood Moon” and its crafty tempo changes. The mixture of clean and harsh vocals is nicely balanced, and the addition of female vocals on tracks like “The Purest One” add an extra layer to the band’s excellent sound. For those looking into more experimental/free-style songs, “Lily” has a nice mixture of fast-paced sections and highly crafty instrumental interludes.

Meridian Dawn - The Fever Syndrome (2020)

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Unleashing 35 minutes of superbly crafted Melodic Death Metal, today we have international project Meridian Dawn and their debut full-length release “The Fever Syndrome”. Being huge fans of the genre, we are quite critical of any release we get, however, this duo manages to craft nine tracks that are both engaging and exciting to listen, filled with melody and guitar wizardry. For those of you looking for your Melo Death fix of 2020, this is one release you can’t miss out on.

Opening with “Iconic”, the band gets straight to business with killer melodic guitars and a blistering tempo to quickly escalate things. With a certain Nightrage vibe, it took us a minute to realize that vocalist Antony Hämäläinen used to be the vocalist of this band back when they released “Insidious” and our favorite “Wearing a Martyr's Crown”. Tracks like “Fever Syndrome” and “With a Heavy Burden…” perfectly negotiate the balance between soaring melodies and aggressive tempo changes, delivering valuable minutes of headbanging bliss.

The Bishop Of Hexen - The Death Masquerade (2020)

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As one of the biggest surprises of 2020, we have Israel’s Symphonic Black Metal outfit The Bishop of Hexen returning with their first full-length release in almost 14 years with “The Death Masquerade”. Featuring a highly bombastic sound, this album delivers nearly 50 minutes of highly engaging music similar to Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. While some might cringe after reading those names, there is nothing to cringe about how this band captures the vibe of the early days of Symphonic BM (think Argentum, Limbonic Art) and unleashes a very powerful trip down memory lane alongside haunting melodies.

Setting the mood with the creepy orchestrations and voices of “Catacumba Essentia”, the band dives head first into an onslaught of lush atmospherics and dramatic vocal arrangements with “A Witch King Reborn”. We are huge fans of the theatrical/cinematic experience provided by the band, with tracks like “Of Shuttering Harps & Shadow Hounds” and “Death Masks”, delivering over the top atmospherics alongside crafty drumming and ravaging guitar melodies. This brings back that old-school naivety about the genre making the release special.

Aversions Crown - Hell Will Come For Us All (2020)

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Not being huge fans of Deathcore music, it was a nice surprise when Aversions Crown release bleed into our review playlist and we found ourselves doing a double take on “Hell Will Come For Us All”. Blending Technical Death Metal elements with Deathcore onslaughts, this Aussie band delivers nearly 40 minutes of punishing music that is quite brutal and yet intricate and complex. If you like bands like Obscura, Necrophagist, and the like, you will definitely be interested in giving these guys a shot.

Delivering a swift opening blow with “The Soil”, the band unleashes all hell with their singular brutality and technical proficiency. As “Born In The Gutters”, the breakdowns do appear here and there, but they are well crafted into an intricate onslaught of crushing riffs, hyper fast drumming, and an intense tempo. This track reminds us a bit of the earlier days of The Black Dahlia Murder.

Noctem Aeternus - Landscape of Discord (2020)

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Having full creative control, one-man projects usually deliver very focused and highly cohesive music, today we have Noctem Aeternus and his sophomore release “Landscape of Discord”. Unraveling over 55 minutes of lush music, we are in awe of the quality and creativity presented in this release. While we will always love one-man projects like Unreqvited and Violet Cold, this one catapults itself to the first three spots on our list with this release.

After lifting our spirits and expectation with the magical “Invocation”, the band leads into the lavish atmospherics of “Those Who Shall Perish” paired with superb drumming and very emotional shireks. The release continues with the ravaging “Coming Home, Twilight”, another mid-tempo onslaught filled with lush arrangements and very well crafted moments of sheer intensity. While many one-man bands rely on plenty of samples and synths, this release includes mostly live instruments, adding clarity to an already epic package.

Assignment - Reflections (2020)

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After receiving what seems to be hundreds of Black Metal albums every week, it is quite refreshing we get some solid Progressive Metal from Germany with Assignment. As the band’s fifth full-length release, “Reflections” delivers nearly one hour of polished music filled with soaring vocal melodies and crafty instrumentation. Flying under the radar in North America, this band has some serious musical chops and they should get more exposure with this excellent release.

Following a dramatic instrumental opener, “Merciful Angel” showcases the band firing on all cylinders right off the gate. Pairing intricate drum patterns, powerful guitar riffs and the signature vocals of Diego Valdez, this track crafts a high-octane pace that never slows down as the band pummels through “Obsession” and “Corporate Men”. On the album title track we get a very powerful ballad-esque piece with a superb vocal duet and lush atmospheric enhancements, changing the pace of the album and providing a window into the band’s musical depth.

Entartung - Maleficae Artes (2020)

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Germany’s most vicious Black Metal band returns with a brutal fourth full-length release titled “Maleficae Artes”. Grounding their sound in 90’s BM, the band delivers five furious anthems of brutality, melody, and destruction. Focusing on longer songs, than a typical BM band, this German outfit unleashed intricate compositions that are both highly atmospheric and brutal, inciting furious headbanging from start to finish.

The release kicks off with the savagery of “Tower of Silence” and its waves of riffs paired with pummeling drumming. The level of intensity is a good indicator of what is to come, and it is nicely offset by ravaging melodic sections perfect for intense headbanging moments. Going through several tempos and styles, the track closes in a vicious manner and extreme brutality, only to lead into the cavernous opening of “Bortförd”. This last track showcases the band’s ability to craft hypnotic passages filled with creepy clean vocal arrangements and harsh onslaughts.

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