Abigor - Totschläger (A Saintslayer's Songbook) (2020)

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Seemingly out of nowhere, recently we received Abigor’s latest opus “Totschläger (A Saintslayer's Songbook)”. As one of the most diverse and deranged Black Metal albums of 2020, this release unleashes 51 minutes of madness, ranging from traditional BM to more Symphonic/Atmospheric BM territories and a few visits into Avant-garde territories. If you like weird and yet masterfully crafted BM, this is one of those albums you can’t miss.

Opening with the theatrics of “Gomorrha Rising - Nightside Rebellion”, we get an early Emperor/Limbonic Art vibe from this intense track. Alongside the pummeling drumming, we get a nice variety of vocal styles and very chaotic guitars, both of which nicely bleed into the next track, “Silent Towers, Screaming Tombs”. For those looking for dramatic arrangements and a very regal/epic vibe, “Orkblut (Sieg oder Tod)” has you covered.

Iron Savior - Skycrest (2020)

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Making this craptastic 2020 a little more lively, today we have Iron Savior and their superbly epic release “Skycrest”. Featuring nearly an hour of music, this release will excite all Power Metal fans thanks to its epic vocal arrangements and crafty instrumentation. Led by Piet Sielck, this band continues to get better and more refined with time, and this album showcases their best skills.

After the grandiose opening, the album title track sets a very exciting mood with excellent guitar work and very dramatic vocal arrangements. The epicness of the band’s sound is quickly established as tracks like “Our Time Has Come”, “Hellbreaker”, and “Souleater” perfectly balance catchiness, technical proficiency (crazy guitar solos), and a very ‘Heavy Metal’ attitude around a timeless old-school sound with no gimmicks and just power.

Imha Tarikat - Sternenberster (2020)

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Hailing from Germany, today we have blistering Black Metal duo Imha Tarikat and their latest opus “Sternenberster”. Combining the melody and intensity of Mgła and Misþyrming, this release delivers over 45 minutes of expertly crafted music, split along eight crushing tracks. If you like well crafted and intense BM with a knack for high-quality production values and a pummeling attitude, this is one album you can miss.

From the incisive first minutes of “Ekstase ohne Ende”, the listener can appreciate the higher level of craftsmanship in this release thanks to a blistering guitar solo that leads to a brutal onslaught of a pummeling bass guitar line and hellish deep vocals. With this relentless attitude, the band blows past crushing songs like “Sturm der Erlösung”, “Kreuzpunkt der Schicksale”, and “Brand am Firmament”, while showcasing their diverse influences and crafty approach to songwriting alongside a ravaging tempo.

Auro - Auro (2020)

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Delivering a nostalgic release from the days of simpler and yet punishing Atmospheric Black Metal, today we have Germany’s Auro and their self-titled debut release. With over 50 minutes of music, this track will bring back memories to the early days of Immortal, Satyricon, Limbonic Art and Emperor. Crafty and relentless, this release certainly has something for everybody as it is quite accessible and very well crafted.

Opening after the traditional atmospheric intro, “Im Nebelland” delivers sinister riffs and hellish snarls as it unleashes fury alongside intense drumming and a very hectic pace. Tracks like “Ouroboros - Schuppengott”, “Brodelnde Wasser - Rufe und Zeichen” and “Rammbock - Durchbruch zur Entmenschlichung” deliver that old-school rawness thanks to its down-to-the-basics instrumentation and very subtle atmospherics, focusing on organic melody and brutality.

Akhlys - Melinoë (2020)

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From the mind of Naas Alcameth (Nightbringer, Aoratos, etc.) today we have an exercise in atmospheric brutality and madness Akhlys third full-length release “Melinoë”. Creating an unrivaled oppressive atmosphere since the opener, this release unleashes over 45 minutes of misanthropic music both punishing and ritualistic. If you think Nightbringer and Aoratos are intense, wait until you get a peek at the sheer power behind this release.

Setting a very macabre tone, the opener, “Somniloquy” creates a relentless atmosphere filled with pummeling drums and brilliantly layered guitars, unleashing a very oppressive vibe. Naas Alcameth’s signature vocals greatly enhance the sinister ambiance and nicely create hellish passages on tracks like “Pnigalion”, adding an extra layer of eeriness to an already highly atmospheric musical foundation.

Soilwork - A Whisp of the Atlantic (2020)

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Riding high from their 2019 release, “Verkligheten”, Soilwork delivers a killer EP with nearly 37 minutes of music. Continuing their evolution into Melodic/Grove Metal territories, the band unleashes five killer songs filled with signature Soilwork moments that fans of the band will certainly love. If you have been keen on the band’s last two releases, this EP will satisfy your cravings for more.

Opening with the 17-minute title track, the band sets a very lively and upbeat mood in the first few minutes, with the song gradually exploring some groovy/proggy passages perfectly led by Björn’s clean/harsh growls and some funky keyboard arrangements by Sven Karlsson. The instrumentation is as rich as always with crafty drums and engaging guitar riffs. This track bleeds a bit into “Feverish”, a faster paced song with pummeling drums and a hectic vibe.

Valravn - Prey (2020)

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As the weather turns cold and frosty in some places, it is the perfect time for blistering Black Metal releases that deliver sheer rawness, brutality, and a mix of melody thrown in for good form. Today we have Finnish outfit Valravn and their crushing release “Prey”, which delivers over 40 minutes of in-your-face raw BM. Focusing on craftsmanship alongside relentless brutality, this band unleashes one of the most intense aural onslaughts of 2020.

After a folky opener with “Awaken”, the band launches a full-on attack with the pummeling rawness of “Thrones of Blood”. Alongside furious riffs and intense drumming, the band nicely changes gears at times to deliver crafty oppressive atmospheric/melodic passages. With tracks like “Void” and “Conjuration” nicely blending styles and still being quite ravaging, it brings us back memories of old-school Norwegian BM at times.

Exitium Sui - Ad Personam (2020)

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Dramatically balancing brutality with sheer beauty, today we have Exitium Sui and their debut release “Ad Personam”. Mixing elements of Black/Death Metal with lush atmospherics and excellent vocal arrangements, this release delivers over 35 minutes of excellently crafted music. One-man projects usually allow musicians to craft exactly the music they want, with no compromises, and this release shows a very personal and crushing aural experience.

The release kicks off with the punishing “Eviscerate My Withered Soul”, which has a more traditional Death/Black sound but with a calmer pace and an intriguing and very subtle atmospheric undertone. The vibe continues to get bleaker in songs like “The Long Return To Nothing” and “Into The Conflagration”, while delivering a hefty dose of harsh growls and crushing guitars. It is quite interesting how the release slowly builds up its atmospheric components and turns darker as the minutes pass.

Veil of Secrets - Dead Poetry (2020)

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Finally, after years of waiting, Vibeke Stenne marks her return to the Metal scene with Veil of Secrets and their melancholic debut release “Dead Poetry”. Alongside Asgeir Mickelson, Vibeke graces us with eight tracks and nearly 50 minutes of highly emotional music, that is both dark and Doomy. While some people might have expected something more similar to old Tristania, this release showcases great maturity and undeniable vocal talents, while carving a different and distinctive sound.

Opening with the incisive guitars of “The Last Attempt”, the band instantly gives off a vibe similar to the short-lived Proggy/Doomy Alas from Erik Rutan and Martina Hornbacher. The atmosphere in this release is quite dark and very cohesive, crafted with only a few elements such as solemn violins from Sareeta and the occasional growl from Erling Malm. This allows Vibeke’s vocals to truly shine alongside weeping guitars, making tracks like “Sear The Fallen”, “Remorseful Heart”, and “The Lie Of Her Prosperity” quite effective and direct.

Sodom - Genesis XIX (2020)

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Unleashing one of the most fierce and pummeling Thrash Metal releases of 2020, today we have the legendary Sodom and their latest effort “Genesis XIX”. With a new crew behind this release, Tom Angelripper manages to craft nearly 55 minutes of incisive music, split into ten high-octane songs that will have you headbanging from beginning to end. It goes without saying that this release is highly recommended for any Thrash Metal fan.

The riffing onslaught begins with the short opener, “Blind Superstition” and nicely bleeds into the vicious “Euthanasia”. With new band members, since the last full-length, Yorck Segatz and Toni Merkel, the band shines with crafty drums and powerful guitar arrangements, when paired with Frank Blackfire (who was in the band at some point in the late 80’s). This revitalized core allows the band to rip through pieces like “Genesis XIX”, “Sodom & Gomorra”, and the sinister “Dehumanized”, all of this while delivering blistering guitar leads and superb drumming.

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