Early last year, I discovered Psalm 88, an offshoot of Berkeley, CA-based cassette label Acephale Winter Productions. While all of the sub-label’s initial batch of wares were impressive in their own right, the one that impressed me the most was Behold Darkness’ I, a gripping nineteen minutes of frozen-soul black metal that was easily the most complete sounding of the four releases reviewed. Indeed, it was a recording I found myself continuing to revisit on the regular, which is really saying something when one considers how often I burn out on the music I choose to review due to the sheer number of repeat listens involved.
I had an intro written and ready to go, reflecting on all the good and bad that heavy music in 2015 had to offer (mostly bad), but then I remembered that no one reads these long-winded, pointless intros. So, without further ado, here are eleven musical things (not just albums) that grabbed a hold of my crank and kept on yanking in 2015…
Sacramento gets a ton of great shows, but we’ve been more than a bit lacking in the black metal department of late. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the shit out of seeing the likes of Melt Banana, Ufomammut and -(16)-, but I’ve also been absolutely dying for the visceral experience that only a straight-up black metal show can bring. So, I was extremely grateful to Wretched Earth Productions for treating us to this killer lineup of Cali-bred BM at Starlite Lounge, which is quickly turning into my go-to spot for kick-ass metal shows.
Are you guys getting tired of me gushing about Caligari Records yet? Well if you are, too bad! The Florida-based label continues to put out some of the finest underground metal you’re likely to come across while leaving no genre stone un-turned. The label’s latest batch of releases speaks to the impressive diversity of the roster.
Things up to now have been quiet for San Francisco’s Pale Chalice. The band released their debut EP Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation via The Flenser back in 2011, and I think we can all agree that in today’s metal climate four years is a freakin’ eternity between releases. But give just one listen to Negate the Infinite and Miraculous, the quintet’s inaugural full-length for new label home Gilead Media, and it will become readily apparent that Pale Chalice favors quality over quantity.
Since 2010, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s False has been quietly making some of the best USBM in the game. Their split with the equally excellent Barghest, as well as their untitled 2012 EP were both great slabs of atmospheric black metal that remain largely unnoticed, or at the very least woefully underrated by the metal community at large. With the release of their untitled debut full length on the ever-reliable Gilead Media however, False is poised to bid farewell to their under-the-the-radar status once and for all.
Philadelphia, PA’s Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus first came to my attention early last year when I received the band’s excellent debut full length Synkkä Tuuli for review along with the equally great Väinämöinen EP. The young band’s grim yet sweeping and melodic brand of icy black metal instantly grabbed my attention; it’s the kind of black metal that sinks its claws in instantly and drags you kicking and screaming into its frostbitten world, something that’s becoming increasingly rare as the scene continues to splinter in innumerable directions, often losing sight of what made it such a powerful form of expression in the process.
It’s been a while since I’ve discovered anything particularly worthy of coverage via Bandcamp, but just when I was about to give up hope, I stumbled upon Psalm 88, a sub-label of Berkeley’s Acephale Winter Productions that’s dedicated to producing limited edition C20 cassettes featuring black metal’s rawest of the raw. The fledgling venture has already cranked out four releases in just a year of existence, all available on tape or for pay-what-you-want download. All four releases are well worth your time, and you guys know I’m not a fan of lengthy intros, so let’s dive right in.
Caligari Records has only been active since 2013, but in that time the label has released an ungodly slew of excellent metal with no allegiance to any particular subgenre. Indeed, the only thread that seems to tie Caligari’s releases together is an ear for quality, and that quality continues to run over the cassette label competition, this time in the form of No Life, the second demo (first EP?) from Boston black metal bruisers Human Bodies.
As a heavy metal fan, I’ve seen dozens of amazing shows. But I can probably count on one hand the number of shows that fully immersed me, the ones that made real life and all the horrific mundanity that goes with it melt away completely, the ones that made me feel like I was alone in the universe with nothing but the band and the music. Dispirit’s headlining set at the Starlite Lounge last Sunday night was one of them.