What if I told you a Star Wars themed melodic blackened death metal band wrote a concept album about Darth Vader? Hopefully, you’d think that sounds awesome. And it is. The best thing about this album is that if you were to sit down and listen to it with no context, you’d still be treated to a chilling, melodic gem of an album. Hoth plays the Star Wars theme completely straight on the record without any gimmicks one would expect from such a concept. The lyrics don’t even explicitly mention Vader or much about Stars Wars at all, but then you read between the lines and you start to connect the dots. This is definitely a band to watch out for, Star Wars fan or no.
If I had to pick one band to symbolize winter, it would be Agalloch. And with good reason. Something about their music makes me feel like I should be listening to them in a log cabin beside a frozen lake during a blizzard somewhere. The Serpent & The Sphere finds the band in excellent form as usual, with sweeping 10-minute epics to start and finish the album with mystical offerings in between. This time around, specific tracks stuck out to me more than usual, particularly “The Astral Dialogue” and “Dark Matter Gods”. It’s another fine album in a stellar discography that has aged like wine.
This is the only album on this list that I listened to three times in one day. It’s just that damn good. The album is so meticulously crafted with beautiful melodies and passages that are both dark and strange yet somehow charming. The band chose to follow the sound of Heritage and honed it with a focus on the strong songwriting found on Damnation. Of course, talking about this album inevitably brings up the big non-growling elephant in the room, but all I can say is if it’s not your thing, move along. This is a prog masterpiece and one of Opeth’s best albums.