4. Demon Lung – The Hundredth Name (Candlelight Records)
Las Vegas might not be known as a Mecca of Metal here in the U.S. (which is a shame being this is the town that gave us Goatlord, among others) but Sin City is now home to one of the rising stars of the doom/occult rock scene in Demon Lung. Demon Lung play an unholy brand of throwback doom that would have fit right at home on a tour with the likes of Candlemass, Saint Vitus and Trouble back in the day. Their riffs are swampy as molasses and the atmospheres this band weaves are as dreary as a British rainstorm. Despite their obvious heaviness they could also still fall squarely into the “neo-occult rock” scene that’s so prevalent these days (and blow the doors off the half of that scene filled with Falses trying to hop on the bandwagon). Plus their front woman, Shanda Fredrick is one of the best in the business with a voice that sounds like a witch possessed by Old Scratch himself. This is another album that got a fraction of the attention it deserved this year!
3. Ulcerate – Vermis (Relapse Records)
I’m not sure what’s in the water down there in New Zealand but whatever it is I hope the lads in Ulcerate keep drinking it. Their Relapse debut, Vermis, was an absolute genre-bender and was one of a very small handful of albums (see the rest of this list) that helped breathe new life into the death metal genre. This is quite possibly the most atmospheric death metal record you are going to hear in quite some time. But the brutality of it is not sacrificed in the name of being ‘arty’. Make no mistakes, Ulcerate wants to pummel and grind the listener into a fine powder. It’s not beat you over the head, brutality for brutality’s sake though. It’s a calculated effort where Ulcerate dissects the very essence of “heavy” and reassembles it into a much darker version than what they started with.
2. Blood Ceremony – The Eldritch Dark (Rise Above/Metal Blade Records)
Speaking of occult rock there are possibly zero bands in the world today who do it as well and with as much authenticity as Canada’s Blood Ceremony. As they sing on the opening track, “The old gods remain, and the ancient ways live on…” Truer words were never spoken. As amazing as the band’s previous efforts were this album is as complete an album as they’ve ever written. It’s filled with mystery, sensuality, and paints so many pictures of the “old ways” that in one listen you’ll think you’ve time traveled to some ancient village where Black Magic is the norm. It’s, without a doubt, one of the most lush and gorgeous productions you’ll hear this year.