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What did I nominate?

There’s an excellent post here by Adam Roberts, written with his characteristic perspicacity and wit, on awards and self-pimping. Now I must hang my head in shame, as I did post a little something of that sort back in December, but in my defence I’m just farting in a thunderstorm. (And Adam himself admits he’d thought The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself was published in 2012, and I wanted to make people aware that it was actually out in 2013. Note to self: do not publish anything in January.) However, I was intending to post something here about what I’d myself nominated for the BSFA (and I will likely do the same for the Hugo), just as soon as I’d figured out what I was going to choose…

Each year, I tell myself I will read more short fiction, or I will read more books during their year of publication. Each year, I fail to do so. So it’s a rare year when I get to actually cobble together a list of nominations in all four BSFA categories – novel, short fiction, non-fiction, artwork – of reasonable length. This year, sadly, is no exception. So, for what it’s worth, these are what I’ve nominated so far…

Novel
Checking back over my records, I see I’ve read nineteen books published in 2013, but only six of them are genre novels. Which doesn’t give me much of a pool to nominate from – but the following are easily the best of those six, and I’d be happy to nominate them even if I’d read ninety books published in 2013.

Short Story
At the start of the year, I made an effort to keep abreast of new genre short fiction as it was published – not just in the various online venues I regularly visit, but also the genre print magazines to which I subscribe – which would be, er, Interzone. Sadly, that effort didn’t last long. I did, however, read two genre anthologies published in 2013, and both contained some very good fiction.

As for the non-fiction and artwork categories… I’ll be spending this weekend trying to cobble together a short list of each to nominate (nominations close on Tuesday 14 January). And I have until 31 March to decide what I’m going to nominate for the 2013 Hugo Awards…


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2013 in numbers

If I had to pick a favourite year out of the last ten, it wouldn’t be 2013 – and that’s despite winning the BSFA Award, being a finalist for the Sidewise Award, and publishing books 2 and 3 of the Apollo Quartet, both of which were well-received. I’ve already posted my favourites in books, films and albums of the year – see here – and even a tiny little pimpish post about what I had published in 2013 – see here. This post, however, is going to be all numbers and graphs, showing exactly how much culture I consumed, and in what media.

Books
In 2013, I read a total of 148 books, which is slightly down on my previous year’s total of 153. In fact, the number of books I read in a year has been dropping steadily each year since 2008’s high of 220. There are actually a few books I dipped into for research, but since I didn’t actually read them, I didn’t record them as read. The books I read in 2013 break down by genre as follows:

books_read_genre

Science fiction still forms the majority of my reading, though I suspect reading for SF Mistressworks has kept this higher than it would have been otherwise. Most of the biographies I read were research for Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, as were several of the space books.

The books I read break down by author’s gender as:

books_read_gender

While some graphic novels, particularly bandes desinées, might be by a single writer/artist, many are collaborative – so I’ve lumped them in with the non-fiction. Also, four of the seven anthologies were women-only, but given that anthologies more often contain fiction by both genders I thought it best to record them as a separate category.

In 2013, I bought, was given, or was sent for review 231 books. I read only 72 of them (but some purchases were actually first editions, or better copies, of books I’d read previously, so I’ve counted them as read). So that’s a net gain on the To Be Read massif of 78 books… which is not the proper way to do it. I should be buying less books than I read. By genre, my book purchases break down as follows:

books_bought_genre

I had to munge a couple of categories together due to the crappy online chart-making website I was using. As for “Weird”… I couldn’t think of a better name for a category which contains a book by Velikovsky and a book on the Bermuda Triangle (the latter was research for Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above). The two photography books are books of photographs by photographers rather than books about photography. The one travel book is by, of course, Lawrence Durrell.

By gender – for fiction only – it looks like this (again, I’ve separated out anthologies, even though most of those I bought during the year were women-only):

books_bought_gender

Films
In 2012, I watched 180 films and 8 seasons of television programmes. Of those, 142 were for the first time and 44 were re-watches. These charts don’t include those television series I watched which were broadcast, only those I watched on DVD. By genre, they break down as:

films_watched_genre

It seems my favourite film genre is drama – that’ll be because I watch so many world cinema/art house films. I’m surprised at science fiction’s strong showing, though I suspect they’re all either rewatches or recently-released sf films I got on rental DVD. Five of the anime films were Studio Ghibli, the romance films were the result of a lazy Sunday spent watching Movies24, and the single horror film I saw was on one of those two-films-on-one-disc DVDs and it was the other film I bought the DVD for.

Speaking of DVDs, I also recorded on what format and where I watched each of the films – as follows:

films_watched_formatfilms_watched_source

Around two-thirds of the way through the year, Lovefilm changed my rental package, and instead of allowing me only 6 discs a month, they started sending out new discs as soon as they’d received the ones I’d returned. I’m not complaining. I run three rental lists at Lovefilm – one for Hollywood films, one for classics, and one for world/art house cinema. I’m sent one from each list in a single envelope. Which partly explains why my most-watched directors in 2013 were Aleksandr Sokurov, Fritz Lang and Otto Preminger. They were closely followed by Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk, Michael Haneke and Werner Herzog, most of which, I think, were actually rewatches. Sokurov is… well, his films are beautifully photographed but many of them make Tarkovsky’s films look like they were edited for the MTV generation. It’s a shame so few of them are available in the UK.

Those three rental lists also mean the films I’ve watched are spread quite well by decade, if not by nationality:

films_watched_decade

films_watched_natn

Yes, that’s a lot of American films – but they do produce a lot of films. It’s all those classic movies, you see. Great Britain comes second, followed by France, Germany, Russia, Japan and then Italy. I think in 2014 I’ll try to watch less US films. That sounds like a resolution worth keeping.

I will also, of course, try to read more books and buy less. And write more. And I’m sure there are plenty of other good intentions I can persuade myself I might be able to keep up for a whole twelve months, but for now I think I’ll just stick to the easy ones…


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2013, the best of the year

We’re a couple of weeks away from Christmas and the end of the year, so it’s time to look back with a critical eye over the past twelve-ish months and the words, pictures and sounds I consumed during that period. Because not everything is equal, some have to be best – and they are the following:

BOOKS
UnderTheVolcano1 Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry (1947) A classic of British literature and rightly so. I fell in love with Lowry’s prose after reading ‘Into the Panama’ in his collection Hear Us O Lord from Heaven thy Dwelling Place, although I already had a copy of the novel at the time (I’d picked out the collection, Under the Volcano and Ultramarine from my father’s collection of Penguin paperbacks back in 2010). Anyway, Under the Volcano contains prose to be treasured, though I recommend reading Ultramarine and Lowry’s short fiction first as it is semi-autobiographical and you can pick out the bits he’s used and re-used. This book was also in my Best of the half-year.

wintersbone2 Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell (2006) I’d bought this because I thought the film was so good and because Woodrell had been recommended to me. But instead of the well-crafted crime novel I was expecting to read, I found a beautifully-written – and surprisingly short – literary novel set in the Ozarks that was perhaps even better than the movie adaptation. I plan to read more by Woodrell. Winter’s Bone was also in my Best of the half-year.

empty3 Empty Space: A Haunting, M John Harrison (2012) The third book in the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy, and I’m pretty damn sure I’ll have to reread all three again some time soon. Although the fulcrum of the story is Anna Waterman and the strange physics which seems to coalesce about her, Empty Space: A Haunting also does something quite strange and wonderful with its deployment of fairly common sf tropes, and I think that’s the real strength of the book – if not of the whole trilogy. And this is another one that was in my Best of the half-year.

sons4 Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence (1913) When I looked back over what I’d read during 2013, I was surprised to find I held this book in higher regard than I had previously. And higher than most of the other books I’d read during the year too, of course. At the half-year mark, I’d only given it an honourable mention, but it seems to have lingered and grown in my mind since then. It is perhaps somewhat loosely-structured for modern tastes, but there can be little doubt Lawrence fully deserves his high stature in British literature.

promised_moon5 Promised the Moon, Stephanie Nolan (2003) I did a lot of research for Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, and this was the best of the books on the Mercury 13. But even in its own right, it was a fascinating read and, while sympathetic to its topic, it neither tried to exaggerate the Mercury 13’s importance nor make them out to be more astonishing than they already were. If you read one book about the Mercury 13, make it this one.

Honourable mentions: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (2013), an exciting debut that made me remember why I read science fiction; Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino (1972), beautifully-written tall tales presented as Marco Polo’s report to a khan; The Wall Around Eden, Joan Slonczewski (1989), a masterclass in writing accessible sf, this book needs to be back in print; The Day Of The Scorpion, Paul Scott (1968), the second book of the Raj Quartet and another demonstration of his masterful control of voice; The Sweetheart Season, Karen Joy Fowler (1996), funny and charming in equal measure; The Lowest Heaven, edited by Anne C Perry & Jared Shurin (2013), some excellent stories but also a beautifully-produced volume; Sealab, Ben Hellwarth (2012), a fascinating history of the US’s programme to develop an underwater habitat; Cities of Salt, Abdelrahman Munif (1987), a thinly-disguised novelisation of the US oil companies’ entry into Saudi, must get the rest of the trilogy; and Wolfsangel, MD Lachlan (2010), Vikings and werewolves are definitely not my thing but this rang some really interesting changes on what I’d expected to be a routine fantasy, must get the next book in the series…

Oops. Bit of a genre failure there – only one sf novel makes it into my top five, and that was published last year not this; although four genre books do get honourable mentions – two from 2013, one from 2010 and one from 1989. I really must read more recent science fiction. Perhaps I can make that a reading challenge for 2014, to read each new sf novel as I purchase it. And I really must make an effort to read more short fiction in 2014 too.

FILMS
about-elly-dvd1 About Elly, Asghar Farhadi (2009) A group of young professionals from Tehran go to spend the weekend at a villa on the Caspian Sea. One of the wives persuades her daughter’s teacher, Elly, to accompany them (because she wants to match-make between the teacher and her brother, visiting from his home in Germany). Halfway through the weekend, Elly vanishes… and what had started out as a drama about family relationships turns into something very different and unexpected. This film made my Best of the half-year.

consequences2 The Consequences Of Love, Paolo Sorrentino (2004) The phrase “stylish thriller” could have been coined to describe this film, even if at times – as one critic remarked – it does resemble a car commercial. A man lives alone in a hotel in a small town in Switzerland. Once a week, a suitcase containing several million dollars is dropped off in his hotel room. He drives to a local bank, watches as the money is counted by hand and then deposited in his account. One day, the young woman who works in the hotel bar demands to know why he always ignores her… and everything changes.

lemepris3 Le Mépris, Jean-Luc Godard (1963) I don’t really like Godard’s films, so the fact I liked this one so much took me completely by surprise. Perhaps it’s because it feels a little Fellini’s if it had been made by Michelangelo Antonioni. I like , I like Antonioni’s films. Perhaps the characters are all drawn a little too broadly – the swaggering American producer, the urbane European director (played by Fritz Lang), the struggling novelist turned screenwriter, and, er, Brigitte Bardot. Another film that made my Best of the half-year.

onlyyesterday_548494 Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata (1991) An animated film from Studio Ghibli which dispenses entirely with whimsy and/or genre trappings. A young woman goes to stay with relatives in the country and reflects on what she wants out of life. The flashback sequences showing her as a young girl are drawn with a more cartoon-like style which contrasts perfectly with the impressively painterly sequences set in the countryside. Without a doubt the best Ghibli I’ve seen to date… and I’ve seen over half of them so far. Once again, a film that made my Best of the half-year.

gravity5 Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón (2013) I had to think twice whether or not to put this in my top five. It was the only film I saw at the cinema this year, and I suspect seeing it in IMAX 3D may have coloured my judgement. To be fair, it is visually spectacular. And I loved seeing all that hardware done realistically and accurately on the screen. But. The story is weak, the characters are dismayingly incompetent and super-competent by turns, some of the science has been fudged when it didn’t need to be, and it often feels a little like a missed opportunity more than anything else. Perhaps I’ll feel differently after I’ve seen it on Blu-Ray…

Honourable mentions: She Should Have Gone to the Moon, Ulrike Kubatta (2008), an elegantly-shot documentary on the Mercury 13; Gertrud, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1964), grim and Danish but subtle and powerful; Man With A Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov (1929), astonishing meta-cinema from the beginnings of the medium; Sound of My Voice, Zal Batmanglij (2011), Brit Marling is definitely becoming someone to watch; Love in the Afternoon, Éric Rohmer (1972), the best of Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales; The Confrontation, Miklós Jancsó (1969), more socialist declamatory and posturing as a group of students stage their own revolution; Tears For Sale, Uroš Sotjanović (2008), CGI-heavy Serbian folk-tale, feels a little like Jeunet… but funny and without the annoying whimsy; Ikarie XB-1, Jindřich Polák (1963), a Czech sf film from the 1960s, what’s not to love?; Dear Diary, Nanni Moretti (1993), an entertaining and clever paean to Rome and the Italian islands, and a rueful look at the Italian health service; and The Sun, Aleksandr Sokurov (2005), a poignant and beautifully-played character-study of the Emperor Hirohito in 1945.

This year for a change I’m also naming and shaming the worst films I watched in 2013. They were: The Atomic Submarine, Spencer Gordon Bennet (1959), a typical B-movie of the period with the eponymous underwater vessel finding an alien saucer deep beneath the waves; Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow, Michael Schroeder (1993), an unofficial sequel to the Van Damme vehicle and notable only for being Angelina Jolie’s first starring role; The Girl from Rio, Jésus Franco (1969), Shirley Eaton as Sumuru, leader of the women-only nation of Femina, plans to take over the world, it starts out as a cheap thriller but turns into cheaper titillatory sf; The 25th Reich, Stephen Amis (2012), WWII GIs in Australia find a UFO, go back in time millions of years to when it crashed, then a Nazi spy steals it and ushers in an interplanetary Nazi regime, bad acting and even worse CGI; Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, Jonas Pate (2012), they took everything that had been good about Battlestar Galactica and removed it, leaving only brainless military characters and CGI battle scenes.

ALBUMS
construct1 Construct, Dark Tranquillity (2013) Every time Dark Tranquillity release a new album, it makes my best of the year. I guess I must be a fan then. In truth, they are probably my favourite band and their last half-dozen albums have each been consistently better than the one before. So many bands seem to plateau at some point during their career but DT amazingly just get better and better. This album was on my Best of the half-year.

spiritual2 Spiritual Migration, Persefone (2013) Another band who improves with each subsequent album. And they’re good live too – although I’ve only seen them the once (they really should tour the UK again; soon). This is strong progressive death metal, with some excellent guitar playing and a very nice line in piano accompaniment. I didn’t buy this album until the second half of the year, which is why it didn’t appear in the half-year list.

DeathWalks3 Death Walks With Me, Noumena (2013) A new album by a favourite band after far too long a wait, so this was pretty sure to make my top five. Noumena play melodic death/doom metal, an inimitably Finnish genre, but they also use clean vocals, and a female vocalist, quite a bit. One song even features a trumpet solo. I posted the promo video to one track, ‘Sleep’, on my blog here. And the album also made my Best of the Half-Year.

Winterfylleth-The-Threnody-Of-Triumph4 The Threnody Of Triumph, Winterfylleth (2012) I first saw Winterfylleth live before they were signed back in 2008 at the Purple Turtle in Camden at the Day of Unrest (see here), and I’ve seen them a couple of times since. This, their latest album, shows how far they’ve come and amply demonstrates why they’re so good. They call it English heritage black metal, which I think just means they sing about English historical sort of things (the band’s name is Anglo-Saxon for “October”). Another album from my Best of the half-year.

Of-breath-and-bone5 Of Breath And Bone, Be’lakor (2012) On first listen I thought, oh I like this, it deserves to be played loud. And it really does – it’s not just that Be’lakor, an Australian melodic death metal band, have excellent riffs, but also that there’s a lot more going on in their music than just those riffs. The more I listen to Of Breath And Bone, the more I like it – originally I only gave it an honourable mention in my Best of the half-year, but having played the album so much throughout 2013, I think it deserves a promotion.

Honourable mentions: Dustwalker, Fen (2013), shoegazery black metal that works extremely well; Where the End Begins, Mentally Blind (2013), excellent sophomore EP from a Polish death metal band, with an astonishingly good opening track (see here); Unborn and Hollow, Forlorn Chambers (2013), a demo from a Finnish death/doom band, and very very heavy, sort of a bit like a doomy version of Demilich, in fact, but without the vocal fry register singing; Shrine of the New Generation Slaves, Riverside (2013), more polished, er, Polish progginess, a little rockier than the previous album, although one track does include some very melodic “sexamaphone” [sic]; All Is One, Orphaned Land, proggier than previous albums but still with that very distinctive sound of their own, incorporating both Arabic and Hebrew; and Nespithe, Demilich (1993), a classic piece of Finnish death metal history, I picked up a copy of the re-mastered edition at Bloodstock – there’s a special Demilich compilation album, 20th Adversary of Emptiness, due to be released early next year, I’ve already pre-ordered it.

One of the things I really like about metal is that it’s an international genre, and here is the proof – the bands named above hail from Sweden, Andorra, Finland, the UK, Australia, Israel and Poland. There’s also quite a good mix of metal genres, from death to black metal, with a bit of prog thrown in for good measure.


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2013 and me

I don’t normally bother with these sorts of posts, as usually it’s hardly worth it. However, while I can’t hope to match the prolificity of some authors I know, and I’m still a small fry in the genre ocean, I decided it might be worth mentioning that I did have one or two pieces published this year… Well, all right, four. Two short stories: ‘The Incurable Irony of the Man Who Rode The Rocket Sled’, which appeared in The Orphan here; and ‘The Last Men in the Moon’, which appeared in the literary anthology Because of What Happened from the Fiction Desk. And, of course, two books of the Apollo Quartet – The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself, which was published in January this year and not in 2012, even though it feels like it; and Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, which was published only a week ago…

From the above, it looks like I’ve not done much during the past 11 months. True, 2013 doesn’t feel like my most productive year ever, but I’m sure I did a few other things… I reviewed three books for Interzone, two for Vector and nineteen for SF Mistressworks. I contributed some guest blog posts here and there, wrote the introduction to Set it in Space and Shovel Coal into it, an anthology by the Sheffield SF and Fantasy Writers Group, and gave talks at both the National Space Centre and the University of Sheffield Natural History Society. I spent a weekend in Berlin with family, and another weekend in Stockholm at this year’s Swecon, two cities I’d never visited before – and I had an excellent time in both. I saw 41 bands perform live, most of those at Bloodstock. I attended four conventions, including the one in Sweden. I also read a metric ton of books as research for my two novellas above…

Oh, and I won an award and was a finalist for another.

Shit, I thought I’d done more than that. It certainly feels like I should have done. I must make more of an effort next year. As it is, I suspect I may be the one buying the curry in 2014…


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Best of the half-year

It’s halfway through 2013, and it’s proven quite a year so far in ways both good and bad. This post is to celebrate some of the good stuff – namely the best of the books I’ve read, the films I’ve seen, and the albums I first heard during the previous six months.

Books
wintersboneWinter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell (2006) I read this after seeing and liking the film and I was much surprised to discover it was not some piece of cheap commercial fiction with an unusual setting, but instead a beautifully-written literary novel which happened to use a genre plot. The film is pretty damn good too. I plan to read more by Woodrell. I wrote about this book here.

emptyEmpty Space, M John Harrison (2012) is the third book in the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy and I really must reread Light and Nova Swing one of these days. If at first I thought Empty Space felt a little undisciplined in its spraying of tropes across its narrative threads, the more of it I read the more I realised how very carefully engineered it was. I wrote about this book here.

calvinoInvisible Cities, Italo Calvino (1972) is the most recently-read book to appear in this list. I had no real idea what to expect when I picked it up, but its lyrical and oblique descriptions of the cities (allegedly) visited by Marco Polo immediately captivated me. I wrote about this book here.

wallaroundedenThe Wall Around Eden, Joan Slonczewski (1989) is one of those books I read and enjoyed, but only realised how well-crafted it was when I came to write a review of it for SF Mistressworks. It reads like a masterclass in science fiction. This book really needs to be back in print. See my review here.

UnderTheVolcanoUnder the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry (1947) Some books just leave you speechless at the quality of the prose, and while I’d already fallen in love with Lowry’s writing when I read his novella ‘Through the Panama’, there was always a chance this, his most famous and most lauded novel, would not appeal as much. Happily, it did. Even more so, perhaps. A bona fide classic of English-language literature. I wrote about it here.

Honourable mentions go to Osama, Lavie Tidhar (2011), whose grasp may not quite match its reach but it comes damn close; Before The Incal, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov (2012), which matches The Incal for bonkersness and sheer bande dessinée goodness; Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997), which is a bit of a bloated monstrosity, and contains too much baseball, but also features moments of genius; The Steerswoman’s Road, Rosemary Kirstein (2003), which is actually a cheat as its an omnibus of The Steerswoman (1992) and The Outskirter’s Secret (1993) and I only read the latter this year, but it’s an excellent series and deserves praise; Jamilia, Chingiz Aïtmatov (1958), which proved to be a lovely little novella set in the author’s native Kyrgyzstan; and Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence (1913), which shows with beautiful prose how psychology should be used in fiction.

Um, not that much science fiction there. I seem to be failing at this science fiction fan business…

Films
Le Mépris, Jean-Luc Godard (1963) I am not a huge fan of Godard, so I was somewhat surprised how much I liked this film. Perhaps it’s because it feels a little like Fellini’s (both are about film-making), which is also a favourite film, and looks a bit like something by Antonioni.

mabuseThe Dr Mabuse trilogy, Fritz Lang: Dr Mabuse The Gambler (1922), The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933), The 1000 Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960) A bit of a cheat as I watched Dr Mabuse The Gambler in 2012, but never mind. If the first film is a commentary on corruption in the Weimar Republic, the second extends the metaphor to comment on Nazism, and the third further completes it with an off-kilter noir film commenting on the legacy of the Nazis. Classic cinema.

Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata (1991) I’ve been working my way through Studio Ghibli’s output, though I find most of it either twee, cloyingly sentimental or a little juvenile. But not this one. I wrote about it here.

About Elly, Asghar Farhadi (2009) For much of its length, this film feels like an art house mystery, but then it takes a turn into something completely different and wholly Iranian. I wrote about it here.

she-should-have-gone-to-the-moon-film-posterShe Should Have Gone to the Moon, Ulrike Kubatta (2008) I bought this as research for the Apollo Quartet, and was surprised to discover it was a beautifully-shot documentary and meditation on the thirteen women who successfully passed the same medical tests as the Mercury astronauts.

Honourable mentions go to Gertrud, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1964), grim and Danish and beautifully subtle; Man With A Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov (1929), an astonishing and meta-cinematic document of 1920s Russia; Black Cat, White Cat, Emir Kusturica (1998), broad comedy but also very funny; Le Havre, Aki Kaurismäki (2011), typically deadpan but somewhat cheerier than usual; and The Sun, Aleksandr Sokurov (2005), a human portrait of Emperor Hirohito at the end of WWII.

Well, will you look at that, not a single Hollywood film in the entire lot. Instead, we have films from France, Germany, Japan, Iran, Denmark, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Finland and a documentary from the UK.

Music
Construct, Dark Tranquillity (2013) A new album from one of my favourite bands, and with each new album they just get better and better. Can’t wait to see them live.

Death Walks With Me, Noumena (2013) A new album from Finnish melodic death metal masters after far too long a wait. Trumpet!

threnodyThe Threnody Of Triumph, Winterfylleth (2012) They call it English heritage black metal, though I’m not entirely sure what that means – a wall of guitars, with howling vocals layered over the top, some lovely acoustic interludes, and they’re bloody good live too.

Dustwalker, Fen (2013) More English heritage black metal but also very atmospheric, perhaps even a bit shoegazer-y in places; a formula that works extremely well.

Forlorn+Chambers+++Unborn+and+HUnborn and Hollow, Forlorn Chambers (2013) A demo EP from a new Finnish band, which mixes and matches a couple of extreme metal genres to excellent effect. Very heavy, very doomy, with a lot of death in it too. I’m looking forward to seeing an album from them.

Honourable mentions: Conflict, Sparagmos (1999), classic Polish death metal; Of Breath and Bone, Bel’akor (2012), Australian melodic death metal; Deathlike, Ancient VVisdom (2013), strange acoustic doom from Texas; Where the End Begins, Mentally Blind (2013), accomplished demo from a Polish death metal band.

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