4. FOLTERKAMMER, ‘Die Lederpredigt’ (Gilead Media)

December records always seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to making year-end lists because so much stuff gets wrapped up and decided on early, that the later releases never seem to get the respect and love they deserve. Luckily for us, we’re not really forced into a timeframe for making up our top 40, so that’s how “Die Lederpredigt,” the debut record from Swiss-American black metal band Folterkammer, managed to rank so highly. This isn’t a recency thing. We’ve had the music for this record (its title is translated to “The Leather Sermon”) for a few months, and from our first visit with this astonishing display, we were floored. Vocalist Andromeda Anarchia is an absolute force, going operatic and then digging right into guttural growls within moments, her German feeling like its gnashing your wounds. She’s joined by guitarist Zachary Ezrin (of Imperial Triumphant, who also are no strangers to challenging, mind-defying music), bassist Darren Hanson, and drummer Brendan McGowan on a record that conjures the evil spirits of black metal, exposes the abusive nature of religion and authoritative power, and comes from the perspective of a scorned goddess looking to shed blood.

“Die Nänie” dawns with organs swelling and Anarchia’s hushed singing before she goes operatic and tears paint from the walls. Her shrieks cause muscle spasms as the pace goes nuclear, delivering spellbinding madness as the chorus wooshes back for more, and the track ends in a sticky pool. “Die Hymne” arrives with Anarchia going for the stratosphere vocally, as the playing lands heavy punches, and her shrieks are nuanced by her theatrical hacking and splintering, which is just a morbid joy. “Das Gebet” enters the room frantically as Anarchia mixes operatic singing with vile speak-like growl bursts that crawl up your spine. It’s madness. As the song progresses, it actually turns into a really catchy, almost pop-like display that explodes like sugar in your blood, and Anarchia’s playful, manic gush of words is both utterly charming and completely terrifying, calling out for dark forces that likely cannot be controlled. Das Zeugnis” closes this experience with organs signaling doom, and slow, dark tidings bleeding ever so slowly. The singing pushes, starting with a glimmer of hope before turning ugly, and the song unloads with ill will, bringing with it pumps of Gothic soot and black waves of horror. This band is here to scramble your brains and fight back against a power structure that has suffocated too many. The fact they do it in such a savagely gorgeous and spellbinding manner only ups the ante on this great record. (Dec. 11)

For more on the band, go here: facebook.com/folterkammer.music

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/products/folterkammer-die-lederpredigt-lp

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/