Garry Brents is probably one of the most, if not the most, prolific artist in the metal spaces this year. He has released albums under many different projects, including (but very much not limited not) Sallow Moth, Gonemage, and Cara Neir. Those two last ones released two albums each. And you know what? Everything he has released has been excellent. Not only has it been excellent, it has been varied, with sounds ranging from death metal, grindcore, power electronics, glitch, punk, shoegaze, emo, and more. So, naturally, reaching out to him for a guest list was one of my first moves.

And the end result is certainly not disappointing. It includes albums I know, like the excellent and challenging Sem Propósito (seriously, you have to at least try to listen to this album) or the winding aggression of Sidereal but also albums I haven’t heard and desperately need to, like Fax Gang and Dos Santos. More than anything, it contains exactly the variety and range you’d except Brents’ list to contain, hinting at the complexity contained in his own music. So whether you’re looking for more heavy tunes, want to expand your horizons beyond metal or are just on the lookout for some great new music, this list is for you.

1. Tenue Territorios

One 29 minute song that manages to keep your attention with twists and buildups that are engaging through means of creative transitions, invigorating riffing, passionate vocals, and absolute ballistic drumming. This is an incredible screamo staple for me. But to just classify it as that isn’t enough. This trio blends healthy doses of d-beat, crust, and dashes of black metal elements into the mix. 

Essentially, Territorios is a torch carrier for neocrust, and perhaps what I’d consider a long-form rendition of one of my favorite bands in Ekkaia or maybe a more screamo Fall of Efrafa. If either notion sounds intriguing then this should grab you and then when you latch on something new will poke through on just about every listen. An all-time favorite moving forward. 

2. Orphan DonorUnraveled

This one was very close to being my absolute favorite and in some ways I would consider it a tie. I will say that nothing else manages to satisfy my ears sonically this year than this album does. Coming from an audio engineering background, this album’s production is executed so well as it’s devastatingly huge without falling apart into being muddy during the fastest and frenetic moments. Of note the bass tone alone is by far my favorite instrument tone/production choice of any sort this year. Of course, this production is a big plus when paired with equally high-caliber composition. Musically, this band and album manages to hit all the right spots of hardcore/screamo/grind/sludge melded together perfectly. 

Unraveled is the perfect name because that’s the feeling I get when I put this on from start to finish. There’s a somewhat loose and frantic energy with the rhythm when it goes into grinding bursts of anguish and then unravels into these gut-wrenching, wall-of-bass sludge sections. You’ve gotta feel this record, so play it loud. 

3. BríiSem Propósito

I’ll admit this was a grower of an album as my first listen left me a bit unconvinced. I kept coming back to it and each listen would sway me and then of course eventually enthrall me. Odd for a top 5 album pick, at least for me. So what do we have here? At 2 songs nearing 1 hour in total runtime, an absolute journey is what you’re presented with. For me, a journey that took time to fully appreciate and it was well worth it. This is one of the most creative and equally meditative black metal albums I’ve heard. 

The album quietly beginning with very contemplative electronic trance sets the tone for the journey. It swirls and interweaves perfectly into these ultra tight and melodic black metal sections where the transitions feel like a propulsion set by a machine, and by that I mean the meditative quality I mentioned and how methodical it is. Like every time the album builds up to those sections and out of them, you don’t necessarily realize it at first. It just pulls you in. Perhaps the time I spent listening to it during a late night 1-hour drive is what really earned a full sense of immersion, appreciation, and climbing into my top 5. 

4. Fax GangAethernet

This album and style of music is likely a blind spot to most punk and metal vets, but the description hooked me in when I first read about it in January. Bitcrushing, nostalgic, murky while still being catchy, and unafraid to push the density of electronic sounds to an almost harsh wall of noise. But like I said, through all of that it remains incredibly catchy where melodies will sear into your brain for days. It is hard to describe exactly what’s going on throughout this album other than that, but it was my most listened to album (released in January helped solidify that). 

A friend told me it reminded him of The Postal Service yet totally distorted and that described why he liked it after I showed it to him. I could take a stab and extrapolate by saying it’s like if SoundCloud producers/beatmakers took The Postal Service and mixed it…no, absolutely pulverized it with Burial, trap beats, AOL dial-up noise, and some production practices of 90s shoegaze. Yet, you still won’t get the full picture of this mangling until you listen to it. Might not be for everyone but it works well for me when I want a lot of things going on in my headphones, yet I can still hum but not sing along (lyrics are fairly indiscernible through the extreme processing like a vat of glitchy digital rot). Fun fact: this group formed all through Discord. 

5. Dos Santos City of Mirrors

I’ll admit I hadn’t listened to this as much as my first four, simply to being the newest of the bunch. It immediately reeled me in, though. City of Mirrors is an excitingly fresh fusion of psych pop, surf rock, salsa, cumbia, soul, and more — all effortlessly blended into a cohesive and enchanting listening experience. 

This is an album built on hybridization of music traditions, centered on a quintet from Chicago with Latin American roots. Not just musically hybrid but lyrically as well — notions of possibility, mourning, a powerful call for action, and yet perhaps most importantly the celebration of cultural experiences coming together to make something new and inspiring. This was an absolute breath of fresh air of an album. Shoutout to Cameron Davis (Blue Bedroom Rec, Cicada the Burrower, Devour Every Star) for recommending it!

Parting highlight: “Palo Santo” was my favorite song of the year.  

6. Suffering HourThe Cyclic Reckoning

7. Trhä Endlhëtonëg

8. Siderean Lost on Void’s Horizon

9. Squid Bright Green Field

10. Black Country, New RoadFor the first time

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