Inquisition, Black Mass for a Mass Grave (Agonia Records)

2020 is just oh so right for black metal, and black metal has indeed not disappointed over the past 12 months. Even so, it wasn’t at all hard to choose just one release for this list. Black Mass for a Mass Grave is just so breathtakingly well-constructed and effective it would rank high on any list, metal or not, and the fact that it just came out is the only reason it isn’t higher on this one. As someone who simply follows the music, I have no idea where Inquisition is from, who they are, or why they have gone and constructed this dark majesty, but there can be no doubt this is a very important work that, if Spotify and YouTube streaming numbers are anything to go by, is currently being rightly devoured by tens of thousands. “Luciferian Rays” is one of those rarest of black metal tracks that comes off as soothing despite all the distortion and growling, a sort of “Stairway To Heaven” for the corpse paint set, and “Spirit of the Black Star” spices things up with some gothy snth lines straight out of a Sisters Of Mercy track. There’s an endearing streak of geeky mysticism running through this song cycle, a crunchy new-age approach to satanism best reflected in the awesomely-titled “My Spirit Shall Join A Constellation Of Swords” and “Hymn to the Absolute Majesty of Darkness and Fire” that elicits tantalizing visions of these tracks being played over sound systems in crystal chops and yoga centers. Not that any of this comes off as any sort of novelty. This is true obsessive outsider art in its most absolute form, a singular vision that may borrow from genre signifiers but never bows to them. Black Mass For A Mass Grave is the album 2020 didn’t know it deserved. Bask in the luciferian rays.