Friday, December 4, 2015

End of the Year 2015 Metal List

The end of 2015 is nigh! Repent, for the end is near! Well the end of the calendar year, not the end of the world, just yet. This year has been very good to metal with some very strong releases. There weren’t a lot of standouts for me which made it all the more difficult to whittle down my list to just fifteen selections. Apparently I have managed to like 96 albums from this year including several non-metal releases. But after much deliberation with myself, several self-induced fistfights with myself, bars being trashed, I have determined which albums are my favorites this year.

Before I start with number 15 let’s get the runner-ups out of the way:
Abiotic - Casuistry; Acid Death - Hall of Mirrors; Ages - The Malefic Misasma; The Agonist - Eye of Providence; Alkaloid - The Malkuth Grimoire; Angelus Apatrida - Hidden Evolution; Angra - Secret Garden; Aphophys - Prime Incursion; Armageddon - Captivity and Devourment; Barren Earth - On Lonely Towers; Battlecross - Rise to Power; Between the Buried and Me - Coma Ecliptic; Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death; The Black Dahlia Murder - Abysmal; Black Fast - Terms of Surrender; Bleak - We Deserve Our Failures; C R O W N - Natron; Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction; Chon - Grow; Continuum - The Hypothesis; Dawn of Azazel - The Tides of Damocles; Deafheaven - New Bermuda; Der Weg einer Freiheit - Stellar; Drudkh - A Furrow Cut Short; Ensiferum - One Man Army; Falloch - This Island, Our Funeral; Firespawn - Shadow Realms; A Forest of Stars - Beware the Sword You Cannot See; Gruesome - Savage Land; Gwarth - Blast Processing; Harlott - Proliferation; Hate Eternal - Infernus; Hegemon - The Hierarch; Horrendous - Anareta; Huntress - Static; In the Presence of Wolves - Thalassas; Irreversible Mechanism - Infinite Fields; Kampfar - Profan; Kronos - Arisen New Era; A Loathing Requiem - Acolytes Eternal; Lost Soul - Atlantis: The New Beginning; Lucifer - Lucifer I; Luciferian Light OrchestraLuciferian Light Orchestra; Lychgate - An Antidote for the Glass Pill; Misþyrming - Söngvar elds og óreiðu; Morgibl - Tea Time for Punks; Myrkur - M; Native Construct - Quiet World; Nechochwen - Heart of Akamon; Nervecell - Psychogenocide; Nile - What Should Not Be UnearthedOuroboros - EmanationsPanopticon - Autumn Eternal; Periphery - Juggernaut: Alpha OmegaPressure Points - False Lights; Raven - ExtermiNation; Rivers of Nihil - Monarchy; Russkaja - Peace, Love & Russian Roll; Sadist - Hyaena; Sarpanitum - Blessed Be My Brothers; Satan - Atom by Atom; Scale the Summit - V; Scarab - Serpents of the Nile; Scythian - Hubris in Excelsis; Shining - International Blackjazz Society; Shining - IX/Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends; Speedtrap - Straight Shooter; Spock's Beard - The Oblivion Particle; Swallow the Sun - Songs from the North I, II, & III; Symphony X - Underworld; Tempel - The Moon Lit Our Path; Trial - Vessel; Tribulation - The Children of the Night; The Ugly - DecreationVehemence - Forward Without MotionVisigoth - The Revenant King; Voices - London; Whorion - The Reign of the 7th Sector; Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity; Wolfheart - Winterborn; Wrvth - WrvthZombi - Shape Shift

Whew! That was a lot, right!? A lot of those albums were very close to making the cut but I just had to make some sacrifices.

15. Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Ghost Ship Octavius
I was pretty bummed about the demise of Nevermore. They are one of my favorite bands and to see that collective group of fantastic musicians disband was a disappointment. Obviously with the caliber of musicians in Nevermore they would not stop making music. Warrel Dane has his solo gig and reactivated Sanctuary along with bassist Jim Sheppard. Jeff Loomis went solo and joined up with Arch Enemy. And Van Williams started a completely new band with Matt Wicklund and newcomer Adon Fanion. A completely new band is always a gamble but I think that Ghost Ship Octavius is off to a great start. The musicians are on top of their game with some great songwriting and catchy choruses and Fanion is a great, young singer that helps push the band further.

Stand Out Track: Mills of the Gods

14. Psycroptic – Psycroptic
The Australian tech-death outfit does it again with their searing, acrobatic riffs, aggressive vocals, well-structured songs. Psycroptic aren’t really doing anything different from what they have done in the past other than maintain a solid foundation and manage to do add some groove, melody, and technicality to death metal without falling prey to the tropes of those descriptors.

Stand Out Track: Cold

13. Melechesh – Enki
I’ve been waiting five years for the next release from this Israeli (now in the Netherlands) act. I’m kind of a sucker for Middle Eastern style melodies and any incorporation of non-traditional instruments in metal is always a plus. Melechesh has no shortage of the melodies and riffage going on in Enki. Like Psycroptic, they aren’t doing anything radically different which is fine by me because what Melechesh is doing is solid.

Stand Out Track: The Pendulum Speaks

12. Gotsu-Totsu-Kotsu – Retributive Justice
Retributive Justice
This is my introduction to the Japanese death metal act and what an introduction! The riffs are gnarly. The drums are aggressive. The vocals are the right amount of guttural. And the bass is funky! Wait, the bass is funky? Yep! There are some great moments of slappin’ and poppin’ bass going on that sound hilarious on paper (and probably hilarious upon first listen) but fit well within the context of the music. I don’t know if a band like this could exist outside of Japan given their willingness to go outside of what is standard for death metal.

Stand Out Track: Insane Battlefield

11. Arcturus – Arcturian

Long running progressive black metal act Arcturus is back after a brief breakup and 10 long years since their previous album. I’ll be honest, I’m not super familiar with Arcturus’ back catalog. I might have heard their first few albums but nothing is coming to mind so I’m basing this number 11 pick solely on Arcturian’s merits. This is just simply a great progressive (and short bouts of black metal) metal album with the always fantastic ICS Vortex on vocals. It’s just an album that weaves itself through your mind and takes you on a cosmic journey.

Stand Out Track: The Arcturian Sign

10. Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the Antisphere
Gateway to the Antisphere
This is just some solid good death metal in the vein of Behemoth and Nile. I really enjoyed their last album Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide and this is another example of finding a good musical niche and exploiting the hell out of it. Gateway to the Antisphere has great epic and pummeling riffs and some fantastic growls.

Stand Out Track: Calls From Below

09. Ghost – Meliora


I’m actually kind of surprised that Meliora didn’t rank a bit higher on my list. I think it may have been because I listened to it several times in a row when it first dropped. Or it could be that it’s such a straight forward album that, while containing some solid songwriting and catchy moments, it doesn’t have a fulfilling center. It’s not like Infestissumam where it took a little bit for me to digest and each subsequent listening revealed something new to me. Meliora presented itself in full upon the first listening and while it didn’t reveal anything new later on it still has some great catch moments.

Stand Out Track: He Is

08. Enslaved – In Times
In Times
I don’t think that Enslaved has ever put out an album that I didn’t like. Their early black metal material may not be my favorites but I still find them to be enjoyable. Ever since Enslaved started incorporating more and more progressive and psychedelic elements to their music they have become more favored to me. In Times continues the trend with expansive songs and sublime music.

Stand Out Track: One Thousand Years of Rain

07. Lamb of God – VII: Sturm and Drang
VII: Sturm and Drang

Lamb of God is a band that I haven’t really paid attention to since Ashes of the Wake. I found some enjoyable moments in Sacrament (particularly "Redneck") but I just didn’t bother with them. With their seventh full-length, it’s time to pay attention to the Virginian quintet again. Influenced by Randy Blythe’s imprisonment in the Czech Republic for manslaughter, Lamb of God have come out with their strongest since Ashes of the Wake. The entire band is on top of their game here with some fantastic songwriting and straight ahead aggressiveness.

Stand Out Track: 512

06. Al-Namrood – Diaji Al Joor
Diaji Al Joor
One of the few bands hailing from the tyrannical government of Saudi Arabia, the duo of Al-Namrood are literally risking their lives with music that is apostasy. Black metal originally being more of a rebellion against Christianity has become a rebellion against Islam in the hands of Al-Namrood. They have a wonderful blend of Middle Eastern music with black metal, not unlike Melechesh but more focused on the second wave of black metal rather than melodic black metal. Tyrannical countries around the world should be a breeding ground for metal but are sadly lacking in musical output due to a real fear of reprisal and a general censorship of Western music. Diaji Al Joor is a brilliant album for any fan of black metal.

Stand Out Track: Ya Le Taasetekum

05. Mgła – Exercises in Futility
Exercises in Futility
This is the first time that I heard of this Polish duo and they are good. Really good. This is fairly straightforward black metal but there is some really tasteful and memorable songwriting going on here. On a whole it reminds me a bit of Inquisition and early to mid Darkthrone. Guitarist and every other instrument other than drums M., really has some catchy black metal riffs. While the drumming from Darkside won’t win any awards, it suits the music well and he has some great rhythms going on with the cymbals. Just fantastic black metal.

Stand Out Track: Exercises in Futility IV

04. Gorod – A Maze of Recycled Creeds
A Maze of Recycled Creeds

This tech-death French act always has something interesting up their collective sleeves. I liked their previous album A Perfect Absolution, but it wasn’t an absolute favorite of mine. On A Maze of Recycled Creeds they really came through. Full of technicality but also creative musicianship and some memorable songs. Gorod also knows when to dial it back a bit and just let the song breathe.

Stand Out Track: Celestial Nature

03. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
Under the Red Cloud
Here’s another band that knows how to write memorable and catchy songs that can span across sub-genres in the same song. I’ve only recently gotten into Amorphis but they haven’t really disappointed me in their long history. Under the Red Cloud is a varied and excellent beast of an album.
Stand Out Track: Death of a King

02. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic
The Ride Majestic

Soilwork is another band that I stopped paying attention to after a few albums; after Figure Number Five is when I stopped really paying attention to their output. It wasn’t until the Living Infinite that I gave them another chance. That double album was absolutely phenomenal and the Ride Majestic just continues with the trend that they started. Soilwork have perfected the blend of extreme metal with melody. It’s not the melodic death metal from the early days but a newer and one might say, better breed of melodic death metal.

Stand Out Track: The Ride Majestic

01. Leprous – The Congregation
The Congregation
I may have had some difficulty whittling down my list to 15 of my favorite albums for this year; I had no problem deciding what my number one album would be. When I first heard the Congregation I thought it was good. Really good. But it didn’t stick with me until I visited it again. And then it clicked. Everything about it just clicked. The Congregation encapsulates what I love in music. It takes me on a journey while having strong songwriting, tasteful technicality, and some really great singing from Einar Solberg. He has a powerful vulnerable quality to his voice that really helps carry the music to another level. The music could stand on its own but the vocals elevate it another level. I have since listened to this album several times and each time there is something new that I discover about it. It’s haunting, memorable, and powerful.

Stand Out Track: Third Law

1 comment:

  1. holy crap dude, your runners-up section just filled up my spotify backlog again (and made my eyes bleed) - tons of stuff on there I haven't come across. and a few on your main list to check out too - lots of overlap between our lists, like you said!