Best Self-Released Titles for 2015

It’s my second year of celebrating the best of the bands who do everything themselves. I may have dropped it down to forty from fifty, but I still feel thoroughly enthusiastic about the underground. And so should you.

The undeniable winner was Lxs Jugadxs’ Demo 2015. I’ve been a big fan of theirs since I first heard the 2013 Demo, but 2015’s demo brought everything together in spectacular fashion.

Fleshing out the top five are Peasant, Lamantide, Choking, and Cavernlight. Given how very different these bands are, it’s testament to how diversity has strengthened the heavy underground.

Last year’s caveat still applies: I think I’ve done my due diligence and only included independent bands, but if I’ve made a mistake, let me know and I’ll modify things. At the very least I’m certain that all releases were independent at the time of review.

Every band here deserves your support. Enjoy them at maximum volume.

1) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Grindcore – 2015/07/21
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra

2) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Blackened heavy metal – 2015/04/20
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Wretched Codex

3) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Post-hardcore – 2015/10/26
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Immortalis Lapis

4) Choking – Choking

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Blackened sludge metal – 2015/05/15
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine

5) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Droning sludge – 2015/04/07
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold of Reason, Embracing Our Corporeal Forms

6) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Grindcore – 2015/09/08
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Disgraced Convert

7) Boak – Boak

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Powerviolence – 2015/06/03
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Who is the Animal Here?

8) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Experimental black metal – 2015/09/29
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Swelling Absence

9) Carnero – Carnero

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Hardcore – 2015/05/29
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: La scelta del corpo

10) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Progressive death metal – 2015/10/15
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Consume

11) Boar Worship – Boar Worship

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Sludge metal – 2015/07/08
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Two

12) Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist

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Atmospheric black metal – 2015/03/01
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Drink Thine Wretched Wine

13) Invertebrate – Regression/Devolution

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Powerviolence – 2015/03/26
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Fuck Punk, Fuck Grind, Drive Scion

14) Kriegszittern – Frostbite

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Death metal – 2015/08/16
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Primitive Instinct

15) Cartilage – It’s Necrotic

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Death metal – 2015/06/14
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Dialect of the Dead

16) KharmA – SubReal

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Death grind – 2015/02/06
Originally reviewed in February
Try before you buy: Obliterados

17) Concealed Blade – Demo 2015

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Hardcore – 2015/02/17
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Don’t Get Caught

18) Fractal Generator – Apotheosynthesis

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Atmospheric death metal – 2015/07/21
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Paragon

19) Deathblow – The Other Side of Darkness

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Thrash – 2015/04/21
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: The Other Side of Darkness

20) Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament

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Black metal – 2015/07/03
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean

21) Dowrr – Demo Tape

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Metallic hardcore – 2015/08/10
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Misfortune

22) Steel Chains – Demo 2015

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Post-punk – 2015/02/14
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Hard to Follow

23) Sermos – (husk)

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Death metal – 2015/07/04
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: The End of Flesh

24) Bleed the Pigs/Thetan – Split

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Grindcore – 2015/02/27
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Justified

25) Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate

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Progressive metal – 2015/02/18
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Perception

26) Devoid – II

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Droning sludge – 2015/06/09
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Excavation

27) Blutbad – Abandonment

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Harsh noise – 2015/09/19
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Ritual

28) Ēōs – Ēōs

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Drone doom – 2015/01/01
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Umwelt

29) Zombie X Incest – The First Violent Step

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Powerviolence – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: How is punk dead when powerviolence is still alive?

30) The Horn – Volume 14

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Black metal – 2015/12/02
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Spell 174

31) Sovereign – Deceptum

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Crusty black metal – 2015/06/04
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Colourless

32) Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe

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Deathgrind – 2015/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Hallucinating Contagion

33) Krvshr – Church Burner

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Sludge metal – 2015/05/25
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Highlander

34) Tales from Beyond – Putrid Realm

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Death metal – 2015/05/17
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Psychosis

35) Leash – Demo 2015

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Crust – 2015/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Revelation

36) Verheerer – Archar

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Black metal – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Archar

37) Tuer – Ivresse & Enfer

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Grindcore – 2015/09/25
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Odyssée Ethylique

38) Evenstate – Inside

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Progressive metal – 2015/07/25
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Chosen One

39) Monolith – Legacy of the Opium Eater

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Death metal – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Seemingly False Fantasies

40) Sombre – Flora and fauna, Feast Upon My Flesh

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Blackened noisey sludgeviolence – 2015/08/03
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Humans of Earth

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April 2015 Review Round Up

I’m way too much of a soft touch. Either that, or I’ve become more discerning somehow, as it’s been pretty well impossible to hate anything this month. Going to chalk it up to good luck at this point.

The album of the month rightfully belongs to Bell Witch. It’s one of those rare albums that should transcend taste. You may not like it low and slow, but you will like Four Phantoms.

Leucrota’s Demo is something to get behind. Throw money at this band. Get them as much exposure as you can. If this is what they’re capable of on a demo, imagine the wrecking ball they could put to wax with enough support.

I’ve decided to retire Om as a basis of comparison. Negură Bunget’s magnum opus is, simply put, such a creative outlier that it will always make other albums in its shadow look weak. People will inevitably listen to Tău, say it’s not as good as Om, and dismiss it. I don’t like that, as it’s certainly better than Vîrstele pămîntului, which was a fine album in and of itself. I honestly doubt that Om will ever be topped by Negură Bunget (or Dordeduh); it’s a masterpiece and, as such, that renders it useless as a tool for critical comparison. I will inevitably retire other similar masterworks in the future, but for now I think I’m just going to bask in the majesty that is Om.

I’d like to give a big shout out State Line Records for sending me the copy of Back From the Land of Nod. I ordered it without noticing that they only shipped to the USA. I may have been a little overwhelmed with Ramallah related excitement. They would have been well within their rights to say no to shipping to Australia and refund me, but they followed through on the order anyway. Super stoked about that.

Hope you enjoy this month’s releases. I know I did. As usual, you can reach me on Facebook. See you next month.

Album of the Month
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
(Funeral doom – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

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Most funeral doomsters create an atmosphere of all encompassing darkness, crushing the listener with an oppressive atmosphere. Bell Witch do it differently. They let the light in. That doesn’t make it any more pleasant. The flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you. It’s one of the grimmest albums I’ve heard. That they achieve all of this with only drum, bass, and vocals is amazing.
Try before you buy: Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever) (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Leucrota – Demo
(Crusty hardcore – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

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I love a demo I can really sink my teeth into and Leucrota’s demo is a big hunk of raw meat just waiting for mastication. The promo tag over at Sentient Ruin describes it as, “completely wretched, botched, cruel and self-mutilating hardcore punk” and it’s impossible to disagree with that assessment. But raw masochism only goes so far. Fortunately, Leucrota have the talent to fill out any of the gaps. It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary. Buy it. Buy it now.
Try before you buy: Systematic Violence (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abstracter – Wound Empire
(Blackened doom metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

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I think I may need to create a word for Wound Empire. Misegony. Not misogyny. Misegony. The hatred of the self. That’s exactly what Abstracter have delivered here. They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards. This amplifies doom’s existing penchant for depression into something much darker and more intense. And yet, it doesn’t sound like a down-tuned suicide note. It’s actually captivating in its misery.
Try before you buy: Open Veins (Bandcamp)

Concealed Blade – Demo 2015
(Hardcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/17

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Do you like Sick of It All? I love Sick of It All. And it’s clear Concealed Blade do too. They’ve done a fantastic job of incorporating that high impact energy, without nakedly imitating the sound. Short, catchy tracks are brimming with the sort of aggression that you would associate with a band willing to punch on with their fan base. And they do it without ever becoming repetitive. It’s a direct line to the underground that’s guaranteed to get your blood pumping.
Try before you buy: Don’t Get Caught (Bandcamp)

Deathblow – The Other Side of Darkness
(Thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/21

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Deathblow have served up a short but intense serve of classic thrash. It’s like the eighties have only just got to Utah, because this would slot in nicely next to Exodus and Testament on a play bill. As you listen to the five tracks, you will definitely pick out their influences, but there is no way it would fair to call them derivative. They have put together a fantastic package of breakneck thrash. It redlines the whole way through. Even slow passages race by. Roaring good stuff.
Try before you buy: The Other Side of Darkness (Bandcamp)

Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega
(Black metal – Norway)
Peaceville Records – 2015/03/16

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A Umbra Omega is kind of like the foie gras of black metal; it’s extravagant, but it’s also a little bit indulgent and to make it, the band crammed an unnecessary amount of material into it. The songs shouldn’t have been trimmed back to 3½ minute standards, but I am fairly certain the 10+ minute tracks could have been pared down. They get everything else right on this album. In many ways it’s revelatory, which is why I’m (probably) unfairly harping on about song length.
Try before you buy: Aphelion Void (YouTube)

Hurricane Death – Demo
(Grindcore – Australia)
Castigated Records – 2015/03/08

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I like this a lot. The Brisbane grind scene is wonderfully fruitful at the moment and Hurricane Death is a particularly choice morsel. They incorporate enough death metal into their work to add some real edge, but not enough to be called deathgrind. In my mind there’s a certain Napalm Deathness to their sound, which is a big plus in my book. It’s raw and rough, but it manages to be memorable in a way that puts most other grinders to shame.
Try before you buy: Gutter Rat (Bandcamp)

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual – Ugly World Order
(Cybergrind – United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2015/03/31

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Grindcore is often symbolised by two struck-through quavers. Ugly World Order lives up to this emblam, because it is a jarring, disorientating experience. Wonderfully so I might add. It’s kind of like a musical equivalent of 2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift; every time you think you get comfortable with what’s happening, KHR throw in some weirdness from left field, bewildering you and yet, somehow, advancing the narative. Odd genius.
Try before you buy: extreme home makeover urban edition turbo hyper fighting (Bandcamp)

Negură Bunget – Tău
(Blackened folk metal – Romania)
Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

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I never tire of the soundscapes that Negru and his cohorts create. The blending of haunting black metal and beautiful folk generates near endless possibilities for emotional discovery. Tău itself is the first part of a trilogy dedicated to Transylvanian heritage. There is a profound but extraordinarily proud sadness to it. The combination of the vocal tone, the blackened guitars, and the traditional instruments is both stark and lush. I await part two with baited breath.
Try before you buy: (Bandcamp)

Perspex Flesh – Ordered Image
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/03/31

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The Golden Age of Hardcore (i.e. the 80s) lives on loud and proud in Perspex Death. The guitar tone, the rhythms, the vocals – it’s all spot on with some of the greats. The vocals are initially jarring, but they quickly become absolutely vital. Reminds me of my initial contact with HR. The melodies are infectious. It’s exactly the sort of music that takes me back to the few basement punk gigs I got along to in my youth. It’s a release of pent up tension that is cathartic and joyous.
Try before you buy: Euthanasia (Bandcamp)

Ramallah/Sinners & Saints – Back From the Land of Nod
(Hardcore – United States of America)
State Line Records/Last Punk Rockers Records – 2015/04/28

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Anyone who knew me circa 2007 couldn’t help but know how much of a hard on I had for Ramallah. So I was overjoyed to see them return after a long absence. Getting tracks from Sinners & Saints was a bonus. Truth be told, I feel sort of bad reviewing this. Lind has clearly used this split to exorcise some particularly nasty demons. I miss the fierce political invective, but not so much that I can’t appreciate how devastatingly raw these tracks are.
Try before you buy: Here We Are (Bandcamp)

Torche – Restarter
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Relapse Records – 2015/02/24

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I challenge you not to like Restarter. If it’s one thing that Torche does well, it’s writing an album that is eminently likeable. Few metal bands do this. They’ve all got agendas and angst and whatnot; Torche just want you smile. It makes them unique. To review this album properly, I have to contextualise it within their canon. It’s a slightly more dour album, but I think that’s a necessary correction after successive albums of gooey thunder pop. It’s still fun.
Try before you buy: Annihilation Affair (YouTube)