Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 1 (100-71)

Here we go. The best 100 albums of the last decade, starting with albums 100 through 71. We’ve got a little bit of everything: shoegaze, pv, all sorts of metal. Enjoy.

Buy me a coffee

100) True Widow – Circumambulation
Relapse – 2013

image

Their self-description as stonegaze is still one of the the quickest ways to describe the sound True Widow have created for Circumambulation. The thundering low-end anchors the shoegaze staples of fuzzed guitars and spacey vocals to a much heavier place, both sonically and emotionally. I like to think that hope still exists in these chords, but getting there takes a far more circuitous route. The catharsis this album offers is earned rather than gifted. I’m glad the journey up Mt Purgatory is a beautiful one though.

99) Vallenfyre – A Fragile King
Century Media – 2011

image

Dirty. That’s what this sounds like. Yes, there is undeniably death metal here. Tinges of doom too. But Vallenfyre do things in such a filthy, gritty way that genre distinctions get pushed aside. The riffs churn through the sodden muck like a farmer plowing a field in preparation for a fresh crop of utter misery. That misery contributes to the grime on the album. You can feel it building up under your nails, tangling your hair, staining your skin. But as nasty as it is, it is hugely satisfying. It’s loaded with the degenerate glee of sin committed with absolute purpose.

98) Pseudcommando – A Home Beneath the Floorboards
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2019

I suppose it’s harder to get much more nihilisticly misanthropic than an amalgamation of harsh noise and power electronics. Pseudcommando layer distortion on top of feedback on top of static to create a howling vortex of dissonance. But beneath it all, struggling to survive like a butterfly in a cyclone, is a haunting melody. It’s like a tiny, sputtering flame of humanity trying to warm a cold and inhospitable void of darkness. It creates a stark interplay between determined hope and rapacious cruelty.

97) Hate Eternal – Infernus
Season of Mist – 2015

Technically precise and heavy as hell, Infernus is the album you go to when you want old school Florida crunch with a satisfying technical ganache layered on top. It’s an indulgent, luxurious sort of death metal on display here; it doesn’t set out to fancy, but it’s so well produced that you can’t help but feel a little decadent listening to it. I hope it doesn’t seem too odd describing an outstanding album from a visceral genre like I’m reviewing a restaurant, but Hate Eternal have delivered Michelin Star quality.

96) Hummingbird of Death – Forbidden Techniques
To Live A Lie – 2017

image

It’s a world where the grind scene is dominated by po-faced seriousness. Even pornogrinders and mincecorers are deadly serious about making their awful, awful racket. Forbidden Techniques is refreshingly different. It still simmers and boils over with anger, but the band packages it with an almost pop-punkish irreverence. It’s an album they clearly enjoyed making and they want to pass that along. As far as pissed off polemic goes, it’s hard to go past an album as comfortable with a joint as it is a molotov.

95) 铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 黑骏/Black Steed
Dying Art Productions – 2013

image

There’s a reason this is probably the closest thing to a true folk metal album on this list. There’s other folkish acts, but they are very much black metal first. Tengger Cavalry are not that. The Mongolian folk elements, the mantoquin, and the throat singing aren’t just distinct amongst the folk metal canon, but are perfectly incorporated into the metal. The ability to transcend gimmickry is something not nearly enough folk types can do, so to have an album land that is so evocative is something that needs celebrating.

94) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
Nuclear Blast – 2015

If you wanted measured, considered, and insightful content from a metal album, I’m willing to bet Lamb of God wouldn’t be anywhere near your list. But, then again, given Randy’s experiences in the Czech Republic, it probably shouldn’t surprise that Sturm und Drang is reflection wrapped in catharsis. Lyrically it’s starless-sky dark and the music is as maliciously sinister as it is relentlessly intense. It’s essentially a cliché that personal struggles deliver great art, but this is an album that proves it.

93) Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty
Relapse – 2010

Thematic and melodic unity is a fine thing to hear in an album and Misled by Certainty achieves it in unconventional fashion. They take death metal and grindcore, then blend them, fold them, pull them, and distort them until the resultant fuzz is so weird that it pulls off things you never thought possible. This remaking of the noise pairs so well with worst weed-induced paranoias on display in the lyrics. Mind controlling fungus, evil cybernetics, the Second Coming; it’s madness. Drug-fuelled headfuckery all round.

92) Heresiarch – Death Ordinance
Dark Descent – 2017

image

When it comes to war songs, too often you get “courage, valour, over the wall, pip pip”, or “Look at this specific moment in time. Ain’t it fucked up?” Heresiarch don’t do either. They deal in the pants-crapping horror of the trenches, the creeping dread of not knowing what trauma is yet to come, and the thundering bewilderment of a pitched battle. They get right down to the visceral emotions and they want you to feel every waking nightmare freezing your veins. Never forget; war is hell.

91) Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
Southern Lord – 2017

I think the highest praise I can heap upon Power Trip is that they sound unique. Too often with modern thrash, you hear callbacks. This band sound like Slayer, that band sound like Kreator, and so on. Not Power Trip. Power Trip sound like Power Trip and no one else. I confess being late for the Nightmare Logic hype train, but the athletic riffs and muscular vocals they put to wax deserve all the praise 2017 sent its way. To find a new voice for the genre and deliver it with such gusto and poise is phenomenal.

90) Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Dark Descent – 2018

image

Looking back, I focussed heavily on the gooeyer aspects of Impetus of Death. But, as accurate as the bloodiness was, it wouldn’t hold the album together nearly as well on its own. It needs the technical precision at its core. It’s definitely not techdeath, but everything is fitted together so immaculately that it stands as testament to the composers’ skill. Putting together a grisly monstrosity doesn’t require much finesse. Just pile meat on top of meat. But breathing life into it? That’s the work of twisted genius.

89) Monolithe – Monolithe IV
Debemur Morti – 2013

image

Of all the albums on this list, I was most worried about this one’s ability to hold up. But it did more than hold up; it actually improved in my estimations. Their ability to play metal in its longest form without turning it into a chore is something to be celebrated. Across the almost 60 minute run time, this one song traverses a massive vista of sonic landscapes. Importantly it sounds like one consistent, coherent journey. Like any great expedition, this takes endurance, but the satisfaction you feel at the end is intense.

88) Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
Artemisia Records – 2017

image

I took the time to listen to Celestial Lineage, Celestite, and Thrice Woven in the lead up to this. Celestial Lineage sounds like the ending it was supposed to be. Celestite, beautiful as it is, is still definitely a companion piece. Then there’s Thrice Woven. They’ve got that full force of nature sound blasting again. I may come from somewhere thoroughly not frosty, but this is very much an album of towering pines, winter frost melting in spring sun, and the ancient, arboreal deities rousing from their winter hibernation.

87) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn
Self-Released – 2015

Serpents Lair chose their album title 100% accurately, as this sounds like a horrific and profane ritual put to music. Their melodic choices are aggressive, intimidating, and jarring; this is black metal performed to cow the listener into submission. And yet, for all its attempts to bend you to its will with brute force, the album also possesses an intoxicating, hallucinatory allure. As it thrashes and assaults, it also manipulates and seduces. Your soul faces a grave peril in these chords.

86) Mizmor (מזמור) – Yodh
Gilead Media – 2016

image

Mizmor, to use the Anglicised version, use despair as a form of torture. Every beat a hammer blow. Every melody a razor’s slice. Every growl an expression of raging emptiness. And every shriek a gale of utter futility. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, Yodh is bleak. It’s neither sadistic nor masochistic; it is pain in purest form. But in this total supplication to misery, lies captivating musicianship. As tortuous as the music can be, there’s a sublime dedication to the pain that must be witnessed.

85) Barren Altar – Entrenched in the Faults of the Earth
Self-Released – 2018

image

As I think about it, I don’t really consider doom to be in tune with nature. It’s always struck me as extremely focussed on the human condition. It’s a way of looking at the genre that’s erroneous at best. I can thank Barren Altar for shaking up my mindset. Entrenched is definitely miserable, but for all its attention to human failings, there also seems to be a great affinity for the power and the darkness of nature. It uses the titanic, uncontrollable forces of the wild to re-enforce the futility of human existence.

84) Friendship – Hatred
Southern Lord – 2017

image

Purveyors of misanthropic powerviolence, Japan’s Friendship turn the short, fast, and weird of the genre into a brutish pit fight. Flurries of blows are interspersed with slow, wound up haymakers. This isn’t a professional fight. This isn’t even a fight club scenario. This is, as the album title suggests, fucking personal. This is about hatred so intense, you don’t care how badly you wind up, so long as they wind up worse. This is all about broken bones, missing teeth, crushed windpipes, and blood. All the blood.

83) Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Nuclear Blast – 2016

image

Symphonic death metal with serious operatic features being performed to tell the story of a syphilitic monarch’s decent into paranoid madness may sound a whisper over the top, but it’s done with such gusto that it doesn’t lose a single shred of charm. Make no mistake, this does veer strongly into the ridiculous at times, but it needs to. The melodramatic bombast raises King from yet another death metal album with a quirk to a triumph of vision. A triumph over common sense too, but a triumph nonetheless.

82) Absu – Abzu
Candlelight – 2011

image

Under normal circumstances you should expect an album devoted to the arcane and esoteric aspects of Sumerian mysticism to venture firmly into the avant-garde depths of black metal. But that’s not how Absu does things. They put their sonic spells together with the chainsaw riffs of blackened thrash. It’s a curious combination that actually works fantastically well. The spiritual devotion is thoroughly hammered into your eardrums, as though the surest way to achieve enlightenment is through audacious ferocity.

81) Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph
Candlelight – 2012

image

Winterfylleth’s paeans to pre-Christian England are at their most strident on The Threnody of Triumph. It’s an album whose interplay between the sense of loss arising from the demise of pagan tradition and the anger born of a response to an invading, militant faith is resolved in an articulate, yet blistering manner. It’s indicative of a band who are more than fiercely passionate, but are also well-read. These are ten tracks dedicated to a crystal clear vision of a Britain that could have been in a world less Christian.

80) Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds // Pt. 1
Music Theories Recordings – 2018

If someone could hand Mr Romeo the responsibility for a major movie’s score, that would great. War of the Worlds isn’t just a great prog album; it’s a testament to his ability to use music to evoke specific emotions and set a vivid scene. I routinely half-joke with Mrs Metalshopped that when the world inevitably loses John Williams, they (Disney, WB, et al) should give Michael a crack. Based on this album, I’d much rather listen to a Romeo Star Wars than an Elfman one or, gods help us, a Newman one.

79) Carcass – Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast – 2013

Carcass’ comeback album is a more than welcome return from some of the most gifted musicians metal has given the world. They have the luxury of doing things on their own terms (because how else would you get Jeff to do anything, ever?) and what they delivered was a seething yet gratifying blast of pissed off melodic death metal. The great thing is you can still hear the grind in them. It’s all in the attitude, which Surgical Steel has in spades. It’s an angry album tempered by the focus afforded by experience.

78) The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
Season of Mist – 2010

image

This is the perfect storm as far as the already volatile Dillinger goes. It gave Ben Weinman all the opportunity to show off his virtuoso with severe a.d.d. talent, but the directions the album go are so unpredictable. It’s weird to hear a band that is so cacophonously electric veer so wildly into territory normally covered by Muse or Faith No More. It goes to show just how versatile an act they were; that they could deliver such affecting pathos in a package of raging mania. It lingers in the brain long after it’s played its last.

77) Opeth – Pale Communion
Roadrunner Records – 2014

image

The “where are the growls” camp need to let it go. What’s been delivered on this album is about an hour of dark, psychedelic prog that coalesced Opeth’s less metallic material into a beautiful, melancholy whole. It’s a maturation of sound and approach that wouldn’t be possible by ardently sticking to what came before. Emotionally, Pale Communion is one of the band’s most sophisticated efforts, taking motifs of depression and grief, and extrapolating out to fully explore that human experience.

76) Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Nuclear Blast – 2016

Meshuggah’s quest to thoroughly contort and distort what the average human would consider melody, while still delivering engaging, memorable, and (most importantly) entertaining music reached another high point on Violent Sleep of Reason. The challenge rating on these tracks is super high; no easy “headbang on the downbeat” advice here. But for all the polyrhythmic intensity, there is also an underlying infectious sense of groove that worms its way in and nests in your psyche.

75) Enslaved – E
Nuclear Blast – 2017

image

These Norwegian progsters keep finding new levels to hit. E is deep on both a lyrical and musical level. The lyrics are like the wisdom of auld; a guide to life and secrets to the old ways lie there, if you are willing to listen and smart enough to decipher the layers of meaning. And the music is like nature at its extremes. Much like a great frozen river, it combines thick layers of frost over a mighty, flowing torrent. Alternatively, it’s like a towering oak in a terrifying storm; mighty earthen roots grounding the furious movement above.

74) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
Hell, etc – 2015

Looking back at his career as a whole, it’s pretty clear that this is one of Manson’s best efforts and the more time wears on, the better it holds up. It’s because, of all his work, this is his most introspective, most considered, and most mature. Listening to it now, it still sounds like a suicide note, but that is largely due to its reflective nature. It’s the sound of Manson writing not about the outside world or how he is perceived by others, but about how he views himself. Dark, sad, but captivating.

73) Dragged Into Sunlight – WidowMaker
Prosthetic – 2012

image

One massive song is conveniently broken down by track into three distinct movements. Part I is trepidation and tension. Part II is fury and release. Part III is insistence and madness. The understated pacing and subtle distortions of the first feed into an all consuming anger, which by the end of the third has warped into a profane hysteria that wishes perpetual degradation upon itself. It’s the life of a serial killer, from creation through to unravelling, set to the beat of twisted, blackened death.

72) Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons
Peaceville – 2010

image

Why Circle the Wagons? Why not Arctic Thunder? Why not celebrate their return to trve form? Because, as good as Arctic Thunder is, Darkthrone have a legendary black metal back catalogue. Circle the Wagons, however, is peak Punk Throne. It distils all the spit, venom, and grime of their crust worship into nine tracks of purest pissed off attitude. It’s personal too; the airing of grievances makes up much of the lyrical content. This anchors the album to a very real place and gives it authenticity that you wouldn’t otherwise find.

71) Mastodon – The Hunter
Reprise – 2011

image

Of Mastodon’s three albums this decade, The Hunter isn’t just the best critically; it’s also the easiest album to enjoy. Once More and Emperor are both fine albums, in smallest doses. Extended exposure leads to alienation and discontent I find. But The Hunter holds up to repeated listens without losing any of its impact. All the players perform their part immaculately, allowing the band to evolve their sound enthusiastically. It’s metal. It’s prog. It’s rock. It’s spaced out. It’s grounded. It’s everything it wants to be.

March 2018 Review Round Up

2018 is shaping up to be a great year. I haven’t heard a genuinely bad album yet. Pickyness has helpes, but even when I have bought an album on a whim, I’ve got lucky and landed something entertaining each time.

All that aside, Noose Rot’s EP The Creeping Unknown firmly deserves its place as Album of the Month. Its intro toys with your expectations and then builds into a monstrous, heaving beast of old school death metal.

An awful lot of black metal related stupidity happened this month. I’m not going to editorislise extensively, but I will say if people want to act provocatively, they can’t really complain when they provoke people.

As always, I can be contacted on Facebook.

See you next month.

Album of the Month
Noose Rot – The Creeping Unknown
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/02/16

image

If old school death metal is your thing, then Noose Rot have delivered a monster for you. And if old school death metal isn’t really your thing, then you should probably listen to this anyway. Four tracks, all of them gold, all of them landing with such impact it’ll change your perspective on the genre. Or at the very least, they bloody well should. An unstoppable juggernaut.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades
(Death Metal – Spain)
Dark Descent Records – 2018/02/16

image

While it lacks that special something that makes a great album, this is still a perfectly enjoyable slab of death metal. Ataraxy have written an album that is about as slow and malevolent as a death metal album can be without being death doom. The aggression needed to keep the music engaging shines through in deft tempo changes. Nasty fun.

Esoctrilihum -Pandaemorthium (Forbidden Formulas To Awaken The Blind Sovereigns Of Nothingness)
(Black Metal – France)
I, Voidhanger – 2018/02/23

image

I love this album. It absolutely has its flaws, but I love this album. The big flaw is it’s self-indulgent as hell; every track noticeably runs longer than necessary. But you can get past it. Especially since it rocks so hard. It pushes black metal as far as it can into death metal without being blackened death metal. You will absolutely enjoy the knives out approach to the esoteric.

Feral Chaos – Mankind in Ruin
(Grindcore – Finland)
Kuolema Records – 2018/02/03

image

Feral Chaos get that Finnish grind sound spot on perfect. Easily passes the loud test; turn it up and feel the earth-shattering good times. But it also passes the quiet test. The quiet test is what separates great grind from the rest. Play it at a sensible volume and levels of sophistication reveal themselves. This is a genuine genre and scene highlight.

Insect Ark – Marrow Hymns
(Instrumental Doom Metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore – 2018/02/23

image

Instrumental doom can either be cripplingly dull or crushingly cool. Insect Ark’s combination of true doom, drone, and slide guitar definitely guarantees Marrow Hymns falls in the latter category. The southern twang of the slide guitar lends a curiously satisfying tone of Americana to the throbbing, intense doom. A genuinely unique sound.

Judas Priest – Firepower
(Heavy Metal – United Kingdom)
Epic Records – 2018/03/09

image

At this point, Judas Priest can do whatever the hell they want. They’ve earned that right. So it’s lucky for us that they’ve decided to continue putting out rollicking, badass heavy metal. Firepower starts strong with the title track and never eases off for its hour run time. They have the energy of a band thirty years their junior. Metal’s first wave still delivers.

Serpents Lair – Perpetual Hunger
(Black Metal – Denmark)
Amor Fati Productions – 2018/02/15

image

Serpents Lair keep on delivering. They keep on improving too. From their demo through their first album to this EP, they have shown a capacity for sonic evil that doesn’t diminish. Indeed, Perpetual Hunger is well-named; the three tracks demonstrate a rapaciousness rarely seen in black metal. No preaching. No lecturing. There is only a horrific, ravenous void.

Releases of the Year for 2015

Another year down, another fifty releases that everyone should give a crack. I’m pretty comfortable saying 2015 was one of the best years in metal for a long time. For at least half the year I was worried that I may be too generous in my reviews; by the end of the year it was clear that the standard of music was simply better.

This will be the last of my regular posts. I will still do occasional one off reviews and I will most likely release a considerably smaller best of 2016 next year, but as far as regular, monthly posts go, I am finished. It has been tremendous fun though.

Thanks for all the support. I hope everyone loves these releases as much as I do.

Album of the Year
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

What I Said Then: Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling.
What I Say Now: What makes this a truly remarkable album is its emotional complexity. It is buoyantly unsettling and tumultuously welcoming. There is skill beyond measure on display here.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Revocation

In a year populated with top tier live acts (At the Gates, Mastodon, Opeth, etc), these tech-thrash bruisers stood tall. They play with an almost psychotic amount of intensity. Real take-charge live metal.

Best cover art: Purple by John Baizley

Aside from being a fantastic musician, Baizley is also one of metal’s great artists. Unsurprisingly, he saves some of his best work for his own band. Purple is a complicated piece that matches the emotional tone of the album.

My Other Picks for 2015
2) High on Fire – Luminiferous

image

eOne Music – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall.
What I Say Now: This remains an absolutely titanic display of pure riffing. There is an almost alchemical genius at work here as, slow or fast, these songs supernaturally heavy. Press play and marvel at the masters at work.

3) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

What I Said Then: They let the light in[;] the flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you.
What I Say Now: This isn’t the sound of darkness killing light; this is darkness gently caressing the light as it dies in its arms. There is as much tact and beauty here as there is soul-crushing misery and grief.

4) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

image

Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

What I Said Then: It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
What I Say Now: Giving this another critical listen has only raised it in my esteem. From its industrial yet monastic opener to its rabble rousing final track, there is vitality permeating every moment.

5) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

image

Self-released – 2015/07/21

What I Said Then: Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them.
What I Say Now: Lxs Jugadxs’ third demo came together in a perfect storm of manic aggression. Its four short tracks have more revolutionary firebrand in them than other grinders get in a career.

6) Baroness – Purple

image

Abraxan Hymns – 2015/12/18

What I Said Then: Purple is still redolent with their trademark languid grace, but there’s an unmistakable fire in its belly.
What I Say Now: Effortlessly charming, Purple is an album that makes itself a home in your heart and you’ll never want it to leave. There’s something about its high energy melancholy that leaves you warmed through.

7) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

image

Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

What I Said Then: At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke.
What I Say Now: Unfathomable grief rings out with every note. Its naked emotion is what makes this album stand out. Doom is often depressed, but few albums achieve this level of ineffable sadness.

8) Gold – No Image

image

Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

What I Said Then: The bleakness goes right to the core[;] this is apocalyptically beautiful.
What I Say Now: As depressing as this album could have been, it’s remarkable just how uplifting it actually is. It turns the desperate clutching of the cold, barren void into a warm and loving embrace.

9) The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise

image

Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

What I Said Then: Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess.
What I Say Now: Such furious intensity shouldn’t be such a joy to listen to. It’s emotionally calamitous, but played with such infectious, energetic zeal. It is literally impossible to not enjoy.

10) Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic

image

Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

What I Said Then: Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track.
What I Say Now: It’s a truly remarkable sonic dreamscape. Sprawling continents of sound are brought to life and populated with attention to detail. If I believed in magic, I would know that sorcery is at work here.

11) Folivore – Eve of Conception

image

Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: It’s a particularly whacked out blend of marijuana and Mephistopheles.
What I Say Now: It still astonishes me that this is a demo. The certainty of the production and the sophistication of the music are far above demo quality. They may well be the most competent stoners in metal.

12) Enslaved – In Times

image

Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

What I Said Then: From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty.
What I Say Now: Enslaved have struck an intriguing balance between light and dark on In Times. Stirring and inspiring, cold and bleak; there is a pervasive warmth here, if you let the cold wash over you.

13) Sumac – The Deal

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

What I Said Then: The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy.
What I Say Now: There may be heavier albums on this list, albums that pin you in place with crushing weight, but none can match The Deal for oppressiveness. It looms over you like a towering monolith.

14) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: Listening to this album definitely allows you to visualise hoards of panicked people running around being relentlessly attacked by wasps, except it’s pitch black and there’s broken glass everywhere.
What I Say Now: The comparison to Dante’s Inferno that I used in the initial review was more apt than I realised at the time. This may be a nightmarish hellscape, but there’s an enduring poetic quality to it.

15) Symphony X – Underworld

image

Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good.
What I Say Now: I sincerely hope Underworld is the album that gets Symphony X the wider profile they deserve. Progressive and aggressive; tense and dense; I haven’t been awed by fretwork this fine in a long time.

16) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

image

Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

What I Said Then: It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. 
What I Say Now: I still have lasting concerns that this is an elaborate suicide note. Its mature and understated approach is perfect for its barren and lonely themes. Who knew that Muz had an album like this in him.

17) Peasant – Go to Hell

image

Self-released – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
What I Say Now: Of the seven deadly sins, pride is traditionally the most heinous. Makes sense listening to this hellraising racket. A self-assured swagger and raucous braggadocio is inherent throughout.

18) Leviathan – Scar Sighted

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

What I Said Then: Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice[, which] makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive.
What I Say Now: Wrest has crafted one of the most challenging sonic landscapes for 2015. Untold legions of malice lurk, obfuscated by an often impenetrable miasma of contempt. He makes hatred a tangible sensation.

19) Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [The] music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
What I Say Now: The grotesque cover art is perfect advertising for this album; there is only putrefied, noisome death here. It’s straight to the point and that point is it wants to kill you. Horrific in a satisfying way.

20) Deafheaven – New Bermuda

image

Anti Records – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic.
What I Say Now: No other band manages the interplay between light and dark quite like Deafheaven does. Here the warmth and light only serve to remind the listener that storm clouds are bearing down.

21) Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats

image

Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [As] much as Abyss isn’t as nakedly sadosexual as some previous works, it still fills you with a spiritual dread and a carnal longing that should not sit side by side.
What I Say Now: Abyss is the void looking back at you, its sensual malevolence longing to infect you with its chaos. It remains a profoundly unsettling, uncomfortable experience.

22) Motörhead – Bad Magic

image

UDR Music – 2015/08/28

What I Said Then: Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away.
What I Say Now: Motörhead are one of metal’s oldest institutions, so it’s not surprising that people may not get excited for a new album. But you should get excited for Bad Magic. Every track is a solid gold hit.

23) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

image

Self-released – 2015/10/26

What I Said Then: It’s an intense experience in the best way.
What I Say Now: Definitely puts the post back into post-hardcore, as there is a definite Swans-esque embrace of otherness. It’s more than distortion or structure; Lamantide pulls hardcore into brave new forms.

24) Choking – Choking

image

Self-released – 2015/05/15

What I Said Then: Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
What I Say Now: I’m hung up on just how suffocating this release is. The appropriateness of the name has only increased with time. It violently sucks the air out of the atmosphere, leaving the listener breathless.

25) Kylesa – Exhausting Flame

image

Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
What I Say Now: Kylesa’s grimey heaviness is delicately balanced with their ear for emotional heaviness. Exhausting Flame is just that: exhausting. It’s a draining experience, but in a satisfying way.

26) Leprous – The Congregation

image

InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

What I Said Then: The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos.
What I Say Now: Meandering in a most deliberate manner, The Congregation is easily the urgent daydream of 2015. It’s aggressive beauty isn’t just aging well; it’s becoming more dominant by the second.

27) Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo

image

Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

What I Said Then: I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
What I Say Now: I still find it hard to believe that the Spobgebob schtick hasn’t grown old. But it hasn’t. The odd combination of powerviolence and surf rock keeps this fresh listen after listen after listen.

28) Cavernlight – Corporeal

image

Self-released – 2015/04/07

What I Said Then: The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole.
What I Say Now: The way these four tracks build pressure is amazing. The atmospheres just keep on piling up, breaking bones and forcing the air from your lungs. It’s a terrifying force of nature in your ears.

29) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

image

Self-released – 2015/09/08

What I Said Then: Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent.
What I Say Now: Woundvac get it. Their approach to grind is as unforgiving as Sheriff Joe’s understanding of Christ. It’s a non-stop blast of expertly crafted aggression. Hostility is the winner here.

30) Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

image

Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos.
What I Say Now: Charnel Passages burns real slow. It’s not until the final track burns out that you realise that it’s taken everything around it with it. It’s destructive in a way that you can’t turn off or ignore.

31) Alder Glade – Demo II

image

Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

What I Said Then: The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal.
What I Say Now: Don’t know what I was thinking when I first reviewed this; I should have been far more glowing in my praise. The wholehearted embrace of the tyranny of isolation is impressive.

32) Boak – Boak

image

Self-released – 2015/06/03

What I Said Then: It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis.
What I Say Now: Singularly aggressive hardcore-by-the-way-of-powerviolence. Drumming that sounds like a swarm of angry hornets underscores guitars and vocals that exist solely to injure.

33) Hate Eternal – Infernus

image

Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

What I Said Then: With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed.
What I Say Now: Sleeper of the year in my opinion. I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is more than a stellar death metal album; this is one of those albums will age spectacularly. It’s left a lasting impression.

34) Abstracter – Wound Empire

image

Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

What I Said Then: They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards.
What I Say Now: This remains as darkly captivating now as it was when I first gave it a spin. Suffused with creeping misery that is as relentless as it is achingly slow, Wound Empire is a glacier of haunting depression.

35) Manhunt – Manhunt

image

625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

What I Said Then: Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
What I Say Now: This is the real thing. You can feel the press of bodies in the pit. You can smell the acrid tang of sweat. You can see the steam rising off the superheated mob. Savour the hardcore sensation.

36) Leucrota – Demo

image

Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

What I Said Then: It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary.
What I Say Now: Putting traditional punk immediacy on the back-burner in favour of persistent sinister menace makes this 2015’s most intimidating punk release. Violent in a way that hints that it could be much more so.

37) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

image

Self-released – 2015/09/29

What I Said Then: Thuggish and muscular black metal is made even nastier with sociopathic noise.
What I Say Now: Cataclysmic noise given only the barest semblance of structure, Unyielding Love take metal to a new uncompromising extreme. Challenging and hateful, this demo is a black spot on the soul.

38) Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

image

Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It doesn’t hesitate to bring the blasting violence, but it also allows itself to plumb darker depths of humanity by slowing down and letting melody reign.
What I Say Now: The sophistication that Cloud Rat bring to grind continues to seem incongruously oxymoronic. The mingling of ferocious blastbeats and crystal delicate melodies required amazing skill.

39) Horrendous – Anareta

image

Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

What I Said Then: Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up.
What I Say Now: There is a warm glow of nostalgia radiating from every note. The throwback to death metal’s origins is welcome. But the top quality performances from all involved is what makes this so necessary.

40) Carnero – Carnero

image

Self-released – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
What I Say Now: It’s releases like this that keep me connected to hardcore. There’s nothing disingenuous here; it’s pure, nasty, violent punk. It’s everything that made the genre great in seven tracks.

41) Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)

image

Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. 
What I Say Now: There’s an anguished longing at the core of this. It aches. It needs. It wants. It hungers. I doubt any other band could conjure such excruciating exquisiteness and sustain it so long.

42) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn

image

Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

What I Said Then: Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous.
What I Say Now: There’s something to be said for tremolo picking, Christ punching, trve kvlt traditionalism. So long as it’s done well of course. Serpents Lair nail it with an album that is both violent and hypnotic.

43) Sunn O))) – Kannon

image

Southern Lord – 2015/12/04

What I Said Then: Sunn O)))’s first non-collaborative work of the decade is less total speaker destruction and more monks at the temple of loud.
What I Say Now: Crushing tectonic force is what’s on display. The slightest shift in tone causes rumbles that can be felt for miles. As contemplative in tone as it is, Kannon is loaded with destruction.

44) Krallice – Ygg Huur

image

Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

What I Said Then: An immovable object given irresistible force.
What I Say Now: Brilliantly technical and possessed of a sensibility for other genres, Ygg Huur is a black metal album apart from its genre. It’s fascinating listening to an album that twists the norms so ably.

45) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

image

Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: There’s a melodic quality to the tracks that brings to mind the peak of the Gotherburg sound, but it doesn’t sacrifice the Lynard-Skynard’s-grindcore-album Southern rage[.]
What I Say Now: Given that LoG hasn’t been relevant to me since I replaced my teenage angst with adult ennui, it’s impressive how much of an impact this made. Proof that groove metal isn’t always a pejorative.

46) Melechesh – Enki

image

Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. 
What I Say Now: With music like this, it’s no wonder Melechesh isn’t welcome in their home country anymore. Its combination of blackened death and Middle Eastern folk is unforgettably vicious.

47) Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

image

Parlophone – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar.
What I Say Now: I’m a big fan of Maiden’s millennial work, but Book of Souls is their first bona fide classic in a long time. It’s a double album where everything sounds necessary and vital. Essential listening.

48) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

image

Self-released – 2015/10/15

What I Said Then: Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame.
What I Say Now: Ironic Reversal know how to death metal. The fine balance they strike between the technical and the progressive is not an easy thing to achieve. Few bands have the raw talent that this duo do.

49) A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See

image

Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on.
What I Say Now: It’s an album almost punget with the acrid smoke of coal-fired industry and the incense of Infernal mysticism. It’s intriguing and beguiling with more than a hint of razor-edged danger.

50) Enforcer – From Beyond

image

Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
What I Say Now: It’s leather and big hair from start to finish. Enforcer’s brand of beautiful speed metal anachronism works so well because they have the balls to go there and the talent to back it up. Play it loud.

November 2015 Review Round Up

The good people over at Faster Louder made a good point when evaluating their own 50 Best Albums of 2015; it has been one of the best years for music in a long time. Now, obviously, their focus is on the pop/rnb/electronic spectrum, whereas I’m definitely more metal and punk, but the overall statement holds true. The year 2015 has been outstanding for metal and it still hasn’t quite finished. There’s still albums by Sunn O))) and Baroness to come, not to mention a few things I’ve missed up until now, so there’s a lot to look forward to even at this late stage.

As far as November goes, you can’t go past No Image by Gold and Malaise by The Rodeo Idiot Engine. Both are masterpieces of emotional depth. As much as it was tough to pick one over the other, ultimately I settled on No Image’s beautiful nihilism over Malaise’s harrowing intensity.

Next month sees the release of my Best Self-Released Titles for 2015. It may not run to fifty this year. I’ve been a lot more diligent in crediting labels and distros, so the number of acts I considered wholy self-released has dropped somewhat. I also think I haven’t reviewed as many titles overall this year compared to last, so that would also account for a drop. I just want to publish a list that’s representative of what I have listened to this year.

See you next month. As always, you can contact me on Facebook. Enjoy.

Album of the Month
Gold – No Image
(Death rock – The Netherlands)
Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

image

No Image is a truly remarkable album. The songs are often coruscating with distortion, creating bristling laments to the fall of man. But all the effects in the world wouldn’t take away from the power contained in the music; they could be performed with acoustics only and they would be in no way diminished. The bleakness goes right to the core. Complimented with haunting vocals, this is apocalyptically beautiful.
Try before you buy: Don’t (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise
(Avantcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

image

This is the first time I’ve been exposed to TRIE, but I’m already more than content to rank them alongside Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan as one of the smartest bands in heaviness. They play an off the wall variety of metallic hardcore that is just as raw as it is furious. And by raw, I mean devastating. Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess. Intensity turned cataclysmic.
Try before you buy: Syngue Sabour (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Beyond All Deception – Beyond All Deception
(Melodic death thrash – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/31

image

You could just as easily classify these guys as deathly speed metal. They hammer down hard. They spend so much time red lining that they start to bend the needle. It’s intense. They do tend trade a bit of precision to maintain this intensity, but it’s a good deal. You just have to appreciate such a ballsy display of raw power. The wildness may make it a bit rough from time to time, but it’s a cracking ride nonetheless.
Try before you buy: Malevolence (Bandcamp)

Boak – Boak
(Powerviolence – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/06/03

image

There is a fantastically cinematic feel to these half-dozen tracks. It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis. It’s the audio equivalent of slowing down a fight scene to highlight a particularly spectacular or brutal blow, only to have the fracas return to full speed to maintain structural flow. Ultimately, it’s as uncompromising as their cover art, but done with style.
Try before you buy: Who is the Animal Here? (Bandcamp)

Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe
(Deathgrind – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/19

image

This isn’t just aggressive; this is dirty and downright nasty. As I listen all I see is two jacked up meatheads on pcp punching on in the mud in a backwater park somewhere. Nothing is held back and no amount of blood, sweat, or teeth is going to stop the relentless hostility until the deed is done. That the songs aren’t stereotypically short grinders is a bonus. Ten rounds of bare knuckle violence.
Try before you buy: Hallucinating Contagion (Bandcamp)

Dakhma – Passageways To Daena (The Concomitant Blessings Of Putrescing Impurity)
(Blackened death metal – Switzerland)
Self-released – 2015/02/25

image

This isn’t the Dakhma who released Raze earlier this year; it’s a different horde of blackened death mongers. I get where these guys are coming from. Aiming for maximum cacophony and disorientation to achieve total sonic dissonance. It’s in much the same vein as Portal. The problem is the production is so muddy all the impact has been drained. All that’s left is a repetitive husk of aggression. Infuriating rather than maddening.
Try before you buy: Where Shattered Minds Collide (The Immortal March)

Horrendous – Anareta
(Death metal – United States of America)
Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

image

This is deliciously old school. How old school? Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up. Horrendous really get the nuances right; Anareta is gritty and primal, but never succumbs to its own hostility. There’s control amidst the madness. And, to top things off, it’s a unique sound. They may be old school, but they’re not derivative. Outstanding stuff.
Try before you buy: Sum of All Failures (Bandcamp)

Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
(Progressive metal – United States of America)
Century Media Records – 2015/11/13

image

Energetic and engaging, The Direction of Last Things sees Intronaut continuing to confirm their status as one of metal’s smartest bands. The composition of these seven tracks allows the listener to fully experience the scope of their intellect without being bogged down in wearisome theory. It’s the Bill Nye of prog; it’s smart and makes you feel smarter for experiencing it, but never at the expense of entertainment.
Try before you buy: Digital Gerrymandering (YouTube)

Leash – Demo 2015
(Crust – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/10/19

image

According to my learned colleagues over at Pledge Allegiance to Grindcore, Leash has links to Backstabbers Inc. That piqued my interest, especially since Trap Them was born out of them too. Colour me impressed. This is clattering, crashing, d-beat heavy crust. It’s energetic as hell. Mad as hell too. No comparisons necessary; this demo stands on its own as testament to hard as nails aggression.
Try before you buy: Revelation (Bandcamp)

Manhunt – Manhunt
(Hardcore – Australia)
625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

image

Disappointed that I’ve missed this for the majority of the year. It’s hardcore, but it’s been booting up powerviolence in the men’s room of the [insert local punk venue]. Wickedly aggressive, this self-titled outing pulls no punches and gives zero fucks. Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
Try before you buy: No Tolerance (Bandcamp)

Psionic Plasma – Kaos Typhonian Dimensions
(Black metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/11/06

image

Blaze era Darkthrone in space. That’s what we’ve got going on here. The first thing that struck me was the production. Raw, of course, but it came across as hearing the band from outside a club venue rather than a recording taken in a spooky forest with terrible equipment. Secondly, the music is excellent. It holds up better than most raw sounding black metal. Finally, the concept they use works. Kvlt in the void of space.
Try before you buy: Phosphorus (Bandcamp)

Savage Blind God – Demo
(Punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/11

image

This demo is six tracks of feisty, raw punk with a beating black heart of Killing Joke-esque post-punk. Waves of anger batter unfeeling cliffs of dissonance like a hurricane off Dover. Forgive the unlikely metaphor, but that’s how it plays out. It has that absolute immediacy of raw punk and hardcore; it’s very in your face. But it’s loaded to the gunwales with intelligent instrumental technique. Engaging stuff.
Try before you buy: Sickening Sanity (Bandcamp)

Sergeant Thunderhoof – Ride the Hoof
(Stoner doom metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2015/11/05

image

Got your order of beer and pretzels metal, right here. This is exactly the sort of riff-pounding, bong-rocking metal you need blasting at any party. You honestly won’t care that it’s not the deepest of records; when you have a case of beers to get through, you don’t exactly want a case of the feels. It’s pretty well impossible to hate an album when its biggest fault is that it’s not a thought-provoking chin-scratcher.
Try before you buy: Reptilian Woman (Bandcamp)

Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn
(Black metal – Denmark)
Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

image

Serpents Lair’s demo from last year brimmed with malign promise, even if it didn’t quite deliver. Their first full length, however, is a baleful delivery on all promises made. And then some. It’s nothing less than pure, uncut evil. Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous. This is an affirmation of how awe-inspiringly terrifying black metal can be in its purest form.
Try before you buy: Epistemology of Death (Bandcamp)

Shining – International Blackjazz Society
(Avant-garde metal – Norway)
Spinefarm Records – 2015/10/16

image

Increasingly difficult to categorise, International Blackjazz Society sees Shining become something not jazz and, yet, not truly metal. They have finally reached that point of transcendence they’ve been building to. Such experimental drive had the potential to end in an album more challenging than enjoyable, but the risk paid off. It’s an intelligent album that entertains rather than alienates.
Try before you buy: Last Day (YouTube)

Tuer – Ivresse & Enfer
(Grindcore – Switzerland)
Self-released – 2015/09/25

image

At the risk of offending by comparison, I’m going to compare this intense slab of hostile grind to pop punk. Living dangerously, I know. I went there because the nine tracks are catchy as hell. Every track is an earworm. They get right into your head and stay there. The big difference is that, unlike pop punk, the album doesn’t make you want to commit suicide. Get stuck into it. It’s meaty good violence.
Try before you buy: Odyssée Ethylique (Bandcamp)

Vhöl – Deeper Than Sky
(Crusty blackened power metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/10/23

image

Vhöl is giving Sigh a run for their money in the competition for “Most Over The Top Release”. The key difference is coherence. Sigh threw notes at the score like they’re Jackson Pollock and hoped for the best, whereas Vhöl clearly had a plan they were executing. It’s still a mighty overwhelming combination of punk, power metal and black metal. It’s like a stoned berserker; charging ever forward, but in an upbeat manner.
Try before you buy: Red Chaos (Bandcamp)