Friday, January 22, 2016

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part LAST - #14 to #1)

Yay, the list is finished before we hit 2017!
Hope this saga at least helped direct you towards any band you enjoyed, that's the whole point.

14. PYRAMIDS A Northern Meadow
If you've ever been to this blog before, you probably know how I feel about Pyramids - one of my favourite bands of the century, utterly revolutionary, criminally underrated. Also, very difficult to talk about, so before my head starts hurting and you don't get the rest of the list, here's the gist of it from my Terrorizer review. "‘A Northern Meadow’ sounds like Pyramids spent the last few years thinking about their mind-blowing 2008 debut, rearranging its components, adding new ones and generally leaping ahead. While providing a less sudden impact than its predecessor, this is an experience that arguably goes deeper and will last longer. More is going on at the same time, yet it feels like less... martial industrial beats coexist with shadowy shoegaze and labyrinthine vocals as if they’ve been designed to go together since the dawn of time, and at the end you’ll feel like you’ve been abducted by aliens, but only to go for a breezy sing-along in the deep woods with them."

13. MGŁA Exercises In Futility
MISÞYRMING Söngvar Elds Og Óreiðu
No, these aren't joined because two of the band names have squiggly characters on them that the people from those countries insist are serious letters they use in regular conversation, although that would be a super awesome reason to stuff together a bunch of records. Alas, a criteria which would leave out Spectral Wound, and since they're the least well-known of the three, let's start there - remember me going on about a band called Ensorcelor that no one gave a shit about? They were amazing, but because you people only listen to, I don't know, Epica or whatever, we can't have nice things and they're now no more. Fortunately, Mike Kirkenbrannsår is a restless dude and besides all other cool bands he's in (seriously) and also the label he runs, he found the time to do a sort of follow-up, stylistically at least, to Ensorcelor with the amazing Spectral Wounds. It's black metal, Jim, but not as we're used to, the rawness and the rabid violence of the assault are counterbalanced by the warped and yet enticing atmospheres that so permeated Ensorcelor's best moments (ie, all of them), with the whole thing coming together as an alien and disturbing listen. Which is, in a nutshell, the best way to describe Mgła and what they do on 'Exercises In Futility'. 'With Hearts Towards None' had shown us that something vey worrying was afoot in Kraków, but this record is such a fist-in-the-face sort of coming of age that even with its slithering, hard-to-describe nature, most list-makers couldn't escape its blackened, terrible charms. When I reviewed it for Terrorizer I said that "It is still difficult to pinpoint why Mgła feel so unique, but in a way similar to Misþyrming, for instance, something about Mgła burrows down further into your heart than the others. The mastery of dynamics, the dense underlying atmosphere, the majestic circular-feeling guitarwork, hypnotic, melodic and dissonant at the same time," and I concluded that "It's raw, it's bitter and it's pitch-black, and yet it will inspire, illuminate and lead." Which leads us nicely into Misþyrming themselves, and yes, the two bands are quite different, but some of the feelings evoked by these records come from similar unhallowed grounds. The thing about Misþyrming is that, despite being already one of the leading lights of today's black metal, they are also a part of something bigger - a very particular scene spawning from Iceland, centred around the Vánagandr tape label, which comes together for the terrifying Úlfsmessa, of which you might have read about, and that you might subject yourself to if you go to the next Roadburn, where Misþyrming will deservedly be the youngest artists in residence ever. Oh, and why are these three bands together? Because "the future of black metal", a sort of stupid expression that has been used on every single new band for the last twenty years or so, if it had an intelligent equivalent expression, could be applied to this little bunch here.

12. GHOST Meliora
As any band that becomes huge, Ghost now draw polarising opinions, though I honestly don't get why. They're a rock band with super-catchy songs, it's okay if you don't like it, but can we just move on? Actually, extrapolate that to every other stupid band discussion and over-analysing, nitpicking-to-death argument anyone's ever had about bands, can we move on and just listen to shit? Anyway, yeah, Ghost. If you loved the first album, this is a bit like it but bigger and more ambitious, if you didn't like the production of the second album (and I know a lot of you didn't - in fact, me and my girlfriend have had more arguments about the production of that album than all you old couples have argued about money or your kids or plumbing or whatever the hell it is you fight about), don't worry because the guitars are back in full force, and honestly, I don't know what else I can say about this that you haven't made up your mind about it already. It's the best Ghost album so far, songs like 'Cirice', 'Mummy Dust' or especially the forever-in-your-brain 'He Is' are fucking amazing and U gioe these guys keep up being silly/serious for a long, long time. Because when all of your favourite stadium bands pull curtains, and let's be brutally honest, most of them aren't many years away from that, what the hell are you left with but Ghost?

11. SUNN O))) Kannon
I got this in the nick of time, like a week before I had to turn in my first lists for the magazines, and that should tell you a lot about 'Kannon' already - a Sunn O))) record that got into my head and revealed all its awesomeness in just under a week? And worry not, because its instant impact doesn't mean the long term part of it is affected, it's now been a couple of months and this still sounds fresh as all hell. But it is the most universal-appeal kind of record they've ever done, the shortest one, the one written with Attila in mind the most from the very beginning, and the one where even regular human beings might detected the vaguest form of a riff forming after five minutes or so. And that's it! There's a tendency to overthink Sunn O))) as if they're a super-intellectual experience that will heighten your spirit to Buddha Valhalla or something, so let's not. Let's put on 'Kannon', enjoy their best record since 'Black One', and wait for the next amazing thing they'll do.

10. STEVE VON TILL A Life Unto Itself
Not trying to Freudalise you or anything, but have you ever wondered, as an exercise, if you prefer mommy or daddy, in the deepest, darkest thoughts you keep locked inside your head? I do a similar thing with Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly. No, none of them's "mommy" in my half-baked random analogy in case you were going to crack that joke, but both of them being important members of one of my favourite bands ever, and both of them having remarkable solo careers, not to mention that people sometimes flat-out ask me which one of them I prefer (something I hope no one ever did to you with the mommy/daddy thing), and I've come to the conclusion that each record one of them puts out makes me like him more during those months. Despite Scott's 2007 record 'The Wake' being engraved in the inner walls of my heart forever, 'A Life Unto Itself' put me clearly in Team Steve for 2015. I actually had to sum up its appeal already on a little blurb for Terrorizer, so no use trying to say the same thing with other words. Here you go: "Rarely has such a subtle and generally quiet record packed such a thunderous emotional punch – the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist might present himself in the sparser, most minimalist fashion, just one man lost in the woods with an acoustic guitar, some effects and his coarse, haunting voice, but these songs will reach down into your heart and squeeze it with the force of a thousand men."

9. THERAPY? Disquiet
Here's another routine I've done a million times, explain why Therapy? are still one of the best rock bands in the planet. And yet most of you still think they're that band who hasn't done much since 'Infernal Love'. You know what, we don't care anymore. By "we", I mean the whole bunch of people who have been to their live shows in 2015, screamed every word along with Andy and Michael, and realised the 'Disquiet' songs are already among our favourites of the setlist, not a small feat for a new record. Always bitter, always sharp and always under-the-surface sad and melancholic, Therapy?'s songs go much, much deeper than your usual rock band but always packing a severe high-octane punch nevertheless, exhaling a stupendous degree of energy, vitality and anger. Highlights from 'Disquiet' include the immediacy of opener 'Still Hurts' ("each year / it gets worse", Andy spits sardonically during the chorus), the unbearable sadness of 'Tides' or the riff-of-the-year roaring behind metallic closer 'Deathstimate', but the entire album is full of blinders. Get on it!

8. GOATSNAKE Black Age Blues
How often do you really get to say, and mean it, that it was worth it to wait fifteen fucking years for a record? That's how good 'Black Age Blues' is. "For each year of absence there’s a kickass bluesy riff that’ll stay in your head forever," I said on Terrorizer a couple of months ago, and I mean it even more now. Having seen them live twice since the album came out, the fact that these simple, infectious rockers more than hold their own alongside all the other classics is a testament to how strong of a record this is. I'll never look at coffee and whiskey the same way after it, for instance. It would be great if they did another one, and if it didn't take them fifteen years this time, but whatever - this is an album for the ages and we'll be listening to it in 30 years time with the same gusto we do today.

7. SIGH Graveward
It's a funny moment, when 'Graveward' finally clicks with you. It might take a little more or not, depending on how familiar you are with Sigh's discography, especially with the weirder albums, but when it does, you'll realise, in the middle of everything that's going on at once in those 500 or so tracks they must have used in the recording, that 'Graveward' isn't such a weird record after all. You might even hum a few parts here and there without risk of brain damage. I don't pretend to know how Mirai (and, decisively, Kadenzza's You Oshima, a remarkable guitar player and Sigh's best addition to the line-up since the unstoppable Dr. Mikannibal back in 2007) did it, but he's fused almost indistinctly the entire symphonic complexity of the most difficult Sigh records to the immediacy of his love for thrash metals and just simple good tunes in one big avant-garde mix of wonderful strangeness. 'Scorn Defeat' means a hell of a lot to me, as I made abundantly clear here, where I guested on a feature about weird 90s record by my buddy Luís Pires, and that sentimental attachment is the only thing keeping me from stating that 'Graveward' is Sigh's best album ever.

6. TAU CROSS Tau Cross
We all mourned the ending of Amebix just after they had delivered 'Sonic Mass', one of the best albums of the 21st century, but if some psychic (where are you people when we need you?) had told us about Tau Cross, we would have had a much easier time. See, Rob Miller's new band encapsulates everything that was awesome about the new incarnation of Amebix - that skewed Killing Joke influence, the raw strength and impetus of the songs, the apocalyptic feel, the unforgettable melodies - and still adds more stuff to the melting pot. Not only the line-up is a stellar get-together of awesome people (Michel from Voivod, Jon from Misery and Andy from War/Plague), but the result is much more than the sum of the four. What's more, the album was released in May and there's no sign of it loosening its grip on me - it sits on my car stereo right now as I write this, in mid-January. I guess only the next one, which might not be too far away already, will be the only cure. By the way, I reviewed 'Tau Cross' for Rock-a-Rolla, here's a bit from that text in case you need more convincing: "[Rob Miller is] a gritty, rough anti-hero spewing his guts out for you with each word. And he has words – when he offers on the deeply emotional final song “I see you turn to me, and I clearly hear you say / That on the final day, we all stand alone / And the devil knows his own”, you’ll shiver with the sheer honesty and power of it all."

I used to write a whole post for the last few records of the list, but now I'm older. No, not wiser or anything, I'm just older and I'm very busy and fucking tired. So I'll really let the fact that these records are my absolute favourites, on a list that has had 95 others already on which the "last" ten were great records too, speak for itself. That way I'll also escape the torture that is finding new words to describe such a labyrithine headfuck like 'A Umbra Omega' is. Oh go on, have a few review snippets if you must. From Terrorizer: "Main man Vicotnik himself told Terrorizer recently that if he was to explain the album,  “it would be so abstract that no one would understand what I was talking about”. So, we’ll just tell us what this collection of five very long songs and an intro has made us feel – excited, because it’s crazy music that flows, exhilaratingly, without letting your attention wander. Frustrated, because nothing makes sense if you try to verbally define it. Disoriented, because after 25 minutes it feels like 25 songs have gone by, but you’re still on song two, ‘God Protocol Axiom’. Most of all, inspired, because, as Solefald’s ‘World Music. Kosmopolis Sud’ also proved a few weeks ago, the avant-garde isn’t dead, and it isn’t just a silly word. Anything is still possible in music, even the impossible. Even ‘A Umbra Omega’."

4. REVENGE Behold.Total.Rejection

3. MY DYING BRIDE Feel The Misery
PARADISE LOST The Plague Within
Because yes, sometimes we do get nice things, My Dying Bride are fucking back. Thought they have never gone underneath a certain quality threshold, I suppose even us, old and faithful fans whose lives were changed by 'Turn Loose The Swans' all those years ago, had to agree that not since 'The Dreadful Hours' had the band put out something truly amazing, truly relevant and earth-shattering like their doom used to be. Well, here it is. Several months after its release, I'm still very much feeling this misery with a stupid smile on my face. Same thing I just said with different titles for Paradise Lost - though the situation is slightly different, as I do admire their excursions into different genres they were brave enough to take over the years (and hold some of those records among my PL faves), it was clear that Paradise Lost needed a revitalisation of some sort in the past few years. Whether it was Greg and Nick's participation in Vallenfyre and Bloodbath respectively that lit a fire underneath their doomy bums that did it, whatever it was, it worked. 'The Plague Within' is a monster of doom/death metal like they don't do them anymore (well, Paradise Lost do, but you know what I mean) without being retro or directly referencing any of their past work. It's simply one of their best records ever, and the pleasure of having these two bands so high up on a 2015 list is beyond anything I can say. Here's a bit of my delightfully over-excited Terrorizer review of 'Feel The Misery: "Despite the overwhelming sorrow bleeding from the track, it's impossible not to get excited straight away – these are proper My Dying Bride riffs, it feels in our guts that we're back to 'God Is Alone' or 'Your River', or whichever classic it was that most floated your boat, with riffs that exhale dread and malice, but also powerful and memorable. Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe also nails the ever-delicate balance between anguished growls ('To Shiver In Empty Halls' features one of his best opening roars ever!) and his unique kind of lamented singing and whispering, lending each part its correct emotional weight and greatly amplifying the dynamics of the album, from the fragile 'I Almost Loved You', the catchy title track or that furious 'To Shiver In Empty Halls'. It's not all perfect, and the unnecessary ten grey minutes of the bloated closing track could well have been sliced off, but who cares. The final rating is also bloated because we fuckin' missed this band so very much."

2. ROYAL THUNDER Crooked Doors
Royal Thunder were born awesome. I still remember all the things that went through my head when my buddy Jonathan Selzer put that first EP on after telling me he had found a band I'd love, weeks before it came out. I'll still take that EP to the car and sing along to every single word today, and it's a testament to how unbelievably brilliant Royal Thunder are today that 'Crooked Doors' is miles, miles ahead in terms of quality from that first EP that seemed unbeatable. A lot of superlatives have been thrown at the band since its release, and from being the best rock band in the world right now to comparisons to Sabbath and Led Zep, it all might seem excessive, but none of them are. They're all true, and hopefully Royal Thunder will become as world-conqueringly huge as they deserve to be.
Here's my Rock-a-Rolla review in full:
"If Royal Thunder turn into the world's biggest rock – just that, rock, no prefixes or suffixes - band in a couple of years, don't forget where you heard that prediction first. If they don't, it's okay, because they're very close to being the best already. While it might be a bold statement, it's not a product of over-excitement – we've lived with his album for several months now, and just like the stuff we call classic rock these days (you know, Led Zep et al), it still feels fresh and vital every time we spin it, and we have a feeling it will still do in ten or twenty years time. Trimming a lot of CVI's fat, Crooked Doors is much more direct and sparse, yet by no means simple effort. It works as a collection of songs as well as a full album, it is a record which understands the intangible stuff that great songs are made of, a record of subtlety and immediacy at the same time and a record that sounds both mature and electrically jovial. Bluesy in just the right amount, heartbreaking when it needs to (that closing piano ballad…), a riff factory you only noticed when you start humming the same riffs long after the album has finished playing… we could go on. But we'd rather give it another spin instead, and so should you. The biggest and best rock band in the world. Remember."

1. SOLEFALD World Metal, Kosmopolis Sud
Let me take you back to that feature on oddball 90s records that I did with my friend and kickass scribe Luís - this thing here. Or, think back to what you felt when you first heard 'La Masquerade Infernale', or your first Ulver album, or whatever album it was that first defied your teenage notions of music, that made you think and open your horizons, that made you realise that music is infinite and that someone, at any time, can come up with an entirely new collection of sounds that'll be like nothing else you have heard before. That feeling, right? There is a tendency, more than there's ever been, these days, to be negative about contemporary music, to spit out the old chestnut that all good music has been done before, that originality (or metal, or rock, or music, or whatever field you happen to have limited views on) is "dead". While we are indeed over-exposed to a lot of drab repetitions, re-hashings and unimaginative works, and while those are unfortunately what tends to be successful (as it has always been!), your view that whatever bit of music is dead depends entirely on you and how you choose to select .- or not -  what you hear. So, go back to that feeling on those first records that twisted your mind, and hell, if Solefald's first album 'The Linear Scaffold' was a part of that, even better. 'World Metal, Kosmopolis Sud' will have the exact same effect. Its many, many, many influences unfold like a stream of consciousness, but one that's been spat out with structure already, with thought and with meaning. Its main message is the perfect one for an Album Of The Year, which it clearly and undoubtedly is - a celebration of world culture, exploring everything that unites us through music instead of focusing on what separates us. As it said on the press release at the time of the album's promotion, "Merging raw Norwegian Metal, Dutch Techno with Norse and African folk and rhythms, Solefald has beyond doubt crafted an out of the ordinary sound; World music with black edges. A celebration of World Culture." "World metal", and the title of that first song, 'World Music With Black Edges', are indeed the more than perfect descriptions for what can be found throughout this album, the most shining example of why avant-garde is still a thing in our world of weird music, a very important thing and a much less complicated thing that what it is usually meant to be - it's just creativity. Wild, boundless, truly original creativity at work. Here's how I summed my album of the year up for Terrorizer:
 "This is avant-garde – wild-eyed exploration, meshing of genres, but never losing the musical appeal. Metal riffs were put alongside African tribal music, European dance beats and industrial aggression, and not a second seemed out of place. Genius, we say."
Genius indeed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part 6 - #23 to #15)

Carefully crafted, elegant and perfectly flowing, Dead To A Dying World's second album is an absolute revelation. That it is a Billy Anderson-produced album with violins and a dulcimer on it should give you enough indication of the scary/beautiful contrasts at work here, but it's only once you allow it to lengthen its sizeable shadow over you that the true appeal of 'Litany' shall make itself apparent. When Roadburn announced these guys are playing there in the next edition of the festival (can't wait!), I wrote in the press release that "From sweeping classical passages to almost unbearably fierce black metal outpourings, our shortcomings as a species are therein displayed without remorse, as are their devastating effects, and so the result is the overall atmosphere of their songs becoming one of epically decaying doom, as much in style as in the feeling of dread itself," so, you know, deal with it.

One of the year's biggest revelations for me, and unfortunately for my promoter friends around Europe, one of the bands I'll be endlessly pestering them about bringing over to a festival or show I might attend. The description is easy - Zuriaake, or 葬尸湖, are from China, and on 'Gu Yan', or '孤雁', they play some of the most fantastically immersive, evocative, soaring, Wolves In The Throne Room-like atmospheric black metal since, well, since 'Two Hunters' itself, with no exaggeration. They steer well clear off the beaten path by incorporating Chinese folk influences so well merged into the writing that in a way it's like the soundtracks to 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' or 'Hero' put into black metal form. Plus, they look awesome on stage. Do yourself a favour and go spend some time (and money) on their bandcamp.

21. PROTOMARTYR The Agent Intellect
Another great discovery for me, although 'The Agent Intellect' is already Protomartyr's third album (and the other two, 2012's 'No Passion All Technique' and 2014's 'Under Color Of Official Right', are equally great). I'm glad I decided to check out a few of the names I didn't know before embarking on the great adventure that was the Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht. Among them was this post-punk/noise rock-ish band whose singer sounded like a mix of Nick Cave and Sivert Høyem at first that instantly captured my attention, and the more I listened to the morose, thought-provoking lyrics the man was spitting out, the more I was drawn to the tunes. Seeing them live totally sealed the deal - frontman Joe Casey is just about the best frontman ever, his anti-image and the way he barks the words on stage are genuine, bullshit-free and totally from the gut, and he manages to turn that middle-aged, half-drunk English teacher manner of his, doing his thing while the rest of the (much yonger) band buzzes frantically around him, into the coolest thing ever, or the less cool thing ever, or whatever.

20. GOLD No Image
Right, speaking of no image, how about this total u-turn for GOLD? The rich, bright colours and infectious melodies of the Dutch band's marvellous debut (which I placed 12th in my 2012 list) have given way to a literal no image, full of subtle dark shades both visually and in terms of songwriting too. There's more density, there's a permeating sombreness with hints of both post-punk and death rock and a fantastic evolution from vocalist Milena Eva, who swaggers, croons and sings her heart out like the best of 'em. While you might not be humming those sweet choruses that 'Gone Under' or 'Love, The Magician' (or any other from the debut, really, maybe apart from the last song which kind of hinted in this current direction already) offered, the staying power and the replayability of killer cuts 'Servant' or 'And I Know Now' is greatly amplified.

19. BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH Architects Of The Void
Come on, you know that's going to be a killer record from the cover alone. Fortunately, Behold! The Monolith deliver everything their awesome artwork promises and much more besides. Following a difficult period when they lost bassist/vocalist Kevin McDade to a car accident in 2013 (we miss you, dude), B!TM regrouped, found a smashing new voice in Jordan Nalley and now deliver the best album of their career. It's not the first time I've praised this band, I had their previous album 'Defender, Redeemist' on my 2012 list and I said of one of its songs that it was "an unsung future classic that all the Mastodon-and-clones of this world combined wouldn't know what to do with even if it landed its enormous girth on their laps," which is kinda true of what you can find on 'Architects Of The Void' still, but at the same time doesn't quite explain everything that's going on besides the huge riffs and the roughness of the attack. I suppose the definitive wake up call to everyone who hasn't realised yet the tremendous power of Behold! The Monolith will be their appearance at Roadburn, a battlefield that I can't wait to witness.

There isn't much to say about Skepticism that you don't know already - if you're into funeral doom you'll surely have had this for months and dedicated your most miserable, bitterness-ridden hours to it. Skepticism always take their time with things (it's been seven years since 'Alloy') but it's always worth it. 'Ordeal' was actually recorded live, and the biggest compliment that can be paid to that experience is that you only notice it when you hear the crowd quietly applauding between songs. Otherwise, it's the Finnish band's typically crushing and yet moving brand of miserable doom, gigantic laments that ebb and flow slowly while slowly applying more and more pressure on you until you're ready to explode with the dramatic tension. Despite the crowd sounds, the way the songs bleed into each other is amazing, and you might be forgiven for not realising straight away that 'Closing Music' really does close out the album - the next two songs are none other than new versions of 'Pouring' (from 'Stormcrowfleet') and 'The March And The Stream' (from 'Lead And Aether'). Music to wash you away into nothingness.

In a strange way, 'Abyss' has a similar effect to what I just described for Skepticism's 'Ordeal', except more aggressive, more incisive. But it does "wash you away into nothingness", it feels like an inevitable slide into a darker place where you never dared to go. 'Abyss' was deservingly album of the month on Terrorizer and I was lucky enough to write that review, and those words are still the best way I can describe it. "(...) Chelsea has made 'Abyss' her best work yet, by far, which is saying something already. A simple press of play for the very first time plunges us into the industrialised bleakness 'Carrion Flowers', a drone/doom affair if done by any other artist, a chilling descent into the namesake abyss that follows when Chelsea lays the deeply, deeply meaningful "We learned how on our own / Never needing help from you" words on top of the chaos that surrounds the listener by the point she enters the song. It's easy to guess that not a lot of light will seep in from this moment on, but it does, oh, it does. The overarching theme of the album is the struggle the singer has had with sleep paralysis, but when something like 'Crazy Love' appears in the middle of the album, mostly acoustic and perhaps her most brilliantly (and yet very simply) crafted song since the heart-stopping 'Sunstorm' from the 'Unknown Rooms' album, it's as if the paralysis is lifted, as if cold bodies begin to thaw momentarily, a feeling reinforced by the equally hauntingly beautiful 'Simple Death' and 'Survive' before being plunged into the deepest parts of the abyss the two final songs of the album offer."

16. GNAW THEIR TONGUES Abyss Of Longing Throats
      IT ONLY GETS WORSE Christian Country Home
      CLOAK OF ALTERING Manifestation
      PYRIPHLEGETHON Night Of Consecration
Dude, come on. You know what, I'm actually sort of looking forward to the day when Mories will make a sucky record so that these things don't ruin all the album cover placements on my blog entries and stuff. But no, despite his seemingly endless productivity, there's no sign of a turkey in sight, so here we go. Okay, so let's start by the non-collaborative ones: Gnaw Their Tongues you obviously know by now - you might even have seen them live already, something I thought would never happen but which I did three times in 2015. 'Abyss Of Longing Throats' was described by me as "Gnaw Their Tongues at their "usual", which means mechanical (blast)beats, putrid basslines and nasty, revolting industrial black metal almost constantly on the red in terms of volume and intensity and violence and everything. While not introducing anything particularly new like some of his previous albums, the clearer production and more audible vocals do take everything up a notch – more extreme, but also more approachable and less randomly chaotic," on Rock-a-Rolla magazine, and that still sounds just about right. Cloak Of Altering keeps getting crazier and crazier with each record (and it's been a steady pace of one a year since 2011), and 'Manifestation' seems kind of unsurmountable in the way harsh electronics, programmed drums and voice modulations are mixed with a nasty black metal approach. It's like Mysticum on bad drugs, on top of the bad drugs Mysticum themselves were probably on already when they wrote 'In The Streams Of Inferno'. Then there's Pyriphlegethon, which I dare you to say quickly three times, or rather, don't, who knows what kind of weird demon shit you might be invoking. Says here that "Pyriphlegethon (Πυριφλεγέθων, English translation: "fire-flaming") was one of the five rivers in the infernal regions of the underworld," in Greek mythology, and that's appropriate because the crazy rawness of this black metal attack does indeed bring to mind some of that early Greek primitivism, Necromantia and the likes, that we know Mories to be so fond of. Complete change of pace for It Only Gets Worse, one of the most interesting projects Mories has ever been involved in, and the one which could potentially attract more followers other than the crazy pack of fans that know all his other stuff - a collaboration with Matt Finney (whom I have interviewed on this blog before, and who also has/had a rather wonderful duo with Heinali, an album I placed 53rd on the 2011 list), it's sort of a more concrete, sadder Seirom. It drips melancholy and loneliness, its overal ambient music flirts with quiet, subdued dubstep and hip hop, and it would leave you feeling blue and instrospective even if you were listening to it while riding a rollercoaster. Check out the song premiere we did on Terrorizer about them. Finally, there's the collaboration with Dragged Into Sunlight, and, well. Let's put it this way - if you need any more encouragement to get stuck into this savage half hour created by these two entities, a record that is supposed to be a re-imagination of 'Streetcleaner', and on which Justin K. Broadrick actually participated in the production, I can't do anything for your good taste because you're dead inside.

Maybe the forthcoming documentary, which is said to be amazing, will finally help lift Killing Joke to the kind of immortal status they so deserve to be held in for their surreal career so far. A career that doesn't seem to be slowing down after almost 40 years, on the contrary - 'Pylon' concludes a tryptich of connected albums that ranks as some of the best work the band has ever done, and it is, once again, its own beast. "Jaz Coleman's angrily pristine choirboy-from-hell vocals, the charging ahead industrialised beats, Geordie's razor-sharp riffage, and yet, you'd be hard-pressed to take one out of the other fourteen records that it resembles more closely," I said on my Terrorizer review, and I dare you to think of another 37 year old band that you could describe in such a way.

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part 6 - #34 to #24)

34. BONG We Are, We Were And We Will Have Been
If you'd change that last bit of the album title to "We Will Always Be", you'd have the whole point of Bong's existence nicely summarised. Ever since their first hum, a decade ago, they've acquired a sort of constant and infinite quality to them quite unlike any other contemporary artist (which they aren't, specifically, because they're infinite, right? My head hurts.) I can remember. Yes, everyone will have their favourites along the way (mine is 2012's 'Mana-Yood-Sushai'), and they're not all exactly alike, but every "unregulated experiment on tonal prolonging, solemn in its delivery and frightening in its implications," as the press release so wonderfully put it at the time, just fits the continuum and adds an extra chunk of infinity to it. Which I know is a silly thing to say, but shut up, it's my blog and I'll state mathematical nonsense if I want to. This time enlightenment comes in the form of two vast movements, each almost 20-minute long movements, which in the right conditions will turn your living room into the top of an impossibly tall mountain. Which will then rise slowly and fall down on you.

33. ALDA Passage
People from Washington State gathered around a fire in the photos, gathering inspiration from the staggering beauty of the Cascade region to fuel their atmospheric, sweeping kind of black metal. No, silly, Alda are from Tacoma and not Olympia like the other ones you were thinking! In all fairness, there's more to set Alda apart from Wolves In The Throne Room than their town of origin, as 'Passage' features a fantastic use of acoustic guitars and clean vocal harmonies that are deeply entwined in the furious, exceptionally enraged black metal that envelops them. But still, it's undeniable that the overal feeling is one of WITTR-ness, and that's not at all a band thing. On the contrary, of the many, many, many bands that exist based on that template today, Alda are by far one of the very best, to the point of having developed their own recognisable personality on top of it and delivering awesome records like 2011's ':Tahoma:' and this beauty here.

32. FALSE Untitled
      OBSEQUIAE Aria Of Vernal Tombs
What the hell, Minneapolis? Is it the cold, or something in the water supply, or what? Two of the year's most exciting black metal releases come from within your frequently chilly walls, so hey, we salute you and raise our rum-spiked hot chocolate mugs to you, or whatever. They're very different from each other, too. False are anything but their name - a blistering, hateful slab of disease and corruption and no sugar and no spice and nothing nice. There's a fucking vulture on the cover, alright? It probably wasn't even there on the original illustration, it was attracted by the putrid sickness that comes out of those twisted riffs that seem to accelerate or slow down of their own volition. Obsequiae are in many ways the opposite of this, only touching False in the way they twist black metal into something quite different, and quite theirs too. The fact that it features Tanner Anderson, whose other band Celestiial has made it into my lists before (here, #59) should tell you something about the piles of classy atmosphere this album is drenched with. In fact, Obsequiae themselves featured in one of my previous lists (here, #74), with 'Suspended In The Brume Of Eos' from 2011, and while I was fascinated enough to say things like "(...) a star-gazing elegance with which they evoke the wonder and magic of the Middle Ages, fusing it with sizeable amounts of intelligent, mid-paced black metal maelstrom, making for a most fascinating first record," the leap in quality to this second effort is staggering. It is possible to make music that is based on Medieval times, which is beautiful for the most part (they have a Medieval harp player now, it's not exactly raw grim kvlt whatever), but which can be serious and often stern and harsh, and does not need to evoke prancing minstrels or drunken parties with the innkeepers and their wenches.

31. CATTLE DECAPITATION The Anthropocene Extinction
Whoa. After twenty years and seven albums, you'd kinda forgive Cattle Decapitation if they did just-one-more, you know? It's death/grind, you're not supposed to keep going at it like the future of the ecosystem depends on how awesome your new album is. Misery Index, for instance, are great, but their latest stuff hasn't exactly called for the jaw-sweeping expert teams, and that's okay. But just when you're prepared to cut these guys some slack, they hit back with what is probably their best album ever, so you can stick your condescendence where the cows go to, erm, kill you. Maintaining the power of their concept and imagery, arguing a point with which it's hard to disagree (go investigate, or read a book or something), it's easy to see why this record seems to have touched people even more than is usual for this band.

30. BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth
Dude, it's Tad Doyle! And if you're not sharing the excitement, I'll only forgive you if you were born after, like, 1995 or whatever year it is you young kids are born these days. For the rest of us old and fat losers, TAD was the most precious hidden gem in grunge - while all the other kids were losing their shit to Nirvana or Soundgarden (of whom I am a great fan as well, no stupid dick contests here, but hear me out), us more metal-oriented snobs would first throw Alice In Chains at them, to give them a reference they'd know, and then the game-changer, TAD. So go discover if you don't know them. Anyway, Tad Doyle then formed Hog Molly after TAD split up, and Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth is his sort of new band - it's been around for a while, it started as a solo project, and this is his first album. And man, is it heavy. Not just heavy as in, "sir, that is one riff distinctly lacking in lightness"-heavy, it's heavy as in "URGH"-heavy, okay? It's old Crowbar kind of heavy, where you can still sing bits and remember riffs but your neck hurts all the same. It's on Neurot Recordings, Steve Von Till has said that the music moves "at the speed of a glacier", and I said myself on my Rock-a-Rolla review that after a certain point, "the heaviness becomes so much and so constant that you cave in, and the whole thing becomes eerily soothing." Yeah, it's that heavy.

You might notice the absence in my list of a certain band who mix black metal with shoegaze and other varied influences - not because I have anything against them, rather the opposite, but because their new album didn't really capture me all that much (it's Deafheaven I'm talking about, in case some of you at the back are still lost). However, they've reached a certain kind of fever pitch where the devotion is even bigger than the stupid, irrational hatred they inspire, so they're universally hailed and that's cool. Shame is, no one really pays attention to a much more consistent (and also prolific) band that has been releasing great album after great album since 2010. Holland's An Autumn For Crippled Children's output has been varied, to the point of no two albums being really alike, and the varying degrees of melancholy, sadness, beauty and indeed fury have always been expertly balanced throughout their career. 'The Long Goodbye' is one of their best yet, offering a rather urban depression kind of vibe while managing quiet contemplation and desperate anguish in some of the vocal deliveries. To top it all off, they released a wonderful two-song free EP a few months later called 'portugal'. It's like they're after my own heart.

28. CAÏNA Setter Of Unseen Snares
I got all touchy-feely when Caïna announced in 2011 that 'Hands That Pluck' would be their final album, and fortunately Andrew Curtis-Brignell did return to us a couple of years later, and he brought friends along too, making this incarnation of the band notably different than the first with the company of vocalist Laurence Taylor (who is fucking scarily intense as the live performance at Temples Festival clearly showed) and bassist Fraser Samson (who replaced Dom Moss), plus a couple of live musicians. This makes a lot of sense, because despite having been a solo project for that first part of their existence, each successive record fluctuating along with Andy's mood and creativity, Caïna never felt disjointed, or aimless. Creatively restless, for sure, but the personality was always there, and it always felt like a "proper band" at work, if that makes any kind of sense. Anyhoo, it doesn't have to. Everything you need for the world to make sense is to play 'Setter Of Unseen Snares', which I'll stop short of calling Caïna's best album ever because the others still mean a hell of a lot to me, and realise how massive a beast it is. Initially feeling like a punked-up, rawer version of the Caïna we know and love, the more obviously black metal release of the bunch, let's call it that, it soon opens up the whole range of atmospheric delights it offers, yet without losing that abrasive, immediate edge to it. It's the way it manages to be equally deep and instantly gratifying that really nails this as one of the best albums of the year. Also, I've heard a little sneak peek of things to come, and... beware. That's all I got to say for now.

27. THE BODY & KRIEG The Body & Krieg
There was no way in hell this could have gone any less brilliant than it is. Krieg is one of the, if not the, best USBM acts at the moment, and The Body are The Body, that bizarrely unique entity that punishes you with unholy shrieking, church chanting and the heaviest sludge ever, every time they decide to record something. Who woulda thunk it, The Body's terrifying noise lends itself well to mutations through collaborative effort, and after the fearsome oddities that were the collaborations with Thou (two of them), Vampillia and Braveyoung, not to mention a few splits too, 'The Body & Krieg' is the summit of their buddy link-up work so far. The records with Thou were awesome enough already, yes, but Krieg are much more different from the Portland duo and the way the contrasts are balanced makes for a fascinating final whole. In fact, while I've been focusing more on The Body, these songs are clearly Krieg songs at heart, but then put through the The Body mangler. Neill Jameson's typically tortured black metal becomes even more tortured and emotionally raw, when slowed down to a doom-noise pace, or when cast into the middle of a twisted procession. Like telling a prisoner fresh out of the torture room that torture room two is up next.

26. ENSLAVED In Times
When mentioning the great Norwegian avant-garde revival of 2015, one must not forget to inclued Enslaved in that mix. It was a tough record to get to grips with at first, admittedly, and I actually still feel that I haven't gotten to grips with it, not entirely, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When I reviewed it for Terrorizer, where it was album of the month, I compared it to its amazing predecessor 'RIITIIR' and how that seemed to encapsulate all that is great about Enslaved: "Well, 'In Times' pulls it all apart again. Take opener 'Thurisaz Dreaming', where a surprisingly nasty black metal beginning suddenly erupts into a gloriously epic Herbrand-sung part which totally sounds like a different song, or the way a lot of the album seems restrained and held back because of the constant crescendos starting off the gentle, beautiful even, acoustic sections… in a normal world, these would all be criticisms, and we'd be moaning about a record that still feels alien and slippery, despite the absolutely infectious catchiness of most of it, after many listens, but here? In Enslaved-land, they're the very reasons we keep returning to it." In the end, I came up with the only logical explanation for this. "We're sure Ivar, Grutle, Herbrand, Arve and Cato found a wormhole somewhere on a fjord that allowed them to advance a few decades into the future and bring back a few popular tunes from 2145." Well, naturally.

25. AUTOPSY Skull Grinder
      WINDS OF GENOCIDE Usurping The Throne Of Disease
Let me tell you a little something about Autopsy - 'Skull Grinder' was one of the last 2015 albums I listened to, and when I was putting together this list, I thought to myself, better leave a spot in the top 30, at least, for Autopsy. I don't care how biased that sounds, but it's just meant to show you that my faith in these guys is unbreakable, and I have reasons for that. First of all, there is the matter of The Best Death Metal Album Ever (and also, The Most Unrecognised As Massively Influential In Every Extreme Band Since), obviously 'Mental Funeral', of which you should own several copies of and play them whenever mental sanity allows you to, but without letting it overshadow the remainder of their career which has been outstanding to say the least. Especially after their return from inactivity, a move that, as we all know, doesn't always go well for many bands, Autopsy have been unusually prolific, and adding quality to that quantity too. 'Macabre Eternal', 'The Headless Ritual' and 'Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves'' have all slipped their very best songs (which are many!) into my all-time Autopsy playilst, and 'Skull Grinder' promises to do the same, chock full as it is of, gasp!, more melody than usual in among the sloppy sickness. Theoretically it's an EP, but I interviewed Chris Reifert a few months ago and he told me that "it's technically called a mini-LP, it's seven songs in 28 minutes, but you can call it what you want. 'Reign In Blood' is one of the best albums ever and it's 28 minutes long, so...", so there. I'm calling it an album, and one of the best of the year too. And because I can fuck around with my list as much as I want to, I'm tacking Winds Of Genocide to it as well - the full-length (it's 32 minutes long, ha!) debut by these Durham bastards has been a long time coming, but it finally hit us in 2015 and it's everything we could have expected it to be. It's glued to Autopsy on my list not because it's particularly alike, as Winds Of Genocide are much crustier and punkier, but because the spiritual connection is for me very clear. There is a certain dirtiness, a certain death metal grime captured by the whole d-beating thing that really harks back to the horrid, doomy death metal of early Autopsy. It's the same kind of feeling, in a different wrapping, at least in my head, but I've listened to a lot of Autopsy over the years, so I don't know. Anyway, they're not really usurping the throne of disease, but they're telling Chris and the boys to scoot over because there's room for a few more in 2015. Also, frontwoman Kat Shevil is also in the much more Autopsied mob Uncoffined (drums/vocals, just like a certain Mr. Reifert), whom you should check out right now and get up to speed before their second album lands in 2016. Should be a monster.

24. LEONARD COHEN Can't Forget - A Souvenir Of The Great Tour
In the midst of all this noise and experimentation and weirdness and ugly metal, let me tell you this - if I have to pick one single artist that means the most to me, that has helped shape me and the way I think, and write, and feel, it is undoubtedly Leonard Cohen. I love Leonard Cohen, and this "love" is a bit deeper than what is usually meant when talking about music. By far my favourite songwriter ever, for the subtle, slow way he lets his compositions breathe, like a fine wine that took its time aging until it reached the perfect state, the way the simplicity in both word and song always hides (in plain sight!) a deep, pondered wisdom... I can be here for a long time enumerating the reasons why, but suffice to say that, at 81 years of age, Leonard is still one of the best performers around too. Seeing him live a couple of years ago was one of the pinnacles of my entire existence so far, and this sort-of-live album truly captures the many reasons why it was so. His soundchecks have long been the stuff of legend, apparently whole different concerts in their own right, and with these nine songs we get a remarkable glimpse of that. Mostly recorded during the soundchecks themselves, from alternative versions of widely known songs, to heart-stopping renditions of tunes we rarely get to hear on stage from the great man, and even two brand new songs, 'Can't Forget', beside a great snapshot of what might have been the last world tour from one of the world's most notable musicians, is Cohen in between the two states we've mostly heard him in - looser and less intimate than in the studio, but still with a certain wink-wink exclusive vibe to it that you don't get when listening to a song with 10.000 other people beside you. All in all, truly unique, as Leonard has always been. May he continue to remind us of that for many years.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part 5 - #44 to #35)

Aren't you tired of awesome music already? Oh, you're not? That's cool, so here's a pile of more great records from 2015.

44. VVOVNDS Descending Flesh
If you still don't know why you need to discover VVOVNDS, I'll just leave you with a bit of their bio, which was written by some dude. Me. It was written by me. "Like their name, they leave things simple, their boots firmly planted in the roots of the hardcore punk genre, but at the same time it's impossible to find an easy reference point, the traditional sounds-just-like-x, because for them x doesn't mark just one spot spot. They have a lot of xs, scratched in blood throughout the walls of genres like powerviolence, sludge and who knows what else, vague etchings of Converge or Lightning Bolt on those walls, whispers along them of the noisy bits of Some Girls or Cult Ritual, all of them previously run over by Drunkdriver. As long as it's covered in bile, blood and tears, it's an apt description for his."

43. VISION OF DISORDER Razed To The Ground
When I interviewed vocalist Tim Williams for Terrorizer, I mentioned in the feature that "the vicious opening pair alone of 'Heart Of Darkness' and 'Hours In Chaos' sound like a pack of rabid wolves chasing after your throat," which is really the best way to put it. Some comebacks really are worth it, and when the legendary band in question release a follow up to the comeback album that is even better, you know they're the real deal. Such is the case with Vision Of Disorder, and risking some kind of blasphemy, I'd venture to say that in the long run this might just be their best album ever.
42. VENOM From The Depths Of Hell
That's right, Venom! Not Venom Inc, or any other bunch of desperates leeching off someone else's band name and songs they helped write 30 years ago. Nope, Venom, for real. A couple of short facts - a) most Venom albums without the classic line-up are indeed average at best; b) most people who state fact a) forget about 'Cast In Stone', recorded with the reunited classic line-up, which historical importance aside is by far the best Venom album ever, and c) which is the fact that really matters - 'From The Depths' is by far and away Venom's best record that does not feature Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon trying to be in the same room without killing each other. The current chemistry in this line-up is noticeable in the live shows, which finally kick ass, and 'From The Very Depths' is chock full of blinders which would become Venom classics ('Long Haired Punks', 'The Death Of Rock N Roll') if only people paid proper attention. So come on. Throw yourself at it without fear. It's proper Venom.

Another record from the great William, of whom I have spoken at length enough times for this to need no explanation. Still, some things are to be said about 'Radium Death': William does experiment a bit with the electric guitar this time, and you can tell it's an experiment because the results are mixed sometimes. But when he's locked into that typical groove of his, exhuberant yet down to earth, a mix of being strong and lamenting misfortunes (like on the fabulous 'Trouble In Your Heart'), Will is untouchable. Now, if I can only catch him on stage at long last!

40. LEVIATHAN Scar Sighted
Album of the year for some of my most esteemed colleagues, but Leviathan's new beast took a while with the house training for me. I flat out didn't like it at first, all that death metal and even doom creeping in, or "a lot of skewed, chopped up Massive Conspiracy-like moments throughout, there are also clear Lurker Of Chalice-isms, cavernous death metal (on the opening proper song, no less) and an excursion into horrid doom with the intimidating title-track," as I called it on my Rock-a-Rolla review. But as it settled, its rewards are immense, as most difficult albums tend to be. On that same review, I had already caved in to the album's brilliance and concluded that "the flow of the songs is remarkably smooth, and they all maintain a belligerent spikiness to them, hateful and malignant, but this time very much in control, even allowing itself a melodic moment or two to breathe, like the ending of Gardens Of Coprolite."

39. C R O W N Natron
      ZATOKREV Silk Spiders Underwater
Because apparently the massive sludgy weight of their 2013 debut 'Psychurgy' wasn't quite enough, French duo C R O W N decided to turn into a trio, adding Swiss guitarist/vocalist Frederyk Rotter to the line-up for good after a period when he just played live with them. Whether he served as catalyst to this burst of energy or not (we suspect he helped more than a bit), it elevated 'Nation' into a different animal than its two-year-old daddy. More Godflesh-like industrial in its overall mood, or rather, Jesu-like, since the whole thing is drenched into shoegazy, atmospheric atmosphere, without ever losing that edge, that bite that so characterised the band's debut and their typical live performances. How they manage to reference both David Bowie and the Swans within the same songs is beyond me, but it does make sense if you think about it. But don't think about it. Enjoy it. And then, check out Frederyk's other band Zatokrev, who have been amazing for years without much due recognition. On 'Silk Spiders Underwater', they were also bitten by the atmophere bug, and in a good way. I gave the thing an 8 on Terrorizer and spoke of it thusly: "Though featuring clearly their best material yet, it takes its time to slowly unfurl, especially with the increased depth provided by much-welcome atmospheric sections. That way, the obliterating vitality of the riffage, the hateful nature of the ponderous drumming and the throat-scraping, howling vocals have even more impact when they hit."

38. SATAN'S WRATH Die Evil
      MIRROR Mirror
      DIAVOLOS You Lived Now Die
So you think you're a big boy because you've done a record in 2015. Whoop dee fucking do. And you, sniggering at the back, have you done two? Well, that's cute. Have a cookie. Tas Danazoglou has gone and done three, and furthermore, they all slay. It all started with 'Die Evil', Satan's Wrath third book of praise to the horned one, and even if you don't know them, if you have trouble figuring out what a band called Satan's Wrath with song titles like 'Raised On Sabbaths', 'Coffinlust' or 'Castle Of Torment' sound like, you're reading the wrong blog. It's fucking rough, charging-ahead black/thrash that doesn't take itself too seriously, and nor does it become a parody like all those bands trying to be like early Slayer, like, I don't know, Slayer, for instance. It's fast, it's raging and it's over in half an hour, so just get on with it. Then, came Mirror, which is clearly the pick of the three if only for being refreshingly different from what you might have come to expect from the musician/tattoo artist (check his stuff, seriously). Mirror play classic heavy metal through and through, they have a little all-star line-up (Tas is joined by known producer Jaime Gomez Arellano, his Satan's Wrath mate Stamos and Matt fucking Olivo from Repulsion) topped off by a Cypriot singer called Jimmy Mavromatis whom you didn't know, but sure will feel like you've heard him for years when his pipes are done with you, and the songs are all great. Don't be surprised if Mirror begins to get huge, because the art of writing a simple, uncluttered heavy metal song is becoming rarer and rarer these days, and as Ghost (whose first album was produced by Gomez, interestingly enough) have proved conclusively, nothing moves people more than a damn good tune you can remember for months after you first hear it. Tas has jokingly talked about opening for Iron Maiden on an interview we did for Terrorizer, but Mirror would be better than most if not all of the usually crap bands that open up for Maiden, with a couple of exceptions aside. 'Mirror' is the sort of album that's retro without trying to, that dives shamelessly into the pool of its influences but comes out clean on the other side, an album that only people with a clear and unpolluted love for heavy metal could put together. And then, if you do want to get dirty, just spin Tas' last album of 2015, preferably with a considerably amount of beer close by. He joins ex-Sentenced bassist Taneli Jarva (Tas only sings on this one) and songwriter Nik Angelopoulos for some gritty, old-school death metal that does its job of ripping your head off with maximum efficiency. The thing is out on Hells Headbangers, for Satan's sake. Also, that cover art is suspiciously familiar.

37. MINSK The Crash And The Draw
It shouldn't have been like that, given the number of years I've admired Minsk and the joy I felt when they returned from hiatus with a revamped line-up, but 'The Crash And The Draw's true grandiosity only became truly apparent once I saw those songs live. I had enjoyed the record for the few weeks I'd had it, but that's when it truly hit, and it speaks volumes about the band's passion about their current work that they're able to deliver it in such a way. After that, the colossal, mountain-like scope of these songs became entirely obvious and it climbed up like 50 spots on my list. Ask me again next year and it will probably have climbed a few more - it's the kind of rich, detailed gift-that-keeps-on-giving record that creeps up on you like that. So heavy, but delivered in such a way that the heaviness is almost soothing rather than oppressive, despite the palpable rage in many of these songs, 'The Crash And The Draw' proves that the break was not only good for Minsk, but it rendered them even more unique.

Probably the best-kept secret of European extreme music, Bizarra Locomotiva have been Portugal's heaviest and most creative band for over two decades now, not to mention its most crushing live proposition. Get past the fact that they sing in Portuguese (the lyrics are actually superb, there's a sort of poetically repulsive mass of hate and spite thing going on in vocalist Rui Sidónio's output - ask me for a fucking translation if that'll help you get to grips with the band), and you'll find pitch-black, super dense and yet surprisingly approachable industrial metal of the highest order. Guitarist Miguel Fonseca runs the show with riffs so sharp you'll get a shave if you listen to it on headphones, and on this, their fist album in six years, they let loose their best collection of songs ever. Get in, already.

35. LOCRIAN Infinite Dissolution
Look, if I talk any more about this album I'm afraid I will bring about the end of times. So I will just leave you with my introduction for the feature I did with them that was published on Rock-a-Rolla magazine. "Remember the cover of Locrian's last album, 2013's Return To Annihilation? It was so simple – an abandoned shopping cart on an empty, foggy parking lot – but its evocative power was so great when coupled with the Chicago trio's supremely affecting music that we're still haunted by it. Whenever we think of a post-apocalyptic scenario, no matter how many hours of Fallout we've played or how many times we've watched Mad Max, that's the image that keeps haunting us, to the tune of the band's often terrifying mix of electronics, drone, noise and piercing black metal. And now, the image has gotten yet another piece of soundtrack, in the form of Locrian's new album Infinite Dissolution, which sounds like what happens after we move away from the empty parking lot scenario and realise things are much worse even than we thought they were."