Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part 1 - #100 to #90)

Hi there. Yeah, the long way home. is back. I don't know for how long, but carpe diem or whatever. There are a lot of broken images on the old stuff, so avoid it if you only like pretty posts.

Anyway, this means the top 100 lists are back too, sorry. Hide your daughters, neuter your pet parrots and sit down with a stiff drink or four. And then let me know everything you disagree with.


100. ARCTURUS Arcturian
In a year where the great Norwegian avant-garde scene seemed to reappear with all guns blazing, as you will notice (much) further ahead in this list, the return of Arcturus was one of the best news possible. 'Arcturian' is not as mindblowingly essential as the golden period of Arcturus, but it is a respectable return, much better than 'Sideshow Symphonies', and a firm step into what we expect will be an exhilarating future direction. I'm expecting the next one to break my top 10, and not just my top 100, okay guys?

99. LINDEMANN Skills In Pills
A lot of people seem to have hated this record, and I get it, but come on. Would you rather have Peter Tägtgren doing so-so Hypocrisy records, or bloody awful Pain records, or just have a bit of fun with Till Lindemann and do songs about abortions and ladyboys? The end result is a sort of tongue-in-cheek, simplified version of Rammstein with super catchy choruses and a lot of black humour, and if you stop being so serious all the time you might even enjoy it.

98. MICHAEL MONROE Blackout States
Michael Monroe, right? The Finnish gentleman whose real name is Matti Antero Kristian Fagerholm is now 53 years old, Hanoi Rocks are long gone, and we can't exactly say his solo career has set the world alight, but damn it if 'Blackout States' doesn't rock out with a mighty swagger and all the energy of a hungry, coked-up 23 year old. "There's nothing between us / And I'm singing from the heart", he sings 40 seconds into the album on brilliant opener 'This Ain't No Love Song', and yeah, that's pretty much it.

97. DEAD EXISTENCE Endless Misery
Hateful and miserable crusty sludge doom from one of the UK's most frequently underrated bands, and to add some emotional charge to it, apparently 'Endless Misery' is the band's last full-length. Get it, ruin your day, and then soothe the atmosphere a little by checking out their fantastic acoustic project The Death Letter.

96. SATAN Atom By Atom
Yup, the real Satan, or, well, the real Satan band. It's not Satan himself playing. Although Brian Ross could well have borrowed the horned one's pipes. ANYWAY, it's the NWOBHM Satan still being awesome, or actually even more awesome than they used to, if you can believe that. Classic heavy metal but still edgy and surprisingly hard-hitting.

95. UNDER THE CHURCH Rabid Armageddon
That this features two dudes from Nirvana 2002 should tell you all you need to know. HM-2 worship in the best way possible, with that exact kind of buzzsaw guitar sound that'll warm your soul in the right way. It's like a 2015 Nihilist, and there's no bigger compliment than that for this sort of thing.

94. VAEE SOLIS Adversarial Light
A very promising Portuguese debut, Vaee Solis offer an intriguing mix of styles. Always obscure and elusive, it touches upon doom and black metal but never clearly becomes one or another, and any sense of safety is quickly smashed away by Sofia Loureiro's devastating vocal performance. Since this release, talented guitarist Filipe Correia (Concealment, Wells Valley) has joined the band, thickening the darkness that exhales from the guitarwork even further. Write their name down.

93. CLUTCH Psychic Warfare
'Earth Rocker' is one of the great rock albums of the century and it would always be an impossible record to live up to, so the initial sense of disappointment is inevitable with 'Psychic Warfare'. Let it grow, however, and you'll find that not only is it relatively close to its illustrious predecessor in style (an unusual thing for Clutch), but some of its best songs could well have featured on it without any drop of quality. Clutch are Clutch, in the end, and they always deliver.

Similarly to Clutch, 'To Your Death' doesn't quite reach the supreme metallic heights of Christian Mistress' earlier output - in fact, that their 'Agony & Opium' debut still remains their finest hour is slightly worrying. Not too much though, because 'To Your Death' is still better than most other proper heavy metal albums of recent years. Christine Davies' coarse wail is still one of the best sounds ever produced by a human being, and, again, just like Clutch, let the album grow and you'll forget about most of the earlier "meh" feelings.

91. ARMORED SAINT Win Hands Down
Contrary to popular opinions, the only Anthrax albums I really, really like are the ones with John Bush on vocals, and my only complaint about those years is that Armored Saint was kinda left behind. The comeback of sorts that was 'La Raza' in 2013 didn't really excite anyone, but finally Armored Saint seem to have gotten their shit together, and 'Win Hands Down' is a ballsy, energetic, no-frills metal album, full of catchy songs and yet another great vocal performance from Bush.

90. AHAB The Boats Of The Glen Carrig
Well, this record will never sound as cool as it did while listening to it half-drunk, munching on actual seaweed at a nautical-themed bar in the band's native Germany, but it's still pretty damn great. Yeah, Ahab do listening sessions properly, just like they do doom properly. 'The Boats Of The Glen Carrig' is their most ambitious album ever, breaking free from a few doom shackles of yore and keeping things fresh from start to finish, with an excellent use of clean vocals and softer passages (reminiscent of 40 Watt Sun occasionally) that lend the ensuing heavy parts an ever greater impact.

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