Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part 2 - #89 to #75)

Still three quarters to go. Breathe deep.

Proper no-frills, no-prisoners-taken black metal doesn't get much better than this. The last couple of Corpus Christii records were amazing too, but slightly more elaborate and even a tad experimental, but this is just a fucking fist to the face. Raw but not overly simplistic, fierce and delivered with unwavering conviction, it will fulfill your monthly dose of Satan and then some.
88. AKITSA Grands Tyrans
Akitsa's prolific release schedule of their beginnings has slowed down a bit, and since 'Au Crépuscule De L'Espérance' was released in 2010 we've only had an EP and a couple of splits to stave off the hunger for the Canadians' unique brand of primitive and yet weirdly mystical kind of black metal. Still, give or take a couple of details, 'Grands Tyrans' is pretty much business as usual for Akitsa, which in this case is all we need - insanely over the top vocals and flesh-slicing riffs abound, and they should last us a couple of years more if needed.

       KOWLOON WALLED CITY Grievances
I'm all for using umbrella terms to describe stuff in general without too much fuss, but sometimes bands are grouped together without much thought behind it, like the prevailing tendency to imagine that Neurosis, Isis and Cult Of Luna have anything to do with each other for instance. That's why I paired these two records - bands with essentially a similar set of inspirations, both will be called "post metal something", but whose output has little to do with each other, the only real similarity being that they're both brilliant. That's right, I grouped them to show they're totally different. Shut up, it makes sense. Ufomammut return with their apparently less ambitious record in a while, which is cool, because this one actually has separate songs and not a gigantic overarching double-album concept thing. It's also rougher and just a tad less psych-centred than 'Eve' and 'Oro', which is also cool. Kowloon Walled City, on the other hand, who seem to be finally getting discovered by a larger audience of fans, steer just a little away from the sludgy riffage of yore to offer a more stripped-down, yet still pretty much KWC-like collection of huge-sounding songs in just under 40 minutes. A pair of heavy hitters!

86. AUTHOR & PUNISHER Melk En Honing
The premise is undoubtedly exciting - musician/mechanical engineer builds stuff to make noise with, including creepy voice-distorting masks - but although he was doing fine so far, Tristan Shone can't live on it forever. 'Melk En Honing' is his project's most musical album, and also the one where he used the most limited amount sonic weaponry, in order to be able to tour this material properly. It was a good decision, as the level of savagery is still exactly the same, but the music is rendered much more accessible, making this the perfect A&P entry point for newcomers.


85. VASTUM Hole Below
Like clockwork, Vastum's albums hit every two years - 'Carnal Law' in 2011, 'Patricidal Lust' in 2013, and now 'Hole Below' in 2015. They're not running out of ideas either, and while this isn't revolutionary, the grimy, dark and astoundingly brutal death metal on offer will still sound very fresh, especially when Leila Abdul-Rauf shoots off one of her instantly recognizable leads, a bit like a dusty pearl being spotted among the delightful swinery all around. See you guys in 2017!


84. ZU Cortar Todo
It's a shame Jacopo Battaglia left Zu a couple of years after recording their finest hour yet - 2009's 'Carboniferous' is the Italian band's best album and one of the most mind-bending records of this century, and Jacopo's disorienting performance was kinda the centrepiece of it. But still, even without the great sticksman, Zu still have what it takes to fully stand out, and 'Cortar Todo', which is actually the first proper full-length since 'Carboniferous' (there's been an EP and an album with Eugene Robinson) follows the same mazey, noise/jazz/metal/whatever mad mix to great effect.


83. CRUCIAMENTUM Charnel Passages
Much like Vastum, Cruciamentum aren't reinventing any wheels, if anything they're burying the wheel so that it rots underneath the ground. Unlike Vastum, though, they haven't been so prolific - they took over seven years to finally give us this, their debut full-length. It was worth it, too. By now a well-oiled killing machine, they know what proper death metal is and they show it with great gusto. Exhaling that putrid, tomb-like murkiness that all great DM should have, they hit a particularly fantastic highlight with 'Rites To The Abduction Of Essence', a killer track if there ever was one.

82. VHOL Deeper Than Sky
Here's a bit of my Rock-a-Rolla review which explains why VHOL's second album is wonderful:

"(...) thrash is still the main go-to reference point, or rather a starting point to several destinations of brilliance. There's the skewed-Slayer cavalcade of Red Chaos, the brutal old-school hardcore (seriously) of '3am', or the restless piano interlude of 'Paino', and no, that's not a typo. (...) for every thrash riff or every easy-to-describe section like the ones above, there's always something going on that shoots the track into different directions."

81. A FOREST OF STARS Beware The Sword You Cannot See
They're eccentric, they're theatrical and their music is incredibly complex, but for some reason it's still difficult for me to associate A Forest Of Stars with the avant-garde universe where Solefald, Dødheimsgard or even Sigh inhabit. Maybe because the music made by this gang of weirdos is still strangely immediate, or because they're so out-there that I'd rather imagine them on their own lonely planet, I don't know. What I do knw is that if you ever imagined what would come out of a blender containing Bal-Sagoth, Fantômas, Primordial, Sigh and a Shakespeare play, this is it.


80. BLACK BREATH Slaves Beyond Death
I must admit I saw some of my colleagues get way more excited about 'Slaves Beyond Death' than I was. If you've followed my lists throughout the years, not only I hope your therapy is doing well, but you've also noticed I am a huge fan of Black Breath's earlier stuff, and unlike most, I wish they'd remained on that looser, punkier vibe of yore than gone on a more dense, compact death metal direction like this. Having said that, there's no arguing with these riffs, and the thing managed to grow even on cynical old me with time.


79. TRIBULATION The Children Of The Night
Speaking of things that didn't excite me as much as they seem to have done to everyone else, bloody hell, are these guys the next big deal in metal or what? After a first few weeks of incomprehension, I insisted, and I do get it. Their ass-between-two-chairs approach of yore has been replaced by a slick, classy mix of Watain, glam rock and hints of posh death metal, and the whole thing flows wonderfully. It'll be interesting to see where they go from here, if they keep shapeshifting or if they remain faithful to their winning formula, but in any case the world is their oyster right now.


The kids are all grown up! I have to confess to a certain sense of pride for having first seen The Vintage Caravan when they were still a band of teenagers unknown outside of Iceland, and having closely witnessed their growth as they became the lean, mean, signed-to-Nuclear-Blast rock'n'roll machine they are now. More so than their debut, 'Arrival' captures reasonably well the tremendous power of the trio's live shows, and if you've ever been to on, you know how much a compliment that really is.


77. SUN & SAIL CLUB The Great White Dope
Fortunately Sun & Sail Club realised vocoders all but ruined their debut album 'Mannequin' and 'The Great White Dope' features (almost) none of that shit. If you ever heard that weird record, you'll know why this is a big deal. But yeah, this is just a straightforward, fuzzy rock album full of good riffs and great songs. When you have two Fu Manchu dudes and Scott Thomas Reeder in a band, that's really all you need, man. Plug in, shoot riffs, rock out, reap rewards. It's that simple.


76. MASERATI Rehumanizer
The album cover is a good first hint if you don't know Maserati, it does sound a bit like all the sonic pieces that alien landscape will inspire in your mind. A chilled out mix of space rock, krautrock and even some dynamic, heavy post rock, 'Rehumanizer' first catches you with infectiously addictive bass lines, and when you realise everything else that they've dropped on the songs while still keeping them uncluttered and deceptively simplistic, you're hopelessly hooked already.


75. GRIME Circle Of Molesters
I hadn't even heard 'Deteriorate', Grime's first album, when I saw them live for the first time at SWR Barroselas Metalfest earlier this year, but that show was such a relentless barrage of sludgy bitterness and hatred that they were instantly put on my radar, and the subsequently released 'Circle Of Molesters' did not disappoint in the least. It's raw, it's filthy, it has hints of Noothgrush, Primitive Man and other similar sewer-dwellers, and if you want something appropriate to listen to while you daydream about disemboweling your enemies with a hot coffee spoon, this'll be it.

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