Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 in review - top 100 albums of the year (part 4 - #59 to #45)

Over halfway, hurray! Or still almost half to go. Depends on how full your glass is.

59. IRON MAIDEN The Book Of Souls
Most of the lists that I've seen that featured 'The Book Of Souls' placed it much higher, and while it does bother me to see the greatest heavy metal band of all time halfway through any list, it doesn't mean I think any less of the record. Yes, I do think it didn't really need to be a double album, and if I could edit it and snip off around 40 of the total 90 minutes it'd make for a muce more kickass album. Nevertheless, what's in it is brilliant through and through, and for a 40-year-old band (!) with absolutely nothing to prove, after a difficult year with Bruce Dickinson's illness, to still go out there guns blazing, trying new things, and maintaining their relevance untouched, is nothing short of a miracle. Up the irons indeed.

58. BELL WITCH Four Phantoms
All the seeds for this were already on 'Longing' (I called it "soul-emptying" at the time), but 'Four Phantoms' rises Bell Witch a step further by growing those seeds into something much darker and much more all-encompassing. For a band with only a bass/drums/vocals setup (albeit a very special bass), this Seattle duo accomplish great feats of dynamics, which is what allows the dense, grinding morass of the four songs to never become samey, or even predictable. Having an unmistakable sound and personality within funeral doom isn't easy, but Bell Witch have them in spades.

57. WREKMEISTER HARMONIES Night Of Your Ascension
An unbelievably awesome cast of musicians has collaborated with J. R. Robinson for the third Wrekmeister Harmonies album, and as it seems inevitable by now, it is an effort every bit as essential as the other two. Featuring two huge and deeply immersive tracks, each of them with a very particular real-life inspiration (Don Carlo Gesualdo and Father John Geoghan, google both and be terrified) and fluctuating between spooky ambient drones and full on sonic violence, in a perfect ebb and flow of genius.



56. SUMAC The Deal
      MUTOID MAN Bleeder
Few things have been funnier in 2015 than the "band feud" between Mutoid Man and Old Man Gloom. Of course it wasn't for real, and even if it had been we wouldn't have believed it anyway given the nature of these pranksters. Anyway, the only thing better than that was actually 'Bleeder', Mutoid Man's full-length debut which was a wild rollercoaster ride through strands of every band member's other stuff (Mutoid Man consists of Cave In's Stephen Brodsky, Converge's Ben Koller and Saint Vitus - the Brooklyn metal bar - soundman Nick Cageao) amped up by a million litres of energy drinks, or whatever. Another band in this "family" of prankster weirdos is SUMAC, brainchild of Isis/Old Man Gloom's Aaron Turner and surreally awesome Baptists' drummer Nick Yacyshyn, joined every now and then by Russian Circles' Brian Cook. That mindblowing line-up is essentially (and without meaning to reduce them in any way) a less chaotic version of Old Man Gloom, but where the more concise and explicitly written nature of the material doesn't detract from the savagery of the impact. Plus, they play live a bunch, so here's hoping for a 2016 show somewhere I can go to.


55. PRURIENT Frozen Niagara Falls
In what is probably the first comparison ever made between the two bands, Prurient, just like Iron Maiden, could have done with a little snipping of their material on their 2015 release. Although in this case the hour-and-a-half is more justified, and more expected too, given Dominic Fernow's wildly extensive discography. 'Frozen Niagara Falls' was designed from the start to be a sprawling, gigantic mantle of noise being laid on top of you, sometimes cold and harsh, sometimes warm and deceptively welcoming, and always escaping any of the trappings of electronic-based music, let alone the noise genre.

54. TYRANNY Aeons In Tectonic Interment
Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
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ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom.

53. NAPALM DEATH Apex Predator - Easy Meat
It's a similar situation to Iron Maiden - Napalm Death have been around for decades, they essentially invented grindcore, and here they are in 2015 still being the best grindcore band in the world and releasing a restless, creative and crushing album. On top of it, their social concerns and the way they tackle difficult subjects in their lyrics hasn't subsided yet, making them all the more essential and irreplaceable.

52. DOPETHRONE Hochelaga
Dopethrone already earned their immortal place in my heart for their cover of Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine', on their second album and best album 'Dark Foil', but there's much more to them than that. 'Hochelaga', their fourth full-length, is the one that gets closer to 'Dark Foil's viciously dirty and grimy sludge, and having seen the band live in 2015, it's clear that the amazing 'Scum Fuck Blues' has already turned into the band's anthem, and very appropriately so. A quick comparison just for kicks - right now, I'd take any Dopethrone song over any song from that other band that has an album called 'Dopethrone'.


51. NILE What Should Not Be Unearthed
      HATE ETERNAL Infernus
Unless you're a total death metal nerd, in which case I salute you, war brother, you probably think these bands have been a huge bore for years now. You'd be kinda right too, but listen up, because both of them delivered their best efforts in ages and sent a big kick up technical/brutal death metal's overweight butt. According to what he told me when I interviewed him after the Nile album came out, Karl Sanders finally stopped paying attention to what people say of his band on the internet (seriously) and tried to do a kickass album for the fans to enjoy and not a complicated math puzzle for the tablature geeks to argue about. Sounds like a no-brainer, but whatever, it works and it's given us the best Nile album since 'Annihilation Of The Wicked'. Hate Eternal's 'Infernus', on the other hand, is probably Hate Eternal's best album ever, a twisting, exhilarating maze of brutality that is as constantly pummeling as the band is known for, but never gets boring or lost in its own idiosyncrasies. I also interviewed Erik Rutan, who is a totally awesome dude to talk to by the way, when 'Infernus' came out, and he told me he'd like to do a doom album. Come on Erik, 2016's your year.


50. HOODED MENACE Darkness Drips Forth
I went so crazy for guitarist Lasse Pyykkö's tone that I said this on a Terrorizer review about this new album: "It's like Autopsy were extradited to Sweden just before recording 'Mental Funeral'." I don't use that comparison lightly. I also said that "on its fourth full-length, the formula is working better than ever. Allowing excellently crafted melodies to seep through the horror, the impact of the four songs is even greater than on past favourites like 2010's 'Never Cross The Dead', and the rancid atmosphere captured throughout more than reflects the mood created by the magnificent Justin Bartlett artwork," and yeah, that's more or less it.

49. ORTHODOX Axis
You know, my reviews on Terrorizer are a good mine to plunder when I'm feeling lazy on my blog. I loved Orthodox's new album, and here's why: "Reduced to a core duo of bassist/vocalist Marco Serrato (who still produces some of the eeriest tremolo vocals) and drummer Borja Díaz, this is their most straightforward, metallic offer so far, but even that deceptive simplicity is constantly being passed through a filter of  oblique strangeness and uncomfortable, religious-sounding moods… which only make those big bass riffs hit harder. Being unique in 2015 isn't easy, but Orthodox nail it." They nail it and then some - the damn thing has grown even more on me since I wrote that, so get to it.


48. CORRECTIONS HOUSE Know How To Carry A Whip
2013's 'Last City Zero' was a damn contender for album of the year, the proof that supergroups can actually work if there's a clear idea and intention (and talent, talent helps) behind them. Scott Kelly, Mike Williams, Bruce Lamont and Sanford Parker make up for a quartet that's even hard to believe, but Corrections House delivers past the weight of any name. 'Know How To Carry A Whip' initially hit me less harder than the debut, mainly because it feels more written, more deliberate than the abrasive chaos offered by 'Last City Zero', a notion confirmed by the musicians' in subsequent interviews, but once the songs do settle down in your head, it's yet another journey of industrial horror that awaits you. Also, they are devastating live, so if you get the chance to see them, don't throw it away.


47. BOSSE-DE-NAGE All Fours
      TERZIJ DE HORDE Self
See, whenever someone speaks of black metal as a closed genre, or as something with a strict set of rules, there are several things to do. Either laugh and walk away and go have ice cream, or do that but first write the names of these two albums on a piece of paper and hand it to the buffoon. Two forward-thinking, exploratory bands who, despite all their creative meanderings, still slay with a degree of intensity most acts can only have nightmares about. When I reviewed Bosse-De-Nage for Rock-a-Rolla magazine I said that they tend to "screamo and the best of 90s alternative rock as its modifiers of the black metal foundation," and that "All Fours sounds bigger, more expansive and more far-reaching in its transformation of the mother genre – black metal – than ever before, which means they've found their own formula and now keep tweaking it and messing with it," and that should be enough motivation to go investigate if you're not familiar with them. As for the Dutch mob Terzij De Horde, which totally floored me when I saw them live last November at the Le Guess Who? festival, I said in a review for Portuguese magazine LOUD! that their songs sound like a grotesque insect coming out of a coccoon, repulsed by the hideous thing they've become. It's a wordy way to say that the band's unique approach to black metal, full of surprising turns at blistering speed and uncomfortable, shifting dynamics, makes them sounds like no one but themselves. Which is quite something.

46. ABYSSAL Antikatastaseis
Portal ripping it up while a mixtape of Leviathan's best riffs plays in the background, right? That's the hamfisted way to quickly describe Abyssal, but however you want to look at it, don't let this record go past you. Despite still being clearly a death metal album, it has a universal appeal at the core of its murky heart, there is the dread and darkness of doom and the malice of the sharpest black metal, and besides, any band that earns a comparison to Portal is worthy of being listened to in any case.

45. PISSGRAVE Suicide Euphoria
So the cover of this album features what seems like a pile of human remains being dissolved in a bathtub of shit and other assorted fluids, and Pissgrave's foul, bad-taste brand of fucking sick death metal sounds exactly like that image looks. 'Nuff said, right?

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