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."

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