Now for something a little different from my usual political rants, I figured I should write a 10 list for my picks of 2015. It’s been an absolutely fantastic year for music, the metal scene has been no exception. For anyone who knows me personally, they will not be in the slightest surprised that my top 10 list consists of solely metal albums. Here they are:
10) Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V.
Well if there was an award for the most hateful album of the year, this would win it hands down. Whilst I have to admit I have never been overly fussed about Gnaw Their Tongues, I am well aware of how downright terrifying their music is, so hearing that they would be collaborating with one of the nastiest sounding bands of recent years, Dragged Into Sunlight, I was rather excited for the sonic warfare that would follow. Sonic warfare does N.V. little justice, it is without a doubt one of the downright most evil albums I have ever heard, the auditory equivalent of pure unrestrained hate. And my god it’s fantastic. Whilst it is definitely more Dragged Into Sunlight than Gnaw Their Tongues, the influence from Mories’ (the sole member of Gnaw Their Tongues) is just right to perfectly compliment the chaos that Dragged Into Sunlight unleash. For fans of Abyssal and Thou. Favourite track, Visceral Repulsion
Listen here if you fancy no sleep tonight:
9) Ethereal Shroud – They Became The Falling Ash.
Want the fastest way to remind me how talentless I am? Remind me that Joe Hawker, the sole individual responsible for Ethereal Shroud, is but a year older than me, and that this is his second album. And what an album it is. Certainly more atmospheric than the Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues collaboration, and almost twice the length, They Become The Falling Ash spans just shy of an hour over three extremely long tracks, but not at any point do these tracks overstay their welcome and become boring, yet never failing to stray from the desolate and emotive sound that Joe Hawker is clearly aiming for. They Became The Falling Ash strikes up a perfect balance of tribute to the bands that pioneered depressive and atmospheric black metal such as Burzum and the newer titans of British black metal such as Winterfylleth, Wondensthrone and Fen, whilst still maintaining a distinct sound setting them apart from the rest. Beautifully written and gloriously atmospheric, I highly recommend this one. For fans of Burzum and Fen. Favourite track, Look Upon The Light.
Listen to it here:
8) Misþyrming – Söngvar Elds Og Óreiðu.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to any of the metal spheres on the internet will have easily heard of this one, it is one of the most hyped albums of the year, appearing pretty much out of nowhere to take everyone by storm. Thing is with this album, unlike a certain Ghost Bath album, the hype lasted, for good reason (I have nothing against the latest Ghost Bath album, but it really didn’t carry the hype it drummed up when it was released). Managing to strike a brilliant balance creating an extremely creepy atmosphere on some tracks to just being downright punishing on others, this album keeps you captivated with a barrage of fantastic riffs. Whilst this album is hardly groundbreaking, it takes a well done formula of black metal and absolutely nails it. For fans of Mgla and Svartidauði. Favourite track, Ég byggði dyr í eyðimörkinni.
Listen to it here:
7) Macabre Omen – Gods Of War – At War.
SO MUCH BATHORY WORSHIP! Greece has got a reputation for awesome black metal, with one of “this years” other amazing releases, Ceades Cruenta’s second album (which much to everyones surprise on Reddit actually was released right at the end of last year), and Macabre Omen embody this reputation. Riff upon insane riff, switching from ripping your face off on tracks such as the title track to mesmerising you with beautiful melodies and cleans, such as on From Son To Father, this album takes the best of Bathory and the best of early Rotting Christ and fuses them to make an amazing hybrid of sound. An absolute triumph, mastering two of my favourite styles of Black Metal. For fans of early Rotting Christ and Viking era Bathory. Favourite track, Alexandros – Ode B.
Hear the Odes to Alexandros here:
6) Terminus – The Reaper’s Spiral.
So far it has been an incredible triumphant year for Black Metal, but that doesn’t mean that bands in other subgeneres have been idly sitting by, there have been some absolute fantastic releases across the metal spectrum. Terminus’ debut album “The Reaper’s Spiral” could (with the possible exception of the extremely fitting modern production) have jumped straight out of the 1980s NWOBHM scene. An absolute riff machine, The Reaper’s Spiral looks more to kick you in the gut then entrance you with beautiful melodies, it is definitely more in line with punchier sounding NWOBHM bands such as Satan, or USPM bands such as Manilla Road. Awesome science fiction inspired lyrics back up the awesome riffs to make an album that can give Slough Feg’s “Traveller” a good run for its money, and given “Traveller” is one of the finest albums ever written, praise doesn’t come much higher than that. Bonus points for the cassette version that I purchased, I had a lot of fun enjoying the confused looks of my flatmates who clearly hadn’t seen a cassette in years. For fans of Slough Feg and Manilla Road. Favourite track, The Reaper’s Spiral.
Listen to it here:
5) Visigoth – The Revenant King.
Debut album from US traditional/power metal band Visigoth, “The Revenant King” has much in common with the previous album on this list, Terminus’ “The Reaper’s Spiral”. It too harks back to more traditional sounding metal, it too has wonderfully nerdy lyrics (just look up the lyrics to the second track “Dungeon Master”) and it too can give the best of bands in a similar vein a run for their money. What makes Visigoth different though is rather than kick you in the gut, it seeks to mesmerise you with incredibly powerful vocals and excellent guitar work, at some points even adopting a more doom-esque sound, such as on “Mammoth Rider” and “Vengeance”. Jake Rodgers, the extremely talented man responsible for everything in Gallowbraid (a project I urge you to check out, albeit rather different from Visigoth), lays down some of the most powerful vocals of the year, backed up by memorable riffs and fantastic solos from Jamison Palmer and Leeland Campana. This album also features one of the best Manilla Road covers, of the track “Necropolis”, I have ever heard, staying true to the original yet adding their own distinct flair. Yet another long album, clocking in at an hour in length, yet never outstaying its welcome or boring the listener, keeping you captivated with riff after awesome riff from start to finish. For fans of Dio, Iron Maiden and Manilla Road. Favourite track, Blood Sacrifice.
Take a chance and roll the dice here (ok I’ll stop the crappy lyric references now):
4) Lluvia – Eternidad Solemne.
A constant theme this year is bands appearing from obscurity to release absolutely incredible albums that take many by storm, and in my humble opinion the greatest of this trend is Lluvia’s second album. Lluvia is Spanish for “rain”, and that is exactly the atmosphere that has been aimed for on this album. And no, I am not talking about British rain, in which we all open the door and either tut or mutter the word “bugger” before grabbing our umbrellas and proceeding to miserably go about our business, longing for sunny beaches and fancy cocktails we couldn’t possibly tell you the name of. No, I am talking about a depressing yet relaxing and melancholic atmosphere, that conjures images of sheltering alone in the midst of a storm. Desolate and lonely, yet relaxed. That is the atmosphere on Eternidad Solemne, and it achieves this atmosphere beautifully. Beautiful riffs mixed with tortured vocals fitful this, with calm interludes, aptly using the sound of rain combined with soothing yet eery guitars in the background. The album throws in just the right about of doom-y riffs when required to perfect its atmosphere. Bonus points for being so DIY I had to construct the cardboard cassette shell myself. For fans of Fen and Ethereal Shroud. Favourite track, Vientos de olvido.
Become lost in the amazing atmosphere here:
3) Satan – Atom By Atom.
Few artists pull off good comebacks, most either fall into the categories of painfully mediocre (I’m looking at you Carcass) or downright shit. A few, however, come back with all their glory, such as Solstice (UK) or Autopsy. A very select few, however, not only come back in all their glory, but release more incredible music after that as well, Satan are one of these few bands. Not content with blowing our minds with the jaw dropping “Life Sentence” a couple of years ago, Satan return again with “Atom By Atom”. The Terminus album I mentioned before was a kick in the gut, this album is a sledgehammer to the face. It’s so punchy it makes Mike Tyson look like a mouse, a steam train of fantastic riffs that melt your face off. There’s nothing ground breaking and particularly new in this album, Satan take their well known formula and prove that they can still produce fantastic results with it, with their trademarked guitar sound present throughout in all its glory. Unlike “Life Sentence”, that at least gives you a few seconds before battering you, “Atom By Atom” doesn’t even give that deprive, with the assault beginning right from the get go with “Farewell Evolution”, bombarding you with riffs right through until the slower yet still amazing finale “Fall Of Persephone”. Whilst I think “Life Sentence” narrowly takes it between these two, and before still bow before Satan’s masterpiece, “Court In The Act”, one of the finest NWOBHM albums of all, “Atom By Atom” is a worthy successor and well worth your time, with the title track being one of the strongest they have ever written. For fans of Iron Maiden, Angel Witch and Hell. Favourite track, Atom By Atom.
Listen to it here:
2) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis.
We’re nearly there, nearly at my favourite album of the year. But before that, we have one more that is worthy of more than a little praise, that is Abyssal’s beautiful “Antikatasaseis”, absolute euphonic chaos. This one really isn’t for the faint hearted. Abyssal have released two albums in the past, “Denouement” in 2012 and “Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” in 2013, the latter making it onto my top 10 of that year. Both have been a terrifying blend of black, death and doom metal, producing absolutely chaotic results. Yet Abyssal’s sound has evolved. On Novit we began to hear faint and haunting melodies pierce the chaos, to terrify us as our ears are bing destroyed. “Antikatasaseis” shows a further evolution of their sound, with the haunting melodies becoming incredible prominent right from the get go, becoming a central part of the album. The results of this evolution are incredible, this album is simultaneously terrifying and beautiful at the same time, perfectly intwining the melodies with the sonic chaos to create one of the most unnerving yet captivating albums I have ever heard. The interludes of Novit have gone, and the doom influence is played down, but the new focus on melody more than surfaces to replace them, to create what is so far Abyssal’s finest hour. An absolute masterpiece that until the release of the final album on this list was my number one of the year, and still holds the title for the best song of the year, with the stunning closing track. For fans of Portal, Impetuous Ritual and Mitochondrion. Favourite track, and indeed in my opinion the best track of the year, Delere Auctorem Rerum ut Universum Infinitum Noscas.
Listen to the terrifying and captivating album here:
1) Mgla – Exercises In Futility.
My album of the year should not really come as a surprise. Mgla are the kings of their game, the best current black metal band, with their stunning 2012 album “With Hearts Towards None”, being in my opinion one of the greatest metal albums ever written. Mgla, like Abyssal before them, have evolved their sound on their latest, moving from the commanding and cold sound on “With Hearts To Towards None” to a emotive outcry on “Exercises In Futility” that harks back to the jaw dropping “Further Down The Nest” EP. From start to finish, this album’s riffs and atmosphere are almost perfect, from the fantastic riffs on track one, to the stunning atmosphere on track five, to the incredible and emotive vocals on track six, this album captivates you throughout. There is not much I can say to do this album justice, it is a masterpiece. I can only urge you to go and listen to it. Seeing these guys live (alongside Kringa, One Tail One Head and Misþyrming) was probably in the top 10 live performances I have ever seen. For fans of Darkthrone and Cult Of Fire. Favourite track, Exercises In Futility VI.
Listen to Mgla’s triumphant masterpiece here:
There we have it, my top 10 albums of 2015. It’s been an incredible year, and I hope that next year proves just as fruitful. Some honourable mentions I would like to draw attention to include the latest Bell Witch, Blind Guardian, Sivyj Yar, Amorphous, Amiensus, Panopticon, Nylithia, Reign Of Fury and Cruciamentum albums, amongst so many others. Next year we will hopefully be seeing releases from Cult Of Fire and Soar amongst many other incredible bands, so it looks to be a good one. For the meantime however, I am going to go back and loose myself in Exercises In Futility again.