Well my goal to keep on a regular reviewing schedule pretty much went out the window. Life takes over sometimes and then there are the times when I just don’t feel like writing anything. Maybe since I’m finished with school now I will be able to write more regularly about stuff (maybe being the key word here). Either way here’s my top 15 albums of this year (as well as a couple honorable mentions). I’ll be posting my favorite films of the year tomorrow.
First off here are 10 honorable mentions:
Awe – Providentia
Legion of Andromeda – Iron Scorn
Amestigon – Thier
Alkaloid – The Malkuth Grimoire
Erraunt – The Portent
Pale Chalice – Negate the Infinite and Miraculous
Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Martriden – Cold and the Silence
And now my top 15:
15) Grimes – Art Angels
While I am by no means a huge fan of modern pop music but I was curious about this one. I remember listening to Grimes’ last record, 2012’s Visions, and thinking it had some decent tracks on it, so I gave this one a listen and found myself playing it on repeat. It is certainly much more modern sounding and accessible compared to even her last record’s sound. Having said that, what I like about Grimes is that her personality still comes through. Whether it’s lower-key ballad kind of songs (Easily) or arena-sized bangers (Kill V. Maim) the persona of Grimes herself still comes through.
14) Algiers – Algiers
In a conscious effort to try and listen to albums and bands I may otherwise just skip over I listened to Algiers’ self-titled album and was blown away by what I heard (to the extent that I found myself listening to it on repeat). Fusing elements of post-punk, industrial, blues, soul, and dub music together into a combination of sounds that make something completely unlike anything I’ve heard. There are layers and layers in every song on here yet the band never come over as sonically dense, with every sound and instrument given it’s respective space to sound off.
13) Skepticism – Ordeal
There were a couple of strong funeral doom records released this year from some prominent bands (Tyranny, Shape of Despair, Monolithe) but the record I found myself coming back to the most often was the newest release from Finnish titans Skepticism. Recorded live and with the addition of a new guitarist, the band have never sounded more epic than they do here. I’ve had my problems with previous Skepticism records (mainly in the production department) but none of those problems reared their heads on here. The band sound fuller, bigger, and, to a degree, more uplifting. Try and wrap your heads around that one.
12) Sumac – The Deal
Crusty, noisy, sludge metal performed by a trio of musicians who have not only a long list of credentials to prove they can play this stuff with the best of them, but actually much, much better. The riffs are as heavy as any riff that has been played this year (I still have the riff mid-way through the title-track stuck in my head since first hearing it back when the album was released). I wish more sludge metal managed to write stuff like this.
11) Ævangelist – Enthrall to the Void of Bliss
Everyone’s favorite blisteringly disturbing death metal band return with another album to further deconstruct what we know the genre to be. Blurring the lines even further between industrial (and in some instances what sounds like trip-hop) and extreme metal than their previous releases have done up to this point, it feels like I’m listening to the death metal equivalent to Blut Aus Nord – and I mean that in the best way possible.
10) Anna von Hausswolff – The Miraculous
This lovely, little Swedish songstress came to my attention recently and I found myself quite taken with her approach to making music. While one could certainly tag her music with the “singer-songwriter” label, the music she makes is far from the voice-piano, voice-guitar, etc. shtick we’ve come to know (and love in some cases) from other artists. Playing an organ mainly, the sound of this record is closer in tone to a droning doom rock album than anything usually associated with the “singer-songwriter” tag. Plus, Hausswolff has a lovely voice that just soars over her and her band’s drones and doomy jams.
9) Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
The most recent addition to this list and probably my most recent musical obsession. It took me a little while to get into Julia Holter after reading the hype for this album but after listening to a couple of her songs I found myself quite enchanted with her. Feeling so full of sound yet never overwhelming, actually quite welcoming considering how polarizing her early albums are. The fact that the album begins at it’s poppiest and then evolves into something more somber only makes my affection towards this album (and Julia herself) grow with every listen.
8) Lychgate – An Antidote for the Glass Pill
I certainly liked Lychgate’s 2013 self-titled debut full-length, but this record just came out of nowhere and completely sideswiped me when I first heard it (and to this day continues to). It’s so crazy and weird and dissonant and yet still one of the most epic black metal records to come out in a good while. Finally using the genre “symphonic black metal” (although I’m sure the band aren’t overly pleased about the genre being tagged upon them) doesn’t mean cheesy orchestral synth pads playing the melody over blastbeats or simply adding texture (minimal in most cases if any at all) to otherwise rather flat sounding songs. Lychgate use the pipe-organ to construct what sounds like a complete reinvention of black metal entirely.
7) Locrian – Infinite Dissolution
Upon listening to the first third of Locrian’s newest full-length I was thinking to myself that this may be the band’s most straightforward and metal album to date. Then the shift happened. The final two thirds take things into a decidedly more restrained direction, recalling and then advancing the ideas that the band were using on 2013’s Return to Annihilation. It’s a record that to my ears sounded more krautrock, synth-rock (or synth-metal?), and post-rock inspired. While the trio has always used drone and noise and other genres of that ilk before, there are pieces on here that come across as straight-up ambient.
6) Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
This has been an album I’ve been waiting years for. I’ve been a fan of Subterranean Masquerade since I first heard them and was disappointed knowing that with every year that passed I’d never get a follow-up to the band’s 2005 full-length debut Suspended Animation Dreams. Then this album popped up and I found myself playing it over and over throughout the year. While the band was never metal in the traditional sense (their sound is much closer to prog-rock than prog-metal or avant-garde metal despite what genre tags are places upon them), the fact that this album seemed to rid even more of those metallic edges from their sound in favor of more 60s and 70s inspired proto-metal/hard rock parts was no problem to me (Paul Kuhr’s death growls are still very much intact though). Their songwriting chops definitely improved and gave me one of my favorite songs from 2015.
5) Pyramids – A Northern Meadow
The new album from my good buddy (Rich) and his collection of talented people proved to be an expansion of what the band’s first full-length was. Extended songs featuring winding and progressive guitar riffs and dense atmospheric soundscapes that twist and twirl around each other until something uniquely their own is created. Certainly traits of black metal, ambient and drone music, shoegaze, post-rock, progressive rock and a whole host of other stuff is present in here but there’s a method to writing tracks that actually warrant repeat listens.
4) Vattnet Viskar – Settler
One of the few records I actually wrote a review for (as well as for Sumac above) so it may have been obvious that it was going to make an appearance somewhere on this list. I stand by what I said in the review in that it’s one of the most fun black metal records I’ve listened to this year (I use the black metal tag somewhat loosely in this instance). The band know how to write a groove that makes me want to bang my head, which is something very few bands make me want to do anymore.
3) Clarence Clarity – No Now
R&B is not a genre I’m typically fond of for one reason or another but taking a chance on this record, meaning, stumbling from one video to another on youtube eventually led me to a video from Clarence Clarity, wound up providing me with probably the record I listened to the most this year. Clarence has a great voice but it’s his weirder approach to production which really made this a record I wanted to listen to on repeat. I’ve described it as someone taking all those 90s R&B and boyband songs and filtering them through tumblr.
2) Weeping Birth – The Crushed Harmony
I’ve gotten away from listening to super-clean and precise sounding metal in the last couple of years, very few bands pull it off while being able to convey any sense of actual aggression – then I heard this new Weeping Birth album. Super tight, super clean, and very technical but like everything I’ve ever heard from Vladimir Cochet (namely Mirrorthrone – when we getting a new album?), his rage is palpable on every track. The “brutal” side of death metal is one that rarely does anything for me, but Vladimir has a way of infusing melody into all his work that makes it worthy of repeat listens. Probably the catchiest metal record I’ve heard this year.
1) Krallice – Ygg Huur
I’ve been a fan of each Krallice record and every record they’ve put out has made it onto my favorite albums of that given year. This new album brought a shift in their sound but one which I found completely enthralling. Doing away with what became their trademark of 10+ minute long songs with winding structures and compacting all that intensity into much shorter bursts. Coming across closer to the solo work from Mick Barr or several of Colin Marston’s other bands, the band crams so much into these small bursts that at times I still find this completely overwhelming (and I’ve listened to this thing probably more than 20 times). Perhaps closer to progressive metal than straightforward black metal at this point but it’s still got all the furious energy that I came to love about the band since I first heard them.