Chris' Top 15 Albums of 2015
There's a constant debate I have to have with myself when crafting these end of the year lists. And the struggle is one you can't win unless your clairvoyant.
The question is: will this album remain in my rotation for longer than six months?
Certain pieces on here I don't have to worry about since they've been out far longer than six months. But when September comes rolling around and releases come flooding out the door like a Black Friday mob, you find yourself trying to figure this out.
So when you don't see the new Paradise Lost album in the top fifteen, it's because it's already out of rotation. A damn fine album yes, (as are all is everything on this list according to me) but not something I'm too, well, lost in.
And regardless of what a pain in the ass these lists can be, I still love them.
And so it begins…
It's hard to do funeral doom that isn't a sluggish snoozefest. For me, only two bands managed to hold my attention for the whole duration of their records: Un's The Tomb of All Things and this mighty mother fucker. Bell Witch crafted a highly haunted, heavy-as-lead piece that never lets go. Never does Four Phantoms feel like a chore, but rather like the last few horrifying minutes of someone's life.
Agony Defined was my second favorite album of 2013. So when Noisem was gearing up to release Blossoming Decay I got a little giddy. So when they hit us with a full on punk/grindcore assault as opposed to their previous death/thrash assault, I was a little surprised. I think everyone was. And you know what? It was friggin' awesome. Nine cuts of some fine grain grindcore that'll practically put your head through a wall. It's a short trip, but it's wild.
It's grindcore with a sense of humor, and still enough aggression to fuck you up. The Kill return with more blast beats than is probably legal on an album. Kill Them…All is a twenty-six minute sucker punch that is as over-the-top as a Lucio Fulci flick. Hell, this thing is so high on octane I still get lost differentiating songs sometimes. The Kill even goes as far to make a joke on “Burn Craigieburn. Burn” about the beat slowing down. Yeah, but only for about four seconds.
Three albums in and Retox aren't slowing down, nor are they making their songs any less noisy, aggressive or groovy. Beneath California is the band's most distinguishable work and also their best. The album is plenty destructive and weird, melding together a noisy hardcore/punk attitude with festering rock. And in a world dominated by a billion noise rock bands, Retox never sound regurgitated or boring. Beneath California is a glass shard under the fingernail.
Yep, Dominick Fernow did it. He maid noise accessible. But Frozen Niagara Falls isn't just the accessibility of something that can be, frankly, painful to listen to (see: Arrowhead), it's also a really, really awesome album. It's a ninety-minute despondent, sometimes calm, sometimes furious venture of soul violence and shifting soundscapes. Sometimes they hover, sometimes they blink out. Whatever may happen, the album maintains its moods, and here it's always cold.
Cloud Rat continue to impress year after year. Their last album Moksha was a blistering piece of grindcore that was well deserving of all the praise it got. Qliphoth is very possibly the band's watershed. Bringing out some of the punkiest aspects that the band as ever shown, the seventeen track album is one sledge hammer swing after another. In addition to the band's already hyper-active aggression, they also manage to weave in some fantastic melodies and moody elements that make the album an actual beauty to listen to. It also helps that vocalist Madison Marshall is one of the best lyricists in the genre. Qliphoth is an album a lot of grindcore is going to have a hard time keeping up with.
With only three releases to their name now, False sign off on their first LP (and first release in three years) leaving behind some deep claw marks. Untitled (same title as their EP) is a record that rides blasts as comfortably as it does doom sections. An instrumentally impressive album in both technicality and flow, False burn through and hour of material without giving the listener much time to catch their breath. I've said it about other bands and I'm gonna say it about this one: it's the kind of thing you'd expect from a band that's got more material under their belt. And as such, this is probably only the tip of the iceberg from these titans.
Nine albums in and Niklas Kvarforth's pain factory Shining is running as strong as it ever has. Certainly as strong and emotionally trying as Halmstad managed to be. From the new format (opening with an instrumental, rather than saving it for track five), to the often gorgeous song arrangements, IX weaves between aggression and melody. Kvarforth's voice goes from shouting maniacally to breaking, crackling and falling apart. The lyrics are in Swedish and I still feel the hair on my skin stand on its ends. IX is, if not the best album Shining has ever done, certainly tied with Halmstad.
I'll admit it, I've read David Icke. And it's some of the most entertaining, batshit insane stuff on my bookshelf. And if someone's going to put their focus on conspiracy theory subject matter (especially on hive-minded time traveling reptiles that feast on human blood and interbreed with our species), I say go fuckin' all out. And you know what? Luminiferous (the band's seventh album) does just that. And Matt Pike has the chops to back up. His guitar work here is some of the tastiest stuff he's ever written. Track after track High On Fire's album is as memorable as it is epic. If the Illuminati is real (it's not), the aggression of “Slave the Mind” would be enough to blow those bastards back to the stone age (oh wait, that's where the reptiles enslaved us. Well, then, fuck it, who cares?).
If Chuck Schuldiner hadn't died and Death managed to survive post-The Sound of Perseverence, I think they would have gone down a road similar to the one Horrendous has paved. Old school death metal is often heard but not often the most memorable genre I come across. And then there's Horrendous, a band that sounds like they've recorded straight out of the 80s that's making some of the most interesting metal to date. Melding old school sensibilities with more modern sounds (post hardcore anyone?), the trio hit all the right notes with their third full-length Anareta. It manages to encompass a blast from the past as well as a glimpse of the now. It's a rare album and it deserves to be heard.
I'm apparently into pain and hatred when it comes to stuff I love. Not surprising when I breakdown what I usually review and the albums that usually fall into my rotation, but The Body & Krieg serve as a real reminder of that. The collaboration soared far above and beyond what I had come to expect from either band. Fusing The Body's signature, moody/noisey doom with depressive black metal ala Krieg and out came some of the most furious tunes this year has seen. It trudges and it bellows; it's a furious, ravenous beast. And if this is a celebration of its shame, I'll drink to that.
Distorted vocals, buzzsaw guitars and some of the rawest recording of the year. Suicide Euphoria was an album that almost few under my radar had it not been for a friend. Is it another example of old school death metal? Yeah it is, but with a punk-like attitude and a chainsaw to boot. Pissgrave have turned over an album that is equally disgusting in terms of production value as it is invigorating to listen to. The tracks on this album are so savage and caustic you could burn through brick walls with them. Hell, the album is atonal enough that you're probably barely going to notice when a track changes. And the whole goddamn thing is a masterstroke in destruction and senseless violence.
“Every fuckin' thing that crawls is gonna pay.” After a short ambient intro, that's about the best way to introduce any album of misanthropy and hatred. Scar Sighted is the sixth album by the one man beast that is Leviathan (a.k.a.: Wrest, or Jef Whitehead). And while the album may be less black metal than his previous releases, it remains as evil and bestial as ever. Now more a death/black metal album, Scar Sighted is a ten track album that maintains itself with one constant: the horrific. Not a moment on this album feels safe. Even when every thing has come to a screeching halt, it only makes you wonder when that howling in the background is going to move in for another kill.
I thought this was going to take my top spot. I really did. Almost a year later and every aspect of this album still as fresh and angry as when I first heard it. And after fifteen albums, it's hard to believe that most bands can remain this sharp while still sounding like they're doing something new. But when it comes to the grind kings, Napalm Death aren't one to be underestimated. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is a furious combination of blasts, old school grind and some surprisingly melodic/moody moments. It's an album that slows down at a few places but still manages to lose its temper. And for good reason.
So it wasn't enough for Cattle Decapitation to release one of 2012's most savage death metal albums and step up their game even further, but now they had to go ahead and write an album so good I've heard it over a hundred times in only a few months. The Anthropocene Extinction is the kind of album humanity doesn't even fucking deserve. The instrumental arrangements (David McGraw's incredible drumming deserves a call out here) alone would be enough to make this album of the year. Add in Travis Ryan's environmentalist lyrics waved with his general disgust of humanity and the album can boil oceans of blood. The Anthropocene Extinction is as bitter as it is focused. Yes, it's a step beyond Monolith of Inhumanity with more singing sections and more melodic bravado. It's a masterpiece in every respect and not a moment is wasted. I swear this album has made me an extinctionist. Goddamn, I fucking hate humanity.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (no order)
Die Choking III
Great American Ghost Everyone Leaves
My Dying Bride Feel the Misery
Paradise Lost The Plague Within
Killing Joke Pylon
Monolithian The First Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came
Bosse-de-Nage All Fours
Cowards Rise to Infamy
Black Breath Slaves Beyond Death
Death Engine Mud
Pale Chalice Negate the Infinite and Miraculous
Gruesome Savage Land
Ethereal Shroud They Became Falling Ash
Lightning Bolt Fantasy Empire
Extreme Noise Terror Extreme Noise Terror
Abigail Williams The Accuser
Fuck the Facts Desire Will Rot
The Rodeo Idiot Engine Malaise
Yellow Eyes Sick With Bloom
Kauan Sorni Nai
TOP DEMOS/EPS OF 2015
10. Fiend / Dead Issue Split EP
9. Infinite Waste / Cyanic Split EP
8. Total Fucking Destruction Our Love is a Rainbow
7. Thou / The Body You, Whom I Have Always Hated
6. Fister Violence/The Infernal Paramount
5. Primitive Man Home is Where the Hatred Is
4. Healer Healer
3. Yautja Songs of Lament
2. Fistula Destitute Demo
1. Dendritic Arbor Sentient Village, Obsolescent Garden
NON-METAL ALBUMS I LIKED
I wrestled with doing a wishlist this year but it'd look a lot like last year's. So, fuck it. At least this year I know some of those are actually coming out. I've got some empty bottles of Elysian's Bi-Frost I've been sipping for the last few hours while assembling this bastard.
Anyway, it's been an…alright year overall (personally). Musically, it's been a pretty good year. And here's to 2016.