Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top 50 Metal Albums of 2015 – Part 2

Welcome back to this year’s run down of the Top 50 Metal Albums. 

So without further ado, I give you the finalists.

25. Deadspace – The Promise of Oblivion

I’ve never been into Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM) because the themes and execution have never appealed to me. Most DSBM releases are just sobbing put to music and are the types of bands you’d watch just to see how much the vocalist cuts himself on stage.

But this new Australian group have conjured up something quite fascinating. A DSBM release that doesn’t sound entirely like DSBM but retains its substance. Quite original.

24. Creuenta Lacrymis – Sweetness and Blasphemy 

A Symphonic Death Metal group who are helping break down the gender barriers of the awful ‘female fronted’ term. An Italian band where the girls outnumber the boys and show how women can make incredible death metal growls just like their male counterparts.

This is a group whom I’ll think about for a long time as gender in metal is something I’ll be researching in the new year.

23. Undergang – Doden Laeger Alle Sar

A superb piece of Old School Death Metal. Here we have a Danish band well versed in the early days where Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death and Carcass where breaching the gap between Grindcore and Death Metal. So if you want something that sounds like a demo tape found at the bottom of a store room at Earache Records then this is for you.

22. Midnight Odyssey – Shards of Silver Fade

Now I enjoy having to sit down and listen hard to a band, especially when they compose symphonies lasting over 20 minutes a time. By that I give you the relatively new Australian one-man-band who has released several albums all over 2 hours in length. 

And this latest release is of no difference. The first track will have you thinking you’re on a sleigh ride across the tundra with a myriad of stars to keep you company on a cold winter’s night. If you love winter as a theme of metal, look no further than Midnight Odyssey – best enjoyed in a dark room in front of a roaring fire.

21. Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror

The German bards have done it again. If you want to know what a journey into another dimension accompanied by a prog-rock ensemble feels like then this album is it. You’ll be tossed and turned across breathtaking horizons of sound and wonderment until you’re brought back to reality with a heroes anthem. One for all the fantasy buffs.

20. Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

A band who pretty much invented Grindcore. And a band who have never released a bad album. Sixteen albums into their career and the Birmingham grandfathers have given nothing to be disappointed about. 

Nothing has mellowed and it seems the ever growing anger at social injustice on the streets has simply fed the machine of anguish that is Napalm Death well. Something you’ll want to be listening to a lot this year, especially if you just can’t understand why we’ve got another Tory government bleeding us dry.

19. Hate – Crusade:Zero

Poland really is going up in the world. Last year, Behemoth gave us the beautiful The Satanist album, now the unsung heroes of said genre are coming into their own with their ninth studio outing.

It rings with all the right grotesqueness you’d expect from a band obsessed with death and anything a religious person would scream at. One good crowd pleaser if you’re a keen death festival goer.

18. Human Bodies & Leather Chalice – Split

Black Metal and Punk Rock – two of my all time favourite genres. Mix them together with all the anger, frustration and violence of two youngblooded American bands and you have this split. You’ll be wowed at the rawness and brutality of every track and be left wanting to hear more – so I expect a lot more good to come from both groups in the near future.

17. De Profundis – Kingdom of the Blind

One truly unique band on the London metal circuit. I’ve been mesmerised many times by De Profundis’s blend of Death Metal, Doom and Progressive Metal adventures to make them stand out from most of the other bands I’ve seen mature in recent years. Not only that, they have one incredible line up to make the album sound superb.

Kudos to my friends Paul Nazakardeh (Guitars) and Tom Atherton (Drums) for making this an album worth listening to from start to finish.

16. Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

Now this is a band I named as the number one Feminist MetalBand all the way back in 2013. And since then they’ve given us this studio album. But it seems they’ve almost completely abandoned their feminist rantings and replaced it all with concerns for ecology and the natural world. 

There are the odd rants about social injustices between men and women every now and again, but this is one proper green album for anyone who gives a shit about the soil they tread. A fascinating change delivered with enough anger to start a full scale riot.

15. Istapp – Frostbiten

An album with winter and Scandinavia written all over it. Imagine the love child of Immortal and Gormathon added with the angry melodies of Kataklysm.

I do enjoy my Melodic Death Metal, and I think this duo stood out at the most intriguing find of the year. Excellent work boys – I do love winter.

14. Satanic Assault Division – Kill The Cross

It’s always nice to find a band with a good sense of humour. Particularly one who plays on the impressions religious groups will have if your band writes songs about devil worship and opposition to every church.
Satanic Assault Division are that band who have a good idea of satire as well as making good bog standard black metal. It is delivered with a wonderful speed of thrash making me see them as the Toxic Holocaust of the black metal world.

13. Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

One of my all time favourite new discoveries of this year. Bell Witch taught me how to make superb Funeral Doom with just drums and bass.

A group who like to write essay style songs on horror, demons and ghostly legends to please anyone who’s curious about the other side. And a band made up of some truly nice guys too. See you soon Bell Witch.

12. Downfall of Nur – Umbras De Barbagia

South America stood out as the place where the best metal seemed to come from this year. An Argentine band who personified the nature and ecology of their homeland to a tee. A fine use of strings and acoustics with epic vocals, so if you like your Caladan Brood and Wolves in the Throne Room, give Downfall of Nur a blast. Atmospheric Black Metal diamonds, polished to the Nth degree.

11. Abigail Williams – The Accuser

This was the first metal band I ever saw in concert. They released two good albums in their early days when they experimented with Metalcore, but since then they fell into much obscurity and made some god awful releases.

But, it looks as though Ken Sorceron returned to the studio successfully this year and gave us that incredible bog standard black metal album he’s been meaning to give us since the very beginning. I have much hope for this band now. It’s been through an entire clan of line up changes, so maybe this one will give it that punch it’s needed since 2011.

10. Alastor Sanguinary Embryo - For Satan and the Ruin of the Divine

The band who put Costa Rica on the black metal map for me. A band reflecting the satanic thoughts of its nation’s underworld with a fine taste in classical civilisation and Greek mythology. Some of the finest occult themed black metal with hints of gothic thrown in every now and again making it worth listening to again and again.

9. Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess

A truly disturbing album cover, meaning a truly disturbing set of tracks from a band who pull no punches on their subject matter.

This band, all the way from Chicago will throw together all the right pieces of the death metal history to take you on a journey that will leave you comfortably numb after beating up your ear drums several times over. Impressive and delivered with good taste.

8. Infera Bruo – In Conjuration

Every genre of metal will have its progressive side. And here is a band from Boston who’ve shown me how you can do that with black metal, the greatest genre of all time.

Take all the ghoulish elements of classic black metal, throw in some low fidelity and a few sound bites to widen the appeal, and then deliver each track at a slow and hefty pace reminiscent of Alcest and Les Discret. You’ll be thinking of some Metalcore later on on this release so imagine Beherit with Killswitch Engage and that’s Infera Bruo for you.

7. Ahamkara –The Embers of the Stars

Now this album was released back in 2014, but since I only heard it this year and it blew me away, I thought it would be worth mentioning for this year.

Take all the atmosphere of Summoning, throw in all the gallops and agility of mid-period Burzum and then locate your band to Newcastle, the home of black metal governors: Venom to complete the mix. This band is giving the Geordies a whole new image of musicianship. Excellent relaxation music containing all the right tales and anger blasts to keep the average black metal fan alive.

6. Barshasketh/Void Ritual – Split

A very limited release; only 100 copies in total – so a truly lost gem of this year’s output. But what a good one it was. A New Zealandband with all the rawness and progressions to reflect their keen taste in their genre and then an American band who will tell you what Skeletonwitch would sound like if they went into the black metal world and ditched all their thrash and NWOBHM riffs. 

Something to please anyone who loves cvlt metal at its most jagged.

5. Bio-Cancer – Tormenting the Innocent

And so we enter the top five with a Thrash Metal group from Greece. As I said earlier, Greek metal is getting more and more out there today for obvious reasons. Here’s a ban so concerned about the social and economic anxieties of their homeland they’re not pulling any punches to reflect the disgust of the common Greek people.

A true anti-austerity and anti-fascist anthem from a country in dire need to a renaissance.

4. Torver & Arcane North – From Moonrise to Moonset

Ever wondered what a night on the moors in Yorkshire feels like in music form? Well look no further.
Two up and coming bands who have helped establish English Black Metal as a subgenre in wake of groups like Winterfylleth will do just that. Composing blissful symphonies with the right classical instruments and sound bites to make you feel like you’re out there sleeping under the stars with only owls to keep you company.

Superb is an understatement.

3. Sivyj Yar – Burial Shrouds

Another unique thing about the world of black metal, is how it gives each band the ability to dig up fantastic things about their nation’s histories and mythology and present them in some of the most mesmerising contemporary works of art.

Here we have a Ukrainian act who has personified the struggles and hardship of an indigenous tribe as they face the problems of a long, hard winter and an impending famine. A story of triumph and toil which will be passed down through generations. 

2. Earth and Pillars – Earth I

Again, an album released right at the end of last year, but I didn’t hear it until January. And there is nothing bad about this release in the slightest. It gave me all the more reason to appreciate black metal for its concern for the natural world. In my time in the black metal scene I’ve met people who do care a lot for animals and nature and want the world to be appreciated more by its inhabitants.

And this Italian band showed me just how far some ecologist metalheads will go to make people realise just how big a matter they’re dealing with. This is an epic composition, each track dealing with different elements of the natural world: earth, water, fire and air. Anyone who has picked up a book on the mysticisms of nature or the pagan concerns for the soil you walk over will want to hear this.
Earth and Pillars, everybody.

And the Number One Metal  Album of 2015 is...

Ashbringer – Vacant

The winter winds of the North USA and the howling whines of the forests accompanied by the tranquillity of the rivers, streams and undergrowth shining through your headphones to make you feel as if you’re on a journey across the Canadian border into Minnesota.

One hefty deal of new raw talent, given to the black metal world by an 18-year-old boy. Yes, you heard me right there – 18 years old.

A true, honest youngblooded band ready to show the world that black metal is far from dead and atmospheric black metal will live on forever.

Just like Earth and Pillars, this is a band obsessed with nature, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy grew up learning to live off the land just like his ancestors. Take all the hardship and natural beauty and wonderment of the great outdoors and put them to the most ecologically minded music of recent years.

Ladies and gentlemen and third gender, I give you Vacant, the finest black metal album to come my way in 2015. Happy New Year to you all!

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