(Long-time reader and commenter Manteegwa prepared this list of favorite releases from 2015 — and it’s an interesting one.)
For me, 2015 felt like a year where the great releases were peppered evenly throughout. In a time marred by political strife and violence, metal helped me stay positive and realize that there are people out there who still pour their efforts into creation rather than division.
AotY: Nechochwen – Heart of Akamon
What an honest, emotional album from Nechochwen and studio drummer Pohanasin. Ever since I heard the 8-minute pre-release teaser, I knew this would be a special album. There is incredible variety to be found here: double-bass and acoustic guitars intertwine in opener “The Serpent Tradition,” and dark neofolk presages, ghostly cries, and blackened fury in “Traversing the Shades of Death.” The 40-minute run-time is just right, capped off with an 8-string doom crusher featuring an excellent spoken-word segment. This may very well be my favorite album of all time, and I cannot say this enough: do yourself a favor and support this artist.
Southgate – Primordial Pull
This is a strange combination of barebones groove metal and a slew of other genres, not limited to black, progressive, and hardcore styles. The production is crisp, with the drums and thick guitars coming through unmuddied. The vocals span doom-y croons to barking hardcore and mid-range shrieks. All over the place. Check out “Ghost Wolf” for a song that blends the signature elements of this band into a single track.
Katavasia – Sacrilegious Testament
Greek Black Metal – That unholy union of bestial vocals (Hello there, Necroabyssious) and mid-paced melancholy. The sound of this record can best be described as “mummified.” Dry production, Evil, and heaps of ‘tude combine for some black n’ roll segments that will get you windmilling while you worship the misty night.
Outre – Ghost Chants
“…but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.” Much like the mucus-coated dogbomination from John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing, these Polish black metallers seem a bizarre combination of parts: DSO-tinged dissonance, post-rock, and industrial overtones, wrapped in choral arrangements by the talented Stawrogin (absolutely savage vocals throughout). This album was mean to me, but after a while, everything came together and I’ve learned to love it. “Shadow” is a contender for song of the year!
Stonebringer – Those Winds
This album didn’t receive the fanfare it deserved. The riffs. Never. End. A huge improvement over their EP, if a little long-winded, but splitting at the seams with grooves. Meaty grooves. This album spoils the listener, to the point where you start to wonder if there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The vocals are wonderfully done, forming an ever-changing melodic backbone that weaves through each track. The songwriting stands out for me as well: Technical, fluent transitions that never veer into Wanksville. This is top tier, don’t miss out.
Khemmis – Absolution
Melodic doom in the vein of genre champions Pallbearer. Regal vocals share the run-time with rasps and gutturals over anthemic, swaggering (that’s right) riffs that come to life through the dynamic production. The mix of vocal styles has received some flak (some stating that the harsh vocals are awkwardly juxtaposed with the cleans), but they don’t bother me in the least.
Protolith – Dark
The first word that comes to mind for this album is nuanced. The drums steal the show for me – I find myself picking up on cymbal flourishes I haven’t heard before after countless listens. Organic blastbeats. Roars from some subterranean grotto. A post-metal tinge of melancholy that permeates the tremolo-picked riffs. Attention, brickwalled albums: this is what you should sound like.
These are albums I listened to and thoroughly enjoyed, but still need more time with.
A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See [Black/Psychedelic/Avant-garde]
Cavern – Outsiders [Post/Sludge/Instrumental]
Barus – Barus (EP) [Death/Groove/Doom]
Defaced – Forging the Sanctuary [Melodic Brutal Death Metal]