(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]
Love that Katavasia album…just barely got bumped off of my top 20 this year
That Protolith record was really quite good. Haven’t given it enough attention. Quite nice to see Defaced mentioned too. For no thrills death metal they did all right. I imagine a lot of people forgot it existed given the fact it appeared at the start of the year.
Hey all, thanks for reading! Just wanted to say I found most of these albums through the people here at NCS… an awesome blog with a community to match. Cheers to the new year 🙂
Katavasia is on my top 10… What a superb record.
Very good picks! 🙂
That note about the mix of vocals on the Khemmis album is my only complaint with it. Even with it, I still rank that album very highly. They’re kind of like what I hoped Pallbearer would be after hearing their demo.
Do you think the harsh vocals are sub-par, or is it just that they seem random in their placement?
Compared to the cleans, which I love, they seem sub-par. On their own they’re not bad, but I feel like they’re too loud sometimes, and detract from the music and the clean vocals. If they dialed back their frequency a little, I think it would be an improvement.
I agree with you: the harsh vocals aren’t quite as strong as the cleans! I think I know what you mean about the loudness, particularly the barks at the end of Ash, Cinder, Smoke…I love ’em though, that whole segment is pure fist-pumping goodness.
That bit is the guest segment from the Primitive Man vocalist…other harsh vocals are weaker. But who cares, that album rules. Awesome list.
That Nechochwen is one I seriously need to revisit.
First list I’ve seen with Stonebringer! Love that opening track.. in fact, I’ve repeated it so much I’ve only heard the rest of the album a few times 😉
Coincidentally, the same fate has befallen me. I discovered the album a few weeks back and STILL haven’t made it past the first track. 🙂
First track is a banger XD the cymbal work during the second wireless chanting part is so groovy, love it.
wordless* haha damn autocorrect
that Southgate record is really something.
Haven’t heard them before.
oh, nice, some love for Defaced. Glad to see that, they are a great live band
I’m glad you found something new in my list!