(The word “procrastination” is one with which I am intimately familiar — it’s like a close personal friend. And therefore, I could hardly say no to posting this one further year-end list from our friend Leperkahn despite the fact that we wrapped up our 2015 Listmania series in mid-January, and despite his ugly and uncalled-for reminder that I still haven’t finished the 2015 Most Infectious Song list….)
Hey guys. As you might have guessed, that headline is completely satirical, since I meant to write some version of this in early December more or less, and it’s now currently the front-end of February. My only saving grace is that Islander hasn’t finished his rollout of his Most Infectious Songs list either.
I obviously wrote much less here in 2015 than in years past – I blame that partially on school and other time-fillers, but it mostly has to do with my truly award-worthy levels of procrastination, with a pinch of laziness adding a complementary garnish. That said, I still listened to a ton of great music, and lurked with mostly banal comments on probably 70% of NCS’s posts, indicating my continued existence and enjoyment of the fare here.
I’m going to try and focus on some releases that I don’t think got as extensively covered here either throughout the year or during the Listmania blitz, but inevitably that won’t happen. That said, here’s an incomplete list of some of the ones off the top of my head that I wholeheartedly agree with:
Horrendous – Anareta
Dudes upped it to another level on this one. I went in without listening to Ecdysis much, and I’m still blown away by their fascinating take on retro progressive death metal. If y’all ever make it out to Chicago, you’ve got couches and beers with your names on them, dudes.
Tribulation – The Children of the Night
Couldn’t really get into The Formulas of Death, but this one is so goddamn catchy it’s unfair. I don’t really understand why this record has been called death metal in so many reviews – it’s really an amalgam of black metal and glam. This mix shouldn’t work, but with deep hooks and a goddamn bevy of riffs, they make the whole album worth the ride. I specifically went out of my way to request this as a promo for my DJ gig over at WHPK 88.5 FM, the campus radio station here at UChicago (feel free to hit me up if you want your stuff played), and that continues to be a fantastic decision.
Also, don’t miss these guys live – I did so on the Behemoth/Cannibal Corpse tour from about a year ago, and was kicking myself all year for doing so until I caught them on my birthday with Envy and everyone’s favorite kvlt BM troupe Deafheaven.
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Kampfar – Profan
Clutch – Psychic Warfare
Enslaved – In Times
High On Fire – Luminiferous
Veteran bands putting out their umpteenth fantastic record in a row. ND and Enslaved both kill live too (though getting mugged on the way back from that ND show certainly did not kill).
Baroness – Purple
The production is indeed pretty awful, but these dudes can’t help but write amazing songs, and this may be their best batch yet. “Chlorine & Wine” is probably the best track 2015 produced as well.
Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
I hadn’t ever spent enough time with this group in the past, and I still haven’t delved into their back catalog like I should. But this album is a fantastic meshing of noodly progressive metal and stoner grooves.
Swallow the Sun – Songs From The North I, II & III
This thing is insanely long, but really most all of it is pretty great. II might be my favorite of the bunch, which I entirely did not expect.
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Retox – Beneath California
Author and Punisher – Melk En Honig
Three San Diego groups all putting out fantastic albums. You’ve heard plenty about CD, but that Retox record has some great angular riffs for fans of stuff like The Dillinger Escape Plan. Author and Punisher’s industrial doom has to be heard, and probably to some extent seen played, to be understood, or for that matter believed.
Ghost – Meliora
Hate them all you want, as far as I’m concerned this might be the catchiest record of 2015. The first three tracks make up the kind of A side even the best of bands dream of, and there really isn’t a dud in the group. Sure, Papa Emeritus might seem a bit distant vocally, but I counter that when your singer is a zombie Pope he probably should sound distant and dispassionate to some extent.
With the Dead – With the Dead
Lucifer – Lucifer I
The last Electric Wizard album was kinda a mess, and I still can’t get into Cathedral for some reason, but the Rise Above bands that have spawned out of the two groups are easily some of the best debuts 2015 proffered. Lee Dorrian fits in perfectly behind the cataclysmic chords produced by the rest of WtD; this is basically the sound of Dopethrone but with Lee Dorrian on vocals.
Lucifer picks up to some extent where Johanna Sadonis left off with The Oath, with her powerhouse voice used in a similar manner here. Gaz Jennings certainly gives a veritable treasure trove of riffs here for Sadonis to haunt over.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
Another Rise Above release. These dudes do their occult, drugged-out ‘60s rock vibe absolutely perfectly every time, and this time is no exception.
Noisem – Blossoming Decay
Where the hell has this one been on everyone’s lists? I swear I saw their debut Agony Defined everywhere in 2013 year end lists. It’s a shame, because Blossoming Decay is even better than its predecessor, shedding most of the death metal and gory lyrics of the debut for a much grindier style that also works in some haunting and eerie cello interlude work and much more developed lyrics. Throw on “1132”, but make sure you have body armor or great insurance first – you’ll inevitably wreak havoc on your vicinity from the moment it kicks in.
Ensiferum – One Man Army
Unsung Heroes was a bit of a disappointment, but for some reason this new one sounds way better to me. It’s not like they changed anything, but for whatever reason it feels much better executed this go-around. I still can’t believe that the disco break in “Two of Spades” actually fits in with smooth transitions (not to say it’s not still completely bizarre).
Mgla – Exercises in Futility
Yeah, this record is just as good as everyone says it is. They manage be unpretentious as men playing with morph suits over their faces, and create a truly enrapturing brand of melodic black metal with perfect composition and perfect production. You simply cannot deny these riffs, and if you’ve ever caught these guys live you know that it comes off even better in that setting.
Khemmis – Absolution
I picked this one up real late, but it’s been a treat to listen to ever since. Certainly happy that Islander turned me on to these guys after Denver Black Sky back before they’d signed to 20 Buck Spin.
Odetosun – The Dark Dunes of Titan
These dudes were kind enough to send me a copy of their fantastic album all the way from Deutschland (Vielen Dank, ich finde ihre Musik sehr interessant und erfinderisch – ich freue mich auf neue Lieder bald!), with mostly very long tracks that fold in post-metal (“At The Shore of the Ammonia Sea”) and perfected Opethism (“Machine Horizon” could easily be on Deliverance) in a thrilling combination. This one’s name your price on Bandcamp, so you really have no excuse not to pick it up.
Dorthia Cottrell – Dorthia Cottrell
The new Windhand record was certainly quite good, but honestly I found Dorthia’s solo record to be far more captivating. Her voice oozes eeriness and profound pain; you ache with every word. This one certainly isn’t metal, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to check this one out.
Black Fast – Terms of Surrender
These St. Louis thrashers certainly delivered on the promise of the EP. A great collection of great blackened thrash tracks at hyperspeed that doesn’t forget to put in some nasty hooks.
Nylithia – Hyperthrash
It only took an eon or two, but this record, having been teased since 2012, finally came out, and hot damn was it worth the wait. These dudes and Battlecross have the Happy Thrash (patent pending) aesthetic down pat, but these guys put in a bit more technical flair. This collection of tracks is an absolute blast to listen to, and with the Canadian dollar being so weak there’s really no excuse for not picking this up on Bandcamp right now.
Shining – International Blackjazz Society
I didn’t get to this record until very late, but it’s been a fantastic late surprise. It certainly shares a lot of characteristics with One One One, but I like to think that this one has a bit of the experimentalism of Blackjazz back in the fold, especially on “House of Warship”. And good lord, “The Last Stand” and “Last Day” are inconceivably infectious.
Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
I really haven’t followed the band before this (I got a feeling that they’d hit some doldrums creatively), but it’s a good thing I checked in for Under the Red Cloud, since this is easily the best collection of songs I imagine they’ve written in a very long time. I almost feel guilty listening to such poppy, yet undeniable hooks, but something about these tracks just hits that perfect spot.
Valkyrie – Shadows
Pete Adams (of Baroness fame) evidently has another band in which his guitar-god tendencies are allowed to run free, and unsurprisingly this produced a goddamn awesome guitar record. His brother is no slouch either. You need these riffs in your life.
Mutoid Man – Bleeder
Brodsky, Koller, and Cageao cannot be denied. Dudes write some killer melodies, and even transition from the normally frantically happy nature of their songs to a more melancholic, sludgy brew for the title track. If you don’t start singing along to “Reptilian Soul”, consult your physician.
Elder – Lore
I bit into this one based off of the massive amount of hype it built up; that hype was real. These guys write expansive journeys of songs, perfect for closed-eyed relaxation. Let Elder give you a feel-good time.
Ahab – The Boats of the Glen Carrig
This one almost doesn’t feel like funeral doom anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still fantastic. “The Isle” opens absolutely magnificently, and maintains that beauty throughout. “Red Foam (The Great Storm)” is easily the catchiest thing they’ve ever written, and proves they could have been a chart-topping death metal band if they had ever decided to ditch the doom. Not that they should, since their current concotion of heavy sounds is superb as is.
Havukruunu – Havulinaan
Criminally underrated melodic black metal from Finland. Part Immortal (especially on “Talven Mustat Tuulet”), a hell of a lot of Bathory, and riffs for days. Dig in, especially since Naturmacht has a name your price Bandcamp option.
Sumac – The Deal
I totally thought this was a 2014 release for some reason. Anyway, this one breaks the supposed rule about supergroups (Aaron Turner of Isis/Old Man Gloom, Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists, Brian Cook of Russian Circles) not putting out anything terribly interesting by putting out an endlessly interesting record. This one almost feels like a sort of experimental, improvisational sludge, beautifully aided by Yacyshyn’s almost jazzy touch behind the kit. These guys have a new record coming this year as well – get very excited for it.
Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic
BTBAM really haven’t disappointed me since I’ve been following them – everything since at least Alaska has been phenomenal to my ears. Coma Ecliptic ups the prog ante from the Parallax releases, and tones down a bit of the death metal, but this album is perhaps even more cinematic than anything else they’ve released. Cutting down the songs a few minutes really helps this one, too, so that tracks flow into each other, rather than between each other with interludes. These guys have never failed to absolutely kill it live the 5-6 times I’ve seen them as well.
Metz – II
This one came to me via WHPK – a noisy rock band on Sub Pop, just like it used to be. The hooks on “Acetate” and “Spit You Out” are as catchy as they are angry – this one will certainly get your blood pumping.
Envy – Atheist’s Cornea
As I mentioned earlier, I caught Envy live on my birthday this year, and they totally blew me away. Turns out their recorded music is just as good, with cinematic peaks and valleys, and some impassioned spoken word and shrieks from Tetsuya Fukugawa. Envy’s brand of post-rock is really just a little different from the pack –- give it a chance even if the genre’s not normally your cup of tea.
Birds in Row – Personal War
This one’s just an EP, but it’s my introduction to this French band’s brand of melodic, chaotic hardcore. One could easily judge this on first glance as just another one of those emo hardcore bands, but these guys are doing something more with their songcraft. Give it a taste.
Blaze of Perdition – Near Death Revelations
Poland had a banner year for black metal, with this one, Mgla, Batushka, and more. This one in particular masters the occult, dark atmosphere in its riffscapes. Highly recommend the first two tracks.
Pale Chalice – Negate The Infinite and Miraculous
Dead to a Dying World – Litany
False – Untitled
Forn – Weltschmerz
Putting a ton of Gilead things together since I got them all at the same time. These are all fantastic black metal and/or doom releases you should have, if you don’t already.
Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
CVI was fantastic, but this new one shows far more depth; Mlny Parsonz’s unbelievable voice is now weaved in seamlessly with better songs, and is now one of many tools the band have at their disposal. This record, in hindsight, sounds like what the band have wanted to sound like all along.
VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky
Took me a while to really settle in with most of this disc, though “The Desolate Damned” is a song for the ages, and “Red Chaos” is no slouch either. If this one doesn’t sit right at first, give it time – eventually you’ll see the light.
Magic Circle – Journey Blind
Brendan Radigan easily has one of the best retro voices, and Magic Circle still write inspiring and energizing melodies. This record was made to be blasted on the open highway in a vintage convertible.
This list is probably incomplete, but at this point unwieldy. With that, I bid thee adieu, though I will be back soon to address a very specific subset of records I purposefully left out of this list.