By: Aaron Pickford
Just as soon as the year 2016 began, the first 31 days was over, but fortunately for you guys we managed to feature 50 new records. Indeed whilst they may not be all new releases for 2016, it is safe to say that some records we have featured during January are undoubtedly early contenders for album of the year and we are a mere 3 days into the second month. Leaving us in little doubt that 2016 is proving to be an exceptional year of music thus far.
We have had the usual assorted of goodies, you name the genre, it is likely we have featured it and some of my own personal highlight from January, were new albums by Conan, Garganjua, Egypt, Black Tusk, and lest we forget the blackened tones of the ever prolific Primitive Man and their split with Poseidon’s favourite band, Sea Bastard.
But what is a review site, without a talented bunch writers, so it was to my surprise and delight that we have been fortunate to have recruited two new writers and they have been quick to make their mark with high quality reviews, so welcome Richard Jaspering and Josh Lee.
Anyway, let’s get back to the matter at hand. The Sludgelord’s ‘Sour 16’ is back, you know the deal, each month, you the reader are unwittingly compiling a list of the top 16 records of the month, covering all genres of metal. Is it not a chart, in which reviewers or contributors extol their opinion about their favourite music. To put it simply, the ‘Sour 16’ are the records that have been trending the most at Sludgelord HQ and perhaps which you guys have been most interested in over the last month.
So here is the The Sludgelord’s ‘Sour 16’ for January 2016. Dig in, spread the word and perhaps revisit some records you may have overlooked. The results are compiled based on page views alone and calibrated into the list below. So roll up, kick back, chug a beer and Hail the riff! All reviews can be viewed by clicking the artwork. (Total views since their publication are highlighted in red)
16). = High Priest of Saturn– “Son of Earth & Sky” (277)
Much like Tarot's “The Warrior's Spell” from last year the record is a kind of mixture of stoner/prog/doom/rock/psych. It is not necessarily riff led, or structured in the conventional sense, but this adds to its charm. It makes for a dynamic and melancholic listen as the music washes over you. High Priest of Saturn have written and recorded a superior meeting of styles in this sophomore release. I highly recommend that you sit back, relax and just listen.
16). = Cauldron– “In Ruin” (277)
The riffing of “Burning At Both Ends” is pure Accept, adding a teutonic flavour to the Canadians' Brit worship. The reverb soaked drums and higher tempo of “Santa Mira” is pure 80's metal while the more sombre “Corridors of Dust” echoes the sounds and hooks of “Chained To The Night”. This is an homage, pure and simple. Music from the past, being played today and with modern chops and studio equipment that can accurately create the sound that the band want to hear. They sit as a dependable and impressive retro outfit. Kind of the Overkill of retro metal, perhaps? And that is a very high compliment, by the way.
14). The Body– “No One Deserves Happiness” (282)
Horns swell as dim, low riffs wash over your mind, drums vacillate between cold sweetness and strong blows and the stage of chaos is set by the high screaming voice of unreason, formless yet voluminous and constant. Static whispers through grating frequencies and primal percussion, augmented by surprising claps and snaps, urges the dance of a readied, warring people. The Body’s latest is an opus to ecstatic agony redolent of SWANS and Neurosis’ output. If no one deserves happiness, I suggest here that it is earned.
13). Garganjua– “A Voyage in Solitude” (286)
'A Voyage In Solitude' bursts through the speakers triumphantly, like a lonely knight back from the Crusades, suffering, but ultimately glad to be back, 'Extinction' with it's solemn, sobering overtones, lays down meaty slabs of despair for the listener to indulge in. Some gut wrenching growls are also presented courtesy of bass player Gaz Owen and with the doom scene becoming a little stagnant of late, it's good to hear a band brandishing weapons of melody and having the balls to use them when the situation calls for it. A solid first album from these lot.
12). Classhole – “Classhole” (307)
Straight up punk rock with super thick guitars and bass making it more hardcore punk with relentless battery than anything else. All the songs are short and sweet mostly around a minute and a half and it feels like the bass is cranked way the fuck up. This whole record reminds me of Slayer's earlier albums to where as soon as one song ends the very next one comes ripping through. The entire album sounds like the derailment of a freight train coming through a republican party parade.
11). Niche – “Heading East” (319)
In spirit Niche is heavy but in practice they know how to apply heavy. This means that they have this tool on hand but don’t always need it. So “Heading East” is slick without drifting too far from the raw attack they delivered in 2013. Even when Niche dips in and out of urgent rhythms, they do this with a level of finesse that pushes the lush harmonies to the surface rather than diving into a riff-fiesta.
10). Mourning Beloveth – “Rust & Bone” (358)
For a band that have been around for nigh on a quarter of a century, Mourning Beloveth incorporate a surprising amount of experimentation. That said, they have their sound and are sticking to it. They incorporate death, doom, even elements of black metal and so on into their sound and deploy them all for variety across their albums. Although we may have heard the tricks before, the quality remains high and the band remain inspired with great depth and breadth to their compositions.
09). Mars Red Sky – “Providence” (365)
What makes Mars Red Sky so good, is that they effortlessly walk the line between heavy as hell and light as fuck. “Shot in Providence” opens things up with guitars that are heavier than we as fans of the band are used to and for a band like Mars Red Sky, who excel at writing fantastic songs that balance heavy and melody, this is a daring step and it works really, really well.
08). Egypt – “Endless Flight” (387)
With an excellent album cover that recalls “Never Say Die”, the band let you know what they are about- spacey and heavy stoner rock/doom with plenty of Sabbath and a little Fu Manchu thrown in there. You have a guitar in your left ear, the bass in your right and drums and vocals in the middle in this wall of sound type production. If you want some stoner/doom to start the year off, then this is a fine choice. A great record that you can play all the way through and just enjoy.
07). Oranssi Pazuzu – “Värähtelijä’” (391)
Taking the album “as is”, ‘Värähtelijä’ contains flashes of brilliance, plenty of greatness, but a general need to be a bit more concise and efficient. It’s not every idea that deserves five minutes of exploration. In fact, very few ideas deserve that kind of focused repetition. Still, there’s no doubting that Oranssi Pazuzu are one of the few truly unique metal bands going in 2016, and that counts for a lot.
06). Black Tusk – Pillars of Ash” (397)
As per previous records, you get a kind of Southern sludge Motorhead: “God's On Vacation” roars out of your speakers and then “Desolation of Endless Times” just levels you. This is visceral stuff and has absolutely every needle in the red. Truly, the record form thereon in is pretty much unstoppable. To say that there is anything new here or any kind of left turn would be inaccurate. It is Black Tusk, more of the same; heads down and flat out. The new era of Black Tusk should be celebrated as the band have chosen to push forwards after a most horrendous event. Their life force refuses to be dimmed, and this record is a shining example of grace under pressure and as fine a statement of intent as you will find.
05). Abbath – “Abbath” (471)
Abbath remains a creature of two minds, willing to both sprint and pace himself for a marathon, and he continues to produce at a top-tier level, whichever mode he’s in. Because of the long wait between this album and the last Immortal album, having new material from Abbath felt like an event, before I’d even heard a note. This album lives up to that anticipation, provided you weren’t anticipating “Pure Holocaust: Part II”, or something wildly different from the albums he’s released over the last fifteen years.
04). Primitve Man/Sea Bastard – “Primitive Man/SeaBastard” (644)
“Cold Resolve” is Primitive Man’s finest hour to date. Maintaining a suitably crushing tempo throughout its lengthy duration, it’s an intoxicating slab of misery reminiscent of a more aggressive Unearthly Trance or Iron Lung slowed down to 3 rpm. Sea Bastard have a knack for constructing huge tracks that flow seamlessly from one section to the next and remain engaging throughout. “The Hermit” is another killer cut from a great band who grow stronger with every release. This split is a fine way to kick off 2016, two great bands at the top of their game delivering the goods once more and leaving fans eagerly awaiting their next releases.
03). Borknagar – “Darkness Drips Forth” (932)
Even though ‘Winter Thrice’ is firmly rooted in the present sound, I’d strongly argue that this is the best iteration of their established prog rock-obsessed extreme metal sound to date. The songwriting is the strongest it’s been since ‘Empiricism’, and the album sounds absolutely fantastic from a production standpoint. Vintersorg should also be commended for turning in his best vocal performance to date, which comes from someone who has been a diehard ICS Vortex devotee when it comes to Borknagar’s vocalists. It helps that the music behind him lends itself to his strengths, driven by big, ringing chords and some delicious guitar leads.
02). Conan – “Revengeance” (1241)
The song 'Every Man Is An Enemy' has one of the most metal sounding titles I've ever heard and the violent intentions inherent in the brooding, bruising riffs put the bands money where its snarling mouth is. 'Earthenguard', the final track of the 6 on offer, is a song so heavy it has its own gravitational pull. Its 12 minutes of neanderthalic doom which also swims and swirls thanks to the phased guitars. It's an odyssey, a massive trek through mountainous chops and pounding beats that are designed to systematically cave your head in. Have Conan outdone themselves? Quite possibly.
01). Megadeth – “Dystopia” (5035)
This line-up has introduced itself with a battering ram of thrash utopia; the riffs, the fury and the sizzling lead playing present here stands toe-to-toe with the bands best 21st century output. It’s a record which accentuates the bands relevancy in 2016. Masters of their trade just listen to ‘Lying In State’ and tell me they can’t smash shit up with the best of them. They continue to release music and make the effort to give more content for their fans to consume. Not many other bands their age can say that.
This list features reviews by, Chris Bull, Philip Weller, Richard Maw, Daniel Jackson, Dan Caycedo, Charlie Butler, Richard Jaspering, Victor Van Ommen