Sunday 3 January 2016

A Year in Review: Charlie Butler's Top 25 Records of 2015

By: Charlie Butler
2015 has been a quiet year in terms of releases by the big hitters of metal but has delivered a plethora of gems from the underground. Whittling down the years releases was tricky with lots of gems just missing the cut, but here is my top 25 albums of 2015: (Full reviews are available by clicking on the artwork relating to the specific record)
25. Skraeckoedlan – Sagor
I was drawn in by the awesome sleeve artwork and the riffs within didn’t disappoint. Killer, fuzzed-up, Mastodon-style action from Sweden.

24. Great Falls – The Fever Shed
Compellingly ugly noise rock riff-mangling from this Seattle trio.

23. Earthmass – Collapse
Massive release from this hugely underrated UK doom/post metal band. Fully lives up to the galactic scope of the cosmic cover art.

22. Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise
Hypnotic, heavy, psychedelic rock like Om jamming with The Heads.

21. Cult of Occult – Five Degrees of Insanity
A sickening crawl to the bowels of hell. Well worth getting hold of the cassette version from Breath Plastic, probably the best packaged release of 2015.

20. Opium Lord – The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth
Solid full-length from the Stourbridge/Birmingham doom quintet, delivering on the promise of their great debut EP and crushing live shows.

19. High on Fire – Luminiferous
Everyone knows what to expect from a High on Fire album by now and “Luminferous” does not disappoint. The bands trademark onslaught is honed further to perfection, while growing to ever more epic proportions. Slow burner “The Cave” shows they still have a few tricks up their sleeve too.

18. Sumac – The Deal
Aaron Turner’s new trio take all the best elements of early Isis and recent Old Man Gloom and add their own unique flavour to create a hulking beast of an album, powered by the all-star rhythm section of Baptists’ Nick Yacyshyn and the mighty Brian Cook.

17. Kowloon Walled City – Grievances
Probably the quietest album in this list but the heaviest in terms of emotional impact. Hard hitting post-hardcore from San Francisco.

16. Scientist – 1010II0101
The Chicago riff boffins manage to cover a mind-boggling number of styles on “1010II0101” and execute them effortlessly. Math rock, post metal and Deftones-style alt rock all combine to create a captivating sonic journey.

15. Cult Leader – Lightless Walk
Searing debut album from this Salt Lake City quartet. Delivers some of the year’s most aggressive chaotic riffcraft but it’s the slower moments like the incredible title track that really get under your skin.

14. Undersmile – Anhedonia
“Anhedonia” takes the grungy doom and unique mournful vocals of their previous releases and adds menacing quiet passages that recall Slint or Codeine to devastating effect. A really individual band that grow in power with every release.

13. Goatsnake – Black Age Blues
“Black Age Blues” breaks all the rules of reunions by being Goatsnake’s finest release after an 11 year absence. Sludgy blues rock that somehow manages to make harmonicas and gospel choirs sound like a good idea.

12. Ghost – Meliora
“Meliora” was my first taste of Ghost and it’s easy to see why they’ve become so huge. A set of killer songs worthy of the band’s extravagant image and ready to fill the stadiums of the world.

11. Imbroglio – For What It’s Worth
A brutal blend of Botch/Coalesce-style jagged riffing and more spacious elements. This album deserves to find Imbroglio a massive audience as they really show the big names how it’s done on “For What It’s Worth”.

10. Ancient Altar – Dead Earth
“Dead Earth” is a great blend of Kylesa-style sludge, straight-up doom and stirring melody Pallbearer would be proud of. Ancient Altar are destined for great things in 2016 and beyond.

9. Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed
I’m not a massive black metal head but Wiegedood’s mesmerising performance at Damnation 2015 had me hooked. “De Doden Hebben Het Goed” fully delivers on their live show with four slabs of absorbing atmospheric terror.

8. Galvano – Trail of the Serpent
Gothenburg duo/riff-generator Galvano delivered an absolute gem in the form of “Trail of the Serpent”. Melding the furious attack of High on Fire and with the complexity of early Baroness and Mastodon yields powerful results.

7. Garden of Worm – Idle Stones
Garden of Worm’s “Idle Stones” was one of the most unique releases of 2015. The Finnish trio play doom-tinged psychedelic rock that sounds absolutely nothing like anything else out there, creating a weird nocturnal world that will keep drawing you back for more.

6. Domovoyd – s/t
Another cracker from Finland, Domovoyd’s self-titled album is a monolithic piece of work. Once the needle drops on “Domovoyage” there’s no escaping the all-consuming gravity of this masterful concoction of Hawkwind, Sleep and Electric Wizard.

5. Ghold – Of Ruin
Bass and drums duo Ghold created their own weird world of labyrinthine riffs, haunted vocals and progressive song structures on “Of Ruin”. Sounding like Om and the Melvins jamming some bizarre obscure prog, I can’t wait to hear where they go next particularly after the addition of a guitarist

4). Torche – Restarter

A lot of people seemed to be disappointed with “Restarter” but I found this to be another killer album from Torche. Returning to heavier territory while still retaining their trademark poppy hooks, there was no stylistic leap from previous releases but the sheer quality of “Minions” and “Loose Men” reminded everyone who’s boss. The thunderous “Annihilation Affair” was resoundingly the best opener of 2015 too.

3. Kylesa – Exhausting Fire

“Exhausting Fire” was Kylesa’s best album since “Static Tensions”. Delivering on the hints of psychedelic rock, shoegaze and indie rock hint at on their last couple of releases while retaining a solid core of heavy riffs, this release was a complete triumph.

2). Mutoid Man – Bleeder

“Bleeder” was definitely 2015’s most addictive release. A short, sharp dose of heavy riffs and NWOBHM warped through a psychedelic pop lens to create a weird and wild collection of songs that will be burned into your brain forever more.

1. Baroness – Purple

I have had a variable relationship with Baroness. After loving their initial EPs I found the “Red” and “Blue” albums massively disappointing, though enjoyable. The sprawling audacity of “Yellow and Green” completely bought me back around though and “Purple” was the most anticipated release of 2015 for me. A consolidation of all that made “Yellow and Green” great with a slight increase in heaviness, “Purple” completely followed through on these expectations.

Here are a few great records I’ve haven’t had chance to fully digest yet but definitely deserve a mention here too:

Locrian – Infinite Dissolution

With The Dead – s/t

Sunn O))) - Kannon

Bismuth - Unavailing