Saturday 2 January 2016

A Year in Review: Daniel Jackson's Top 25 Records of 2015

By: Daniel Jackson

2015. What a fucking calamity, right? Anyway, metal’s been here for me when I’m in a shitty mood, and when I’m in a great mood too, for that matter. People like to try to put a description on a year metal-wise, so I’d call 2015 a “really good” year for metal. Not at the level of the genre’s greatest years, of course. But, it’s a strong enough year that I’d question how invested in the genre someone is if they’re claiming the sky is falling too.

Here’s how the year broke down for me.

Top 5 EPs of 2015:

5. Pyrrhon - Growth Without End (Handshake Inc.)
4. Cryptopsy - Book of Suffering (Tome 1) (Self-released)
3. Mortals/Repellers - Split (Broken Limbs Recordings)
2. Throaat - Black Speed (Invictus Productions)
1. Blasphemic Cruelty - Crucible of the Infernum (Hell’s Headbangers)

My 10 Favourite Songs of 2015

10. Throaat - “Coven”
9. Trial - “To New Ends”
8. VHÖL - “The Desolate Damned”
7. Mortals - “10 Years of Filth”
8. Pale Chalice - “Shaking Nerves and Vacuous Spheres”
7. Tribulation - “Strange Gateways Beckon”
6. My Dying Bride - “Feel the Misery”
5. Horrendous - “Siderea”
4. Myrkur - “Onde Børn”
3. Aktor - “ I Was the Son of God”
2. Vattnet Viskar - “Colony”
1. Enslaved - “One Thousand Years of Rain”

Top 25 albums of 2015

25. Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches

This is the album we’ve wanted them to make for the last 15+ years. I covered things pretty well in my review, and my feelings on the album haven’t changed. It’s good to have you back, Cradle.

24. Nightslug - Loathe

Nastier than anything you’ll hear this year. My review

23. Vastum - Hole Below

I was a late bloomer when it comes to this album. I didn’t really get it at first but once it clicked it clicked in a huge way. My review.

22. Kampfar - Profan

I didn’t really get a chance to write about this album, but this the sort of black metal a band is capable of when they’ve been so consistently great over the course of 20 years. Proof positive that a time-tested sound can still be great when someone knows what they’re doing with it.

21. Trial - Vessel

Sweden is having something of a traditional heavy metal revival at the moment and Trial offer one of the more unique takes on it, working in nods to death metal and black metal in a way that fits their heavy/speed metal template.

20. Pale Chalice - Negate the Infinite and Miraculous

USBM with a distinctly European bent to it. Where a lot of American black metal seems to gravitate toward post metal and shoegaze right now, Pale Chalice separates themselves from the pack by avoiding the popular sound of the moment and putting together a razor sharp black metal that is cold, bleak, entrancing, and even more besides.

19. WiegedoodDe Doden Hebben Het Goed

Melodic black metal doesn’t get much better than this. My review.

18. Iskra - Ruins

I see a lot of people try and turn themselves into knots to explain why this is a mixture of crust and black metal, but looking at a photo of the band members and deciding that it HAS to be there doesn’t make it so. There’s an argument to be made for it from the band’s previous work, but ‘Ruins’ is a straight up black metal album. A great one, at that. It might have the ferocity of a powerviolence album, but it doesn’t sound anything like it from a riff standpoint. This could have been a Moonfog Records album from around 1999-2001, for fuck’s sake. Regardless of how you categorize it, ‘Ruins’ is an album well worth your time.

17. Gruesome - Savage Land

Most folks pretty well know the score here by this point. Gruesome loves the first three Death albums and wanted to make an album in that style. They succeeded, and made an album that would have sit nicely among those early classics.

16. Myrkur - M

You can blow your concerns about her authenticity out your ass. The music is excellent, and there are songs here that rival any other in 2015. The album’s a bit uneven, but the majority of the songs work so well that it overpowers the small issues the album has in places. Imperfect, but still magical and a vast improvement over the EP last year. My review.

15. Enforcer - From Beyond

Between this album, Trial’s ‘Vessel’, Ram’s ‘Svbversvm’, and Ambush’s ‘Desecrator’; Sweden has had an insane year for trad/speed metal, and Enforcer put out the best of the bunch in my opinion. Comparisons to Skull Fists’s album from last year make sense on the surface, but this album actually has a bit more variety to it. ‘From Beyond’ is absolutely rotten with catchy riffs and teeming with youthful energy.

14. Krallice - Ygg Huur

What can you say about Krallice? They’re utterly insane, and they operate on a very different level from most everybody you might call their contemporaries. Ygg Huur is wild, unrestrained, and progressive in a meaningful way (as in not just shoehorning some prog rock elements into an established style.).

13. Diavolos - You Lived, Now Die

This album came up late in the year and I wrote about it as part of a showcase for a loaded month of December for Hell’s Headbangers. It’s a throwback to a time when death metal was in its infancy and still shared a lot of similarities to thrash, but the songs are so undeniable and so well put together that being so obsessed with the past never feels like a bad thing.

12. Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs

This is the point in the list where things become supremely difficult to order. Even though I have this listed outside of the top ten, the only reason for this is because tying this album with 5 others would be a gigantic cop out. I enjoyed Obsequiae’s unique, medieval approach to melodic death/black metal every bit as much as I did other albums ranked higher, so when I say that this is one of the year’s finest album in any subgenre: believe it.


11. Reverie - Bliss

In my review for Rock N Reel, I was shouting this album’s praise and howling at the moon in utter delight at this album’s quality. While I’ve cooled my jets ever so slightly on it in the last 5 months, it’s still a massively impressive debut and one that was guaranteed to end up on a list like this. This is thrashing, vicious blackened death metal, with a personality all its own.

10. My Dying Bride - Feel the Misery

Another album that was difficult to put so low on this list. This album could just as easily be in my top 3, but you have to stop reordering the list eventually, or else this thing would never be finished. My Dying Bride reached the same heights they achieved in their second peak in the early 2000s with this album. You know what they sound like, and this is the top tier version of that sound.

9.  Akhlys - The Dreaming I

Hellish, nightmarish, and brimming with atmosphere. This is even better than the Nightbringer album from last year, though it has as much in common with Darkspace as it does with Nightbringer. My review.

8. Imperial Triumphant - Abyssal Gods

Like Krallice earlier in the list, Imperial Triumphant are batshit crazy. The difference here is that Imperial Triumphant’s insanity feels a lot more dangerous and malicious. Krallice; you can imagine them being normal human beings off stage. Imperial Triumphant might be fucking alien life forms using human bodies as hosts for all I know. Check out my review for greater detail.

7. Terzij de Horde - Self

I worked really hard on a review explaining why this album is so very important to black metal in 2015. Please read it here.

6. VHÖL - Deeper Than Sky

This album has all the imagination and creativity you could hope for in a heavy metal album. My review has got the finer points covered.

5. Horrendous - Anareta

Death metal as a whole didn’t have its best year in my opinion, but with a couple of exceptions (see the other death metal albums on this list) Horrendous outclassed everyone in the genre. My review.

4. Vattnet Viskar - Settler

For some reason a lot of people seem to want to compare Vattnet Viskar and Deafheaven, even though in my mind they’re not really doing the same thing. So, here’s how I feel about it: one of the two bands put out the best American black metal album of the year. The other band is Deafheaven.

3. Shrine of Insanabilis - Disciples of the Void

‘Disciples of the Void’ is everything I wanted from an orthodox black metal album in 2015. In fact, it’s simply the best pure black metal album of the year, working within what sounds like narrow confines, and still coming up with a rich, dynamic album. It’s chock full of massive moments, and in a just world, this will be remembered as one of the great black metal albums of the decade.

2. Aktor - Paranoia

This isn’t the heaviest album of the year, but it’s got hook after hook, and some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in the last five years. My review of the album was posted in mid January, and I’ve been listening to the album consistently since that time. Chris Black’s had a hell of a run the last 2 years, including Dawnbringer and High Spirits, and ‘Paranoia’ is the best of them all.

1. Enslaved - In Times

My review of the album doesn’t quite read like a review for the greatest album of the year, and that’s because as I returned to it throughout the year, it got better and better with each listen. ‘In Times’ is among Enslaved’s best albums and probably their best since ‘Below the Lights’. Following the disappointing ‘RIITIIR’, this was one hell of a way to come back.