Papa Blue Wingerschmidt’s Favorite Musical Recordings Of 2015
I say this every time, but truly mean it now more than ever:
WOW, WHAT A CRAZY YEAR…
So many unexpected ups, downs, sideways, diagonal twists and turns. 2015 marked a vastly significant turning point for me, and I am increasingly thankful for the killer music that has accompanied it all. Life can be difficult to comprehend sometimes, but clearly is for the living and great art usually comes from the most profound/challenging/overwhelming experiences, so let’s derive inspiration where we can, chalk it all up to the process, and keep the wheels spinning for another go-around.
Come get wrapped up deep in these loving parms and check out my favorite releases of the year…
15. Abrams – Lust. Love. Loss. (self-released)
These new kids on ye ol’ chopping block manage to carve out some refreshingly new terrain in what feels like should be overly familiar, exhausted territory. Lust. Love. Loss. is an unexpectedly wicked, vibrant album that feels easy to stuff in any heavy music lover’s stocking, especially one with an affinity for 90s-tinged proggy post-hardcore leanings. So many contemporary bands that erroneously utilize the over-utilized “older Mastodon” comparison should check this out to see how it’s really done right, but Abrams is far from a clone and definitely gets the blood pumping – this debut album is good for many enthusiastic listens.
Aight, here’s the deal: perhaps the heaviest “side project” from the ISIS/Converge/Cave In family (although frontman Aaron Turner has thankfully assured us that Sumac will continue on a consistent basis), this band/album takes an unbridled, punch-you-in-the-gut-a-hundred-times approach and succeeds in delivering one of the meatiest (yet simultaneously artsiest) releases of the year. Deal with it. Sure, we could assign the “supergroup” label here (Aaron from ISIS/Old Man Gloom, drummer Nick Yacyshyn from Baptists, and Brian Cook from Russian Circles/Botch/These Arms Are Snakes on bass), but this project feels like it has the autonomous legs to rise above associations and persist in its own right for many years to come. Make this deal.
Rip-roaring through a cavalcade of fiery riffage and thunderously psychotic yet virgin-tight drumming, everybody’s favorite new “supergroup” trio — featuring guitarist/vocalist Steve Brodsky (Cave In), drummer Ben Koller (Converge/All Pigs Must Die), and bassist Nick Cageo (Master of Sound at Brooklyn’s mighty Saint Vitus Bar) – build tenfold on the promise of 2013’s debut EP Helium Head with this sensational full-length. The Mutoids of Bleeder go far beyond, revving us up further with every high-octane twist and turn, and deftly cementing a permanent spot in our collective heavy unconscious. If you haven’t heard this electric offering, run don’t walk and make it happen ASAP aka
One of the shortest yet
sweetest gnarliest packages of the year, Constantly Off somehow feels like it transcends running time. Cognitively, I know that its length is a mere 18.5 minutes, but every time I’ve listened to this lil beast, it takes me to another place to such an extent that I always wonder how much time has really elapsed. And isn’t a dissociative psychotic break usually a telltale sign of a really good album? This is solid heavy noise rock with a refreshingly attentive approach to composition. Don’t fight it; get amped.
Post-metal mainstay Rosetta takes on a different form – and thus evolved sound – this time around, expanding to a fivesome with the addition of guitarist/vocalist Eric Jernigan (City Of Ships/Driftoff). The band still gives us healthy doses of epically rising crescendos and deep bouts of shoegaze-y heaviness, but on Quintessential Ephemera there is a heightened sense of melody, and it is weaved in perfectly throughout. Robust vocal harmonies co-exist calmly alongside Mike Armine’s quintessentially (!) mighty scream. This album lovingly wraps you up in a cozy sonic blanket, and manages to keep you warm and safe even at its most aggressive.
Q: How many tweedily-doos does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
As alluded to in my review of this album, somehow I managed to overlook StS’ studio offerings until now, and boy do I feel dumb about that. Far and away my favorite instrumental album of the year (this might be my 2nd fave btw), this collection of fiery compositions by bonafide guitar heroes gets me pumped every time. It’s impossible to deny the flashy, chop-heavy, pseudo-Satriani/Vai/Eric Johnson theatrics the stringsmen employ, but somehow every tune feels surprisingly economical, especially given the genre and vibe. Finally I get the strength of StS; here’s hoping you can look past all the tweedilys to find the purity and heart in V’s essence.
A few years ago I touted this band’s second album Defenders, Redeemist, and for mighty good reason. BAD. ASS. It’s difficult to talk about B!tM without mentioning the tragic passing of bassist/vocalist Kevin McDade back in 2013, but such a bittersweet pleasure to report that a fitting tribute has been executed in his honor, and what an album it is to behold indeed. Thunderous doomy riffs for days, ripping uptempo sections that sneak right in but never disrupt the flow, fierce dynamic vocals (in the form of new member Jordan Nalley, who randomly crossed paths with fretmaster Matt Price at a Mastodon show, became his vocal coach, then implored him to join the band) – this is not yer mama’s stony album. Get ready to imbibe the ganja-fueled odyssey of the future.
Leave it to Candiria’s wildly inventive guitar player John LaMacchia to spearhead yet another innovative, envelope-pushing project (sheesh, save some for the rest of us, dood). There was no question after hearing Spylacopa’s 2008 debut EP that something unique and exciting was happening, but back then it was difficult to imagine the band putting out further releases, given the lineup’s star power vocal contributions (DEP’S Greg Puciato and elusive siren turned metal mommy Julie Christmas), among other well-known members. But anyone who knows Dr. LaMacchia knows that homie don’t ever quit, and lo and behold…a Spylacopa full-length album finally appeared to kick our asses. Counting the moments til the next one, which rumor has it won’t be long.
7. Elder – Lore (Armageddon Shop)
Jammy heavy bands sometimes get a bad rap, but it’s a challenge to speak negatively about this lush, heady Boston trio. Easily the band’s best album yet, Lore feels like the world’s best jamband grew a massive pair of balls, fed you the world’s cleanest mushrooms, and led you on an expansive trip through time and space. We sure do get our money’s worth here, and I for one am ready for many, many more miracles from this fluid, fiery band.
My brobro from another momo Vincent K. Neilstein may have reminded me/us recently that I was the ding-dong who originally introduced the MetalSucks Universe to the wondrous world of Intronaut almost a decade ago (although there is certainly a Shirley out there who would surely jump at the chance to take ownership of introducing the band to me originally), but in retrospect there’s no doubt we wouldn’t have encountered this fantastic band’s sultry sounds before long anyway. Intronaut deftly forges a highly unique vibe combining jazzy, groovy, progressive metal through the fiery aid of dazzling musicianship and perhaps the most underrated/underappreciated harmoniously winning dual vocals in our entire scene. The Direction of Last Things is no exception — again these SoCal soldiers have given us a spectacular array of music that is so distinctly Intronaut that you’ll just have to spin it a gazillion times to be satisfied. Or, y’know, feel free to revisit the band’s amazing back catalog.
Quite the cornucopia of aural delights to enjoy here. This may be one of the year’s most psychedelic offerings, but don’t think for a second that you’d necessarily need any mind-altering substances to accompany it — the truth is that this album will make you high all on its own. Although if you did happen to feel the urge to get tripped-out on whatever your particular trip is (toad-licking, perhaps?), something tells me you’d be in good company and well taken care of by the music. ATW have an organic sound and feel that embodies a natural spirit of folk-friendly yet bombastic, classic rock-inspired yet psych-leaning mastery. The generic descriptive words “deep” and “heavy” take on whole new meanings when applied to a work of such sheer, deliberate force like this.
Seriously though, what planet does this unbelievable blackened progressive death metal band come from? Sure, I know technically it’s a duo (that sounds like an army) from the UK (Universal Kosmos?), but something about Slugdge has always struck me as otherworldly. The riffs/groove/drumming/vocals sure as hell don’t sound like they came from humans – oh wait duh, of course they came from the most br00tal slugzzz of all time… Just like the band’s previous phenomenal albums, this one never quits and will make you totally BUG THE FUCK OUT (thank you).
Your t-shirt what was and then some… Between The Buried Et Moi has always been ridiculously tight live — a seemingly impossible feat given the complexity of the music — but in addition to jaw-dropping musicianship, this album really marks a return to form composition-wise in particular. By and large BTBAM’s strongest offering since Colors, Coma Ecliptic re-ups the ante in all manners, from groove to melody to shreddzzz and far beyond. Once the head-bopping chorus of “The Coma Machine” takes hold, it’s nigh impossible to escape the arresting journey to follow. If you ever gave up on this band or simply want to get down for the first time, get right in here.
A lush, sonically rich achievement extending far beyond even Scrooge McDuck’s vault of production capabilities, The Crash & The Draw is a phenomenally dense, soundscape-laden, gorgeous yet relentless album. Producer Sanford Parker essentially retains his former membership in the band by creating an unparalleled sonic palette that deserves accolades all on its own. But then again, of course the personnel performing has expertly crafted musical journeys calling for the perfect blend of studio wizardry, which Parker has executed in droves. So should we be hyping the chicken or the egg here? Well in this ideal symbiosis one doesn’t actually exist without the other, so rather than get hung up on formalities let’s just devour this rich, highly transcendent art instead.
1. Dead Letter Circus – Aesthesis – (UNFD/The End)
Holy melody… nobody has given us such an overpowering vocal delivery this year as DLC’s Kim Benzie. But the real force here is in the hooks – every triumphant, anthemic chorus rings with earnest emotion and deservedly gets stuck deep in the corners of your brain for days. All members of this Aussie outfit feel essential though, and the highly accessible, almost radio-friendly songs are set up dynamically by the players, creating a perfect, progressively rockin’ bed for a truly jaw-dropping clean singer. If you are down with bands like Dredg/Karnivool/Tesseract/The Contortionist, you will love these guys. DLC may not be tr00 in the heaviest sense, but this material certainly speaks all sorts of truth if you can handle its overwhelming honesty and beauty.
2015 ALBUM TO GET STONED TO:
Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse)
Admittedly I have ingested a minimal amount of THC this year, but this is certainly a perfect album for it…
Listen: “Two Urns”
FAVORITE NON-METAL ALBUM OF THE
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
If this wasn’t a metal website, Carrie and Lowell would absolutely be at the top of my list for favorite album of 2015, perhaps even the decade so far. In a way Sufjan Stevens has totally done it again but more accurately he is doing something new yet again; this unbelievably consistent collection of truly earnest, profoundly emotional, devastatingly heartbreaking, vibrantly REAL songs connects in such a simple heartfelt way that it offers a reminder that everyone hurts in oh so many ways. Sufjan just might be the best at communicating it musically.
Listen: “Death With Dignity”
Well there you have it; another “year” (i.e., 11 months in the MS Universe) of metal sucking in the can.
The Christmas music has started. The darkness is commencing. If we make it out, I’ll see you in January. If not then…
We were brave.