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David Lee Rothmund’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2015

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bojack

Hey. So the problem I have is that I write the Shit That Comes Out Today column. This means I go through a lot of good shit and a lot of bad shit. It’s turned out that I no longer keep track of my favorites, only what I’ve heard in the last month or so. So invariably I will have forgotten something here. Also, the numbers are more like rough guidelines. Honestly, I didn’t have a top-number-one-mega-best album of this year, but a few stood out (and I guess one in particular, but for different reasons). Maybe this is all part of a grander change in my tastes, or maybe this is just me being a little shit. Either way, I truly and sincerely hope you enjoy clicking through these links and discovering some new music which will bring you enjoyment and hopefully the impulse to go to some shows and get rowdy and/or meditative, whichever is your thing. Mine’s been more the latter lately so that may sway my picks upwind from, say, last year’s pickings which included Rings of Saturn. I still like that album and I still like technical death metal, but it kinda just turns out to be the same ol’ handjob.

15. Havukruunu – Havulinnaan (NP061) (Naturmacht)

Every list has to have a wildcard, and so here it is: I stumbled upon Havukruunu not too long ago, and it was a good stumble. I fell, but face-first into a mushy and slightly damp pile of meticulously intertwined black/classic metal throwback riffs, and also complete darkness. I emerged a better human, or so I hope, and with better taste. Havulinnaan is not an expressly sad album, but it is a powerful one, with charges and lunges toward this goal of ultimate speed and total tube-destruction. I like their style, their album burns holes through most metals, and they’re from Finland.

ghost bath - moonlover14. Ghost Bath – Moonlover (Nothern Silence)

Like Deafheaven, only not shitty. Okay, only the latest Deafheaven album was shitty (Sunbather being quite good indeed), but nothing matches Moonlover. Ghost Bath just does it better, plain and simple. Not gonna fuss, time to get on with the meat of the list. My review of Moonlover is here. 

callisto secret youth13. Callisto – Secret Youth (Svart)

Look here, you greasy-eyed curmudgeon! Do you want to feel even more alone and despised and far-removed from society? Do you need music to cope with everyday life? And, as I’m sure you are, are you tired of the same old song: rip-roaring riffs, mega blastbeats, horrific Satan vocals, etc.? I.e. the well-worn metal path? Why not go post, but not too post (and not too progressive), but with just the right amount of mood (not whiny), but then again not really heavy? Then buy today: Secret Youth by Callisto, a band from Finland who have figured it all out, and have it figured all out!

12. Mgła – Exercises In Futility LP (No Solace)

I expect this album to be rated quite highly this year, and for good reason: it’s a good album, tried and true, any way you look at it, sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, yes sir indeed. But it’s not the best black metal album. And that’s okay, because live, Mgła (unpronounceable) has an uncanny ability to own your mind, even more so than The Contortionist, a completely different band but also known for putting on captivating live performances. And so it was: Mgła (“mg-wa”?) had my goddamn attention for what seemed like four hours straight, tickling my spinal cord and injecting alien substances into my mind and gut, brand spankin’ live, and I was sold! Warning: non-traditional black metal inside!

Abyssal Antikatastaseis11. Abyssal – Antikatastaseis (Profound Lore)

Deep, guttural, thundering bowling from goddamn hell. That’s the first thing you’ll notice about Antikatastaseis and the first thing you remember, i.e. last thing you’ll forget. Those sick, double-down-tuned vocals! You’ll be strolling down the street one day jamming the new Deafheaven album and suddenly! A pang in your side! Oh, the pain – oh, the only cure: truly destructive, sinister cavern vocals! Away with that other rubbish! Okay, aside from all that, the black metal behind all the grunting is top-notch, grade-A, like the really good maple syrup (expensive kind). With any knowledge of Profound Lore’s line-up, you’ll be able to get a small taste. Be sure to take a bite.

10. Elder – Lore (Armageddon Shop)

Rocking. That’s something tons of metal bands forget about. Like, what it is to just jam away in a groove! Maybe musicians pick up on it more (versus the layperson), but oftentimes too much jam can really fuck your sandwich up. I don’t know how Elder does it, but they jam the jam right back in the jam. Boredom is absent, lighters should be out; Mastodon sucks, we probably smoke weed. And also they don’t give a piddle or a shit at all, with their über-cool album artwork and sexy air. This album is un-unlovable, a finest expression of our collective postmodern stroke covering up the stale noises and weak effects of yore, but still with enough substance to rock you into the night, late night snacks and all. 

Rivers of Nihil - Monarchy9. Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy (Metal Blade)

Somewhere in the electronic flutter of the whole damn Internet, somebody here at MetalSucks wrote something to the effect of: Rivers Of Nihil are so good it’s not fair. And it’s so true! Oh, how true! Because Monarchy is the definitive one-size-fits-all metal album of 2015! Okay, that may not sound so hot an accolade – do not fear, for the message is so: Whatever you’re looking for, it’s within. All mystical ‘n’ shit, and it is; but if it’s black metal you seek, or death metal, or technical death metal, or straight-up modern metal, then Monarchy will feed your soul full until it’s bursting at the (existential) seams! Best track: all of them.

One Master Reclusive Blasphemy8. One Master – Reclusive Blasphemy (Eternal Death)

Ha! You think you know evil music! Quite possibly you do, but I dare you to compare it to this sumptuous and hedonistic ode to the triumph of absolute fucking horror. The pounding, thrashing, malicious sickness that needs to possess you in order to connect with this music – the utter disarray, violence, and complete penetration! Okay, maybe hyperbolism isn’t the best way to put it across, but more like this: many bands try to look it, but very few do it. Things in the real world that Reclusive Blasphemy reminds you of: bone saws, snuff films, Lucifer, and pants shopping. The album artwork looks like the kind of thing a madman would etch onto the electric chair as they’re waiting to flip the fry switch. Deep breaths: it’s a good one. 

Wiegedood7. Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed (Consouling Sounds) 

Black metal. Whew, what a fuckin’ subgenre that one is. Really wish there was a band or an album which could singlehandedly put a lot of it in perspective for me: the power, the intensity, the furled brows under long locks of sweaty, black hair, etc. Creepy masks and wood sculptures are good as well, and to that end (plus many more), Wiegedood fucking slays. Quote me: “perhaps the best initial few minutes of a black metal album this year.” True, and not meant to discount De Doden Hebben Het Goed  in any way (it’s on this list after all), because the remaining x-amount of minutes are pure and utter bliss! And how loud this album is, and sharp, and powerfully crystal and metallic and sleek, but at the same time raw and earthly, like it was dug up out in the enchanted forest – oh, the things, and the feels.

Nevoa6. Nevoa – The Absence Of Void (Altare)

As far as those “thinking” albums go, The Absence Of Void is one of the best, in that you need to think a lot to unravel its great mysteries, but that you need to think very little to be allowed access! So think of it more like a who’s-got-some-good-brain-control album. Are you good at meditation? Mindfulness approach maybe? Can you focus really powerfully on nothing at all? Ah, The Absence Of Void is the perfect album for that deep type of reflection, introspection, inspection, whatever. Atmosphere, that’s the key; mood is typically in control, no matter how much we like to think our rationales are in control. Just the right prod and bam! You’ll either be laughing immensely or sneering like a deranged wolf. Maybe those are your reactions to this album, and maybe they should be.

Artwork by Brian Smith
Artwork by Brian Smith

5. Horrendous – Anareta (Dark Descent)

You’d expect a band named Horrendous to write horrendous music (or maybe you wouldn’t), but they don’t. Oh my fucking god they don’t. Anareta is truly a thing of ugly beauty: a horned fucking beast with fingertips of silk and milky, soft skin! Okay his guts are spilling out (ditto: album cover), but that’s no matter. Horrendous “spills out” the new bar and handbook for death metal. As far as death metal riffs go, these are the best death metal riffs. The songwriting is likewise perfect. The vocals: bestial, sick. The guitar solos are inspired and holy. The drumming is sharp and mean and full of vigor. You get the idea!

A Forest Of Stars4. A Forest of Stars – Beware The Sword You Cannot See (Prophecy) 

Maybe you noticed, but most likely you didn’t, that I selected an avant-garde album as best album of 2013. I was dumber than hell back then and I, still, now stand by that choice (i.e. I’m even dumber now, but that’s beside the point)! This band is nothing like that band, nor are the albums even remotely the same, aside of course from their avant-garde-ness. In the case of Beware The Sword You Cannot See, this avant-garde-ness stems from the fact that this band is actually a… gentleman’s club? Wait. Their Bandcamp page makes clear: they’re “an exclusive brotherhood of Victorian Englishmen who consider themselves representatives of their era, an era as glorious and splendid as it is decadent.” Ah, so touché motherfuckers, are these hipsters, or are they gentlesirs/ladies? Or, they just plain goddamn awesome, if just a bit weird!

Awe3. Awe – Providentia (Pulversied) 

How extreme is extreme? Extreme like Mountain Dew? Extreme like a murderer with a salamander arm extreme (sorry, been watching X-Files lately)? Or how about extreme extreme, where the soundwaves literally fuck their way through your ear holes into your brain to really screw up some wiring. Providentia is an extreme black metal album of the most extreme variety. It’s also experimental as hell, contains three tracks only, the shortest being just shy of 15 minutes, and is pretty much unlistenable in one sitting. Though I haven’t read it, I imagine it to be the Infinite Jest of black metal albums. It may be one where a year is not nearly enough to fully appreciate its grand depth or beauty or depiction of existential suffering. It may take a lifetime of suffering and of experiences, which are probably one and the same anyhow.

2. Barishi – Howl EP                 

Credit where it’s due, the Emperor pulled this one out of the woodwork, somewhere from the magical unknown depths where amazing bands swim around unbothered. Fuck, when metal bands these days call themselves progressive, what do they actually mean? They must be thinking up some kind of overly dramatic, pseudo-meaningful reason why their music takes intensity further, goes a step “beyond” what has been done, [insert general cool-sounding marketing phrase here], etc. How about actually doing it, you assholes! Barishi does it. No pretext, no context, no subtext, no fucktext; just long*, gorgeous strokes of brilliant and utterly magnificent metal prose.

*Album is actually too short (it’s an EP, no fault)! For this reason it is not #1. Sorry.

1. Gunship – Gunship (Horsie in the Hedge)

Gunship

I’m sad to report some terrible news: there were no truly magnificent metal albums in 2015. I’m as heartbroken as you are, trust me (unless you’re pissed because you think I’m wrong, then the intensity of your pissed-ness is the same as my heartbroken-ness). I’m also sad to report some even more terrible news: the vast, vast majority of the music I listen to is metal (no shit), meaning that I have literally no taste or knowledge of any other type of music, electronic music included, and whatever the hell synthwave is. However, the first time I listened to this album, I immediately became enamored with the idea of a late-night, cross-country drive, at an alarmingly high rate of speed, through the rain, top down, hair flying back all crazy-like, no goddam destination, chain smoking Parliaments and drinking iced tea from the can. And with this album on, full 100% volume to the max. Tears well up in my eyes, it’s all okay, it’s all beautiful, and then I arrive at my destination: right back where I started. Here’s to a better 2016.

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