Want to know what members of Slugdge, Vod, and Hadean thought were the best albums of the year? Look no further!
Matt Moss – Slugdge
Leviathan – Scar Sighted | DEVOUT rcrds
Excerpt from Christian’s review: “As a musician, Whitehead exists in the pantheon of Great Artists willing to reinvent themselves over and over in pursuit of perfection. With Scar Sighted, he is one step closer. This album proves Whitehead is unafraid to draw from his own unique, immediately identifiable style and recreate it in a way unlike any of his past works.”
Horrendous – Anareta | Dark Descent
Excerpt from Leif’s review: “I’ve lived with this album for close to a month now, and I do mean LIVED with it. Anareta has been a near daily companion since its arrival in my mailbox. It’s invaded my earholes at home, at work, at the gym, in my car, and even when it isn’t playing I find myself singing it or humming my favorite riffs. It’s a truly fantastic death metal album that has just gotten more and more enjoyable with each successive listen, even after a month of intimacy. Does it measure up to Ecdysis? It absolutely does, a feat that at best seemed improbable only a year removed from that album. Horrendous are proving one album at a time that they’re ready to conquer the death metal mountain, and I, for one, welcome our new East Coast overlords.”
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat | Century Media
Excerpt from Ed’s review: “Overall, this album is consistently good from start to finish. Just as the title track launched the record into full-throttle with a bizarre and off-kilter martial aggression, “Adversarial – Copulating Snakes,” the album closer, finishes the fight with all the prowess and deadly violence of a decorated veteran. At over five minutes, it’s half frenetic grind and half slow-march breakdown. It is the trumpet that signals victory at the end of a conflict.”
Frontierer – Orange Mathematics | Independent
Excerpt from Simon Handmaker’s review at HBIH: “Frontierer may draw their emotive qualities from the sort of mood one wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy, but this is music that can (and should) be recommended to anyone. Updating the chaotic, ugly, powerhouse sound last heard with Danza 4 in 2012 and expanding outwards on it with electronics and different songwriting direction, ORANGE MATHEMATICS brings its own spin on the framework provided by Josh Travis in a way that is simultaneously refreshing and comfortably familiar. Mathcore fanatics, eat your heart out.”
Cult Leader – Lightless Walk | Deathwish Inc.
Excerpt from Ron’s review: “A wide array of subgenres are at play on Lightless Walk, and a whole host of artists have become adept at intertwining them to forge an identity for themselves. Cult leader has this working for them in a way that others do not; the genres in play can be heard simultaneously meshing as elements of sludge, hardcore, doom, black metal, grind and crust all come together without one fighting for superiority over the other throughout. It’s a rare feat that can only be attributed to the myriad of influences that make up Cult Leader’s sound. These are the types of albums that have the potential to influence many others for years to come. Time is sure to judge this album favorably as it explores a wide range of emotions from anger to hopelessness that listeners routinely tap into when listening to heavy music. Under most circumstances, it would be ill advised to follow a cult leader of any stripe, but if this particular Cult Leader is serving Kool-Aid, you’re going to drink it up like those folks in Jonestown.”
Ur Draugr – With Hunger Undying | ATMF
Excerpt from Dubya’s Toilet Tuesday plug: “If I had to pick one word to describe With Hunger Undying, it would be sick. Just listen to “Seeds Sown in Famine”. While a nauseous guitar lead vomits all over the rhythm skronk, a stuttering, drunken drum snare stumbles across the scene. So much seems to be going wrong in each song, yet all the parts somehow combine to make something truly special. Do not miss it.”
Mgła – Exercises in Futility | No Solace
Excerpt from Stanley’s 18 Days guest post: “On July 26th, Mgła announced on their Facebook page that their third full-length album,Exercises in Futility had been recorded and was scheduled for release in late Summer. To say that I was excited about this announcement was a huge understatement and akin to Chief Brody’s classic litotes, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat.’ When our dear Toilet published the news, there was a palpable fervor in the community from a few who were already familiar with the band, but enough of a buzz was being generated for others to start checking them out.”
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction | Metal Blade
Excerpt from Karhu’s Toilet Tuesday plug: “Many of you know of my beef with this band. But it seems to me that I have achieved a relative peace with them. Their older releases no longer excite me at all (whereas they used, hence the disappointment) but The Anthropocene Extinction is different. Pretty much all songs feature Travis Ryan showing his vocal-capabilities (via “Gollum”-screeches or cleans of varying degrees) and the songwriting feels more focused than on earlier efforts. Despite never lacking speed, Anthropocene Extinction never feels grnding, more like extreme speed metal. All in all an excellent release and the bands only one I enjoy as a whole. ”
Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy | Metal Blade
Excerpt from Jack Bauer’s Toilet Tuesday plug: “Rivers of Nihil have improved on their brand of already facemelting death metal with technical influences by doing what Job For A Cowboy did last year and adding a lil’ prog and some of dat bass. This has resulted in them absoultely catapulting past the sound they had on the preceding album, and any fan of death metal should give these guys a chance!”
The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal | Metal Blade
Excerpt from Angry Metal Guy’s review on Angry Metal Guy: “This album feels like a throwback to early 2000s TBDM… sort of. With increased classical influences, a shine and compositional brilliance the band simply didn’t possess when they were so young, Abysmal outclasses that material. It’s not a direct continuation of the direction of Everblack, but I don’t think every record needs to be about pushing the boundaries of their sound. Sometimes it’s OK to just write a bunch of really great songs, put them into the perfect order and hit the road. Abysmal is the perfect antithesis to a pretentious scene glutting itself on 80 minute records that can’t get out of their own way; it’s tough, fast, refined, and slick. And when it’s all over, you want to start it over again. Abysmal? Just a clever name.”
Dave Tremblay – Vod
France’s black metal band with post-hardcore tendencies Déluge sends a terrifying barrage of blast beats and crushing tremolo-picked riffs. If you want an atmospheric black metal release that will stomp you to death, this is the one.
Interweaving black metal with grindcore and noise music, Dendritic Arbor have two releases in 2015: this one, and Sentient Village // Obsolescent Garden, which will be out December 30th. I had the chance to listen to it prematurely, and both releases will tear you to shreds.
An avant-garde metal album that puts the sax back in “blsaxck metal”, On Fading really deserves to be on this list, if only for their musical creativity. They frequently hop between genres and styles too so listening to this album is never boring, long after it’s released.
Jute Gyte – Ship of Theseus | Independent
Oh, Jute Gyte. I didn’t have a choice but to put one of their releases on this year’s list. Ship of Theseus is their latest and most experimental take on their microtonal progressive black metal sound. A truly haunting release to put around when it’s Krampus time.
Simply a legendary album! Laurestine was so unexpectedly good that my jaw is still on the floor – although by now the maggots have had the most of it. Basically, it’s an orchestra-focused atmospheric black metal album, but it’s so different than anything I’ve heard that it makes it unique. A fully recommended listen for anyone, any time!
You could call this space-black metal for their fascination with the outward universe, but if you want a depressive black metal album with hints of electronic music, this is probably what’s best out there.
Spectral Lore – Gnosis | I, Voidhanger
Applying their meticulous song crafting to more acoustic and Eastern-sounding music, Spectral Lore recently put out Gnosis, which is just an incredible work of art. The acoustic sections are thoroughly explored and deeply thought-out, while the more metal ones are just as good and not over-represented. This is another one that you just need to listen to.
Tempel released one of the best instrumental post-metal albums of the year with The Moon Lit Our Path. The riffs are often very ingenious and well developed throughout the songs. A real headbang-inducer.
VI – De Praestigiis Angelorum | Agonia Records
Another French release, from VI this time: De Praestigiis Angelorum is another tremolo-picking and blast beat assault on you. It’s a very hypnotic release, where you just fall into a second state and experience the album on a more fundamental level.
Wovoka – Saros | Locust Rising
A big, fat, ugly album of sludgy post-metal, Saros, from Wovoka, is still my go-to angry release this year. Instead of punching someone in the face, just put this on at maximum volume and let the hate flow.
David Parnell – Hadean
10. Farvel – Røk | Jazzlan
A quirky jazz album that features some very unique vocals. There is a lot of variety within the tracklist and the ensemble definitely is bringing something unique to the table. For fans of Skadedyr and Your Headlights Are On.
9. Daniel Herskedal – Slow Eastbound Train | Edition Records
Daniel Herskedal shows that the tuba doesn’t always have to be a solo instrument with this record. Slow Eastbound Train combines elements of classical and Scandinavian Folk to create something wholly unique. Listen to “The Mistral Noir”.
8. Kaija Saariaho – Let the Wind Speak | Ondine
This recording is a collection of Saariaho’s chamber works that feature flute. There are pieces that span 25 years on this recording that show her development as a composer. Camilla Hoitenga’s interpretations are masterful, and this is a great set that encapsulates her working relationship with Saariaho. If spectralism tinged with electronic elements is your game, Saariaho is someone to check out for sure. She doesn’t sacrifice being lyrical even though she is a member of the avant-garde.
7. John Luther Adams – The Wind in High Places | John Luther Adams
John Luther Adams follows up the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and GRAMMY winning piece Become Ocean with the more intimate The Wind in Places. This album contains two works for string quartet and one for cello choir. Adams continues to show his masterful take on minimalism with these pieces that are always moving forward and developing in the most minute ways.
6. Kristoffer Lo & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra – Savages | Propeller Recordings
Kristoffer Lo shows his unique voice on this recording with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Combining avant-garde jazz, pop, and metal/noise influences into a varied, yet coherent record. This live performance of “Savages II” and “Make Fame” speaks for itself.
Jacob Anderskov gets my vote for most ambitious album with this trilogy. Not only did Anderskov release three albums, he also wrote a dissertation that explores his compositional and improvisational habits. He also uses said analysis to show that a “post-tonal” harmonic language can be as natural as the major/minor tonalities we grow up with. The music is great, with a trio album of composed tunes coupled with two freely improvised records (one solo, one in a trio setting.) An ambitious album that shows that great art comes from effort and reflection. If you’re interested in the nerdy stuff here is the site that contains the dissertation, sheet music, etc.
4. Orchestre National de Jazz – Europa Berlin | Onjazz Records
Olivier Benoit continues his Europa series with Europa Berlin. This is the second album in the triptych, and shows that the orchestra and Benoit are jelling as a unit. There are influences of prog-rock, free jazz, noise, and modern classical music. This album is extremely dense, but there are strong themes, inventive forms, and very impressive group interplay and soloing. The ranks of the orchestra are filled with heavy hitters like Alexandra Grimal, Bruno Chevillon, and Eric Echampard. So you can continue your jazz odyssey by checking out the individual member’s solo projects. Watch a live performance here.
3. Michael Wollny – Nachtfahrten | ACT Music
Michael Wollny took a step away from the usual fiery, technical improvisational explorations employed on some of his earlier work (most notably with [EM]) on Nachtfahrten. While there is a lot more breathing space on this record, Wollny and his ensemble don’t take it easy. There are still moments of technical brilliance, but this recording is definitely an exploration into the more subtle side of Wollny’s musical language and really shows how well rounded he is.
2. Anna Thorvaldsdottir – In the Light of Air | Written for the International Contemporary Ensemble
Anna Thorvaldsdottir further demonstrates her mastery of timbre, sound, and structure with this new piece. In the Light of Air was commissioned for the International Contemporary Ensemble, who really brings Thorvaldsdottir’s music to life. There are no superfluous gestures here, every rhythmic and melodic theme that comes through the monolithic atmosphere is extremely effective. Ingenious writing. Watch “In the Light of Air” live.
1. Marius Neset – Pinball | ACT Music
On Pinball, Marius Neset continues to show why he is one of the most exiting new voices in European Jazz. The track list shows his skills as a composer and improviser in a multitude of genres and forms. From the slow burning ballad “Odes of You” to the tight interplay of tracks like “Police” and “Summer Dance” we see Neset and his band jump between tightly composed sections and freewheeling improvisation with finesse. Check out this excerpt from a recently recorded live show. Skip to 1:05:50 to hear an insane sax solo improvisation that segues into my favorite tune on this album, “Summer Dance.”