Six Noises’ 2015 Extravaganza: Metal Part 1
Welcome to the third post of Six Noises’ 2015 end-of-year shenanigans. Over the next few weeks, I’m letting fly with a bunch of lists cataloguing first-rate metal, punk, and riotous New Zealand albums from 2015. None of the posts are ranked, because all I really want to do is recommend a whole heap of great music.
Below is Part 1 of a two-part post highlighting some my favourite metal releases from 2015. Yes, I mention a lot of albums, but I’m not suggesting every single one is a pièce de résistance. However, what I definitely am suggesting is that every single album is, at the very least, a tour de force that’s well worth checking out.
As always, cheers for reading. Let’s dig in.
Tau Cross: Tau Cross (Relapse)
Tau Cross features members from Amebix, Voivod, Misery, and my favourite contemporary crust outfit, War//Plague. So, given that pedigree, it won’t surprise you when I say my expectations for the band’s self-titled 2015 album were, well, sky fuckin’ high. Thankfully, Tau Cross more than delivered. The album’s crusty and rough-hewn metal, and its steel-edged post-punk, were never less than exhilarating. Emotionally, Tau Cross hit like a ton of bricks as well. No question, Tau Cross was the album of 2015, for me.
Iskra: Ruins (Yehonala Tapes, and many more)
Seeds in Barren Fields: Let the Earth Be Silent After Ye (Self-released)
Hot on the heels of Tau Cross’ debut for my album of 2015 pick was Canadian anarchists Iskra’s latest politically-charged onslaught, Ruins. The metalhead punks dished out savage and crust-caked black metal on the album, proving Iskra remained iron-willed and unstoppable. Also likely to appeal, if you’re a fan of Iskra’s incensed tirades, was the raging anti-human screed Let the Earth Be Silent After Ye, courtesy of bullet-belted Swedish punks Seeds in Barren Fields.
Akitsa: Grand Tyrans (Hospital Productions)
Délétère: Les Heures de la Peste (Sepulchral Productions)
Two Quebec-based bands released the frostiest and bitterest metal I heard all year. Grand Tyrans, the fifth full-length from long-running outfit Akitsa, was a breathtaking barrage of vitriolic and skin-flaying black metal. Equally ice-cold and corrosive was the work of black metallers Délétère, who got off to a roaring start with their merciless debut, Les Heures de la Peste.
Nightfell: Darkness Evermore (20 Buck Spin)
Portland duo Nightfell features the formidable lineup of guitarist/vocalist Todd Burdette (Tragedy, Severed Head of State, Warcry, His Hero Is Gone etc) and drummer/vocalist Tim Call (Aldebaran, Weregoat, The Howling Wind, and many more). The band’s colossal sophomore album, Darkness Evermore, featured an ultra-heavy and often crust-coated blend of doom, black, and death metal; with a whole heap of graveyard Gothic grimness slathered on. Darkness Evermore was unparalleled black magic, as expected.
Satan: Atom by Atom (Listenable Records)
Metal’s old guard had a great year in 2015. Rip-roaring albums from veteran acts such as W.A.S.P, Grave, Napalm Death, Queensryche, Stryper, Saxon, and Iron Maiden drew a lot of (mostly) well-deserved praise. Top of the old warhorse warriors list, for me, was NWOBHM speed-demons Satan. The band’s hugely enjoyable Atom by Atom release underscored that Satan had abundant (and high-octane) energy and creativity left in the tank.
Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons (Crepúsculo Negro)
Arizmenda and Volahn released two of the best black metal albums I’ve ever heard at the tail-end of 2014 with Stillbirth in the Temple of Venus and Aq’Ab’Al respectively. In 2015, Arizmenda and Volahn returned with Black Twilight Circle blood brothers Shataan and Kallathon to explore badlands and star-strewn skies on the utterly enthralling Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons compilation. Volahn channelling black metal from barren lands on their stunning contribution, “Chamalcan”, stands out as one of 2015’s very best songs.
Sunn O))): Kannon (Southern Lord)
Sunn O)))’s Kannon was the avant-garde band’s most stripped-down metal release since 2005’s Black One. The album featured Sunn O)))’s usual mix of meditative drone, low-end crawling riffs, feedback and rumbling distortion, and vocalist Attila Csihar’s always transfixing vocal madness. However Kannon was also markedly shorter and less ornate than Sunn O)))’s last ‘solo’ release, Monoliths & Dimensions. It was fantastic to hear the drone wizards still searching the hinterlands of sound for new heavyweight and mesmerising spells.
Black Cilice: Mysteries (Iron Bonehead)
Murg: Varg & Björn (Nordvis)
Orgy of Carrion: Everlasting Blood of Night (Self-released/Defiled Light)
Barghest: Into Weeping Firmament (Self-released)
Inevitably, every year, my favourite black metal always ends up being the kind of stuff that sounds like battery acid in your earholes. Like the raw and abrasive noise found on Black Cilice’s fiendishly (and fantastically) harsh full-length, Mysteries. Or on Orgy of Carrion’s ultra-lo-fi and uber-ugly Everlasting Blood of Night. Swedish trio Murg’s debut, Varg & Björn, was a ferocious reminder of black metal’s earliest and rawest promise too. While Barghest, masters of strident villainy, returned in 2015 with their corrosive and hostile Into Weeping Firmament EP.
Dispirit: Separation (Self-released)
Speaking of bleeding raw, Dispirit’s Separation demo from 2015 was coarse as hell and yet wholly intimidating nonetheless. Dispirit features vocalist and guitarist John Gossard, who has played with underground legends Asunder and Weakling. And if Separation underscored anything, it’s that when Dispirit finally deliver a full-length chock-a-block full of their patented blackened doom, Gossard is sure to be playing on yet another stupendously heavy, emotionally devastating, and altogether classic release.
Fister: IV (Pissfork Anticulture)
Nightslug: Loathe (Broken Limbs, Dry Cough, Lost Pilgrims)
Dopethrone: Hochelaga (Totem Cat Records)
Primitive Man deal in bleak-as-a-funeral slabs of 10-tonne, crust-coated sludge and doom. The band’s Home Is Where the Hatred Is EP was, like all of Primitive Man’s releases thus far, cataclysmically heavy and psychologically shattering. However, not to be outdone in the mind-mangling and ultra-nihilistic sludge stakes, were Fister’s IV and Nightslug’s Loathe. While Canadian stoner doom merchants Dopethrone got sinisterly sludgy and filthy in the best possible way on their heavyweight Hochelaga album in 2015.
I’ve long been obsessed with Finnish psychedelic metal misfits Oranssi Pazuzu, and I’m pretty damn excited that their new album,Värähtelijä, is due out in early 2016. However, in 2015, it was the turn of fellow Finns Abyssion to pick up the eccentric black metal mantle and run with it on their debut, Luonnon Harmonia ja Vihreä Liekki. Abyssion threaded a piercing second-wave racket through a lot of Hawkwindian weirdness on Luonnon Harmonia ja Vihreä Liekki, and injected plenty of post-punk’s bitterly cold ambience along the way. Highly recommended for freaks and weirdos. Like us.
Panopticon: Autumn Eternal (Bindrune Recordings)
Nechochwen: Heart of Akamon (Bindrune Recordings)
Wilt: Moving Monoliths (Bindrune Recordings)
Alda: Passage (Bindrune Recordings)
Autumn Eternal was another triumph of soul-stirring metal from Austin Lunn’s Panopticon. Like the band’s best work, Autumn Eternal conjured a strong sense of time and place, and Nechochwen’s stunning Heart of Akamon album (also released by first-rate label Bindrune Recordings) evoked a similarly powerful and resonant response while exploring Native American traditions and rituals. Those albums weren’t the only Bindrune releases of note in 2015 either. Alda’s rustic and atavistic black metal voyaging on Passage definitely appealed. As did doom and black metal band Wilt’s aptly immense, Moving Monoliths.
Mastery: Valis (The Flenser)
Pale Chalice: Negate the Infinite and Miraculous (Gilead Media)
Furze’s outré brilliance on Baphomet Wade, and Jute Gyte’s microtonal mayhem on Ship of Theseus, provided a couple of high points on the challenging/eccentric black metal spectrum in 2015. However, 666% more demanding and demented than those releases was Mastery’s Valis. Multi-instrumentalist Ephemeral Domignostika (aka one-man musical maestro Steve Peacock) unquestionably produced the most unrelentingly and mind-bending black metal release of 2015 with Valis. But you should also check out Pale Chalice’s Negate the Infinite and Miraculous album: a less freakish but nonetheless storming USBM release from 2015 which featured Peacock on bass and vocals.
Ares Kingdom: The Unburiable Dead (Nuclear War Now!)
Ares Kingdom is the most heavy metal band on this end-of-year list. Or on any list. Ever. The cult underground conquerors dealt in thunderous and bludgeoning thrash and death metal on their third full-length, The Unburiable Dead, in 2015. The album hammered home exactly why strong-willed, bullshit-free, and totally uncompromising heavy metal is eternally appealing. A lot of bands on this list might be more well-known than Ares Kingdom. But none of them are as formidable.
Revenge: Behold.Total.Rejection (Season of Mist)
I think the words I wrote in 2015 about Revenge’s Behold.Total.Rejection still capture the album well: “Behold.Total.Rejection is the equivalent of standing in front of a mine-sweeping tank in the heat of battle. All flailing chains and reinforced armour and tracks, followed by ceaseless and decimating barrages”. Behold.Total.Rejection was a merciless assault on the senses. Perfectly unhinged. Perfectly annihilating.
Malokarpatan: Stridžie Dni (Self-released)
I’m pretty sure Malokarpatan is the first band from Slovakia that I’ve ever heard. But what an introduction! The band’s Stridžie Dni album from 2015 wrapped Ye Olde goblin-and-giant-friendly black metal around devilish folklore and fables. Think Venom reinterpreting the Brothers Grimm, while guzzling endless pints, at the witching hour. Think early-80s total rawness, and the take-no-prisoners exuberance of the same era. Stridžie Dni was a total blast.
Paradise Lost: The Plague Within (Century Media)
My Dying Bride: Feel the Misery (Peaceville Records):
After 25 years treading the boards, UK doom veterans Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride both released inspired albums in 2015 that ranked alongside their very best. Paradise Lost’s The Plague Within and My Dying Bride’s Feel the Misery showed huge amounts of musical prowess and creative passion. And while doom and gloom was the consistent setting on both superlative albums, I always had a huge smile on my face listening to them both.
Misþyrming: Söngvar Elds og Óreiðu (Fallen Empire, Terratur Possessions)
Hæthen: Shaped by Aeolian Winds (Fallen Empire)
Lluvia: Eternidad Solemne (Fallen Empire)
Serpents Lair: Circumambulating the Stillborn (Fallen Empire)
Icelandic black metal band Misþyrming’s debut, Söngvar Elds og Óreiðu, was well deserving of all the effuse praise it received in early 2015. However, Söngvar Elds og Óreiðu wasn’t the only release from Misþyrming’s label, Fallen Empire, that impressed in 2015. See also, extremely and equally strong black metal releases from pagan horde Hæthen (Shaped by Aeolian Winds), Mexico’s dark lords Lluvia (Eternidad Solemne), and Danish villains Serpents Lair (Circumambulating the Stillborn).
Akhlys: The Dreaming I (Debemur Morti Productions)
Nightbringer vocalist and guitarist Naas Alcameth is the brains behind Akhlys, and Akhlys dealt in dark ambient soundscapes on their 2009 debut, Supplication. This year’s The Dreaming I featured more outright black metal than it did ambient whispers, but it still evoked a genuine sense of night terrors and blood-curdling unease. In fact, The Dreaming I would’ve made the absolute perfect soundtrack to The Nightmare, a superbly creepy 2015 documentary that explored sleep paralysis through spine-chilling reenactments and interviews.
Killing Joke: Pylon (Spinefarm)
Killing Joke’s 15th album, Pylon, was one of the legendary band’s finest and most ferocious releases yet. Pylon was heavy as hell––both sonically and emotionally––so that’s why it’s on this list, even though Killing Joke aren’t really a metal band at all. Still, if Pylon highlighted one thing vividly, it’s that Killing Joke don’t care about genre tags or fussy rules about who’s allowed to do what. They’re clearly still a band driven by ravenous creative hunger, because Pylon was an utterly exhilarating release in that regard. No question, one of 2015’s very best albums.
Hateful Abandon: Liars/Bastards (Candelight)
Killing Joke’s influence could clearly be heard on UK band Hateful Abandon’s Liars/Bastards album which was (re)released by Candlelight Records early in 2015. Like Killing Joke’s Pylon, Liars/Bastards isn’t a metal album per se. But it’s included here because Hateful Abandon combined post-punk, industrial and anarcho punk influences with an ice-cold black metal timbre on the album. Liars/Bastards is simply one of those releases that far more people need to hear about.
Magic Circle: Journey Blind (20 Buck Spin)
Magic Circle emerged from Boston’s punk scene, but the band deal in battle-vested early 80s metal that strikes “a balance with the pituitary culture it begat, and the tunes it jacked out … Every collective thought burnt into a dirty tape dub of Mob Rules.” Magic Circle’s second LP, Journey Blind, was jam-packed with doomy, down-and-dirty, and even a few heavyweight classic rock riffs. All topped off by vocalist Brendan Radigan’s pitch-perfect howling over the band’s towering anthems.
Cruciamentum: Charnel Passages (Profound Lore)
Pissgrave: Suicide Euphoria (Profound Lore)
Undergang: Døden Læger Alle Sår (Dark Descent)
I like my death metal thuggish, grimmer than a catastrophe, reeking of the crypt, and more evil than evil. (In other words, indebted to Autopsy, Incantation and kin.) This year, Cruciamentum’s Charnel Passages and Adversarial’s Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism ticked all the bludgeoning, menacing, fetid, and diabolic boxes for me. Plus, throw an extra layer of sinister sonic sewage on top of those elements, and you’ve got two more albums well worth tracking down: Pissgrave’s Suicide Euphoria and Undergang’s Døden Læger Alle Sår.
Triumvir Foul: Triumvir Foul (Vrasubatlat)
Triumvir Foul’s self-titled debut plummeted into an old school (and clearly Autopsy-influenced) abyss of squealing solos, esoteric nastiness, and sawtoothed riffs. In the band’s own words, Triumvir Foul is a, “vessel for hedonism, corruption… and the embodiment of one’s depravity and weakness expressed through worship of the three serpents.” So expect monstrous sounds, and torrents of black-hearted bile. You won’t be disappointed.
Shape of Despair: Monotony Fields (Season of Mist)
Bell Witch: Four Phantoms (Profound Lore)
Hooded Menace: Darkness Drips Forth (Relapse)
Monolord: Vænir (RidingEasy Records)
I don’t listen to a lot of funeral doom, but Monotony Fields, from Finnish masters of misery Shape of Despair, was a mournful and moving album that I couldn’t help but return to over and over again in 2015. Similarly, the deep dark depths of Bell Witch’s Four Phantoms and Hooded Menace’s Darkness Drips Forth were equally transfixing. While Monolord’s Vænir featured massive amp-melting riffs and a tripped-out tenor to die for.