Six Noises’ 2015 Extravaganza: Metal Part 2
Welcome to the fourth 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 2 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.
Ufomammut: Ecate (Neurot Recordings)
Dark Buddha Rising: Inversum (Neurot Recordings)
The two albums from 2015 that highlighted everything I love about the heavier end of the psychedelic metal spectrum were Ufomammut’s Ecate, and Dark Buddha Rising’s Inversum. Both releases explored the realms of lysergic sludge, doom, and drone with zero regard for imaginative restraint, resulting in albums of immense creative depth, vision and execution.
Aktor: Paranoia (High Roller Records)
It’s no surprise that I absolutely loved Aktor’s 2015 debut, Paranoia, considering the band features three of my favourite musicians: Chris “Professor” Black (from High Spirits, Dawnbringer, etc), and Jussi Lehtisalo and Tomi Leppänen (from the eccentric and forever morphing Finnish rock and metal collective, Circle). Aktor’s Paranoia featured a (somewhat) similar sound and feel to the metal-edged AOR exploits found on High Spirits’ rip-roaring 2014 album, You Are Here. So if even smoother 80s hard rock sound injected with a few off-kilter elements appeals, then Paranoia is the album for you.
Corrupted: Loss (Crust War)
To be honest, I thought Japanese sludge and doom legends Corrupted were dead and buried. But the band returned––as under the radar as ever––with their two-song 7”, Loss, in 2015. Loss featured less than 10 minutes of new music, but that’s all Corrupted needed to remind us that no one makes dark, heavy and menacing music like they do. Hell, Loss really only contained one metal track––the other being a grim ambient crawl––but it still made for an altogether intimidating experience.
Vastum: Hole Below (20 Buck Spin)
Abyss: Heretical Anatomy (20 Buck Spin)
The previous albums from San Francisco-based death metal band Vastum were impressively heavyweight affairs, but 2015’s Hole Below took things to an even more psychologically twisted level. Hole Below also happened to be Vastum’s best album in terms of overall musical strength. And Vastum’s label, the always interesting 20 Buck Spin, also released another very strong death metal album in 2015 with Abyss’ skull-crushing good time Heretical Anatomy.
Leviathan: Scar Sighted (Profound Lore)
Obviously, and understandably, Leviathan mainman Jef “Wrest” Whitehead remains a controversial figure. However, creatively, Whitehead produced some of his most harrowing and altogether awe-inspiring work on Scar Sighted in 2015. The album was Leviathan’s most engrossing release yet, in terms of its mix of dark experimentalism and heads-down, barbed-wire riffing, and there’s no question that Scar Sighted was a cathartic blast of pitch-black noise.
Kauan: Sorni Nai (Blood Music)
In all likelihood, Kauan’s 2015 album, Sorni Nai, will end up being the band’s true masterpiece. Certainly, the folk, metal, and gentle keyboards and voices blended together on the album evoked a genuine and often breathtaking sense of tragedy and horror as Kauan explored the famed Dyatlov Pass incident, where nine hikers met their deaths in mysterious circumstances in the northern Ural Mountains in 1959. Sorni Nai was aptly shrouded in a winter chill, and the melancholic music within brought solemnity to an album that honoured loss, mystery and grief with vivid beauty.
Manilla Road: The Blessed Curse (Golden Core Records)
Visigoth: The Revenant King (Metal Blade)
Magister Templi: Into Duat (Cruz del Sur Music)
Trial: Vessel (High Roller Records)
I don’t keep a close eye on the world of power or traditional metal these days. But I thoroughly enjoyed stalwart Manilla Road’s rough-hewn double album The Blessed Curse in 2015. Visigoth’s The Revenant King was a storming debut that I’d highly recommend for fans of power metal as well. As I would Into Duat, the phenomenal second LP from doomier Norwegian five-piece Magister Templi. Swedish trad metal quintet Trial’s second album, Vessel, was a HUGE step up from the band’s debut. And if you’re paying a visit to Trial via the Soundcloud page of their label, High Roller Records, make sure you check out labelmate Ambush’s rip-snorting Desecrator album from 2015.
Goatsnake: Black Age Blues (Southern Lord)
It’s not often a band can return from 15 years in the wilderness and release an album that’s anywhere near as good as their best work. But that’s exactly what Goatsnake did on 2015’s Black Age Blues. With sky-high doom riffs galore, and massive amounts of heft and swing, Black Age Blues featured a bluesy undercurrent that sealed its down ’n’ dirty rock ’n’ roll spirit. Phenomenal.
Bonehunter: Evil Triumphs Again (Hells Headbangers)
Radioactive Vomit: Ratsflesh (Iron Bonehead)
Nothing makes me happier than an unhinged, unrefined and uber-nihilistic racket. Like the ear-piercing music of one-man punked-up black metal and noise project Leather Chalice (aka Jan Slezak, from crust villains Ramlord). Leather Chalice dropped two fantastically caustic and thus hugely enjoyable splits in 2015 with Gidim and Human Bodies, on the always fascinating label Broken Limbs Recordings. (See also the marvellous Fallow Fields album from Canadian black and folk metal band Harrow, and the gloriously lo-fi black metal, punk and deathrock head-fuckery of Cape of Bats’ Violent Occultism album released by Broken Limbs in 2015.) Elsewhere, on the harsher front, Bonehunter ripped into coarse and crossover sonic territory on their 2015 release Evil Triumphs Again. While Radioactive Vomit’s 2015 7”, Ratsflesh, was revolting, obnoxious, and brain-battering. Or, in other words, perfectly fucking feral.
Archgoat: The Apocalyptic Triumphator (Debemur Morti Productions)
Goat Semen: Ego Svm Satana (Hells Headbangers Records)
Tetragrammacide: Typhonian Wormholes: Indecipherable Anti-Structural Formulæ (Iron Bonehead Productions)
Genocide Shrines: Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil: Scriptures of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder (Vault of Dried Bones)
Speaking of red-raw heavy metal, my pick for four of the evilest and most corrosive-sounding releases from 2015 are as follows. Archgoat’s The Apocalyptic Triumphator––more first-rate and thoroughly ugly sacrilegiousness from veterans Ritual Butcherer and Lord Angelslayer. Goat Semen’s Ego Svm Satana––a wonderfully murky and malevolent debut from the Peru-based band. Tetragrammacide’s Typhonian Wormholes: Indecipherable Anti-Structural Formulæ––Hell’s hateful heartbeat, or some kind of swarm of horrifying noise from the Indian band. And Genocide Shrines’ Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil: Scriptures of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder––an aptly murderous mass of pitch-black metal from the Sri Lanka-based group.
With the Dead: S/T (Rise Above Records)
With the Dead features Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral frontman) on vocals, along with Tim Bagshaw (ex-Electric Wizard, ex-Ramesses) on bass and guitars, and Mark Greening (Ramesses, ex-11 Paranoias, ex-Electric Wizard) on drums. So… yeah, that’s a lineup and a half then. The band’s self-titled debut this year was pure (black) magic filled with acid-fried doom and fuelled, in part, by Dorrian, Bagshaw and Greening’s ill-feelings towards the mighty ‘Wiz. Who knew a grudge could be so goddamn productive? Because With the Dead was a massive and incredibly dark slab of psychedelic metal that swept––or more accurately, stomped––all over any likely competitors to the doom crown in 2015.
Wiegedood: De Doden Hebben het Goed (ConSouling Sounds)
Caïna: Setter of Unseen Snares (Broken Limbs Recordings)
Wiegedood’s De Doden Hebben het Goed found musicians from respected punk and post-metal/hardcore bands like Oathbreaker, Rise and Fall, Amenra, and Hessian working together on a decimating black metal album that ranks among this year’s very best. On the opposite (although no less decimating) side of the coin, Caïna’s Setter of Unseen Snares saw band founder Andrew Curtis-Brignell inject far more crusty punk and gothic post-punk into his black metal band’s sound. Resulting in an album that serves as one of Caïna’s most thrilling and furious yet.
Bosse-de-Nage: All Fours (The Flenser)
Yellow Eyes: Sick with Bloom (Gilead Media)
Vanum: Realm of Sacrifice (Profound Lore)
Imperial Triumphant: Abyssal Gods (Code666 Records)
Out on the fringes of USBM, Bosse-de-Nage’s experimentations on All Fours surveyed genuinely innovative sonic soundscapes in 2015. Elsewhere around the USBM camp, Yellow Eyes returned with a very strong full-length in Sick with Bloom. Imperial Triumphant took things to weirder and more captivating levels on Abyssal Gods. And Vanum (featuring members from always fascinating bands such as Fell Voices and Ash Borer) released Realm of Sacrifice on Profound Lore to a great deal of well-deserved praise.
VI: De Praestigiis Angelorum (Agonia Records)
Formidable and fiendish French black metallers Aosoth provide a couple of members of the similarly shadowy and ungodly trio VI. The band’s De Praestigiis Angelorum album featured a superb mix of orthodox and progressive black metal. It was no surprise, considering VI’s lineup, that the album was impeccably produced to perfectly capture the ice-cold and razor-edged melodies and masterful musicianship within.
Mgla: Exercises in Futility (Northern Heritage Records)
Blaze of Perdition: Near Death Revelations (Agonia Records)
Grift: Syner (Nordvis)
Crom Dubh: Heimweh (Ván Records)
Clearly, Exercises in Futility, the third full-length from Polish masters of misanthropy Mgla, was thoroughly deserving of all the praise heaped upon it in 2015. But there were obviously a number of other Europe-based black metallers also releasing very fine works this year. Like fellow Poles Blaze of Perdition, and their staggeringly good Near Death Revelations. Or one-man Swedish atmospheric black metal band Grift, with the very well-received Syner. Over the ditch in the UK, Crom Dubh explored Celtic mythology with a triumphant roar on Heimweh, an album that far more people should be talking about.
Deafheaven: New Bermuda (ANTI-)
I wasn’t a huge fan of Deafheaven’s breakthrough 2013 album, Sunbather. It wasn’t the mainstream critical applause or significant hype surrounding the album that put me off either––because I’m not a purist who gets his knickers in a twist about any band’s success––I just thought Sunbather was monotonous, in parts. Not so Deafheaven’s 2015 album, New Bermuda. That album was a genre-transcending release filled with genuinely dark and transcendent music. Impeccably produced, New Bermuda also featured more finely tuned stylistic shifts, a greater amount of metallic heft, and a far bleaker aura throughout. Perfect.