2015 First Quarter Review: The Top 5 Albums From Around The Bowl
2015 is already shaping up to compete with the absurd amount of quality released over the last two years. Edward, the last two years were crazy with new releases! I know, guys. I was looking at my chicken scratching blogger notes the other day and it occurred to me I could fill a respectable EOTY list with my favorites so far this year. I’ve spent time with albums from Death Karma, Thou/The Body, Sewer Goddess, Sarpanitum, Grunt, Kendrick Lamar, Mastery, Caina, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We found out Ghost Bath are actually white dudes from North Dakota, which sparked an interesting discussion of the merits of music standing alone and anonymity in a digital age. I’ll admit they sound a little ridiculous in interviews, but I actually enjoyed that illumination (because comedy), and Moonlover is a solid album regardless of the band’s origin or story.
I recruited Christian, Bear God, and Jack Bauer to help me determine the best releases of 2015, so far. Let’s move on to the lists, before things gets too masturbatory. Too late, Edward, you really missed the boat on that.
Edward’s Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)
Napalm Death | Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Century Media | January 23rd, 2015
We live in a time when albums named Grindcore come out with regularity. With the assistance of Toilet Ov Hell brainiac Dubya, I reviewed Apex Predator – Subway’s Five Dollar Footlongs and declared it unflushable. Bear God later declared it was somewhat flushable. What’s the verdict? From its militaristic opening salvo, through forward leaning grind/thrash tracks, and fantastic singles like “How The Years Condemn”, Napalm Death are still showing young grind bands how to grind for life. In a time when our “favorites” are touted and promptly forgotten under next year’s or next week’s releases, Apex Predator is an album we should look back fondly for some time.
Primitive Man | Home Is Where The Hatred Is
Relapse Records | February 17th, 2015
Edward, an EP, are you being serious right now? Chill out cousin, this happens to be thirty one minutes long. On Home Is Where The Hatred Is, Primitive Man march forward with the sound they delivered on 2013’s excellent Scorn. Their sound is hatred distilled into aural blackened doom. Heavy and unforgiving are words thrown with abandon by heavy metal bloggers, but you’d be hard pressed to find albums that better describe heavy, unforgiving, and hateful than this one. Home Is Where The Hatred Is was even the focus of a No Clean Singing article asking why we like such disgusting music. The music is helped even further by Ethan Lee McCarthy, one of the most ferocious vocalists this side of Pyrrhon’s Doug Moore. If you are looking for progression or variety, keep moving. If you like pressing your ears against industrial sanders, look no further than Home Is Where The Hatred Is.
Imperial Triumphant | Abyssal Gods
Aural Music | March 1st, 2015
Look, I’m not here to keep beating your nuts in about whether or not this is a black metal band. There’s at least one other genius on the internet that understands my position. Imperial Triumphant achieved no small feat from being a blip on the radar of my consciousness to releasing one of my favorite albums of the year so far. Abyssal Gods is harrowing, surreal, brutal, and mesmerizing. Like Pyrrhon’s brother from another Mother of Virtues, Imperial Triumphant play on the death-rock-noise-skronk sound but in their own way. Both albums even follow a similar format, from intense blasting openers to long unnerving finales (in the case of Abyssal Gods it’s the last three tracks). Imperial Triumphant make use of complicated time signatures, vastly technical playing, and a well structured format between loud and quiet moments. The metal blog world collectively fawned over this album. I’m normally skeptical of such united praise in the ubiquitous world of heavy metal criticism, but Imperial Triumphant earned it by delivering what is easily their best album yet.
Leviathan | Scar Sighted
Profound Lore Records | March 3rd, 2015
Scar Sighted was previously reviewed at the Toilet Ov Hell. While Christian focused on the music contained on the album (novel concept), it is worth noting that Jef Whitehead is one of USBM’s reigning patriarchs. Leviathan began releasing music at about the same time as Weakling released their seminal Dead as Dreams, and a few years before bands like Cobalt or Wolves in the Throne Room began making waves with heavy metal critics. Whitehead has released music under other aliases as well, collaborated with musicians in and out of black metal, and played with supergroup Twilight. Scar Sighted finds Leviathan in peak form. This album is expansive, haunting, and smart. While Christian and many members of our community praised the album’s second half, “Dawn Vibration” just might be my favorite track on there. In a year with several stellar black metal releases (some mentioned above), Scar Sighted just might hold this genre’s dark throne in 2015.
Death Grips | Jenny Death
Harvest | March 31st, 2015 (official)
I fucking love Death Grips. As much an ongoing piece of performance art as a musical act, they are a product of the internet and a strange reflection of the times we live in. Musically they fall somewhere between eclectic rap and ignorant rap, electronica, and many have drawn comparisons to heavy metal and punk for their intense live performances and the often shouted lyrics of MC Ride. They have simultaneously generated a fervent fanbase and frustrated many of those fans by cancelling major performances, no shows at scheduled concerts, and “breaking up” at the peak of their popularity. They got dropped from Epic Records for leaking their own music and releasing confidential correspondences between both parties. The cover of No Love Deep Web is simply the album title drawn with sharpie on Zach Hill’s erect penis. Jenny Death, the long awaited second half of The Powers That B was released by the Grips on March 19th to combat a leak of the album. The music here ranges from lightning fast breakbeats, Daft Punk-esque dance tracks, beats that remind me of El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure, and the guitar driven “On GP”. If you think Death Grips are outside of your wheelhouse, think again. They’ve released one of the best albums in 2015 so far in any genre. They’ve also announced a national tour – the first leg of an international tour in support of The Powers That B. I got my tickets the moment they went on sale. I can only hope the Grips show.
Christian’s Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)
Bjork | Vulnicura
One Little Indian / Megaforce Records | January 20th, 2015
In a lot of ways, Björk’s ninth album is the one at which her entire career has hinted. Debut and Post infused trip-hop with a dark, industrial character, but it was Homogenic and Medúlla that saw the creation of an entirely new sound. These early experiments were fruitful yet not without fault, but everything is made right on Vulnicura. The entirety of the album’s instrumentation (flawlessly produced by by The Haxan Cloak and Arca) is a combination of Arvo Pärt-esque string arrangements and glitchy percussion straight out of mid-period Autechre, all framed by Björk’s more-fragile-than-ever voice.
Misþyrming | Söngvar elds og óreiðu
Terratur Possessions / Fallen Empire Records
February 7th, 2015
“Sentimental” may seem like the last adjective one would apply to this young Icelandic band, but it is perhaps the most accurate. Beneath its destructive sheen of black metal fury lies one of the most emotionally stirring albums released thus far in this year (young as it may be). The way Misþyrming incorporate bright, hopeful melodies into their twisted riffs immediately calls to mind Deathspell Omega or labelmates and countrymen Svartidauði, but the youthful energy the band brings to the style is nothing if not a breath of fresh air, tempered evenly by the sophistication of the songwriting.
Mastery | VALIS
The Flenser | February 13th, 2015
It may sound strange, but the closest thing to which I can compare Mastery’s debut full-length is Revenge or Teitanblood’s Death. While the two camps may seem thematically opposing, both create dark, practically riff-less sheets of black metal-ish noise intent only on bewildering and pulverizing the listener. Each band composes its assault from layers upon layers of swirling guitars untethered by any kind of logic or structure. VALIS is already on a completely different plane than Mastery’s previous splits with Palace of Worms and Skullflower, and where mainman Ephemeral Domignostika will take the project next is anyone’s guess.
Devouring Star | Through Lung and Heart
Daemon Worship Productions | February 9th, 2015
The massive groaning and straining sounds of Devouring Star’s first album have less in common with black metal tradition and more to do with the buckling collapse of a suspension bridge. Monolithic guitars and monstrous vocals alternate between battling each other and twisting together over frantic blast beats, threatening to come apart at any minute but never going all the way. In a way, this is Through Lung and Heart’s downfall; the album comes so close to the edge but always reins itself in, refusing the listener the pleasure of hearing the proceedings devolve into complete chaos before pulling things back together.
Scab | Sounds From The Sewer
Listenable Insanity Records | March 13th, 2015
I’m just gonna say it: Scab are the best young grind band out there right now. They should be inducted into the Grind Hall of Fame right between Repulsion and Terrorizer just for the sheer range of sounds they pull off on Sounds from the Sewer, from pitch-shifted goregrind to crusty d-beat to crushing death metal riffs and even some quasi-black metal moments. Sounds from the Sewer is the duo’s third full-length in two years and they show no signs of slowing their pace. The rest of the world is in for a treat once they catch up.
Bear God’s Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)
Tähtiportti | Tähtiportti [S/T]
Svart Records | March 9th, 2015
I can’t help but to offer this again. The hat-trick that marks the ending of this debut album alone is so marvelous I’d need to write of this a thousand times and then a thousand times more. But honestly, even if the songs that come before may not be as brilliant what would an album be if I had to wade through half-an-hour of crap to get to the good stuff? A bad album and that is what this is not. Techno backbeats, at times a glacial pace, at times swirling into cosmic madness. The rhythmic chanting on top conveying stories of all things orgasmic (srs, these lyrics are porn). The dance-ability of the (early) tracks keeps you content while you wait for the explosion. Do NOT miss this album or at least give Luciferin Pylväs a chance (a delight to notice how well the recently discussed classic album track-order applies to this).
CMX | Mesmeria
Ratas Music Group | January 30th, 2015
I had written a blurb about Sarpanitum for this thing here, but having read the recent review I decided I needed to write about something else. So I started thinking what album could I put here. I had practically already forgotten about Mesmeria and I assure you it stands here because of it’s own merits, not because I needed to fill blank space. CMX has been through a lot, starting out as an HC band and turning towards a more rock oriented approach before going prog. Mesmeria has hints of everything CMX has done. While “Mestarirakentaja” flirts with the HC-roots, “Ojai” strikes as a slow acoustic, string-laden ballad. The more pop-oriented approach of Iäti and the riff-rock of Seitsentahokas (the two closest predecessors) has not been left completely behind either as “Rakkaudessa ja Sodassa” and “Hyperborea” exhibit. Mesmeria is also the first time on this century most people will actually understand what A.W.Yrjänä is saying (not you though). In fact Mesmeria feels like a summary of CMX. A great album to start with.
Exgenesis | Aphotic Veil
Naturmacht Productions | January 25th, 2015
I’m not quite sure why, but I don’t want to like this album. But the fact is that no other albums has drawn me in as many times as Aphotic Veil. It starts as a menacing slab of doom, emanating a very sinister and dark aura. It doesn’t take long for the magnificent melodic work and mix of growls and shrieks to carry the album towards faster territories. Yet throughout it’s rather short duration (five songs between four and seven minutes) sinister remains the word most describing. There’s also a certain sense of calmness, as if you were trapped in the hands of a serial killer. But not a psychopath, instead a hired one. “I have killed 17 people this week and you’re about to join them, but don’t worry this won’t hurt.” As if such killing spree was casual. Maybe it’s because even when Aphotic Veil goes blasty on “Futile Horizon” there are relaxed clean vocals on top of it (the only cleans on the album and it’s as much humming as singing). This album has everything, doom, atmosphere, death and melodies.
A Forest Of Stars | Beware The Sword You Cannot See
Lupus Lounge | February 27th, 2015
This is a bad time to write a list of my favorite albums, because I’ve already discarded many of my early favorites and many are still unreleased. Although I believe similar problems would plague any given time. Again I had decided to write about another album (Mastery’s VALIS) when I realized two things: 1) I couldn’t get anything coherent about it done and 2) I had almost forgotten AFoS’ latest effort. It’s a little hard to put AFoS on the map. Their sound is based on black metal but there’s a lot of folky sections and the songs are usually ruled by violin instead of guitar and there’s a certain sense of otherness about it. The opener “Drawing Down The Rain“, which doubles as one of the albums best songs, takes all the elements one expects to find on AFoS’ album and harkens back more than the following material. BTSYCS continues the trend of shorter songs and instead of offering any epics as they are the band has decided to break “Pawn On The Universal Chessboard” down to six parts. It’s as if Beware The Sword You Cannot See was some theatrical groups version of black metal. The feeling is stronger now than ever before as AFoS has added a lot of spoken word sections and toned down the violin (it still leads and rules this kingdom) a little.
Grunt | Myth of Blood
Freak Animal Records | March 15th, 2015
Mikko Aspa (half of the readers just fled). Truth be told I haven’t listened to Myth of Blood more than a couple of times yet. As Grunt has never aimed to make PExxx or noise or in general to belong to any scene, there’s a variety of music to be heard here. But for the average Joe, ’tis noise. It’s very harsh or offensive kind of noise but an easily approachable one. There are even vocals for you to latch onto (s/o Edward). Myth of Blood takes it’s place as a continuation of World Draped In A Camouflage, naturally. Look, I haven’t given this much time and I don’t know whether this will stay in my short list of greatest releases of 2015 for long but right now it hits the spot. Plus I really don’t know what to say from this kind of an album. You might as well listen to it here for yourself if you care for this kind of music.
Jack Bauer’s Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)
Melechesh | Enki
Nuclear Blast | February 27th, 2015
I love this album, it took me totally by surprise as I had never even heard of Melechesh before they started streaming the album. It’s fucking fantastic death/thrash with a hint of black and the production is 100% percent perfect. If you like riffs, you like Melechesh, simple as that.
Alkaloid | The Malkuth Grimoire
[self released] | March 17th, 201
I was already expecting greatness from this group of guys, but what I got was more than that. What I got was perfection. Alkaloid takes Obscura style tech death and adds prog to it and god damn does it sound good. This has been a staple in the car as of late.
We Are Harlot | We Are Harlot [S/T]
Roadrunner Records | March 30th, 2015
I know a lot of the people here at the Toilet have a bad opinion of hard rock or radio rock and for all intents and purposes they really should. Hard rock as a genre has become very stale and predictable. While I’ve only heard the few singles released from this album, I’m confident it belongs here. We Are Harlot are a breath of fresh air for hard rock – blending the modern sounds and production of today’s music with a total 80s vibe. Definitely worth a listen if you like things other than harsh vocals.
Irreversible Mechanism | Infinite Fields
Blood Music | March 31st, 2015
This one is tricky as it technically isn’t out yet. The reason for that is this band got signed by Blood Music literally hours after self-releasing this album on Bandcamp. The album was taken down twelve hours later! That should tell you how good they are. Anyways, being the tech death fanatic that I am, I already had this one preordered and downloaded it before Blood Music took over. This is fucking phenomenal technical death metal. I’m talking Spawn of Possession good here. (Edward’s note: Infinite Fields was released by Blood Music, available here at ‘name your price’).
Sarpanitum | Blessed Be My Brothers
Willowtip | February 17th, 2015
RIFFS RIFFS RIFFS AND MORE RIFFS. Fuck this album is mind-bogglingly good. I still haven’t managed to process all the notes and what not on here. While they sound a lot like Mithras due to sharing members, they most definitely play a different style of death metal and are arguably more technical than the latter. If you haven’t picked this up yet you need to rectify that or face the interrogation room…upside down. (Edward’s note: Stay tech).