ToH Writers Best of 2K15: Randall Thor, Tyree, and Lacertilian
In this writer compilation of best albums, a dungeon master, a drummer, and a lizard share their thoughts on the crowning achievements of 2K15. You should definitely take note, because there’s some great stuff here!
10. Forevers’ Fallen Grace – Ascending the Monolith | Independent
Stoughton, Massachusetts’s Forevers’ Fallen Grace have done something quite unique with their 2015 release, Ascending the Monolith. I haven’t heard a band that so seamlessly mixes progressive tendencies in song structure, as well as time signature and tempo changes since Fates Warning‘s Awaken the Guardian early era. Michael Ferro’s aggressive vocal style howls over brilliant musicianship. The rhythm is constantly churning out monster riff after monster riff while the lead weaves a spell against Michael’s howling vocals. Underneath all that we are treated to probably the best bass playing in power metal in 2015. What really sells the album for me is the incredible drumming of Jimmy Norris, who displays a fantastic array of talent with his absurd fills and constantly shifting drum patterns. I wish more progressive power metal bands would adopt this style.
Listen to – “Iron Will“
9. Lord Fist – Green Eyleen | Ektro Records
Straight old school speed/power metal! This album is all riffs, soaring vocals, and guitar shredding, which is exactly what the style demands. The album cover perfectly encapsulates the sound. If you had to write a soundtrack to riding rocket powered motorcycles through the wasteland, you would end up with this.
Riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs riffs.
Listen to – “Who Wants To Live Forever”
8. Tanagra – None of This Is Real | Independent
Tanagra is another band that masterfully achieves something relatively unique in power metal, combining European style synths with the more speed/thrash based guitarwork of US Power Metal. I’ll admit I almost passed over this album with my first listen, but after giving it a few more tries, I fell completely in love. Expect plenty of power surged riffs, double bass, and hooky choruses. “The Path To Talmor”, by far the standout track, is a practically perfectly paced epic. It travels from an anthemic battle cry, then to tragic betrayal and loss. The build up here is completely overwhelming, and the final transition back into the final chorus will set your heart aflame with a mighty vigor for battle like you’ve never known. We ride at dawn, warriors.
Listen to – “The Path To Talmor”
7. Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu | Terratur Possessions
I know how much you all love your recorded in a giant cave wall of sound black metal, so if you follow this blog and don’t already know this album, I’m not really sure what you’re doing with your life. Vehement black metal that will rip your throat out and sacrifice it in an unspeakable ritual… in a giant cave. If all the awesome power and fury of a category 5 hurricane was translated into music, it would sound something like this. Expect cavernous tremolo riffs backed by blast beats and topped with despairing guitar leads.
Listen to – “Söngur Heiftar”
6. Satan – Atom by Atom | Listenable Records
This album proves that Life Sentence wasn’t a fluke, and they’re here to conquer the world of heavy metal. While the choruses are not as powerful as those on Life Sentence, the riffs are of the “how does anyone even come up with that” school. I imagine that if Satan decided to combine the two on the next album, the apocalypse will begin. Expect NWOBHM style riffs played with a tinge of speed metal. Also, get a bucket/mop to clean up your face after it’s melted off by this one.
Listen to – “My Own God”
5. Mgła – Exercises in Futility | Northern Heritage Records
I’m pretty sure this is going to make the majority of Toilet writers’ lists. No one does straight forward black metal like Mgła does. Every track is diverse enough to stand on its own, yet every one unites the album in a commanding mix of passionate guitar leads. Melodic, but always just enough to pull out your heart. Heavy, but never enough to crush your dick.
Listen to – “Exercises in Futility I”
4. Patrick Watson – Love Songs for Robots | Secret City Records & Domino Recording Co
What’s this? A non-metal album in my top ten? This has been my heartbeat for the last 2 months. While not outright depressing in its delivery, Patrick Watson gives us the perfect album for when you need to retreat to the hole deep inside your soul and cut off any outside interaction for a while. Outside of the hipster frenzy section of Bollywood, Love Songs for Robots maintains a very cozy, melancholy vibe while Patrick’s voice floats above us like a forlorn specter. Like a depressed introvert, this album takes quite a bit of effort to fully appreciate. If you can manage it, your soul will be better for it.
Listen to – “Turn Into The Noise”
3. A Sound of Thunder – Tales From The Deadside | Independent
What would happen if a heavy/power metal band tried to play doom, and ended up being better than most doom metal bands? This. A Sound of Thunder dives even deeper into doom territory than they did with their previous release, The Lesser Key of Solomon, and have emerged with a gratuitous offering of riffs to the riff god. As if that’s not tasty enough, they even wrote the album about Valiant Entertainment’s comic series, Shadowman. Drenched in the voodoo-style blues of New Orleans, this album flawlessly translates the story of the comic into a musical setting. Come for the riffs, stay for the story.
Listen to – “End Times”
2. Trial – Vessel | High Roller Records
When I think blackened power metal, this is what I want to hear. I’m not talking about vocal style, I’m talking entirely about the riffs. Ardent tremolo picked melodies will haunt you for the 51 min duration of Vessel. The vocals pair up in what sounds like a desperate prayer for an almost certainly lost life. The chord progressions will make you think you’re listening to a less folky Windir, or perhaps one of King Diamond‘s speedier tracks. Easily the greatest strength of this album is how, similar to Fates Warning’s Awaken the Guardian, the vocals often tie into the chords more as an instrument than a vocal lead. If you can listen to this and tell me you think this sucks, turn in your metal card.
Listen to – “To New Ends”
1. Judicator – At The Expense of Humanity | Divebomb Records
I wasn’t sure if this would last the entire year and stay in my top spot, let alone my top 10. Month after month, I timorously approached the album again and again to see if it still stood as tall as I remembered, and every single time it blew me away. Every single part of this album makes it a perfect 10, from the lyrics, the production, the writing, the musicianship, and the vocals. This is the most depressing power metal album you will ever listen to. At The Expense of Humanity details the story of John Yelland’s brother’s losing battle to cancer, and the grievous toll it took on the family. Despite the dreadful subject matter, the music stands as a tower of indomitable strength and resolve. This is a stellar example of what the US Power Metal scene is capable of, and indicative of the enormous talent rising beneath the surface of the American scene.
Pass the light, remember the fallen.
Listen to – “How Long Can You Live Forever”
10. Tetragrammacide – Typhonian Wormholes: Indecipherable Anti–Structural Formulæ | Iron Bonehead Productions
This is a band that I was completely unaware of that released an album very late in the year so it was interesting trying to debate adding them to the top 10 or not. After countless listens to the album it felt right to sneak them in though. Ever since I saw Nyogthaeblisz live at Hells Headbash 2 I’ve been on the hunt for some of the harshest, most chaotic, and ugliest sounding black metal imaginable. I got an email from Iron Bonehead Productions saying that they just released an EP by a band called Tetragrammacide. Iron Bonehead Productions is a label that usually does not disappoint me, so I immediately played the album on Bandcamp and was instantly on board. This EP just goes to show that black metal can still be pushed to its most extreme form while still being interesting and devastating. This is 25 minutes of no fucks given audial terror that is will certainly not be understood by many. Total fucking support for this band! I can’t wait for more audial terror from these two maniacs.
9. Black Cilice – Mysteries | Iron Bonehead Productions
Underneath all the harsh noise and distortion there is some serious melancholy and beauty to Mysteries that is trapped in a slow swirling black tar abyss. This is a harsh listen, but I can’t image this album without the harshness that it brings. I mean it’s one of the key factors to Black Cilice’s signature sound. The very raw/harsh elements only make the melancholy all the more intense and painful because this album is meant to be painful both physically and mentally. A buddy of mine said that Black Cilice is “Raw, howling ghost in a windtunnel black metal”, I think he fucking nailed it. Mysteries is certainly an appropriate name for this album and this is one Mystery that is not meant to be messed with; so just dive into the abyss and endure.
Listen to — “Mysteries”
8. Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria | Profound Lore Records
Filth! Pure and simple… This band is “Filth”. I read a comment on Facebook from Ethan Lee McCarthy of Primitive Man who said: “Brb quitting music because Pissgrave is nastier than everyone. It’s been real. Thanks.” When filth monger Ethan says something like that you damn well better know that he means it. No frills here, just some nasty-crushing-ass death metal with some killer riffs! I’d have death metal no other way.
Listen to — “Suicide Euphoria”
Some black metal is icy cold, and some black metal is just an inferno of blistering savagery. This third album by Chicago based Fin is a fast paced hellfire induced masterpiece with lots of blast beats and tons and tons of glorious riffs. This album does not leave much breathing room, but it keeps the listener interested for the whole 50 minutes while still being unrelenting. The Furrows of Tradition will come at you like a hurricane made of hellfire and suck you in and throw you out leaving you ready for more punishment.
Listen to — “Abscond as Smoke to the Sky”
6. Adversarial – Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism | Dark Descent Records
Talk about a huge improvement from their last full length. I’ve always hated the “Most Improved” award but I have to give it to Adversarial. This album crushes so damn hard, and it’s just so incredibly tight. Adversarial created an album that is one of the most professional and complex blackened death metal albums I’ve ever heard, and they somehow keep the intensity and dick crushing up front. I’ve had a lot of fun listening to this album and dissecting it. I seem to discover something new with each listen. It’s like The Big Lebowski of Blackened Death albums for me if that makes any sense (always finding new shit). Also, this has to be my favorite album tile of any album this year, and I have to also point out that this album probably has the best drum performance out of any album on my list.
Listen to — “Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism”
5. Genocide Shrines – Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil (Scriptures Of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder | Vault of Dried Bones
After hearing their short but incredible EP Devanation Monumentemples last year for the first time I was instantly hooked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played that damn EP, but all I knew was that I wanted more Genocide Shrines material fast, and thank Satan that 2015 delivered just that. I’m certain that this album has been my most played bestial death metal album of this year. I love everything about it; the cavernous production, the menacing riffs, and the monstrous drumming. This album takes no prisoners and is by far one of the best if not the best doomy sounding bestial death metal album of the year.
4. Revenge – Behold.Total.Rejection | Season of Mist
Behold.Total.Rejection is the meanest and most savage album of the year. I knew this album would be a home run, but I didn’t think it would be a grand slam! Hail to the almighty Revenge!!!! I really don’t know what to say that has not already been said about this album. So there you have it… Get FUCKED!!!
Listen to — “Behold.Total.Rejection”
3. Mgła – Exercises in Futility | No Solace
Ever since I saw Mgła at MDF two years ago I’ve had With Hearts Towards None on a constant playing loop. So after playing the hell of that album for so long I decided to explore Mgła’s catalog a bit more. I found all the past material to be quality work but WHTN still stood as my overall favorite. So when I heard that Exercises in Futility was coming out this year I got quite excited as did many others. Is Exercises in Futility better than WHTN? I don’t know, but it does not matter because Mgła have once again created another paragon of an album by bringing the strong riffs, lyrics, song writing, and overall musicianship. Mgła prove that they are on top of the black metal game and they don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Listen to — “Exercises in Futility V”
2. Sielunvihollinen – Hautaruhtinas | Darker than Black Records
Sielunvihollinen is a black metal band hailing from Finland, a solid guarantee of a quality black metal product. Sielunvihollinen play a straight forward style of black metal incorporating melodic melodies, frostbitten guitar leads, and mood swinging tempo changes. Sielunvihollinen really stands out on the slower tracks in my opinion which allows the guitars to have more room to carry those bone chilling guitar leads/melodies; I absolutely love the chills those leads provide me. The slower tracks are much more desolate, and they carry a copious amount of melancholy, whereas the faster songs are almost more uplifting sounding at times. Sielunvihollinen are the real deal, and they created an original sounding black metal album without being fancy or progressive. This album uses a pretty simple formula but the outcome is beyond rewarding.
Listen to — “Hautaruhtinas”
1. Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu | Fallen Empire Records
Icelandic black metal has been a growing force in the past few years, and it does not seem to be withering away any time soon. Söngvar elds og óreiðu is an incredibly crafted Icelandic black metal album that proves that Iceland is quickly becoming the dominating source of quality black metal. This album combines the meaner essences of blackness while some more interesting components that make Söngvar elds og óreiðu a stand out black metal album from this year. This is certainly my most played album of this year without a doubt. I really can’t wait to see what this band does next.
Listen to — “Söngvar elds og óreiðu”
Death metal is a well-trodden path these days. At a time when the greater majority of bands in the genre are trying to incorporate some kind of other style and form a “fusion” of sorts, Cruciamentum have managed to make an invigorating straight-up death metal record. From the moment I heard the pre-album release track “Piety Carved From Flesh” I was hooked. The album exudes OSDM riffage, off-the-wall atonal solos and just gets me riled up in a good-old fashioned way; its simplicity is actually one of its strong points, with each song being a concise, well-executed and most importantly memorable, exercise in death metal.
Listen to “Piety Carved From Flesh”
For the best part of the year I was sure that Nocternity’s Harps Of The Ancient Temples would be here, then when it came down to short-listing I thought I wouldn’t have room for both it and Obsequiae‘s Aria Of Vernal Tombs. So I did the only fair thing and left them both as honourable mentions, leaving the spot open for the first black metal album to envelope my mind this year, Hæthen’s Shaped By Aeolian Winds. Released in February, this album has had the longest time to drop away, but it just hasn’t faltered. Everytime I hear a part of it, I’m compelled to listen to the whole piece. Shrouded with an enthralling atmosphere, this album served me well during the Southern Winter and should do the same for those of you in the North.
Check out “Amongst The Forlorn Larch”
Another time when the album’s cover art has caught my eyes immediately and demanded further investigation was my chance bandcamp encounter with Reflections In The Bowels Of A Bird. I’m very glad I gave it a chance because French band Abrahma have expelled one of the stoner/psych albums of the year. I would have been content to include the awesome releases from Saturndust or Elder in its place but to be honest, I’m sure someone else will cover them, so I’d like to give some exposure to this gem of an album. Unsure as to whether the haiku mini-review week was sufficient acknowledgement, I’m going to leave it here for you to delve into; it will not disappoint.
Listen to “An Offspring To The Wolves”
Polish death metal doesn’t get much better than this right here. Showcasing top-quality riffs, impeccable drumming and a lethal dose of vitriol, The Devil Inside ticks all the boxes in terms of expectations placed on contemporary death metal albums. While not really fitting in with the archetypal current-day tech-death sound, Embrional still bring a degree of technicality to the enbalming table, letting it bleed out slowly rather than forcing it out like a rough stool. Even though my usual guitar-centric focus was satiated from the riffs on offer, the drums really hit home just how strong this band’s performance here is. Solid production and quality songwriting add to the malicious atmosphere.
Listen to “Funeral March”
With Aq’ab’al, Volahn have not only penned one of the most extraordinary black metal albums of the year, they have created one of the most interesting metal albums in recent memory. The vivid Mayan-themed cover art is indicative of the vibrant music contained within. The record displays a certain psychedelic flair, and I don’t mean in a meandering introspective snoozy way. I’m talking more in the enigmatic visionary sense. The album is complex and intricate without feeling dense or bloated. A lithe untamed entity that will take you for a wild ride down the left hand path, into lush and fertile terrain.
Mexican maniacs Profanator ripped me out of my thrash-slumber earlier this year with Mvtter Vicivm. The 8 tracks clock in at just over half an hour, which is a good thing because your neck will not be able to tolerate more than 30 minutes of the intense headbanging that this record invokes. Upon first listen my mind immediately tried to recall the last time I had heard something so innately vicious; I had to hearken back some 15 years to my teens hearing Reign In Blood for the first time on my discman. The urgent and visceral nature of this album is why I think it stands out as one of the best thrash albums I’ve ever heard.
Listen to “Mvtter Vicivm”
Romanian instrumental band Sunset In The 12th House was one of my most prized discoveries this year. Their debut album Mozaic took me on a mental journey through a series of rich soundscapes, with the pristine production accentuating both the beauty and heaviness. In my review I was hesitant to compare them directly to those bands who could be considered as contemporaries (Scale The Summit, Pomegranate Tiger, Dream Theater); it just wouldn’t feel right. This album is a culmination of eclectic influence, progression, psychedelia and finesse, creating a diverse, unique and deeply immersive listen.
Read my review here.
Scythian’s second offering encompasses pretty much everything I like about metal, in one completely awesome package. From the neck-breaking blackened death/thrash riffing with befitting drums, exquisite leads replete with shredding melodies, dual harmonies, bar-dives and more. Adding to the exceptional musicianship is a superb attention to composition, within individual songs and in terms of the entirety of the album. This is achieved in no small part through strong chord progressions, the excellent use of acoustic layering, the memorable album art and lyrics/vocals (including a legendary spoken-word section) all combining to instill an atmosphere of grandeur which has kept me coming back over and over. If you can’t find something to enjoy about this release, you’re listening to the wrong fucking genre.
Listen to “Beyond The Dust”
2015 seems to have been a killer year for black metal, not just in terms of quantity but also in the quality of the releases. Choosing a favourite was hard, and exiting my Winter cavern in front was Ophidian Henosis. I’m not sure I can praise this album any more than I already have in my review earlier this year, other than to say it came out on top. While I would have liked to include Pale Chalice’s Negate The Infinite and Miraculous, out of the two quite similarly styled releases, Barshasketh’s edges it out with dynamics and depth.
Read my review here.
I was prepared for Tempel’s follow-up to their incredible debut to be awesome, I really was. Alas, I was not prepared for how awesome it would be. When this 5-track, 50+ minute epic dropped back in June, I was floored, and I still can’t escape its magnitude. If On The Steps Of The Temple was grand, then this album is utterly majestic. Words fall short of illustrating the impact this record has had on me, which is somewhat fitting considering it’s instrumental. The Moon Lit Our Path would be in my top ten records that I’ve heard in my 30 years of life.
Read the TovH interview here.