|R.I.P. Lemmy Kilmister, 1945-2015|
1. Elder - Lore
Elder’s star shone blindingly bright with this masterpiece. My excitement and initial disbelief at how incredibly good it was had me playing Lore almost constantly for over a month to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I am still in awe at how anyone could actually come up with the music on this album. Nick DiSalvo’s ingenious guitar lines are out of this world; but with such an unshakably solid rhythm section as co-pilots, everything remains anchored to the enduring power of the riff, no matter how far into ethereal realms the compositions travel. There is a quicker pace and more classic rock swagger than on previous albums, which opened up new dimensions for the band to explore. What’s terrifying, though, is how easy they made it look when playing these amazing songs live. And as their ascent continues, the question beckons: what the hell are Elder going to come up with next?
2. Acid King - Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere begins as a faint signal from a far flung galaxy, registering only a miniscule blip on an amateur astronomer’s backyard SETI station. But as its pulses reach closer from across the distance of light years, the supernovan magnitude of its psychedelic power eventually becomes clear. The gravitational pull exerted by its riffs of towering astral fuzz, the transcendent echoes of lucid dreams permeating its exospheric vocals, and the cataclysmic asteroid collisions of drumming that propel the whole transmission through space-time all make the astronomer’s years of patient, dutiful searching worthwhile. Long reign, Acid King!
3. Vhol - Deeper than Sky
The evolution of Vhol’s mind-bending amalgam of prog/thrash/speed metal on their second album almost defies comprehension. It’s still batshit crazy - probably more so than their debut - and the quirks come thick and fast amid the righteous shredding. But the widely disparate sounds and styles seem to implode and explode more cohesively. “3AM” sounds like welcome music for extra-terrestrials who are into D.R.I., yet it goes just fine a couple of tracks before “Paino”, a freeform piano freak-out riding a thunderous polka beat. Notably (perhaps bucking a trend), the black metal elements from the first album have been heavily sedated. Vhol are brilliant and Deeper than Sky is the next level.
4. Meatwound - Addio
There’s no point mincing words: Meatwound’s debut is a fucking killer. Drawing from Unsane-style noise and Coalesce-style hardcore, it suffocates both under piles of filthy crud. Opener, “In Toilet” torturously fights through to a groovy, bludgeoning death knell that is very nearly bowel-evacuating. “Goliath” immediately opens up an even crueller bashing, and it becomes very difficult to turn away from the ugly scenes that continue to unfold through these six tracks. It’s not just pulverising anger, though. With desensitisation to the grit, the progressions and changes that cause such tension in the songs emerge to make Addio even more enthralling. I can’t wait for more.
5. Windhand - Grief’s Infernal Flower
Grief’s Infernal Flower saw Windhand refine the balance they strike between crawling, rhythmic doom and haunting, yearning melody. Their music has become more nuanced and the soulfulness that previously came to the fore in the acoustic “Evergreen” (from 2013’s Soma) is more heavily infused, lending the album strength. Yes, it’s definitely slicker and warmer than the Windhand of old, and the vocals have been brought right out from behind the guitar amps’ buzz. But with songs this good and a voice as engrossing as Dorthia Cottrell’s, the results are magic. Cottrell’s solo album of melancholy folk from earlier in the year is also well worth checking out.
6. Tau Cross - S/T
It was enticing enough that Tau Cross is made up of members of Amebix, Voivod and Misery. But what came out of the speakers when I dropped the needle completely annihilated my expectations. These rousing punk/metal anthems, which also invoke Fields of the Nephilim and Killing Joke, immediately ignite a reaction and stir a sense of empowerment. An instantly memorable, timeless quality soars through the masterful songwriting, from its heaviest percussive bombardments to its sombre, brooding acoustic hollows. And the Baron leads the charge all the way with his poetic ruminations on tyranny and his infectious, raspy calls for uprising. “Our day will come.”
7. Bell Witch - Four Phantoms
Four Phantoms is in this list because after months of listening to it, I’m still grappling with it. So grandiose and cinematic, with so many evocative peaks and troughs, I have loved listening to it as both background music that magnificently fills the silence and as a full-concentration journey through personified elemental devastation and the resulting catharsis. Its tectonic movements carry so much more than just the “sadness” many reviews have referred to. There is a vast array of musicality and emotion hidden within the dominant funeral doom tropes, with more secrets continuing to surface over time.
8. Kowloon Walled City - Grievances
Here is the logical but exhausting next step in Kowloon Walled City’s visible trajectory from bellicose noise rock to something much more exposed and considered. Grievances is built as much around the open spaces between its monumental bursts of sound as the sounds themselves. Every single deliberate string hit, skin strike, bass rumble and voice crack is clearly audible in this remarkable expression of focus. There are trailing remnants of riffs past, but the heaviness now resonates in the music’s minimalism. Notes, vibrations and words are left to linger so their impact sinks in…like the broken hopes of a spirit crushed beneath the weight of a lifetime’s meaningless occupation.
9. High on Fire - Luminiferous
Luminiferous deftly carried all the beloved hallmarks emblazoned on the hearts of loyal High on Fire fans and, with Kurt Ballou on production duties again, presented them with heft, guts and clarity. But it also delivered new surprises. The rolling freight train groove of “Carcosa”. The sheer explosive fury of the title track. The hardcore leanings of “Slave the Hive”. The way Des Kensel’s drumming really seemed to “speak”. And Matt Pike’s open revelations of what he was so rabidly howling about, including the conspiracies he apparently believes (“The Black Plot”) and, most unexpectedly, the brutal hurt of lost love (“The Cave”). Bring on the February Australian tour.
10. Mutoid Man - Bleeder
This brief outburst of blazing, speedy power pop is ridiculously addictive. Hyperactively slashing and bouncing between turbocharged, thrashing hardcore and wild noodling - and very occasionally slamming on the brakes for a smear of sludge - Bleeder is exciting because of the unpredictability that underlies its catchiness. The frenetic, incendiary rhythms are irresistible, mostly due to the beastlike drumming performance of Ben Koller (Converge). The saccharine vocals may be a little much at times, but they also boost the over-the-top sense of shameless fun that makes the album so damn enjoyable.
Agency - The Stillness of Speed
Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death
Captain Cleanoff - Rising Terror
Christian Mistress - To Your Death
Cloud Rat - Qliphoth
Coliseum - Anxiety’s Kiss
Cosmic Psychos - Cum the Raw Prawn
Czarface - Every Hero Needs a Villain
Goatsnake - Black Age Blues
Hydromedusa - S/T
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper
Witchskull - The Vast Electric Dark
Based on the few promo tracks I've heard, With the Dead's self-titled release would have been my album of the year, but I have not heard the whole LP so I have not included it.
1. Magic Circle - Journey Blind - HEAVY METAL RULES THE WORLD!
2. Venus Sleeps - Dead Sun Worship - Irish doomsters' debut deserved more love.
3. Elder - Lore - Backed up this LP with one of the best shows I've seen in years.
4. Goatsnake - Black Age Blues - So catchy and heavy. Great vocals, terrible lyrics. Good ol' Goatsnake.
5. Black Trip - Shadowline - Lizzy/early Maiden worship from ex-Entombed man, Pete Starwind.
6. Lucifer - Lucifer I - Maybe even better than last year's album by The Oath, with the addition of Gaz (ex-Cathedral).
7. Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death - Better than anything Entombed have released in the last 15 years.
8. Church - Unanswered Hymns - Giant-killing doom. Soundtrack to the apocalypse.
9. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Nachthexen - The name says it all.
10. The Grand Astoria - The Mighty Few/"Masterplan"/"Kobaia Express" - Russian prog metal masters. Three releases in 2015.
11. Holy Serpent - S/T - Great stoner/doom debut from Melbourne youngsters.
12. Melbourne grind/gore: The Kill - Kill Them...All; Captain Cleanoff - Rising Terror; Clogged - S/T; Take That Vile Fiend - Excreted Brain Matters - The best grind releases of 2015 are from Hellbourne, of course.
13. High on Fire - Luminiferous - If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
14. Mansion - Altar Sermon - Kooky, creepy, churchy Finnish rock.
15. Japanese releases: Sobbed/WDLK - Split; Legion of Andromeda - Iron Scorn - Brutal.
16. Year of No Light/Bagarre Generale - Split - French masters can do no wrong.
17. Witchskull - The Vast Electric Dark - Canberra's own. Great debut.
18. The Body & Thou - You, Whom I Have Always Hated - Thou's brilliance almost wrecked by The Body's squawking parrot vocals.
19. Funeral Horse - Divinity for the Wicked - Catchy Texan heavy rock. Production needs more balls.
20. Yuri Gagarin - At the Center of All Infinity/Sea of Dust - Swedish space rock.
Other releases I enjoyed this year include:
Fought Upon Earth - S/T
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper
Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat
Ghost - Meliora
Drowning Horse - Sheltering Sky
People Problem - Examinations
Corsair - One Eyed Horse
Brume - Donkey
1. Arcturus - Arcturian
2. Captain Cleanoff - Rising Terror
3. Spectral Voice - Necrotic Doom
4. Witchskull - The Vast Electric Dark
5. Autopsy - Skull Grinder
6. Grave Pleasures - Dreamcrash
7. The Kill - Kill Them...All
8. Viscera Infest - Verrucous Carcinoma
9. Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden
10. Archgoat - The Apocalyptic Triumphator
1. Sumac - The Deal
2. Horisont - Odyssey
3. Coliseum - Anxiety’s Kiss
4. Goatsnake - Black Age Blues
5. Tribulation - The Children of the Night
6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper
7. Graveyard - Innocence & Decadence
8. Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death
9. High on Fire - Luminiferous
10. Grave Pleasures – Dreamcrash
JJ (I Exist/BMA "Metalise")
1. Witchskull - The Vast Electric Dark
2. Horisont - Odyssey
3. Church - Unanswered Hymns
4. Pissgrave - Suicide Euphoria
5. With the Dead - S/T
6. High on Fire - Luminiferous
7. The Kill - Kill Them…All
8. Captain Cleanoff - Rising Terror
9. Ufomammut - Ecate
10. Goatsnake - Black Age Blues
1. Take That Vile Fiend - Excreted Brain Matters
2. Legion of Andromeda - Iron Scorn
3. Captain Cleanoff - Rising Terror
4. Howls of Ebb - The Marrow Veil
5. Clogged - S/T