Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best of 2015 - English version

This is a quick and very dirty translation of a very quick and dirty reporting of albums that impressed me in 2015.

Greek version

Reading instructions:
These are 20 albums (+1 EP, all in alphabetical order) that I liked. Whoever likes the genres described, should maybe check these albums out since there is a good chance he/she might like them as well.

Armored Saint - Win Hands Down
The old-timers show how it's done. Bush is timeless, the music is 100% heavy metal with that characteristic Armored Saint finesse. Most of all: GREAT songs. Could be the album of the year.

Bio-Cancer - Tormenting the Innocent
Very likeable Greeks, have definitely taken a step forward since their debut, they have the same rabid vocals where it's impossible to decipher the lyrics even when you have the booklet in front of you and they have enriched their songwriting, taking to a more death or deathrash direction. Which is a good thing!

Black Fast - Terms of Surrender
After a recommendation by a friend, Black Fast won me over in an instant. It seems that Vektor have already started influencing the new thrash scene (makes perfect sense) and none could be more happier about that than me. Of course, this is not a glaringly obvious influence. Black Fast is considerably more straight forward, the black influences are more discreet and the vocals are notably more typical. I would say that the latter is also their weak point, at least for me the vocals sound like Warbringer's, who in turn sound like half the NWOTM scene. But the music is so awesome that they make the list easily.

Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden
This year's doom metal album that worhips the right idols (see Candlemass / Solitude Aeturnus) with excellent guitar work, great riffs and the appropriate atmosphere. The vocals are not as glorious as those of the aforementioned idols but even so, this goes high in the list.

Deathhammer - Evil Power
The nightingale, Sargent Salsten is back. We're talking about one of the best extreme metal voices ever and of course Deathhammer is stuck in 1985 and play like there's no tomorrow. You won't find an epic like Fullmoon Sorcery on this album and overall I would rate this lower than 2012's Onward to the Pits but it still delivers the pain and their unique flavour, thanks to the Sargent. Those gits that "listen to everything" once more will be hiding in their holes. Thankfully.

Denner/Shermann - Satan's Tomb

The EP of the list. This is the collaboration of the guitar duo of the titans Mercyful with Sean Peck (Cage) and Snowy Shaw (KD/MF/Memento Mori - above all else!) and a bassist that I personally (did not) remember from Demonica (collab. of Shermann with Locicero of Forbidden-it's not bad!). I confess I would have much preferred that they saved all the good ideas for the Mercyful Fate reunion (feat. Snowy on drums of course), which I can't see how it will not become a reality after King's obligations with KD the band are done.
In any case, guitar-wise this is brilliant, Denner shines from afar in the solos. The riffs, while not what we would say "classic MF", they just drip METAL. Sean Peck is his usual self. Not bad at all of course but naturally I keep fantasizing how the songs would sound with King. Snowy is AWESOME as usual. It seems that money has been put on the table (Snowy doesn't usually play for the sake of it...) and Metal Blade is the label behind it. Which is the most puzzling thing about it (Metal Blade has KD and MF in its roster), so my main question is about the existence of this release in the first place. What are they trying to achieve? Independence? Something to keep us in shape until...? Presenting credentials to the audience so there is more eagerness for the future? Who knows? In any case, the Mercyful Fate legacy is present throughout the promotion of this, including the cover and the themes, Peck utilizes a lot of falsettos, you get the idea. As a release it's pretty fucking sweet, I just hope the guitar players did not spend their juice here.

Dr. Living Dead - Crush the Sublime Gods
New album for the Suicidal Tendencies clones without the Mike Muir mime on vocals, since he left the band to form Negative Self. This time the new singer also refers to Nuclear Assault and John Connely (OK, not that godly), and it suits them fine. Very enjoyable and essential to those who miss the Join Army/How Will I Laugh... era of Suicidal Tendencies, along with a pinch of Nuclear Assault and the crossover bands of the era (bit of DRI, bit of SOD, bit of Anthrax), which inevitably should remind people of the more contemporary Municipal Waste. So, the usual Dr. Living Dead then.

Encyrcle - Encyrcle
Heavy/speed trio from Denmark boasting AMAZING riffs, old-school, rather special vocals and generally the vibe is 80s metal but it stands out from the crowd for the songs and the guitar work. Not from a shredding point of view (although Klem is a great player) but because of the riffology and the songwriting, which doesn't go by with the bare essential and classics (or the commonplace if I want to be exact). Evoke the Night was the hook that got me, the album totally lived up to my expectations and at the end of the day this would be in my top 10, probably top 5.

Enforcer - From Beyond
I was never the huge Enforcer fan, always found them very likeable with some very good songs but not something to lose your mind over. Of course, I have never seen them live and from what I've gathered their gigs are so fun and energy-filled that they make up for it, for a part of their audience at least. From Beyond changes things. The album is filled with very good songs and some AMAZING ones, like the s/t one that I literally played the shit out of it. They rightfully earn a place in the list and I hope this increase in quality continues.

Exarsis - The Human Project
Very likeable Greeks, case two. Exarsis has made a significant change in their line-up, bringing Nick on vocals. Those are no longer the love/hate variety like those of his predecessor Alex, although they continue the legacy of high pitched screaming. Personally, I definitely like them better. More importantly though, there is a definite improvement in the songwriting, which was good in the previous album too but sounded rather generic to me. This time they can boast some fine songs, with character and hooks, which as a result made me listen to the album again and again. I'm curious to see how they will go on, since another guitarist has left the band (a cursed post it seems...)

Faith No More - Sol Invictus
This is not a comeback of Black Gives Way to Blue caliber, nor of Surgical Steel for example. But it is an album with a unique flavor and unique moments and that alone is enough for it to make the list. The truth is that it took me a few spins (definitely a grower album) and my first reaction was lukewarm. Only because it was FNM and for the sake of the dear Mr. Patton I came back to it but in the end it was worth it. Separation Anxiety is awesome. And I still discover new things, or rather, to be precise, I find songs that sounded indifferent at first to be very enjoyable, in a Mr. Bungle sense (Disco Volante era too, see Cone of Shame for example). By next year I'll have a more solid opinion but the fact that I'm still very interested makes me suspect that in the future we will be saying "when this came out we thought it was mediocre...imagine that".

Malevolent Creation - Dead Man's Path
Listening to Blood of the Fallen, it is evident that when Malevolent Creation focus they have no opposition (* for as long as it is playing). They don't fall in the trap of brutality and blast-beats with no restraint, they write riffs that will grab you and stick to your brain, you know without a doubt that this is Malevolent Creation (recognizable from miles away), Hoffmann is Hoffman and to cut a long story short, this is definitely one of the best death metal albums this year.

Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat
Huge obsession. From the beginning I was FLOORED. Grind with atmosphere, with meaning. Some talk about a Swans influence on this album, I never managed to get into them so I don't know what to tell you about that, but I do know there is a sonic variety to be found here that will lure even the unitiated, there are some dynamite tracks, breaks for exceptional raging and (I will say it again), a very special atmosphere. This is due to the aura of Napalm Death, which is not your typical grind/death band with the same couple of tricks in their music but also in the industrial kind of things (or things that a metalhead such as I don't know about) and effects they utilize in intros that mesh perfectly with the concept of the album (what a cover). I surprised myself at how many times I put this sonic violence on and how exciting it sounded each and every time. I daresay that this is one of their best albums.

Negative Self - Negative Self
The debut of the band of the departed Dr. Mime of Dr. Living Dead. And I'd say they did an even better job than Dr. Living Dead themselves! Very catchy, total Suicidal Tendencies worship of the How Will I Laugh... era (who would have known that one day we'd had two Suicidal Tendencies clones), whoever likes the idea, dig in. Andreas Sandberg or Dr. Ape as he was known in Dr. Living Dead (self-sarcasm, always scores points that!), still imitates Mike Muir (complete with bandana) but the result sounds neither amateurish or sad. On the contrary I'd say that academically speaking, this fucking rules and well done to them. Naturally, I'm speaking as a bereft ST fan, your mileage may vary. I should listen to Ouijabeard at some point, where Sandberg sings as well and they play heavy metal apparently, I'm curious to hear how he handles that.

Powermad - Infinite
Remember them? Nice Dreams is one of the best songs by lesser known bands (how do we say Another Return to Church Hill?) and 1989's Absolute Power is a fantastic album that you should own if you like the idea of original power/thrash with great vocals (come on, do check Nice Dreams!).
This is the return of the original lineup with the help of Soilwork's drummer. Right from the start it is obvious that this is not an Absolute Power II, the album sounds way more modern, more from a sound production point than musical. I'm talking about ultra-heavy guitars that point to Nevermore (By a Thread is a direct reference to the latter's songwriting as well) and the music is not power/thrash anymore, they hit MUCH harder this time around. On the other hand, this is not your usual band that saw the reunion-train and hopped on. They are still absolutely interesting and overlooking the classic reflex of "but this is not like Absolute Power!" and paying attention to the music, a great album is revealed, which is based on thrash with a modern look that focuses on Nevermore and I'd say Devin Townsend as well, whom Joel Dubay (guitarist/singer) reminded me of at various moments. Unfortunately, his singing is a lot more "restrained" and his wonderful screams are absent (listened to Nice Dreams yet?) but on the other hand maybe those wouldn't suit this material.
I'm almost certain that this album will basically tank because old fans will be disappointed with the modern elements, young fans won't pay attention (powerwho?) and most people probably didn't even realize that the band has resurfaced. In any case, this is a very good album and it's worth a lot of listens as there is a lot of juice here.

Ranger - Where Evil Dwells
Another traditional speed metal band, this time from Finland, that won a place in the list at the nick of time from the Belgians Evil Invaders, who also released a very enjoyable album. I don't have something profound to say about the guys, if you like speed metal adorned with screams-tributes to Cyriis, that did not notice the 90s at all and has many pleasant songs and some dynamites, go for it.

Sacral Rage - Illusions in Infinite Void
Personally, I find this album to be the best album to have come from Greece. All its influences are personal favorites, that is Annihilator of the good old days, Helstar of the middle wonderful days, Watchtower, US Metal in general and tons of screaming throughout. I was also won over by its sound and every individual member who have something to offer in every track. Marios and his wonderful solos stand out but it's a really an exceptional team that is gathered here and I hope they take it further. As a budding fanboy I'd like to express my wish that Dimitris with the elastic throat will work on his middle range as well. On the high register he is top-notch, on the middle he needs an extra something. But I'm just nitpicking now. I think Lost Chapter E: Sutratma is one of my most played songs this year, top song and fantastic solo. Top 5 album.

Satan - Atom by Atom
Just a couple of words because my hand is tired (writing this in one breath). Satan remain just as monumental as on Life Sentence, I'd say Life Sentence perhaps wins on the details but that basically means we are talking about a full 8.5/10 album and anyone who flirts with the retro scene should check it out to see how the truly experienced do it.

Satan's Host - Pre-dating God Part I και ΙΙ
The return of the Tyrant to Satan's Host has paid off handsomely. Every album is essential and that is all I'm going to say about that. This year they show great productivity by releasing two albums simultaneously (one day apart). While I confess I haven't listened to it much as I looked into them very recently, I can guarantee that if you liked the previous two, you should invest here as well. The Tyrant is obviously guaranteed quality but the songwriting is just as strong. I'm not in the position at the moment to say if there is anything as epic as the groundshaking Before the Flame of 2011 but hold the line and we'll get back to you on that (yeah right!)

Vhöl - Deeper than Sky
The most recent addition to the list. Normally, this shouldn't even concern me, it says black metal/crust (in the archives) with heavy/power influences. Members of Hammer of Misfortune (which never clicked with me and never got the fuss), Agalloch and YOB (not me at all). On paper, this should bore me to death. Not only I was not bored but I was actually really hooked. I should say that I think the metal-archives description is completely off the mark, at least as far as this album is concerned, the basis here is heavy metal and there are just many different things to be found on it (yes, including crust and black), without ever sounding like a mess. The music is extremely interesting and soon addictive, the s/t song is awesome and if I have one complaint it's the rather indifferent vocals, which are still adequate and do the job. Definitely check it out.

No comments: