Welp, here we are in April—the official start of Q2—and holy hell has this year gone by quickly. Was it really three months ago already that I was home vomiting from food poisoning on New Years Eve? (And it was food poisoning, not alcohol; symptoms set in the day before New Years. While I was at work.) Regardless, we’ve had a lot of great heavy music from all manner of different scenes so far in 2015, and the albums represented on the following list are the ones I thought went down the smoothest. For my top five (unordered) metal albums of Q1—plus an additional five honorable mentions—read on:
Death Karma – The History of Death and Burial Rituals, Part I
Making your debut full-length a concept album about how different countries handle death and burial? That’s pretty damn ambitious, but holy hell did Death Karma ever pull it off. With six songs paying tribute to six different countries’ traditions—and incorporating six different sets of native influences all the while—the Slovak black metal duo gave us both an anthropology lesson and a total kick-in-the-ass. Each listen reveals new intricacies, and each destination—be it Madagascar, the Czech Republic or China—is as compelling as the last. Now if only we didn’t have to wait for a Part II…
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Napalm Death have really been on some kind of magical late-career run over the last decade and a half, and Apex Predator – Easy Meat only continued that success. Album No. 15 takes inspiration from the tragic 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, and sees the band rip into capitalism and modern slavery with one of their most vicious diatribes yet. From the brutally heavy (“Smash A Single Digit”) to the hauntingly subdued (“Dear Slum Landlord…”), Apex Predator simply has it all. Another tremendous album from a band that’s made a habit of them.
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Put simply, Scar Sighted is one of the more challenging (and, ultimately, rewarding) albums you’ll listen to this year. But then, we’d be fools to expect anything less from Jef Whitehead, who—as his alter-ego, Wrest—has been one of the most influential figures in American black metal. (If not the most.) And even having seemingly reached a point of relative comfort in his personal life, Whitehead’s kept things as dense and anguish-ridden as ever on the musical side. But when that approach gives us stuff like “Wicked Fields of Calm” or the epic, ten-minute title track, it’s hard to say you’d want it any other way.
Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
If you told me coming into the year that a new Marilyn Manson album would, in 2015, rank among my favorite albums of the first quarter, I’d have doubled over in hysterics. And yet, here we are in April and said album’s probably gotten more mileage from me than any other album this year. That’s all thanks to The Pale Emperor‘s less-is-more approach; here, Manson eschews much of the shock and bombast we’ve come to expect from him and gives his bluesier, more vulnerable side a chance to shine. The result? His most exciting and complete work in more than a decade.
Enslaved – In Times
As an enormous fan of Enslaved’s last album, Riitiir, I was a bit hesitant to heap praise when follow-up In Times dropped in March. Would it—could it—compare? Probably 20 full listens later, the answer is a resounding yes. Hell, it might even be better. With just six songs spanning its 53 minutes, it’ll take at least a couple of spins for everything to set in. But once it all does, everything here—the catchy refrain on “Building With Fire,” the gorgeous clean intro on “Nauthir Bleeding” or even the start-stop urgency of the title track—will wow you. A terrific piece of work, through and through.
- Sannhet – Revisionist
- Brooklyn instrumental trio hit hard and often on their absolutely massive second full-length. [full review]
- Kraków – Amaran
- Not actually Polish, but yes actually awesome. A tremendous set of sludgy, experimental post-metal from Norway. [full review]
- Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar
- But for “Verbund,” this might have cracked the top five. Fantastic, straightforward Bavarian black metal. [full review]
- Torche – Restarter
- The Floridian doom pop heroes return, thicker than ever, with another awesome set. [full review]
- Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz
- You’re surprised at this? As much love as I gave to Steel Panther in ’14, there’s no way these Finnish glam metal revivalists weren’t going to hit home in ’15. [full review]
That’ll do it for me. As always, check back later for more, and keep an eye out for other staff lists throughout the week!
Keep it heavy,