For as far back as I can remember the ‘Best of’ lists have been something I’ve always enjoyed for a lot of reasons. But the discovery aspect is the most important reason. It’s my chance to catch up on all the gems I missed and hopefully find a few that resonate with me for more than just the time it takes to go from the first track to the last. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to this site for allowing me to not only write about metal but to share my picks of the year with all of you.
Hacking this thing down to a bite size piece of flesh was difficult. Tough cuts had to be made but in the end this list accurately represents what I listened to the most or in some cases what had the biggest effect on me. With all that said, this year has been another good one for metal that has seen boundaries pushed even further than before and several of the smaller labels putting out absolutely stellar releases. So, let’s get on with it shall we…
9. Adversarial – Death, Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism
As good as Adversarial were on their debut, with this second full length they blazed a path right into my top picks. It’s a non stop barrage of hate fueled death metal with a healthy dose of black metal ferocity. No frills and no window dressing just relentless blasts. This album makes me think of Immolation on uppers during a ritual sacrifice and that’s always a good thing.
8. Clouds Collide – All Things Shining
Beautiful, ethereal and emotional are all terms that fit All Things Shining. This one has been a soundtrack to my day to day life and has been with me through ups and downs. The power of this album is that no matter what, it is perfect company. The combination of post rock ambiance and subtle touches of black metal paints a wonderful picture that only gets better as time passes.
7. Sumac – The Deal
With a stew of Isis, Baptists, Botch and Russian Circles there was little doubt The Deal would be good but I truly had no idea how good this would turn out to be. Heavy in that Aaron Turner sort of way we are all accustomed to but with a massively thick sound. What drew me in is the fact that several listens are required to even begin to get the full picture. But once it hits, it hits hard.
6. Ævangelist – Enthrall To the Void of Bliss
On their fourth full length, Ævangelist spew the most nihilistic and dissonant death metal album of the year. For me it was a difficult first spin but with each successive listen the album opened up, layer by layer. Over time it became an extremely satisfying, albeit insanely dark, favorite. The vocals from Ascaris are the most terrifying in all of death metal. Seriously, this album is fantastic.
5. Steve Von Till – A Life Unto Itself
I’ve lost count on how many times this has been in my ears since its release but one things for sure, it is worth every play. I’m not here to defend the fact that Von Till’s stunning contemporary folk album is in the top picks of my metal list because if you’ve heard it you know why. If you haven’t shame on you and fix that immediately. This album is the equivalent of sitting by a campfire contemplating the whole of life as you peer into the expanse of the world.
4. Hate Eternal – Infernus
Infernus is a glorious return to the band’s early days that made me a lifelong fan. Erik Rutan sounds better than he has in ages and still knows how to craft some of the best, most intense death metal around. The band bludgeons throughout and even takes a shot at a death metal jam track, which of course works like a charm. There’s a reason Hate Eternal are one of my death metal favorites and on their sixth full length they continue to stand tall.
3. Vattnet Viskar – Settler
Vattnet Viskar is one of those bands that have been a joy to see come into their own. On Settler they do just that, putting out the best and most cohesive album of their career. The musicianship is truly astounding and with the focus on melodic black metal their sound is fully realized. The other huge component is their passion, which in today’s landscape is unparalleled. I spent a full two weeks listening to nothing but this album and what I came away with is something that’s unrelenting, vicious, emotional, beautiful and stirring all at the same time.
2. Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
For Finland’s Archgoat, evil is simply a way of life and their third full length is the physical embodiment of that evil. This is what it sounds like when death metal and black metal are mixed to absolute perfection. Everything that was great about their first two releases is here but the hellish intensity, the songwriting and the construction of every devilish riff are all on another level entirely. Loud and brash yet catchy and memorable, this is how it’s done.
1. Khemmis – Absolution
Thirty seconds into an early stream of “Torn Asunder” and I was completely enthralled by Khemmis. I was captivated by the doomy tone, classic rock structuring and those high flying solos. Once the album came out the band proved they were no one hit wonder. Each and every song has something different to offer and not one second of the six tracks offered fails to satisfy. Vocals that shift from beautifully clean to growlingly harsh along with riffs for days make this one not only my number one but my most listened to of the year. It will no doubt be one I return to for a very long time to come.
Eleven Extremely Honorable Mentions
Ecferus – Prehistory: Exceptionally vibrant black metal with insane instrumentation. Keep an eye out for Ecferus. Spin it here.
Yautja – Songs of Lament: Decimating mixture of noise, grind and death metal. Perfect for a night of debauchery. Spin it here.
Beaten to Death – Unplugged: Adventurous grindcore with a melodic side and a huge sense of humor. I haven’t been this excited about the genre since Prowler In the Yard. Spin it here.
Magister Templi – Into Duat: Traditional metal in the vein of the all time great classics. Heavy on burly riffs and soaring vocals. Spin it here.
Nightslug – Loathe: The filthiest and most vile sludge I heard this year. Absolutely crushing. Spin it here.
Thanks to all of you, the readers, for stopping by. Hopefully you can take another few minutes and check out the rest of our end of year extravaganza. Happy New Year to you all and we will see you in 2016.