Maybe I’ve just been more engaged and up-to-speed compared to previous years, but 2015 has felt like a year in which highlights were plentiful. Albums worthy of being excited about have been released on a consistent basis, and there’s been a few surprises too, whether it be relatively new acts making their presence known, or veterans reminding everyone that there’s something to be said for longevity. As such, my end of year favourites is large enough to be spread over several posts over the coming days and weeks, making sure each album can be given its due.
The first few sections will be done in alphabetical order, as I think that ranking such a varied selection of records is somewhat silly. There are, however, a few releases this year that stand head and shoulders over the others, and deserve special mention, and will be featured in their own special, final list. And, as before, it’s worth noting that these are favourites, not a “best of”. These are records that are maybe not the most technical, inventive, or creative – or perhaps they are – but they’re ones I found myself coming back to once the initial thrill had worn off.
So, without further preamble, here’s the first selection.
Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
An early highlight, The Apocalyptic Triumphator demonstrated just why Archgoat are held in such high regard by those who dwell in darkness. Their trademark bestiality is evident, but so is a subtle sense of adventure. More than rabid blasphemy and violence, there is real depth to this release; yet none of their raw, primitive fury is compromised. The 41 minutes on offer are as pummeling and perverted as you’d want from a band with tracks called things like “Nuns, Cunts and Darkness” and “Phallic Desecrator of Sacred Gates”, but unlike many records of this style, The Apocalyptic Triumphator has real, actual songs. There is a strange catchiness to much of what is on offer here, and the way the album is split – into the darker, more ominous Left Hand Path and more direct, violent Right Hand Path – is a masterstroke.
Cease To Exist (Sonic Torture) – Relax In The Safety Of Your Own Delusions
Label: Yamabushi Recordings
Full review: Link
Over the course of 19 minutes, this monster of a release succeeds in making almost all other black metal you might care to name seem that most redundant of things: safe. Mixing Les Legions Noires style depravity with an other-worldly sense of discord and wrongness, served up with a delightfully low-fi production, Relax… is underground black metal par excellence. The 16 tracks blur in to one another in a ceaseless assault upon the senses, the sound of reality crashing in on itself given form. That it retains its shock factor this long since its release in February is remarkable, and speaks volumes about just how undeniable a band Cease To Exist are.
CHRCH – Unanswered Hymns
Full review: Link
CHRCH (formerly Church) have delivered a doom metal album for the ages in Unanswered Hymns. These three songs contain such musical and emotional depth that they are sure to stay with the listener long after the record has finished playing, haunted by the ghosts it conjures. It is, by turns, heart-wrenchingly beautiful and bone-breakingly heavy, never lingering too long on any one element or sound, but moving from funeral doom heaviness to slow, psychedelic-tinged beauty in a way that makes creating such awe-inspiring music seem almost easy. Each track is a small epic, with middle track “Stargazer” being the clear pick of the bunch with its undeniable, life-affirming sense of catharsis and release. One to sink in to and be absorbed by, Unanswered Hymns is a prime example of just how glorious doom metal can be.
Goat Semen – Ego Svm Satana
Label: Hells Headbangers Records
It’s been a long time coming, but Ego Svm Satana was more than worth the wait. Utterly depraved bestial black metal is the order of the day (with a name like Goat Semen, what did you expect?), remorseless in its savagery; but what elevates Ego Svm Satana above much of the barbarian competition is the fact that Goat Semen don’t forget the metal part of the equation. Blistering guitar solos and King Diamond-esque banshee shrieks cut through the relentless assault, keeping things listenable without compromising one inch. Perhaps the highlight, though, is the sudden drop during “Madre Muerte”, the vicious war metal making way for tolling bells and a tortured guitar line right out of the Beherit school of atmosphere. Dirty, vicious, and utterly undeniable.
Grave Pleasures – Dreamcrash
Label: Metal Blade Records
Beastmilk is dead; long live Grave Pleasures. Dreamcrash picks up the pieces left by Climax and molds them in to something even more desolate and catchier, full of glorious choruses and post-punk darkness. Mat “Kvohst” McNerney’s vocals are as strong as ever – this guy can sing – but it’s the re-assembled lineup behind him that really help make Dreamcrash such a pleasure. There’s real cleverness and invention to their approach to apocalyptic post-punk, making an old genre sound vital and fresh. Some of the songs on here are absolutely incredible, most notably “Crying Wolves”, one of the year’s absolute best. Not that it’s all misery and wallowing in sadness – tracks like “Futureshock” are almost celebratory in their nihilism, whilst “Girl In A Vortex” shows that love can bloom even during the end times even if, in the end, there is “No Survival”.