Following on from the first A-Z section of my 2015 favourites – which can be found here – here is the second part. As always, these are maybe not the best albums, but that is such a subjective, loaded term that it is all but impossible to write about with any authority. What can be stated, though, is that over the course of the year, the albums features have proven, without doubt, to be my favourites, with lasting appeal that kept me coming back to them.
IIVII – Colony
Label: Consouling Sounds
Full review: Link
Colony is a prime example of story-telling through music, rather than through lyrics. The sci-fi dark ambient of IIVII (a solo project of Josh Graham) does not so much tell a story as it reveals a grand narrative, showing just enough to pull you in, whilst concealing enough to leave you wanting more. This is the cold desolation of space given sonic form – haunting, lonely, yet possessed of a kind of stark beauty. Moments of emptiness contrast with sections of incredible weight and gravity, making Colony a record full of both anxiety and appeal. It’s also remarkably listenable for a dark ambient record, whilst also being full of small, subtle details that reward repeat listens. Remarkable.
It Only Gets Worse – Christian Country Home
Full review: Link
Whilst this list contains some very bleak, dark music, Christian Country Home is perhaps the most emotionally devastating. The duo of Matt (Secret Admirer) and Maurice (Gnaw Their Tongues) don’t just combine ambient, experimental electronica, and nods to dark ambient, hip-hop, and bleak dubstep; they add to that mix a very real, almost painful sense of loneliness and regret. What hammers that home is Matt’s spoken word sections on tracks like “Black Metal Imagery” and (especially) the title track, being so honest and stark that they could break even the most resolute of hearts. There’s still a kind of loveliness to be found in the music here, such as the piano on “Late In The Game” and the Fennesz-esque “Still”, but on the whole, It Only Gets Worse very much live up to their name in the best way possible.
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Label: Profound Lore
There is no need to dwell on the back-story to the resurrection of Leviathan. Regardless of your opinion on Wrest, it is difficult to deny that Scar Sighted is his most striking, impressive album under the Leviathan moniker since Tentacles of Whorror, 11 years ago. The sense of utter wrongness that defines Leviathan’s approach to black metal has rarely sounded stronger or more apparent, each track being a part of some unceasing nightmare in to the unknown. Perhaps more overtly aggressive than usual, yet still as unsettling as ever, Scar Sighted is a deeply unpleasant and unnerving journey, yet one that is utterly undeniable and hard to pull yourself out of once the record begins.
L.O.T.I.O.N – Digital Control And Man’s Obsolesence
Label: La Vida Es Un Mus Discos
L.O.T.I.O.N are the kind of band that show that, in an era when “punk” has become something depressingly mainstream and tame, there is still potential for the genre to be twisted in ways that are shocking and dangerous. Digital Control And Man’s Obsolescence mixes crust punk and industrial to create genuine outsider art, recalling everything from G.I.S.M to Nitzer Ebb. This is punk as pure protest, railing against the modern world with almost paranoid conviction, backed up with some of the most energetic, pounding music released this year, regardless of genre. For all the industrial electronic flourishes and themes – of which there are many – there still remains a defiantly human soul to Digital Control And Man’s Obsolescence, fighting back against the countless ways in which modern society crushes down on humanity. This is the kind of music that is absolutely impossible to ignore, and few records released this year have sounded so vital and urgent.
Macerie – Macerie (Self-titled)
Full review: Link
As oppressive as the music contained on Macerie‘s self-titled cassette is, there’s also something gloriously euphoric about it. For sure, there are plenty of moments of sludge and crust heaviness, such as during “Vermi”, but “La Luce Del Buio” and “Agonia” are possessed of a certain transient beauty, the kind more usually found in cascadian black metal and the like. As notable as such contrasting aspects are, what sets this release apart is the way that both dualities sit alongside each other so naturally, with each transition and change of atmosphere feeling effortless and instinctive. It’s all tied together with a consistently heavy atmosphere, ensuring that even though numerous and varied comparisons can be made, Macerie’s sound and feel is entirely their own. It’s rare for a release to be both so bleak and so uplifting, and that it is their debut makes Macerie’s achievements all the more remarkable.