David E. Gehlke Best-of 2015Monday, 7th December 2015
Seems like metal righted itself after a so-so 2014. We spend all of this time navigating through a sea of endless releases, new styles, old styles regurgitated and so forth, that it’s easy to lose perspective on what’s going on. But 2015 did what its predecessor couldn’t: It brought forth variety, whether by old standbys, or new buzz bands, which in the case of this list, belongs to the very mixed batch of Publicist UK, along with Enforcer and Arcturus. Once it came time to tally it all up, An Autumn for Crippled Children stood the tallest, whether as a result of being one of this scribe’s favorite bands, or the fact they’re the best at what they do, i.e. blackgaze.
Obviously, the site got a little bit of a face-lift recently (more on that soon), but above that, it’s nice to see the thing stabilize. That wouldn’t be possible without the help of Kyle McGinn and the staff, who held it down throughout the year while yours truly was completing a book about Noise Records. (That would be Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian in the above photo. He wrote the book’s foreword.) There is quite the stiff competition; i.e. hundreds of fellow metal sites, so your support and kind words are most appreciated. Enough out of me – let’s break er’ down…
1. An Autumn for Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye (ATMF)
With AAFC, you can cast the vocals aside – they’re not even essential. The band could be all-instrumental and still be as momentous, melancholic, et al. With The Long Goodbye, the Netherlands trio continue down the black-gaze path that presently, they have no equal (and that includes you, Deafheaven). No one in the extreme metal realm writes songs this beautiful.
2. Antimatter – The Judas Table (Prophecy)
The album Antimatter figurehead Mick Moss has always threatened to make, The Judas Table illustrates the man’s ability to create stark, yet emotionally-driven songs, stacked with well-placed melodies, and of course, Moss’s moody vocal timbre. The pacing, the heavy moments, the “chilled” moments, and everything in between…Antimatter is barely metal, but we’ll take ’em.
3. Publicist UK – Forgive Yourself (Relapse)
Man, just looking at these guys, their name, their silly haircuts, their love of beer…not exactly an enticing prospect. But here’s Publicist UK, in their conversational-tone vocal style, back-shot melodies, dreariness, and social commentary, making one of the year’s more listenable albums with Forgive Yourself. They’re quite possibly the Killing Joke for the new age.
4. Kamelot – Haven (Napalm)
Singer Tommy Karevik appears to have settled into his role rather nicely, serving as essentially Roy Khan Mach II, and that’s fine. Main Kamelot dude Thom Youngblood clearly recognized the idea of singer continuity, which is all over the excellent Haven. The trans-continental melodic metal troupe has never sounded this confident and grandiose.
5. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud (Nuclear Blast)
Steady Amorphis goes. Under the Red Cloud was hawked by guitarist Esa Holopainen as one of his three favorite Amorphis albums ever, and it’s easy to see why. The songs here are climatic throughout, guided by Tomi Joutsen’s masterful vocals and of course, those wooden, far-and-wide guitar melodies. The Finns will be hard-pressed to top this one going down the road.
6. Anomalie – Refugium (Art of Propaganda)
One of the year’s real sleepers, Anomalie’s Refugium is a smart, heaving mix of black and post-metal, rung through an atmospheric vacuum. Yet it’s all about the immediacy of these songs, not to mention the production, where upon this Austrian bunch are equally heavy as they are delicate.
7. Enforcer – From Beyond (Nuclear Blast)
Rapidly becoming the go-to band for vintage metal, Sweden’s Enforcer go about things with a sort of snap and snarl that few bands can match. On their fourth album From Beyond, the Swedes are on the attack all the way, as evidenced by “Undying Evil,” “Banshee,” “One With Fire,” and “Hell Will Follow.” Moreover, it all feels fresh, Enforcer well established now as a certifiable force.
8. Moonspell – Extinct (Napalm)
With a renewed focus on melodies that jut back to their unbeatable Irreligious album from 1996 (!), Moonspell’s Extinct is Goth revelry at its finest. The album’s first songs take it all the way, especially “Domina,” which is the type of graceful, swooning song that certain bands could only dream of writing.
9. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast)
Of the now “classic” Swedish melodic death metal bands, Soilwork might be in the best shape. Their sound continues to evolve and gain complexity, something that is quite obvious throughout the excellent The Ride Majestic. But let us not forget about the band’s distinct melodic edge, driving home world-beating cuts like the album’s title track, and “Enemies of Fidelity.”
10. Arcturus – Arcturian (Prophecy Productions)
Without Garm, Arcturus has been a considered a mere shell of their former selves. 2005’s Sideshow Symphonies was a total miss, resulting in a ten-year wait for the Norwegians to pop another one out. Thankfully, Arcturian rights the Arcturus ship, emerging as a whacked-out, wondrous, space-age album that can stand rightfully beside the band’s adventurous 90s output.
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