David E. Gehlke Best-of 2015

Monday, 7th December 2015

Something to this effect may have been uttered in previous years, but it’s still prescient today: The ability to listen to one’s mobile musical device (i.e. an iPod Nano) allows for deeper inspection into what would constitute the year’s best songs. While metal is still an-album driven style of music, there are always stand-out songs, quick-hitters, and jams that remind us of a certain place and time, no matter it be a pleasant, or not-so-pleasant experience. (That’s as sentimental as we’ll get.)

Back when this site was Blistering.com and we did lists in this format starting in 2011, the best songs piece always gave our writers the most trouble. Alas, it still does, with hundreds, nay, thousands of songs having to be rummaged through and narrowed down to ten. Mission accomplished here, with some obvious choices, most notably Antimatter (pictured above) and An Autumn for Crippled Children, who flip-flopped their album position. And don’t forget about Queensryche – they can still pen one with the best of ’em.

1. Antimatter – Hole (from The Judas Table)
Master of minimalism and author of the year’s best song (in this scribe’s opinion), Mick Moss can do more with a few barren chords that just about anyone else. “Hole” is yet another in a long line of memorable, stark songs, all of which have personal lyrics and of course, the man’s penchant for sheer darkness.

2. An Autumn for Crippled Children – “Endless Skies” (from The Long Goodbye)
Man, who else writes songs like this? AAFCC continue to hold serve as blackgaze’s best band, with “She’s Drawing Mountains” is the climax on The Long Goodbye, an urgent, waiting-in-the-dark number spurred on by simple keyboard patterns, and of course, those whirling chords that never stop churning.

3. Queensryche – “Hourglass” (from Condition Human)
You know, a song like “Hourglass” from Queensryche would have been deemed unfathomable about five years ago. The Todd LaTorre fronted version of the band has made a remarkable recovery, with “Hourglass” being Condition Human’s finest moment, a tangled, heady cut, accentuated by the song’s triumphant melodic back-end.

4. Moonspell – Domina (from Extinct)
The full-swoon from Moonspell is in effect with “Domina.” Featuring all clean vocals from Fernando Riberio, “Domina” grapples with a lush, well-orchestrated chorus that is everything one ask for from a Goth quasi-ballad.

5. Killing Joke – “Big Buzz” (from Pylon)
The ageless wonders in Killing Joke continue to defy time and expectations with Pylon. “Big Buzz” emerges as the album’s worldly song-oriented melodic jaunt, with Jaz Coleman spouting off (in a rare moment) some kind, uplifting words, in a bouncy, dance-room ready number. No room for nihilism here.

6. Paradise Lost – “Victim of the Past” (from The Plague Within)
Nick Holmes’ comforting croon and nasty bark make “Victim of the Past” one of Paradise Lost’s more multifaceted cuts of late. Its subtle Euro-Goth backdrop and steady nods to the glory days of Shades of God show that Paradise Lost are equally in touch with their immense path, and their future.

7. Angra – “Storm of Emotions” (from Secret Garden)
A shame that Angra’s Secret Garden has been overshadowed by Kiko Loreio (sic) jumping ship to Megadeth – it’s the band’s best album since Temple of Shadows. Lead single (and video) “Storm of Emotions” finds the Brazilian-on-Italy ensemble working wonders with a cryptic, churning ballad, buoyed by a big-time chorus from Fabio Lione.

8. Publicist UK – “Levitate the Pentagon” (from Forgive Yourself)
Lots ‘o choices from Forgive Yourself, but “Levitate the Pentagon,” in its sarcastic, self-help denying glory takes the cake. Lots of great one-liners from vocalist Brett Bamberger (click the video below), not to mention those graceful post-punk chords.

9. Enslaved – “Daylight” (from In Times)
The Norwegians saved the best cut on In Times for last – “Daylight.” Initially forged by way of the band’s now streamlined Scanda-prog approach, the song takes an immense drop into gorgeous melodic territory, as gorgeous guitar strumming provides one of the year’s more thoughtful moments.

10. Kontinuum – “Í Huldusal” (from Kyrr)
Iceland’s Kontinuum are emblematic of how their home country can spin out some of the world’s most unique-sounding metal. “Í Huldusal” holds the distinction of Kyrr’s lead single and best song, embellished oh-so-nicely by those Icelandic lyrics, up-and-through Goth riffs, and sparkling melodies.

Biggest surprise of the year
Iron Maiden’s The Book of Souls. Attempting a double-album at this stage in the career might be viewed as a bit pretentious, even on Maiden’s end, but The Book of Souls displayed superlative depth and adventure. “Empire of the Clouds” seems to be getting most of the attention, but we’ll harbor on cuts like “Speed of Light,” “Death or Glory,” and “If Eternity Should Fall.”

Best newcomer of the year, i.e. someone who released a debut album in 2015
Publicist UK. One quick glance at these lads in their promo shot and frankly, enthusiasm dwindled immediately. But here’s a smart, draw-you-in type of album with conversational singing, deft guitar/bass interplay, and some of the year’s most intoxicating songs, all in the manner of post-punk with slight metal tendencies.

Biggest disappointment of the year
Slayer, in comparison to a lot of their (much) younger contemporaries, sound old, and flat. Not terribly enthused about the lyric and riff choices from Mr. Kerry King, who as time has shown, was clearly the inferior songwriter to Jeff Hanneman. Slayer may be better advised playing out the string with old songs than trying anything new.

Best cover art (Click here for larger image)
Locrian’s Infinite Dissolution. While the album has its merits, the cover art created by David Altmejd (also called The Eye) is – pun-intended – totally eye-catching, a multi-faceted drawing with layers upon layers. Surely this thing looks great on vinyl, too. Relapse’s creative know-how on artwork strikes again.

Best concert
Heavy Montreal has to be the most well-run, clean, and fun festival in North America. Across three days, everything was schedule, the sound was great, the food choices were spot-on, and the August weather in Montreal was simply fantastic. And if we want to get sentimental, it’s how yours truly and his wife celebrated their first wedding anniversary. How cute.

Most anticipated album of 2016.
A tie between Katatonia and Omnium Gatherum, although the Swedes will get the nod since they’re closest to this scribe’s heart. With a serious of non-album releases out of the way (see: reworking of Viva Emptiness, Sanctitude, et al), it will be interesting to see if the Nystrom/Renkse combo will revert back to the heavier output ala The Great Cold Distance, or go down new pathways…

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