Grymm Kitty2015 has not been the best of years for yours truly, with car accidents, challenges, setbacks, and death upon death upon even more death dropped into my unwilling lap. I was ready to rain supernova-warm hellfire upon this calendar year, but thankfully, a much-needed vacation with friends just this past week helped to deaden the pain of all this negativity the year had brought upon me. Musically, it’s been quite positive and productive. October alone was a monster of a month for metal, as you can see by my list. So despite all the negative garbage, at least the soundtrack was incredible.

And once again, I want to thank you, the readers, commenters, and fans of Angry Metal Guy for your continued patronage and contributions. Even if I don’t agree with all of you, at least you folks brought it with your witty comments, well-thought-out rebuttals, and great musical suggestions. Each and every one of you makes this all worth it for myself and my fellow writers and editors, so thank you from all of us.

Onward.

Horrendous_Anareta(ish): Horrendous // Anareta – While Anareta didn’t wow me like last year’s incredible Ecdysis did, it managed to fortify Horrendous as a phenomenal death metal band, easily picking up the skull-tipped baton left behind by Evil Chuck over a decade ago.

A Swarm of the Sun_The Rifts10. A Swarm of the Sun // The Rifts – In a year punctuated by a strong lack of KatatoniaSteel Druhm praised this Swedish duo, their newest album, and their ability to distill the best parts of our favorite dead-end kings into songs that happen to be even more miserable. Pass the hankie, please.

Myrkur - M9. Myrkur // M – And let the bitching commence. “Metal cred,” “She’s one half of an indie pop band from New York,” “She’s not trve, kvlt, or grymm (Writer’s note: that last word would be me, btw)…” Done? Good. I was quite enamored with her folky take on traditional black metal. Old-school Ulver with female a cappella choirs? More, please.

Outre - Ghost Chants - 018. Outre // Ghost Chants – I like out-of-left-field black metal. Outre‘s full-length debut were playing black metal like the French do, but with some Voivod/Attila Csihar weirdness in the vocal department, leaving such a lasting impression on yours truly. A great band to keep an eye on in the future.

My Dying Bride - Feel the Misery 017. My Dying Bride // Feel the Misery – Truth be told, I am so glad to see My Dying Bride get their gothic groove back after over a decade of mediocrity. This is the strongest the band has been in ages, and Feel the Misery deserves its place among Turn Loose the Swans and The Angel and the Dark River. Welcome back, gang.

Nechochwen - Heart of Akamon6. Nechochwen // Heart of Akamon – A heady mix of atmospheric black metal, soaring leads, and beautiful Native American motifs, West Virginia’s duo Nechochwen crafted an amazing folk-drenched album. Steel Druhm called this “the Native America version of Bathory‘s Hammerheart,” and he’s not kidding.

Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction5. Cattle Decapitation // The Anthropocene Extinction – I admit that Cattle Decapitation wasn’t even a blip on my radar until 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity ripped me a new one. Its follow-up hasn’t left my rotation, thanks in no small part to the increased use of melodic death growls, turning “Manufactured Extinct” and “Pacific Grim” into anthems.

Imperial Triumphant - Abyssal Gods 014. Imperial Triumphant // Abyssal Gods – To steal a page from Saturday Night Live‘s club-hopper, Stefon: “Abyssal Gods has got EVERYTHING! You have a blaring horn section, a Japanese woman moaning and screaming, an overly happy two-second ragtime ditty complete with a ukulele… oh, and some well-played, scary-ass black metal!” Horrific and mindfuckingly awesome.

Beaten to Death - Unplugged3. Beaten to Death // Unplugged – Grindcore meets Smashing Pumpkins-esque major melodies; and it works beautifully. Also, holy shit, is this record fun as hell! You like fun, right? RIGHT?! Also #2, best song titles of the year by far (“Greenway/Harris,” “Papyrus Containing The Spell to Summon the Breath of Life Enshrined in the Collected Scrolls of Sheryl Crow,” “Don’t You Dare to Call Us Heavy Metal”).

Tau Cross_Tau Cross2. Tau Cross // Tau Cross –  This is an example of a supergroup done correctly. While it may, once and for all, signal the end of AmebixTau Cross is a fine, moody, primal beast in its own right, blending post-punk riffs, thundering drums by Voivod‘s Away, and some downright emotional vocal performances by Rob “The Baron” Miller. From death, births life.

Killing Joke - Pylon1. Killing Joke // Pylon – I went back and forth between this and Tau Cross as my #1 pick of the year. What won it out for Pylon was the non-stop sense of urgency and the effortless blend of all their past genre dalliances into such a heady mix of anger, vitriol, and focused rage. Pylon is a testament of our troubled times, both politically and naturally, locally and globally.

 

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

VI // De Praestigiis Angelorum – Atmospheric blackened creepiness from France’s elite.
Trials // This Ruined World – An excellent modern metal album from one of Chicago’s best unsigned bands.
He Whose Ox Is Gored // The Camel, the Lion, the Child – Progressive doom? I had my doubts, but this is a solid, beautiful album best experienced from start to finish.

Disappointment of 2015: The passing of Katherine Ludwig. No lie, my life would have been radically different had it not been for Katherine Ludwig and her pioneering command of Metal Maniacs magazine. As a bullied teenager in the 90s who felt stranded amongst all the jocks and scenesters, it gave me resolve that I wasn’t alone, introduced me to some damn good metal over the years, and planted a seed which would help me become who I am today as a writer and as a person. To paraphrase an old friend of mine, Katherine was “a rad lady who was essentially an island in a sea of dudes (in the metal community).” It was also incredible to call Katherine a mentor and friend for the last year of her life. Thank you so much for what you’ve given me and all of us, Katherine. Rest in peace.

Song o’ the Year: Myrkur // “Song to Hall up High” – Yes, this is a cover. No, it’s not even on an album. And you may moan about the lack of metal here. The reason for this selection is that I lost someone near and dear to me in July of this year, just around the time that this cover was released on YouTube. As a fan of the original by Bathory, I immediately fell in love with Myrkur‘s beautiful, respectful treatment of this song. But it will also remind me of my friend. As such, this is easily the most-loved and most-played song for me this year.

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  • Kill The King

    Song to Hall Up High love!!! Finally after reading a ton of year end lists I see one with that.

  • Lasse Momme

    That’s a damn fine list right there, definitely agree on Cattle Decapitation and Nechochwn. Thanks for slamming out awesome reviews all year despite the hardships you’ve endured. Here’s to a grand new year in 2016!

  • Dethjesta

    Beaten to Death most definitely have the best song time of year.

  • A fine list, Mr. Grymm.

  • madhare

    Finally someone brings up Swarm of the Sun! Here’s my “guest post” top list: :)

    I don’t consider myself a huge hi-fi music fan. And while I love following this blog, I don’t even try to listen to all the stuff that comes out during the year. I’ve also noticed that I’m getting really picky as I get older. I tend to like new stuff that is mostly atmospheric and slower. For energy and power I simply go back to my old favourites. My list clearly shows this. Lot of great new stuff out there but it just doesn’t stick with me. I also don’t know enough about music to appreciate musical prowess. I just tend to go for what sounds good to me. I also don’t consider the list to be in this absolute order. Some albums are total killers in the morning and some are best when night sets.

    1. A Swarm of the Sun: The Rifts
    I’m giving this the first spot as it has stayed with me all year. I think it’s one of those that stay with me a long time while others fade. I love the atmosphere which forms an arc through the whole album. I am really looking forward to what these guys come up with next.

    2. Dynfari – Vegferð tímans
    I love Moonsorrow and this tickles that very nerve in me.

    3. Shape of Despair: Monotony Fields
    There are times when this is the most boring thing ever. And there are times when this is perfect. Definitely not for daylight. Nothing revolutionary, and not necessarily their best album. Also not the best thing ever, but probably the best in its genre in 2015.

    4. Tribulation – The Children of the Night
    I don’t get Ghost, sorry. The whole irony concept is a bit tired and I don’t consider the music to be that amazing. I might chuckle once at their videos and lyrics but after that it’s meh. But Tribulation is what Ghost tries in their wet dreams to be. It still has lot of the same like the intertextual referencing of horror cliches. I think it also similarly about having fun with the source material. So both are kind of relying on borrowed imagery. But at least Tribulation is about going to dance in the cemetery at night instead of selling rubber skeletons to 10-year-old boys.

    5. Kontinuum: Kyrr
    Little bit poppy but somehow manages to balance that really nicely.

    6. Kauan: Sorni nai
    Perfect for slower moments. Lighter but still melancholic. Stargazing music.

    7. Ensiferum: One Man Army
    I didn’t take this one very seriously in the beginning. I’ve never been a huge Ensiferum fan. But this made me listen to all of their albums again and I also saw this live. I know lot of fans say that it’s just the same stuff as before. I disagree. I think it’s the same stuff but executed here much more professionally. It balances on that line between enthusiasm and slick production. (The next album is then probably clearly over-produced.) Also, seeing them live was awesome. I realised that this is kind of dance-metal. Yup. No, I don’t mean headbanging metal. One can have so much fun to this stuff. Beer in one hand, fist in the air, going with the “groove” of the music and laughing all the time.

    8. Sovran: Draconian
    Not much new here. But oh boy does this feed my craving for good melancholic gothic stuff. Combined various things from the old masters and delivers them on a nicely convenient single platter.

    9. Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine
    There are times when I want something lighter and perhaps a little happy and perky. It can be Anathema’s or Opeth’s later albums. Or it can be this. For me these are at the same time kind of nice but also kind of… they require less attention, kind of disposable.

    10. Bell Witch: Four Phantoms
    The previous album Longing has become one of my all time favourites. This is nowhere near as good. Might be that I am appreciating this simply because it gives me more Bell Witch.

    Runners up and notable disappointments

    Slugdge – Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms
    Great stuff. And got to love the concept. And the idea of combining the fun concept with totally professional music. But in the end, I think it’s slightly too blackened for my taste. I like it but don’t love it.

    Paradise Lost – Feel the Misery
    Kind of very good. But like someone here said in the discussion, loses value quickly.

    Gloryhammer – Space 1992
    Best thing ever for maybe a week. And the songs really stick in your head. But I doubt I will be playing this much again.

    Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror
    It’s BG alright. But. They’ve always had lot of energy and sort of miscellany in their music. But they’ve managed to balance it before. Now the whole thing just sounds like a hassle.

    Enshine: Singularity
    First sounded very promising, but somehow the more I listen to this the less I care about it. It’s got the right genre, the right sound, but something’s missing.

    • brutal_sushi

      You’re wrong with Enshine. But SOOOO right with Kauna. That album is fantastic start to finish.

      • madhare

        It’s weird with Enshine. I really wanted to like them. But nothing just *clicks* in me when I listen to them, like it does when listening to Insomnium or other melodeath bands like Dark Tranquillity.

        • brutal_sushi

          Im just joshin’ yah… I just happen to be a huge Jari Lindholm fan boy, and I really thought the new Enshine was superb.

    • Wilhelm

      Sorry, I hear no similarities between Ghost and Tribulation. I liked children of the night but I think that all the songs kind of run together and sound samey.

      • madhare

        I think I see the connection between Ghost and Tribulation more as thematic than musical. I also totally agree with you that the Tribulation songs sound very similar to each other, which probably explains why I don’t play it all that much. (During this year Ensiferum probably got ten times as much plays as the Tribulation album.)

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Wow so so wrong about Avatarium…I like Tribulation but like Wilhelm says I can’t see the point of your comparison to Ghost…whose album is a triumphant return to form, catchy and fun.

    • You wot m8?

      I don’t agree at all with your assessment of Girl With the Raven Mask, but your commentary is still hilarious.

      • madhare

        :D Thanks!

        I’ve really tried to figure out why I get such a negative vibe from Avatarium but without success. I just can’t help it. I can’t shake the impression that this is the school music teacher doing “metal”. (Perhaps just because she thinks it will be “cool” to the kids.)

        It’s at its worst in the single Girl With the Raven Mask. Everything progresses on a simple pre-laid train track. Music keeps chugging on with voice without emotion glued on top. And as the syllables hit every bloody note (beat? whatever they are) it feels didactic. The music teacher is showing the kids how to put words to music.

        music: chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk
        vocals: dit-dat dit-dat dee

  • Kronos

    Great list, Grymm; It’s good to see you found a lot of music to love in what I know was a very tough year. I din’t expect to see Cattle up so High, or a suspicious absence of Alustrium. I guess the back half of the year threw you a lot of great material!

    • Grymm

      I KNEW I forgot one.

      Alustrium was *awesome*.

  • Irineu Carvalho

    “one of Chicago’s best unsigned bands”… is that a compliment? Really?

    • Kronos

      There are plenty of great unsigned bands in Chicago. Trials, Immortal Bird, and Scientist, and those are just the ones I’ve reviewed for this site.

      • Irineu Carvalho

        I would say Trials is among the best American metal bands.

        • Kronos

          Damn right.

          • Dr_Fisting

            I think Immortal Bird is somewhat involved with a label now, actually.
            Other Chicago bands worth checkin’ out: Without Waves, Mexican Werewolf, Dawnbringer, Roman Ring, and Bear Mace.

          • Irineu Carvalho

            Hey, when are you guys coming to DC?

          • Dr_Fisting

            Not any time in the immediate future, unfortunately.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Trials is unsigned? Crazy.

        • Kronos

          They’re doing damn well for themselves sans label.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I can’t believe your somg of the year is not from Pylon. “New Cold War”, “Euphoria” or “War on Freedom” are all incredible.

    In any case, just want to let you know you make some of the best editorial content on the site. Keep up the awesome work, dude!

  • Lars Barres

    Sorry for your losses, Grymm. 2015 was a vile year for me as well. Hopefully we’ll all have a much better 2016.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Great list. Pylon is good, but I think I slightly prefer MMXII. By the way, assuming you haven’t seen it already, you might enjoy Rok ďábla (Year of the Devil), a quirky Czech film starring Jaz Coleman, among others.

    All the best to you in the new year, Grymm.

  • Pimpolho

    He Whose Ox Is freaking Gored. DAMN fine album. Great list Grymm!

    • Dethjesta

      I second this. Thanks for finding He Whose Ox Is Gored – one of my favourite new bands this year.

  • Thatguy

    Thanks for your positive contributions this year, Grymm, and I hope next year is better for you. My list, if I could be as motivated as you and do one, would be different, but you have a lot of my favourites in yours.

  • Great list! I left ASotS out of mine but it’s a great album. Ditto for the rest. Here’s for a vastly improved 2016 to all of you!

  • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

    I’ve read this post over and over and while my top 10 might be different (pfff, I didn’t even think about it, I’ve got enough videogames in my desk xD) the first two paragraphs hit me like a ton of bricks.
    I’ll try my best to not sound cheesy (I’m spanish and english is not my first language, you know) but here it goes: I hope that 2016 and the years to come are AMAZING for you and everyone at AMG. I especially remember the day I was reading the review of Tetragrammacide and you made me laugh like a child, and for that I am truly grateful because my inner self is not what it used to be. And I have one memory of that kind for every amazing commenter and reviewer here… I don’t know, maybe Christmas makes me soft or whatever but here’s TO ALL OF YOU
    EDIT: DAT GRAMMAR

  • One More Thing

    2015 was a considerably shitty year for myself as well, though not as bad yours (nobody I know died), so I can relate somewhat. I’m sorry for your struggles and wish you only the best in the following year.

    Separately, I’ve always looked forward to reading your reviews and hearing your perspective. Your list looks different than mine but you helped turn me on to a number of records that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered (Pylon being one of them), so thank you for that. I appreciate your continued effort here even while going through so much in your personal life. Mad respect. On to 2016!

  • We love you Grymm. <3 Thanks for all your excellent work this year!

    • Grymm

      I love you guys (and girl) as well. 2016 will be a better year. It HAS to be.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’m happy to see Horrendous made your list! I’ve just started listening to the Tau Cross album it’s a 2015 bolter for me. The Imperial triumphant I just couldn’t get into and ghost chants has been on my list to get round too…next year.
    Sorry to hear about such a shitty year I’m sure 2016 will kick your arse in all sorts of positive ways!

  • Luke_22

    It’s always a pleasure reading your work Grymm, I dig the honesty, passion, humour and emotion you put into your writing. And it was your review which finally got me to look into Killing Joke after all these years. Hopefully 2016 brings a lot more positive and happier things into your life. Nice list btw.

  • beurbs

    I really dig how the lyrics on Pylon are simple but still stimulating, and the delivery is more of a matter-of-fact cynicism instead of gnarly rage (which really helps the intelligibility). Seems like they spent a lot of time on those lyrics to get the most mileage from the simplest approach.

  • Zadion

    I am so sorry for all the loss, Grymm. Nonetheless, I and many others value your contributions to this site. I missed out on a lot of this list, so I’m making some rounds right now. Myrkur is immediate on my priority list now, because your SOTY is absolutely gorgeous. I am already in love.