2015 ended up a twisted year and nowhere does that shine more brightly than in my listening habits and by extension my top 10(ish) below.
This year saw many a change… Old friends were lost and new friends were found, likewise there were job and career changes, but through it all AMG and its growing feeling of community shone bright and strong.
It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be able to work so closely with the contributors and to write and edit for you all. Thanks for all the memories!
(ish): Monster Magnet // Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) – Well I’m told this isn’t list-worthy, but I disagree. Back in 2014 Monster Magnet released Milking the Stars, a rearranged and re-imagined version of Last Patrol. This was a complete failure in my mind. Now, taking the 2010 release Mastermind, Monster Magnet stripped it down to it’s bare necessities and then dirtied it up, even going to the point of introducing porno wife Cobra and a re-imagining of Mastermind‘s “Dig That Hole.” “She Digs That Hole” is nasty, fun and it hooks you straight away. Frontman Dave Wyndorf gives you his take “I’d call it a deranged fusion of Garage-Psych, Fuzz Punk and Movie Soundtrack music.” Almost entirely re-recorded, moving away from being a more traditional rock album, Cobras and Fire is no more dynamic than its predecessor, but it now pimps an added richness driven by the addition of an organ, a piano and a bunch of sitars. This is by far the weirdest Monster Magnet yet and I like it!
#10. Chelsea Wolfe // Abyss – Falling into the ‘not-quite-metal-but-shit-you-should-be-listening-to’ category Chelsea Wolfe dispenses dark artistry that’s a fluid mixture of goth, noise rock and drone with added elements of doom cropping up from time to time. Put in absolutely simple terms, think Gary Numan crossed with Igorrr with the minimalism of Burzum, fronted by a tremendously dynamic front-woman. In the words of the great L. Saunders “Abyss may not qualify as metal, but it will likely go down as one of the darkest, most challenging and emotionally heavy releases of the year.” He wasn’t kidding, dive into this Abyss and check out “Iron Moon,” if you dare.
#9. Pyramaze // Disciples of the Sun – I’m not one to grab at the latest prog offering, and truth be told power metal is generally a little too uplifting for my sunny disposition. But when Steel Druhm spends days and days playing and replaying a track to the point where it welds itself to your brain – queue “Disciples of the Sun” – you admit defeat and just join in the fun; such was my introduction to Pyramaze. If you’re looking for a big and catchy fearless crossover of Anubis Gate and Pagan’s Mind mixed in with hooky traces of indie rock, Pyramaze say that you’ll be “Back for More,” and they wouldn’t be wrong.
#8. Khemmis // Absolution – I hardly expected to end up so taken with this six-song debut beast. Adorned in a bewitching cover, steeped in sorcery, Khemmis fascinate with an enthralling mixture of traditional doom, stoner metal, some southern groove and the bounce of old-school hard rock. What you end up with, is an album that travels along at a decently brisk pace feeling oddly engaging, lively and aggressively likable. Cutting through the fuzz, “Ash Cinder, Smoke” more than plays to Phil’s clear, forlorn vocal range, perfectly contrasted by Ben’s harsh muddy vocal backup. Absolution consists of 42 minutes of ‘you don’t want to miss this.’
#7. Enshine // Singularity – Following on from 2013’s Origin, Jari Lindholm (Slumber) and Sebastien Pierre (Lethian Dreams, Fractal Gates) return to once again combine their talents with Enshine. Conceived of some of Jari’s most exquisite guitar work, Singularity sets out to captivate and entrance fans of Omnium Gatherum, Insomnium and Anathema. Skillfully shifting between brutish death metal, melodic doom-death and teary-eyed goth rock, Singularity is an album that grabs you with your first listen and then goes on to completely seduce you the longer you spend in its embrace.
#6. Band of Spice // Economic Dancers – Slip into those slightly too tight flare jeans, dig out your headband, it’s back to the ’70s. Things go more than a little retro with the latest project of Swedish singer and songwriter Spice (Kayser and ex-Spiritual Beggars). Laced with vocals you’ll either love or hate in equal measure, Economic Dancers is an accessible and altogether uncomplicated album that’s packed to the hilt with good old-fashioned fuzzy rock anthems combining Orange Goblin and Gaslight Anthem. Despite the easy-going nature of the instrumentation, Spice successfully maintains the concepts of abuse, hope, hopelessness, weakness and strength. Of living life to the fullest and not relying on safety nets. If you’re ready for all that, open a window into this weird and wonderful hard rocking journey.
#5. Clutch // Psychic Warfare – Psychic Warfare proves that Clutch still have what it takes to rattle the cages of stoner rock legends like Kyuss and Monster Magnet. Packed with 12 tracks of pure adrenaline, Neil Fallon’s familiar Tom Waits inspired gruffness and choruses that stick like meat to bone. Psychic Warfare doesn’t let up from the moment “X-Ray Visions” hypnotizes you until “Son of Virginia‘s” heavy twang fades out. If Firebirds and energy weapons interest you, put pedal to the metal and check out “Firebirds.”
#4. Ghost // Meliora – The masters of ’60s occult rock spook are back and it’s as if Infestissumam never happened! In the words of Pappa III, “Throw yourself into the vessel of possibilities…” words that perfectly suit Ghost‘s return to the Opus Eponymous mashup of Blue Öyster Cult and Mercyful Fate. Meliora is all Steel Druhm promised and so much more, check out “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” if you haven’t already!
#3. Dodsferd // Wastes of Life – Winter has finally hit and Dodsferd‘s Wastes of Life plays on, a pain-riddled soundtrack. With carefully considered dynamics and knife-twisting moments that draw from such unusual places as Eric Clapton, Old Dead Tree and Eudaimony, Wastes of Life hit me as an unexpected turning point in Dodsferd‘s extensive discography. Described by Wrath as “unapologetically defiant, shockingly melodic and soul-destroying” and “written with feelings of disgust,” you can’t help but walk away from Wastes of Life a little changed. This is by far the band’s most moving and harrowing musical journey, so if can stomach Wrath’s depressive shrieks, check this out.
#2. Wailin Storms // One Foot in the Flesh Grave – With Skeletons only recently released, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve reached the turning point where the “shirtless one” should probably hang up his microphone and put on that shirt. As luck would have it, there’s a new Danzig on the block and trying to get away from Wailin Storms crude little piece of “She Rides” styled Danzig-worship will be an exercise in futility. If Justin Storms’ raucous singing, yelling and warbling doesn’t get you, I’m pretty sure Wailin Storms oddly combined twisted indulgence of Monster Magnet, 16 Horsepower and David Galas will do it. Check this out if you’re brave enough to risk being blindsided by 7 monstrous tracks harnessing pure lightning in a bottle.
#1. Jonne // Jonne – Steel Druhm questioned whether this little gem would find its audience, well indeed it did. Stepping outside of the large and looming shadow of the booze-fuelled likes of Korpiklaani, Jonne Jävelä created something truly unique and altogether enchanting with this little piece of minimalistic shamanistic folk music. Is it metal, probably not. Is he metal for attempting it, hell yes. Captured within these 40 laid-back minutes are bewitching folksy melodies, entrancing vocal harmonies by Jonne, Natalie Koskinen (Shape of Despair) and Eero Haula (Oceanwake), saloon-style keyboards from Santeri Kallio (Amorphis), tribal conjuring, rhythmic folk instrumentation and a subtle funky groove. Were I to liken it to something else, I guess the closest I can get to is moments of Tool‘s 10,000 Days. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for something unusual to calm the mind and soothe the troubled soul.
Honorable Mentions: (in no particular order)
- Steve Rothery // The Ghosts of Pripyat
- Pentagram // Curious Volume
- Sabbath Assembly // Sabbath Assembly
- A Swarm of the Sun // The Rifts
- Cattle Decapitation // The Anthropocene Extinction
- Deadspace // Promise of Oblivion
Song o’ the Year:
Jonne – “Ämmänkuolema”