’s Top 10(ish) of 2015: Aggregating the Lists to Create MOAR Lists!

Last year our very own El Cuervo started rating a consensus list based on the releases that were mentioned in various lists. Giving each release a score, we then tally the point totals for each release. Each of our unique lists has a number of releases that simply come nowhere close to the top list. But it’s cool to see that we do actually seem to rally around a few great releases and some releases that I am a little bit more shocked to see. Regardless, this final “meta-list” will round off the year of’s list season. Thanks again for reading, listening, and your insightful comments (and recommendations). And thanks especially to El Cuervo for his by-hand mathematics and his love of lists.

The Meta-List (or the List to End All Lists)

Tau Cross_Tau Cross#(ish): Tau Cross // Tau Cross [#2 Grymm; #8 Dr. A.N. Grier; #(ish) Dr. Fisting; H.M. Steel Druhm] — On three lists and listed as an honorable mention, Tau Cross ”is an example of a super group done correctly. While it may signal the end of Amebix, Tau Cross is a fine, moody, primal beast in its own right. From death, births life.”

Enshine_Singularity#10: Enshine // Singularity [#1 Steel Druhm; #7 Madam X; #9 Dr. A.N. Grier] — Singularity showed up on three lists and had the honor of being Steel Druhm‘s Record o’ the Year. “Without a doubt the most gorgeous and lush soundscape of the year and the very best melo-death/doom had to offer in 2015. Drawing obvious comparisons to Insomnium, Rapture and Omnium Gatherum‘s almighty New World Shadows, Singularity is awash with beauty, atmosphere and somber melancholia. The trilling leads, weeping solos, forlorn cleans paired with despairing growls—this is where the sad boy emo-death train stops and sobs forevermore.”

Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere#8 (tie): Sulphur Æon // Gateway to the Antisphere [#1 Diabolus in Muzika; #7 L. Saunders; #9 Roquentin; H.M. AMG]Sulphur Æon’s newest record not only features some of the best art from 2015, it also features some of the year’s best death metal. Diabolus in Muzika was frothing at the mouth in fervent praise when he wrote: ”Melodic death metal that draws from the wellsprings of Morbid Angel and Immolation instead of sucking Slaughter of the Soul even more dry, Gateway to the Antisphere stands as a testament to what metal should be in 2015. Instead of being purely revivalist or obnoxiously modern, Sulphur Aeon craft music that will sound fresh, timely, and vital when we’re listening to it a decade from now; the only thing that will put a date stamp on this is when we fondly remember it as 2015’s best offering.”

Horrendous - Anareta#8 (tie): Horrendous // Anareta [#3 L. Saunders, Jean Luc Ricard; #(ish) Grymm] — Alex-Fi has been flipping out over the fact that Anareta didn’t place on first place for everyone’s lists, but it made a pretty good showing anyway, with high ratings from two and an #(ish). Grymm explained that while we weren’t all falling over ourselves to scream praises to the heavens like we were in 2014, no one should get worked into a moral panic. “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.”

The Gentle Storm - The Diary#7: The Gentle Storm // The Diary [#1 Sentynel; #4 Jean Luc Ricard; #8 AMG] — Another year, another highly ranked Arjen Lucassen release. But this year, it was our silent guardian Sentynel who was the most excited for The Diary. As he’s not much of a talker, I did some Angry Metal Splainin’ in his stead: “The Diary is a bold and beautiful album. Arjen Lucassen is the only guy I’d trust with a project like this and he managed it with alacrity. The story on The Diary is heart-wrenching and Anneke’s vocal performances are dynamic and intense. Combined with the two separate approaches—the Storm and Gentle discs, both of which show off different sides of the same songs in a way that impresses—it’s hard to imagine The Diary being better.”

Night Flight Orchestra – Skyline Whispers 01#4 (tie): The Night Flight Orchestra // Skyline Whispers [#2 Sentynel; #3 El Cuervo; #6 Jean Luc Ricard; #9 Dr. Fisting] — 2015’s dark horse candidate, Skyline Whispers slow, but surely, crept up the point totals throughout list seasons. This was probably more of an internal surprise than external, but there was some pretty serious love for this bit o’ retro-rock. “Chock full of era-appropriate synth work and tasty lead guitar, Skyline Whispers effectively evokes the era of tiny shorts, mustaches and Camaros. It doesn’t quite measure up to the band’s debut Internal Affairs in terms of songwriting or audacity, but there’s still a lot of good things happening here. Tracks like ‘Stiletto,’ ‘Demon Princess,’ and ‘Living for the Nighttime’ will rock you like a hurricane.”

Nechochwen - Heart of Akamon#4 (tie): Nechochwen // Heart of Akamon [#3 Steel Druhm; #6 El Cuervo, Grymm; #9 L. Saunders, AMG] — One of Steel Druhm’s best finds of the year, Nechochwen took the staff by storm landing on 5 lists (none of them mentions or #[ish]es). As Steely D himself put it, “this is one of those rare albums where you immediately sense something special is going on. It isn’t just the Native American spin on traditional black metal and folk, but how much raw emotion and sincerity they create via heavy doses of Opeth and ’70s prog. Heart of Akamon is a difficult album to explain but an easy one to fall in love with; full of quirky arrangements and offbeat transitions from genre to genre, but the heart of it is so pure and real. I called it the Native America version of Bathory‘s Hammerheart and while that’s certainly true to an extent, this feels like something bigger and more spiritual. That makes for a rare kind of release and one everyone should experience.”

Beaten to Death - Unplugged#4 (tie): Beaten to Death // Unplugged [#2 Jean Luc Ricard; #3 Grymm; #4 AMG; #(ish) Kronos; H.M. L. Saunders, El Cuervo] — It feels like we’ve been flogging this album for two months because we have been. But that’s not because we’re getting paid, it’s because we really genuinely seem to like it! And there are reasons for that, of course, “the writing contained on Unplugged is nothing but good, honest heavy metal. Beaten to Death’s melodic and idiosyncratic approach to grindful heavy metal is something that I have longed for without even realizing it. Unplugged is a cathartic listening experience and I feel like a new convert every time I listen to it. There’s something genuinely satisfying about breaking Unplugged out, turning it way the fuck up and letting 21 minutes of blistering, intelligent, and slick composition piss my neighbors right off.”

Vhöl - Deeper than Sky#3: Vhöl // Deeper than Sky [#1 Jean Luc Ricard; #2 L. Saunders; #3 Dr. Fisting; H.M. AMG] — Vhöl is the bottom a top 3 that differentiated itself markedly from the bottom 8 records. Given all the strong feelings that abound about this excellent record, it shouldn’t have been surprising to see it up here, though. Deeper than Sky grabbed the heart of our ever logical Jean Luc Ricard, who gave it the top honors for 2015: “This album has everything good about heavy metal densely packed into forty-two insane minutes of sheer delight. Brilliant songs, hammering riffs, insane vocals, righteous attitude, and plenty of curveballs have me reaching for the play button again every time this finishes. The ludicrously tight performances, great production and awesome cover art provide the icing, cherries and magic candles on top of this scrumptious and unique aural gateaux.”

Trials - This Ruined World#2: Trials // This Ruined World [#2 AMG; #4 Kronos; #5 Alkikuras; #6 Dr. A.N. Grier; #10 L. Saunders; H.M. Grymm, Steel Druhm, Jean Luc Ricard] — Trials has the distinction of being named on the most lists this year (and we’re actually not alone, searching the Internets will show that more people love this album than just us). Unfortunately, all this love comes in the wake of Trials breaking up, which is tragic. This makes what I wrote on my list seem vaguely prophetic: “This Ruined World features tight songs in an environment marked by onanistic self-indulgence in recordings. Trials makes a brand of thrash metal that is anything but nostalgic, foregoing the tight jeans and 1986-chic to make serious music that stands on its own. This Ruined World is filled with grindy guitar tone and trashy cymbals, but it hardly fulfills the trend-setters’ desire for one-take vocal tracks, crusty repetition or bloated, slow songs. Nothing about This Ruined World is trendy. And This Ruined World attempts no pretense. Appreciate what you’ve got while it’s still in reach, because Trials is a national treasure and This Ruined World is a thrashterpiece.”

#1: Wilderun // Sleep at the Edge of the Earth [#1 El Cuervo, AMG; #5 L. Saunders, Dr. Fisting] — No record inspired the kind of devotion that Sleep at the Edge of the Earth did, however. It snuck out a close win over Trials through sheer strength of list placement, when it came to points. And the record inspires devotion because, well, it’s brilliant. El Cuervo wrote our first slobbering love letter to the band, so we’ll let him tell you why this record is the Record o’ the Year: “Where do I even begin with this one? I happen to be in the camp backing 2015 as a great year for metal, but Wilderun was just so far ahead of the competition. I would literally not change a single aspect of Sleep at the Edge of the Earth and I’m convinced it will go on to be a truly standout album of the 2010s. Though broadly folk metal, the myriad of genres at play are executed and integrated with sincerity and skill, including black metal, melodeath, prog and classical. Full of pomp, bombast and yet realizing an earthy mysticism, this was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”

Wilderun - Sleep at the Edge of Earth

Blinding Our Readers with Science! An Analysis of Taste among Metal Music Reviewers

By: Jean Luc Ricard
You can see by eyeballing our lists that there are some similarities between writers’ opinions. We did some analysis to quantify just how much agreement there was. To simplify things, we just looked at the top ten rankings, excluding -ishes and honorable mentions. With the 15 top-ten lists, that meant a possible 150 unique records we could have chosen. As it happens, there were 107 unique records in our lists – our tastes are diverse, but there is clearly some overlap. To see exactly who agreed with whom and by how much, we measured the correlation1 between each list. A score of 0 means no correlation (no shared list items) and a score of 1 means identical lists (same items in the same order). These are the results – with the correlation indicated by color (the plot is symmetrical because the correlation measure is symmetrical, i.e. the correlation between my and AMG‘s list is the same as the correlation between AMG and my list).

Correlation between each writer's top-ten lists.

Correlation between each writer’s top-ten lists.

The highest correlation is between L. Saunders and Angry Metal Guy, with a value of 0.38 (incidentally, L. Saunders‘ list correlates most highly on average with all the other lists with an average correlation of 0.14, and AMG‘s list 2nd most highly with an average correlation of 0.13. Mark Z‘s list was the most unique, with an average correlation of <0.01). These correlations all seem fairly low, so we checked to see what kind of correlation values we would expect to find between ranked lists of ten items. Given a few (hopefully) reasonable assumptions, we can say that any correlation greater than about 0.1 is unusually high2 – we deem these “significant.” These unusually high correlations are marked in light blue in the figure below. AMG has the most significant correlations (6) with the other writers.

Correlation between each writer's top-ten lists, with "significant" correlations marked in blue

Correlation between each writer’s top-ten lists, with “significant” correlations marked in blue

What does this mean? Were we attracted to write for AMG because we have similar tastes? Or is AMG‘s taste influenced by our exceptional reviews and opinions? I favor the latter explanation [based on the possibly unfounded assumption that I read my own blog… AMG], and given the data I guess AMG would probably agree with me…

Show 2 footnotes

  1. using a measure called Rank Biased Overlap that was originally developed to measure the similarity between search engine rankings
  2. This sounds oddly low if you’re used to dealing with correlations but makes sense given the model assumptions; let me know in the comments if you want more information on these
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