2015 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.
(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.
10. A Swarm of the Sun // The Rifts – In a year punctuated by a strong lack of Katatonia, Steel 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.
9. 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.
8. 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.
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. 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.
4. 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.
3. 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”).
2. Tau Cross // Tau Cross – This is an example of a supergroup done correctly. While it may, once and for all, signal the end of Amebix, Tau 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.
1. 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.