So another year has come and slid grotesquely out of our collective visions like a nine year old polio victim riding a water slide of human faecal matter, and I’m stuck here with so much student debt financial stability is a meaningless concept fading into myth, only to be hinted at in the annals of those who dig up my chicken-bloated corpse in a hundred years time to make room for another fucking Starbucks.
Looking back at the last 365 early morning shits like a gynaecologist plunging a glove into the wrong hole to the unbridled pleasure of the middle-aged bastard masquerading as patient but is actually just a junkie after a quick mid morning sexcapade. I thought it was impossible to become more cynical and disillusioned with the state of affairs than last year but howdy-fucking-do if I’m shocked that our entire miserable species hasn’t managed to hit rock bottom so hard the dislodged sediment has uncovered a small wooden casket with the inscription ‘here lies Madeline McCann’, and inside is just a poor drawing of a middle finger drawn on the back of a Wetherspoons receipt with a red crayon and Advocaat.
If it seems like I’ve completely lost the fucking plot, then well done you observant fuck. As our species continues to socially devolve to a level reminiscent of the fucking clangers if they all had autism and the soup dragon was actually Boris Johnson with a gong and improved popular stature, I find myself finding it harder and harder to actually give an ounce of shit about the world around us.
Blind optimists will tell you that this is an overly negative outlook to have, but I’ll be the one laughing when they all get mowed down when the House of Commons evolves into its final form, grows legs and starts murdering anyone not of purist Caucasian descent living under the £100,000 a year bracket.
In a world populated by totally un-self aware mongoloids, it’s nice to have something to remind you that somewhere out there, people are actually doing something worthwhile; something that adds to society and progresses our collective consciousness. So as usual I’m going to count down my top 25 albums of the year, in attempt to focus on some actual good content that came out of 2017 and stave off the ever-nearing old scrumpy fuelled mental breakdown.
With that bleak but hopeful chunk of optimism out of the way, I’d like to point out that this year’s picking was so slim you could slide it under a doormat. There’s been a lot of music I like, but very few I love, unlike the last two years, where I’ve been obsessively enthusiastic about pretty much everything, this years list features a lot of stuff I would have forgotten about in a stronger year… With that in mind, here’s the stuff I did actually enjoy…
#25 – The Haunted – Strength in Numbers
Starting off with anything not Swedish would be an insult to both myself and the melodic death metal scene. I’ll confess that Strength in Numbers hasn’t tickled my fancy quite to the same extent that Exit Wounds did, but in itself it’s a solid release, if lacking some of the more melodic and catchier details that made Exit Wounds the brutal yet melodious experience that it was. So Strength in Numbers is here primarily because anything by The Haunted is head, shoulders, gusset and ankle above half the shit contemporary bands in the UK are chundering out like so much laxative laden dog chum.
The riffs are the thrashy, tight and stomping festival of neck-breakers one would expect from a band who have been cultivating such a sound for two decades. Ola Englund’s melodic and tasteful lead work proves time and time again that he has more than just Anders Bjorler lite, and the overall feel is a prominently wound but still painful kick to the gonads.
Unfortunately everyone seems to have forgotten about The Haunted. Strength in Numbers barely made any news sites and those who reported on it at the time promptly forgot about it, despite them being a long-standing monument to Scandinavian metal. I however, will continue to stand on the roof of the nearest school in my underwear shouting about how everyone needs to go listen to The Haunted (not Unseen though, I’d rather stand on the top of a school and jump nineteen floors to my death than listen to that again).
SOT: ‘Preachers of Death’, ‘Spark’, ‘This is the End’
FFO: At the Gates, The Resistance, Cipher System
#24 – Within the Ruins – Halfway Human
Within the Ruins prove on Halfway Human how to do modern progressive stuff right. It’s djenty but remembers that changing time signatures every three seconds can be really aggravating. It’s deathcorey without the need to put a breakdown between every riff. It’s heavy but remembers that juxtaposition makes it all the sweeter. It’s got clean vocals but remembers not make them token and whiny. It’s got bounce but also has intelligence.
Halfway Human is the sound of a band skirting a lot of things that bug me like a plague of autistic locust and catching me completely off guard by proving that these tropes can be well implemented and actually enjoyable. Tracks like ‘Beautiful Agony’ and ‘Death of the Rockstar’ are signs of maturity not just from the band but is a peek at what this acne-ridden basement dwelling sub-genre could be.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed Halfway Human, and seeing the band live earlier this year has solidified my appraisal for the act; and I’m glad that every now and again a band comes along to disprove my prejudices, to stop me getting all high and mighty.
SOT: ‘Death of the Rockstar’, ‘Beautiful Agony’, ‘Incomplete Harmony’.
FFO: Periphery, Aversion’s Crown, Veil of Maya
#23 – Beyond Grace – Seekers
I’m sure someone will chalk this mention up to irreconcilable dick-sucking on account of me sharing the stage with these guys a couple of times this year. If anyone is thinking that, you can get fucked because Seekers is an absolutely stellar example of what the UK underground death metal scene has to offer. And also I quite like the taste of tech-death penis. Moving swiftly on…
For every gazillion Bury Tomorrow / Parkway Drive clones that excite me as much as dried snot slipping down a shower room wall, there is a band like Beyond Grace, and album like Seekers. It’s tasteful progressive death metal that doesn’t feel the need to overdo the technicality of the instrumentation (although when the band do turn the tech-death up a notch, it pays off). The play here is intricate and intelligent songwriting, laden with heavy riffing and head-crushing death metal stomps. There’s a flutter of clean and acoustic guitar showcasing the bands melodic side and the contrast really plays to the band’s advantage.
I really hope that these guys continue on to bigger and better things, and put UK death metal on the map. If Seekers is anything to go by, we are in for an absolute treat.
SOT: ‘Omega Point’, ‘Demiurge’, ‘Black Math Ritual’
FFO: Mithras, Rannoch, The Monolith Deathcult
#22 – Aversion’s Crown – Xenocide
I agonised a bit over allowing this to transcend onto my end of year list in fear of losing my favour with the elitist crowd. Then I remember that Billy Talent and Sum 41 were both in my top 10 last year so that argument dive-bombed like an accountant from the 34th floor of the world trade center. Xenocide is unique because it actually got me to enjoy deathcore for the first time in fucking years. It’s clever use of eccentric rhythm playing with simplistic yet well enforced leads and harmonies proves that you can do something heavy and melodic without drowning it in breakdowns like father’s day at the domestic abuse clinic.
Tracks like ‘Erebus’ are really what set this band apart from the snoozefest of their peers. There’s attention to detail with the multi-layered guitar and synth lines, emphasis on holding an atmosphere and placed on crafting a theme and setting a tone rather than blindly writing open note breakdowns that are about as a fulfilling as a bowlful of snot but are appealing to meatheads who are in danger of passing their brain through their nasal passage after a mid-level sneeze.
It’s not perfect, but this has some serious mileage on my iTunes and held my interest for long enough to make me consider it as an entry, so I guess that counts for something. I would like to point out that this does not create an opportunity for my detractors to scream their favourite deathcore band at me like hooting baboons in the hope I’ll give their opinion some credibility. Thought I’d nip that one in the bud before it grew like a neck-tattooed snapback wearing inoperable cancer.
SOT: ‘Erebus’, ‘Cynical Entity’, ‘The Soulless Acolyte’
FFO: Within the Ruins, Archspire, Thy Art is Murder
#21 – Decapitated – Anticult
I’m going to have to word this next section very carefully; using say a translator to put across the point that it’s all totally okay and she totally agreed to taking four cocks up the hooter at once. (this is a joke, please can no-one sue me, although you’re welcome to the 4p in my account if you are that way inclined, that nibble of freddo is pretty useless).
Naturally, the atrocities stacked up against the individual members of Decapitated makes commenting critically and honestly on their actual art trying and difficult. With social media commentators determined to press out a black and white cookie cutter mould to envelope the ‘how to divide the artist from the art’ argument in the wake of every b-list celebrity and his goldfish caught with three fingers in the butthole of a Venezuelan school child; an argument I’m more than happy to scroll over; not because I’ve fucked someone I shouldn’t have; but because it’s an argument that will go on in circles for millennia and I have better things to do with my time than argue semantics with keyboard politicians, and also I hear that there’s a nine year old in Beijing who hasn’t been molested by an American with greying hair so my flight is in six hours (for those of you too stupid to read between the lines, this too, is a joke).
Gangbanging fans in a bus toilet aside, Decapitated have been at the forefront of modern European death metal for quite some time, and Anticult has solidified that position in just enough time for the band to destroy their own career. It’s a riff laden chainsaw fest with enough restraint to bring the melody forward and enough rabies-driven madness to kick everyone in the dick on the way past.
SOT: ‘Impulse’, ‘Never’, ‘Amen’
FFO: Behemoth, Vader, Sepultura
#20 – Hallatar – No Stars Upon the Bridge
I think that this was probably the most difficult to listen to album of the year. Not in the Loma Prieta or Terra Tennebrosa vein of ‘hard to listen’ to, because although I like both of those bands trying to work out what the fuck is going on through the layers of discordance and bizarre production is headache inducing.
No Stars Upon the Bridge is musically on the opposite end of the scale; it’s uncomfortable station resonates from its thematic core. No Stars Upon the Bridge is a eulogy, an obituary to acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Aleah Stanbridge as composed by her husband; Swallow the Sun guitarist Juha Raivio, featuring Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis and Gas Lipstik from HIM.
It’s a tormented and emotionally draining; it’s a bleak and bitter tale of loss and crushing heartache whose moments of clarity take form in the shape of beautiful ambient passages often featuring samples of Aleah’s vocals recorded before her passing, only to be dragged back down into a sea of misery and desolation.
If it seems like I’m being a bit too serious, I can only apologize. It’s an aural experience that on one hand really shook me and on the other brought a tear to my eye. No Stars Upon the Bridge is the perfect send-off. If this entry was too serious, picture a giraffe with its head caught in a yoghurt pot.
SOT: ‘Mirrors’, ‘My Mistake’, ‘Severed Eyes’
FFO: Swallow the Sun, Woods of Ypres, Trees of Eternity.
#19 – Firespawn – The Reprobate
Firespawn were initially introduced to me as ‘meat and potatoes’ death metal, i.e. the kind of old school simplistic but effective Obituary-esque behaviour that’s been making a bit of a comeback in the last few years. It’s a fairly safe umbrella to camp under while tech-death throw cleanly produced lightning bolts at each other and kids in Asking Alexandria t-shirts rub shit in their eyes and cry about not being able to see, and also smelling like shit.
Firespawn’s strength comes from its pedigree, as many of the members have been involved with Entombed and its Entombed A.D. revival. The riffs are earworm-catchy and anvil-chuggingly heavy. It’s all done to emphasise old-school Scandinavian brutality but it’s afraid to change things up with dark and haunting leadwork, guitar driven hooks and some wah-laden thrash solos.
While hardly the most original release of the year, Firespawn stick to their guns and hit hard with meticulously crafted death metal in the form of a thoroughly enjoyably collection of old-school worship.
SOT: ‘Nightwalkers’, ‘General’s Creed’, ‘Full of Hate’.
FFO: Obituary, Autopsy, Entombed
#18 – Demonic Resurrection – Dashavatar
Hailing from India, Demonic Resurrection have amassed a large international following but have made little or no impact on this xenophobic wasteland of tracksuits and wetherspoons. I was lucky enough to catch them at a European festival a few years back, and have been a fringe interest since.
Operatic isn’t quite the word… elegant, maybe? Dasahavatar is an embrace of eastern culture and Indian mythology told through the sieve of western death metal and Scandinavian melody. While some comparisons can be made to At the Gates and In Flames like every metal band and their dog to have emerged anywhere since the mid-90’s, Dashavatar retains its own flavour in the form of the subtle inclusion of eastern instrumentation, higher-register clean vocals and spoken word. Each track has its own personality to portray the avatar that each song takes its name from, and on the whole it’s unique and refreshing.
SOT: ‘Kurma – The Tortoise’, ‘Narashima – The Man-Lion’, ‘Varaha – The Boar’
FFO: Karkaos, At the Gates, Kryptos
#17 – Final Coil – Persistence of Memory
I’ve played with these guys several times this year and write articles for one of the dudes in the band, meaning that once again this could be attributed to dick-sucking. However, I’d like to debunk that theory.
There’s not much grungy alt-metal about these days; and what there is is clambering for mainstream appraisal and without beating around the bush; bores me. It excites me about as much as finding half a penny in the shoe of a dead hobo outside Mosh on a Tuesday night. Final Coil remember that writing chunky, insightful and progressive tracks filled with interesting progressions, attention to detail and exciting hooks told with a melancholic and misanthropic edge is how this shit should be done nowadays.
I’ve had a lot of trouble finding lighter stuff that I actually really enjoy in recent years. Rishloo springs to mind as one of my more recent (past three years) discoveries that have really taken me places and Final Coil sit comfortably nestled in the same basket.
SOT: ‘In Silent Reproach’, ‘Alienation’, ‘Corruption’.
FFO: Tool, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden
#16 – Dawn of Disease – Ascension Gate
Ascension Gate is a faithful re-interpretation of old school melodeath. If you ever thought that Whoracle was just too 1997 for you, then Ascension Gate is the album for you. It’s nice to hear a young band pay homage to the old school melodeath scene without bastardising it into watered-down metalcore drivel that’s about as faithful a reimagining as a shit on a wall is to a reconstruction of Princess Diana’s car crash. Not that all I want is for someone to remake Colony , there’s no fucking point; but it is nice to hear a well executed rendition of the sound that I fell in love with years back with modern flair and production.
SOT: ‘Perimortal’, ‘Leprous Thoughts’, ‘Ascension Gate’
FFO: In Flames, At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity
#15 – Karkaos – Children of the Void
Karkaos debut; 2014’s Empire is quite honestly one of the greatest debuts of all time. It’s got pretty much everything. Now, three years later with an entirely overhauled line-up, the Canadian act set out on a new venture with Children of the Void.
First impressions are good; it’s more operatic and epic than the previous release and all the elements that made the debut so good are still intact. Maybe it’s because it’s 3am on a Monday morning and I’m dose up to my eyeballs on flu medication but I can’t seem to shit out a reasonable sentence in regards to this album. I don’t rate it nearly as highly as the debut – it’s lost some it’s progressive elements and on the whole it lacks a lot of the heavier sections that made the debut such a diverse experience. It is however a well-rounded, imaginative and exciting album and that should be celebrated highly.
SOT: ‘Where Mushrooms Grow’, ‘Children of the Void’, ‘Skymaster’
FFO: The Agonist, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames
#14 – Decrepit Birth – Axis Mundi
Axis Mundi is a stew brewed on a low boil for seven fucking years before being ladled out to it’s now starved consumers in portions put to shame by a pack of fruit winders. Seven years in which Bill Robinson grew some more weed and said some more things about the new world being evil when actually the only evil thing in the vicinity is his inability to wash.
Does Axis Mundi fall short? In one sense yes, because it’s quite short considering it’s lengthy production cycle, on the other hand no because Decrepit Birth understand tech death better than most and the album is a wonderful showcase of how to write fast, catchy, brutal and progressive death metal; complete with spidery riffing, lunatic sweeps and bat-shit song progressions. ‘Hieroglyphic’ brings out the snarling brutal death metal side with half pace dissonant chugging and atonal arpeggios, while ‘Spirit Guide’ embraces the The Sound of Perserverance style of melodic yet technical leadwork, melodic string skipped riffing and the inclusion of synthetic and orchestral elements.
Axis Mundi is like a cake. Beautiful in construction and design, that someone has put a lot of effort into, but eat too much at once and you’ll be left feeling fat and ashamed with a gut resembling that of a pregnant airship, so it’s shorter length works in its favour. I do feel that this is one to be revisited occasionally leaving enough time to appreciate and digest between each serving. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the best tech-death releases of the year.
SOT: ‘Spirit Guide’, ‘Hieroglyphic’, ‘Epigenetic Triplicity’
FFO: Dying Fetus, Nile, Suffocation
#13 – Moonspell – 1755
I’m sorry I can’t Portuguese. I know very little about the country except it’s sort of not Spain and once they had an empire but now they don’t and maybe they throw things off clock towers and race bulls but that could just be TV. I do however love Moonspell. Extinct grew on me like a gothic wart and is one of my fonder memories of 2015.
The decision to release a concept album entirely in their native tongue is a bold and potentially fatal move. The band has such a wide international gathering that many fans would be put off, however I think the beauty of the music and the melodies break down the language barrier. Sure, I miss being able to sing along to all the massive chorus’ that populate the bands English spoken material, and maybe that counts against the album, however it’s Moonspell and therefore it’s awesome, ’nuff said.
Musically, it’s far heavier than Extinct, whilst also being more operatic and ambitious with the multitude of layered instrumentation and the heavy use of orchestration and choir. It doesn’t really sound like any other Moonspell album outright, which is fine; the band repeatedly change sound from album to album.
Overall, it’s another worthy addition to the bands discography.
SOT: ‘Lanterna Dos Afogados’, ‘Ruinas’, ‘1755’
FFO: Amorphis, Tiamat, Dark Tranquillity
#12 – Persefone – Aathma
Andorra’s favourite (and I think only) metal export Persefone have been the masturbatory cum doll of prog death lovers and Cynic fanboys for several years now, with Core and Spiritual Migration being hailed as genre-staples. This time around the band have shown their Traced in Air shaped dildo to the world in the form of actually getting Cynic mastermind Paul Masvidal to do a smattering of vocal parts and a crazy ass solo on the record, which is nice considering Paul has been doing fuck all while the world waits and sees is anything will ever come of the lovers spat between him and Reinhart.
Aathma is a prog death wet dream. It’s dark, haunting and oppressive whilst also being uplifting, ethereal and calm. The musicianship on display is frankly ludicrous and sure it lives so deep within the confines of its own ass that to fish it out you’d need spelunking equipment and nine days of supplies but I think that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
It gets the balance between actual songs and insane progressive musicianship just right. The double instrumental intro tracks are laden with weird effects, haunting piano and off-time rhythms, while later songs weave the heavy and the light together in a basket of pure genius.
SOT: ‘Living Waves’, ‘Vacuum’, ‘Prison Skin’
FFO: Cynic, Scar Symmetry, Omnium Gatherum
#11 – AFI – The Blood Album
Much like a once craved for oreo, AFI had disappeared under the sofa to make friends with the wotsits and spaghetti hoops. I lifted up the couch and discovered that AFI had grown exponentially into another album while I was too preoccupied chugging cans of K Cider to hoover.
AFI were a band I never got into in the era when bands of the same ilk were all the rage; when Funeral for a Friend and Silverstein were looked upon with love and affection rather than distaste and poorly placed booing. When one of my podcast co-hosts announced that we were going to be covering the new AFI release that week, I was like… dafuq?
Expecting a mediocre mid-2000’s nostalgia trip, I confess myself befuddled that what I got was a damn solid alternative rock album, dripped in emotion and interesting musical ideas, tightly packed with years of maturity and experience woven together with beautiful hooks and harmonies. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be listening to the new Asking Alexandria album. I’ll probably just call it a Fischer price abortion again.
SOT: ‘So Beneath You’, ‘Hidden Knives’, ‘Still a Stranger’.
FFO: Creeper, The Used, Aiden
#10 – The Raven Age – Darkness Will Rise
I write this on the back of the sad news that their vocalist has just left… which makes future hopes for this band a flicker of a dying candle in a room full of hungover partygoers after a night on 4am burritos. With that in mind, I feel like I should heap as much praise onto the band as possible while they’re still around.
While in my initial review I bullied the album for being a little over-ambitious yet somehow still having not enough ideas to fill the runtime, after repeat listens I found myself enjoying the lengthy adventure, and learnt to appreciate the beauty in it all.
It’s rare to find a British band doing well that isn’t another fucking Parkway Drive / Bury Tomorrow cover band. The entire UK music scene has been saturated with cookie cutter whiny vocal metalcore by numbers, so when a decent UK band starts to get some attention that doesn’t subscribe to such asinine tropes, I am all over that like a cancerous tumour.
SOT: ‘Angel in Disguise’, ‘The Age of the Raven’, ‘The Death March’.
FFO: Iron Maiden, Mastodon, In Flames (new)
#9 – Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
This might come as a bit of a surprise to longtime readers. I’ve previously shat on Mastodon with all the care and viciousness of an incontinent budgie, claiming them to be overrated meathead metal for people who need to get off their high horse and listen to some actual fucking progressive metal, or something to that effect.
Either I am wrong and have been for some time, or Mastodon have radically changed since my last venture outside of my self-assured crevasse. What I discovered on this particular excursion was a mature, intelligent metal act dripping with interesting musical ideas and clever songwriting choices unafraid to drop the overused and often over-pretentious ‘prog’ label for big hooks and catchy melodies.
I don’t really know if that means that I’m going to go back and listen to older Mastodon material with the expectation that I might actually enjoy it this time around; I probably should. As a result I don’t have the necessary context to say whether or not Emperor of Sand is a good Mastodon album or how it stacks up against other material if you’re already a fan. Regardless, I enjoyed this particular venture so whatever.
SOT: ‘Roots Remain’, ‘Ancient Kingdom’, ‘Show Yourself’
FFO: Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, Alice in Chains
#8 – Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Ne Obliviscaris are a metal fan’s wet dream; a spunked mattress of semen virulently ejaculated from the turgid cocks of pretty much every extreme metal sub-genre under the sun. Urn is a progressive, forward thinking genre defying work of art that picks the best cuts from death blackened melodic whatever metal and crafts them into perfection with an eye for detail that pretty much baffles me.
The band have been on a meteoric rise to fame since their debut only a few years ago with critics and fans hailing the band as the spearhead of a new generation of extreme metal; with a modern attitude towards self-promotion and fan interaction that will see them ride out the inevitable implosion of the record-label centric model of the music industry.
I fail to see how Ne Obliviscaris could not be lingering on every self-respecting death metal fan’s end of year list. Urn is beautiful yet chaotic, sombre yet aggressive, brutally heavy and technically demanding yet relaxed, simplistic and chilled. I was even won over by the violin use, so yeah go get this album.
SOT: ‘Intra Venus’, ‘Libera (Part 1) – Saturnine Sphere’, ‘Eyrie’.
FFO: Allegaeon, Adagio, Scar Symmetry
#7 – Orden Ogan – Gunmen
I think Orden Ogan are proof that I don’t really know what I want from an album until I have it, and if you’d asked me beforehand what I’d wanted then I’d have probably said something completely different. I thought I was after some simplistic yet entertaining Germanic metal, yet what I got and fell in love with was a wild west adventure steeped in progressive metal and dripping with character and top-tier musicianship.
Yeah okay in places it’s about as cheesy as the underside of my ballsack and some people will probably find it as appetising as the above, but don’t let the Blind Guardian power metal stuff trick you into thinking that Gunmen is a one trick pony. Relax a little and let the fantastic production, spastic guitar flailing, dual leads and vocal harmonies wash over you in a sea of clean yet honest euro-metal.
Some people will hate this album with a burning passion. I love it for its unique character alone.
SOT: ‘Fields of Sorrow’, ‘Forlorn and Forsaken’, ‘Gunmen’
FFO: Blind Guardian, Unleash the Archers, Destruction
#6 – Septicflesh – Codex Omega
If I was to name a band that I’ve listened to in 2017 more than any other, it would be Septicflesh. The Great Mass might just be one of the greatest albums ever to grace this mortal realm, with Communion and Titan visible without binoculars; at least in the same postcode if not tussling elbows in a crowded underground car. Codex Omega is a worthy addition to the bands discography and embraces the symphonic and death metal elements a little differently this time around.
Codex Omega is a lot more bombastic than its predecessors. It’s far heavier and instrumentally more complex than previous outings. The symphonic elements are as articulate and groundbreaking as ever, dripping the whole experience in atmosphere unmatched by any other artist of our time.
SOT: ‘Portrait of a Headless Man’, ‘Dark Art’, ‘Trinity’
FFO: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Behemoth, Rotting Christ
#5 – The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers
After the slight mis-step that was Abysmal, I am delighted to declare to my depraved readership that The Black Dahlia Murder have reclaimed their throne at the pinnacle of modern extreme metal. With one of the highest charting extreme metal releases period, as well as being one of the best selling releases of the year, The Black Dahlia Murder’s popularity has reached new heights and for good fucking reason.
Nightbringers is The Black Dahlia Murder’s way of saying ‘this is a nice spot, I’ll keep this spot’. It’s clever, fun, heavy as fuck earworm death metal. It’s the noiseless creak of a well oiled machine whirring back into life after two years away and delivering another perfect meal.
Anyone still wandering about slagging off this band for being ‘At the Gates rip-offs’, ‘one trick ponies’ or ‘metalcore’ need to go suck an massive throbbing todger, and stick their head in a bucket of bleach and howl themselves retarded.
SOT: ‘Jars’, ‘The Lonely Deceased’, ‘Widowmaker’
FFO: Suffocation, At the Gates, Decrepit Birth
#4 – Mors Principium Est – Embers of a Dying World
It’s a secret to absolutely fucking no-one that I love Scandinavian death metal to a frankly obsessive and potentially unhealthy degree. It’s also no secret that I have a somewhat worrying man-crush on Andy Gillion and his noodly nonsense so it’s unsurprising that Mors Principium Est caress me softly in all the right places.
Sleek and melodic; Embers of a Dying World has massaged my melodeath itch all year round. From the weird tech riffs that populate the latter half of the album; the epic orchestral sections that tie the metal oriented ideas together; the big electro accompanied chuggs combined with intricate lead work and fantastic soloing, this album succeeds in maintaining an erection every listen.
SOT: ‘Reclaim the Sun’, ‘The Drowning’, ‘ Masquerade’
FFO: Darkane, Swallow the Sun, Be’lakor
#3 – Adagio – Life
This album is three things I don’t like; djent, power metal and most importantly – French. It also happens to be one of the most exciting and innovative releases to come out this year. The music video for ‘Darkness Machine’ popped up on my facebook news feed accompanied by your bog standard spewing of how it was the best thing ever. My initial experience was ‘the fuck’, followed by ‘this is pretty good’, shortly followed by a purchasing of the album.
Life is downright weird. It’s overly ambitious as hell and somehow hits its mark every single damn time. It’s a wide and varied exploration of a number of contemporary branches of heavy metal and flows between each idea effortlessly but with purpose and infinite energy.
The musicianship on display is frankly absurd and the quality of the multi-layered songwriting is just unmatched. It packs a punch but lays off every now and again to wash over you with balladic prowess.
SOT: ‘The Ladder’, ‘I’ll Possess You’, ‘Life’
FFO: Into Eternity, Dream Theater, Iced Earth
#2 – Carach Angren – Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten
For whatever reason I never got around to reviewing this in full, so allow me to explain why Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten is pure unadulterated genius. What Carach Angren have delivered here is a theatre production as performed with a progressive black metal band and an orchestra. Operatic doesn’t quite cut it. I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories and this is that but with metal. I’m all over it.
I really don’t know how to describe this album properly and nothing I come up with really does it’s genius justice. Every time I listen to this it conjures up such vast and vivid imagery; the descriptive nature of the lyrics and the theatrical delivery of the music paints such an intricate story it chills me to the core.
The orchestration is phenomenal; the bizarre tempo and time signature changes combined with polyrhythmic playing and staccato rhythmics so uncommon amongst black metal make for an undeniably original and organic soundscape. I really have heard nothing like it and I doubt I will again.
SOT: ‘Charlie’, ‘Blood Queen’, ‘In De Naam Van De Duivel’
FFO: Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Dark Fortress
#1 – Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora
It’s taken me the best part of a whole year to process just how good this album is. It’s not the album I was expected from Darkest Hour, I was expecting something akin to the self-titled 2014 release with all its multi-layered tech-prog-melodeath-metalcore ideology that was simultaneously the most experimental and most disliked Darkest Hour release, despite in my opinion being one of the greatest albums, period.
On Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora, Darkest Hour drop everything from the previous handful of albums and release an album that’s about as unforgiving as a serial-rapist and as hard hitting as an anvil fired at you from across a living room from a howitzer. It’s dark, visceral, apocalyptically bleak and oppressing. Listening to it is like physically experiencing the world end in musical form. Each song is designed to crush, depress and disgust.
It’s unnaturally heavy, only made more impressive and face-slapping in contrast to the melodic death metal approach the band have been known for. It’s still got melody and At the Gates riffing and atmosphere and guitar heroics but it’s delivered in-your-face by a band cynical and sick of the world; riddled to the core with nihilism and misanthropy.
As a concept album, this record excels in its ability to deliver a narrative. It’s the story of end of the world, the implosion of mankind and the wrath of mother nature; the greed of man and fallacy of politics. It’s a stark warning and an unnerving revelation. Each note is full of anger and hatred.
Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora embodies my attitude towards social and political issues that plague the current climate. It channels my love of death metal and my distrust of humanity. Darkest Hour have outdone themselves as they always have done, and always will do.
SOT: ‘This is the Truth’, ‘Timeless Numbers’, ‘Enter Oblivion’
FFO: At the Gates, Rivers of Nihil, Venom Prison
And here we conclude the year. I don’t really have much to add, so enjoy yourselves I guess… I’ll be here in the new year to deliver misery and cynicism to all the little boys and girls. Not my cock though, I’ll leave that to members of Pierce the Veil.