Thursday, December 10, 2015

Year's Best 2015

15. Goya – ‘Obelisk’

Obelisk, like the beast rising from the sea, is a multi-headed blasphemous monster of an album that demonstrates not only Goya’s propensity for crafting evil, unforgettable heavy tunes, but also their ability to manipulate the album’s overall tone with the moody instrumentals “The Star” and “Echo from Space.” Obelisk is easily the band’s most varied release to date, but it also stands as their darkest and grimiest. Goya have channeled a black, twisted psychology with their latest both musically and atmospherically. Full review HERE.

14. Khemmis – ‘Absolution’

The songs on Absolution are almost as good on wax as they are live. Almost. Khemmis’ debut album certainly deserves the hype due to the seemingly effortless blend of doom metal and infectious melodicism.

13. Venus Sleeps – ‘Dead Sun Worship’

Dead Sun Worship is an incredible, well-polished debut and one the finest psychedelic doom albums of the year. Venus Sleeps have simply nailed it: mesmerizing riffs, soaring vocals, and killer guitar harmonies.

12. Sabbath Assembly – ‘S/T’

Sabbath Assembly have consciously turned their collective attentions toward heavier pastures. Long gone, for the most part, are the pastoral, acoustic laden compositions in favor of what can be best described as occult hard rock and heavy metal. The dusky vocals of Jamie Myers are well-suited for the heavier aspects of Sabbath Assembly and remain, as always, a consistent highlight of the band’s music. She was often able to imbue her voice with both fragility and grace on the hymn-like material of the band’s previous albums. With the heavier compositions Myers often recalls those moments of grace and fragility, but the majority of her vocals are appropriately hardened and more powerful. Full review HERE.

11. Windhand – ‘Grief’s Infernal Flower’

Each of Windhand’s albums have been instantly gratifying, and though Grief’s Infernal Flower doesn’t quite ascend to the heights established on the band’s self-titled debut, it stands, perhaps, as Windhand’s most varied and nuanced release. There is nothing on Grief’s Infernal Flower that matches the intensity of “Winter Sun” from the debut, or the nefarious undercurrents of “Cossack” from Soma, but the overall atmosphere of the band’s latest is unparalleled.

10. Horisont – ‘Odyssey’

With Time Warriors Horisont managed to master the sound that walked a tightrope stretched across the narrow chasm separating the sound of 70s hard rock and early heavy metal. With Odyssey, the band’s fourth full-length, the Swedes successfully incorporate a heavy dose of progressive rock into the mix for one of the year’s catchiest, most rewarding rock records.

9. Obsidian Sea – ‘Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions’

Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions is a stunning album from start to finish and stands as one of the year’s strongest releases, particularly in the doom sphere. And while the band’s debut, Between Two Deserts, was a solid release it is heartening to hear the band progress to such a high level of songwriting. Fans of traditional doom will not be disappointed as the band delivers on every level. Full review HERE.

8. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – ‘The Night Creeper’

The Night Creeper is a somewhat grittier affair compared to its predecessor, but the change is subtle and almost imperceptible—the guitars are grimier and the overall production is a bit rougher. While The Night Creeper does not really reveal a large degree of progression or growth for Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, it does show that catchy songwriting and strong performances can go a long way. The band has dialed into a specific sound and they are making the most of it without necessarily rehashing old ideas or recycling riffs.

7. Behold! The Monolith – ‘Architects of the Void’

Behold! The Monolith’s triumphant return, Architects of the Void, understandably marks a slight change in sound and execution. Their third full-length, like its predecessors, is a sprawling metal masterpiece marked by memorable riffs, scorching leads, and intricate song structures. The band, in the face of tragedy, have churned out their darkest album to date that incrementally exchanges the atmospherics that were in abundance on their first two releases for anger and even more aggression. Architects of the Void is not necessarily better or worse than previous efforts…just slightly different, yet still it kicks ass.Full review HERE.

6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’

Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is perhaps Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s most abrasive and tense album thus far. The orchestral moments of sweeping beauty—often engulfed in swirling eddies of noise—are still present, yet elusive and fleeting.

5. Spelljammer – ‘Ancient of Days’

Cosmically atmospheric and seismically heavy are really just two starting points to describe Spelljammer’s triumphant return, Ancient of Days. The Swedish heavy-hitters, now acting as a three-piece, are as sonorous as ever and the reduction in personnel and shifting of duties hasn’t tarnished the band’s mission or overall sound in the slightest. Full review HERE.

4. Fister – ‘IV’

IV is a massive, labyrinthine tune that heaves and writhes like the death-throes of a fallen storm giant. Moments of pure, unadulterated menace and loathing are counterbalanced with moodier moments of sparse instrumentation. Due to the band’s sheer negative will IV stands as one of this year’s ugliest releases. Life dealt you a sour hand? Put on Fister’s IV and let the catharsis cleanse and purify you… Full review HERE.

3. Wrekmeister Harmonies – ‘Night of Your Ascension’

Wrekmeister Harmonies, under the direction of J. R. Robinson, continues to release some of the finest, yet challenging compositions in the realm of heavy music and Night of Your Ascension is perhaps the ever-evolving collective’s crowning achievement. Wrekmeister Harmonies have released a haunting masterpiece that ultimately implodes under its own weight.

2. Monolord – ‘Vænir’

Vænir, like its predecessor, is apocalyptically heavy and comes with the threat of cosmic devastation. Guitarist /vocalist Thomas V Jäger seems to transmit his vocals from beyond an interstellar void while unleashing destruction in tandem with bassist Mika Häkki. While much of the album is played out at a lumbering pace, the band has ensorcelled Vænir with an otherworldly atmosphere that few bands manage to fully capture. Full review HERE.

1. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – ‘S/T’

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth is sonic Ragnarök—a devastatingly heavy unfolding of events that is oftentimes cinematic in scope. Whether the music is actively destructive or hinting at the windswept desolation of a fallen empire it’s hard not to imagine Surtr raining down upon the gods and bringing forth the fire that engulfs the Earth. If this is the end result of waiting six years since the band’s 2009 demo, I will gladly wait another six for the next installment. Full review HERE.

Best EP/Demo/split

1. Northwinds / Marble Chariot Split

Criminally underrated and underexposed French progressive doom band Northwinds have teamed-up with up-and-coming fellow countrymen Marble Chariot for an impressive split album that plays to both bands respective strengths. For two and a half decades Northwinds have been crafting some of the most fantastical compositions in the metal scene by incorporating elements of folk, progressive rock, and doom into a uniquely singular style that sonically embodies strange lands and wistful dreamscapes. Marble Chariot, on the other hand, may not be quite as progressive or as expansive as their compatriots, but they make excellent companions on this split release with their downtrodden, mournful take on traditional doom. Full review HERE.

2. Goya / Wounded Giant split

Goya and Wounded Giant—two heavy-hitters who have already released impressive debuts—have been united under the STB Records banner to release a split album that builds upon and surpasses much of what either band has produced in the past and, hopefully, serves as a harbinger for great things to come from both camps… Full review HERE.

3. Black Capricorn – ‘Ira Dei’ EP

Though the material found on Ira Dei is no great departure from the band’s previous work the three tracks represent some of Black Capricorn’s darkest material to date. Ira Dei is a collection of ritualistic dirges that are as heavy as they are hypnotizing. Full review HERE.

4. Watchtower – ‘Radiant Moon’ EP

The only thing disappointing about Watchtower’s Radiant Moon is that it is only an EP. This is sludge-driven doom at its finest.

5. Hexenjäger – ‘Demo’

Despite only a two track demo, there is enough stylistic variation to whet one’s appetite for more of Hexenjäger’s take on traditional doom. The band’s demo is beautifully crafted, wholly realized, and perfectly recorded. Hexenjäger is a welcome addition to the growing pantheon of killer French doom acts such as Northwinds, Marble Chariot, Barabbas, and The Bottle Doom Lazy Band. Hexenjäger are starting off on a very high note and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the future. Full review HERE.

Most Anticipated of 2016

1. Wolvserpent - ‘tba’

Wolvserpent’s incredible Perigea Antahkarana was ranked at number 10 on 2013’s year’s best list and, in retrospect, the album should have charted much higher. Perigea Antahkarana has stood the test of time and is still revealing is dark mysteries. The duo’s forthcoming album is highly anticpated…

2. Cardinal Wyrm – ‘Cast Away Souls’

Cardinal’s Wyrm’s Black Hole Gods was one of the most original doom releases of 2014 and the band managed to dial into a sound that was completely in class of its own. If the band’s forthcoming album is anywhere close to the sheer brilliance of Black Hole Gods it will easily be one of the best of 2016.

3. Lord Vicar – ‘Gates of Flesh’

Lord Vicar are simply legends and Fear No Pain and Signs of Osiris (not to mention their handful of split albums) are damn near perfect. The upcoming Gates of Flesh has been conceptualized for several years and the stars have finally aligned. No doubt, Lord Vicar will deliver another masterpiece.

4. The Wounded Kings – ‘Visions in Bone’

George Birch is back in the fold. Is there need to say more? The Wounded Kings, in any incarnation, are favorites here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus, but the magic of Embrace of the Narrow House and The Shadow over Atlantis are virtually unparalleled.

5. Curse the Son – ‘tba’

Curse the Son’s Psychache was a masterpiece and, as a result, took the top spot here in 2013. This band has it all—killer, Sabbathy riffs, an amazing rhythm section, and great vocals. This is definitely one to watch for in the coming year.

6. Slomatics – ‘tba’

Slomatics, another VCA favorite, are an unstoppable force. This band is HEAVY in every sense with just the right amount of experimentalism. A Hocht is nothing short of genius and the follow-up, Estron, was no slouch either. Expect one of the heaviest albums of 2016 from the Belfast trio.

7. The Skull – ‘tba’

There have been a few changes in The Skull camp in the past year, but hopes are still high for the follow-up to 2014’s excellent For Those Which Are Asleep.

8. Inter Arma – ‘tba’

Inter Arma have been on a roll with both Sky Burial and The Cavern. The band is forward thinking and manages to successfully harness a variety of sounds and styles into one Hell of a potent concoction.

9. Goatess – ‘Purgatory Under New Management’

Two Chritus fronted releases in 2016? Fuck yes.

10. Wretch – ‘tba’

Really looking forward to where Karl Simon will take listeners with his new project. There’s been a void since the demise of The Gates of Slumber and hopefully Wretch is the answer.

11. Lucifer’s Fall – ‘Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall’ EP

Though it seems that Rote Mare is on the back burner for now, Lucifer’s Fall is a more than capable substitution. Phil Howlett never seems to rest and a follow-up to Lucifer’s Fall is highly anticipated around these parts.

12. Witchcraft – ‘Nucleus’

If the year was currently 2011 anticipation for a new Witchcraft would be through the roof. Legend really seemed to divide listeners and I, for one, found the album to be a huge letdown. The band’s latest single ”The Outcast,” however, shows hints of the Witchcraft of old so Magnus Pelander and his new rhythm section definitely deserve a spot on this list. Fingers crossed on this one…

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