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|Wizards Top 20 In Extreme Metal For 2015|
It's always hard to come up with a great list of music - let alone metal or anything of the extreme reaches of the musical spectrum – yet here I am again doing this for the last time on Sputnikmusic.
That's right, you read it correctly. No this isn't some attention whoring scam that I've seen perpetrated by so many users. In fact, I would like to take this time in thanking each and every one of you who've impacted my time on here and for those of you who actually gave a damn about what I had to say about the many albums I've reviewed/ soundoff'ed/ wrote descriptions about on lists, etc. It actually just dawned on me how many years I've been on this site and I must say not a single minute of my time was ever wasted socializing about metal.
To the people who have been with me since I first joined or kindly invited me to blog with them, you know who you are. To the people who gave me hell for my strange opinions, thanks for the riveting arguments that probably led me down a better path anyways. A lot of you are probably wondering why I'm packing it in and I will tell you why. In November 2014, I had my second daughter followed by my family business of 45 years being shut down followed by my wife going in for emergency surgery followed by me getting a new job running a landscape design department at a competitors greenhouse down the road and working my ass off and having no time for anything but work and family. A lot of you kids will go through the motions too and thus, you will put your priorities first and the music will come last (unfortunately). This doesn't mean I've stopped listening to music, it's that I can't discuss it in the manner that has more meaning and depth to it. Will I ever review for this site again? It might happen when things slow down and my kids are a little more grown up to take care of themselves. I will still ghost around these premises and comment on the odd thing here and there. For now, I part with you and look forward to
Frozen Niagara Falls
A.k.a. Dominck Fernow of Ash Pool, Vatican Shadows and many other amazing extreme music projects dropped the bomb of BOMBS on us this year with the cathartic, emotionally draining Frozen Niagra Falls. A potent mix of power electronics, ambient with almost danceable electronics and spoken word passages that would make the darkest winter night feel even colder and more miserable, Fernow's 90 minute masterpiece is everything any fan of experimental music could ask for. Be for warned though, give this beast a couple of thorough listens (both discs back-to-back) before passing any judgement – it came out in May and took me until September to really latch on to his vision.
Given that I warmly opened up to Sannhet's debut Known Flood in 2013, I admit the two-piece, post-blackened instrumental band fell off my radar until I saw The Flenser releasing their sophomore effort this year. Having casually spun it off and on throughout the spring, it wasn't until the magic of this album hit me when I was taking a roadtrip this summer. The opening three songs are supercharged with dirge-like riffs and rhythmic patterns that cycle through blackened passages and are as infectious as they are repeatable. Given the chance it had, I pretty much had this album on repeat because I could not get enough of it. The same will happen to you when given the right attention.
Ever since Profound Lore release III back in 2012, I've explored everything this band has done (even their split with Deafheaven was awesome). When I heard a new album was coming out this year, I couldn't have imagined their caustic, spazzy post-black metal ever being ratcheted up the intensity scale even more so than before. I've had a few heart attacks listening to this album and I'm picking a new favourite song every time I spin it. That latter point to me is what signifies a great piece of music when I can go back months later and find something new and more enjoyable since the first experience I had with it.
I admit I scour Bandcamp to no end because if you're a cheapskate like me, it's always a win/ win finding free awesome music. The downside? Sifting through mountains of mediocre music and even more crap. This was an absolute masterpiece I found while checking out a grindcore tag. If you like Pig Destroyer but you always wished they could come up with meatier, nastier riffs that hook you by the mouth and attach the fishing line to the back of a car, The Kill are your band. Warp speed song after warp speed song whiz by with an absolute motherload of riffs crammed into each tune - you know you're going to hit play again once this 26 minute grindfest finishes. Bonus, I discovered a grind label (BLASTASFUK) from Australia while looking deeper into these guys and every band on their label is ace too. So many bands, so little time....ahhhhhhhhhh!
By now most of you are familiar with Enslaved. If not, then why the heck are you reading a list like this? Enslaved are the most consistent band in metal today and forever until they screw up (which WILL NEVER HAPPEN). The prog just got most proggier, the black metal has inherently turned into more atmosphere than blasting through tremelo/blastbeat exercises and the songs themselves have been trimmed even further and thus six choice cuts were formed. Unlike RITTIR's more grand vision of prog meets black metal, In Times was curated with an attention to detail to the point that some bands full lengths don't even equal up to the magnitude of one of these songs. A lot happens in these songs and the transitions are so well executed, you might as well give yourself the time to digest Enslaved who have calmly and collectively manicured their own sound entirely.
Lets all just admit that death metal sucked a lot of corpses this year and I find the call-backs to another time, the “technical” side of the genre or the “atmospheric atonal hellish landscapes” are becoming a complete borefest. Quite simply, dm bands either flop on their own influences or they just forget that dm is all about the song and not about how grim/technical you can be. Horrendous balance a fine line between Chuck Schuldiner worship and technical craftsmanship and come up with an album full of songs. And not just any ordinary songs, songs that will stick with you for a long, long time. And the riffs, oh those sweet riffs that carry a song from one transition to the next effortlessly. If Ecdysis was as good as most of you say it was (a very flat sounding album that did a complete 180 next to The Chills), wait until you here this skillfull song craft.
Sunbather was something different and I will admit I didn't understand it at the time. That was the case until I saw them in March of 2014 opening their set with the only song I liked off the album “Dream House”. Completely blowing my intensity level off the charts, I followed the rest of their set until the final chimes of “The Pecan Tree” and was forever a fan. New Bermuda is a different take on Sunbather, one where the blackgaze marathon they were running takes a few shortcuts but travels through a number of obstacles along the way. These aren't obstacles that hurt the music by any means. Rather, they're an introduction of more dynamics in a more concise way that take on the forms of thrash and death metal. This is a band that is coming into it's own and is a band that can make real change and not lose half their fanbase. I think it's safe to say we can remove the hipster tag now.
They Became the Falling Ash
I think everyone knows this by now but in case you didn't, this magnificent piece of atmospheric black metal was created by one of very own users. This man has a polarizing opinion on controversial metal albums (kind of like me) but nonetheless, he has every right to fling his opinion around after you give this the time of day! The tag 'atmospheric black metal' doesn't even cut it when these three tunes begin to sink in (“Echoes in the Snow” is 25 minutes long!). Building doom passages (kind of funeral-ish if it wasn't for the folk melodies tossed in for good measure) that flow effortlessly alongside the black metal and the subtle symphonic texturing blanketing the speedy, but damn sweet tremolo riffs really chalk this album up to some of the best black metal of the year.
Brutal techy death metal is not usually something I dig but there's always exceptions to the rule. And when you write something this damn interesting and brutally scary, my ears perk up high. Like I said earlier, death metal rolled over and died in 2015 but not without spitting out a wee bit of filth before laying to rest. For fans of Abyssal's past two records, you will notice something different that is a welcome surprise. What stands out to me on this record is their commanding control of all shades of blackness whether it comes from the mind bending atonal melodies that meld with the brutality or the slower mid-tempo sections that add sculpture and texture to the solid brick wall of disturbing death metal. A seriously overlooked piece of death metal.
Noise rock and sludge with an industrial vibe? Yes please! Sumac is the deal when it comes to angular and often contorted song structures but buried beneath those mechanical notes is Aaron Turner of Isis fame worshiping the bands he loved most (anyone else here Godflesh?). Of course I hear bits of The Mosquito Control E.P. and Celestial from Isis's early days too but I truly believe that putting down a band like Isis and not having the urgency to do something in it's vein would be a flat out lie. This is a combo of all the industrialized post-metaly things from the past and it's also something entirely new as well. Want an example? Check out the unbelievable drumming from Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) who adds a more organic feel to the jagged music. If the mid-section “Thorn in the Lion's Paw” doesn't do anything for you, well...you just suck at life I guess.
Do you know why funeral doom is one of the most elite sub-genres in metal? There isn't an ounce of over-saturation to be found. Considering how small the community of funeral doom bands is and yet how massive their coverage of depressing terrestrial landscapes are, this shouldn't be a shock to the consistent quality much of these bands possess. It's tough music to handle in large doses and bands like Skepticism have made a career out of pushing the boundaries of how far melancholic frozen death can go. Ordeal was performed in front of a live audience and feels like a perfect studio recording. Ordeal is a mammoth trek through dark movements and subtle breaks of light in the overbearing pile of ice and snow. Ordeal is why Skepticism continue to be the leaders of the funeral doom genre. And those crash cymbals recorded underwater.......damn!
Credit is due to Magnus for familiarizing me with Kauan back in 2013 when his best-of list was the ONLY list I read to contain Pirut, Kauan's first truly amazing masterpiece. It was only this years Sorni Nai that made me revisit that album and realize how much these Russians have conceptualized their ideas and music into something more than just a destination but rather a journey (thanks for that line Kyle). Kauan's folk-doom with post-rock atmosphere wouldn't be the same if it wasn't for their storytelling of nine hikers who vanish into the snowy night and die a bizarre frozen death. I know I'm not doing the story any justification but just listen to this piece of beauty and tell me you aren't swept away by it's composition and vast scope of conceptual storytelling (even if it's in their Russian language).
Aria of Vernal Tombs
Upon first listen to Obsequiae's debut for 20 Buck Spin, I was overwhelmed by the melodic nature and medieval themes. I put the album aside thinking to myself, “Why would someone re-write the score for Zelda and brutalize it in a death metal manner?” Then it dawned on me. This wasn't some digitized video game youtube posting but a disguised take on traditional metal of the highest order. Forget the growls and the fast tempo, the leads and solos (done by a wonderful harpsichord as well) are the building blocks and main focus to the galloping anthems contained on Aria of Vernal Tombs. If you're in the mood for something beautifully melodic and sweeping then this is for you.
|14||Earth and Pillars|
Atmospheric black metal can be a dime a dozen and when it comes to cascadian black metal, I only hear Wolves in the Throne Room. Earth and Pillars run into this slight problem but instead of resting on their influences, they manipulated WitTR's earth humming black metal and put a more saddened, yet savage oomph to the grandeur of their vast blackened landscapes. Opening song “Earth” is a fitting, uneasy ambient piece to the next three juggernaut songs that are as much about hypnotic trances in the darkening woods as they are bruising. Always have music like this on hand when you're enjoying nature walks or when you're walking home in the middle of a blizzard!
I was very surprised at myself for even typing this in my metal list for 2015 but here we are. This was my first real experience with the band and I feel they bridge the gap between rock and metal absolutely perfectly. Actually they're more than that. Have you ever listened to anything King Diamond has done? Do you love the worlds new found love of NWOBHM? If you checked yes to both these questions, this band is for you. Ghost write actual songs with hooks and hum-able melodies that are infectious and make me just want to crank and sing. Probably going to do myself a favour and listen to the rest of their discography.
The Children of the Night
Here was another surprise considering I thought Tribulation's past few albums were the dog's breakfast when it came to anything interesting. The Children of the Night straightens that out and then some. It's as if Blake Judd took Nachtmystium into a more rock-operish domain with a huge emphasis on memorable theatrics and a huge sweeping production that gives each song its own charm. Don't be fooled though, this shit's got macabre written all over it. Just picture that scene from Return of the Living Dead where the punk rockers are hanging out in the graveyard. These are the tunes they would be blasting.
Apex Predator - Easy Meat
30 years and counting into Napalm Death's illustrious career and they're still pumping out shit like this? I don't think there's a band on this earth as old as ND putting out music this urgent and relevant (and brutally heavy as well). Yes you can criticize them for falling into a comfort zone the past few albums, teetering a microscopic line between grind and death metal but how do you ignore those riffs that you could listen to a million times and still beg for more? ND are also the masters of surprise as well and they've done themselves well by incorporating the atmosphere of Swans and Michael Gira. On Apex Predator, they've gone as far as worshiping the throne of Swans with album opener “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” with that crazed, chant like dirge. ND, please don't ever leave us!
Realm of Sacrifice
When I heard about two big players in black metal coming together (main members of Ash Borer and Fell Voices) to form Vanum, I was instantly gripped with excitement. Reflecting back on the 2011s split with the two bands, Vanum sound nothing like their main groups output and opt for an Enstrangement era Drudkh that I've been wanting for Drudkh to revisit for years now. With Drudkh producing completely out-of-their-minds crap, Vanum fills a void in atmospheric black metal that is vital and a total nod to their influences. American black metal doesn't get any better than this.
Like I said earlier, death metal was no where to be found (I expect a lot of you to post in the comments “Oh dude, you missed this and this and this). Truth be told, don't post anything because I've wasted my time with enough dm this year. Cruciamentum on the other hand are the U.K.'s shining beacon for death metal and with the loss of Bolt Thrower (RIP Martin Kearns), what better band to take up the torch and put forth some great death metal overseas. If you've listened to Cruciamentum's past E.P.s, you will no doubt find a lot to triumph in Charnel Passages, the bands debut L.P. Keeping it old school and speedy to mid-tempo throughout, this savage beast lurks around familiar corners but strikes with dynamics and an abundance of riffs that should satisfy your death metal craving in 2015.
When it comes to Leviathan, I feel as though I'm always on the defense. First thing's first, this is not the best thing Leviathan has done and that's coming from someone who has loved Jef Whitehead's music for a long ass time while most of you reading this were calling his version of black metal weak. To be quite frank, True Traitor True Whore had a much more demented vibe to it, documenting turmoil of a man accused of heinous crimes (turns out she was a psychopath bitch while most of you still were quick to trigger of accusation). Further to this being one of the weaker albums in his discography is the use of more death metal with less emphasis on the darkest reaches of black metal. So why you ask is this in my top 20? It's simple, his new style still kicks up a familiar discomforting mood and continues in the vein of his already stellar discography. Even though this is one of his weaker efforts to date, it's still monumentally better than most metal of 2015.
|Continued from top paragraph: "seeing some of your recommendations throughout the years. Thanks Sputnik for being so great to me over the years, you will always hold a special place in my heart. Oh and one last thing, metal really had nothing to offer this year and death metal....dear God what happened to the genre I loved so much?"|
Misthyrming - Söngvar Elds Og óreiðu, False – False, Author and Punisher – Melk en Honing, Black Monolith – Passenger, Vhol – Deeper than Sky, Dispirit – Separation, Panopticon – Autumn Eternal, Shape of Despair – Monotony Field
|I should return as a troll avatar....|
|Love you Karl|
|Great list as expected.|
"Enslaved are the most consistent band in metal today"
Consistently boring ;)
|also karl u will live on in my heart bb|
|Poop to you too Kyle.|
Love you too Brandon!
|Great list man, and I fully hear you on the mentioned non-music-related issues.|
|16 oh yes! Excellent list.|
gonna check earth and pillar
|Awesome list bro, I need to hear 18 so bad.|
|Great description for number 3. Completely agree.|
|Karl!! Man I've missed seeing you around buddy. I hope your wife is doing better now and that things will eventually calm down. Whenever you feel strongly about an album, you can always stop by to make your opinion known if you feel like it. There will always be those on Sputnik (this guy right here) who are interested in your unorthodox opinions and views.|
Killer list too, although 7 sucks and Enslaved are doing a stellar job of being the most boring metal band out there ;)
If you have the time, you can check out Au-Dessus' self-titled debut, I think you'd like it a lot.. I'm still kicking myself for forgetting about it when I made my end of the year list.
|Amazing list dude, very cool. I really enjoyed 5 and 17. Will check a few of these, starting with 4. Great write-ups too.|
|Metalstyles ily bro, but 7 slays and Enslaved is one of the best bands ever tbh.|
|My opinion is not swayed by that comment tbh, but all the best Hawks!|
|I knew it wouldn't be, just had to let you know. ;]|
|10 is sweet|
|What Hawks said, and awesome list Wiz good to see you still active around these parts.|
|Always nice to see some Wizard activity.|
Nice list. Did you check out the latest one by Adversarial?
|14 is not from 2014, not 2015|
|4 is some really awesome grindcore.|
|Holy shit 4 is so Aussie |
|16 is such a cool record. |
|good list, was about to say I was sad to not see Cruciamentum but I saw it just at the last second there.|
|fairly dope list|
|In Times was massive disappoint. Easily the band's worst since the early black metal days of Frost.|
|thank you so much for the 8 spot!|
|The only one of these that I would label as "extreme" by today's standards is Leviathan.|
|tacos N stuff|
|10 is criminally underrated |
One of Turner's better side projects
|Glad to see someone else who likes the kill, love everything they've done|
|good to see u around wiz|
|Really nice list wizzy. Have a nice real life man. |
|"The only one of these that I would label as "extreme" by today's standards is Leviathan."|
It's a catch-all term for metal that usually involves death or black elements. Sure a few of these might be debatable but not really worth bringing up.
It's been nice having you around through this long-ass time we've been here. Hope you'll have some time to make surprise appearances here and there and ruffle some feathers. Enjoy the real world man!
|This is all pretty extreme with the exception of kauan maybe|
|14 and 18 are really good.|
|cool list, will check all of the ones I haven't yet. I listened to 2 or 3 songs from the new Deafheaven and thought it kinda sucked, so might skip that.|
|Will have to check some of these out Wiz. Sumac and Deafheaven are the only two I've heard.|
|The best album he listed is actually in his hon mentions and it's the new Misthyrming|
Otherwise though Leviathan, Kauan, Tribulation, Bosse-de-Nage, Ethereal Shroud are all ace
|Just gave that Sannhet album a full spin. It was enjoyable but it could really use vocals. The music has a great atmosphere but doesn't feel complete to me.|
|sad year agreed|
|the punks in the graveyard was in the original ROTLD ; D|
btw sup buddy
|Fixed Hype, damn fast fingers working ahead of my slow brain!|
Thank you to all, you're all a pleasure to Sput with.