Saturday, January 02, 2016

Gabriel's Top 20 Albums Of 2015

Well, it's that time again.  Hard to believe another year has come and gone already, but there were a ton of great releases over the past twelve months, and as usual, not nearly enough time to listen to all of them.  The list that follows is restricted to those full albums that I did have a chance to lay my ears on this year, and even with that limit, carving it down to just twenty selections was almost painfully difficult.  If there's an album you feel should have made the Top 20, just pipe up with a comment, here or on our Facebook link, and I'll try to fit investigating it into my schedule for 2016.  Here's hoping the new year treats all of you kindly, and that the musical offerings are at least half as good as what we were treated to this year.  Cheers!

#20. Bell Witch - Four Phantoms

"Considered on its own terms...Four Phantoms is an elegant (though bulky) construction, with the longing wails and tortured chords forming an inexorable journey towards oblivion (thematically, at least)."

"Building on a broad doom metal base, the group emphasizes atmosphere and slow, haunting riffs, with growling vocals which work to strengthen the music instead of just roaring over it."

"Twisting and turning through abstract feedback and body-moving riff revving, TC decisively show that their skills haven't rusted in the slightest during their time away from the public."
BandCamp


#17. Heavydeath - Eternal Sleepwalker

"It all works to hypnotic effect, as the slower passages enact enough of a lulling effect for the hard attacks to arrive more dramatically, and the down-shifts of the other direction taking advantage of the residual rawness."
BandCamp


#16. Dorthia Cottrell - Dorthia Cottrell

"[W]ith a reliance on extended repetition of chorus lines the only overt fault, Cottrell sounds perfectly at home with the company of sparse chords and her clear-ringing voice."
BandCamp



"It's a smooth and well-constructed ramp into the subterranean sludge which forms most of the album, and with it, Dead Hand quickly establish their fondness for unearthing new facets of each song with a natural-feeling flow to the changes."
BandCamp



"Over the course of the four tracks, it feels as though every time the trio let their minds drift away to explore the wide-ranging spaciness in the psych side of their music, they're ready with a mean club-swing of doom to knock out anyone whose guard got lowered by the siren call of the whammy pedal."
BandCamp



"Consisting of just three tracks, but stretching out to three-quarters of an hour, Volumes finds Headless Kross spooling out heavy clouds of fuzz, feedback, and grimy tones punctured and punctuated by the powerful drum-beats, and clearly not giving a damn when it comes to holding back."
BandCamp



"Warm production and slight hints of humor, along with faint touches of stoner/psych head-warping, draw the music into something with more character than aggressive doom metal usually achieves, offering up something that earns the repeated plays fans of the album will find themselves compelled to hear."
BandCamp



"Prog, heavy metal, krautrock, doom, jazz, and others make their mark on the main heart of the music, with the band adeptly juggling them all into a colorful blur, and throwing more tricks in with each track, though they never let the technicality overwhelm the essential blistering drive."
BandCamp



"Things start out relatively subdued... with the title track slowly humming its way into being with emergent vibrations and melodies weaving themselves together, mostly driven by down-tuned guitar with synth touches bubbling underneath.  By the arrival of the second track, "Hazchem", there's a well-established mood of subtle doom, though the band is quick to overturn any dogmatic preservation of the gloom for its own sake."
BandCamp



"Heaviness, hard riffs, mellow cruising bridges, and pound after pound of leafy limberness with curling the songs around from one way into half a dozen others before it's out gives the new album a spine-jellying potency born of whatever's in Poland's water to make their heavy music groups so damn good."
BandCamp



"Hearing the band tear loose with the guitar-shredding, feedback, and drums as the bass steam-rolls the way is enough to over-rule the usual pace of psych doom in favor of 'fuck it, let's go fast,' and "Obelisk" makes one Hell of an argument in its favor... It's a magnificently-assembled album, with the performances ranging from nailed-down to wild abandon in pleasing proportion, strong riffs throughout, and a real mean edge to it all."
BandCamp



"Disenchanter seem to have picked up some extra speed since their last EP, with battering rolls of percussion, slick-fingered chord progressions, and some use of overlapping vocals all working to keep things vibrant without taking too much away from the heaviness... At its heart, though, the album stays true to the doom-power of their earlier efforts, just turbo-charged into jolting liveliness."
BandCamp



"The trio works well together in the absence of vocals, and there's a nice woodsy feel to the music, for all of its amp-powered resonance, coming to life somewhere in the buzz of the strings and the ringing between beats... The variation from song to song comes mainly in tempo and intensity, but the group's roots are so firmly dug into heavy earth that it all slips together into one spine-melting experience."
BandCamp



"Finally available to the public after the band's decision to go the self-release route, the oddities (and storminess) of Maelstrɔsm hardly end with the title, as they blend together psych, stoner, thrash, doom, and several other styles into a fast-changing and violently inventive set of tracks that keep the surprises coming from start to finish... [E]ach track comes out hard and ready to beat your brains in, but with enough tightness on the reins for the band to steer it in any direction they like... It's a far cry from the standard stoner rock, and the experimentation rarely falters or hits a false step."
BandCamp



"Howls, groans, bellows, and death rattles materialize from the instruments and vocals, with the band bringing their chosen album title to life in all the right ways, and only rarely relenting in the inexorable crush.  Some blackened crispiness to the guitar at times helps push the dagger even deeper, and after the first few tracks, you've got little choice but to simply accept the beating the band is going to lay down.  As the beating moves into more existential and cosmic territory, the steam-rolling done by the earlier tracks destroys the resistance that might save you from their torturous knowledge."
BandCamp



"The bass gives you enough reverb to start swimming on air if your stereo's loud enough, but there's a crispness to the mixing that lets it co-exist with the higher registers of everything else without crushing the life out of them.  The guitar gets so psychedelic at times as to pass for a wildly-modded synth, and well-used echo effects on the vocals let them sink right in to the crushed-velvet mind-trip, guiding your ears through the maze of amps and tones as the music unwinds... Despite the length of the songs, the album glides right along... the band has me roped into needing to play this over and over[.]"
BandCamp



"Opening with "Gambian Blue Wave", the sextet blend blues, psychedelic, alternative, heavy rock, and jazz into an unpredictable but always-engaging whirlwind of moods and styles, jack-knifing around the tempo range and always seeking something new to try.  Taking any one of the tracks out of the full line-up just doesn't do the group's range justice, given that the contrast between their off-the-walls pieces and more 'rainy day' material... benefits both sides when taken as a whole."
BandCamp


#1. Mamaleek - Via Dolorosa

"The duo of Mamaleek continue their tradition of reinvention with their latest album, which finds them performing blues with a harshness evocative of black metal or the meaner sort of sludge.  Though the harshness isn’t a constant presence, the times when it drops back down to a calmer performance (as it does several times, often for long stretches) play to a sense of its transience, with the incoming crash or howl looming on the audio horizon... the density of sound covering a range from sparse instrumentation to pounding dins and the inventive blending of styles is fantastic."