As someone who loves lists, hates to overlook good heavy music, maniacally tries to avoid missing any, and generally loves to boast about not missing good metal I guess it would only make sense to present this list to you. Like any list it is far from complete or perfect, and severely limited. So feel free to add anything that you think should have made it in the comments. What I tried here is to make some sense out of the 100+ heavy rock/metal records in my 2015 iTunes albums file, and perhaps even to persuade you as a reader and listener to open up to something new, or re-open to something you might have dismissed too soon…Please mind that is not a best of-list as I tried to limit myself to albums that in my opinion did not receive enough attention this year. Let’s right that wrong folks!
Mutoid Man is Stephen Brodsky of Cave In and Ben Koller of Converge with Nick Cageao on bass; basically making a racket jamming together and “accidentally” making one of the most enjoyable albums of 2015 in the process. Ben Koller’s drumming is out of this world and Stephen Brodsky’s soaring vocal performance give their sound that one in a million feel that sets it apart from most of their contemporaries. They are very close in sound to what Wild Throne did on their recent album Harvest Of Darkness, with the difference being that Mutoid Man focuses more on heaviness and songwriting instead of being allover the place. A definite must-have if you are into progressive heavy music.
For Fans Of: Cave In, Wild Throne, The Mars Volta, Mastodon
Get in on this at: https://mutoidman.bandcamp.com
The Armed are that weird ADHD kid at school that never took his meds, was a pest to all the teachers, and always told that nothing good would ever come of him; so he took up playing spazzy mathcore and decided to fuck the system sideways and never aim for more than dingy basements. Until now. With their Untitled album, The Armed have definitely grown up in the best kind of way. Still as subtle as a garbage can to the face, this album adds a certain catchiness that should not be possible considering the amount of aggression. Just have a look at that video, it’s one of the best I’ve seen all year. Too bad that dude is not their real singer though!
FFO: The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Chariot, Heavy Heavy Low Low
The Armed give all of their records away for free at: http://thearmed.com
A fan on their Bandcamp page says it best: “at times I want some black metal, but I don’t want some black metal. Thank you Mamaleek”. Via Dolorosa will probably show you the weirdest, creepiest, most original take on the genre you will hear all year. Considering the fact that the band has roots in both San Francisco and Beirut it almost makes sense that they make this intriguing mixture of styles work. Almost, because nothing about this ever really makes any sense at all and that is the beauty of it. Close your eyes and open your mind!
FFO: Horseback, Lurker Of Chalice, Pinkish Black, Oranssi Pazuzu
Snag it here: https://theflenser.bandcamp.com/album/via-dolorosa
One of the most overlooked releases of 2015, this full-length debut by Spylacopa (it’s Apocalyps backwards you fools!), and now also overshadowed by the recent news of the big Candiria reunion and album. It pushes this effort in obscurity which I cannot stress enough is completely unfair.Parallels is such a creative explosion of ideas, ranging from industrial tinged modern metal to stop-start-stop noise rock to psychedelic soundscapes. And while The Dillinger Escape Pan’s Greg Puciato might not have made it this time around, Julie Christmas sure has! She is one of my favorite singers ever and she never disappoints to raise all my neck hairs in her performance. Recommended for her alone, but obviously for so much more too.
FFO: Made Out Of Babies, Battle Of Mice, Candiria, Palms, Isis
Get your copy here: https://spylacopa.bandcamp.com
Interview with Dendritic Arbor here.
I should probably start with a warning for epileptics here for the video as well as the music on display. With their grindcore/black metal fusion Dendritic Arbor have definitely ventured onto “something else” here. It’s savage, it’s evil, it’s unpleasant, and it is somehow completely fresh and surprisingly listenable. As a former student of American Studies I always tell people the thing I like most about the U.S.A. is that it is one of the only countries in the world where there is still an incredibly wide gap between mainstream culture and counterculture. Just listen to “Romantic Love” after a Taylor Swift song and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
FFO: Watchmaker, Today Is The Day, Gaza, Arkhon Infaustus
Download here: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/romantic-love
Hailing from Tilburg, the city that hosts the annual Roadburn Festival, these Dutch natives probably had ample opportunity to see all of their metal idols in the flesh. Neurosis, Isis, Amenra, Cult Of Luna…they all graced the city with their presence, most of them even more than once. One can imagine that hailing from such a post/sludge/core mekka brings with it some pressure, but Sistere’s majestic, dense sound comes so natural to Izah that it would be a mistake to dismiss them as fanboys or rookies. Sistere is so incredibly intricate and heavy that it feels like a vast wood of thorns that you have to hike through in order to get your reward in the center of it all. This is not easy listening, but perseverance will make it an album you will want to come back to for a long time.
FFO: Inter Arma, Neurosis, Amenra, Cult Of Luna, Transmission0
Izah is on Tumblr: http://izahband.tumblr.com
Do you ever wish that Mastodon would release a record more in the vein of Leviathan? Or that the new Baroness would sound more like their epic Red Album? Do you like your sludge metal to be progressive but rough around the edges, with more attention on “Thee Almighty Riff” than on songwriting? I know I do! I have been looking for a long time for a band that could give me the feeling that I had when I first discovered those aforementioned bands. Don’t get me wrong; I love the fact that those two bands have progressed and burned their bridges, but they did move far away from what made them so incredibly powerful at the time. Enter Elder and their spectacular Lore album. It’s a festival of riffs that meander endlessly and plenty of that lost heaviness I pined for all that time. Music for forward-thinking, backwards looking cavemen like me!
FFO: (early-) Mastodon, Baroness, Intronaut, The Sword
Get Elder now: https://beholdtheelder.bandcamp.com
2015 is an excellent year for noise rock. With stellar new releases by Metz, Pigs, KEN Mode, Cherubs, and Fashion Week (and plenty more I forgot) it is hard to pick one that truly stands out. Yet it has to be Belgium’s heaviest live band Raketkanon (“rocket cannon”). They are probably the most far-out singular noise rock band in the field, yet somehow they played all the big festivals in Europe. With song titles consisting of Belgian first names, fitting indiscernible lyrics, a schizophrenic vocal delivery, crazy song structures, and wacky keyboards RKTKN 2 is an adventurous bumpy ride. Oh, it was produced by Steve Albini…need I say more?
FFO: Butthole Surfers, Metz, Scratch Acid, Rapeman, Cherubs
Bug them on their website: http://www.raketkanon.com/
Sweet Cobra have always been somewhat of an oddball in the sludge metal scene. Not quite heavy enough to open for High On Fire, not prog enough to team up with Baroness, and always to damn self-minded to break in to a commercial success. Add to that a whole bunch of bad luck dealt by lady Fortuna and you’ll find a band barely getting by and coping with an existence in the margins. But they keep on releasing interesting left-field music, and they are to praise for that. Earth is their fourth full-length already, and on it they give Torche a run for their money displaying a similar kind of “Foo Fighters-with balls-on drugs” sound but painting a much broader palette. It is the kind of heavy catchy music you wished was on the radio more often but never will be.
FFO: Torche, Baroness, Akimbo, Witch
Hangout with Sweet Cobra on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sweetcobra
If you find yourself tired out by most of what calls itself postmetal, metalgaze, or sludge metal, I am with you. The genre found its origins with legendary bands Neurosis and Isis blossomed a couple of years ago and then the well of creativity gradually dried up. Those bands that are still around have gradually changed their sound or died, and most new postmetal bands are late at a party that finds itself in a “morning after” state stinking of stale beer and old cigarettes. Rosetta have returned with a vengeance with the incredible new Quintessential Ephemera. It has all of their signature spacey guitar doodling, but adds a new dimension to both vocals and songwriting. It definitely does not revive a whole genre, but it does make for a hell of a comeback.
FFO: Cult Of Luna, Amenra, Mono, Pelican
Their website is fun: http://www.rosettaband.com