Friday, December 23, 2016

Best of 2015 in "My" Music

Yes, you read that right. 2015. (It takes over a year to digest a good album. And 2016 isn't even over yet!)

Top 10 Albums (2015)

10. Dark Before Dawn - Breaking Benjamin
Not the most "metal" release to kick off this list, for sure. But Breaking Benjamin and I have a long history - they were actually the first music I ever got into; the long road of my ever-expanding music tastes begins with them. "Dark Before Dawn" was released after a long hiatus, during which the band effectively broke up and reformed with a new lineup, and forms a worthy comeback. They haven't strayed much from their old formula, save that the album seems a bit more thoughtful and positive than much of their previous work (like "Phobia," still my favorite Breaking Benjamin release).
So, no, nothing world-shattering or genre-defining here; just dang good hard rock that deserves a place on this list.

9. Exercises in Futility - Mgła
Ah, here's some danker stuff. Mgła (a Polish word, meaning "mist") bill themselves as "nihilistic black metal," and are actually some of the only black metal I listen to. They're great at what they do, though: varied drum work, harsh but melodic guitars, and audible bass (rare in black metal!) combine to make a dark but dramatic slab of seven songs. That grim and frostbitten atmosphere, combined with its incredibly relevant title, make it my favorite soundtrack for midwinter snow shoveling.

8. Node - Northlane
Northlane have had to prove themselves since their old vocalist Adrian left, and, armed with their new guy Marcus, have not disappointed. Node is full of groove and atmosphere, the best kind of djenty metalcore. "Leech" (below) is a good track to typify the album, but honestly my favorite is "Weightless." Check out these Aussies from the Land Down Under.

7. The Departure - Atmospheres
Blissful djent-meets-post-rock, and I think the only musical group from Belgium that I listen to regularly. FFO radio static, sunlight, space.

6. Wake - For Today
My relationship with For Today has been a complicated one, and now that they've announced that Wake will be their last album, I have very mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, they've never been much more than a particularly hardworking, earnest metalcore band; on the other hand, it's clear that their members DO have real ambition and talent. Wake is a good place for them to end; their previous album was perhaps their catchiest but also their most generic, while Wake presents itself as more introspective and genuine (for the genre, at least). Having seen them on their farewell tour this fall (and gotten the mic literally five times throughout the show!), I can truthfully say that I'll miss them a lot. Here's to you, For Today.

5. Till the End - Phinehas
Oh man, the shreds! The SHREDS! And such beautiful breakdowns. Phinehas take all of the best elements from melodic death metal and metalcore to make a wonderfully energetic album. "Seven," below, is one of the more pensive (and dramatic) tracks on the album, and is by far my favorite. (Check out, also, their acoustic EP they released this month, featuring several reinterpretations from this album!)

4. Anecdotes of Science & Soul - Ghost Iris
These Danish djentlemen have done very well for themselves, considering that this is their first album! They've got a great mix of Periphery and Monuments going, but it doesn't feel stale or unoriginal. Their exposition of "Euphoric State," below, is exactly what a music video should be.

3. The Unconquerable Dark - Black Tongue
This... is some of the heaviest music I listen to, and certainly the heaviest stuff on the list. Black Tongue have a way of combining the best elements of deathcore, doom metal, and even black and progressive metal to create an absolutely evil sound full of atmosphere and brutality. Even the album artwork is top-notch! (Below, the dankest breakup song I'VE ever heard.)

2. Deliverance - Heart of a Coward
Will these guys ever stop getting better? I sure hope not, and they sure haven't yet. Deliverance dials back some of the insane heavy groove of Severance, but replaces it with a much stronger sense of pathos and atmosphere. The UK sure has been putting out some good metal in the past decade, and Heart of a Coward has been at the forefront. Below, I offer TWO tracks for your listening pleasure, not to be greedy, but because they actually go together and should be listened to back-to-back. It's a slow burner, but man, is it good. (Personally, I've edited them together into one track for my iTunes library, haha.)

1. Of Beauty and Rage - Red
I surprised myself by giving Red the top spot from 2015. Of Beauty and Rage was a wonderful comeback after the failure of their previous album; it's full of atmosphere and pathos, and is easily the best fusion of hard rock and metal I've ever heard. Give it a shot, eh?
(For those on this blog for the gaming rather than the music, but who have somehow gotten this far in the list, these guys on the album cover constituted the primary antagonists in one of my 2015 campaigns!)

Bonus Feature: Top 3 EPs (2015)

3. World Architects - Assemble the Chariots
I'm honestly slightly ashamed to call this section a "bonus" feature, since these EPs are SO DANG GOOD. Like, seriously, the compete with the top 5 albums above.
Anyway, Assemble the Chariots are "blackened djent," I suppose. (From Finland, of course.) Listen and love!

2. The Ocean Atlas - Modern Day Babylon
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Modern Day Babylon is one of my favorite instrumental groups out there. They just play such PRETTY djent, while still maintaining a definite metal edge.

1. Home - All I Lost
Finally some melodic death metal on here (my favorite genre!), and finally something from Sweden. I feel like I've listened to at least one song by these guys every day for the past month (they're a recent discovery), and I look forward to the next work they create!

Bonus Bonus Feature: Top Albums from a Decade Ago (2006)

3. Phobia - Breaking Benjamin
It feels unfair to feature Breaking Benjamin twice, but of all the music I listen to, they've been with me the longest. Phobia is a real nostalgia trip for me, and still their best album (that all-pervading ATMOSPHERE, man). Enjoy.

2. Above the Weeping World - Insomnium
Ah, their breakout album! Insomnium has been my favorite band for years, and this album was their first one to get "big." Deservedly so; it's still in my music rotation to this day. Happy 10th!

1. With Oden On Our Side - Amon Amarth
Vikings, Norse gods, melodic death metal? 'Nuff said!
(Seriously, though, Amon Amarth is such a staple for me, and they SLAY live. Enjoy, below, one of their more narrative, historical tracks!)

It feels good to look back on this stuff. Here's to many more.
(Comment your favorite release from 2015! Or 2016, for that matter.)

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