As another year draws to a close, we metalheads tend to take time to reflect on what the year in metal meant to us, and prepare our various lists of what was great, what sucked, and everything in between.
This year we decided to get a little more up close and personal with Team Hellbound, and get a sense of not only each staffer’s favorite albums of the year, but also a sense of the state of metal in 2015 from everyone.
We here at Hellbound thank you for your continued readership, and wish you a very headbanging 2016.
Happy Holidays from Hellbound!
— Kyle Harcott
Metal Albums of the Year:
- CATTLE DECAPITATION – The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade)
Cattle Decapitation just keep getting better and better. Travis Ryan continues to assert is position as one of metal’s best and most dynamic vocalists. And the world keeps becoming a more disgusting place, giving the Californians more than enough fodder to make more brain-melting deathgrind albums like this one. The aggression, the passion, the precision, the scope, the vision! The Anthropocene Extinction is one intensely physical album that’s made me look pretty strange to the non-existent neighbours peering in our windows.
- blackQueen – The Directress (self)
blackQueen was founded by Pete Jay (ex-Assück) and includes Wounded Giant drummer Alex Bytnar. The self-proclaimed “witch metal” band caught me under their spell with sophomore full-length The Directress. It’s a potent blend of black and death metal, dark hardcore, and bewitching atmospherics. Jay’s vocals fray the nerves and he’s aided by a host of guest vocalists like Wrest and Uta Plotkin. It’s like being strangled and beaten by spectres at midnight while the perfect soundtrack brings the drama to life.
- BEATEN TO DEATH – Unplugged (Mas-kina)
“DON’T YOU/DARE TO FUCKING CALL US/HEAVY METAL!!” berates Beaten to Death vokillist Anders Bakke on their face-breaking, confrontational third album, Unplugged. It’s far from acoustic believe me. It’s positively electrified with migraine-inducing intensity. Sometimes I think grind with this sort of elasticity and concussive tendency should come with a warning label. I don’t know how many times I pulled a muscle during the albums many jaw-dropping moments. But never have I fucking called them heavy metal. “Death To False Grindcore”.
- KOWLOON WALLED CITY – Grievances (Neurot)
I went looking for something and stumbled on my 2012 AOTY list. I had KWC’s Container Ships listed as #33. It’s not as though Grievances is SO MUCH better but it attacks from a different angle and scores a more effective hit. The tortures of office work bear down on the listener causing them to sink into the void all La Brea Carpets-style. Post-sludge with depressive/defeatist tendencies like this don’t come along every day. Few albums this year were so painful.
- WIEGEDOOD – De Dodden Hebben Het Goed (Consouling Sounds)
Knowing this band had members of Amenra and Oathbreaker made it worth checking out. And it blew my mind. Full throttle atmospheric black metal swollen with spectral-entity-weaving-through-mountain-valley melodies and charred-throat rasps. Despairing and empowering at the same time, the album burrows deep into the heart and spins a captivating web of emotion around it. Lush, sweeping movements spellbind with their grand scope, raw power and effortless fluidity. It’s been a great year for black metal but this one rises above all.
- HE WHOSE OX IS GORED – The Camel, The Lion, The Child (Bleeding Light)
Last year He Whose Ox Is Gored’s Rumors 7” caught me off guard and made me an instant fan of the Seattle post-everything band. A year later and The Camel, The Lion, The Child takes everything that made them great and pushes it to the next level. More desperation, more melody, more anguish, more heartbreak. The listener is spoiled by many moments of transcendent beauty met with ugliness and pain. And let’s not get started on how breathtaking “Alpha” is. Glorious.
- VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky (Profound Lore)
Aesop Dekker, Sigrid Sheie, John Cobbett and Mike Scheidt proved VHÖL wasn’t a one-off project with the psychedelic thrashterpiece Deeper Than Sky. Sheie, Cobbett and Dekker put on a clinic of genre fuckery on tracks that writhe with a certain tongue-in-cheek darkness that often makes you want to dance as much as it inspires scowling faces while raising drinking skulls to the sky. Scheidt steps out of his comfort zone howling, growling and shrieking through the torrent of bangover-inducing riffs. Brilliance.
- CRYPT SERMON – Out of the Garden (Dark Descent)
First off, there may not have been a more talked about debut than Out of the Garden by Crypt Sermon. Metal press have been singing its praises all year long. Second, is there anything the incestuous Philadelphia scene can’t do? Crypt Sermon certainly have the epic/trad doom niche locked down. Out of the Garden conjures images of stunning lands giving rise to dramatic events unfolding under tempestuous skies. Magnificent, majestic and romantically captivating, Out of the Garden is an instant classic.
- HIGH ON FIRE – Luminiferous (eOne)
Writing sober for the first time, Matt Pike proves he didn’t need alcohol to rule the metal world. The revered band (including Des Kensel and Jeff Matz) continue to craft albums that appeal to a larger sphere. Crushed civilization-sized riffs, brain-caving percussion and maniacal vocals streamroll the listener throughout. Never mind production. I care not when the music takes possession of my body and consciousness. Let’s hope Luminiferous is a launching pad for the next phase in their near flawless career.
- CLUTCH – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)
Because it’s Clutch.
Favourite Album-Cover Art of 2015:
blackQueen – The Directress. Cover art by Isaac Stuart.
Best gigs I attended in 2015:
Ecstatic Vision, Yob, Enslaved at The Opera House
I wasn’t really excited for Kosmograd. I wasn’t really excited (at the time) for Ecstatic Vision. (I got really excited after listening to the album a few times.) Nor was I really all that excited for Enslaved. But I was over the moon excited to see Yob. I mean, it’s frikkin’ YOB! And boy, did they deliver. The Opera House sound not so much. And I don’t know how he did it, but Mike Scheidt must have magicked something into my eyes because at one point during “Marrow” they just got all teary and stuff. Weird. Not only that but I finally got to meet fellow Hellbounders Sean, Adam and Laura! I spied a couple others but sadly never connected. Still, good times. There was this Chris Bruni fella, and a Mr. Scheidt I talked to as well. No biggie.
Favourite Metal-Related Purchase of 2015
Early in the year I attended a Varga show in Kingston. Kicked ass. One of the opening bands was my neighbour’s band Ithron. At that show I bought one of his band’s shirts. I love it. And I like to support (very) local talent.
Most Anticipated Album of 2016:
WITCHCRAFT – Nucleus (Nuclear Blast)
I’m more of a “live in the present” type of guy. Not looking too far ahead. But I know this one is coming out soon and I love me some Witchcraft.
My 2015 in Metal
Starting off 2015 I planned to cut back on my writing a bit. I didn’t feel I was reading enough so I needed to free up time. That only kinda worked. Technically I did cut back but I still reviewed well over 100 albums for the various sites I contribute to. Any extra reading was due to other circumstances. But like other years I talked about some great albums. The new Clutch album was obviously the cream of the crop but I hold a huge bias. Bands like Crypt Sermon, Second Sun, and Elder came out of nowhere to get me addicted to them. Goatsnake’s comeback was magnificent! And one of my most listened to albums wasn’t even metal. I did go light on the shows though. I think I only made 4 or 5 and just the lone out-of-towner. And finally, after years of being a cheap ass, I found an old jean jacket at a thrift store, cut the arms off and started my patch vest. I really feel like I’m part of the club now. And part of the cliche. Still no progress on the miraculous return of all my hair.