While it might be hard to believe, we are now halfway through the year, and in our crusty, charred corner of the music journalism world that means one thing and one thing only: It’s time to start brandishing premature, list-based proclamations like a street oracle does his cardboard countdown to the coming rapture. Sure, in 6 months time when the world is still standing and the sun is still slung up there in the sky, we will look idiots, but for now that’s half the fun. So, without further rambling ado, I am psyched to present This One Goes To Eleven’s 11 Must-Hear Metal Albums of 2015 (so far). Whether you’ve been following along all year or are just stopping by for the first time, you’re sure to find something heavy to sink those fangs into.
11. Caïna—Setter of Unseen Snares (Broken Limbs): Beginning with a sample of True Detective‘s “raw deal” defeatist manifesto, Setter of Unseen Snares—possibly the finest work yet from Brit black metal duo Caïna—starts at the psycho-emotional bottom and only digs down from there, wriggling ceaselessly into the inky bowels of human existence. Unlike other “post” black metal of their ilk, however, Caïna don’t simply brood, adding some serious death and doom muscle to their road-tested formula.
10. Visigoth—The Revenant King (Metal Blade): File this under “guilty pleasure” if you must, but Visigoth’s NWOBHM-stained D&D power metal isn’t ashamed, wearing its love of big riffs, bigger hooks, and Manila Road like a backpatch. The fact The Revenant King—a self-assured, winking ode to the days of metal yore—is also the band’s debut, surely bodes well for the future of these SLC anti-punks.
9. Bell Witch – Four Phantoms (Profound Lore): A four-part opus conjuring the phantoms of death by earth, fire, water, and wind, Bell Witch’s Four Phantoms is arguably the purest distillation of funeral doom ever set to tape. Simultaneously terrifying and mournful, horrific and beautiful, Four Phantoms is proof that nobody in metal is currently doing more with less (tapped six-string bass, drums, and vocals, in this case) than Bell Witch.
8. Death Karma—The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part 1 (Iron Bonehead): There’s perhaps no more fitting way to document the burial practices of disparate cultures around the globe than with a sarcophagus of mummified death metal, and Death Karma (comprised of Infernal Vlad and Tom Coroner from mystic Czech black metallers Cult of Fire) make that abundantly clear on the first installment of their new high-concept LP series. From the forests of Slovakia to the peaks of Western China, The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part 1 is far and away the heshest anthropological curriculum currently on offer, so make sure to check it out.
7. Crypt Sermon—Out of the Garden (Dark Descent): A crushing slab of stately Renaissance doom worth more than a few Dio comparisons, Out of the Garden has helped the Philly supergroup’s constituent members carve a collective path to heavy metal success. Oh and we did we mention those guitar solos? Seriously, start saving those pennies for facial reconstruction surgery.
6. Sannhet—Revisionist (The Flesner): While by definition an instrumental album, that fact, on its own, does more to muzzle Revisionist’s black-hole obliterating melodies, horizon-scraping scope, and laser-focused songwriting than empower them. Operating in a sub-genre where vocals are so often mangled beyond recognition or buried 6 feet down in the mix, Sannhet prove they don’t need the power of words to make a lasting impact.
5. Tribulation—The Children of the Night (Century Media): While the new Deafheaven record is sure to eclipse it in controversy, The Children of the Night currently bears 2015’s lightning rod crown, drawing both adoration and admonishment across the ever-fickle metal-verse. So say what you want about the Swedish outfit’s rapid transformation from At The Gates to Black Öyster Cult, but know that the objectively spectacular songwriting and huge hooks can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t be denied.
4. High On Fire—Luminiferous (eOne): What more needs to be written about this one? When all is said and done, High On Fire deserve to have their name cast alongside those of Metallica, Motörhead, and Sabbath, and Luminiferous is another city-flattening step in that direction. Kurt Ballou, who also produced 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis, adds his seemingly magic touch, but the almighty riff—as it always has and always will for Matt Pike—reigns omnipresent and supreme.
3. Cloud Rat—Qliphoth (Halo of Flies): A blog-ready tornado of seething grindcore, ambient beauty, and feminist power, Qlipthoth transcends the hype thanks in large part to the froth-mouthed conviction of frontwoman Madison Marshall. In hindsight, Qliphoth as I posited a few weeks back, probably won’t do for grindcore what Sunbather did for USBM, but that’s due more to the sonic realities of grind than the music entombed within Cloud Rat’s soon-to-be seminal work.
2. Obsequiea—Aria of Vernal Tombs (20 Buck Spin): The latest incarnate of Midwest black metal experimentalist, Tanner Anderson, Obsequiea have crafted in Aria of Vernal Tombs—which stitches traditional harp work, medieval ruins, and verdant USBM into a wonderful sonic Frankenstein—a truly singular, and oft uplifting, blast of blackened goodness.
1. Elder—Lore (Armageddon Shop): While certainly impossible to cram the 45-plus year history of psych, stoner, doom onto a single LP, Providence power trio Elder certainly do their damndest on Lore, reaching the peak of their considerable powers in the process. Come for the songs, as they are spectacular, but make sure to stay for frontman Nick DiSalvo’s jaw-slackening six-string performance, easily one of finest of the year thus far.
15 You Say?