For those who don’t know, I run a music related blog at L. Mounts Is Dead. I’m in the middle of releasing my total, all-genre-encompassing Top 50 Albums of 2015 list, but I like writing for this blog so much (and Preston is such an immediately likable dude) that I decided to take the top 10 metal albums from my list and bring them together for Yr Album’s A Sucker. Expect even more record reviews from the heaviest, oddest, and most aggressive bands in 2016 my friends.
- Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Reclamation)
Reunions can often be an unexpected quality affair, especially with highly celebrated bands. After 18 years of album silence due to a breakup and subsequent live show teasers over the last few years, praised alternative metal act Faith No More finally return to record with Sol Invictus. Admittedly, the first time I heard this, I was kind of disappointed. But, I knew I was going to see them at RiotFest this year, and so I relistened to it again and again, and had no idea what I was thinking on that initial runthrough. Sol Invictus acts as the perfect reunion record, in the sense that it sounds like Faith No More should sound in 2015. They’re not trying crazy hard to revitalize their classic sound, they’re just making music they want to make in the style that they write in. The ten tracks that make up Sol Invictus showcase all ends of Faith No More’s musical trajectory, and Mike Patton and company did a great job coming back this year.
- Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
If this album came out earlier in the year, and I had more time with it, it’s possible it could’ve been placed higher. But, let’s not get into release semantics. Following 2007′s Red Album, 2009′s Blue Record, and 2012′s extremely magnificent Yellow & Green (my third favorite album of that year), Baroness continue the color scheme ontoPurple, and they did a pretty good job overall. I actually found myself way more into the poppier tracks like ‘Kerosene’ and ‘The Iron Bell’ as opposed to the heavier songs like ‘Chlorine And Wine’ and ‘Morningstar.’ While I like Baroness’ early work, Yellow & Green is really the album that I find myself listening to the most out of anything they’ve done, and I thought that there were some moments on this album where they couldn’t quite decide which direction to pursue further. Aside from that and some odd mixing choices, Baroness once again came through with a very strong and accessible metal record that I’ll still be listening to until their next color-coded release comes out.
- Mutoid Man – Bleeder (Sargent House)
Mutoid Man is one of the coolest metal side-projects in recent memory. Spearheaded by Cave In/Pet Genius/Kid Kilowatt/etc. mastermind Stephen Brodsky and Converge drummer Ben Koller, Mutoid Man is about two things: riffs and speed, and Bleedershowcases both of them in full force. The band’s 2013 debut EP Helium Head was in heavy rotation for me that year, and it kepy me eagerly awaiting what the project would have in store next. This record definitely achieves ripper status, and Brodsky and Koller alongside bassist Nick Cageao make up a heavyweight power trio that puts the hardest of emphases on the power. If you ever get a chance to see these dudes live, it’s highly recommended. Definitely one of the most fun shows I saw this year.
- Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (Kscope)
Modern progressive rock legend Steven Wilson has a fairly prolific discography between his solo releases, side projects like No-Man and Storm Corrosion, and most notably his main band Porcupine Tree. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is Steven Wilson’s fourth proper solo album and is, thus far, one of my favorite projects he’s leant his work to. It’s an incredibly expansive concept record that explores youth, womanhood, and adventurism through waves of sonic beauty and finesse. Wilson is consistently a pristine producer, and Hand. Cannot. Erase. is no exception at all. The title track especially is one of my favorite songs of the year and is one I return to multiple times a month. Wilson’s follow-up, a six-song EP entitled 4½, will be released next year and I’m definitely going to be checking it out.
- The Sword – High Country (Razor & Tie)
I remember when I picked up Guitar Hero II when I was a young, impressionable middle schooler, and being instantly struck by a song called ‘Freya’ by a band called The Sword. It appeared from their debut Age Of Winters in 2006. Since I heard and played that song over and over again (and learned it on real guitar afterwards), I knew that The Sword had something special. I began to follow them throughout all their releases, and this year they returned strong once again with High Country. What I’ve always admired about The Sword is their ability to have a new theme on each record, and High Country pulls back the heavy, fantasy-inspired songs and supplies the soundtrack to driving on a long highway through a space desert. The Sword upped the groove to eleven on this record, specifically on songs like ’Tears Like Diamonds’ and ‘The Dreamthieves.’ One of the most significant changes is the inclusion of keyboards and synthesizers to some of the songs here, including an almost completely electronic song, ‘Seriously Mysterious.’ It’s one of the best rock, metal, and overall just best albums of this year.
- Danko Jones – Fire Music (Bad Taste)
Who says that Canadians can’t play rock n roll? Hopefully nobody, because following a rich history comes Danko Jones and their newest album Fire Music. Last time we heard from Danko and the boys on a proper LP was 2012’s Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue, admittedly my least favorite piece of their catalogue. I just felt there weren’t enough immediately catchy, groovable and headbangable tracks on it (although ‘You Wear Me Down’ may be one of the most perfect rock songs ever composed). Something must have struck a chord, because Fire Music is fast, loud, angry, and the most balls-out Danko Jones has sounded since 2003’s We Sweat Blood. Almost the entire first half of the album is speed, speed, and more speed, and it’s absolutely thrilling and is certainly deserving of the Fire Music title. Whether it’s ‘The Twisting Knife’ or ‘She Ain’t Coming Home,’ Danko Jones found their stride again and came out with an absolute shredder of an album.
- Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)
Actually, between The Sword, Danko Jones, and Clutch, we’re hitting into some hard territory of bands I’ve been listening to heavily since middle school. Clutch, similarly to The Sword, were one of the band heavily responsible for my love and obsession with riff-based rock and metal music. My relationship with Clutch dates back to hearing ‘Electric Worry’ on one of those Music Choice cable radio stations, and I was totally blown away from their sound. I had never heard blues and metal combine the way that Clutch made them work, and here we are now eight years and a few more albums later with Psychic Warfare, Clutch’s strongest LP since their 2004 classic Blast Tyrant. It’s the first time, as far as I know, that Clutch has done a concept record, and they completely nailed it. Themes of war, brainwashing, and espionage make up Psychic Warfare, and the hooks and riffs on this record are some of the most memorable that Clutch has composed yet. ‘X-Ray Visions’ is one of the year’s best singles and music videos, and is just one of the album’s giant jams alongside ‘A Quick Death In Texas’ and ‘Sucker For The Witch.’ I get so excited whenever I talk about or listen to this album, so I’m just gonna let you all experience it for yourselves.
- Puscifer – Money Shot (Puscifer)
I reviewed this album for this site a couple months ago, so I won’t go super deep into it again. Listen, I get it. You want a new Tool album. I want a new Tool album. Everyone and their mother wants a new Tool album, and my mom doesn’t even like Tool. But, at least be happy that Maynard James Keenan is still creating music, and honestly, some really damn good music. Puscifer is a project that, to me personally, has consistently been extremely great. Money Shot is nothing out of the ordinary for the band, in fact as I said in my review, it’s almost like they were on a mission to create the exact same album as 2011’s Conditions Of My Parole. But, they did it in such a perfect way that I’m still attracted to the songs and find them to be perfectly composed. Puscifer has found their sound, and if they continue to make records, I’m going to keep listening to them. Tool is touring next year. Their new record may finally see the light of day in 2016. But, hey, if it doesn’t, don’t freak out. We’re used to them teasing us. Maybe it’ll drop New Year’s Day, who knows, but in the meantime, I’ll be listening to the Puscifer catalogue on repeat.
- Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors (Relapse)
Talk about a photo finish of a record inclusion this year. The name Royal Thunder was not particularly on my radar this year until I started reading the year-end lists from Decibel Magazine and MetalSucks.net, and it seemed that almost everybody was talking about Royal Thunder in their top ten, five, and even number one spots. When I saw that they were opening for The Sword earlier this month, I was excited to see what this band was all about. And, holy fucking shit, did they absolutely floor me. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was this impressed by a support slot. After The Sword finished their killer set, I went to the merch table to grab Crooked Doors on CD, popped it in my car the next night on the way to the Antichrist Demoncore show, and was grooving all the way there and back. And then I played it the next day on the way to school, and on the way home from school, and the next day in between school and work, etcetera, etcetera. Royal Thunder has officially made their way into my favorite new metal bands of the last decade, alongside Kvelertak and The Atlas Moth. The promo sheet in the CD describe Royal Thunder as “a bluesy mix of Led Zeppelin and Sleater-Kinney,” which honestly isn’t too inaccurate. The record fucking slays, and lead singer and bassist Mlny Parsonz has one of the most powerful voices in rock that I’ve heard in years, and it completely takes over songs like ‘Time Machine’ and ‘Glow.’ Crooked Doors is a psychedelic badass experience that is a must-listen for any rock or metal fan this year, and if you can, you need to see them live, because it’s one of the most impressive shows you’ll ever see.
- Liturgy – The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey)
In 2011, I was introduced to Liturgy through their album Aesthethica, and it ended up in the #2 spot that year on my albums list. Hailing from Brooklyn, Liturgy is a love-or-hate type of band. And from what I’ve learned, a lot of fucking people hate Liturgy. Which is understandable. It’s mainly black metal purists who hate the music, and indie rock lumberjacks who hate the personalities. I’ll give the latter this: Liturgy frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is a crazy pretentious dude, and I think he knows it. His series of “manifestos” for his records are almost unreadable, despite them being intriguing. So, it’s been four years since their last record. And I’ve been patiently waiting for Liturgy to return. For a time, drummer extraordinaire Greg Fox was out of the band, and pursued a psychedelic rock band Guardian Alien who dropped two albums in the interim when Liturgy was on hiatus. However, towards the end of 2014, it was announced that Liturgy was releasing a new album, Greg Fox was back in the band, and this record was going to be fucking strange. And let me tell you, strange doesn’t even begin to cover it. The Ark Work is barely a black metal record at all. It’s a sort of avant-garde experience, that feels almost entirely synthetic instrumentally. Filled with keyboards, horn loops, “burst beat” drums, and layered, chanted vocals from Hendrix, The Ark Work is without a doubt the oddest and most absolutely bonkers record that 2015 had to offer this year. It’s what attracts me so much to Liturgy’s music overall, though. Songs like ‘Quetzalcoatl’ and ‘Reign Array’ are so unapologetically maddening that it’s impressive. Liturgy doesn’t care about pleasing anybody or playing to any type of trend. They are completely their own band. Their own sound. What Liturgy brings to The Ark Work is something that you can’t pin down to any group of influences. It’s just off-the-wall insanity, and it’s why it’s made it to the top of this list.
Written by L. Mounts
Make sure to check out the all-genre, top 50 list at L. Mounts is Dead