Since Larry said I had till the 31st...My top 14, and some other thoughts

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Since Larry said I had till the 31st...My top 14, and some other thoughts

Postby Mardoch » Tue Dec 22, 2015 2:24 am

I'm not putting this year's list in a ranked order because that would be too much effort and would be dishonest by tomorrow anyway. That being said here are my Top 14, some honorable mentions, and some other thoughts.

Andy Hauck - Westerly
He bills himself thusly "The worlds[sic] one and only Nevada based amateur professional progressive western-rock shred djent artist for at least several miles in any given direction." and I have to say that pretty much nails his sound and attitude. This was such a refreshing piece of not-too-serious-but-very-badass music that it instantly grabbed me and didn't let go. I'd sorta liken it to the same approach and feel that you get from Voyager, very serious chops on display by very unpretenious people. Just fresh and fun.

Favorite track: Pantry Splits (pay attention to the lyrics, they're hilarious)

Between the Buried and Me - Coma Ecliptic
While I've always had an appreciation for their technical skill I've had a similar level of distaste for the vocal stylings. Since the vocal approach for this album is different...well I got to feel and appreciate the full brunt of their progressive onslaught. This album is such a fantastic piece of prog through and through. I need to give their back catalog another shot to see if my opinion is different now than before, but even if I don't like their older material I'll always have this beasty to keep me occupied.

Favorite track: Ectopic Stroll

Chaosbay - Tragedy No.1 & Vasilisa (combined for brevity)
Technically two separate entities, but since I've had so many pieces of pure awesome this year I'm combining these into one entry. This is a project from Manheim Germany that hit me like...a...steamroller...(I'll grab my coat). It's djenty (or at least I found them via got-djent, but it's not a huge part of the sound), but borderline rock at points, and full of tasty grooves and delightful displays of skill. And the vocals don't suck (which so many djent outfits are afflicted by, especially the smallest guys). They don't sound like anyone that I can think of right off, and that's quite the good thing.

Favorite track from Tragedy No.1: Chapter III: The Decline
Featured track from Vasilisa: VI. Revenge (Come Back Home) (my favorite is actually III. Arrow One (Raise the Veil) but the only vid on youtube is drum cam and the sound is not good at all)

David Maxim Micic - Eco/Ego
These two EPs are essentially one package, so they get combined. David Maxim Micic is, I'm pretty sure, a damned genius. For 3 years running he's landed high in my top X lists. Bilo 3.0 (2013) is a work of mad genius, Destiny Potato (2014) shows he can do things with broader appeal, and Ego and Eco show a softer side with more ambiance and less outright balls and chunk. He gets mad bonus points for picking up Dan Wieten, of The Omega Experiment (which if you haven't checked out you should, because it's awesome), for Satellite which was a complete shock to me since The Omega Experiment seems like it has 5 fans. It works perfectly, though, because that song is one of my tops of the year. On the Ego side it's mostly instrumental like his releases of old, and with a bit more chunk than Eco. In my favorite tune on this EP he showcases his ability to use his signature theme from all the way back on Bilo 1.0 in new and interesting ways. The unabashed presence of his local cultural influences just make the whole shebang that much more endearing to me. Few things amplify the awesome of metal like the local cultures of the people creating it.

Favorite track from Eco: Satellite
Favorite track from Ego: Develop

Earthside - A Dream in Static
There isn't a single thing on this disc that I would call out as a dislike. For a debut that's a hell of an accomplishment, because I'm a picky bastard (and yet this isn't the only debut to do so this year!). Literally my only complain is that I want more LJ, because they brought out something in his voice that was just stunning, and wrapped it in a soundscape that's totally new for him. All of the vocalist picks were great, and they delivered killer performances to a person. Strid's piece is one that's a bit out of his norm, being pretty much entirely clean, and he nails it. Daniel Tompkins, to no one's surprise, kills his piece. Just fantastic all around. Killer production, amazing writing, and instrumentals that keep you really engaged. These guys really deliver. I can't wait to see what they come up with next. Good luck to them on following up on such a successfully ambitious album.

Favorite track: Mob Mentality

Fake Heroes - Clouds
Take DGM and Destrage, throw them in a blender, spice it up halfway through with some groove and djent, pour out a nice tall glass of Fake Heroes. This album is very much in that Italian vein of metal and thoroughly delivers on the progressive melodic groove side of things. I had a small period of "not sure what I think of those vocals," but by about halfway through my first listen all concerns regarding the vocals were gone and I was completely sold. Despite being a latecomer in the year this album really took hold of me for about 2 weeks solid and I didn't listen to much other than it, and I found something new to appreciate every time.

Featured track: Lifelong Addiction (my favorite, I think, is Skyline, but it's not to be found on youtube)

Jakub Żytecki - Wishful Lotus Proof
For those who are unaware, this is the guitarist behind Disperse (who made my list in '13). His solo efforts are every bit as good, but a bit more adventurous. Much like David Maxim Micic if he puts something out it's damned near guaranteed to hit my top X of the year, because he just tickles my brain in ways few other artists do. It's beautiful and heavy and proggy and somehow accessible and basically just built of awesome. Bonus <3 is awarded because the sleeve of my physical copy is personalized.

Favorite track: Satya's Diary

Novallo - Novallo II
It's hard to even describe these guys. They're insane. Progressive is undeniable, also a healthy dose of the electronics, certainly djent influence, but mostly it's like mad genius. It's so out there that when I intially heard it my reaction was "Well...that's interesting. Not sure I'd listen to it on a regular basis, though." Turns out I was partially incorrect, because I have listened to a lot of Novallo since a few months after that first brush with them and it only keeps getting better with exposure. I'm honestly still not 100% on what it is in here that grabs me so, but it certainly does and I don't mind not knowing all the reasons I love something.

Favorite track: I AM (or if you need something a bit more normal Sidways Bird is killer and has a really neat video

Periphery - Juggernaut: Alpha/Omega
Well, it's Periphery. At this point they're something of a known quantity to anyone who's even sorta paid attention. I would consider myself a fanboy of theirs and my anticipation levels for this album were sky high. It does not disappoint in the slightest. Heavy as hell, groovy as f, more riffs than you can poke with 800 sticks. It's got some of Spencer's best screams on it (KILL THEM SLOOOWWWWW), and his cleans are more tenable for me as well. This double album has done nothing to dispel my love for this crew, and I'm already salivating for what's next.

Favorite track: The Bad Thing

Shattered Skies - The World We Used to Know
One of this year's pre-ordered debuts. Fat 8 string tone (sans mud), check, wicked bass work, check, smooth vocals (he'll be sorely missed, I hope the replacement is up to the task), check, drums that don't know how to not groove, check. And for bonus, some seriously awesome piano work. This album is a complete package, and considering it's their first full output, well...that just signals something higher and mightier about it. Despite being released in early January it's tenaciously clung to a spot amongst the top of 2015s releases. That's good freakin work, fellas.

Favorite tracks: As the Sea Divides (because holy crap that piano) and/or The End and the Rebirth

Soilwork - The Ride Majestic
The veteran masters of melodeath from Sweden handily retain their titles as masters. They move forward with every release and yet are still identifiable as who they've always been. That's a damned good trick that not too many acts can pull off. I was really curious what could possibly come behind The Living Infinite that would be a worthy successor and in The Ride Majest I have quite the answer. There are no weak tracks to be found, but quite a few standouts. Metal is replete with songs concerning death, but not many have the beautiful impact that Death in General does. This whole disc, really, feels very honest, and every song has significant oomph. Soilwork is yet another band that has done nothing to dispel my fanboy tendencies this year. I can't get enough of these guys. And I'm still incredibly happy that I got to see them at PPUSA where they got a proper freakin audience reaction from a full room. Damn, that was a show.

Favorite track: Death in General

Teramaze - Her Halo
The Teramaze of a few years ago was a band I liked. That's it, really. I listened periodically but never with huge enthusiasm. I mostly got into their stuff because Lance King, being who he is, did a great job of selling them to me. That whole so-so vibe is completely gone with Her Halo. Holy crap, what a slab. Their new direction and vocalist suit them very well, and this album displays all that they can do with aplomb. Grooves, heavy riffage, soaring vocals, long winding proggy tunes, a solid sense of identity, and a projection of utmost confidence are all things you'll find within, and the whole package is quite engaging. I had high hopes after hearing the demo of For the Innocent and they most certainly delivered.

Favorite tracks: Out of Subconscious and For the Innocent

The Paralydium Project - The Paralydium Project
Where did this come from!? It's the distilled essence of all that is great about powerprog in three amazing songs. I could do with album after album of material like this and I really hope they provide it. I don't have much to say about this one other than that it's just awesome. I can't see a fan of powerprog not falling head over heels for it. My only qualm is that it's JUST 3 songs.

Favorite track: Astral Liberation

Umpfel - Cactus
This one's a dandy kick in the derriere. It's jazzy, djenty, proggy, and crazy. It's another one of those "lol, wow, where the hell'd THAT come from!?" surprises this year. Native Construct, Sound Struggle, and Umpfel all have that sort of crazy jazz-djent-wtf in common, but to me Umpfel delivers on its promise best of them all. All that and it ends with a song about a guy who wants to murder the sheep who aren't helping abate his insomnia.

Favorite track: Precarious

honorable mentions:
Animus Complex - Immersion
A late bloomer out of nowhere that just goes to town on djentgroove like few others have. I'm a sucker for a funky vibe in grooves and these fellas deliver.

Favorite track: Ifinite Conclusions

Universe Effects - In the Haze That Surrounds Us
It's like Kansas on metalroids. Nothing to not love here unless you're one of those that takes issue with the vocals (I'm quite fine with them personally). Or a rotten commie bastard. But that's pretty much the only way one could not love what these guys are up to.

Sound Struggle - Rise
I briefly checked these guys out when their album dropped, but I sorta tucked them away for "check later" and forgot to do so. When Glenn stuck them in his annual top 50 I gave them a renewed listen and found much to love. The vocals need some work (hopefully time and training iron that part out), but other than that it's djentyjazzy madness that I can get behind. Berklee...breeding ground for aural chaos. And I love them for it. (doesn't hurt that my brother graduated from there and remains one of the best guitarists I've ever known, but that's a different topic)

Haamoja - Natural Evolution
It's like someone took the acid jazz inspired soundtrack of Breath of Fire 3, mixed in some actual jazz in the form of Snarky Puppy, and then said "eh...needs metal!" to top it off. It's something a bit different for sure, but it combines a number of my disparate musical likes in just the right quantities to provoke a strong response.

Ascendia - The Lion and the Jester
One hell of a debut that came out of nowhere. The only reason that it didn't "chart" is that it wasn't the sounds I was searching for this year. But, I mean, those vocals. That riffage. These guys are going to kill us at PPUSA and I'm eagerly awaiting it. Also they're genuinely freaking nice people. They entertained my prattling for like 20 solid minutes in Vinyl this year, and were somehow actually interested in what I had to say, hah.

Sithu Aye - Senpai EP「先輩EP」
I pretty much love everything about this EP, and it reminds me of many of the reasons I love goofy anime to begin with. I can easily see "Senpai Please Notice Me!" being the theme for one of those classic long form intros. And when I hear "The Power of Love and Friendship!" I can see those 30-45 degree over the shoulder camera angles with their quick 360 degree pans around the not-really-imperilled battling hero. I'm really hoping for an explosion of work in the progressive weeaboo-core genre. Sithu Aye is one of my favorite operatives in instrumetal these days.

Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
Well hot shit! This is the form of BG that I love the most. This harkens back to A Night at the Opera, which is far and away my favorite BG disc. If I were still in the more powery days of my youth this probably would've been 2015's number 1 for me, but I'm not there anymore. Regardless of that change in personal taste this album floored me. I still love these guys, and I cannot wait to see them in Atlanta.

Kingcrow - Eidos
Another one that was awesome through and through, but just not the sounds I was seeking. Kingcrow sounds like no one else in metal these days, and that's just not easy to pull off for as long a stretch as they have. I quite love this disc, but I should've spent more time with it in order to properly place it up above in the tops category.

regular mentions:
Symphony X - Underworld
A much anticipated album that delivered all I could've hoped for. Why didn't it land in the top? No reason other than it just wasn't what I was seeking out for most of the year. When I wanted it, though, damn was it there for me.

Tesseract - Polaris
An album I need to spend more time with to appreciate. It doesn't grab me like the last, but I may have unfairly self-hyped for the return of Dan. There's nothing I would call out as explicitly wrong with it, but it just hasn't hit me like I'd hoped. Time, I hope, will reveal to me its greatness.

Solution .45 - Nightmares in the Waking State, Pt. 1
An album which I haven't gotten to spend much time with yet because I acquired it so late. But damn that first listen was killer. Had I known ye better surely a position in the top would've been yours.

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