The first full year for RockmusicRaider went by and a great many records were reviewed. A wild ride it was and still is, with challenges galore, some overcome and some still lurking nearby. This list covers records that got released in 2015. And who would have thought that the black section of metal would be getting such attention during this year. Certainly not me. I am looking forward to an even more eventful 2016 and the pipeline does look pretty much filled already – but this is only the beginning.
So, let’s step right in:
#10 – Finsterforst – Mach Dich Frei
Talk about crunch, this is very powerful stuff. The boys from the Black Forest (the modern denomination of Finsterforst) in Germany just hit you over the head with some sort of Forest Death Metal of the folksy kind. Mach Dich Frei is probably the best record they released so far and the title song is just captivating. I really enjoyed the record as a whole – crystal clear, brutal and just good. The lyrics are all in German, but they enjoy communicating in English. Go figure. Whatever the language you speak, however, this record should be worth at least a listen. As I said above, powerful stuff.
#9 – Draconian – Sovran
What a surprise in October, when Draconian launched their newest Doom Metal production. Or more their doomish mix of different metal styles. The new female front Heike Langhans really pulls this cart forward and I mean much better than her predecessor. Difficult to rate that one on a scale 1-10, but they clearly have merit. If they continue like that they will for sure take center stage in the Doom Metal genre, displacing the biggies that get a little oldish in their depiction what Doom should look and feel like. A band to be watched.
#8 – My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery
2015 was for sure a year for Doom Metal in general. Paradise Lost delivered a somewhat dust-covered piece earlier in the year. What a pleasure to be presented the record Feel The Misery a little later in the year. This one really kicked it up a notch, but then got in a quandary with the latest issue sent by Draconian. Tough call to rate them both at equal terms. My vote goes to My Dying Bride as the more mature one.
#7 – Denigrate – Hollowpoint
Well, this is one of the surprises of the year in a sense. The list of remarkable records in the RockmusicRaider portfolio was already done – more or less – and then Hollowpoint crossed my bows. Where did this come from, for fuck’s sake? Well, whatever, it is powerful metal. Coming from a band having spent many years in limbo, all of a sudden awoke from the Sleeping Beauty slumber and gave us a bullet to chew on. It for sure managed to kick Amorphis off the list. Good record, I like it.
# 6 – Zierler – ESC
I admit, this record is somewhat extreme when it comes to Progressive Rock. And we thought that Arjen Lucassen would forever sit on the top spot. But watch out for Finn Zierler and his quirky, but very sophisticated approach to the genre. Looks like opposites can produce good stuff with Northern doom and gloom meeting Lone Star. Indeed, the band consists of a Scandinavian and Texan section. And the result is one of the wildest approaches in Prog currently on the market. You do however need to be very patient with their tune, it will take some time to mature in the back of your mind. A currently somewhat underrated band that for sure will inject a breath of fresh air into this well-ensconced genre.
# 5 – Blynd – Liber Sum
The devil of Kerastis went on a ride, looking for a band to give it a voice. And it found Blynd, based in Nicosia. Harsh, pitiless and piping hot Thrash of the Melodic Death Metal kind is being presented to us from the sunny island of Cyprus. A spicy, meaty metal tsunami that will take your breath away and not let you go until you enjoyed the last ounce of this blood-red island wine of theirs. And I mean: Really enjoyed!
# 4 – Sorcerer – In The Shadow of the Inverted Cross
Holy Cow! After a long, long beauty sleep we got graced by some stellar mix of Doom and Heavy Metal from the North. The long wait was very beneficial and Sorcerer finally pulled out all the stops and got to their newest full-length album. Stripped down, bare-bones metal, but of outstanding quality. Something that should exist on the shelves of every metal fan. I daresay that this disc still plays a lot on the RockmusicRaider mighty music machine to this day.
#3 – The Gentle Storm – The Diary
If the master of Progressive Rock and Metal Arjen Lucassen and the gentle voice of Anneke van Giersbergen join forces, then only good can come out it. Right? This is one of the most remarkable productions of 2015, not for its metallic qualities, mind you, but one of the best Progressive creations the year had to offer. It really shows if the musicians involved in the project really get along. Agreed, it is NOT metal, but boy is this good. I am impressed.
#2 – Batushka – Litourgyia
Well, whoever said that Black Metal should not be stellar. Performed by an unknown bunch of Black Metal magicians and being thrown at us real late in the year, this is really the way this genre is meant to be played. That they shamelessly hunt in the backyard of the mighty Orthodox church is one of the juicier aspects of this production. But not really surprising, given that the Holy Church of the Nailed God is not quite getting along with the disciples of the Black Metal universe. I am getting back often to this blackened piece of rolling thunder. We will all watch out who the players are of this band in 2016. And of course, any new material they might elect to throw at us.
#1 – Myrkur – M
My hat goes off to Amalie Bruun, the voice and driving force behind this project called Myrkur. This mix between an atmospheric Enya-ish type of tune, all of a sudden turning screeching Black Metal is outstanding. And boy, did she have to suffer from virulent attacks from the Black Metal purists. Calling her all sorts of names, down to outright death threats. And her bandmates too, by the way. The state of unease the band was able to project by ever-changing soundscapes is outstanding and will keep you on your toes for the length of the album. That M won or is nominated for a number of awards is just the proof of the pudding. I am just listening to the juicy slice of metal as I write this list. There you go.
The record that just missed its nomination?
lluminata – Where Stories Unfold
Fully rooted in Gothic Metal, the new record of the Austrian band Illuminata now presents itself as – well – Cinematic Metal. And indeed, the new disc has the touch and feel of a film soundtrack of sorts. What really struck me is their fresh approach to their music, not something we have found a lot lately. This band really was able to find their niche and to prosper. And I like their fresh approach to things, willing to go new ways to sell their tune. A pity that the double-female front has disappeared and now we basically have your standard Gothic outfit with the female front chick again. An advantage bitterly squandered. Well.