Staff Picks of 2015

Eden Howard

By Eden Howard

18 December 2015

What the fuck is going on, people? It’s been a cracking year for metal - there’s been some awesome albums, and a swag of mind blowing tours - but humanity has, as expected, managed to set the bar pretty damn low for itself. It’s time for some global positivity, dammit!

So here it is, my top ten of 2015. Please note that I’ve not ranked releases with any preference or favour, because in a world of negative emotions and challenging, dynamic social relationships, it’s important to recognise that everyone’s creative output is equally valid. With the exception of anyone involved in The X Factor. They can fuck right off.

Without further ado…

Ryan Adams

1989

Ryan Adams - 1989

I’ll deal with this first… Yes, there is an album of Taylor Swift covers in my top-ten. It’s cool to hate on Taylor Swift. It’s easy to dismiss her. But getting banned from Triple J’s Hottest 100 (while uber-commercial major label douche-knuckles like Bruno Mars and Kendrick fucking Lamar remained eligible) is metal as fuck. The fact that Vance Joy, Swift’s US tour support, made the list a couple of times while she was banned is metal as fuck. Everyone voting for her anyway, just to make Triple J look like a bunch of dicks, is metal as fuck. And now, Ryan Adams, darling of the alt-country scene (and huge fan of Norwegian black metal), has proclaimed her awesome from atop his throne of credibility, and re-imagined 1989 as his own. Metal. As. Fuck.

PAX AM

 

Psycroptic

Psycroptic

Psycroptic - Psycroptic

Absolute proof that not every Tasmanian has two heads. Guitarist Joe Haley shreds like he probably has 27 fingers. His brother, drummer Dave Haley, beats the living shit out of his kit like a man with at least 15 arms and legs. Both with the kind of technicality and precision typically reserved from some kind of level 500 wizard. Psycroptic make mind bending tech-death sound easy.

Prosthetic Records

 

Black Breath

Slaves Beyond Death

Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death

I’m thrilled to hear this Seattle, Washington quintet evolve from their unashamed, unapologetic love of Wolverine Blues era Entombed to an unashamed, unapologetic love of Left Hand Path era Entombed. Easily the best old school Swedish death metal album of the year. I wish Entombed still sounded this good. Welcome back to the fold, Seattle. All is forgiven.

Southern Lord

 

Refused

Freedom

Refused - Freedom

"They told me that the classics never go out of style, but… they do, they do. Somehow baby, I never thought that we’d do too."

It’s a prophetic introduction to Refused’s 1998 magnum opus The Shape of Punk to Come. When you define the sound of a generation, should you really revisit that legacy? Or is it best to let the classics stand alone? Was Lyxzen right - are Refused doomed to go of style? I’ll admit, I’m kind of torn on this one. I wasn’t taken with Freedom straight away, and while it is more engaging with subsequent airings, it makes the list only because it’s Refused.

Epitaph

 

Cancer Bats

Searching for Zero

Cancer Bats - Searching for Zero

Damn this is a cool record, and it’s is absolutely best experienced at live volume. The Canadian hard-core punk quartet takes a long swim in Fu Machu’s month-old bong water before stumbling into the California desert to dry out. They don’t make it back.

Metal Blade

 

Napalm Death

Apex Predator - Easy Meat

Napalm Death - Apex Predator: Easy Meat

Fast, brutal, socially conscious, mostly unintelligible, strangely progressive, and downright scary. Perfect, really. Napalm Death are Gods.

Century Media Records

 

Monster Magnet

Cobras and Fire - Mastermind Redux

Monster Magnet - Cobras and Fire

It’s no secret I love this band. Their first album of re-visited and reinterpreted material, Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol, made my top ten list in 2014. Their second, Cobras and Fire, shakes 2010 release Mastermind from its post-apocalyptic Diazepam bender and pumps it full of psilocybin and radiation. Dave Wyndorf has finally accepted his place at the head of the rock and roll table. But rather than make peace with his inner demons, he’s powered up his time machine and travelled back to the 60s to beat the ever-loving snot out of Jim Morrison.

Napalm Records

 

King Parrot

Dead Set

King Parrot - Dead Set

These Melbourne lads spent most of 2014 fanging around the States and making friends with Phil Anselmo, and he’s leant a hand in production for this, their second long player. I’m not often a fan of celebrity producers, but Anselmo helps take King Parrot to A New Level (sorry…) of grindy crossover death metal arse kickery. Pretty much the complete antithesis of the way someone like Dave Grohl manages to fuck up every band he befriends. King Parrot is a good time for all. Because fucking Straya!

Housecore Records

 

Ghost

Meliora

Ghost - Meliora

That Dave Grohl thing I was harping on about before; he really made a hash of Ghost’s If You Have Ghost EP a couple of years back, and I was really worried he would be back helm the desk for Meliora. He didn’t. And it’s a fucking masterpiece. The perfect soundtrack to your Godless future, as foretold by a lumbering '70s rock behemoth.

Loma Vista Recordings

 

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats

The Night Creeper

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper

It’s an aptly named album to be sure. The Night Creeper is not packed with the big hooks that made Blood Lust so great, but there is still innately sinister in the timbre of Uncle Acid’s voice. It’s like soaking in a hot fuzzy bath of evil. It soothes you, calms you and sucks you in, but you feel violated and dirty afterwards. Pure joy.

Rise Above Records

More from Ryan Adams, Psycroptic, Black Breath, Refused, Cancer Bats, Napalm Death, Monster Magnet, King Parrot, Ghost and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats