Guest Post: José Carlos Santos Top Ten Albums Of 2015

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As we dash towards the holidays and the end of the year Ghost Cult is feeling good about this season of giving. So we are giving our fans a chance to get to know our partners, peers, and friends  from bands in the world of music. They will chime in with some guest blogs, end of year lists, and whatever else is on their minds as we pull the plug on 2015. Today we have José Carlos Santos, who writes a lot about music, being Senior Writer for both Terrorizer and Rock-a-Rolla UK, Chief of staff for LOUD! from Portugal, shared with us his favorite 10 albums of 2015.

 

1. Solefald – World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud (Indie Recordings)

Solefald - World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud album cover 2015

 

Pushing the envelope isn’t the half of it. The first song on this truly revolutionary record is called ‘World Music With Black Edges’, and that’s exactly what it is. It should be just about all the guideline you’ll need before embarking on this journey. Black metal, electronics, Frank Zappa and African sounds, among many, many other things, are thrown into a free-flowing, astoundingly cohesive whole. In an age where having two songs that don’t sound like each other is already considered “genre-hopping”, Solefald are one of the few bands worthy of the term avant-garde.

2. Royal ThunderCrooked Doors (Relapse)

The best pure, true rock album in years, Crooked Doors sees Royal Thunder fulfill the potential they have always shown, and move up to the pantheon of the greats. It feels and sounds timeless – if you hand it to someone and say that it’s a lost 1978 classic, it’ll make the same sense as if you’ll tell them it’s 2024’s album of the year you just brought back from the future in your time machine. A great song is a great song, and they’re all great here.

 

3. My Dying BrideFeel The Misery (Peaceville)

My Dying Bride Verftet 220214-8613

My Dying Bride, by Kenneth Sporsheim

My Dying Bride are back to the masterpieces – 14 years after their last truly great record, The Dreadful Hours, Feel The Misery recaptures the tragic sorrow and the decadent grandeur we’ve always loved from them.

4. RevengeBehold.Total.Rejection (Season Of Mist)

Revenge Behold.Total.Rejection album cover

Because fuck you.

5. DødheimsgardA Umbra Omega (Peaceville)

dodheimsgard-a-umbra-omega

The other band alongside Solefald that warrants the proper use of the avant-garde tag, Dødheimsgard have given us a mysterious, shape shifting record, full of dark nuances and details that we’ll still be discovering come the time for the 2016 lists. The best thing Vicotnik’s done since ‘Written In Waters’ – and yes, I’m including ‘666 International’ in that appraisal.

 

6. Tau CrossTau Cross (Relapse)

Tau Cross 2015 band

Amebix are no more, long live Tau Cross. Not only is this the logical successor to the astounding ‘Sonic Mass’, it’s also enriched by the extra talents of Voivod’s Michel “Away” Langevin and crusty guitarists Jon Misery and Andy Lefton, all of them lead to greatness by the might of Rob Miller, who is still one of the most unique songwriters in extreme music.

 

7. Sigh – Graveward (Candlelight)

sigh

Sometimes you’ll have to pause halfway through ‘Graveward’ and wonder how is this possible – roughly five million tracks are all going in a different direction, all at once, and yet everything makes perfect sense, there is order and flow in the middle of the craziness and chaos. Alongside Solefald and Dødheimsgard, you’ve got enough insanity this year to wreck your brain for years to come.

 

8. Therapy?Disquiet (Amazing Record Company)

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Most of you might only know Therapy?’s most popular phase, but the true essence of the band has been in their last four or five fiery, adventurous and energetic records. ‘Disquiet’ is the best of them all, a mix between instant punk-ish gratification and deep, deceptively simple songwriting that’ll allow for multiple repeat plays without a hint of exhaustion. Also, closer ‘Deathstimate’ is a serious contender for song of the year, or decade, or whatever.

9. Goatsnake – Black Age Blues (Southern Lord)

goatsnake

It’s been a 15 year wait, but for each year of absence there’s a kickass bluesy riff that’ll stay in your head forever. Goatsnake just picked up where they left off, literally – the first song is called ‘Another River To Cross’, a nod to ‘Flower Of Disease’s closer ‘The River’.

10. Steve Von Till – A Life Unto Itself (Neurot)

steve von till a life unto itself

Rarely has such a subtle and generally quiet record packed such a thunderous emotional punch – the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist might present himself in the sparser, most minimalist fashion, just one man lost in the woods with an acoustic guitar, some effects and his coarse, haunting voice, but these songs will reach down into your heart and squeeze it with the force of a thousand men.

Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega

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I’m going to just come right out with it – I’ve never really seen the appeal of Dødheimsgard (I refuse to call them DHG – that’s non-negotiable).  Their third album 666 International created a considerable wave in the late 90’s Black Metal scene, heralding a cyber-future that had the fans wiping off their panda-paint and buying glowsticks and leather trench-coats, but neither it, nor its equally feted follow-up Supervillain Outcast (both Moonfog), really clicked for me.  The “progression” seemed too forced, the electronic elements awkwardly realised and the whole thing just a little too redolent of the Emperor’s new clothes.

I point this out simply because I’m about to lose my shit over A Umbra Omega (Peaceville), and I want to make it clear that I’m not just buying into the general consensus here – with this one, they’ve finally caught my attention.

Despite opening with the glitchy, fragmented electronics of ‘The Love Divine’, one of the first things that becomes apparent about A Umbra Omega is that the “cyber” elements of the last two albums have been dialled down noticeably, replaced with a much broader selection of influences. The songs move jaggedly but with surprising fluidity through Jazz breaks, modern classical music, more restrained electronics and some good, old-fashioned box-of-angry-wasps Scandinavian Black Metal.

It will doubtless anger some fans to say this, but there’s something almost backwards-looking or quaint about A Umbra Omega’s approach to progression.  The face of “avant-garde” Black Metal in 2015 is very different to what it was in 1996, and Dødheimsgard’s approach still owes more to the carnivalesque playfulness of Arcturus or goth-tinged drug babble of Ved Buens Ende than DeathSpell Omega or Blut Aus Nord’s chaotic black-hole worship (this review brought to you by hyperbole.com). This is by no means a criticism – indeed, Dødheimsgard remind us of the one thing that the newer style of “experimental” Black Metal bands often forget to include in their time-shifting trans-dimensional horror; character. Despite how wacky things get here, there’s a constant sense of personality, wit and style that pervades each track on A Umbra Omega, drawing together what could otherwise be disparate musical elements into a genuinely effective whole.

As I observed in my recent review of the new <code> album, being weird is ultimately a fool’s quest – each year it gets harder and yields diminishing rewards. Perhaps that’s where Dødheimsgard lost me on previous releases – being experimental and breaking new ground seemed to be the primary objective – but on A Umbra Omega they sound like a band who’ve come to terms with their own weirdness and focussed on the task of writing a really excellent set of songs around it, rather than showing off how wacky they are. A genuine master-class in why Black Metal can still be interesting without having to choose between retro-traditionalism or forced experimentation.

 

9.0/10

Dødheimsgard on Facebook

 

RICHIE HR