Ghost Cult Album Of The Year 2015 Countdown: 20 – 11

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Part four of the Ghost Cult Album of the Year countdown for 2015.

One staff team. Over 550 albums covered by Ghost Cult over the last twelve months. One epic race to be crowned Album of the Year. 

Read on to dive into the Ghost Cult Top 20…

 

Soilwork-The-Ride-Majestic-800x80020. Soilwork – ‘The Ride Majestic’ (Nuclear Blast)

“The Ride Majestic  continues the slow and subtle evolution of the Soilwork sound; sounding fuller, richer and shinier than all that have gone before. In a career of great albums, the aptly named The Ride Majestic is truly outstanding.”

Review by Philip Page here

 

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19. Parkway Drive – ‘Ire’ (Resist/Epitaph)

“While the main focus is still here in the now frontier, by opening the floodgates, Parkway have allowed themselves to write a batch of great metal songs that reference classic rock, traditional metal, 90’s groove metal and metalcore while still sounding resolutely and proudly Parkway.”

Review by Steve Tovey here

 

gnaw dragged18. Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – ‘N.V.’ (Prosthetic)

“A genuinely effective whole, the Noise elements are relatively subtly played, often used to accentuate and highlight the Metal rather than entomb them. Whether judged as a collaboration between two artists with similar aesthetic goals or as an album in its own right, N.V. is an unrestrained success”

Review by Richie HR here

 

Thats_the_Spirit17. Bring Me The Horizon – ‘That’s The Spirit’ (RCA/Columbia)

“That’s The Spirit is Horizon maturing into a fine young adult, confident, strong and secure in themselves and the knowledge that they are now master craftsmen. Successfully combining every good aspect of alternative rock and metal of the last fifteen years, That’s The Spirit is Bring Me The Horizon’s ‘Black Album’ moment.”

Review by Steve Tovey here

 

elder16. Elder – ‘Lore’ (Armageddon Shop / Stickman)

Exemplary progressive stoner metal, with meticulous dynamics and depth, breadth, power, restraint, and mountainous music that builds to an almighty epic of a crescendo

 

btbam15. Between The Buried And Me – ‘Coma Ecliptic’ (Metal Blade)

Ghost Cult Album of the Month – October “The record that they were always promising to make but you weren’t sure was possible, on Coma Ecliptic, Between the Buried and Me have exceeded all expectations and delivered not only the album of their careers but one of the most monumental ambitious rock concept pieces this side of Operation Mindcrime.”

Review by James Conway here

 

gloryhammer14. Gloryhammer – ‘Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards’ (Napalm)

“Gloryhammer are ridiculously entertaining.  If you somehow manage to listen to new album Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards without grinning like an idiot all the way through it, then quite simply, you’re getting Metal wrong.”

Review by Gary Alcock here

 

AForestOfStars-BewareTheSword13. A Forest Of Stars – ‘Beware The Sword You Cannot See’ (Lupus Lounge/Prophecy)

“Enthralling storytelling and atmosphere, as well as explorations into psychedelic territory and pastoral folk amid the crushing black metal dynamics; fourth effort Beware the Sword You Cannot See is an unabashed masterpiece.”

Review by James Conway here

 

goatsnake12. Goatsnake – ‘Black Age Blues’ (Southern Lord)

“Clear, soulful tones elevate the songs above the rest of their stoner/doom brethren and vocal lines will lodge in your head for days after. An excellent comeback album from a band that has been away for far too long. Let’s hope they decide to keep this motor running for a little longer this time around.”

Review by James Conway here

 

royalthunder11. Royal Thunder – ‘Crooked Doors’ (Relapse)

“There are no throw away songs on this album, and every track rewards repeated listens. Crooked Doors is the sound of pressure cooking sand into glass and then into diamonds, all with an alchemy fuelled by magic and loss.”

Review by Keith Chachkes here

 

PART 1: ALBUMS 50-41

PART 2: ALBUMS 40-31

PART 3: ALBUMS 30-21

Theologian – A Means By Which To Break The Surface Of The Real

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It may not sound like it to some, but making Ambient or Noise music is hard. Sure, the technical skills required by more traditional instruments aren’t required, but without the comfortable short-hand of riffs, choruses and the other elements of Pop/Rock songwriting, composition can be considerably more challenging. Anyone with a laptop can make some spooky noises and put them together, but making them interesting and engaging is another matter entirely.

On A Means By Which… (Redscroll/Annihilus Power Electronix), Theologian wield the familiar elements of roaring wind-tunnel distortion, ominous Noise and occasional distorted vocals to create the standard-issue sense of dread and dislocation across four tracks, but they also nod to their “Industrial” tag by incorporating languid programmed beats on some tracks. Though it’s hard to pin down exactly what stops AMBWTBTSOTR (even the acronym is too long) from really taking flight, these beats would probably be my vote for single biggest cause – too regimented and ordered to support the sense of dense, claustrophobic chaos achieved elsewhere and too withdrawn to really engage by themselves, they break the atmosphere without adding anything else to replace it. There are times, for example during second track ‘Surface Of The Real’, when they succeed in building up quite a menacing swagger, but it fails to really deliver into a satisfying pay-off. It’s a cliché, but nothing on here goes beyond the level of wallpaper – nice enough to have in the background, but nothing that’s going to engage you by itself.

Ultimately, The Album I Am No Longer Going To Name falls into that most frustrating of categories – There’s Nothing Really Wrong With It, I Suppose, But It’s Just Not Special Enough. If you’re looking for nothing but vaguely spooky background sounds then there’s nothing really to fault here, but Theologian’s ambitions to transcend reality or subvert perception fall far short of the mark.

 

5.0/10

 

RICHIE HR

Khost – Corrosive Shroud

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The West Midlands of England has yet another grimy, hooded secret. One as cacophonous and electrifying as Birmingham duo Khost, however, surely cannot be suppressed much longer. Second album Corrosive Shroud (Cold Spring) begins with the sample-driven Industrial swell that defines their sound: a sonic barrage, delivered at an oft-crushingly slow pace, yet fed by walls of the most pulverising low-end chords you’re ever likely to experience.

With the band’s trademark, sampled Eastern chants giving a melodic yet eerie edge, opener ‘Avici’ forces Moby’s Play-era sound into a blender with the clashing steel of Godflesh and the unbearable might of Sunn O))). The howling roars of ‘Revelations Vultures Jackals Wolves’ are initially dwarfed by this unfathomable weight; the horror of their hatred and pain, however, remains undimmed and unmasked, whilst metallic clangs and mashing beats create a cauldron of boiling intensity.

The squalling chaos of début album Copper Lock Hell (Cold Spring) is somewhat replaced here by a more cohesive structure, yet no power is lost, instead being augmented by that heightened Asian influence which lends a unique and emotive diversion. Resonant strikes, when delivered, provide a terrifying alarm call: the slow, steadily pounding sticks of ‘Black Rope Hell’, for example, enter a brief period of quiet in the most invasive fashion whilst filthy, throbbing feedback is suddenly unleashed from the silence, crumpling one’s body. This segues into the magnificent ‘A Shadow On The Wound’, like a sludgy Aevangelist, the salve of those haunting wails a hypnotic contrast, yet as complementary as salt with chocolate. Here is the inexplicable magnetism of Khost – the ability to weave seamlessly the most offensive, deafening, programmed fear with moments of ethereal beauty, creating an experience as captivating as it is nerve-shredding. It’s during those involuntary tics of anticipation, the body often compelled to assume the foetal position for comfort, that one realises how stirring the sound is; an outpouring of emotion and energy, a stretched depiction of a primal scream, essential whilst undoubtedly polarising opinion.

The almost-tribal ‘VMIH’, its surrounding noise less of a contribution than before, exhibits the importance of the participation of rhythm, be it artificially or manually produced. Showing the willingness to incorporate other styles, the last two tracks are remixes of the opening salvo: the former heavily beat-led and mesmeric; the latter a more unsettling encounter awash with deep bass notes, that native intonation falling into oscillating effects and roar-strewn narrative, completing the creation of three songs from one. It’s pure art, invention with a purpose, brutal and occasionally unfathomable yet all the more natural for it.

Brimming with moments of great meaning such as the mournful Shoegaze and pensive poetics infiltrating ‘Inversion’; the exploding violence and skewing electricity of ‘Red Spot’; and the pulsating waves and crashing horror of ‘Bystander’; this is a startling, spellbinding piece of work. Having given us Sabbath, Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Anaal Nathrakh, Birmingham – and Khost – has just provided Metal’s latest evolution.  

 

9.0/10

 

PAUL QUINN

Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

Abyssal-Antikatastaseis

In every musical movement, the leaders are the ones who bring their own twist, their own innovation, to the collective sound. Since Portal’s cross-over from novelty clock-head band to serious underground phenomenon, the number of bands following them into abstract Noise-damaged eldritch Death Metal have steadily increased until it constitutes a genuine – if deeply underground – trend. We’re still at the point where even the orthodox followers can still deliver a genuine impact, but the big hitters are already identifiable as the ones with their own distinctive contribution to the formula; Portal, of course, with their ferocious creativity and nightmarish song structures; Aevangelist with their super-dense wall of Noise overload and Impetuous Ritual with their underpants. With their let’s-have-fun-with-syllables third album Antikatastaseis (Profound Lore), British one-piece Abyssal step firmly up to join the top tier.

Having mastered their thick, oppressive brand of Murky Death Metal over two previous albums, Abyssal’s grand bid for innovation here is to mix it up with a hefty dose of what I’ll grudgingly call “post-rock” – the expansive, contemplative sound-scaping (another grudgingly used term) that’s been an increasing part of Metal’s musical landscape since Neurosis.  On paper it sounds hackneyed and forced, and the first listen may not do much to dispel that impression – the more post-heavy passages sound surprisingly conventional, almost twee, to ears prepared for eldritch cacophony, and the transition between them and the more typically murky passages seem a little abrupt – but give it time and it develops into something genuinely distinctive and unsettling.

The key to Antikatastaseis’ success is probably that Abyssal haven’t softened the attack of their Death Metal elements in any way – they’re still as cavernous and oppressive as anything on Novit Enim Dominus… (Independent) – but they have put them in a different context. Whirlwinds of chaotic Death Metal are dragged and distorted into unexpected, atmospheric shapes that would almost be beautiful if they weren’t so ugly. Passages of genuine harmony collapse into sudden, jarring violence, or fade into chilling ambient drones. At times the effect calls to mind Black Metal bands like Fen or Winterfylleth, but with their bucolic pastoralism replaced with nightmarish horror. This isn’t Portal-lite  – though it may have the potential to cross over to a wider audience than some of their peers – it’s the work of a band who are putting their inspirations into a new and distinctive form, just like all innovators.

The temptation to make a joke about Antikatastaseis being as hard to listen to as it is to say is pretty hard to resist, but they deserve better.  It’s also not true – once you’ve adjusted to the combination of elements, it’s a surprisingly intuitive and engaging sound that develops with each listen. Whatever you think of the current state of spooky abstract Death Metal, Abyssal have simultaneously appointed themselves to the top tiers of the scene, and created an album with the potential to draw in fans from outside it.

 

9.0/10

Abyssal. Too kvlt for Social Media.

 

RICHIE HR

Portal – Impetuous Ritual – Grave Miasma: Live At Nambucca, London, UK

 

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It can be difficult with music as inherently niche as Extreme Metal to really know just how “big” a particular band are. From safely inside our little bubble Portal seem absolutely enormous at the moment, a regular feature on End Of Year lists whenever they put an album out. This impression was supported by their performance the day before at Bristol’s Temples Festival, where pretty much everyone present tried to ram themselves into the second stage area to see one of the weekend’s most talked-about bands. Taken out of that context and into the unforgiving reality of a rainy London Sunday, then it’s almost surprising to see them in a tiny pub filled with ferociously dedicated fans.  Don’t take talk of “hipsters” seriously – this is music entirely confident in its own small but passionate niche.

Grave Miasma have made a name for themselves playing solid, no-nonsense old-school Death Metal with a dark, “gothic” atmosphere and a pre-frilly-shirts Peaceville feel, and tonight they demonstrate that it is the strength of their song-writing and the confidence of their playing that elevates them beyond the generic. Further proof that playing within a genre does not necessarily equate to a lack of ambition or skill.

Atmosphere, though, is a fragile thing. Without Temples’ smoke machine and elaborate lighting rig, Impetuous Ritual seem less like four eldritch spectres of doom, and more like four guys in their pants and as many nails as they could afford from B&Q. Live, their music is much more savage and bestial than on record, the abstract atmosphere distilled down to pure aggression and violence. It’s a powerful performance, but a little repetitive, and loses some power towards the end of their set – although perhaps that’s simply because expectation for Portal has reached frantic levels.

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Impetuous Ritual’s underpants-atmospherics suffer slightly from their mundane environment, but Portal are on a different level entirely – beyond anything as crude as geography.  Even seeing The Curator having to push through the crowd in full costume to get to the stage (or watching him be guided on and off the Temples stage the day before) doesn’t detract from the sheer presence they exude once their set starts. Metal is not a genre renowned for its subtlety, but there’s something understated about Portal’s stage craft that’s far more effective than the usual ranting and shouting. The Curator’s deliberate, ritualistic gestures carry a weight beyond the usual air-punching and head-banging, and stage banter is replaced entirely with hypnotic waves of noise which link all of the songs together, so that there isn’t a moment of silence once they take the stage.

All this, though, would be ultimately meaningless if their aesthetics weren’t so perfectly married to their music. Critics attacking them for not having catchy riffs or grooves, or accusing them of being “just noise”, are missing the point – which is that Portal’s uniqueness comes from blending the musical elements of Death Metal with an approach to “song-writing” more akin to Dark Ambient or Noise music. This is particularly noticeable live, where waves of feedback, noise and dissonance flow together in a way which seems almost spontaneously organic – but which is of course planned in great detail. This isn’t catchy Melodic Death Metal, dirty Old School Death Metal or even ten-billion-riffs-at-once Tech Death Metal – this is Death Metal as fully immersive Noise, and live – even to people familiar with their recorded material – the intensity is almost unbearable.

If there’s a single criticism of Portal’s set, it’s how inappropriate some of the fans’ reactions seemed.  A horribly arrogant thing to say, of course, and the idea that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way of enjoying a band should be treated with nothing but contempt, but when confronted with something as alien and distinctive as Portal, the old whoo-ing, punching the air and shouting the band name as if they were Slayer just sounds out of place. The only sane reaction to being confronted with this spectacle is just to stand there and take it for long as you possibly can.

 

RICHIE HR