Ghost Cult Album Of The Year 2015 – Countdown: 50 – 41

 

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And now the end is near, and so we face 2015’s final curtain, and once more the Ghost Cult army got together to vote for their favourites. The results? More than 20 writers pitched and voted on over 220 albums ranging from indie pop to the most horrific savage tentacle laden death metal showing the depth, breadth of the official Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2015.

The votes have been cast, the dust has settled… let the countdown commence…

 

10940424_10152971691025269_8966209349377183896_n50. Liturgy – ‘The Ark Work’ (Thrill Jockey)

“Despite what you may have heard, The Ark Work is neither the ultimate transformation of stupid music into art nor the final betrayal of Metal’s values by the poser hordes. It is, however, one of the boldest, most distinctive and utterly unflinching Metal albums you’ll hear all year”

Review by Richie HR here

 

csr211cd_50049. Khost – ‘Corrosive Shroud’ (Cold Spring)

“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.”  

Review by Paul Quinn here

 

sigh48. Sigh – ‘Graveward’ (Candlelight)

“A strong, distinctive album with its own character and some genuinely excellent songwriting and works well as both an introduction to one of the most genuinely interesting metal bands of the last twenty years and an album in its own right.”  

Review by Richie HR here

 

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47. Rivers of Nihil – ‘Monarchy’ (Metal Blade)

“Rather than fifty minutes of a constant snare and uninspiring distorted low tuned guitars, Rivers of Nihil have really focused on expanding, adding more atmosphere and a dynamic to keep a hold.”  

Review by Derek Rix here

 

periphery-alpha-cover 46. Periphery – ‘Juggernaut Alpha / Omega’ (Sumerian)

“Now that they can’t be pigeonholed to djent or the “Sumerian sound” it leaves Periphery open to be viewed for what they truly are, a brilliant metal band. ”  

Review by Hansel Lopez here

 

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45. Publicist UK – ‘Forgive Yourself’ (Relapse)

“When I cranked this album on my laptop the last thing I expected was the musical equivalent of Joy Division on a collision course with Cave In, but what a lovely wreck it turned out to be.”  

Review by Hansel Lopez here

 

gorod44. Gorod – ‘A Maze of Recycled Creeds’ (Listenable/Unique Leader)

“Complete with Gorod’s signature Bossa Nova-infused jazzy riffs and complex arrangements, A Maze of Recycled Creeds stands not only as Gorod’s crowning achievement, but also that of 2015.”

Lyndsey O’Connor

 

shapeofdespair43. Shape of Despair – ‘Monotony Fields’ (Season of Mist)

Monotony Fields’ adds a touch of light to the overwhelming darkness of Funeral Doom yet, far from trivialising it, only increases its power to move and intrigue. This is as refreshing as it is heartfelt and affecting.”  

Review by Paul Quinn here

 

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42. Bell Witch – ‘Four Phantoms’ (Profound Lore)

“Bell Witch continue to confound, enthral, terrify and move in equal measure; and in creating a second album of such weight and emotion prove themselves peerless.”

Review by Paul Quinn here

 

 

slayer-repentess-album-cover-201541. Slayer – ‘Repentless’ (Nuclear Blast)

“Armed with 12 new ditties toasting humanity’s self-destruction, the new Slayer album is a complex one. Overall Repentless is an enjoyable, fierce album that sounds essentially like a Slayer album should.”

Review by Keith Chachkes here

 

 

Denigrata – Missa Defunctoram

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Formed in 2014, Denigrata (who hail from the Midlands, UK) are an avant-garde black metal collective, focused on pushing the extreme metal genre with what they call ‘noire concrête’. Self-released début album Missa Defunctoram is based on Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor and is sung in Latin, consequently it’s no surprise all members came together through higher education music degrees. Mozart’s requiem was composed as he was dying, instilling a suitable motif of morbidity to their unique twist on black metal.

There is such an amalgamation of components that form their overall sound; as such it’s quite a difficult album to take in.  There are transcendental and industrial sections, along with sweeping guitar melodies, pneumatic drill kick drums and a combination of screamed and operatic vocals. Switching up between fast, ferocious onslaughts and icy, macabre atmospheres, it’s unpredictable and at times a total head fuck. Call me old-fashioned but much of it represents unintelligible, chaotic noise.

The more stripped back sections however show greater promise; ‘Kyrie Eleison’ features a down tempo guitar melody, with a haunting piano in the background and sorrowful screamed vocals layered with the operatic style, which is beautiful. Where the album digresses for me is the forcing together of so many different elements, ‘Confutatis Maledictis’ and ‘Requiem Aeternam’ in particular are directionless and confusing. The operatic vocals work in parts and not in others, but seem to get in thrown in anywhere regardless. The more transcendental atmospheric sections on the other hand are cohesive and resonate far better. ‘Rex Tremendae’ begins with a stunning haunting and almost ritualistic ambience, and a prime example of how the operatic vocals can be so effective when placed correctly.

Their commitment to creating something distinctive is commendable, however it comes across too convoluted and the more simplistic aspects that work a lot better are engulfed by the surrounding chaos. Whilst the meeting of musically academic minds may seem like such an advantage, it often over complicates ideas, which is unfortunately reflected in Missa Defunctoram.

 

5.0/10

 

HEATHER BLEWETT

Liturgy – The Ark Work

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If you pay any attention to internet forums or social media venues concerning Black Metal, strap yourself in and get ready for the waterworks. Liturgy’s 2011 album Aesthetica (Thrill Jockey) practically set those parts of the internet where panda-paint and studded armbands are still the law on fire with howling and recriminations – they were hipsters who didn’t understand Metal; they were disrespecting or even betraying Metal; anyone who liked them was a poser and personally responsible for the death of Cliff Burton.

The internet being what it is, of course, the other side were as bad, gleefully throwing around hyperbole about “transcending” Metal’s limitations and the death of the caveman headbanger. Four years later, the follow-up to this divisive album has been released, and in terms of honouring Black Metal’s traditions and aesthetics, it makes Aesthetica look like A Blaze In The Northern Sky (Peaceville). There will be tears.

Liturgy, of course, are entirely aware of this reputation. Setting out their stall from the very beginning, The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey Records) opens with that most Black Metal of clichés – the portentous synth intro – and turns it on its head. Fanfare opens with the parpiest keyboards we’ve heard since Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (Candlelight), but uses repetitions, discord and glitches to turn it into something resembling Bal-Sagoth having a stroke – both triumphant and broken, familiar yet challenging. Aesthetically, the rest of the album takes its cues from this, blending glitchy electronics, parpy synths, jingly bells and programmed drums in with Liturgy’s usual guitars and… ahem… “burst beats” to create a dense, shifting wall of sound. It’s the vocals, however, which are likely be the biggest sticking point – the more traditional screams of Aesthetica making way for a withdrawn, chant-like mumble, clean yet muddied, and unusually passive and withdrawn for a Metal band of any kind. The internet has already had a massive coronary over ‘Vitriol’, in which vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendricks “raps” – though in truth it’s more like Middle-Class Spoken Word than anything you’d find on a Hip-Hop album.

Musically, this is a much more varied collection than we’d normally expect from a “Black Metal” band – ranging from triumphant fanfares and surprisingly ferocious blasts through to languid, contemplative passages and shuffling, trance-like electronica – but Liturgy succeed in retaining a feeling of identity and purpose throughout.  Even on the afore-mentioned ‘Vitriol’, it never feels like they’re throwing all their cool new influences against a wall to see what sticks – there’s a sense of purpose and intent here that separates them from the aimless hipsterish mess they’ve been accused of being. This is an ALBUM, not just a collection of point-scoring references, and it unfolds with an arrogance and forcefulness that is entirely Metal

That’s the most surprising thing about The Ark Work, as much as both fans and detractors alike would argue otherwise – it is absolutely Metal As Fuck. The Ark Work doesn’t always sound like Heavy Metal, let alone Black Metal, but it couldn’t have come from any other genre. Whereas their equally-controversial peers Deafheaven take fairly conservative Black Metal music and play it with a completely different attitude and aesthetic, Liturgy do almost the opposite, drawing on musical elements quite far from genre traditions, but always investing it with the arrogance, power and sense of sheer unashamed ludicrousness that has always marked the best Metal.  Even the vocals make sense once you realise how utterly un-self-conscious they are, and what a massive middle finger to genre conventions they represent. You spluttered in disbelief when you first heard Hunter droning away on Quetzlcoatl?  How do you think 80’s Trad Metal fans felt when they first heard Tom G Warrior?

Despite what you may have heard, The Ark Work is neither the ultimate transformation of stupid music into art nor the final betrayal of Metal’s values by the poser hordes. It is, however, one of the boldest, most distinctive and utterly unflinching Metal albums you’ll hear all year, and the perfect example of a band with a strong vision and a determination to walk their own path until the end.

 

9.0/10

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RICHIE HR