Bite-Sized Blurbs: Our Staff’s Favorite Albums of 2015 In Two Sentences

Recently, editor and writer Noyan Tokgozoglu came forward to the Heavy Blog family with an interesting idea: “Post your top 10 AOTYs with 2-sentence reviews of them.” As any reader knows, meticulous lists are an integral part of the Heavy Blog ethos, and where to better exercise that than in such a creative activity?

So we started piling on entries of our top ten albums from 2015 so far, seeing what different people had in common and what were more unconventional choices. Some albums definitely ran far ahead in the pack, like Wrvth’s self-titled technical death metal/post-rock/skramzy opus, Elder’s sun-baked and subtly Odyssean progressive stoner rock release, aptly titled Lore, Eidola’s post-hardcore/prog rock concept album Degeneraterra, and the storied return of one of the world’s best progressive/avant-garde metal bands, Arcturus, by way of their semi-self-titled, Arcturian.

Perusing through these lists, it’s easy to see why any of these albums made it into any spot. 2015 has been an absolutely phenomenal year for music from all sides (and we’re not even done!), and every album in every spot shines out in a slightly different way. Take your time, read the entries, and enjoy our list.

Noyan Tokgozoglu

  1. Keep of KalessinEpistemology

If I had to describe this with a single word, I’d use “epic”. Progressive black metal unlike anything else.

  1. August Burns RedFound in Far Away Places

It’s not even a return to form for the band, as they’ve reached heights they’ve never reached. Adding more depth and complexity to their sound, they’ve put out an absolute masterpiece.

  1. Native ConstructQuiet World

The composition on this album is just insane. It’s like a prog metal opera with incredible musicianship, and there’s always more layers to uncover.

  1. Gods of EdenFrom The End Of Heaven

Their sound is so unique that I don’t even know what genre to call it – maybe progressive technical metal? Regardless, the riffing and general songwriting here is incredible, they have a completely unique way of structuring melodies that makes them stand apart, and that’s only one aspect of their sound.

  1. MyrkurM

This is the chillest music ever, it’s very ethereal and soothing. Yet it still contains black metal undertones, and is truer to the genre than other bands who try way harder.

  1. ArcturusArcturian

Finally the avant-garde masters are back, and yet again they’ve made a unique, complex piece of art. ICS Vortex’s vocals alone make it worth listening to, but there’s a lot more in here than just that.

  1. EnslavedIn Times

It’s not possible for me to not like an Enslaved album. Their unique folky/progressive take on black metal is a joy to listen to and lose oneself in.

  1. WrvthWrvth

What a unique, weird album. Wrvth manage to take a familiar sound and add enough odd flourishes to it to carve their own niche of atmospheric, progressive death metal.

  1. AlkaloidThe Malkuth Grimoire

Tech/progressive death supergroup Alkaloid have definitely not fallen short of the absurdly high expectations people had of them. Continuing the Obscura sound they developed, but adding more progressive and avant-garde flavoring to it, The Malkuth Grimoire is basically the next level in death metal.

  1. Sigh Graveward

Japanese avant-garde metal legends Sigh keep pushing the boundaries of their sound, and while Graveward wasn’t their best effort, it’s still miles better than a lot of other music. There’s just no comparing Sigh to anyone else, and like every other Sigh album, Graveward is a ridiculous ride.

 

Nick Cusworth

  1. The Dear HunterAct IV: Rebirth In Reprise

This fourth album of a 6-part concept series is progressive music at its most sophisticated and fun. It’s a rock opera that makes other rock operas look like child’s play.

  1. Jaga JazzistStarfire

This album is essentially an EDM record produced by one of the tightest live progressive jazz groups out there. It is nigh impossible for it not to grab you in some way and make you want to move.

  1. Colin Stetson and Sarah NeufeldNever were the way she was

Minimalist compositions produced by two incredibly enigmatic musicians (sax and violin) at the top of their game. You will feel many things, some of which you won’t understand, and that’s okay, because sometimes music can and should do those things.

  1. DreadnoughtBridging Realms

You’re about to depart on a grand musical journey, filled with thrilling and winding riffs, cocoon-like vocals, occasional shrieks, and woodwinds. This is what most pysch-inspired prog wishes it could be but isn’t.

  1. Tangled Thoughts of LeavingYield to Despair

Some of the darkest, most brutally unrelenting instrumental music out there. It’s the equivalent of traveling through a dark cave that slowly reveals its deepest and chillingly beautiful facets as your eyes adjust.

  1. Kamasi WashingtonThe Epic

3 hours of straight-up, no-frills, all caps JAZZ filtered through the lens of the contemporary LA music scene. Should become the new go-to album for the next generation of kids looking to get into jazz.

  1. DestroyerPoison Season

Quite possibly Dan Bejar’s greatest ode to Americana yet, this is a lush album filled with delicate strings, triumphant horns, mysterious grooves, and beauty at every turn. A perfect album to let wash over you and get lost in.

  1. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly

Somehow manages to thread the needle of being an “important” album in how Kendrick deals with what being successful and black means in the 21st Century while still being a really enjoyable and challenging listen with plenty of bangers and unexpected moments. Perhaps not the Kendrick album many people wanted but the one we deserve.

  1. EidolaDegeneraterra

This is pretty much what every other progressive-minded post-hardcore act should be aspiring to. It’s ambitious and very well-thought out and executed while still maintaining the kind of melodic vocal hooks and other features that draw people to post-hardcore.

  1. MonobodyMonobody

This album is neither post-rock or jazz. It’s truly a hybrid being, and it combines some of the best features of both to create a really thrilling and unique sound that’s all their own.

 

Eden Kupermintz

  1. DreadnoughtBridging Realms

There’s nothing not to like on this album: it has 70’s psyche, black metal vocals, Camel string and immaculate drums. It’s broad in canvas and Icarian in ambition, spanning both emotional depths, with heavy passages and ponderous doom, and epic summits, with broad solos and overreaching guitars.

  1. ArcaneKnown / Learned

Progressive metal, the way it should be done. Listen to this if you like intricate concepts, brilliant clean vocals, metallic synths and moving, melodramatic riffs that sound like Karnivool crash landed into Opeth planet.

  1. ArcturusArcturian

What the hell do I even need to say about this band besides it’s Arcturus? After 10 years of silence, they’re back and ICS Vortex is their helmsman; avant-garde, exquisite, storytelling, insanity.

  1. AlkaloidThe Malkuth Grimoire

It appears that those who lamented tech/melo death were quite mistaken. Featuring some of the biggest names of the genres, this album is a professional, action packed pill that goes hard as all hell; in space!

  1. EidolaDegeneraterra

Everything that’s to love about melodic hardcore is in this album: big choruses with big choirs, emotional lyrics and interesting riffs. End of the day, this is Mars Volta meets Thrice and everyone needs that in their life.

  1. ElderLore

If you’re looking for adventure, look no further: Elder’s Lore is a smoke-filled journey into your own mind. Contemplative, energetic, 70’s- worship rock that’s sure to set your head bobbing and your heart a-questing.

  1. LeprousThe Congregation

Reaching back into their career, Leprous have added some new tricks to their already impressive repertoire. The Congregation is an impressive tour de force of their abilities, utilizing their respective range of sound while also challenging it.

  1. Native ConstructQuiet World

Good lord, this is just the quintessential neo-classical progressive album, with all that that entails. Sweet melodies, intricate time signatures and epic timbre, meld together to create a compelling and intriguing sojourn in another realm.

  1. We Lost The SeaDeparture Songs

Do you like to have your heart broken? If so, you’ve come to the right place: Departure Songs is a beautiful post rock tapestry dedicated to doomed adventurers and the bravest amongst us, painting heroic pictures of failure with delayed guitars, crushing crescendos and a bittersweet melancholy.

  1. And So I Watch You From AfarHeirs

Energy; dynamism; power; intricacy; guitars; vocal melodies; neck breaking drums; cheerful optimism; spiritual power; addictive harmonies. You know the drill!

 

Simon Handmaker

  1. EidolaDegeneraterra

Every time I listen to this, I find myself focusing in on a different aspect. The sheer brilliance with which every distinct piece of music in this record is put together transforms this from a collection of good-yet-disjointed tracks into a masterful tour-de-force.

  1. WrvthWrvth

Usually, excessive genre-bending is a strike against an album, but here, it’s pulled off with such aplomb and genuine feeling that it elevates the tech metalcore of Wrvth’s trade to something entirely its own. Aided by fantastic production that makes the whole record feel much more raw and human, this LP is a colossal testament to human feeling carried by outstanding performances from every musician.

  1. GhostMeliora

Ghost’s trademarked combination of occult imagery with smokey, doomy 70’s rock is at its peak here. Every riff feels perfectly constructed to hit that stride of catchy-yet-complex, and each track on this album speaks to the phenomenal ability of this band to write memorable tunes.

  1. CZARFACEEvery Hero Needs A Villain

There’s something to be said for a hip-hop record that’s almost an hour long and doesn’t ever feel like it touches on the same ideas twice. Across the entirety of the sophomore CZARFACE record, which is, by the way, covered in a smattering of incredible guestwork, the trio responsible for this project (7L, Esoteric, and Inspectah Deck) twists every hook and beat into something entirely its own.

  1. Behold! The MonolithArchitects of the Void

This band’s name is entirely appropriate, because the tunes they write are, indeed, monolithic. Not a second feels wasted in this masterpiece blackened-doom record: either building tension or using it to explode into a riffing frenzy, Architects of the Void is a record forged in patience and tempered in payoff.

  1. Black TongueThe Unconquerable Dark

A malevolent juggernaut of violent, filthy deathcore, Black Tongue manage here to create a record that takes incredibly simple concepts and make them feel unique on every track. There’s a lot to be said about the songwriting ability of a band that can pull this off, and Black Tongue makes each breakdown hit just has hard as all the previous ones.

  1. Joey Bada$$B4.DA.$$

The excellent title is merely the first example of a rabbit’s hole of clever wordplay that goes entirely too deep. Joey Bada$$’s rhymes kill the game, but the genuine emotion with which he spits his poetic verses are what really make this record stand out from the crowd.

  1. AlustriumA Tunnel To Eden

It takes a lot to get me interested in a progressive death metal record, but A Tunnel To Eden manages to have just about everything I want. The combination of great songwriting and properly complex ideas make this record a diverse jaunt that never loses itself inside its own headiness and multifaceted nature.

  1. Ghostface Killah & BadbadnotgoodSOUR SOUL

Ghostface Killah has been killing the game for over 20 years now, and this short little record continues to show why. His raspy voice is a perfect fit for BBNG’s earthy jazz soundscapes, and the combination allows the instrumentalists, Ghostface, and his great host of guest features to excel in their respective environments.

  1. DethlehemDestroyers of the Realm

Dethlehem’s GWAR-esque storytelling and silly character monikers are only part of the fun here: their genuinely exciting tunes combine the best parts of progressive death metal and folky melodeath into a combination that’s hard to resist. The story interludes are genuinely funny, and the whole of Destroyers of the Realm feels like what would happen if someone made an entire record musically based around the feel of a lighthearted D&D campaign with friends.

 

Kit Brown

  1. Rivers of NihilMonarchy

It’s as insanely fast and brutal as it is intelligent, emotional and carefully organized. This is hands down the new golden standard for modern technical death metal.

  1. PeripheryJuggernaut

Periphery finally live up to the mountains of hype that have been thrown at them for the past five years and crank out a monolithic double album. It’s conceptual, fun as fuck, the heaviest they’ve ever been, and one of the best djent albums out there.

  1. LeprousThe Congregation

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of progressive rock that never sacrifices songwriting for flashiness. Oh, and it also probably has the single best vocal performance from anyone in 2015 on it.

  1. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A Butterfly

It’s been a while since a mainstream album in hip-hop has come out and immediately been given the classic status. Then again, few other albums have actually been as good as To Pimp A Butterfly.

  1. Thy Art Is MurderHoly War

Deathcore shouldn’t matter in 2015, but for some reason this really, really does. Bow to your empty god.

  1. We Lost The SeaDeparture Songs

Make sure you’re alone and away from your phone the first time you hear this. Then, get ready to cry your eyes out while basking in the most lush layering and walls of guitars all year long.

7.  Mutoid ManBleeder

Boston metalcore supermegaawesome titans form a supergroup that actually lives up to its title. Along the way, they deliver a flurry of angular riffs, amazing vocal hooks and plenty of crushing heaviness.

  1. WrvthWrvth

It will never make sense why people don’t believe death metal bands are capable of delivering unbelievable moments of passion. Should any album disprove a naysayer, it’s probably this.

  1. Chelsea WolfeAbyss

The queen returns for her fourth album, gets even darker, slows things down, and ditches the electronica. She’s never sounded quite as confident, as bleak, or as powerful.

  1. Death GripsJenny Death

I’m smoking cigarettes in the shower. When they get wet, I just light another.

 

Matt MacLennan

  1. MurdockDead Lung

Absolutely majestic noise/hardcore/post whatever the fuck you want to call it. Hits hard, hits hearts, hits that nerve that makes listening to music a joy rather than a task.

  1. The Black Dahlia MurderAbysmal

The best album this band have put out since Nocturnal. Give me a couple of weeks and this will probably surpass it.

  1. KEN modeSuccess

All of the sarcastic attitude in this record is barely contained within. This album rocks out with its big, angry cock out.

  1. BleakWe Deserve Our Failures

Disparate, depressing hardcore that will leave a bitter taste in your gob. It’s heavy as fuck though, so give it a shot and stop being a whining bitch about sludge crossover bands.

  1. The ArmedUntitled

This is what I imagine Andrew WK hears in his head in a mosh pit. Party hardcore for the nihilist in us all.

  1. Cattle DecapitationThe Anthropocene Extinction

Just about beats Monolith to the title of my favourite deathgrind record. Ryan’s vocals are beautiful and tortured, much like my neck after blasting this album so many times already.

  1. MarutaRemain Dystopian

This is the future of grind. You heard it here first, literally.

  1. WrvthWrvth

Has just as many feels pushing buttons as it is does crazy tech metal moments. There’s something about this album that gets me to a happy place despite all of the somber sax involved.

  1. Thy Art Is MurderHoly War

Catchy, anthemic deathcore that sees these Aussies finally embracing those Behemoth influences. No fucks given if others think of them as a Hot Topic band; haters be hatin’.

  1. FrontiererOrange Mathematics

You haven’t heard this album yet and that sucks for you. Insane Danza inspired math metal that hits harder than a first period/blue balls.

 

David Aleksov

1. Acronym June

A techno album that’s decidedly non-techno,  June is also the best-flowing album I’ve heard all year – it’s a true journey from start to finish, and sets a stunning example of achieving more by doing less. It manages to be intensely cathartic without relying on abrasiveness or aggression,  all the while staying  fragile and beautiful at its core.

2. Joey Bada$$B4.DA.$$

Easily the hip-hop album of the year for me, B4.DA.$$ sees Joey mature from an overly dedicated Wu-Tang fan into a rapper with a colorful personality, diverse style, and a knack for writing some devilishly infectious songs.  The transition from the album’s low point energy-wise (“Belly of the Beast”) immediately to its most violent moments in “No. 99” just gets me every damn time.

3. Post ScriptumPost Scriptum 01

Another techno album, this time comparatively more traditionalist in its execution. Post Scriptum 01 is filled with the kind of futuristic bleeps and chaotic, yet playful synths frequently used by genre pioneer Jeff Mills, still offering quite a few surprises along the way – including a pair of 3/4 tracks and a vocal sample in Japanese.

4. TempelThe Moon Lit Our Path

No metal record has come close to winning me over as much as this instrumental black/sludge behemoth did. Tempel pack more killer riffs into each of their songs than most bands would on an entire album, and with their immense songwriting chops, the manner in which they string all of them together is even more impressive.

5. Samuel KerridgeAlways Offended Never Ashamed

Samuel Kerridge makes electronic music, but with its otherworldly tendency of crushing souls in mind, I would rather associate him with doom metal, if anything. Always Offended Never Ashamed sees the perfection of his dark, ear-splintering blend of noise, drone, industrial, and something that at one point used to resemble dance music.

6. Acronym Mu

Where June is split roughly in half between ambient escapades and beat-centric stompers, Mu takes the ambient torch and runs proudly with it. This album retains the lush, mesmerizing soundscapes that forefathers like Brian Eno forged long ago, and spices them up with additional experimentation a la the odd tribal influence, making it the second work of genius within the span of six months for this up-and-coming Swedish producer.

7. Godspeed You! Black EmperorAsunder, Sweet And Other Distress

Often lamented for its brevity and the band’s curious choice of letting field recording drones take center stage, Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress is nonetheless easily gobbled up by most Godspeed fans because, hey, it’s new/more Godspeed! Personally, any qualms I might have had about the album were dispersed when I heard it performed in its entirety live – a mindblowing experience if there ever was one.

8. LakkerTundra

The most accurately I could describe Lakker using genre tags would be IDM, but even then I’d be going out on a limb, as the music found on Tundra is ethereal and shamanistic in a way that Autechre or Aphex Twin never even tried to be. In fact, it is precisely the album’s atmosphere that is its main selling point, as it paves the way for a beautiful, ever-present dichotomy between warmth and darkness.

9. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A Butterfly

Ridiculously cinematic hip hop that makes for as much of a story as it does a music album. With To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick has proven without a doubt that he is the greatest rapper of his generation – but you never really needed me to tell you that.

10. KEN ModeSuccess

Another resounding success (it’s stronger than me) for a band that already was one of the most consistent in heavy music of any kind. Success features some of KEN Mode’s wildest material yet, from the violin shenanigans of “The Owl” to the downright insane spoken word sections in “Dead Actors” and “Blessed”.

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A real woman has curves, and a beautiful body, and a long neck, and a sorta stubby head. A real woman is made out of wood and has inlaid metal frets and pickups. Wait, that's a guitar. I'm thinking of a guitar.






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