Where do we begin with Leprous? The band has been a staple in modern progressive music since their inception in the early part of the millennium, and ever since then it seems that they only get better over time. The Congregation is Leprous’ biggest achievement since their critically acclaimed album Tall Poppy Syndrome. It not only explores every territory they’ve chose to since the beginning, but it does so in a way that feels honest and real. They album is not simply a mashup of songs resembling their biggest hits over the years, and in fact is quite the opposite: it’s a message to music fans that the band show no signs of slowing down, and are not afraid to make whatever kind of record they deem fit. Songs like “The Flood” are an example of how the band could take their prog rock leanings and turn it into something that almost resembles a radio-friendly rock single, albeit substantially better. The subtlety of some songs is also a huge part of what makes the album stand apart from its contemporaries.
From the second the record starts, you’re interested, and by the time it ends, you’re going back for more. “The Flood”, “Triumphant”, and the closer “Lower” will surely become iconic parts of the band’s live show, and songs like “Rewind” and “Third Law” will definitely go down as some of their best tracks. From start to finish, you’re getting the best the band has ever been able to give, and the best part is that they still have plenty more to give us in the future.
I imagine guest appearances used to be a bigger deal. Nowadays, if a young band wants to pay enough money, they can get a reputable musician or vocalist to appear on their record. This is normally the centerpiece of these young bands records. S’not the case here though. Appearances by the vocalists of Pig Destroyer and At The Gates are awesome, undeniably, they just nowhere near the most impressive thing about this record. Maruta returned from a split/hiatus to completely crush their comeback record, Remain Dystopian. 17 tracks in less than half an hour and not a minute is wasted. A remarkable feat of sonic engineering.
Every track on this record has ferocity to spare and a cold, almost vindictive message to share. This album (along with several others we have raved about this year) is a great example of where modern grind is advancing to. Gone are the ratty, lo-fi recordings, instead there is a guitar tone so sharp it could cut the already broken air of the room where the percussion was recorded so perfectly. Maruta are clear and considerate in the aural assault that blasts, shrieks and shreds from beginning to end of Remain Dystopian. 2015 will be the year of protogrind. Just wait and see.
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VALIS, the 2015 release from avant-garde black metal band Mastery, sounds like Alvin, of his eponymous chipmunk bunch, dealing with the effects of unstoppable roid-rage, played through a crappy radio one channel away from where it should be. It’s fast, furious, uncompromisingly harsh, and filled with bursts of energy that will make your head spin. Combining mach-5 blast beats, screams overflowing with punishing anger, and guitarwork that outdoes just about anything else released this year in terms of its general insanity, bizarreness, and speed, the name of the game here is inaccessibility. VALIS is an incredibly hard album to pick up and listen to, and it’s practically guaranteed that it’ll all be lost on the listener the first couple times. After that, though, like an evil forest from some particularly grim fantasy novel, the record begins to untangle the many blackened, necrotized limbs of its trees, and the listener is privy to some of the most wondrous music of the year. It’s an adventure of dark roads through murky backwoods and swamps teeming with death, and it’s absolutely incredible.
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With nearly six years of speculation, anticipation and a short-lived hiatus surrounding the band, The Crash and the Draw sees Chicago’s Minsk triumphantly return to the post-metal world. With a tally of eleven tracks registering in at seventy five minutes, this behemoth of a record is not to be taken lightly. It is a remarkable representation of Minsk’s strengths at creating massive walls of sound with elephant marching riffs and elevating them with some tribal drumming, deep chugging bass lines and terrific vocals. The four-part ‘Onward Procession‘ saga is probably one of the strongest highlights on this record as it slowly unfolds over twenty minutes with a character of its own. This could have easily been a separate EP yet it somehow forms an integral part of the album.
“The Way is Through,” “To the Garish Remembrance of Failure,” and “When the Walls Fell” are also major highlights but this really isn’t an album to be picked apart; it is a well executed cohesive, slow-burner-type musical experience that has to be taken as a whole. Arguments can go on without end whether this record tops the band’s 2007 epic The Ritual Fires of Abandonment, but there is no doubt amongst the Heavy Blog board room that The Crash and the Draw is a much awaited beast of an album that has totally lived up to the billing and is definitely worthy of a place on this list.
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-Aly Hassab El Naby
It’s a pretty rare occasion that a band drops one of their most inspired and vicious releases 30 years into their career, but then again, Napalm Death haven’t ever been the most predictable band. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is the band’s fifteenth LP and shows the Birgmingham grindcore legends at their most consistent in decades while still pushing their experimental side to previously unexplored territories. Right off the bat, the listener is bludgeoned half to death with the title track’s claustrophobic synthesis of noise-rock and industrial music, creating a truly haunting atmosphere unlike any other you’ll hear in 2015. After that, it’s off to the races. Whether it’s the band’s classic blast-beat assault, clever and creative nods to hardcore punk or worship of bands like Swans and Throbbing Gristle, Napalm are in complete control of their aural surroundings. Things may occasionally seem like they’re slipping into complete and utter chaos, but there’s enough memorable hooks and incredible vocal work to keep things in line. The band hasn’t lost any of its political edge either, and this time tackles the ever-present problems with unfair labor practices, massive consumption, and corporate greed. Don’t think for a second though that this album is as disposable as the disgusting pile of packaged meat that adorns the cover; this is completely essential.
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