Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
After John saw Nathan’s 2015 music in review post – he asked if he could share up an all-metal version. We, of course, said yes – and he sent in this killer assessment of 2015’s metal releases. John has been a friend of the site and supplies the brutal vocals of Rainey’s Revenge who we did an interview with in 2013.
by John Schreiber
With the year of 2015 now behind us, I decided to take the time to reveal my top metal albums of the year. Now before we get into this list of head banging spectacles let me get a few things straight – each year hundreds upon hundreds of metal bands release brand new albums, coming from the endless list of metal subgenres. (Death metal, black metal, power metal, hardcore, metalcore, classic metal, deathcore, grindcore, etc.) Most of us metal heads of the modern age, favor some subgenres more than others – hell some even downright despise certain kinds.
I myself grew up as a metal-head since my early teens, sampling the delights of many different subgenres and enjoying what they have to offer. That eventually lead me to become the front man of my own metal band around 2003, which leads me to where I am now as the front man of Rainey’s Revenge (whose category of sub genre is up for speculation by many, but that’s neither here nor there).
Bottom line, while metal has been a huge part of my life for nearly 20 years now, I in no way claim to be a full on expert in all things metal – and did not hear every metal album that came out last year.
So, with all that being said lets jump right into this with my runners up:
Culture Killer – Throes Of Mankind. I recently played with these guys a few months ago and was looking forward to seeing them as they came highly recommended by my buddy Ben who plays drums for Safe Harbor. After seeing them, I understood his recommendation and quickly checked out their Metal Blade Records debut “Throes Of Mankind”. These fellow Floridians put together a hard hitting album combining metallic hardcore mixed in with elements of sludge and death metal. Definitely an excellent debut from a promising new band.
Act Of Defiance – Birth and The Burial. Another debut record from the fine folks at Metal Blade Records this time at the hands of former Megadeth members Chris Broderick (guitar) and Shawn Drover (drums) – and rounded out by Shadows Fall’s Matt Bachand (bass) and former Scar The Martyr vocalist Henry Derek Bonner. The end result is an all out shred fest. Modern day touch of melodic death metal met with old school inspired thrash metal. A must listen to any fan of shredding guitar work.
Deafheaven – New Bermuda. Unless you’re a metal fan that’s been living under a rock, you have probably been made at least aware of Deafheaven. There unique brand of atmospheric black metal has really grabbed the attention of metal lovers around he globe. Their previous effort “Sunbather” received praise from Rolling Stone Magazine and their newest effort “New Bermuda” proves that this band isn’t a one hit wonder. The album took a much more “metal” approach while keeping up with the melodic melodies that made them the black metal juggernaut they are today.
Children Of Bodom – I Worship Chaos. The Finnish metal masters return with their most solid effort in many years. With mastermind Alexi Laiho (singer/song writer/lead guitarist) handling all the guitar duties on this record, the band as a whole managed to not miss a beat. The album features the signature sounds metal heads have come to love out of Bodom; sweet guitar work and synth solos with fist pumping metal choruses all to the tune of Bodom’s brand of melodic-death-meets-power-metal combo. Bodom is back baby!
This Gift is A Curse – All Hail The Swinelord. Direct from Sweden, where people were bred to play metal better than rest of the world comes This Gift Is A Curse who popped up on my radar late last year and I’m quite thankful for it. Chaotic sounding black metal that hits straight to the core. Imagine if 1349 and Full Of Hell conceived a metal love child together. The end result of that wretched spawn would be This Gift is A Curse.
AND NOW on to the top ten list!
10. Fit For An Autopsy – Absolute Hope Absolute Hell. It doesn’t matter if you play rock, metal, funk, gospel, or whatever. When you lose your lead singer it can be a big low blow to your band. After FFAA released two relatively successful full length albums the band found themselves in this very situation as vocalist Nate Johnson left the band and even gave the band the inspiration to coin the term that they had been Nate Johnsoned (referring to how their now former vocalist had left several bands prior to FFAA including: Through The Eyes Of The Dead, Premonitions of War, Since The Flood, and Deadwater Drowning). However, the band managed to strike gold by eventually recruiting former vocalist of The Dimond Cutter – Joe Babolato to fill the void. The end result is a solid slab of full-on deathcore. While the band’s sound is more of a modern take on the genre, they utilize the influence of many of the genres old school giants including The Red Chord and Converge. Bottom line is FFAA not only overcame the obstacle of replacing an already extremely talented metal vocalist but rose to the occasion to making a great in your face record. BRUTALful job gents!
9. Parkway Drive – Ire. As a metaclore band, Australia’s Parkway Drive have found themselves in a situation that many of their peers don’t often see – huge success on a global level. Parkway Drive hasn’t just become one of the biggest metalcore bands the world has to offer, but is straight up one of the more successful metal bands of the modern day. Their secret is pretty simple; if ain’t broke don’t fix it. They know what works for them and have continued to press forward with that – with each album only giving their sound a minor tweak. The fact that the band is also true dogs of the road, certainly doesn’t hurt either. They tour the globe over on countless occasions, including parts of the world most metal bands don’t often travel (check out a DVD the band released a few years ago entitled “Home Is For The Heartless” for proof of this). Vocally, Parkway Drive has next to ZERO clean vocals but manages to have sing along choruses through the duration of the album thanks to catchy lines backed by gang chants. This tactic is nothing new in the world of hardcore/metalcore music, but rarely is pulled off to the degree PD does on this album in particular focused with lyrics themed about the world we live in and how messed up it truly has become. Overall, Parkway Drive has earned their success and this album is definite proof of that.
8. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things. I was made aware of this band almost 3 years ago. My band was scheduled to perform with them and after doing some minor research prior to the show, I knew that myself along with the audience on hand would be in for a treat. This prog metal outfit has come along way from their 2006 debut and seems to be pushing forward even harder showcasing the outstanding musicianship from each individual member. While any comparison to any other bands in Intronaut’s case would be considered damn near unfair – sound wise the band bares some minor resemblances to Mastodon and even some earlier Between The Buried and Me material. This new album sees the band tackle a list of fun combination of sounds from screaming and singing vocals, groovy riffs, and a very jazz influenced rhythm section. On a live standpoint the band has been spot on and has tackled tours along side some of the hardest bands you can open up for now a days including Tool and Meshuggah. When it comes down to it, this album is clear proof that Intronaut is a metal band on the rise and we should all be so lucky to see them continue to climb.
7. Dark Sermon – The Oracle. After I saw this band the first time back in 2012, when my band opened for them and I became a instant fan. They were one of the most intense bands I’ve seen live in recent memory and I have kept a close eye on them ever since. Fast forward to 2015, with the release of their new album “The Oracle” and my appreciation for this band only increased. This album is dark….really dark. Baring a small resemblance to Behemoth, this band takes a haunting approach to the combination of death metal, black metal, and doom and shoves it right down your throat in an almost forceful manor. Lyrically the band covers a wide range of topics including suicide, depression, the occult, and human dependency. The band has also upgraded their live show to ritualistic levels complete with animal skulls, an arrangement of daggers, and incense all on display on a ritual table in the middle of the stage adding to lead vocalist Johnny Crowder’s already intimidating stage presence. It almost seems as if at any given moment during his brutal screaming he’d launch off the stage and rip your throat out with his bare hands and dangle it atop the crowd while he proceeds to perform. It’s like that with these dudes. Overall, if you consider yourself a fan of extreme metal and have yet to hear this album, do so immediately.
6. August Burns Red – Found In Far Away Places. I’ve been rooting for this band for a long time now. The first three albums they released had me convinced that no matter what they would be leaders of the metalcore pact in one form or another. “Found In Far Away Places” stands as quite possibly the band’s most straight forward material. Right from the opening notes of the album’s first track “The Wake,” the bands seems to shred through riff after riff. ABR has always been a band that has kept a healthy balance of melodic rhythms and and technical metalcore – however this album in particular sees them stick to a heavier approach than some of their more recent material. Even though the stand out track on the album “Ghosts,” features guest clean vocals from A Day To Remembers’ Jeremy Mckinnon and the song “Martyr” features a violin solo. A pretty great hype move for this album – and one that generally seems to work with metal fans – is ABR drummer Matt Greiner also brews his own beer and released a beer named after this very album. If that beer is any where close to as good as this album is, I need to get my hands on a case of that bad boy, pronto.
5. The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal. Once again, The Black Dahlia Murder have graced our ears with a brand new album and once again it is heavier than just about everything else out there – and I mean that in a good way. When going to listen to a new TBDM album it almost like going to listen to an old Motörhead album – by that I mean you know what you are gonna get and the comparison ends there. These guys continue to turn out some of the fastest and to the point death metal of the modern age while seemingly getting better and heavier at every album. Clearly “Abysmal” is no exception whatsoever. This album marks the second album TBDM has recorded with drummer Alan Cassidy (ex-abigail williams) who joined the group during the recording of the bands previous album “Everblack”. While he is 4 or 5 of the list of drummers these guys have been through over the many many years and easily the youngest member of the band this kid doesn’t miss a single beat and is a proven beast behind the kit. This album also marks the 4th album they have recorded with lead guitarist Ryan Knight (ex-the knife trade) who has upped the solo production of this band and seems to impress more and more each album. Bottom line, this is one brutal album that almost leaves one to imagine……how heavy will The Black Dahlia Murder’s NEXT album be??
4. Slayer – Repentless. Lets just all go ahead and get the elephant out of the room with this album. Yes I’m aware that Jeff Hanneman (a founder of the band/primary songwriter) has passed away and shortly after the band for the second (or third I lose track) time parted ways with their original drummer Dave Lambardo. This is still a Slayer album and it’s a damn good one at that. To finish out the missing links in the line up the band brought in Exodus guitarist Gary Holt and on drums re-recruited Paul Bostaph who has played with the band several times in the past. Slayer seemed to really go for it on this album. They have always maintained a dark and aggressive approach to their music that has helped them stand out among their peers in “The Big 4 Of Thrash Metal” (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax) and that has carried over to this album in full force. Stand out tracks like the title track “Repentless” and “Vice” are definite proof of that and “When The Stillness Sets In” brings back an old feel from Slayer’s work in the “Seasons of Abyss era. Some old school Slayer fans will probably still roll their eyes at this album, in my opinion let em’. This is a great Slayer album!
3. Lamb Of God – 7:Sturm Und Drang. I imagine finding inspiration for this album was not very hard for this band. Considering how the last several years unfolded for them – mainly their vocalist Randy Blythe was arrested before a show in the Czech Republic as was blamed for the death of a stage diving fan from a gig there two years prior. It was after this arrest that he spent a month in Czech Republic prison until he was freed on bail and then returned to face the trial – where he was proven not responsible for the young man’s tragic death. With no surprise, Lamb Of God returned with their seventh album as and it became one of their darker and more emotional albums. Two of the early tracks on the album “Still Echos” and “512” (named after Randy’s cell number in the Czech Republic) has a very classic Lamb Of God vibe while other songs take a semi-different direction such as the song “Overlord” which features Randy busting out well done clean vocals throughout the majority of the song and the song “Embers” which features Deftones frontman Chino Moreno who throws down some clean guest vocals and stands as one of the albums better tracks. All in all, Lamb of God are no strangers to writing killer albums. It’s what they do. It’s part of the reason they are widely considered the most popular band in modern metal today. This album is no exception.
2. Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls. Another band that faced some adversity in recent memory, as prior to the release of this album is was announced that Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson had contracted a small cancerous tumor on the back of his tongue leaving many metal heads across the globe (myself included) holding their breath. Luckily for us, the mighty Bruce (who outside of singing for one of the worlds most successful metal bands of all time also flies airplanes, brews beer, has a doctorate degree, etc) rid himself of this tumor with flying colors and boom – the new Iron Maiden album is upon us. And what do you know; it’s a double disk album! As a long time Iron Maiden fan, it’s not hard for me to enjoy a Maiden record. While old school Maiden heads have shunned some of the newer/proggier material they have produced on recent albums like “Dance Of Death”, “A Matter Of Life and Death”, and “The Final Frontier” – I along with many others have still truly enjoyed the hell out of all of them. “The Book Of Souls” is the best of both worlds of Maiden, as they have combined directions for the ultimate Iron Maiden record. There’s a hint of the days of old sound of Maiden with standout tracks such as “Speed Of Light” and “The Red and The Black” which the later almost reminds of me of a long lost song from the “Powerslave” era, and then there are song such as the albums title track “Book Of Souls” or “Empire Of The Clouds” which focus of the more epic/prog style that Maiden has developed over the years with the later song in fact clocking in at 18 minutes – 18 fantastic minutes. Iron Maiden in 2015 is as good as Iron Maiden has ever been. The triple guitar attack of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers is on point and the love between on three on a rhythm and solo ground is spread fairly throughout the double album. Iron Maiden founder/bassist Steve Harris still shines with impeccable bass playing and still plays a large part of the song writing. Drummer Nicko McBrain’s galloping drum style is almost as quickly recognizable to Maidens sound and this album specifically as Bruce Dickinson’s voice who sounds a great as ever and is believed to have recorded his vocal tracks while still with a cancer tumor in his throat. If that isn’t impressive, then I truly don’t know what is. Iron Maiden continues to reign as the true kings of the metal world!!
1. Periphery – Juggernaut: Alpha & Omega. This album is truly mind blowing. Hell, Periphery has a knack for doing that with all their albums. Their debut self-titled album was a mere introduction to what people would ultimately expect with these guys. The follow up “2:This Time It’s Personal” (the first to feature Mark Holcomb on guitar) rose the bar in a big way for them, which was then followed up by the “Clear EP” which was a surprisingly fantastic experiment where each song on the EP was written solely by an individual of the band. Now moving on, we have the group’s for recent release “Juggernaut”. A double album split into two sides Alpha & Omega. Through the entire two sides Periphery displays their well crafted song writing and musicianship that ranges from the heaviest and most complex form of djent/prog metal with tracks such as “MK Ultra” (featured on the Alpha side), to almost radio friendly, catchy ass hell tunes like “Have Heart” (also featured on the Alpha side), to even ballads such as “Priestless” (featured on the Omega side). There are plenty of songs that seem to combine all these elements into one song such as “The Scrourge” (Alpha side) and “The Bad Thing” (Omega side). There is much to be experienced from this album on all levels, but one thing that truly impresses the hell out of me is the vocal capabilities of Spencer Sotelo. He sings his ass off on this CD and manages to still have a monster of a roar behind him. Overall, just great great great album!!!
So there you have it boys and girls! Hope you enjoyed the read. Until next time, I’ll see you head banging misfits at a local metal show (https://www.facebook.com/raineysrevenge, heh) take care and up the irons!!