Top-10 list of 2015

It's been almost a year since the last update and so here we go again. The reason why I never wrote anything for so long? More or less it's the same as usual. It's uninteresting nevertheless.
Anyway, on to 2015. It was the year of avantgarde- and doom-metal. It was the year of "comebacks" sort of speak. It was the year when I spun the #1-spot more times than can be considered healthy.

10. Sigh - Graveward
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: UK
Still whacky and really out there, I was still very dissapointed with "Graveward" compared to the much cooler and catchier "In Somnophobia" (2012). That's it, nothing more, nothing less.

9. Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches
Style: Gothic/black metal
Origin: UK
It feels like it was ages ago since I completely dismissed this band. When I dig deeper, I realize that I simply lost interest after the mediocre "EP+covers+new-recorded songs" "Bitter Suites to Succubi" back in 2001. I heard a track here and there but my lack of interest seems to have taken place at the exact same time that the band decided to write truly mediocre songs when compared to such classics as "Cruelty and the Beast" (1998) and especially "Dusk and her Embrace" (1996).
But that was then and 2015 is the current year. On "Hammer of the Witches" the band has finally started to look back at and started to take notes from the previously mentioned albums and what a good idea that was. Suddenly the band sounds like CoF again with the classic Iron Maiden-twin guitars and memorable melodies. The album flows coherently and is genuinely fun to listen to. My only complaint is that there's not really any special song that sticks out of the bunch which doesen't give it that "instant classic"-feel. On the other hand, no song is outright bad and most importantly, this album gives me hope for the band's future and is a huge leap in the right direction. Not bad for a band that I never thought I'd be interested in hearing any new music from.

8. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within
Style: Gothic/doom metal
Origin: UK
Ever since 2000, magazines, record companies and even the band themselves have promised a "return to the old". Why is that you might ask? Because 1999 was the year when the band went comepletely Depeche Mode (but in a bad way mind you) on us. After said album had gotten it's rightful bad reviews, EVERYONE promised that the next album would feature more prominent, heavy and crushing guitars, the soaring melodies and the dark vocals the band has become known for. I remember how many magazines praised "Believe in Nothing" (2001) as a "return to form" and I can only laugh at such statements today. But the same damn thing have been said before each and every Paradise Lost-release ever since. And that's 5 fucking albums mind you! In recent years, they've come closer to their old sound yes, but it took precisely 16 years until the TRUE return.
For you see, "The Plague Within" is the most consistent, hard-hitting and depressing album since the band's major breakthrough "Draconian Times" (1995). Although not being quite as consistent and flowing as well as said album, this one comes really fucking close. And that's coming from a band that I've given up on since way back. Songs such as "No Hope in Sight", "Terminal", "An Eternity of Lies", "Punishment Through Time", "Beneath Broken Earth" and "Victim of the Past" are all damn good songs that the lads should be very proud of.

7. Marduk - Frontschwein
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Well, fuck me. Apart from blastbeating us all to hell since the early 90's, Marduk has no problems when it comes to slowing down their tempo or even playing catchy mid-tempo wartunes. This album combines all three elements with perfection but also succeeds when it comes to memorable black metal songs. It doesn't hurt that the band can brag with having the world's greatest vocalist of the genre either. All these things combined, makes "Frontschwein" one of the best, if not THE best album from Marduk I've ever heard. It's most certainly the band's most even effort at least.

6. Ghost - Meliora
Style: Rock
Origin: Sweden
The band that you either hate or love (I'm somewhere inbetween) is back with their third album. It seems many people had high demands for this one since their previous album apparently was universally claimed as inferior to their very successful debut. I thought the previous album was ok, it had it's highs and lows - just as the debut had. On "Meliora", Ghost finally hits the famous nail on it's head. This is easliy their most even album and even the weaker songs has some redeeming qualities to them. The songs that do stand out ("Spirit", "Cirice", "He Is" and "Deus in Absentia") continues the band's winning formula and I hear a lot more ABBA in the music now than I've done earlier. And that is always a plus.

5. Arcturus - Arcturian
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: Norway
What is it with this band and production value? The band's 10-year old previous album "Sideshow Symphonies" (2005) had a dull and lifeless production that effectively killed the otherwise ok quality some of those songs had. The band's "return" "Arcturian" also shows very little effort put into production. Now this is an issue I seldom care about when it comes to music, but in Arcturus' case - it makes a huge fucking difference if one is to pick out all the little details that goes into their music. Compared to the production on the two eternal classics "La Masquerade Infernale" (1997) and "The Sham Mirrors" (2002), these latest albums are a joke.
Music-wise, "Arcturian" is a small step up from it's predecessor. The band borrows heavily from it's own past discography and one can even hear hints from their debut album "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" (1995) in small doses. Otherwise, things are as one would expect:
* Vortex is an outstanding vocalist that sometimes hides a bit too much behind effects, making him sound less epic that we all know he can be.
* The keyboards and piano alternates by sometimes sweeping along to the music whilst sometimes carrying the entire melody on it's own shoulders and then sometimes just goes beyond weird and far away....into space.
* Great and memorable guitar melodies (but haven't we heard some of these before?)
* Plastic and lifeless drumming by the ever-present Hellhammer.
Sometimes it sounds as if the band are compeletely out of new ideas, and this is especially worrying since they've had 10 years since the last album. I don't know if I should worry about the future anyways, since Arcturus always seems to break up and then reform.

4. Moonspell - Extinct
Style: Gothic metal
Origin: Portugal
I'll admit, I liked "Night Eternal" (2008) quite a lot, but I didn't give me that certain feeling that Moonspell have been lacking ever since they decided to go all "millennium" on us and give us that awful trash that "The Butterfly Effect" (1999) was. But if "Night Eternal" gave me hope, the follow-up "Alpha Noir" (2012) and it's sibling "Omega White" (2012) crushed that little streak of hope with a massive fucking hammer, so bad was it. Fast forward three years and Moonspell finally got to their senses and once more delivered something they can be proud of. Sure, it doesn't have the haunting atmosphere of "Irreligious" (1996) or the youthful brilliance in songwriting that "Wolfheart" (1995) has, but it reminds me of "Sin/Pecado" (1998) at some points, although being more aggressive than said album. This is essentially a pop-album written with distorted guitars and growls in mind, and what a masterstroke that was. The album flows along like a river and it is easy to see (and hear) that the band actually wrote songs with an entire album in mind, instead of just writing one or two songs and then fillers for the rest of the album. I'm almost inclined to call this comeback of the year, but there has been quite a few of those haven't there?

3. Solefald - World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: Norway
Ah, Solefald. What a weird band you are. The now 5-year old album "Norrøn Livskunst" (2010) gave me a couple of eargasms and back in the days, I definitely considered it the band's best work. But now, the aptly titled "World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud" is upon an unexpecting world. And seriously, I can't think of any other band that manages to fit eurodisco and tribal rythms into a metal song, without it seeming out of place. I know that this isn't music for most people, but if you would just let the sheer brilliance of "World Music with Black Edges""The Germanic Entity""2011, or a Knight of the Fail" and the amazing "String the Bow of Sorrow" caress your ears enough times, you might enjoy this. Hell, even the obvious weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird-song "Bububu Bad Beuys" is sweet music to my ears. Unlike "Tittentattenteksti" on the predecessor, this one makes me smile and nod my head with the music. One also have to appreciate the always thoughtful and provocative lyrics from Cornelius Jakhelln, this time with a load of social criticism in them. Easily Solefald's best album to date.

2. My Dying Bride - Feel the Misery
Style: Doom metal
Origin: UK
Every time My Dying Bride announces a new album is in the works, my anticipations are sky-high since they are one of my all-time favourite bands. Apart from "34.788%...Complete" in 1998 I haven't been entirely dissapointed by any of their albums even though some are better than others. I have no illusions that the band ever will be able to top their masterpieces "Turn Loose the Swans" (1993) and "The Angel and the Dark River" (1995).
The band latest opus with the cringe-worthy title "Feel the Misery" does it's best to combine the band's latter works with their earlier outputs and the result is satisfying to say the least. Most times when I listen to a new MDB-album for the first time, I feel drawn to it and immediately find favourites here and there. This time however, I get the feeling that some of the songs almost sounds unfinished and others sounds like growers. The only real track I feel drawn to at once is the amazing opener "And my Father Left Forever" - whose title alone speaks of more misery than the actual album title. The album has still has that distinctive My Dying Bride-feel and from the first note to the last, there's no doubt which band is playing. It is an album that grew immensely on me over time and should not be overlooked in the band's amazing discography.

1. Amorphis - Under the Red Cloud
Style: Gothic/doom metal
Origin: Finland
"Tales from the Thousand Lakes" (1994) is often regarded as a classic and I while I really enjoy the first half or so of the album, I feel that the latter songs lack too much to be considered "classic". It is a damn good album nevertheless and it's follower "Elegy" (1996) also had a couple of damn good songs even though the album as a whole is very uneven. After a couple of truly mediocre albums and the change of a vocalist sometime in the middle of the 00's, the band once more felt rejuvenated. But to me, the band has still been plauged with the fact that for every couple of good/great songs on each album, there have always been a couple that felt uninspired and plain boring. That changed profoundly with "Under the Red Cloud".
Amorphis isn't one of those bands that I hold in very high regard (such as My Dying Bride, Vintersorg or Moonspell) so I had expected to like a few tracks off the album and the more or less forget about it. Little did I know that I would been playing this album non-stop since it was released in September. Each and every track on this album sounds absolutely killer and even the bonus tracks are above good. The subtle nods to the best moments from "Tales..." and "Elegy" are done with a great sense of homage and not boring nostalgia.
In my opinion, this is the crowning pinnacle of the bands' career and a true masterpiece. I could basically highlight all songs here, but if threatened at gunpoint, I would have to choose "Dark Path" for it's amazing chorus alone.

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