- Bleeding Light Records 3-way Tie.
Serial Hawk-Searching for Light
He Whose Ox Is Gored-The Camel, The Lion, The Child
Since I’m allowing myself one cheat on the list, I can’t pick one of these records I love more so I’m adding all three. Bleeding Light Records came up from Arizona and snatched up some of Seattle’s best, and making me pick is unfair and cruel. Each record is so different from each other, but honestly represents some of the best aspects of Seattle’s heavy scene. Fantastic records, buy them all now.
- Will Haven-Open the Mind to Discomfort
I fucking love Will Haven. Nice to hear new music from the band, now all we need is a Seattle live show.
- Heiress-Of Great Sorrow
The follow up to Early Frost is even better then Early Frost! Not an easy feet, Of Great Sorrow is more killer tracks from Heiress.
- Modest Mouse-Strangers to Ourselves
This is the spot in my list I lose all cool metal guy cred (as if I actually had any..) and you flip off the screen and call me a hipster or some shit. I love Modest Mouse, including all the Epic records. I waited 8 years for this record, and enjoyed it greatly. It’s full of hooks and Isaac Brock’s wise twisted words of insightful observations. I could go on and on, but you give zero shits. Excited to hear what comes next.
- Sumac-The Deal
There was no doubt in my mind these monsters of heavy couldn’t churn out one of the best records of the year, it’s absolutely crushing. If you missed them live, don’t miss out again this February at the Funhouse.
Everyone experiences heartbreak and loss, but I don’t think anyone has done it quite as beautiful, vulnerable, and honest as Bjork did here. Heartbreaking yet uplifting, love it. In my opinion, her best since Homogenic.
- Chelsea Wolfe-Abyss
“Insert well-worded, journalistic blurb worthy of Time Magazine here.” One of the more talked about records this year, no need for me to tell you what you already know.
- Kowloon Walled City-Grievances
It was a long wait between their last record, Container Ships, and this record. Grievances is a perfect record from start to finish, and you missed it live in its entirety if you missed them at the Highline. Can’t say enough good things about the KWC, except I’m an asshole for being broke at the show and not buying a copy on vinyl. I’ll fix this soon, I assure you.
- Brothers of the Sonic Cloth-Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
The first full-length from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth lives up to all expectations and then some. The riffs are so damn heavy, the production sounds incredible, it’s a all around classic record worthy of the highest praise.
- Great Falls-The Fever Shed
It’s no secret that Great Falls is one of my favorite bands. This is the best record of the year hands down. Listen to it and tell me it doesn’t destroy you. I’ll wait, and be there to talk about it with your fresh, mind-blown corpse. No one gets rich off that shit. A few years ago, when their record Accidents Grotesque came out, I said they were at the top of their game, and I was wrong. If this band toured they would be fucking huge, and if you haven’t checked the record out, I strongly urge you to do so.
Mgła-Exercises in Futility
Mgła, to me, represents the natural maturation of black metal as a genre. Their stately melodies have shed all pompousness, but are as grand and bleak as a sheer cliff. Playing from behind featureless black masks, the band presents itself as a literal void, allowing their music to take center stage.
I’ve said it before about this band, but there is something in the water in the Bay Area that makes the death metal extra vicious. It just rips so hard. Just put this in your ears. It’s filthy good.
Vhol-Deeper Than Sky
Just when I thought this year lacked a truly weird release, Vhol unleashed another dose of their cosmic psychedelic retro prog crust mélange. This band is a treasure, and this album truly defies description.
Misþyrming-Söngvar elds og óreiðu
A band with no previous releases from Reykjavik appeared quietly in 2015 with this tight little opus of a black metal album. Feels like eons of despair and drama compressed into a restrained, brilliant package.
Jef Whitehead’s rage has always been a fearsome instrument. While previous Leviathan releases hinted at white-hot anger burbling beneath their icy surfaces, Scar Sighted sees Whitehead at his most unrestrained and honest. It’s terrifying, and fantastic, and feels as though Whitehead has leveled up as a musician.
Bell Witch-Four Phantoms
Bell Witch is to metal what Dante Alighieri is to literature. Four Phantoms is a sprawling, ornate contemplative beast of an album. The kind of music that would play a funeral for a dead, arcane god.
Have you ever felt righteous anger in the vibration of a cello string? Has a violin whispered you a secret? This acoustic three-piece is chamber music for metalheads, and their rich but spare arrangements are rife with emotion.
Everyone’s favorite witch queen, Chelsea Wolfe grows exponentially more powerful with each release. Her songs have evolved from bare, dusty-floorboards folk to lush, intense balladry. She touches on everything from retro stoner metal to industrial here, weaving them into her work like spells.
HEALTH used to be a harsh noise band that did disco remixes on the side. They have since managed to merge the two genres together, creating a violent sort of dance music that can appeal to fans of Crystal Castles and Botch alike. Electronic buzzsaw keening has never before been imbued with such chill vibes.
Death Grips-Jenny Death
First, they announced their breakup by scrawling one last missive on a napkin and posting it to Facebook. Then, the new albums started pouring in. First came Fashion Week, an instrumental cyberpunk dream, and then came Jenny Death, the culmination of all the band’s forays into rap, industrial, noise, math-rock and more. And then they announced a world tour. But they’re still totally broken up, guys.
Jeffery McNulty’s Mostly Local Top Records of 2015 (In alphabetical order)
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
If 5 years ago you would have told me that a local duo would be the most soul stomping funeral doom band in existence I would have laughed right in your face. As far as I was concerned duo’s started and ended with Godheadsilo. That was the old me. The new me has seen Bell Witch a hundred times since then.
Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death
Holy shit Black Breath hits it hard. And this record is the most intense of their three full lengths. Now, I’m the kind of guy that likes their heavier breakdown riffs the best but this record is inarguably bad-ass. Even with so many killer metal bands in the NW, Black Breath continues to rule the stage.
Blood Drugs – S/T
This is the record I kept coming back to this year. Not sure why, other than I just love the music; maybe because it’s a perfect blend of abrasive and bouncy fun. I can put this on at any club and people will bob their heads.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – S/T
This is a record that crept onto my list early this year. I have to say it was not what I expected either; I thought it would be more classic BotSC heaviness. Boy was I wrong! This record is almost gothic in its production and cavernous in its scope. A truly different voyage than the one I was expecting and you know what? I like being wrong if it sounds this right.
Great Falls – The Fever Shed
I feel like I’ve been in limbo all of 2015 waiting for this record to come out. This is another genre defining record by a local band that, if they toured, would be gigantic. They’ve been blowing minds in Seattle at every show. Truly jaw dropping. I’m almost tired of talking about how good they are, that’s how good they are.
He Who’s Ox is Gored – The Camel, the Lion, the Child
The only thing longer than their band name is their album title! I kid; The Camel… is filled with amazing sounds and impeccable arrangements. This record is tailor made for long road trips where your mind can roam free to take it all in.
Lord Dying – Poisoned Altars
This is another world-class metal band out of the PNW. Poisoned Altars snuck into 2015 in January but their record was stuck to my turntable for a month! If you haven’t seen Lord Dying live you need to do yourself a favor!
Spacebag – Pareidolia
It seems like Spacebag are finally getting the respect they deserve. Again, if these dudes toured they would be HUGE, because no other band is anywhere close to them. They make the Adam Bass coined sub-genre ProgCore all their own. I overheard Steve Austin from Today is the Day gushing about them last time they played in town. Nuff Said!
Wounded Giant – Split 12” w/ Goya
With these two tracks Wounded Giant bring to fruition on wax everything they have been doing on stage for the last few years. Absolutely crushing! And word has it they are in the studio with Billy Anderson so the next record should be even better. A full length this tough in 2016 is something to look forward to.
Non-local records that deserve mention:
Cherubs – 2 YNFYNYTY
Cherubs were one of my favorite bands back in the early 90’s, I even got to see them once. That’s right, at the Off Ramp. Holy shit they were LOUD! Now they get back together and put out an album as good as their hey day? Yep. I sincerely hope we can coax them out to this coast in 2016, perhaps with lablemates Whores? One can dream.
Elephant Rifle – Ivory
Elephant Rifle is state of the art punk. Call it what you want, PostHardCore, whatever. They run the gamut stylistically but this Reno, Nevada group is always on point. The fact that their drummer’s playing reminds me of Sara Lund from Unwound doesn’t hurt either!
Torche – Restarter
There are a few bands that, if they put out a record in any given year it is going to end up on my top 10. Well, Restarter is actually better than previous couple of Torche records, if you can believe that.
Vastum – Hole Below
How do you like your death metal? THIS is how I like my death metal. Sometimes I need to put a record on the headphones that puts me in the right mind to ride the bus with all the other assholes. Hole Below just took over from Nails last record in my ear buds.
- Ghostface Killah / Badbadnotgood – Sour Soul
Legendary Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah rapping over the brilliantly arranged grooves of Canadian jazz/hip-hop trio Badbadnotgood? Perfection. Instrumental opening and closing tracks are personal highlights, showcasing BBNG’s killer sense of style and sound.
- Tame Impala – Currents
Not what I normally listen to, but somehow this record hooked me. Hard. Even now I’m not sure why I keep listening to it, but I do, and I like it. Deep synth tones and tripped out psychedelia initially caught my ear, but I think ultimately it’s just got great, catchy songwriting.
- Battle Tapes – Polygon
This record sounds like if Trent Reznor and Daft Punk went on a cocaine fueled party binge in Los Angeles, but in the best way possible. Hard hitting electro-rock at its best, filled with solid grooves and great tones.
- Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Up there with some of the best doom records around. Slow burning, epic, and foreboding, Bell Witch successfully embody both heart-wrenching pain and ethereal beauty on this smoldering mountain of funeral doom.
- Heiress – Of Great Sorrow
Heiress has captured everything I love about post-metal on their latest offering: expansive heaviness, sludgy riffs, and driving rhythms. “Held” is probably one of my favorite songs of the year.
- He Whose Ox Is Gored – The Camel, The Lion, The Child
As a long time fan of local underground heroes He Whose Ox Is Gored, I can comfortably say that this is their finest, most well conceived, and most musically satisfying work to date. It’s like everything they’ve been evolving towards since their first demo has finally been realized in perfect, riff-laden, densely atmospheric, dynamically structured clarity.
- Kowloon Walled City – Grievances
With Grievances, Kowloon Walled City has captured a brilliantly executed brand of minimalistic sludge metal that conveys a deep sense pain, frustration, longing, and desperation. At times it seems like they challenged themselves on just how much intensity they could pull from a single note, stretching riffs like shadows cast by gravestones as the sun dips into the horizon.
- Strawberry Girls – American Graffiti
I just discovered the highly energetic, groove-fueled prog-rock of Strawberry Girls’ previous release, French Ghetto, earlier this year. And as luck would have it, they put out the equally badass American Graffiti shortly after for me to dive into. Fans of mathy, post-rock inspired songs packed unstoppable guitar noodling and ridiculous drumming in the vein of Tera Melos, And So I Watch You From Afar, or Mars Volta will find a new favorite in this record.
- Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful
I’ll admit that maybe a large part of why I enjoy this record is the Vice-produced web series “Fuck That’s Delicious”, starring former chef turned rapper Action Bronson touring the world and eating/cooking delicious fucking food. However, this record showcases a level of musical diversity and taste that pushes it to a level most hip hop records fall far short of, and combined with the supremely clever lyrics of Bronson, make this one of my most listened to records of the year.
- Elder – Lore
I’ll admit, most of the time these days I am pretty tired of stoner metal. The genre has become so oversaturated, especially in the northwest, and especially on a local level, and the style is becoming ever more generic and uninspired. Listening to Lore changed that for me. Here is a band that is situated in a genre and really makes it their own. All the familiar elements exist, but somehow Elder manages to make it all sound fresh and new, instrumentally creating an epic adventure of incredible riffs and genuinely interesting and exciting songwriting. I’ve been listening to this record all year and I’m not even close to being sick of it.
Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
Been a huge fan of Mr. Rosenstock since Bomb The Music Industry’s first record, his lyrics and energetic tone on sometimes pretty dark subject matter still gets to my heart.
Blood Drugs – Blood Drugs
One of my favorite local releases this year, perfectly gritty, fun, noisey rock.
Dreadnought – Bridging Realms
Had the good fortune to see Dreadnought live in Seattle, this record is dark and beautiful in the best ways.
Refused – Freedom
It’s fucking Refused. Yes, nothing will ever beat The Shape of Punk To Come, and this record will always be a little marred by that letdown, but honestly it’s still damn good.
This year I am resurrecting a grand old tradition and my favorite way to write about musical content: The Haiku Review. Presented in alphabetical order, these records are all spectacular and worthy of your attention.
Alda – Passage (Eisenwald)
Tacoma Youth Tribe’s
First New Music in Four Years.
They Better Not Stop.
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms (Profound Lore Records)
Four Songs About Ghosts,
And Two Dudes with Drums and Bass
Defined Doom This Year.
Cloud Rat – Qliphoth (Halo of Flies)
Cloud Rat Are Vastly
Jokes On You, They Rule
False – Untitled (Gilead Media)
Lovingly Crafted Songs/Riffs
False Are The Real Deal
Keeper – The Space Between Your Teeth (Crown and Throne Ltd.)
Khanate Are Dead, But
Keeper Want to Light The Torch.
This Is A Great Start.
Kowloon Walled City – Grievances (Neurot)
Who Would Have Thought That
The Best Pop Rock Songs This Year
Would Be So Heavy?
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (Bindrune)
Austin Lunn Traveled Far
He Brought Black Metal with Him
The Results Astound
Rectal Hygenics – Ultimate Purity (Permanent Records)
One Minute Into
The First Track And I’m Certain.
The Riff Of The Year.
Sanhett – Revisionist (The Flenser)
A Soundtrack For The
Greatest Spaceship Dogfight That
You’ve Never Seen Before
TRTRKMMR – Avec La Souillure Nous Entrons Au Règne De La Terreur (Iron Lung Records)
Milwaukee Mad Man
Rips Your Brain to Shreds
Presented in no particular order of importance, these are the albums that got a lot of repeated listens from me this year.
- Dreadnought – Bridging Realms
- Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
- Strangeweather – s/t
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress
- False – Untitled
- Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – Exile
- VI – De Praestigiis Angelorum
- Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
- Hivelords – Tapered Limbs of a Human Star
- Un – The Tomb of All Things
- Abigail Williams – The Accuser
- Alda – Passage
- Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
- Dead to a Dying World – Litany
- Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Best shows I saw in 2015
- Thirst for Light: Cascadian Summer Solstice at Red Hawk Avalon
- Thou/The Body collaborative set at the Stump House garage in Olympia
- Kithkin’s farewell show at Chop Suey
- Celeste, Primitive Man, Echo Beds, Whilt at G.L.O.B., Denver, CO.
- Chelsea Wolfe and Mammifer at Neumos.