Monday, December 21, 2015

The Top Ten Doom Albums of 2015

This one was the hardest list so far. I need darkness and a sense of loss emoted from my doom. Though their is a far wider range of emotions expressed in these albums drugged bliss, anger and introspective melancholy are a few of the more prominent ones. Some have a dash of death metal to them others shoe-gaze or blues. Funereal doom is my favorite sub-genre and there is a fair showing of that. Some bands you might have expected to see here could be popping up on other lists to some as their sound has changed. It came down to which bands I have listened to more and see myself continuing to go back to when it came to ranking my top ten doom metal albums of the year. If you want to check them out the review links contain streams.

 10- Swallow the Sun : "Songs From the North"

 In today's iPod shuffling and add culture, a double album is ambitious, and even becoming obscure as more artists are reluctant to invest in more than an ep with today's diminishing record sales.Swallow the Sun is taking a step in an even bolder direction by putting out a triple album. The three albums offer a wide range of tastes into the varied sub-genres doom touches upon, even mellowing out into a more prog direction. These albums take commitment to make it through all three, but fans will eat up every ounce of melancholy extravagance. Many of the songs drew me in, even though a triple album with 12 minute songs is a little much and much like "Use Your Illusion" albums could have been condensed into one killer album.

9-With the Dead: s/t

 The rule of thumb seems to be that super-groups sound better on paper ;than what the reality turns out to be. From the first song of With the Dead's self titled album this is not the case. Lee Dorian of Cathedral teams up with some of the guys from Electric Wizard to sludge out some oppressive fuzz dripped in darkness. The effects slathered on Dorian's voice are a good choice to keep this from sounding like Cathedral.These guys are all about the power, but leave a little room for the more subtle melody of the solos to warble over their pound. Very impressive, with high hopes for more.

8-Bell Witch : "Four Phantoms"

 This album really had to battle it out with number seven and while this is more of an overwhelming piece of work, the twenty minute songs made it hard for me to get multiple listens or really desire to commit myself to them, even though I like what is going on here. The growth and new ground broken is undeniable. This is a beautiful album , I wish some of the songwriting could have gotten to the point, the same thing could have been conveyed at times in ten minutes, as the passages that droned on the same theme for so long it would have been better served abbreviated. The doom genre can stand at a tricky spot bordering on stagnation if they allow drone to over compensate for lack of songwriting. While it is not the case for this album, it makes me wonder if the band felt obligated to draw out certain passages so they would not be seen as any less relevant.

7- Domovoyd: s/t

 The drugs blur the lines in this album which is often dark and apocalyptic in it's looming power. The guitars are very sonic, but not obligated to always go over board on overdrive. Riding the line at times into stoner rock it's the apocalyptic nature to these spiraling jams that leans them more toward doom. One of the most unique albums on this list that defies being stuck neatly into a box.

6- Khemmis: "Absolution"

 The appearance of harsh vocals on this one help keep the Pallbearer comparison from being a distraction. They have their own personality that is show when The guitarists pull out some sweeping shredding or in the choices the lead singer makes when it comes to melodies. These guys have chops and with more listens it's easier to hear where they stand on their own two feet.This was crafted with a ton of heart and rocks with the power of classic metal.

5-Hooded Menace: "Darkness Drips Forth"

 2015 might not go down as the year that doom broke big, but these e Finnish Doom merchants come on strong.  This very deathly brand of doom finds their riffs weeping in blood . Speaking of weep most bands would bore you to tears to with a twelve minute opener , but these guys keep you in the moment . The tempo picks up from time to time, but doesn't lose the grasp of darkness by going into a stoner rock boogie. The vocals are a low gurgle and the guitars maintain just enough chug to keep you confused as to if this is funereal doom or not.This album is solid, long winded songs generally do not drag and keep your attention. These guys have established themselves along side like likes of Evoken and Pallbearer with this one as they have gone above and beyond by putting a great deal of thought into these songs by not just  satisfied with being heavy.

4-King Woman-"Wrong"

 Dark and droning,this blues drenched doom forsakes rock n roll to become more hypnotic.In fact it often finds it self having just as much in common with shoe gaze as it does doom, the lines get blurred in the most delicious manner.There is that depressive mourning quality to the music. The guitar sobs with it.The distortion is thick, but in the same way it's thick for a band like Hum. The deliberate delay of the drums doesn't prolong the pregnant pauses , but keeps the songs moving.The thundering drums keep the sunshine out when the pace picks up. It's pretty refreshing to have a doom album where all of the songs are not over ten minutes long.Every thing is very concise and to the point, but uses the time wisely to take you on a journey.

3- My Dying Bride : " Feel the Misery"

 Though the band's sound has been evolving ever since their formation in 1990, it is not until the distinct voice of singer Aaron Stainthorpe comes in you would not guess the first song is My Dying Bride until it slows down at the two and half minute mark. At first the violin's initial role is toned down but when it comes in the sound is unmistakably My Dying Bride. When growled vocals roar in they find themselves laid atop a much more up beat metal gallop than what they band ever churned out in their hey day. It does eventually slow down into the more mournful sound that My Dying Bride is known for. In their press release the word epic is used to describe their sound and as cliche as that term might be in metal,  it describes the more regal dynamic this album oozes. The production plays a huge role in this so does the shifting of genre lines as They go from straight forward metal so some almost post- rock with the clean guitar.Overall despite the changes and more in you face metal moments this album excels pretty much every step of the way. If you are a fan of the band you will have little trouble embracing this along with the rest of the catalogue in fact it's a vast improvement over the odds and ends they tossed to us with the "Anti-Dulivian Chronicles".

2-Slow Death : "Ark"

 This might be the most under-rated album of the year.This Mandy Andresen from Murkrat and Crone lights up the first song with her vocals, she is followed up with dueling growls, both gurgled lows, that are the post-humus performance of Gregg Willaimson who died before the album's release. Pallbearer's Brett Campbell contributes guitar to this album. Sure it is common for doom to often feel like a classical composition and the dense drone drags from one song to the next often seamlessly. Mandy vocals work similarly as Campbell's do in Pallbearer soar over the grim rumbling.She is constantly showing different facets to her singing , like some moments on the last Pallbearer this song explores at time that place where shoe gaze and doom meet. The solo on this song is pretty impressive and that sort of thing while I like to hear the band has chops doesn't normally make me sit back and say "Damn, that shit was on fire." This is what I want more of in my life. Without question this is a 10, not a dull moment, the long songs don't seem long because I am engaged in it.

1- Shape of Despair :"Monotony Fields"

 this Finnish band has taken the past fifteen years to perfect their very melodic and atmospheric brand of doom . The vocals range from are a low gurgle, to female oohs and aahs stacked like Type O Negative in the background. The stay on a depressing path through out. The oppressive feeling is almost tangible. The band is aware they have been notorious for putting long spans of time between releases, so everything is right where it should be with every nuance dialed in, so it was not time wasted. It might not dig as deep and dark of a grave as other funeral doom bands , but the songs are masterfully varied and dynamic to create an awesome album.

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