5) Ihsahn, Arktis. (Candlelight Records)
I never know exactly what to expect from an Ihsahn record except that it’s a.) probably going to have terrible album artwork, b.) that I’m going to be left scratching my head for the first few spins trying to make sense of things, and finally c.) that I’m eventually going to be blown away by the offering. Arktis. is, in a way, the culmination of his past five albums. There’s so much that is familiar, but the record is still full of surprises – and to me, that’s the difference between experimentation and true artistry. It’s unnerving, it’s beautiful, and could’ve only come from one place.
4) Astronoid – Air (Blood Music)
It’s invigorating, exhilarating, and uplifting. I’ve played the hell out of this record, so it must be love. Not to mention, it’s a super easy listen because Air’s 50 minutes only feel like 20, so it’s easy to hit the repeat. Again. And again.
3) Deftones, Gore (Reprise Records)
Despite the hullabaloo about certain band members not being “interested,” this is the band’s most complete release this decade. They’re still bringing new ideas to the table (“Doomed User” has the raunchiest riff in band history), the grooves are as weird and catchy as ever, the samples and electronics are the best they’ve ever been, and in doing such they’ve struck the perfect balance of beauty and beast. This would be an AOTY contender just about any other year.
2) Vektor, Terminal Redux (Earache)
Black Future and Outer Isolation both made me lose my mind. They changed the way I view thrash. Those records alone pretty much eliminate any need to listen to any of the big four ever again. Vektor makes those guys sound older than they do each time they put out a new record (ouch!). Somehow, some way, Terminal Redux has taken the band to some other dimension of thrash. This is faster, more technical, and more progressive than their previous efforts, as if that was even somehow possible. If that wasn’t enough, the improved production and melodic threads make this a classic.
1) Cobalt, Slow Forever
This was my most highly anticipated release since Erik Wunder announced work was being made on a new album, and that got ramped up even further when I heard about the addition of Charlie Fell. Simply put, it lives up to every ridiculous expectation I could’ve made. Fell exceeds the voracity and utter repulsivity of previous vocalist Phil McSorley, he’s a perfect fit. Wunder has an innate ability to write the rawest-sounding and aggressive songs without resorting to recording 30-second grind songs in a shitty basement somewhere. He understands dynamics and structure, and he knows how to tap into whatever sort of magic that is that makes this record sound like the unpredictability of a dog bite. It is nothing short of spectacular, in a vicious and primal sort of way, using the darkest and grimiest aspects of everything from country, punk, alternative metal, sludge, you name it, it’s in there. This is all-encompassing and disgustingly sinister headfuckery.