I feel a little strange about trying to rank a Dillinger Escape Plan album against other records that came out in a year because of how fully DEP exists in their own sonic pocket. Option Paralysis was my favorite album of theirs after (obviously) Calculating Infinity, so I came at this with high expectations that were not even remotely dashed. “Prancer” and “When I Lost My Bet” provide the most brilliantly disorienting one-two punch of the year, and the title track and “Nothing’s Funny” are among Greg Puciato’s greatest vocal performances yet. Most importantly, a new heaviness is beginning to develop, as “Understanding Decay” and the brutal “Crossburner” suggest that guitarist and band architect Ben Weinman is still evolving as a musician even after thoroughly shattering the mold so many years ago. As much as I wanted a gut-checking curveball like Option’s “Widower,” this is arguably a more solid record front-to-back.
Kvelertak’s much-anticipated second album and first for Roadrunner saw the Norwegian black n’ roll act coming more fully into its own. While it’s not quite the 2×4 to the face that the debut was, it’s a much more diverse record, big on winning guitar melodies and a few somewhat spacier change-ups to augment the band’s downhill sprinting thrill. Kvelertak’s party-happy energy still translates on this record, and though some of the more epic moments lose me a bit, it’s to their credit that “Bruane Brenn,” “Manelyst” and, of course, “Kvelertak” are among their clearest, riffiest statements of purpose yet.
This was actually a great year for thrash – Death Angel, Havok and Noisem all made badass records that I spent a good bit of time with, and obviously Skeletonwitch and Ramming Speed threw in killer twists on the genre – but Dallas-based Power Trip’s debut full-length Manifest Decimation is so ridiculously intense that it’s liable to leave scars. Channeling a sense of manic presence worthy of classic Vio-Lence with the right touches of crossover hardcore edge, one monster riff careens into another under Riley Gale’s demented shouts throughout its perfectly paced 34-minutes-and-change. Sure it’s a little one-dimensional, but that actually works in its favor, as the hooks are shockingly memorable and the late 80s-channeling production adds atmosphere while still being beefy and savage as all hell. The important thing with thrash this direct is the sheer threat it imposes by simply existing, and that’s why I really love this band: Power Trip is the only act I heard this year that felt physically threatening, and that’s a hard feat to pull off given how far extreme metal has come since thrash’s heyday. This album is not going to change the world, but it’ll gladly burn down your house.