Eye of the Soundscape

Released:  October 21, 2016

Tracklist:

CD 1

  1. Where the River Flows
  2. Shine
  3. Rapid Eye Movement (2016 mix)
  4. Night Session Part 1
  5. Night Session Part 2

CD 2

  1. Sleepwalkers
  2. Rainbow Trip (2016 mix)
  3. Heavenland
  4. Return
  5. Aether
  6. Machines
  7. Promise
  8. Eye of the Soundscape

(Triple vinyl tracklist is in a somewhat different order)

When I first discovered Riverside, I really had no idea what I was getting into.  I was astonished: this music grabbed me in a way none ever had before — emotionally, intellectually, even physically – I listened in an enraptured transcendence that never seemed to fade.  A friend of mine likes to say: “The music of your life will find you”, and it was only with the discovery of Riverside and Lunatic Soul that I truly understood what he meant.  I’d listened to and loved a lot of music and artists over the decades, but nothing like this.

I eventually realized that I had also become part of an extended family, that there was a real connection – something I had never experienced before – between the band and their fans, and the fans with each other.  We shared anticipation, accolades, joy, and alas, the tragedies.  In this year especially that connection became manifest, where we came together, sharing our shock, our loss, our memories.  The line between the band and the fans blurred in the tears.

I discovered the experimental side of the band early on with the REM bonus material, and those tracks became among my favourites from that album. Fast-forward to the release of Shrine of New Generation Slaves and the spectacular “Night Sessions” bonus tracks: surely here was a direction that the guys should explore — in fact it would almost be criminal if they didn’t. Of course, the “Day Sessions” tracks just reinforced this. Piotr Grudziński was openly eager to do a dedicated ambient experimental project; his excitement was palpable.  And then, it became a reality.  The guys – at least Piotr, Mariusz Duda and Michał Łapaj — headed into the studio to make this special album, this anticipated addendum to the Riverside discography.  Good news indeed.

recording

Then…early in 2016 came that devastating blow to band and fans alike; and instead of being a celebratory exploration of a beloved genre of music, the project became a memorial.  A poignant tribute to an unfinished journey, a legacy of love and loss.

Continue reading Eye of the Soundscape

Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Released September 4th 2015

Tracklist

CD 1

  1. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)
  2. Under the Pillow
  3. #Addicted
  4. Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
  5. Saturate Me
  6. Afloat
  7. Discard Your Fear
  8. Towards the Blue Horizon
  9. Time Travellers
  10. Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)

CD 2 Bonus “Day Sessions”

Tracklist

  1. Heavenland
  2. Return
  3. Aether
  4. Machines
  5. Promise

It was about a year ago as of this writing that Riverside’s sixth album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine was released, with all the usual hype from the band, and excitement and anticipation amongst the fans near and far…and oh, I was going to review the shit right out of it.  I had the keyboard all polished and ready to go, headphones warmed up, I’d heard a couple of the songs on Youtube that had been played live at summer festivals…it sounded so hopeful.

Well…I listened to it and listened to it.  There were days when I loved it to death, and days when I couldn’t figure the damned thing out.  It was both a Riverside album and not a Riverside album.  It was marvelous to hear, and yet at the same time strangely off-kilter.  It should be a well-known fact by now that Riverside refuses to remain stylistically static – but LFatTM went even beyond that.  The album was written by Mariusz Duda during and after a series of events that influenced its flavour and direction, and his persona is more deeply embedded in this album than in any that have come before. It hangs like an obscuring veil over the presence of the other guys in the band. In fact, this is the first Riverside album on which Riverside the band received no writing credits at all.

My review, at least something sensible and coherent, never appeared.  I simply couldn’t figure out what to say.

Now, whatever the roadblocks were to writing … they might still pertain in some ways, but their importance is diminished.  Love, Fear and the Time Machine, due to an event after its release that no-one could even imagine, let alone foresee, is for all intents and purposes the last Riverside album.  There may well be other albums by a Polish band with that name, but with the death of Piotr Grudziński the old Riverside is gone forever.

So this is what I will say.

Continue reading Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Blowing The Dust Off: Scatterlings

Welcome to the third in an occasional series of reviews of albums in my collection that need revisiting.  Most of these are older albums, or obscure albums, or both…at any rate, a little attention never hurt.  Maybe you will find something interesting.

Juluka: Scatterlings

Released 1982

Personnel:

Johnny Clegg: Vocals, guitar, umhupe mouth-bow

Sipho Mchunu: Vocals, guitar, concertina

Gary Van Zyl: Bass, percussion, vocals

Zola Mtiya: Drums, percussion, vocals

Scorpion Madondo: Flute, vocals

Mike Faure: Saxophone

Mike Makhalemele: Saxophone

Glenda Millar: Keyboards and synthesizers

 

Tracklist

  1. Scatterlings of Africa
  2. Spirit is the Journey
  3. Umbaqanga Music
  4. Digging for Some Words
  5. Shake My Way
  6. Siyayilanda
  7. Kwela Man
  8. Simple Things
  9. iJwanasibeki
  10. Two Humans on the Run

 

The first time I ever heard Scatterlings I was stunned. It is easy enough to wax hyperbolic when we hear music that strikes our fancy, but in this case it is no exaggeration to say that this album was a revelation. The rhythms, the percussive sounds, the dominance of the acoustic guitars, and most of all the richly intricate Zulu language vocal harmonies were like nothing I had ever heard before.  At its core the music is infused with traditional South African sounds and styles, but nevertheless it is unmistakably modern, fully comprehensible and accessible.

When Johnny Clegg, musician and future anthropologist, was 16, he met the Zulu migrant worker Sipho Muchunu, who had come to Johannesburg to find work.  Clegg had already begun to immerse himself in the umbaqanga and kwela music that made up so much of South African street music, and in Zulu traditional dance.  He and Mchunu founded Juluka, a band of mixed white and black musicians, a subversive and risky move given the political context of South Africa at the time.  Despite the difficulties in finding venues to play in and radio stations that would air their music, they became a popular band and by the time Scatterlings, their fourth album, was released, they had garnered enough international attention to undertake a tour of Europe and North America.

Continue reading Blowing The Dust Off: Scatterlings

The Music of 2016: Mid-year Report

The State of the Music: Part One.

It’s halfway through 2016, so it is time for the semi-annual roundup of where we are.

It started out slowly, a couple of releases right off the bat from Shearwater and David Bowie, and then it seemed that there was little of interest in the immediate future.  However I can’t say that I was paying a whole lot of attention to the music scene anyway:  it’s been a tough year personally on a number of levels.  But when I started to think about music again, a few surprising things had snuck into my consciousness – albums in styles and genres that I would not necessarily have sought out on my own, but here they are.

Every year I can count on at least one act to show up that I’d never heard of and that blows me away, but this year there are several.  There are surprises, and there are disappointments.  Obviously the current rankings are tentative and entirely subject to change, but it is unlikely that an album currently sitting near the bottom will suddenly rocket to the top.  It is still a crapshoot though:  there are a couple of powerful contenders to come, and at least one anticipated release from a trio with no name, and whose sound is a complete mystery at the moment. Who knows what this list will look like at the end of the year?

Before we get into the list and mini-reviews, a quick glance at the albums I know are in the pipeline:

Upcoming:

  • Russian Circles – Guidance (August)
  • Seven Impale second album — September
  • Riverside electronica – looks like October
  • The as-yet unnamed Maciej Meller/Maciej Golyzniak/Mariusz Duda trio album (November)

Here we go: The contenders so far, in reverse order:

  1. Arcade Messiah – II

Complex and heavy instrumental progressive post-rock.  There is no doubting the musical chops of these guys, and there are some fine moments, but the album is perhaps a bit too self-important for its own good.

  1. Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

I’d like to like this better than I do, it is quite lovely and atmospheric, but to be perfectly honest the slow baroque-pop tends to get a little samey after a while, and the breathy vocal style wears.  The title track works so well because the male guest vocals effectively play off the soprano and provide density and interest.  And the last track is outstanding.

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar

Another album I am supposed to like more than I do.  It is not a bad album by any means, and the title track is a strange, compelling monster…but I feel that sentiment is not really a good reason to rank an album, and it is only sentiment that could boost this album higher than it is.

  1. The Vliets – I – IX

These guys generally do alternative psychedelic pop, but this album, digital only, is pure ambient electronica, composed as a sonic backdrop for some art installation.  It does work perfectly in that context too – excellent background music.  It would rank higher if it was longer.

https://vliets.bandcamp.com/track/iv

  1. Votum — :KTONIK:

The first or second time I heard this I was kind of excited, because it sounded so much more interesting than the previous album.  It is heavy prog metal but more metal than prog, and more than a few moments really caught me up…and then something happened.  The third and subsequent times I played it…it just sat there.  It lost its edge really quickly, and I find that except for a couple of tracks near the beginning, I so lose focus that I am surprised to discover that the album is over.  I barely notice it.

  1. Inspired – Music Inspired by Alchemy

There are some great, atmospheric instrumental pieces on this album, the third in an occasional series, but not enough of them.  And most of them are just too damned short.  See my review here.

  1. Airbag – Disconnected

I was so hoping that this band would step outside its lush, sweeping Floyd-channelling boundaries this time around, and extend their efforts … but alas, apparently they decided to play it safe.  So very very safe.  Disconnected sounds so much like the previous two albums that in my mind I have trouble disentangling the songs one album from the other.  It’s just more of the same.  They can do better than this.

  1. Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts

Another album that is not hitting me where it counts.  I was hoping for a return to heaviness, and there is some of that, but mostly they have turned to progressive metal with emphasis on the progressive.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for an album that goes for atmosphere over kick-ass, and an album in which I cannot sustain interest over its considerable length.

Except for “Serein”.  Which is jaw-droppingly amazing.

Continue reading The Music of 2016: Mid-year Report

Aftermath

The final truth

It used to be that “going home” – returning to my home town — was a fairly casual affair that didn’t take much planning.  Call a relative, say “We’re coming”, and someone would open their doors to us.  I went home to see my folks, to see the ocean, to trigger memories: streets and houses, sounds, smells; the wind and the marsh.

These last trips, however, were not about visiting.  They were about saying goodbye — winding up a life.  And with the end of that life, the thread that connected me directly to my place of birth, to the sweetest childhood memories (in a childhood that was in desperate need of them) was broken.

My father is gone, the last of my direct relatives, and the idea of going home has a new significance. Making the trip must be for a reason other than to visit the folks, because there are no more folks to visit.  It must be planned as if I was a tourist.  “Home” is not where family is; it is where family was.

In the wake of someone’s death, all the mundane, routine minutiae of a life suddenly loom large.  So much to be done all at once: cut off the newspapers, telephone, cable and internet, cell phone; switch the gas and electrical accounts over, stop the insurance policies…oh yeah, I’d better get to the post office before it closes to stop the mail! All that ammo upstairs that Syd didn’t take when he took the firearms must be delivered to the police.  But wait — okay, here is a loaded rifle under the couch cushions and a handgun hidden in a book. Um…!!

For all that, it strikes me that dying, well-known in a small town, is not a bad deal for your loved ones.  The paperwork was easy (relatively), people were accessible and eager to help.  Government issues were handled largely by the funeral home.  Only the customer-service representatives of the large nation-wide companies were a bit balky, but they are tied to scripts after all.  There might be some merit to all of this activity; one has little time to sit and mourn.  At least, during office hours.

Continue reading Aftermath

Music Inspired by Alchemy

Released: April 2016

 Personnel

Artur Szolc: drums and percussion

Robert Srzednicki: keyboards, guitars, programming

Kris Wawrzak: basses, wave drum, programming

 

Guests:

Mariusz Duda; Anja Orthodox; Anna “Anucha” Piotrowska; Katarzyna “Dyba” Dybowska; Daria Druzgala; Mariusz “Maniok” Kumala; Barbara Piotrowska; Agnieszka Sobolewska; Igor Szeligowski; Tomasz Chmielarz

 

Tracklist:

  1. Alexandria
  2. Hermes Trismegistos
  3. Albertus Magnus
  4. Nicolas Flamel
  5. Transmutation I
  6. Trithemius
  7. Agrippa von Nettesheim
  8. Transmutation II
  9. Faustus
  10. Alexander Seton
  11. Sendivogius
  12. Transmutation III
  13. John Dee
  14. Edward Kelley
  15. Transmutation IV
  16. The Philosopher’s Stone

Music Inspired by Alchemy is the third in what appears to be an occasional series of albums released by the members of the Polish prog outfit Annalist, but not, apparently, under that name.   In the liner notes they call themselves “Inspire”.  To be precise the first album, Music Inspired by Tarot (1998) involved only Artur Szolc; the second, Music Inspired by the Zodiac (2001) involved all of the guys.  Certain listeners will be familiar with Robert Szrednicki in his role as producer of Riverside and Lunatic Soul.  At any rate, Annalist and Inspire have the same lineup.

…Alchemy is an album of short, largely instrumental prog/ambient pieces, full of atmosphere and melody, with rich arrangements of synths, strings, guitars and percussion. Plenty of guests contribute everything from vocals to strings and horns; it is clearly related musically to the other two Inspired by… albums, but with more mature production values. Most of the track titles take the names of various historical (and perhaps not-so-historical) alchemists and occultists.

However (yeah you saw this coming, didn’t you?)…while it makes for pleasant listening, there is very little that is especially gripping about this album.  The standout tracks are clustered near the beginning:  “Alexandria” is a powerful opener with sweeping synths and orchestration, and a vaguely eastern rhythm and flavor, and the next two tracks manage to maintain the interest by being different enough but also very atmospheric.  Of course, one must give special mention to the three tracks on which Mariusz Duda provides vocals (not words, mind you): “Transmutation I”, “Faustus”, and “John Dee”.  His voice is a thing of such extraordinary beauty and emotion that it really can elevate even the most conventional piece above the ordinary.

Overall though, the album does not live up to the promise of these songs.  The tracks range from experimental ambient to almost conventionally poppy — and almost all of them are simply way too short.  That is the major problem with Inspired by Alchemy – instead of a sweep of emotion carrying the listener along through track after track, it comes across as more a compilation of movie or game soundtrack snippets than anything else (in fact, “Hermes Trismegistos” sounds like an outtake from the soundtrack of the movie Serenity).  The pieces are barely long enough for the ideas to really develop: as soon as something begins to sound interesting, it ends – only reinforced by the fact that “Edward Kelley”, one of the few long-ish tracks on the album, manages to sound like a full-fledged song.

This would make for good background music, but even then it doesn’t work completely: there are very nice moments, and ones bound to grab attention for a brief time, but overall it is just too disjointed-sounding—its brevity works against it. Given that this is the third effort in this series, it is strange that it strikes one almost as a freshman effort with the kinks still to be worked out.  However, it has also been more than a decade since Music Inspired by the Zodiac so maybe it’s like starting over, I don’t know.

7/10

They Go From Us Too Soon

Piotr Grudziński:  1975 – 2016

As of this writing, I have spent well over a week reading the flood of tributes, stories, and remembrances of Riverside’s guitarist, from everyone: those who knew him intimately, those who knew him casually, and those who knew him only through his music.  It is astonishing how thoroughly he has touched people’s hearts, what an impression he made simply by being himself.  I have not said anything substantial beyond shock and sadness, but I need to say goodbye now.

2016 started out as a year bound to go down in collective musical memory as a major suckfest, as one by one musical icons and beloved individuals left us…but for most of them, somehow it was not completely unexpected. Illness, age, lifestyle choices — we regret their loss, and mourn it, but at some level we know that it is inevitable.

This was not one of those times. Fate was not yet done with us.  On February 21st, with both middle fingers stuck high in the air, she dropped the biggest karmic Fuck You possible on the prog music scene: She took Piotr Grudziński.

There are people in this world whose kindness, generosity of spirit, whose sheer genuineness set them apart. They find a way into your heart just because of who they are.  I met Gru because of what he did for a living.  I am broken-hearted because of the man he was.

MD PG

Continue reading They Go From Us Too Soon

The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 6 – 1

 

The Music of 2015

2015 has been a wonderful year for new music, one of the best years in recent memory.  Almost all the new releases I checked out were worthwhile, even the ones that eventually didn’t make the cut. What’s more, most of the albums I found that had come out in previous years were also exceptional.  It is quite the opposite of last year when I had real trouble coming up with ten albums to talk about; this year the difficulty is deciding what to leave out.  That is why I have gone with a Top 15 of 2015.  Too much is just too good.

Some clear themes have emerged: this year’s music of preference seems to be either hard and heavy post-metal, post-punk, or sludge/doom metal; or beautifully sweeping songs, lush and melodic…there are few exceptions.  But pretty much all of it features lots of great powerful riffage, and real honouring of the song. Instrumental music makes up a significant portion of the albums I chose.  Established artists surprised by the shift in their direction, and new artists absolutely stomped into prominence.

This was also the year that the 1980s dominated: the influences from that decade are all over the damned place. Two bands active in the 80s that I hadn’t paid any attention to for years (or ever) blasted out of the past with monster releases. At least three other bands heavily reference 80s sounds (although technically one will not release their album until next year; at this point a single is available). Several decent live albums were released but only one snuck into the list. Live albums are generally not regarded as legitimate candidates for year-end lists, and the one that made it into mine was actually released in 2014, but fuck it, this is my list and I’ll include what I want.

 


 

And here we present my most beloved albums of the year — it was not easy to rank these last few; in fact, the Number 1 album did not arrive in the queue of possibilities until November, which is very late for consideration.  But such an album….anyway, see for yourself.

  1. Blindead: Live at Radio Gdańsk

I am cheating with this album. First, it is a live album and many people think that only studio releases should be considered for Album of the Year status.  Maybe they are right but in this case I don’t care.  Second, it isn’t a 2015 release at all, but came out the year before.  I just couldn’t lay hands on it until very late in 2014 so I am pretending it is a current album.  Sue me.

This is a great live album that presents impeccable versions of the last couple studio albums, along with several guest musicians including Piotr Grudziński of Riverside, playing guitar on the incandescent “A7bsence”.  This is a band that deserves way more attention than they get.

 

  1. Eschar: Nova

The first full length album from this UK-based prog metal outfit displays an astonishing level of maturity, an excellent follow-up to their first EP. Instrumental post-metal is a tricky genre – there are so many bands and they can all sound alike after a while, but Eschar have managed to avoid that trap with their thoughtful and sophisticated songwriting and intense playing.  This album has not disappointed; and coming in at No. 5 it has clearly kicked the ass of a whole lot of more established acts.  See my full review here.

https://eschar.bandcamp.com/track/discovery-one

  1. Klone: Here Comes the Sun

Another new discovery for me this year, a French band who have been around for about 16 years, and another band who seems to have made a shift in the nature of their sound with the current album, away from earlier harder-edged metal.  This is magnificently lush stuff, beautiful and sweeping and heartbreakingly melodic, played with intricate skill, a huge surprise to me.  “Nebulous” is the attention-grabber but almost all the tracks are superb.

 

  1. Riverside: Love, Fear and the Time Machine

I did so want this album in the No. 1 spot, because I am unapologetically in love with this band, but alas it was not to be.  Riverside’s sixth album follows the now-familiar trajectory of the last two in its uncompromising shift in style and direction, but this time there is something different. It is paradoxical. On an individual song-by-song basis it has moments of incomparable beauty, and at least one track that seems to be beyond transcendence…but the overall impression, the afterglow, as it were, when the last song ends, is almost like a musical coitus interruptus: a curious feeling of incompleteness. We know it is Riverside, there is no mistaking the characteristic sounds and nuanced richness of the guitars, drums, and organs…but the songs are more strongly bass-and-voice driven than ever before. And while Duda’s singing is more purely beautiful than anything he has ever done, there is a disconcerting lack of vocal diversity, an unusual absence of the playfulness of voice that Duda is noted for.  This leaves a strangely mono-tonal aftertaste when the album is done.  It seems very much like an album in limbo — not quite Riverside but not fully a Mariusz Duda effort either. One walks away from it vaguely dissatisfied.

 

  1. Sisters of…: The Serpent, the Angel, and the Adversary

This was the Album of the Year for me for most of the year, until a very late contender showed up.  But…this.  This album is something.  Sisters of… is a guitar/drum duo out of Missouri, and this is their first album, following up an EP from a couple years back that astonished almost everyone who heard it. The Serpent… is an absolute behemoth of an album.  Hard, relentless black instrumental post-metal that offers no mercy; listening to it is like clinging to the top of a runaway locomotive, loud and terrifying and yet exhilarating as hell, as long as you hold on for dear life.  Face-melting, heart-pounding, unstoppable.

 

  1. Killing Joke: Pylon

This album literally came out of nowhere, hitting my consciousness late in November.  Killing Joke are a band I have paid very little attention to – well, none at all, really — apart from “Love Like Blood”, a song which everybody knows, I knew nothing about them except, like Shriekback, they’d been around since at least the 1980s.  I followed a link someone posted to one of the tracks from the album and it grabbed my interest long enough for me to follow up – and boy am I glad I did.  I found the first couple or three listens a bit iffy, I couldn’t quite decide…and then Boom!  Like a ton of bricks.  This is just one monster of an album, industrial post-punk, compelling and addictive and heavy – sardonic, excoriating lyrics that deal with a bleak post-modern-age world: politics, the disconnectedness of virtual connection, wars and misery — everything I need.  Number One with a Bullet.

The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 15 to 7

The Music of 2015

2015 has been a wonderful year for new music, one of the best years in recent memory.  Almost all the new releases I checked out were worthwhile, even the ones that eventually didn’t make the cut. What’s more, most of the albums I found that had come out in previous years were also exceptional.  It is quite the opposite of last year when I had real trouble coming up with ten albums to talk about; this year the difficulty is deciding what to leave out.  That is why I have gone with a Top 15 of 2015.  Too much is just too good.

Some clear themes have emerged: this year’s music of preference seems to be either hard and heavy post-metal, post-punk, or sludge/doom metal; or beautifully sweeping songs, lush and melodic…there are few exceptions.  But pretty much all of it features lots of great powerful riffage, and real honouring of the song. Instrumental music makes up a significant portion of the albums I chose.  Established artists surprised by the shift in their direction, and new artists absolutely stomped into prominence.

This was also the year that the 1980s dominated: the influences from that decade are all over the damned place. Two bands active in the 80s that I hadn’t paid any attention to for years (or ever) blasted out of the past with monster releases. At least three other bands heavily reference 80s sounds (although technically one will not release their album until next year; at this point a single is available). Several decent live albums were released but only one snuck into the list. Live albums are generally not regarded as legitimate candidates for year-end lists, and the one that made it into mine was actually released in 2014, but fuck it, this is my list and I’ll include what I want.

So: onto the list, starting at Number 15 and working upward.

 

  1. Ghost: Meliora

Ghost are a band with a clever, well-formulated gimmick, and they are not unskilled, and Meliora is an album of nice poppy metal, nothing too straining, pleasant to listen to, but I do not understand why everyone seems to think this is a great album.  No, it is not “great”, it is well done but not exceptional by any means,  and there could be other contenders for the bottom spot that didn’t quite make it.  This is the kind of album I play when I do not want to pay too much attention to what I am listening to: it has to have some merits in terms of good song structure and decent melodies, but not too demanding of one’s attention.  Meliora fits.

 

  1. The Fierce and the Dead: Magnet

I do admire Matt Stevens; he is a dedicated guitarist and untiring in his self-promotion, which one must be in this day of DIY musicianship.  However I tend to prefer his band project, The Fierce and the Dead, over his solo efforts. Magnet is a brief EP that came out this year showcasing their eclectic style, hard-rocking somewhat freeform math/post-rock.

 

  1. Steven Wilson: Hand Cannot Erase

I write this as I am listening to Insurgentes, Wilson’s first solo album.  The differences between these two albums, the first, and his fourth, could not be more stark. Insurgentes is superb; but I find that listening to H.C.E is an exercise in sheer determination to get through it; it must be done though because it is, you know, Steven Wilson and he is god (or something).  Naturally, the album is superbly executed with exceptional performances by the musicians, beautiful melodies, and is at times almost poppy (a welcome shift away from the jazz influences of the last two albums) — and while it is clearly meant to grab at the heartstrings I find it so obviously manipulative that it just leaves me cold.  But you can read my (rather generous) review here.

Continue reading The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 15 to 7

The Top 25 Songs of 2015: Part III

7. “The Serpent” by Sisters of…: Album The Serpent, the Angel, and the Adversary

We have reached the part of the list  where the order of the top tracks almost doesn’t matter; at this point they are *all* monster, heavy-rotation superstars. So it is apropos to begin with a beast of a track from an insanely heavy album;  it also illustrates the kind of stuff I have lately found to be what greases my wheels most — blistering full-on prog/black/metal/post-metal…man when that is done right, it just doesn’t get much better. And these guys do it right.

 

 

6. “YANA” by Dead Letter Circus: Album Aesthesis

The album is a bit inconsistent, for some reason Dead Letter Circus have trouble living up to their enormous potential.  But this  soaring alt/post-punk track never fails to give me chills. Just one of those songs I inexplicably love.

 

 

5. “Oko” by Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster: Album Wires/Dream\Wires

An absolutely epic track from a long-anticipated album; these guys can pull off some of the best, heaviest, most thoughtful instrumental post-metal out there, and this is just a taste of what they can do.

 

4. “Planck Length” by Au4: Album And Down Comes the Sky… (2013 release)

The album this song is from came out in 2013, but I only discovered it this year. And it is an absolute *killer* of an album, it is by far the best thing I heard this year and then some, it really is my album of the year, except I can’t make it official.
It is hard to pull a favourite track from it, I could have listed four or five, but this one snuck up on me.  Industrial trip-hop about physics — and really, any song that can use “One point six times ten to the negative thirty-five” as a lyric, and make it work  — well, that’s some awesome songwriting right there.

 

 

3. “Annabelle” by Sisters of…: Album The Serpent, The Angel, and the Adversary

Another track from one of the best most intense albums I have heard this year. “The Serpent” was face-melting in intensity…and somehow “Annabelle” manages to take it up a couple of skull-cracking notches from there. This is the kind of stuff that eviction notices are made of.

 

2. “Everyone is Everyone (and Everything is Everything)” by Au4: Album And Down Comes the Sky… (2013 release)

Yes, this album is so extraordinary it supplied two songs in the top 5 of 25. Believe me, if there were songs from 2015 as good, I’d stick ’em here. But there aren’t…or at any rate, since the album can’t qualify for Album of the Year I’m going to promote it this way. You can find my review of the album here:

I cannot get enough of this track.

 

 

1.  “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire” by Riverside: Album Love, Fear and the Time Machine

The album might not be their best, but this song…!! I really cannot stop listening to it; there are days when I think it just might be the greatest song Riverside ever created. Everything comes together in this track for me: the great martial rhythm compliments of Piotr Kozieradski’s drumming; Piotr Grudziński’s beautiful and nuanced guitar themes, the organ, the bass lines, the words, the singing…man it just hits every sweet spot, it digs deep into my soul where transcendence lies. It goes beyond mere words.