For those not familiar with how we do things here at Metal Trenches, we split the up the year and provide a Top 10 for each of our 3 categories. This list is focused on the releases from the second half of this year that I found the most enjoyable, regardless of originality or musicianship. Those other two factors did play into the ranking, but mostly these were the albums that I listened to the most and had a hard time pulling out of my queue. Don't miss our other lists on Musicianship and Innovation. Find lists for the first half of the year HERE, and LISTEN about those favorites HERE. Also SUBSCRIBE to our podcast for audio via YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, or Buzzsprout.
PODCAST EPISODE. An intensely infectious album from Dutch, female-fronted melodic death metal band For I Am King via Redfield Records. Straddling the line between Arch Enemy and As I Lay Dying, this band brings intensely catchy hooks and seriously vicous vocals. From the unhinged, always harsh growls to the early 00's-inspired guitar leads; For I Am King is a well-oiled machine that transcend the sum of its parts. The riffs and dueling guitar solos bring to mind so many classics: Wages Of Sin, This Darkened Heart, Damage Done, An Ocean Between Us, Reroute To Remain, Undoing Ruin... the list goes on. Prepare yourself for some serious shredding from the dark and heavy to the profoundly uplifting. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Arch Enemy, Darkest Hour, Bloodhunter
Pummeling, atmospheric death metal out of Idaho via Profound Lore Records. Infernal Coil has made a strong impression with their first two EP’s, delivering an onslaught of hellish vocals and riffs that took equal amounts of influence from death metal, black metal, and grindcore. For their debut full length Within A World Forgotten, the group has taken all of the elements from their previous material and taken them to completely new heights The band makes an immediate impression with blasting that feels like it’s going to cave your skull in during the first thirty seconds. Underneath the sheer wall of sound, bleaker, murkier guitar leads channel oldschool death metal influence, as well as some well-timed breaks that give just enough time to pause and reflect on the aftermath of the destruction. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Adversarial, Vermin Womb, Altarage
German sludge/blackened punk duo Mantar deliver arguably their best album to date with their latest outing via Nuclear Blast. Despite their simplistic, stripped back sound, the music of Mantar is a little difficult to classify. The riffs are a mixture of rock, sludge, and punk (even some Queens of the Stone Age vibes at times); but the vocals have kind of a death and roll vibe with some black metal touches. Regardless of which box you try to put them in, I think that The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze is their finest work to date. EVERY track is a winner. FULL REVIEW. FFO: High On Fire, Red Fang, Deathrite
Philly-based proggy death metal machine Horrendous continue their hostile takeover of the genre with new album Idol via Season Of Mist. there is no question that this band is pushing themselves to the pinnacle of their art. With an absolute perfect union of old school and progressive death metal, Horrendous have easily topped all that has come before. Compositions not only express an increased complexity, but also a strange catchiness. These songs really know how to get their insidious tentacles around you. Gruff, Death-inspired vocals are expertly offset by rewarding hooks on par with the likes of Obscura and Alkaloid; and the additional inclusion of scattered clean singing leads to some truly haunting moments as with closer "Obolus." FULL REVIEW. FFO: Death, Sarpanitum, Ur Draugr
Boston mathcore/grindcore band Mouthbreather follow up their Pig EP with the arguably even more destructive Dollmeat. Maybe I'm just a sucker for panic chords, but I can't get enough of Mouthbreather. I stated in my review of Pig that this band "holds absolutley nothing back," and this is no less true with Dollmeat. The instrumentation continues its carnage with focused, targeted chaos, and the vocals haven't lost any of their larynx-shredding rebellion. Furthermore, I don't hesitate in saying that this album is a stronger outing than its predecessor. Whereas I found myself favoring their debut's first half, Dollmeat more evenly and consistently distributes its strengths. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Helpless, Full of Hell, Knocked Loose
Punishing, uncompromising metallic hardcore from Pennsylvania's Jesus Piece via Southern Lord. Only Self is pure punishment; enough so to turn the most cowardly weakling into a chiseled masochist. To quote one of my favorite films, "A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood." Just replace "came to Fight Club" with "listened to Jesus Piece" and "a few weeks" with "35 minutes." What more can I say? The riffs are crushing, the vocals intense as they come, and the drums absolutely pulverizing. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Harms Way, Vein, Code Orange.
Progressive rock/metal act Coheed and Cambria return to their conceptual roots with the sprawling, 78 minute Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures. When it comes to bands I've been listening to for nearly 2 decades, I've come to accept that most of them will never fully recapture the sound and feeling that came with their first few outings. Apparently Coheed didn't get the memo. Without trying to overhype, The Unheavenly Creatures has a very similar vibe to that of the Good Apollo albums. It's got that same perfect mixture of impressive technicality, catchy vocals, and broad dynamics that made their early work so inviting. Furthermore, I'm actually getting a little choked up with the same emotions that delighted me all the way back in 2005. Stream on YouTube and Spotify. FULL REVIEW.
Massachusetts metallic hardcore band Vein drop one of the harshest albums of the year with errorzone via Closed Casket Activities. Fuuuuuuuu#%. This album is hella intense and sure to be listed among the best hardcore outings of the year. Vein are nothing short of obliteration personified. This is the sound of a mass extinction event. Taking cues from the likes of Code Orange and Knocked Loose, these guys bring steep competition to the game. errorzone is consistent AF with 11 tracks that will knock your goddam teeth out. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Code Orange, Jesus Piece, Harms Way
PODCAST EPISODE. Inspired by the literal death and burial rituals of cultures around the world, Infernal Vlad (Cult Of Fire) returns with part II from his melodic black and death metal project, Death Karma,via Beyond Eyes Productions. Ritualistic, chanted vocals, infectiously expressive guitar riffs, and a handful of regional instruments make for an experience that truly feels like globe-spanning morbid tourism. Vlad manages to capture the essence of each country with such humble reverence; and it's nothing short of inspiring. I feel like I learned more from listening to this album than in all of my Sociology classes combined. It's just so damn immersive, and the perfect compliment to part I. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Cult Of Fire, Schammasch, Mgla
The latest slammer from metallic hardcore/mathcore underground darlings Frontierer out of Scotland, UK. Unloved is a glorious downpour of industrialized hardcore noise and dizzying mathcore song structures. It sounds like someone uploaded Will Haven's Carpe Diem and it got all glitched out in the process. The syncopated vocals and djenty riffs hit like repeated strikes to the face from a lead pipe. And even without the physical concussion, I am sure feeling the same sense of disorientation. I can't recommend this enough to those who like their hardcore fast, violent, and with a heaping dose of aggressive, electronic influences. The guitar tone is the stuff of android nightmares. "Riffs" sound more like videogame laser blasts. FULL REVIEW. FFO: Sectioned, Vein, Car Bomb