5. MASTODON – Hushed and Grim
Overall, a nicely groovy, proggier Mastodon album. It definitely has it’s blemishes, like the country westerny parts of “The Beast” that really bother me, but even that track is largely redeemable. Unfortunately, too much of Grim drags or sounds too domestic to really be special. I find myself skipping a lot of sections. You’ve got 15 tracks on there, and some of them aren’t good, or are half good. Do some editing. I feel like they are casting too wide of a net here, trying to appeal to people who aren’t me. The nerve. It’s good, overall, though.
Favorite Track: “Eyes of Serpents”
4. BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME – Colors II
I couldn’t have given this one much higher praise than I did in my review. If you want to know everything I think about it, read that. It’s a near perfect album, and a worthy sequal to Colors. That being said, I haven’t been in BTBAM mode for a minute, and I haven’t been listening to it enough to put it in the top 3. Very well realized, though.
Favorite Track: “Bad Habits”
3. ALLUVIAL – Sarcoma
This one was a nice surprise. Thanks, Luke Rager, for the tip. Sarcoma earns the third spot through sheer volume of plays. I listen to it A LOT. Awesome technical guitars, with some heavy djent, and some really cool interplay with different harsh vocals. Also, one of the best instrumental tracks I’ve heard in forever in “Sugar Paper.” Two parts All Shall Perish, one part Monuments. My only real gripe with the album is that the tone and subject matter are too caught up on rage/fighting/violence. It’s perhaps the angriest album I’ve ever heard (which is saying something) and the display of artistry from the musicians tells me they could widen that range dramatically. Maybe next time.
Favorite Track: “Sugar Paper”
2. GOJIRA – Fortitude
Always a contender, Gojira bring their unique style back in force. I do have a lot of issues with the album, but some of the tracks are too strong for Fortitude to not make a splash. My main gripe is that the first three tracks (which are all singles released way before the album) feel completely separate from the whole, and they kind of are. The real musical themes of the album start with track 4, and unfortunately, even though the concept is nice and the music good, I inevitably miss the punch of those first three tracks, which we never really get back. The three singles are the three best songs on the album, and they come right off the bat, ordered from strongest to weakest. “Born for One Thing” is the best, then “Amazonia,” then “Another World,” and then there’s just the rest of the songs. I guess they know how to pick singles, but the arrangement hurts the album as a whole, and I wish the rest held up. I’m reminded of “Silvera” and “The Cell” feeling kind of like an island on Magma. They’ve done it again. I want something as consistent as The Way of All Flesh, or at least, La Savage Infant.
Favorite Track – “Born for One Thing.”
1. LEPROUS – Aphelion
I didn’t want to pick this one. It’s the same way I felt about Pitfalls, and Malina before that. I didn’t want to love this album, because it’s full of synth and it’s not very heavy. I wanted Coal Leprous or at least Congregation Leprous back, but not only do I think they aren’t coming back, I’m not sure I need them to. I can’t stop listening to this album. Lots and lots of cello, which is basically a cheat code at this point. There are proggy verses and powerful choruses. Einar is undeniable. The guitars and drums are clean as always, but really engaging. I think “Castaway Angels” is one of their prettiest ballads, and “Nighttime Disguise” one of their proggiest tracks, and a fun way to end the album. There’s even a brief scream on that one! See, heavy, guys! Kinda. But it’s awesome, anyways. Really hard to pick a favorite track. Here goes.
Favorite Track: “Out of Here”
Alright, here’s my list:
5. Leprous – Aphelion
I pretty much agree with everything you said in your review. It’s in regular rotation for me and even though it isn’t the Leprous of you’re, they still got some dang catchy shiz going on.
4. 1914 – Where Fear and Weapons Meet
I just nerd out so hard over the historical references. It’s the same thing Amon Amarth does for viking battles but it’s WWI. Where else does one go for songs about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand but 1914? The music itself rips. The addition of orchestral elements this time around makes it epic as all hell. Vimy Ridge is my fave here.
3. Dvne – Etemen Ænka
No new album by The Ocean this year so this one fills the void. Excellent progressive sludge. A great album to just put on while you get down with the spice melange.
2. VOLA – Witness
Definitely the album I listened to most this year (according to Spotify Wrapped anyways). These dudes’s brand of prog metal is just so damn unique and catchy in all the right ways.
1. Archspire – Bleed the Future
Had this come out earlier in the year it would have been my most played record. It’s just so goddamn over the top in every way. Super technical but somehow still has hooks and you can still bang your head. Add to that the fact that Dean Lamb’s YouTube channel is solid gold and you’ve got a lock for AotY.
Horobable Mentions (in no particular order)
Mastodon, BTBAM, Gojira, Wheel, Rivers of Nihil, Scale the Summit, Alluvial
All of these bands put out albums with excellent music and many memorable moments but we’re either too long, too samey, too much filler, or too much silly wah bass and circus organ.
I see what you’re saying about the Mastodon. I really love the chorus, but it’s diluted with these atmospheric verses that don’t really commit to being atmospheric–so they just sound generic. I call this the Angels and Airwaves Effect, because it was the first time I saw a band do this, and because the effect, to me has always been as shitty as that Angels and Airwaves album. :vomit emoji: Looks like it’s becoming the trend, what with The Rivers of Nihil following suit. C’est la vie.
Of the samples you included, the only two that made we wanted to listen to more of the albums were the Alluvial and Gojira. Oddly, I found myself wanting more vocals in all of the samples, which is strange even to me, because 50% of the vocals in this subgenre are raw. But I think they provide a nice layer to the atmosphere, and I wanted it.
Leprous reminded me just a smidge of Pain of Salvation. Can’t put my finger on why. But that’s a good association.
Lastly, a jab. Kind of blew your wad, didn’t you? What with putting all five into one post, instead of breaking them up? 😉 That tells me you think you might disappear again for a few months. Don’t do that. 😛