80. ‘Surface Noise’ by Judiciary
Lubbock, TX….Thrash Metal leaning Hardcore
Among scenes of the moment, the Texas thrash universe has big-banged a number of chugging planets over the past few years, or at least popularized them in Power Trip’s wake. Similar to that Dallas standby, Judiciary operates a crank-engine riff machine without need for the noodling of yesteryear’s genre icons. The album cover tells the story: imagery more directly political than that of Metallica, and more violent than that of Megadeth. And yet Slayer it is not; while that band too jumped from the hardcore scene, groups like Judiciary and Enslaved have maintained a more tangible string to those punk roots, if they ever really left.
79. ‘Terminal Redux’ by Vektor
Philadelphia, PA….Thrash Metal leaning Prog Rock
The inspiration for Metallica’s self-titled (“Black”) album allegedly came when the band decided that playing ever-more progressive thrash tracks on the …And Justice For All tour was more technically-challenging and, as a result, less fun. It’s a reasonable enough argument, but one that a never-ending stream of progressive thrash and death metal bands continue to defy. Vektor admittedly split soon after touring in support of Terminal Redux, which may lend credence to Metallica’s theory. The album progresses like a Justice approach to Rush’s 2112 storyline, which should offer a sharp reference point to the glorious demand of the thing.
78. ‘Iron Scorn’ by Legion of Andromeda
Tokyo, Japan….Death Metal leaning Drone Rock
I recently read a worthwhile summary of drone rock as “maximal repetition, minimal deviation.” Tokyo’s Legion of Andromeda certainly qualifies, plodding ahead with crushing riffage for seven minutes at at time, kept in order by consistent blast beats and cymbals, certainly with no deviation into such maximalist songwriting as a verse-chorus-verse setup. Structurally streamlined, societal deviation comes in heavy doses from the band’s sheer existence, a death march demanding patience even beyond that of traditional death metal fans, among the most deviant already. A soundtrack for meditating on dire topics.
77. ‘Eparistera Daimones’ by Triptykon
Zürich, Switzerland….Old-School Death Metal leaning Heavy
The debut album from the new act of Thomas Gabriel Fischer — Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and, heck, even his industrial project Apollyon Sun wasn’t bad — surprised no one when it absolutely crushed. For one, Fischer’s most enduring band, Frost, had just pulled apart in a less-than-concordant manner. The emphasis on “just” left Fischer plenty of reason to take that band’s baton and keep running with it, pushing the emotional dial toward its most angry music, and keeping it there. The lineup changed, and Fischer’s iconic role as frontman and songwriter remained. Heaviness and hellfire mark the first great metal album of the ’10s.
76. ‘Cosmic Crypt’ by Mammoth Grinder
Austin, Texas….Death Metal leaning Hardcore
Fortunately I didn’t know the backstory to Mammoth Grinder before I both saw its debut LP cover and heard its ridiculous band name; from those alone you could anticipate the exact sound that would pour forth from the Cosmic Crypt and still not be disappointed at all. The backstory will procure the same reaction, an assemblage of members from Power Trip and Darkest Hour…the former’s hardcore-driven approach to thrash metal has suddenly been covered by an otherworldly shadow rolling across the Texas scrub, clouding it in distortion and in the process producing a death metal vocalist to match the mood.
75. ‘Caligula’ by Lingua Ignota
Chicago, Illinois….Noise leaning Black Metal
Simultaneously among both the easiest and toughest listens to be found on this list; while Kristin Hayter’s operatic vocals and arrangements for this concept album can be quite pretty, even beyond the gothic, both can be equally dissonant and cruel. More cruel, and what ultimately makes this a punishing piece, is the domestic abuse-driven narrative of the concept, a plot made more uncomfortable by its basis in fact. Hayter (the sole member of Lingua Ignota) rolls back and forth between hatred for both her tormentor and herself, pulling the music along with her. The only thing lacking in this feature is sympathy, except our own.
74. ‘The Children of The Night’ by Tribulation
Arvika, Sweden….Heavy Metal leaning Black
Count me among the last to jump onboard the Tribulation bandwagon…actually, don’t even take it that far. Count me among the last to jump onboard this album’s bandwagon. I long questioned the band’s sincerity…not to the same degree that I might question Kanye West wearing a Cradle of Filth tee, but I had known about Ghost B.C. for long enough to be wary. How long before Pitchfork‘s beloved Tribulation would be bringing its corpsepaint to arenas and leading our children away from the darkness? I’m still leery, but I’ve come around enough to acknowledge the sincere gothic pleasures of the band’s breakthrough album.
73. ‘Restarter’ by Torche
Miami, Florida….Sludge Metal leaning Hard Rock
Torche has kept the flame burning for long enough but that fire has changed colors a number of times, with attitudes and approaches leaving fans of the heavier stuff curious whether the group aimed to be an accessible metal act, a less-accessible hard rock act, or an unfortunate comedy-rock hybrid that would never quite reach Clutch’s popularity. The question remains unanswered to this day. The 2015 LP Restarter offered hope for fans of both option A and option B (we don’t particularly have a preference, so long as it leaves a good taste in our ears), with the sound ranging from some of the band’s heaviest hitters to shoegaze hums..
72. ‘Then It All Came Down’ by Wrekmeister Harmonies
Chicago, Illinois….Chamber Music leaning Doom
J.R. Robinson behaves like an experimental composer so there is no reason why he shouldn’t be treated like one. Michael Gira certainly comes up with some ambitious compositions, but nothing requiring a fleet of 20 musicians, which might be the median for Robinson’s work under the Wrekmeister Harmonies moniker. Among those “voices” joining the chorus are fellow Chicagoans Wrest — the driving force behind Leviathan — and Indian, a more doom-centric outfit. These names must wait their turn, however, as this singular piece requires building up before Robinson’s expected metal gangbusters can tear it down, resolving an extended chord in minor key.
71. ‘Anareta’ by Horrendous
Philadelphia, PA….Death Metal leaning, ever-so-slightly, Prog
Looking back at the previous three Horrendous LPs, the three that best represent the band’s current direction, a theme emerges: humanoid forms, either being torn apart or rearranged in slightly disfigured humanoid manner. That humanoid may be the band’s old-fashioned death metal roots, pushed in ever-more progressive forms as the aforementioned albums emerged. Anareta sits as the happiest medium between them; at points an HM-2 pedal away from being Americanized Swedish death metal but the ribs of that body are swelling just uncomfortably enough with bigger ideas, both compositionally and lyrically.
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