Visigoth, The Revenant King (2015).
These metalheads have re-raised the fist of early eighties sword-and-sorcery metal! I could not be happier! They bring to mind Omen’s first album, early Manilla Road (who they cover on here righteously), and maybe a slight dash of Manowar. Jake’s voice is well suited to this type of metal. My favorite track on here is called “Dungeon Master,” which is a thinly veiled allusion to the person who sits behind the screen on weekend nights, creating fantasy worlds and adventures for a band of medieval heroes. It would be fabulous to roll the polyhedral dice with these fellows. This is certainly my favorite metal release of 2015.
This song goes out to my own dungeon master—my brother Overlord T-Bone (a.k.a. Terry Warrior).
Ghost, Meloria (2015).
What the fuck happened to this band? This and their previous album were so disappointing. Their first record is one of my top ten favorite metal albums of all time. This just sounds like a collection of pop songs to me. I think the genre (70s retro metal) is getting a little tired—this (and some efforts from other bands not mentioned here) are making me think this sound has run its course. Maybe I’m missing something (both from 70s retro metal in general and this release in particular), though. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Lucifer, Lucifer I (2015).
What the fuck? Hasn’t some other band taken the name Lucifer by now? I mean, come on! Allmusic tells me that this isn’t so, so I guess it belongs to this relatively new band. I don’t believe this. Someone had to be called Lucifer at some point in time! Finding a name like this has to be a great feeling for a band—a perfect metal band name that, for some reason, no one has touched before. Maybe there was some kind of metal groupthink that we’ve all experienced for the last several decades that caused us to save this name for these folks. Regardless, this is solid shit. Retro doom metal with super melodic vocals supplied by Johanna Sadonis (formerly of The Oath, which probably means nothing to anyone reading this). The tunes are well constructed. I dig this, despite the unclaimed/generic name. There had to have been an obscure NWOBHM band with this name.
Blyth Power, Women and Horses, Power and War (2015).
This band has been playing music for thirty years. Joseph Porter, the only constant member of the band, has kept it as consistent as possible over this time. This effort is just fine. Perhaps more background-musicky than I would like, but very pleasant. Perhaps this is what punk rock gone adult contemporary sounds like. I don’t care. It’s still good stuff.
Wooden Stake, A Feast of Virgin Souls (2015).
I put an album of theirs on last year’s list. Little has changed in their formula (black/doom metal). The songs are tighter, for sure, but they weren’t exactly sloppy before. Vanessa still trades off singing in her wonderful “clean” voice and the ultra-harsh goblin growls. I still prefer the former. If Vanessa sang rather than growled for the entirety of this album, it would be one of my favorites of the past few years, rather than something I can only listen to for a couple of songs at a time. The theme of the album is the very tired Countess Bathory story—beware. As you can tell, I am conflicted about this band.
Terrible Feelings, Shadows (2015).
I thought I was done with this band, but they came back strong with this effort. These Swedish punks still live in a world of dark melancholy, but this time they channel the alt-country/western influences into some solid rockin’ out, especially the nifty guitar leads (like in the first song “Cold Eyes”). Manuela’s voice is incredibly expressive. I still think that if this band was from the United States they would be huge here. My only complaint is that the label only put this out on vinyl and digital download. I wonder what the difference is in the environmental impact of vinyl, CDs, and digital music in the “cloud”? I wouldn’t be surprised if CDs came out looking better in this equation. To hell with it— we should all just play live music to entertain ourselves! And you don’t need a beer glass. Put your two hands together and you have the cup Mother Nature intended for you.
Red Dons, The Dead Hand of Tradition (2015).
I was pleasantly surprised by this record. I’ve heard their previous stuff and was not terribly moved by it, but they’re getting really good at what they do. Very solid punk rock with plenty of Naked Raygun-style whoa-oh singalong parts. After hearing this it did not surprise me at all that part of the band has relocated to Chicago. It’s a really good album, everyone! Go buy it!
The Stops, Nameless Faces (2015).
This is straightforward, interesting melodic punk rock delivered by an all-female band (why don’t we ever say a band is all-male? I will make a point of doing this in the future when appropriate) from PDX. There’s plenty of grit to go along with the melody. I’ve only had a chance to listen to this once, but I am sure I’ll be cranking this quite a bit in 2016.
Neighborhood Brats, Recovery (2014).
High-energy mid- to fast-tempo punk rock. There’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about this band’s sound, other than the fact that, in the history of humanity, no one else has combined musical notes and vocals in this particular arrangement before. I’m not selling this album very well, I realize. It’s good! Trust me! It’s damn hard to have a straightforward punk record in 2015 that sounds like no one else has ever sounded. Punk is almost forty years old! When you have three chords and two-minute song structures, there are only so many different ways to combine these in ways that both sound good and sound punk. I don’t mind. Do you?
No More Art, Sorrows of Youth (2014).
Unfortunately, this band is no longer among the living. This was an excellent parting statement, though. It is a fine rockin’ punk album with minimally distorted guitars, mostly sung (as opposed to shouted/growled) vocals courtesy of Milo, and mid-tempo melodic tunes. For you Portland people out there, it sort of reminds me of the Red Dons (taking it easy on the distortion pedal) with female vocals. This could be due to the fact that the bands shared guitarist Will Kinser (which is no longer the case). You could do worse, but you’d have a hard time doing better! It’s a great formula. Mostly the lyrics are personal—I much prefer overt political stuff with punk rock—but a) not every band needs to be a carbon copy of what I’d most prefer, and b) I’m old and somewhat wise enough to know that I should read between the lines with seemingly personal lyrics. Sometimes some deeper meaning is there. What about here? You be the judge, my friend.
TV Smith and Red Dons, A Vote for the Unknown / This City 7” (2014).
Two great songs with TV Smith on vocals backed by Red Dons (see above). TV Smith’s vocals are a raspy perfection on these tracks. Good to hear him with a talented band behind him. You can find this on the Red Dons’ Bandcamp site if you don’t want to buy the vinyl.
Crusades, The Sun Is Down and The Night Is Riding In (2011).
You like punk rock, friend? How about vocal harmonies, motherfucker? Perhaps anti-religious lyrics, dude? Here you go! Fuck yeah! I am all over this. This all-male band delivers the harmonies like Bad Religion at choir practice. I am blown away by this record. How did I only hear this a few days ago? I’m going to buy a t-shirt!
Kreator, all their post-2000 records (Violent Revolution, Enemy of God, Hordes of Chaos, Phantom Antichrist).
I’m not a big fan of thrash, but I love Kreator. These dudes get better with age. Their songs are as tight as a pair of spandex pants, which these guys would never wear. Mille’s vocals are better now than in their eighties glory years. This all-male band’s musicianship is wonderful. The lyrics are thoughtful, interesting, and often left-wing (from sort of a fuck-shit-up perspective). They’re warning us that barbarism is around the corner unless we get off our asses. Fuck Slayer. Kreator is the thrash band.
Running Wild, Under Jolly Roger (1987).
I have to tell this story. A few years ago I was in a meeting at my university about some very serious shit—probably about teaching or something. I don’t remember. I unwisely checked my email and saw that I had received something from SoDak. He and I email back and forth quite often. (Someone needs to collect, edit, and publish these, but that’s another subject.) He and I had been talking about Running Wild. In the email in question, he told me that, when the Under Jolly Roger album came out, he and friends teased another friend that “Under Jolly Roger” referred to sexual relations between the friend’s mother and father (the dad was named Roger). I misread this—I thought SoDak had told me that his friend was named Roger, and that the friend was sexing up his mom. Well, first I giggled. Then I chuckled. Then I couldn’t control it anymore. I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming from my eyes as I tried to hold it all together. I had to leave the meeting. Probably everyone thought I had heard some bad news or something. It took me ten full minutes to get control of myself. I didn’t go back to the meeting. Fuck meetings.
Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986).
Excellent. If I have to tell you the genre of this music, you are a dumbass. Or maybe you never learned any Latin, dumbass. (Sorry for the insults, friend.) I especially like the first song “Solitude.” The singer says “please let me die in solitude,” but I wish I could change it to “please let me die a solid dude.” That’s really all we can ask of ourselves when the day is done. The struggle is the point.
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska (1982).
My friend Trudy encouraged me to listen to this. I don’t know why I haven’t before. Inertia, or something. Well, I’m glad I did. This album is incredibly moving. Nothing but Bruce, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica. Wow. Songs like “Atlantic City” capture working-class desperation so well. It sounded as fresh to me in 2015 as it undoubtedly did in 1982. This is the kind of music I’ve been wanting to hear. Why didn’t I realize that it was right under my nose this whole time?
Discharge, Why?, Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, and the first five 7 inch records (1980-1982).
I had to throw these onto the list because I listened to them a ton this year. I’ve enjoyed these records for many years now, but I keep coming back to them for their straightforward, fast, angry, abrasive, simple, passionate songs. A sound that is often imitated, but no one has equaled the masters. This means much more to me than Crass ever did (not that we should get hung up on comparing them—but I can listen to Discharge all day, while I have a lot of trouble getting through a few Crass songs). Their haiku-like lyrics are beautiful in their own way. These songs are furious anti-war and anti-capitalist statements. They are probably my favorite British punk band of all time. Unless I’m listening to GBH or Icons of Filth, in which case we have a tie on our hands.
Journey, Journey’s Greatest Hits (1988).
This is fine. You like this. Pull it out of your collection (or any of their full albums you have on hand) and listen to it again. Sing along if you want. No one will care. These songs will make the day a little easier for you.
Records – in no order whatsoever