Well, that’s it for another year – and what a year it’s been, with some truly great releases and concerts over the space of the last twelve months! I’m going to get right to the point and give you the lowdown on my best albums, shows and videos from 2015.
01: Glittertind – Blåne for blåne
When I heard this stunning album in early April, I already knew that I’d found my “best album of 2015” because it really is something special. It sees Glittertind take a change of direction, moving away from their previous metal albums and creating a wholly acoustic offering that is an absolute joy to listen to. It almost feels like their last album Djevelsvart‘s counterpart, bringing light to the sheer darkness of it. It was definitely a risk for the six-piece, but nevertheless it absolutely paid off because Blåne for blåne is something wonderful. It really does seem like Glittertind is a band that can do no wrong, and I eagerly await to see what they have up their sleeves with their next album.
Tracks to check out: Ukjend land, Blåne for blåne, Fnugg av snjo.
02: My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery
2015 saw a much welcomed new release from the death-doom masters My Dying Bride, and Feel The Misery is by far one of the band’s strongest albums to date. A very melancholy and emotionally-driven album, you really can feel the gloom and misery being emitted from the tracks – which is arguably exactly what you want from a My Dying Bride album – and it’s something you’ll keep wanting to go back to. The vocals are dripping with intensity and the violin lines once again add a much-appreciated touch of melody to the crushing heaviness, with the balance between the two being just right.
Tracks to check out: And My Father Left Forever, Feel The Misery, I Almost Loved You.
03: Frosttide – Blood Oath
Having been fairly impressed with their debut album Awakening, I was very pleased when their sophomore album Blood Oath landed in my inbox for review, and was even more pleased when I hit play and realised what an absolute cracker of an album it was! Frosttide waste no time in leaving an impression on you, with a really powerful introductory track that leads into a mighty opener, and the great songs just keep coming. Indeed, there isn’t a single song on the album that strikes you as being bad, which is a great quality for an album to have. Frosttide have nailed it with Blood Oath – this is undoubtedly a release from a band on the up.
Tracks to check out: Prologue/Blood Oath, Traitor Within, Winds Of Winter’s Call.
01: Skálmöld – Hafan y Môr, Pwllheli 14/03
A festival performance plagued with technical difficulties (including a blackout just before Skálmöld was due to come onstage) may not be the most obvious of choices as ‘gig of the year’ but I can think of no performance more special and truly memorable than this one. In all honest, this was perhaps the greatest show I’ve ever attended. In particular, the magical rendition of set closer Kvaðning was a massively beautiful and moving performance. When the song reached the acoustic/stripped-back section the atmosphere in the room was breathtaking and when the full band joined in once more, it seemed to have an extra kick and it really made for an unforgettable performance. This was everything a live show should be, and more.
02: Vorna – Bar Bäkkäri, Helsinki 12/12
2015 was also a year that saw me embark on many overseas trips for gigs, and incredibly December 12 saw me go full circle and witness another Vorna show a year to the date of my very first one. This time boasting a lineup of Frosttide and Grimner, it was a brilliant night with tremendous performances from all three bands on the bill – you could really see that they all gave it their all, with highlights of the set being the ever-awesome Ikuiseen iltaan, as well as newer songs Harmaudesta and Itsetön. Indeed, their new material really is something else live – Ei valo minua seuraa really packs a punch when it’s performed right in front of your eyes. Vorna are easily one of the best live acts out there right now and hopefully in 2016 we will be seeing much more from this talented six-piece.
03: Steve’n’Seagulls – Sound Control, Manchester 28/10
Another band that has their live shows absolutely nailed is the magnificent Steve’n’Seagulls, a Finnish bluegrass band playing covers of well-known metal songs, and their show at Sound Control in Manchester was one of my highlights of the year. You can really see how much fun they’re having onstage and the good vibes subsequently spill out into the crowd – it’s nigh on impossible to attend a Steve’n’Seagulls show and not have a great time, and the raucous cheers from start to finish was testament to that. With great inclusions such as a particularly unique take on Nightwish’s Wishmaster and a performance of Pantera’s Cemetery Gates that somehow resulted in the gloomy song sounding rather cheerful, it was an absolutely tremendous night.
01: Sterbhaus – Bloodbarf
For the past two years, Sterbhaus have dominated my “best of” lists and 2015 has been no different! Following the release of their excellent new album New Age Of Malevolence, Sterbhaus dropped their video for Bloodbarf and it’s just as tremendous as their previous offerings. Deemed too explicit for the band to share on their facebook page (you can probably work out why after you’ve watched it), I still think it’s bloody brilliant and I’m already excited to see what they’ve got in store for 2016!!
02: The Agonist – Gates Of Horn And Ivory
2015 saw a brand new album with a brand new vocalist released for The Agonist, and it absolutely knocks spots off their last releases – to say that The Agonist have outdone themselves with their latest offering is an understatement. Gates Of Horn And Ivory is a humourous video with a tongue-in-cheek take on how image can be seen as more important than a band’s music at times, and the song absolutely kicks ass as well – what more can you want from a video?
03: Vorna – Yksin
As well as releasing their sophomore album, Vorna also released a stunning debut video for their track Yksin and although I’m generally a person that enjoys videos in a more humourous style, I’m a big fan of this one. The production quality is top-notch and flows so well – it’s just so atmospheric and fits perfectly with the music.