Baldwin’s Metal Playlist of 2015

Ghost – “Mummy Dust”

This was the most immediately enjoyable track on Meliora. I go into pretty good detail on why it’s such a standout on my album review, so it’s no wonder why it ended up here. It’s a thrash song that loves 1980s power pop and doesn’t shy away from classic symphonic rock grandiloquence. And despite its bright color selection, there’s a devilish mood underneath that supports the band’s penchant for nihilist lyricism.

Faith No More – “Superhero”

No other song this year said “comeback” like this one. Though I’m a little lukewarm on Sol Invictus as a whole, this single is a serious fist-pumper. All of Faith No More’s old strengths are on display. There’s that hardcore dirt in the verses, which always kept the band from being too approachable by the mainstream. But then there’s that sing-along melodicism of the chorus, which beefs up a rousing piano line that careens around in an “Everything’s Ruined” type fashion, except with a more prominent dose of testosterone.

Hate Eternal – “Pathogenic Apathy”

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard something both as memorable and ferocious as this. Technical death metal is a hard genre for most people to swallow including myself, so I’m surprised I was so floored the first time I heard Infernus. The production is PERFECT, with each instrument receiving equal space. And that’s important, because every player here destroys, especially newcomer Chason Westmoreland. “Pathogenic Apathy” serves as a great introduction to what you can expect on the record. It’s pure brutality, complexity and intensity in death metal at its finest.

Queensryche – “Hellfire”

Queensryche made an insane comeback with Condition Human. Their previous self-titled wasn’t bad either, but this album feels more complete. The band has somehow found its artistic vision again; the same vision that created masterworks like Operation: Mindcrime, Rage For Order and Promised Land. There’s no better song than Hellfire to prove this. The riffs pound along with lots of weight, the mood is gloomy and the guitar solo is downright Chuck Schuldinder-like. This is the best the band has sounded in at least 25 years. Geoff who?

Elder – “Legend”

Elder crafted a damn adventure with this record. I feel like this would be the perfect soundtrack to a motorcycle ride through the American Great Plains. The production is dirty, huge and richly melodic. The riffs cascade through speakers like a giant waterfall smashing against jagged rocks in a secluded lake somewhere in the black hills. And the serenity of this scene is amplified through the beauty of a song like “Legend.”  It’s such a moving track that manages to reach both the emotional heights of Prog Rock epics and the rough earthiness of stoner rock jams.

Tesseract – “Phoenix”

The term “djent” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a dumb slab of onomatopoeia that tries to lump together a group of bands based on Meshuggah riffing. Tesseract is not djent, but a group with their own identity. And their album Polaris is gorgeous. They have way more in common with groups like Porcupine Tree, Muse and The Dear Hunter than they do with Meshuggah. “Phoenix” is incredible, smashing together Meshuggah’s Nothing, Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing albums in one roughly four minute track. It’s the most lighthearted entry on the list, but most deserving of a mention.

Enslaved – “One Thousand Years of Rain”

The riff that comes barreling in after the intro is probably my favorite musical moment of the year. It has so much vigor, passion and fucking triumphant strength that it gives me goosebumps. And the way that Grutle’s whispered moans float over that riff is like a damn winter demon incantation. The rest of the song is no slouch either. Enslaved’s trademark progressive black metal bite is all over this track with Viking chants, stomping breakdowns and fiery riffing. It feels like In Times’ most complete track, and a song on my personal Enslaved Top 5 list.

Amorphis – “Dark Path”

This song is just awesome melodic death metal. That’s what it comes down to. It was the song on Under The Red Cloud that hit me immediately. It does everything that Amorphis stands for at all the right times. The repeating piano line in the chorus is bright, blissful and romantic. The verses are crushing, epic and evil. The death vocals are fucking disgusting yet discernable and the clean vocals are expressive without being too pretty. It’s just a great, energetic song on the best album Amorphis has crafted in years.

Valkyrie – “Wintry Plains”

Valkyrie’s album Shadows sets out to do two things: groove and mystify. And “Wintry Plains” does a fine job doing just that. It’s got that dark magic rock and roll feeling laid like a shag carpet littered with marijuana seeds over Appalachian snow. It rolls along slowly, huge and glistening with old sorcery. The song’s brief mellow middle section shimmers like fresh powder on bare maple trees. It’s a song that breeds fantastical analogies, and that’s why I love it so.

Leviathan – “All Tongues Toward”

There’s such a suffocating amount of evil and negativity here. Scar Sighted is an impenetrable wall of hatred and depression that can be a real chore to sit through. But sometimes the best types of art are meant only to be experienced, not necessarily enjoyed. “All Tongues Toward” is the climax to what I consider to be the most potent musical piece of abhorrence, accusation and apathy this year. It’s obvious that Wrest put all of his pain into this. I can almost imagine him giving himself two choices: to either kill himself and someone he loves, or write music. If there’s any truth to that, I’m glad he decided to be constructive.

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What’s on YOUR 2015 metal playlist??

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