Ken Kopija’s Best of 2015

Ken K. One of the coolest things about running a heavy music blog is all of the neat and interesting people who I have become acquainted with through our mutual love of heavy music. From East coast to West and everywhere in between (except Iowa), to my friend Barney across the pond and my friend Arash in Tehran, thanks to all of you for keeping me on my toes and thoroughly entertained.

Another is the music. Every year I get turned on to a plethora of new releases, from well-known acts to unsigned bands. I never have enough time to listen to and review as much of the music as I’d like to, however, my list represents releases that I actually did listen to and that I thought were better than the rest.

The reason I wait until the first or second week of the new year to finish and publish my list is because albums are still being released in December. They all deserve a fair chance. For 2015, there was one album released in December that made my top 50, one that made my top 25, and two that made my top ten.

2016 is here and it’s going to be another stellar year for heavy music. New releases from Eight Bells, Black Cobra, Prong, Abbath, The Body, Conan, Seven Sister of Sleep and The Lion’s Daughter, just to name a few. And all of these come within the first two months of the year.

Without any further rambling on, here are my ten favorite heavy albums of 2015. I hope you’re turned on to something new.

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10. BaronessPurple
Because it was released so late in the year, and because so many lists were published the first week of December, Purple is basically getting the shaft. After the band’s near fatal bus crash in 2012, and subsequent line up changes, many thought it was the end for the band. Many were wrong! I really love Baroness’ sound on this album, particularly on the songs “Kerosene,” “Desperation Burns” and “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain).” Purple is the real deal and should not be overlooked.

Released: Abraxan Hymns, December 18th | SoundCloud

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9. Brothers of the Sonic ClothS/T
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth album cover
Tad Doyle. Engineer, mixer, producer and thankfully musician. Along with his wife Peggy and drummer Dave French, he has done us all a favor and released a majestic record chock full of sludgy doom. Gigantic riffs and seemless transitions are abundant. Check the songs “Unnamed” and “Lava” for proof. The band is tight on record and even tighter live. I saw BotSC with The Body and Neurosis back in August at Thalia Hall in Chicago. Meeting Tad was also my “heavy moment of the year.” Although our chat was too brief, our common bond in heavy was more than evident.

Released: Neurot Recordings, February 17th | Bandcamp

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8. MyrkurM
Myrkur - M album cover
Normally black metal is not my cup of tea, so consider my horizons broadened (and again a little further down my list). I am so glad that I gave this record a listen. Amalie Bruun, a.k.a. Myrkur, is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. On her full-length debut, simply titled M, she incorporates elements of folk metal with atmospheric black metal perfectly, rotating between growling vocals and straight up singing. The piano playing on this record is immaculate and can at times reduce one to a blubbering idiot.

Released: Relapse Records, August 21st | Bandcamp

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7. Cave of SwimmersReflection
Cave Of Swimmers - Reflection album cover
G.E. Perez (Vocals, Guitar, 6/4 Bass, Synth) and Arturo García (Drums, Percussion, Vocals) make up the Miami twosome known as Cave Of Swimmers. It really is a shame that I have heard not one other person talk about these guys. They are one of the most talented but overlooked bands of 2015. Epic guitar riffs, solos and vocals that will melt the fuck out of your face. Lest we not forget the magical bass banging and the bongos! These guys are a force to be reckoned with.

Released: Independent, May 4th | Bandcamp

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6. Yellow EyesSick With Bloom
Yellow Eyes - Sick With Bloom album cover
I was turned on to Yellow Eyes very late in the year via a series of tweets by Megan O. (@megans_law), and it turned out that after finding them on Bandcamp, they were releasing a new album. Sick With Bloom is an atmospheric black metal jaunt through the northern backwoods of Connecticut. The songs are tied together using actual recordings of nature sounds. The band consists of brothers Will and Sam Skarstad and M. Rekevics. I can tell you right now that I will be looking forward to Yellow Eyes for years to come.

Released: Gilead Media, December 11th | Bandcamp

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5. TempelThe Moon Lit Our Path
Tempel - The Moon Lit Our Path album cover
Tempel is one of three two-man bands on my list. Rich (drums) and Ryan (guitars, bass, keyboards) create more sound than some five piece bands I listen too. They weave a unique brand of instrumental heavy featuring thunderous, repetitive passages intertwined with melodic, post-metal interludes. Black, thrash and progressive metal. It’s all in there. I can honestly tell you that I thought Prosthetic Records was no longer around. I’m glad to say that they are still kicking, and that they have partnered with such an amazing band.

Released: Prosthetic Records, June 16th | Bandcamp

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4. Vattnet ViskarSettler
Vattnet Viskar -Settler album cover
A lot of bands bite the big one the third time around. Such is not the case with New Hampshire natives Vattnet Viskar. They have released a wonderful follow-up to there 2013 debut full-length, Sky Swallower. The band incorporate progressive sludge and thrash into their overall black metal sound. The song “Yearn” even has a bit of an industrial feel to it. Check out the song “Glory” from right around the three-minute mark. The next 60 seconds of music sums up just how emotional and brilliant Settler really is.

Released: Century Media, June 16th | Label

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3. Lightning BoltFantasy Empire
Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire album cover
Brian Chippendale is a beast. There is such a sense of urgency behind his drumming. It’s almost as if he cannot even keep up with himself. One listen to Fantasy Empire and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. The two Brians, the aforementioned Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson tear through nine tracks of intense, noise themed metal. Experimental at times, as on the tracks “King Of My World” and “Leave The Lantern Lit,” Lightning Bolt will leave you sweaty, spent and wanting more.

Released: Thrill Jockey Records, March 24th | Bandcamp

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2. MAKEThe Golden Veil
MAKE - The Golden Veil album cover
The Golden Veil is truly an amazing record. It very well could have been my number one. So close. Beautiful, mounting rhythms which give way to massive walls of sound. Listening to this record for me can best be summed up as such… “I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, teetering back and forth, being pulled from and then pushed towards the edge. I never once wanted to go over, but the intensity of being that close is the same feeling I get while listening.” Sit back, close your eyes and get caught up in the immense sound the is The Golden Veil.

Released: Independent, July 17th | Bandcamp

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1. SumacThe Deal
Sumac - The Deal album cover
You can pretty much bet that any musical endeavour Aaron Turner is a part of will be a monumental listening experience. ISIS, Mamiffer, Old Man Gloom, and now Sumac, Turner’s collaboration with Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn and bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles). The Deal features seven tracks total. The first five songs are perfectly crafted slabs of aggressive post-metal heaviness, while the last two tracks, “The Radiance Of Being” and “Radiance II,” are composed of Aaron’s guitar work and feedback. I have been listening to The Deal no less than once a week since its release back in February. Yes, it’s that good.

Released: Profound Lore Records, February 17th | Bandcamp

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