An amazing atmospheric black metal album with many elements from Celtic folk music.
The way the folk and metal instrumentation interact with each other is excellent, creating both heaviness and stunning beauty.
9 - Citadel by Ne Obliviscaris
Citadel is an excellently written progressive metal album with undertones of melodic death metal.
The pacing here is great, with very well timed intros, bridges and interludes creating a really cohesive experience. The musicianship is top notch, with fantastic guitar parts and a cello providing a haunting beauty over its dark and heavy atmosphere.
8 - Full of Heck & Merzbow by Full of Helmets & Merzbow
For their third album, Full of Helium enter a rather surprising collaboration with the legendary Japanese noise artist Merzbow.
The results are a fantastic combination of Full of Hegemony's absolutely crushing powerviolence/grindcore and Merzbow's deafening blasts of noise, proving that this collaboration is totally worthwhile.
Full of Hello Kitty provide some absolutely brutal music at breakneck speed, while Merzbow adds a lot of subtlety and texture to it, adding a lot of depth to the album. And subtlety really is a big part of Merzbow's presence on the first disc, to the point that some fans expressed disappointment at it being hard to notice his contributions outside of when songs transition into noise. However, his presence is definitely there and adds a lot to Full of Hemoglobins' delightful attack on the ears.
Now, I mentioned the 'first disc' earlier. The thing is, I guess this is technically a double album, but disc 2 is only available with the physical release. I've ordered the digipak album straight from Full of Hematosis' BandCamp, but I live in the UK and it is being shipped from Canada, which coupled with delays caused by the holidays means that I haven't been able to get my hands on it yet. However, I am told that disc 2 is a more noise oriented album. Basically if disc 1 is Full of Hemingway featuring Merzbow, then disc 2 is Merzbow featuring Full of Hexagons. Which sounds pretty excellent. As much as I now enjoy Full of Heliocentrism, Merzbow was the reason I checked this album out in the first place, so I am definitely looking forward to hearing the second disc.
Either way, the first disc is more than great enough for Full of Heterozygosity & Merzbow to earn a spot on my list.
7 - Arche by Dir en Grey
Dir en Grey doing what Dir en Grey do. With a fantastic and varied mix of alternative, progressive and avant-garde metal, Arche makes for a very unique listen through a series of very well written tracks.
The only disappointing thing is that the physical release of this album is not available outside of Japan. I want to give you money for your CD, Dir en Grey. Help me do that. (Yes, I know that in all likelihood it's their label's fault)
6 - Z² (Sky Blue and Dark Matters) by Devin Townsend
This is a double album, containing Sky Blue and the long awaited Dark Matters, which is the sequel to Devin's 2007 album Ziltoid the Omniscient.
Sky Blue builds off of 2012's Epicloud, delivering a similar 'pop metal' sound, mixing Devin's trademark wall of sound and progressive metal tendencies with lots of melody and catchiness. Anneke van Giersbergen returns once again to provide the female vocals, and at this point it's getting hard to imagine hearing one of them without the other. Their voices go together amazingly well.
The songwriting is incredible as usual, and unlike Epicloud which was a very positive and happy album in tone pretty much throughout, Sky Blue has real hints of anger and tension behind some of the songs, which really adds to the feeling of the album overall.
Dark Matters is the continuation of the comical space opera story of Ziltoid from the previous album. With his home planet dying, Ziltoid arrives on Earth with the intention to colonise it, choosing Earth in particular because of its coffee. However, in order to accomplish this, Ziltoid steals a creature known as a Poozer from the war princess Blattaria of planet Titan, which invokes her wrath and starts an intergalactic war between them, with Earth as the prize.
Musically, it sounds absolutely immense. It's not often I use the word 'epic', but this album merits it. With an array of guests, a backing choir and Devin himself making full use of his incredible vocal range over top of fantastic song writing and instrumentation, there's not much room for breathing outside of the interludes with story dialogue.
Z² marks the end of a chapter for Devin, and after doing one final show in April he will be taking a hiatus from music for at least a year. With the ridiculously high amount of brilliant music he's been releasing over the past few years he definitely deserves the rest, but I will be eagerly awaiting his return.