Wednesday 13 January 2016

Critics Choice: Sean's Top Albums Of 2015

It's time once again to look back at the releases of the previous year and try to decide what were the best releases.

This year Intravenous Magazine scribes Dokka, Joel Heyes, End: the DJ, P. Emerson Williams, and Dominic Lynch, as well as myself count down our personal favourites individually over the course of the month. And today we kick things off with my top 20 albums and 10 EPs (in no particular order) that got me hot under the collar last year.


Caustic – 'Industrial Music'

If 'The Golden Vagina Of Fame And Profit' was Matt Fanale's club album, and 'The Man Who Couldn't Stop' was his grand concept album, then 'Industrial Music' is a return to his roots. After another successful Kickstarter campaign, the first full-length Caustic album in three years – and the début on new label Negative Gain Productions – sees Fanale making a stand and embracing the industrial tag. Returning to the big distorted beats, crunchy synths and aggressive vocals that characterised his Crunch Pod years, but adding the skill and experience that made 'The Golden Vagina...' and 'The Man Who Couldn't Stop' such must have albums. With this album Fanale continues to take risks and they continue to pay off for him. It is not an album that takes any steps backwards. It continues to push forward and in doing so reclaiming industrial music as a tag to be proud of. 

Beauty Queen Autopsy – 'Lotharia'

The uniting of Unwoman's Erica Mulkey and Caustic's Matt Fanale promised to be something special from the very beginning. Combining simple mechanical post-punk beats, minimalistic synthpop electronics, and prominently placing Mulkey's seductive post-grunge vocals high in the mix Beauty Queen Autopsy present a deceptively straight-forward but undeniably infectious formula that is both intimate and dance-friendly. The album has a wonderfully gritty 90s sound to it in so much as it evokes, the best elements of the Nothing Records, Wax Trax! and Warp Records catalogues of the era but maintains a modern dark sound that is both dark and strangely pop-friendly. 'Lotharia' is quite simply a wonderfully strong full-length début from the duo. This a subtle, but varied album that leaves you hungry for more. If this offering is anything to go by, Beauty Queen Autopsy are going to be a name to watch over the next few years as they can only grow from here. 

iVardensphere – 'Fable'

iVardensphere are one of those acts that seem to just get better with every release. Their last full-length studio outing, 2013's 'The Methuselah Tree', was a high-watermark for their tribal infused rhythmic industrial formula. The band proved they could be experimental, cinematic and club friendly all in the same breath and set the bar high for this year's follow-up 'Fable'. It is immediately obvious though from the stunning opening of 'Million Year Echo' that the band are continuing to push themselves. The band's global rhythms are reflected in a cinematic style of production that even with such heavily layered tracks they sound beautiful and expansive. The lessons the band learned in creating 'The Methuselah Tree' have been built upon. They've not rested on their laurels and have written an absolute stunner of an album that in its diversity still remains cohesive and focussed. If their previous album was a game changer for the band, then 'Fable' should cement their spot as one of the most interesting and unique bands at the top of the industrial pile.

Chelsea Wolfe – 'Abyss'

Chelsea Wolfe's blend of shoegaze, goth, doom and neofolk infused art rock has quite rightly seen her quickly amass a strong following. Thanks to albums like 'Apokalypsis' and 'Pain Is Beauty' she has a rich palette of esoteric songs that are utterly bewitching, but with her fifth full-length album, 'Abyss' she looks to go a step further. Wolfe has always incorporated elements of black and doom metal on her albums, but 'Abyss' goes much further than previous albums dared. The end result is a bleak and nightmarish journey permeated by blissful melodies and crushing atmospheres. The end result is her darkest and most honest album to date, one that pushes the boundaries of her songwriting further than ever before and reaps the rewards because of it. Chelsea Wolfe may have been a rising star in alternative rock, but 'Abyss' is an album that will definitely establish her as a creative force for years to come. 

Paradise Lost - 'The Plague Within'

'The Plague Within' is one of Paradise Lost's heaviest offerings to date harking back to the ground-breaking second album 'Gothic'. Nick Holmes' death vocals are front and centre backed-up by a bludgeoning doom metal barrage tinged with gothic symphonic elements. It's the kind of album that long-time fans will be yearning for. The production is cold and bleak, recalling the likes of Ulver and Swallow The Sun. It's the band at their melancholic best brought out by the capable hands of producer Jaime Gomez Arellano. A partnership that will hopefully continue onto future releases. 'The Plague Within' is a magnum opus for the band. Uniting 25 years of melancholic evolution while pushing their sound forward once more, they exemplify their own past and future. The album is heavy, dark and full of doom metal influences executed with the skill and attention to detail that you would expect from a veteran band of their status. The album is a proud declaration that signs acknowledges their roots but gazes towards the horizon.

Swallow The Sun – 'Songs From The North I, II & III'

Since the release of their riff-laden début 'The Morning Never Came' Finland's Swallow The Sun have been a shining beacon in the ever gloomy world of doom metal. Blending death doom with funeral and ambient elements and liberally sprinkling with memorable riffs they have quickly built an enviable discography. The band's newest album is an almighty slab of everything to love about their style. Split into three albums 'Songs From The North' takes the listener through their accessible death doom on the first album. Brings us through a head mix of acoustic folk and doom on the second album. And finally unleashes monolithic slabs of pure funeral despair on the final album. The band have taken their time, indulged their whims, and made a gamble that has ultimately paid off in a big way. This album is the definitive Swallow The Sun statement. It feels 100% complete as an album as well as a perfect distillation of what is truly great about doom metal in general. There is a lot to process but it is one of those rare albums you can truly loose yourself in.

Neurotech – 'Stigma'

With two great albums out last year it was a tough choice to choose between them but in the end the more accessible 'Stigma' won out. The Ljubljana based multi-instrumentalist Wulf, has been crafting strong albums that utilise elements of future pop, new age music, symphonic electronics and metal. The latest release, 'Stigma', marks the first full-length studio album since 2011's raucous 'The Antagonist' and it aims to make people sit up and take notice. Recalling in particular the work of Peter Tagtgren with his projects Pain, and to a certain extent Lindemann, Wulf presents a highly polished individualistic project. The production is pretty good with a nice fresh and modern sound to the whole of the album. With each track getting a solid mix down. Neurotech have created another strong album that is dance friendly enough for club play, but has the right amount of heaviness to give it a broader appeal amongst metal fans.

Killing Joke – 'Pylon'

Picking up from the band's previous two outing ('Absolute Dissent' and 'MMXII') Killing Joke's latest studio album 'Pylon' is another uncompromising blend of industrial electronics, post-punk venom and metal riffs that will not fail to satisfy long-time fans of the band. In the 35 years since the band's eponymous début, music trends have come and gone, politics has come round full circle, technology is choking humanity and a dystopian malaise has set in. It's no wonder then that the anarchic and apocalyptic fire of Killing Joke is just as relevant and needed as it has ever been. The new album (number fifteen and counting!) recalls not only the band's most recent works 'Absolute Dissent', 'MMXII' and 'Hosannas From The Basement Of Hell' etc, but it also looks back to the likes of classics such as 'Pandemonium' and 'Democracy' for its musical and lyrical inspiration. 'Pylon' shows that after 35 years Killing Joke still have a lot to say and they know how to grab our attention. The band sound stronger and slicker than ever – the song writing is punch, the musicianship is solid throughout, and Jaz Coleman's vocals are sounding powerful and full of conviction. This should be an easy album for both long-time and new fans to get into as it showcases both the band's melodic and heavy sides almost equally within each song. 'Pylon' continues the band's latest and perhaps greatest run of album and promises much more to come.

Marilyn Manson – 'The Pale Emperor'

At one time it seemed as though Marilyn Manson, the self-proclaimed “God Of Fuck” could do no wrong. The former Brian Warner began his transformation into America's worst nightmare in the Florida underground rock scene in the early 90's before getting signed to Trent Reznor's Nothing Records imprint and releasing a slew of critically and commercially acclaimed albums including 'Antichrist Superstar', 'Mechanical Animals', Holy Wood' and 'The Golden Age Of Grotesque'. Fast-forward to 2007's 'Eat Me Drink Me' and 2009's 'The High End Of Low' and Manson appeared to have lost the spark that had won him legions of fans. And indeed the man himself seemed to be on course for his own public breakdown. We then pick up the story with the latest chapter 'The Pale Emperor', which is principally a collaboration with producer Tyler Bates rather than with his long-time musical confidant Twiggy Ramirez. Musically the album carries on the spikey post-punk characteristics of its predecessor and swamps it in nods to the likes of Nick Cave, Bauhaus, David Bowie and Tom Waits as well as some cinematic atmosphere for a “black and blues” slant on the Manson sound. As with 'Born Villain', 'The Pale Emperor' is good as an album and sees Manson continue the conceptual momentum as he draws the listener into his Faustian tale.

Zardonic – 'Antihero'

Following on from the thunderous 'For Justice' single that went off like a bomb earlier this year, was there ever any doubt that Zardonic's next album was going to be one to watch out for? His unique blend of bass-heavy electronic dance music genres melded with extreme metal has lit a fire under the edm scene. In the ten years since its inception, Zardonic has become one of the hottest DJ acts in the world today with not only his original tracks being released to acclaim, but also his remixing skills in demand from a range of notable artists. With a certain amount of anticipation behind it, 'Antihero' is an album that needs to hit hard, fast and leave a lasting impression. And that is exactly what it does. Drum 'n' bass, glitch hop, electro, darkstep, industrial, breakbeat, and hardcore techno collide head-on with extreme metal across eleven original tracks that will appeal to fans of Cubanate, Be My Enemy, Atari Teenage Riot, The Berzerker and the latest work from Combichrist. If you haven’t encountered Zardonic before, or are approaching his work with any degree of cynicism, then this should convert you. With 'Antihero' Zardonic has truly found his sound... and it kicks serious ass.

Grave Pleasures – 'Dreamcrash'

Under the moniker of Beastmilk, the band that is now Grave Pleasures instantly seared itself into the rock landscape with a stunning EP release in 'Use Your Deluge' and the follow-up full-length debut 'Climax' Blending post-punk, proto-goth / death rock, and elements of black and doom metal giving themselves a lot to live up to. The band then had a re-shuffle, changed their name, signed a new record deal and have hit even harder with their latest output 'Dreamcrash'. It's arguable as to whether is is in essence a debut or a sophomore album, but that minor complication is by-the-by. 'Dreamcrash' consolidates all the effort the band made under the Beastmilk moniker, expands on it, and focuses its gaze on the horizon. Icy cold atmospheres, sinister jangling guitars, tribal drums, palpitating bass lines, and the distinctive emotional evocations of vocalist Mat “Kvohst” McNerney come together in such a perfect way. There is nothing forced or contrived. 'Dreamcrash' is an album that has successfully surpassed expectations. Any worries about the line up change and subsequent re-branding of the band are instantly dispelled and all that is left behind is some of the best gothic-tinged post-punk released in years.

With The Dead – 'With The Dead' 

Given the past relationship between Rise Above Records (owned by former Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian), and Electric Wizard (whose founding rhythm section comprised of Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening) having been a tempestuous one, the coming together of individual members of new doom metal trio With The Dead seemed like one of those “when hell freezes over” prospects. But nevertheless it has come to pass and the end result is a heavy dose of real doom that sees the distinctive voice of Dorrian set to the rhythmic talents that gave us 'Dopethrone'. With such accomplished work in every member's respective discographies, it is evident that With The Dead is a band that has nothing to prove and is free from the shackles of everything that has come before it. Yet this isn't about resting on their laurels. With The Dead want to craft their own identity and have one hell of an album with to do it. The album is grim, heavy, eerie and crushingly brilliant. This is a stunning début from three veterans of the doom genre that acknowledges their past work, but seriously amps it up. The eerie atmospheres, use of samples, and that ever present pressure from the guitars is a simple but wonderfully effective combination that has set the bar just that little bit higher. Hopefully With The Dead will become a mainstay of the doom genre for years to come. 

Mr Kitty – 'Fragments'

Forest Carney AKA Mr Kitty returns with his fifth full-length studio album and the first since the conclusion of his acclaimed “Dark Youth” quadrillogy that encompassed 'Death', 'Eternity', 'Life', and 'Time'. The new album 'Fragments' sees a much more open and vulnerable side to Carney's song writing coming through. Musically the icy synthpop and trippy witch house elements that characterised the first four albums remains at the core of the album, but with an air of stark and clinical futurism that recalls turn of the millennium ebm. The album is a deeply satisfying of melodic synthesizers, throbbing bass, steady dance beats and soaring vocals drenched in delay. It feels delicate and brittle, but altogether more hopeful and optimistic than his previous albums. This is another great and solid album from Mr Kitty that heads in new directions with ease. It is more emotional, measured, and instilled with a strong sense of purpose that sees him firmly close the door on the quadrillogy and look ahead to a very bright future.

Primitive Race – 'Primitive Race'

There are super groups and then there is Primitive Race. Boasting members of acts such as Pop Will Eat Itself, Peter Murphy, <PIG>, KMFDM, Ministry, Tricky, Nitzer Ebb, Combichrist and others in its ranks the group headed by Chris Kniker evoke everything that is great about industrial rocks past, present and future. The sound is hard to pin down though. It is a hard mix of industrial rock and ebm, but here are so many different flavours that bubble to the surface courtesy of the revolving line up of musicians and vocalists on every track. It's a veritable smorgasbord of world class talent coming together to do what they do best. Primitive race may be a new moniker, but it's members are some of the most respected names associated with industrial, ebm, and gothic music of the last 30 years. As such, this first full-length outing feels fully formed and actualised without any straining to find a niche. Fans of classic acts such as <PIG>, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails will feel right at home with this. While those just taking their first steps into the scene will find this album sits comfortably on the shelf next to modern acts like 3Teeth, Youth Code, Caustic, and Project F.

Cocksure – 'Corporate_Sting'

One year on from their full-length début album, the duo of Chris Connelly and Jason Novak return with their sophomore outing under the Cocksure moniker. The band's second album 'Corporate_Sting' sees the duo continue the big beat orientated industrial mayhem of their début across ten brand new tracks that evoke they 90s heyday of the Wax Trax! sound. Hard gritty beats, throbbing bass, heavily distorted vocals, and an anything goes attitude come together to blend old school sounds with modern execution. And once again it just works so damn well. There's certainly nothing corporate about this album, but there is plenty of sting to it. 'Corporate_Sting' is another great release from Cocksure, and fans of both old school acts as well as modern bands such as 3Teeth, Project F, Öhm, and Youth Code will definitely find plenty to enjoy here. Connelly and Novak's musical partnership is fast producing some of the strongest and most memorable material of their respective careers, and long may it continue.

Lindemann – 'Skills & Pills'

The coming together of the musical maestro behind Hypocrisy and Pain, and the vocalist and lyricist of Rammstein was always going to yield interesting results. Peter Tägtgren's blend of addictive industrial metal that he perfected over the years under the Pain moniker melds perfectly with the twisted humour of Till Lindemann who now treats, or subjects, his audience (depending on your position) to every filthy lyric in English. With Rammstein Till has used English sparingly, usually for comedic effect in songs such as 'America' and 'Pussy', but with his Lindemann project he drops the veil for the non-German speaking world to finally hear. Musically the album calls heavily on Pain albums such as 'Psalms Of Extinction' and 'Cynic Paradise' with its hard, memorable riffs and industrial meets symphonic synthpop electronics. All the while Till Lindemann's distinctive vocals power through the tracks to whip up huge sing-a-long choruses. It's a combination that simply works. Hardened Rammstein and Pain fans should find plenty here to get their teeth into, though casual listeners may be turned off by Till's explicit use of English, or perhaps the strong musical resemblance to Pain rather than something drastically different. However, that's not really the point of the album. It's dirty, it's fun and it's most certainly memorable.

Cold In Berlin – 'The Comfort Of Loss & Dust'

Cold In Berlin have become one of the most respectable and genuinely intriguing bands in the UK underground. The band's first two albums were stunning exercises in gritty and arty gothic tinged post punk. But the band's third album sees perhaps the biggest step in their sonic evolution thus far as 'The Comfort Of Loss & Dust' slaps a heavy dose of stoner rock on top of the bands cool gothic sounds. The fusion is a slice of sheer bliss that recalls the black metal tinged post punk of Beastmilk, and the avant garde doom rock of Chelsea Wolfe, as well as occult rock bands such as Jex Thoth and Subrosa. The Siouxsie Sioux meets Lene Lovich with a liberal sprinkle of Grace Slick style vocals of Maya cut through the cacophony of fuzz to preserve the bands gothic menace. The bass and guitar switch between doom, stoner, and punk riffs while the drums thunder above to create a thick and foreboding atmosphere of melancholia. The Comfort Of Loss & Dust' is a revelation. They've taken a gamble and it has definitely paid off for them. It mangles and distorts genres into a captivating new beast. One that will still appeal to their long-time fans but will open new doors for them with an appeal that fans of occult rock, stoner rock and doom will find hard to resist.

Near Earth Orbit – 'The End Of All Existence'

Artaud Seth (Merciful Nuns, Lutherion, Garden Of Delight) teams up with Ashley Dayour (Whispers In the Shadows, L'Âme Immortelle, Veneno para las Hadas) to usher in the end of days. The duo's new project Near Earth Orbit is an apocalyptic exercise in atmospheric gothic rock fixated on the threat of destruction from space. The album is propelled by Fields Of The Nephilim style bass lines, coupled with near ritualistic beats, washes of droning guitars, and dark ambient synthesizers which frame Seth's shamanistic vocal style. There are nods to the likes of Fields Of The Nephilim, Pink Floyd, Tiamat, Tool, and the duo's own expansive back catalogues. It's a seminal and wholly original sound that is both disturbing and utterly compelling. 'End Of All Existence' is less of an album than an audio disaster movie. Such is the scope and excellence of the execution. Seth and Dayour have crafted a fine and original work that while following the path laid out by Seth's own recent work with Merciful Nuns, still manages to create a unique and effective identity of its own. The songs are catchy and fans of both artists will easily be able to pick up this album and engage with it. It's a promising first move from a partnership that looks set to pay off time and time again.

Sidewalks And Skeletons – 'White Light'

Love it or loath it, witch house is here to stay and so is Sidewalks And Skeletons, AKA Bradford's Jake Lee who, on his latest release under the moniker continues to experiment and push the definition of the genre. 'White Light', the follow-up to last year's 'Future Ghosts', incorporates the classic trappings of witch house but pushes beyond them as well and even goes as far to infuse metal elements into some of the songs. It is an album that is set on expanding the palette of its creator and the experimental scope of the genre. 'White Light' is hands down the strongest Sidewalks And Skeletons release to date, and perhaps one of the best witch house-related releases of the year. The songs are aiming for another level and more often than not reach it. It has aspirations to stay true to its roots but at the same time redefine what they are and can encompass. This is an album that should hopefully capture a lot of people's attention, and quite rightly so.

Chant – 'Brave New Apocalypse'

Chant, AKA Bradley Bills, sounds like one of those projects that has been around forever... despite only being on album number three. Chant's high profile North American and European tour supports with the likes of KMFDM and Die Krupps has seen Bills spread his tribal infused industrial sound far and wide and gained an international following in the process. Drawing on influences such as Nitzer Ebb, Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, and KMFDM there is something classic about his sonic formula that creates and instant familiarity. The third album from Chant, 'Brave New Apocalypse' sees Bills further refine his rhythmic industrial manifesto and brings in a fresh take on the classic industrial rock style of the early 1990s. 'Brave New Apocalypse' is a great stylistic turn by Bills and should play well to new fans looking for something to rock out to, as well as older fans who will feel a pang of nostalgia for the days in which industrial rock gained some mainstream traction. It is full of potential club-friendly hits and will ensure a healthy live repertoire for future live shows. But most importantly it should continues to see Bradley Bills song writing talents strengthen and his position solidify as a name to be reckoned with.


Wik▲n – 'Nightfall'

Sheffield's Wik▲n may be flying the flag for the witch house scene, but there is so much more to their sound than that. Their newest offering (their eighth EP since 2010) 'Nightfall' includes ambient, drone, noise, dark electro, and even neofolk as well as drag and witch house to create haunting soundscapes and experimental grooves. But no matter which direction they choose to go, the songs remain epic in their scope and rarely drop below seven minutes in length. Wik▲n may not be a common name in the UK underground scene but they should be. 'Nightfall' is a mature, engrossing and deeply fulfilling listening experience. The band prove they can turn their hand to anything and everything here and still make it sound like a cohesive whole. This is definitely an act to keep your eye on.

Garek – 'Take the King Vol. 1'

You may have seen the videos for the incendiary slices of pop-industrial that Garek has released prior to his début EP in the form of 'Cavity', 'Save The Queen' and his cover of Katy Perry's 'E.T'. If you haven't had the pleasure yet then you've been missing out. Garek presents a satisfying blend of electro mixed with industrial rock and given a radio-friendly pop veneer that recalls the classic years of Marilyn Manson, Orgy, Nine Inch Nails, and recent acts such as Aesthetic Perfection. Throw in a glamorous presentation and a genuinely artistic idiom and you have a winning formula. The EP is brief clocking in a t just over twelve minutes in length and refreshingly doesn’t include any tacked-on remixes, instead keeping to the short but complete statement of the four tracks. But despite it's length it hits its mark with ease. Garek has a great sound that won't fail to inspire a big following and perhaps even some cross-over success down the line.

(((O))) – 'We Hate You'

Despite only emerging in 2012 (((O))), AKA Nikita Vasilyev has already developed a loyal following thanks to releases such as 'Black EP' and 'Motherland'. This year the Belarus-based artist returns with the new three-track EP, 'We Hate You'. Taking its cues from LaVey and Lovecraft it's dark experimental electronics and witch house embellishments make it one of the few underground electronic bands that can be happily summed up as avant garde while keeping a straight face. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to (((O))) then 'We Hate You' is a good starting point. It's accessible, moody and psychedelic electronic that fans of dark electro will be able to appreciate. It would have been nicer to have a bit of a longer running time. But the three tracks feel like a complete statement, so it is by no means disappointing. However it does build up the anticipation that could be quenched by another full-length release.

The Gothsicles – 'The Nyarlat Hot EP'

After Brian Graupner and his band of reprobates embark on their most club-friendly and well-rounded outing to date with the delightfully mad 'Squid Icarus', The Gothsicles returned with a follow-up EP in the form of 'The Nyarlat Hot EP'. Picking up where they left off the band with three new songs and some bonus remixes to extend their club appeal a little further. The classic Gothsicle elements are all present such as Graupner's bat-shit crazy vocals, the 8-bit leads, and of course more nerd culture thrown under the microscope and lovingly mocked. Throw in some great remixes from the likes of  Ballpeen, Projekt F and God Module and this is becomes and addictive little taste of where the band are at. The EP may be a humble one and not exactly push new ground in it's own right, but it is a nonetheless zany and delightful appendage to the main album that still has some great dance floor moments to enjoy.

Monomorte – 'The Three Mothers'

Danny Ryder AKA, Monomorte, returns with a new EP sure to appeal to fans of witch house. The Liverpool-based producer has crafted some wonderfully unique releases in recent years including 'Ad Extremvm', 'Coven XXIII', and 'Douosvavvm' which have explored genres such as chillwave, ambient, old school house, trip hop and industrial to create a take on the witch house sound that is accessible, enjoyable and most importantly high quality music. 'The Three Mothers' is a very, very strong release from Ryder. Its a shame it only features three tracks as it leaves you hungry for more. It shows Ryder continueing to develop and improve his take on the witch house sound, and as a result raise the quality for others to aspire to. Let's hope a full-length release is on the cards soon.

Psy'Aviah – 'Never Look Back' / Words' EP

Belgium's Psy'Aviah AKA multi-instrumentalist and producer Yves Schelpe, have been providing an eclectic injection into the electronic scene for a number of years. Blending elements of trip hop, ambient, pop, rock, techno, electroclash, and ebm Schelep and his now revolving door of talented vocalists the music of Psy'Aviah has always been something that is hard to ignore. Now one year on after the last full-length outing on 'The Xenogamous Endeavour' Schelpe returns with the 'Never Look Back' / 'Words' EP as a precursor to the next Psy'Aviah album. With the two lead tracks Schelpe continues to break down genre conventions injecting 'Never Look Back', which features the vocal talents of Ellia Bisker of New York's Sweet Soubrette, with a heavily trip-hop saturated direction while keeping it's fresh electro framework. While 'Words' , featuring J Ari, adds a couple of big helpings of reggae and Mowtown to Schelpe's electronic formula. This EP bodes well for the forthcoming album. If it continues down a similar line of eclectic genre blending and emotion-tugging melodies, then the next full-length Psy'Aviah album could be their best yet. 

V▲LH▲LL – 'Vi††ΞЯS†ЯåK'

Stockholm's V▲LH▲LL are an undeniably impressive act. Formed in 2012 they have fast become one of the most impressive underground electronic acts around today despite only having a few releases to their name. Their début full-length release last year on Artoffact Records, 'Leaning On Shadows' was a triumphant blend of atmospheric songwriting incorporating elements of witch house, neofolk, dark ambient and industrial. Just in time for Halloween comes the band's new single 'Vi††ΞЯS†ЯåK' which features two tracks of dissonant dark ambiance to send shivers down your spine. This is another great release from V▲LH▲LL that continues to show off their skill and diversity. They seamlessly span experimental and more accessible genres and can craft exquisitely haunting atmospheres with ease. 'Vi††ΞЯS†ЯåK' is Halloween friendly scary music in a non cliché way that shows a real mastery of sound, melody and rhythm. Hopefully the band will follow this up soon with another full-length album to show the full scope of their abilities again.

Blush Response – 'Future Tyrants'

Blush Response's last release, 2014's 'Desire Machines' was a stunning blend of avant garde electronics and intelligent dance music that consolidated Joey Blush's position as arguably one of the most exciting electronic musicians around today. Utilising modular synthesizers, Blush blends a mixture of influences gleaned from glitch, ambient, industrial, ebm and electronica to create something truly fresh and modern. Fast forward two years and the now Berlin based artist releases his latest EP 'Future Tyrants' on Aufnahme + Wadergabe. Distorted glitch elements combine with subtle dance beats and throbbing synth bass for a dark and satisfying sound that evokes the early works of acts such as Front 242, Skinny Puppy, Die Krupps, Cabaret Voltaire, and Front Line Assembly. 'Future Tyrants' is another feather in Joey Blush's cap showing him to be a true master of his art. The album is comprised of instrumentals, and that may turn off those who like a nice lyric or two to get stuck into, but it doesn't hold it back. These are four bold and forceful tracks that demand to be heard and leave you feeling satisfied. Fans of the old school sound will immediately dig it, while those newer to the classic ebm / electro-indutrial scene will still find this an accessible point of reference.

Celldweller – 'End Of an Empire – Chapter 3: Dreams'

If the previous album had been a scatter-gun affair then this time around it shows that Klayton has learned his lesson and kept to a more unified plan. '...Dreams' continues the sound-designed approach of the previous two instalments with the instrumental 'Faction' tracks taking the majority of the airtime around two central vocal tracks. This chapter shows that the 'End Of An Empire' album is progressing nicely and may even eclipse the eponymous début album. The fact it is being released in chapters is still very frustrating as it would be great to listen to everything in one sitting and take it all in properly. However it seems as though Klayton has got this one completely under control this time and we won't have long to wait to get the final instalment.

In Death It Ends – 'Protogrammaton'

In Death It Ends has maintained an intensive release schedule over the past few years with multiple album, single, EP and free download releases each year. This has already built up into an impressive and enviable back catalogue that synthesizes elements of witch house, post punk, gothic rock, industrial and darkwave into something genuinely unique. 'Protogrammaton' marks the start of the 2015 release cycle in anticipation of the next full length LP 'Beneath Eden'. Even though it is a free to download mini-album, that doesn't take away from the quality of the music it contains. If this is your first introduction to IDIE then 'Protogrammaton' is a good place to start. It provides a good cross section of the band's styles and influences in one accessible package. It isn't the most defining of the back catalogue to date, but it still holds its own.

Keep an eye out for more countdowns this month. In the meantime, what were your favourite albums off the past twelve months? Let us know on our Facebook page.  

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