We may only be a few days into 2016, but the Distorted Sound End of Year Awards continue! We now hand over to our editor and CEO, James Weaver, who has his say on 2015 in heavy metal.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Sturm Und Drang – LAMB OF GOD
Off the back of the band’s most turbulent chapter, LAMB OF GOD‘s seventh studio record was a explosive return to reclaim their throne in modern metal. Laced with groove and aggression, Sturm Und Drang typically continues the characteristics that have made the band so popular in heavy metal. From the explosive barrage of riffs on 512 to Randy Blythe‘s notable growls on Erase This the record contained many trademark LAMB OF GOD tracks. Yet it’s the experimental and rather unusual musical characteristics that make Sturm Und Drang so enjoyable. From the guest musicians Chino Moreno (DEFTONES) and Greg Puciato (THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN) vocal contributions on Embers and Torches respectively to Randy Blythe‘s surprisingly intoxicating cleans on Overlord, Sturm Und Drang is the album that will send LAMB OF GOD into the stratosphere.
Honourable Mentions: Atlantis: The New Beginning – LOST SOUL, Souvenirs – NOVELISTS, Enki – MELECHESH
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Gravity – NOVELISTS
A relatively new band on the scene, the music video for lead single Gravity from NOVELISTS’ debut record, Souvenirs, is incredibly subtle yet oh so effective. Relying on the music to do the talking, the video is a rather simple affair with footage of the band pummelling riffs, blasting the drums to Matt Gelsomino‘s astonishing range of clean and harsh vocals, the track itself is a beast with a chorus that is absolutely intoxicating. With the video incorporating camera warps and a whole host of special effects, Gravity instantly marks NOVELISTS as a band to watch for 2016. Exactly what the band hoped for.
Honourable Mentions: Thy Serpent’s Tongue – KATAKLYSM, Overlord – LAMB OF GOD, Holy War – THY ART IS MURDER
GIG OF THE YEAR
MEGADETH/LAMB OF GOD @ 02 Apollo, Manchester
When a co-headline tour of two of metal’s biggest names was announced in the summer, the anticipation was huge in the community. MEGADETH have been at the forefront of metal for decades and on the brink of the band’s fifteenth studio record, the performance was absolutely enormous. Smashing through a set covering all the bases of the band’s stretching career, MEGADETH were on fine form. LAMB OF GOD brought utter devastation on the back of their latest album, Sturm Und Drang, and with a massive stage presence, undeniably slick riff work, the band are one quickly becoming one of modern metal’s strongest names. That, and supporting slots from CHILDREN OF BODOM and SYLOSIS made for a night of pure adrenaline pumped heavy metal.
Honourable Mentions: CRADLE OF FILTH/NE OBLIVISCARIS @ Academy 2, Manchester, CARCASS @ The Ritz, Manchester, AMON AMARTH @ The Sugarmill, Stoke-On-Trent
Tuska Open Air Metal Festival
Attending a foreign festival has been on my bucket list since 2009. Every year mainland Europe’s festivals produce absolutely stellar lineups featuring a wide range of bands and styles. Finally, I did it. I attended Tuska Open Air Metal Festival. Located in the heart of the Finnish capital, Tuska’s three day event pummelled the ear drums of those in attendance with a host of bands across the extreme metal spectrum. From BLOODBATH, NE OBLIVISCARIS, AMORPHIS performing their classic Tales From The Thousand Lakes in it’s entirety, Finnish new kids SHIRAZ LANE to LAMB OF GOD‘s triumphant return, there was dozens of stand out moments. And with the sun refusing to set due to Finland’s peculiar climate, Tuska was a sunny, beer-drenched, heavy metal extravanganza in a country that welcomes the genre with open arms.
Honourable Mentions: Slam Dunk Midlands, Download Festival, Impericon Festival Manchester
BEST FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
ABBATH @ Tuska Open Air Metal Festival
Since Abbath‘s departure from black metal behemoth IMMORTAL, many feared we would no longer witness the signature snarls and crab-walking antics. With a solo project announced, fans were highly anticipated for his debut performance at Tuska. Backed with an impressive colelctive of musicians, from King Ov Hell (GOD SEED) to Creature, ABBATH performed a set of absolute black metal nostalgia. From IMMORTAL classics like Withstand The Fall of Time to One By One, I ‘s Warriors and Battalions and the live debut of new material (Fenrir Hunts), ABBATH‘s black metal pummelling was a blend of the classic and new. The sun may have been beaming down, opposing the trademark characteristics of the genre, but ABBATH captured the feel, mood and intensity of the style in evil fashion.
Honourable Mentions: SUICIDE SILENCE @ Impericon Festival, SLIPKNOT @ Download Festival, SHIRAZ LANE @ Tuska Open Air Metal Festival
BEST LIVE BAND
Australia have been exporting metal bands relentlessly over the last five years or so. From THY ART IS MURDER to PARKWAY DRIVE, the country is becoming a driving force in heavy metal. Yet out of all these exports, NE OBLIVISCARIS is the most peculiar and intriguing pick of the bunch. Fusing together death metal, black metal, progressive metal and symphonic elements through a violin and blending transitions of clean and harsh vocals in grand fashion, the band are one in a million. From both performances I witnessed this year, from Tuska Festival to a supporting slot in the UK to CRADLE OF FILTH, the band’s complicated sound was executed perfectly. From Tim Charles‘ stellar clean vocals to the blasts of the drums and intricate guitar solos, NE OBLIVISCARIS are forging a strong reputation as one of the best live bands in heavy metal.
MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM
Silence In The Snow – TRIVIUM
There were a few records in 2015 that left me feeling disappointed. From BRING ME THE HORIZON‘s U-turn in sound opting for a more commercial approach to ALL THAT REMAINS‘ inability to reclaim former glory, nothing disappointed me more than TRIVIUM‘s latest record, Silence in the Snow. With Matt Heafy opting for a complete clean vocal performance, the record had lost it’s driving force that has been a backbone of TRIVIUM‘s sound. Songs were largely forgettable minus a few slick riffs and incredibly quickly the record was forgotten about. But perhaps the biggest reason for my disappointed was my anticipation. With my hopes set high for the new record, it felt like the punchline to a Christmas cracker joke, it was too obvious and too reliant on a few cheap thrills. Silence in the Snow is a huge step back from the untouchable Ascendancy and it certainly feels like the band have slowed their momentum considerably.
Dishonourable Mentions: Venom – BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE, That’s The Spirit – BRING ME THE HORIZON, The Book of Souls – IRON MAIDEN
They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The glory days of glam may be well and truly buried in the past, but Finnish kids SHIRAZ LANE, through slick riffs and harmonious high vocals, they are looking to unearth the past’s former glories. With astonishingly good debut EP and first studio album poised for release in 2016, the momentum is very much in favour for the band. Energetic live performances, classy musicianship and a fun persona, the band represent the best of glam. Expect huge things from five lads from Finland.
Honourable Mentions: NOVELISTS, TOMB OF FINLAND, EXXXEKUTIONER