Jan 4, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part II: The EPs

Staring in on the lists of my favorite music from 2015, we kick things off with the 10 EPs that most knocked my socks off.

10. Primitive Man - Home Is Where The Hated Is (Relapse)
I was impressed by this Denver doom-sludge group's debut, Scorn, back when Relapse reissued it a few years ago, but I'm more excited about the band's future with this follow-up EP. In four tracks in just over half an hour, the band explores all shades of heavy intensity that the album title might indicate. Things get even more interesting when they bring in elements of black and death metal, but the sludgy doom is where this band's heart lies.

9.  Mac DeMarco - Another One (Captured Tracks)
I almost left this one off of my list, after reading a few tales of this guy's frankly creepy escapades off the stage. But things never seemed to evolve much beyond the level of rumors and gossip, so I'm not going to boot the guy just yet. Basically this mini-LP finds DeMarco right in his sweet spot, low(er)-fi indie rock that isn't afraid of being accessible and wearing the classic rock influences right on the sleeves.

8. Black Tremor - Impending (Self-released)
Saskatoon's Black Tremor continue the grand tradition of exciting and boundary-pushing metal bands coming from our neighbor in the Great White North. On paper, this shouldn't work. An instrumental psych-doom trio featuring bass, drums and... violin. Yeah, violin. But it works great, with the subtle and droning music conjuring images of the incredibly cold and bleak Canadian prairie. A real surprise for me and I can't wait to see where they may go next.

7. Orchid - Sign of the Witch (Nuclear Blast)
After two full-lengths and a handful of EPs, Sign of the Witch is this San Francisco doom band's latest and second release since signing with Nuclear Blast. There's a healthy dose of Sabbath worship here, but let's not start pretending now like that's a bad thing. Besides these guys have the good sense to pull just as much from Dio era as they do from the Ozzy years. The title track isn't as immediate as the other three, but it's the one that I kept coming back to and hints at great things for the next release.

6. King Woman - Doubt (The Flenser)
I picked this one up on a tip from the fine folks over at Burning Ambulance, and I'm glad I followed up on it. Another San Francisco band, this quartet was founded by Kristina Esfandiari after leaving the also worthwhile shoegaze band, Whirr. Allowing her to flex some heavier muscles, King Woman's sound is rooted in psychedelic doom though still leaving plenty of room for the heady shoegaze swirl. Small wonder that Relapse has since snapped these guys up for a full-length due in 2017.

5. Aphex Twin - Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 (Warp)
Coming hot on the heels of the rapturously received Syro and in the midst of various soundcloud data dumps, this half hour of additional music continued to show off the wide range of Richard D. James. As implied by the title, this is James playing around with acoustic instruments that are played by signals via various circuit boards, tying this into experimental music and prepared instruments from the last half century. Even without this framework, it still works really well as a another fine entry in James' late era catalog.

4. Kult of the Wizard - White Wizard (Self-released)
I honestly don't know a whole lot about this Minnesota quartet, other than this being the band's first release with a vocalist after a pair of instrumental EPs a few years back. Mahle Roth brings a nice touch with her haunting vocals, allowing these guys to rise above the rather crowded field of occult, stoner doom bands. Full disclosure, good Twitter pal and all-around good guy Erik Highter adds some great electronic noises to "Plasma Pool".

3. Coffins - Craving To Eternal Slumber (Hammerheart Records)
I've long been a fan of Tokyo death/doomers Coffins, but they are a difficult band to keep up with, considering the flood of singles, EPs and splits they put out every year. To my ears, this half hour EP was the high point of their 2015, leaning more heavily on the mid-tempo death metal riffs in their arsenal, but just as dirty and nasty as ever. These guys ain't for everyone, but it's hard to see why fans wouldn't be pleased by this.

2. Ty Segall - Mr. Face (Famous Class)
Technically a double 7" single (with some awesome 3D artwork), this comes close enough to qualify as an EP for me. The four tracks somewhat hint at a new direction for Segall, though none of them stray all that far from his wheelhouse. On the surface these tracks remind me more of '60s psych-rock than anything else, yet each filtered through the glam rock haze that Segall's been a fan of in recent times. It's a small dose for this prolific guy, but an important one.

1. Denner / Shermann - Satan's Tomb (Metal Blade)
For many of you that are fans of 1980's metal, those two names up there are pretty familiar. For the uninitiated, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner were the two original guitarists for the legendary Meryful Fate. While King Diamond is out doing his solo the thing, these two guys decided to get back together and form a new project, bringing in Marc Grabowski on bass, Snowy Shaw on drums and Cage's Sean Peck on vocals. No, he's no patch for King Diamond. But no one would be and Denner and Shermann's guitar pyrotechnics more than make up for it. A thrilling piece of throwback metal and an exciting teaser of the follow-up full-length.

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