Ben Timpson, our busiest reviewer, was all over the place this year in his listening, bouncing from reggae to black metal. Here’s his ten favorites, or something…

 

Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest

Behemoth - I loved You At Your Darkest

Polish Blackened Death Metal heroes Behemoth went from Cult status to bona fide Metal superstars with 2014’s The Satanist. Many thought they couldn’t follow such a definitive and complete piece of work, including the band themselves for a short while, toying with the idea of calling quits on a twenty year career. Fortunately for us and the world of music, Nergal and his merry men decided that they would follow the “let the music flow from within naturally” approach. I Loved You at Your Darkest delivered a breath-taking collection of songs with an intelligent and venomous attack on all Abrahamic religions. No musical collection is complete without the inclusion of this album.  behemoth.pl

 

Templeton Pek – Watching the World Come Undone

Midlands melodic hardcore trio, Templeton Pek have been at this game a fair old while. They have seen plenty of musical trends come and go, and awkwardly slotted on a number of bills in their time. Templeton Pek carried on, slowly and surely building up a fan base both at home and on the continent. On Watching the World Come Undone, they’ve not changed up what they do, but have just hit a home run with the quality of all the songs. The album starts at 11 and doesn’t let up. If there was any justice in this shitty world, these lads would be as revered as the bands that influence them such as Ignite, Rise Against, and The Offspring.  templetonpekofficial.com

 

The Arusha Accord – Juracan

Not exactly an album, but hey, this is my list so you know, suck it! One listen to Juracan and I think you may forgive me. Reading’s Tech-Metal masters, The Arusha Accord returned after a long time away but, I assure you, it was more than worth it. They are as brutal and mathematical as before with the most controlled chaos you’re likely to hear this side of the Dillinger Escape Plan but this time they have allowed their melodic, otherworldly and downright luscious side to have more room to breathe and more time under the spotlight. They promise a follow up as part of a larger whole when all put together and if it’s half this good then it will be worth the wait but just not as long this time lads!  thearushaaccord.bandcamp.com

 

Pennywise – Never Gonna Die

When you think about it, a band that is thirty years into a career, that without question boasts four or five releases regarded as genre classics, has no business releasing a record as relevant, vital and youthful sounding as this. Whatever you class Pennywise as, whether it be Skate-punk, Melodic Hard-core, So-Cal punk rock, they are the definitive band of all of those. In this writer’s opinion, all their releases are somewhere between really good and fucking awesome, but Never Gonna Die, their first release proper with returning singer Jim Lindberg after a one album absence, was always going to be something special.  pennywisdom.com

 

Ballyhoo! – Detonate

Ballyhoo! sound like they formed on the sand in Venice Beach, had a lad’s holiday in Jamaica, and now live in Hawaii. Seriously, how you imagine that to sound, that’s Ballyhoo! They are actually from nowhere near any of those places, but from a little town called Aberdeen in Maryland. They are one of those outfits that kind of straddle several genres and even describe themselves as “Punk Rock Reggae Sex Music”. On Detonate, songwriter/singer/guitarist, Howi Spangler is exorcising some stuff he has had brewing for a while. He takes the band a little deeper into his psyche, and deals with deaths in the family and feeling a little lost in your life’s direction. I hate that this band isn’t super huge and Detonate just further reinforces that.  ballyhoorocks.com

 

Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog

The thing about Alice in Chains is that people who are into Alice, are REALLY into Alice. Amazingly, there are still a school of people that choose not to listen to the post Layne Staley version of the band. Well, ignorance is a terrible thing, and especially when it is depriving yourself of such great music. It does have to be said that Rainier Fog is the first of the three post-Layne albums where it really sounds and feels like they aren’t living under his ghost. All the traits are there, the weird melodies, the close fifth vocal harmonies, and the slow to moderately slow heavy passages. William DuVall is really allowed to own the role as front man this time out and Cantrell has done well to let him rip. It takes a while to get Rainier Fog into your head, but once it does, it gets into your heart. Stunning.  aliceinchains.com

 

Ghost – Prequelle

What really is there left to say about Ghost? When they are releasing music as wonderful as all the tracks on Prequelle then people can say whatever they want. James Hetfield, Scott Ian, and Phil Anselmo all think they’re incredible. So yeah, take from that what you will, but I would say that’s a pretty big fuck-off seal of quality. Everything Ghost have hinted at on their also great first three albums has fully come to fruition on album four. The Satanic Cardinal Copia and his nameless ghouls deal in the most lush and velvet like melodies you might ever hear. Imagine a mix of the Moody Blues and Blue Oyster Cult and you are only halfway to the brilliance that Prequelle offers. A lot of emphasis might be placed on Ghost’s image, but when the material is this excellent, then the the drama and theatrics the image adds is all the more welcome. Prequelle is one of those albums that truly leaves you lusting for more.  ghost-official.com

 

Pacific Dub – Guide You Home

Pacific Dub are on the same circuit as Ballyhoo! They’re in that scene that gets called White Boy Reggae. Most of it comes from California, including Pacific Dub, who are from Huntington Beach. Unlike Ballyhoo!, they don’t dabble in ska, punk, and rock, they are pure reggae and are really fucking good at it. Such a great grasp of melody and mood. This music is made to chill to, fuck to, and hang out to. Colton Place’s gorgeous vocal melodies and Bryce Klemer’s almost hair metal-esque shred make Pacific Dub that little bit different to their peers. Every song on Guide You Home is fantastic, and this isn’t even their best album! Smoke a bowl and get your ears round this, your feet and hips will know what to do. Guide You Home is one of the best of the year, I can’t really say more than that.  pacificdub.com

 

Comess – Botched and Flailed

Comess - Botched & Failed

If you like your Hard-core really fucking unrelenting and utterly devastating, but not without intelligence, and also really miss the likes of Remembering Never and Blood Has Been Shed, then Comess  Botched and Flailed is your perfect release. There is enough straight ahead stomping momentum mixed with off kilter timing, odd time signatures, and dis-chords to keep things really varied. Botched and Flailed hearkens back to the good times when the likes of Botch and Poison the Well were making breaking new musical ground, and haircuts and the tightness of your jeans were not as important as what your music was saying. I don’t know if Louisville, Kentucky is a bad place, but these guys are really angry and inspired enough to release one of the most criminally overlooked releases of the year. If people could pull their heads out of Code Orange’s ass long enough to listen to this, we could be making some progress.  comess.bandcamp.com

 

Insolvency – Antagonism of the Soul

If Insolvency were from England or either of the coasts in the US, they would be fast rising up in the Metal world. Reality is that that they’re from France. Unfortunately, France isn’t really a well-known stable of world class Metal bands. Insolvency are young, I mean really young! At the time of release of Antagonism of the Soul, they were between the ages of 19 and 22. To have this good a grasp of songwriting and musical ability at that age is mind blowing. Like in a Metallica writing and recording Ride the Lightning at 21 mind blowing. These guys can all shred at their respective instruments with a wonderful mix of Metalcore, Technical Thrash, and Maiden worship. Hopefully Insolvency won’t remain in relative obscurity for too much longer, because when you hear these songs, you will agree with me that would be criminal.  facebook.com/InsolvencyBand