Thursday, December 31, 2015

Autothrall's Execution Through Listification: The 2015 Edition

The Top 25 Metal and 'Hey, That's Not Metal!' Albums of 2015

01. Leprous (No) - The Congregation (97)
02. Enslaved (No) - In Times (95)
03. Arcturus (No) - Arcturian (95)
04. Enforcer (Se) - From Beyond (93)
05. Solefald (No) - World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud (92)
06. Heaving Earth (Cz) - Denouncing the Holy Throne (90)
07. Kontinuum (Is) - Kyrr (90)
08. Sulphur Aeon (De) - Gateway to the Antisphere (90)
09. Trial (Se) - Vessel (90)
10. Ghost (Se) - Meliora (90)
11. Dodheimsgard (No) - A Umbra Omega (90)
12. Tribulation (Se) - Children of the Night (90)
13. Crypt Sermon (US) - Out of the Garden (88) *debut of the year*
14. Chapel of Disease (De) - Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art (88)
15. Queensrÿche (US) - Condition Hüman (87)
16. Deathhammer (No) - Evil Power (87) 
17. Moonreich (Fr) - Pillars of Detest (87)
18. Napalm Death (UK) - Apex Predator - Easy Meat (87)
19. Obsequiae (US) - Aria of Vernal Tombs (85)
20. Sarpanitum (UK) - Blessed Be My Brothers (85)
21. Division Speed (De) - Division Speed (85)
22. Lost Soul (Pl) - Atlantis: The New Beginning (85)
23. Leviathan (US) - Scar Sighted (85)
24. Satan's Wrath (Gr) - Die Evil (85)
25. Melechesh (UK) - Enki (85)

My final sampling size this year was 813 metal albums and EPs, I had originally halted myself about a few dozen before that but decided to do some cramming over the last few days. I'm probably the only person in the world that feels so strongly about what Norway produced this year, but those are easily the picks of the litter for me, with excellent showings from Enslaved, Solefald and Arcturus. But I had no other choice than to give the top spot to The Congregation, a fairly understated, elegant progressive metal record which has crept through my bones to lounge in my eardrums. I find myself constantly singing the tunes, there was just something transcendent about the vocals and composition, well within the wheelhouse of modern records by their countrymen but still unique. Otherwise, there was some really great throwback heavy/speed metal this year, a resurgence of quality blackened speed death thrash, and just a great variety altogether...and isn't it great to have Queensrÿche back in shape? This selection of 25 might not be completely representative of the trends I just mentioned, but as tradition dictates, you can check out all my Top 100 over at RYM. I'll also try something new, where I haven't written a review I'll instead link to a tune/video.

The Top 15 Actually Not Metal Albums of 2015

01. Chelsea Wolfe (US) - Abyss (Rock)
02. Mew (Dk) - +- (Rock)
03. Squarepusher (UK) - Damogen Furies (Electronic)
04. Bjork (Is) - Vulnicura (Pop)
05. Zombi (US) - Shape Shift (Electronic)
06. Purity Ring (Ca) - Another Eternity (Pop)
07. The Exploding Eyes Orchestra (Fi) - I (Rock)
08. Ennio Morricone (It) - The Hateful Eight (OST)
09. Grimes (Ca) - Art Angels (Pop)
10. Ellie Goulding (UK) - Delirium (Pop)
11. Blanck Mass (UK) - Dumb Flesh (Electronic)
12. Steven Wilson (UK) - Hand Cannot Erase (Rock)
13. Happy Fangs (US) - Capricorn (Rock)
14. John Carpenter (US) - Lost Themes (Electronic)
15. Grave Pleasures (No) - Dreamcrash (Goth)

A lot of synth pop, industrial and electronic music are a given for me when I'm away from metal, but I also love a smattering of Gothic, prog, punk and pure rock & roll bands; and the occasional soundtrack score, especially when it's created by a guy who is 87 years old but whose writing could rival his prime... Most records here have their flaws, for instance I thought the vocals and music on the new Ellie Goulding were on par with her great debut, yet some of the lyrics are beyond dumb. Still, this is the stuff I listened to most often when I wasn't flailing my face around in the meager imitation of a blast beat.

The Top 15 Films of 2015

01. Max Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
02. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino)
03. 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani)
04. Inside Out (Peter Docter/Ronnie del Carmen)
05. Yakuza Apocalypse (Takashi Miike)
06. Partisan (Ariel Kleiman)
07. Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler)
08. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga)
09. Turbo Kid (Simard/Whissell/Whissell)
10. The Gift (Joel Edgerton)
11. The Martian (Ridley Scott)
12. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
13. He Never Died (Jason Krawczyk)
14. The Visit (M. Night Shyamalan)
15. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Anotha J. J. Remix)

Thanks to having a few cinephile friends, I ended up watching a LOT of new films this year, far more than usual, probably 70-80 minimum. I tend to rank them not solely for the quality of acting, direction and cinematography, but mainly the fun often am I going to go back to these? How many times have I already? Are these flicks ones I'll be talking about in 20-30 years like a lot of my 80s favorites, and will I share them proudly with my children? That's why I'm unashamed to include absurd but entertaining pieces alongside the more serious, topical fare (which generally don't stand the test of time as well for me). Have not yet seen Krampus.

The Top 15 PC & Video Games of 2015

01. Sunless Sea (PC)
02. Pillars of Eternity (PC)
03. Axiom Verge (PC, PS4)
04. Shadowrun: Hong Kong (PC)
05. Westerado: Double Barreled (PC)
06. Crypt of the NecroDancer (PC, PS4, Vita)
07. Ori and the Blind Forest (PC, XB1)
08. Undertale (PC)
09. Fallout 4 (PC, PS4, XB1)
10. Hard West (PC)
11. Cities: Skylines (PC, XB1)
12. Broforce (PC, PS4)
13. Downwell/Skiing Yeti Mountain (PC, iOS, Android) *TIE*
14. Apotheon (PC, PS4)
15. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (PC, XB1)

My tastes continue to run towards indie and creative, retro-styled games, and there were quite a few of them this year which were simply stunning. I guess I've just grown extremely tired of state of the art, uncanny valley graphic realism and such. The sole compelling Triple A title for me this year was Fallout 4, but I tried my hand at others like Mad Max and Witcher 3 and didn't really enjoy myself. I did NOT play all that many mobile or hand-held console games this year, so if I retroactively find some I love I will adjust this list later. Anyway, the Steam links I provided for most of these can get you a lot of great games dirt cheap if you're interested.

The Top 15 Tabletop Games of 2015

01. Argent: The Consortium (Trey Chambers)
02. Elysium (Matthew Dunstan/Brett J. Gilbert)
03. Pandemic Legacy (Rob Daviau/Matt Leacock)
04. Brew Crafters (Ben Rosset)
05. Antike II (Mac Gerdts)
06. Legendary Encounters: Predator (Ben Cichoski/Danny Mandel)
07. 7 Wonders: Duel (Antoine Bauza/Bruno Cathala)
08. Champions of Midgard (Ole Steiness)
09. Super Motherload (Gavan Brown/Matt Tolman)
10. The Voyages of Marco Polo (Simone Luciani/Daniele Tascini)
11. Above and Below (Ryan Laukat)
12. Sylvion/Castellion (Shadi Torbey) *TIE*
13. Isle of Skye (Andreas Pelikan/Alexander Pfister)
14. Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition (Brooks/Wilson/Hand)
15. The Bloody Inn (Nicolas Robert)

This was a year in which my board and card game collection grew exponentially, with both new titles and expansion content, and there were quite a lot of good games to try with my friends and family. I could have listed twice this many, in fact, without dipping into anything less than quality. The choices here are a mix of worker placement, area control, deck building, abstract and other play styles I enjoy. There are a few others I or my friends have just gotten that have yet to hit the table, like the lauded T.I.M.E. Stories and Blood Rage, so if my opinions change I'll adjust the list accordingly.

The Top 15 Books of 2015

01. The Iron Ship (K.M. McKinley)
02. Children of Time (Adrian Tchaikovsky)
03. The Acolyte (Nick Cutter)
04. Savages (K. J. Parker)
05. Cthulhu Ftaghn! (various, ed. Ross Lockhart)
06. Son of the Black Sword (Larry Correia)
07. SevenEves (Neal Stephenson)
08. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Bradley P. Beaulieu)
09. Her Brother's Keeper (Mike Kupari)
10. The Grace of Kings (Ken Liu)
11. SJWs Always Lie (Vox Day)
12. The Two of Swords (serial, K. J. Parker)
13. The Aeronaut's Windlass (Jim Butcher)
14. Half a War (Joe Abercrombie)
15. The Dinosaur Lords (Victor Milan)

As usual, most of my reading interests lie within the realm of science fiction, fantasy, horror, cyberpunk, steampunk, alternate history, and the occasional historical fiction with an edge. The McKinley stole my heart with its excellent worldbuilding, so I can't wait for the follow-up to that, but there were a lot of strong entries here from regulars like Parker, Butcher, Abercrombie, Correia and even a single controversial non-fiction entry here which I found hilarious and will probably prove enlightening for a lot of folks.

Quite a lot to take in, I know, so I hope you enjoy these expanded count lists and perhaps find something you enjoy among them. I considered including other passions of mine like anime, TV shows and comic books, but those are a little trickier, especially TV with the multiple seasons. Maybe next time.

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