Every year, there is at least one metal record from a totally unheralded band that arrives to completely change my perspective of the metal landscape. Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris did just that, as their debut, Portal of I, came out of absolutely nowhere to shock me to attention. It’s filled with an incredible array of elements – picture Alcest playing tech-death, or old-school Opeth with more violin (yes violin) – that somehow manage to avoid walking all over each other and getting tangled in a great big mess. And unlike Opeth’s more sprawling material, this never feels meandering; it’s an outsized, growling, blastbeat-laden slingshot into the cosmos, with immaculate melodies that deserve to make this band into a huge new name in the extreme metal world.
Deftones turned the shoegaze knob up hard on Koi No Yokan, an album that’s heavy more because of how parts are stacked together and less because of its riffs. That’s not to say Stephen Carpenter can’t still drop a wall of guitars on your face, as “Gauze” and the breakdown of “Romantic Dreams” happily do. It’s more that Chino Moreno’s aching melodies are the focal point, and songs like “Entombed” and album centerpiece “Tempest” succeed because of how those intertwine with the band around him. It’s an impressive, hypnotic feat that outdoes its predecessor Diamond Eyes, and while it doesn’t quite top the alt-metal game-changer that was White Pony, it’s the closest Deftones has gotten to that level of majesty in a very long time.
Periphery’s self-titled debut was going to be hard to top, but the band managed to do it by making an album that was more than just a collection of songs. In fact, Periphery may have started life as Mansoor’s baby, but it’s now a band that builds off of each other and engineers his already skilled arrangements into something brilliantly cohesive. The real icing on the cake, though, is Spencer Sotelo’s refusal to use Autotune on his vocals in response to the previous record’s detractors. Add in the band’s keen understanding of dynamic range and ability to make progressive music with real soul behind it, and Periphery II marks a major step forward with a killer ear for melody and their off-kilter sense of humor fully intact.
The most lethal hardcore band on the planet returned with an album that mostly eschewed the stranger, more idosyncratic side of Axe to Fall‘s slower tracks to bring serious fury to the table. It may have even felt like a step back to the Jane Doe era for some, but Converge dishes out aggression with the maturity that two decades of experience can offer. Their occasional doom injections on cuts like “Sadness Comes Home” suits their sound well, the title track might be the best song in Converge’s discography, and Ben Koller made a serious case for drumming performance of the year.