If you listen to our podcast regularly, you’ll know I’ve already run down my Top 15 albums of the year. If you don’t… firstly, what the hell’s wrong with you? And secondly, you can find my picks here (Nos. 15-11), here (10-6) and here (top five). I try to avoid being redundant — thanks, journalism school! — so I didn’t want to rewrite these picks out here again on the blog. Instead, this post will cover nine honorable mentions for 2015. These may not have made the final cut, and they certainly aren’t the only honorable mentions I’ve got from this year, but they’re all well worth your time. Here’s what I’ve got:
Desolate Shrine – The Heart of the Netherworld
Desolate Shrine’s third full-length may have come early — only the second full week of 2015! — but it definitely sank its teeth in. With just seven songs, the Finns served up a full hour-plus of some of the most devastating, apocalyptic death metal of the year. And just try getting the album’s first proper track, “Black Fires of God,” out of your head. Just try. You can’t.
Skraeckoedlan – Sagor
I’m still not sure whether you can really call Skraeckoedlan “metal,” but regardless, Sagor is a hell of an album. The Swedish quartet blends stonerific sludge with (mostly) clean vocals to create a completely enchanting finished product. And the chorus of “El Monstro”? Still the best damn riff I heard in 2015.
Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar
It’s pretty hard to describe Der Weg einer Freiheit’s third full-length without using the single adjective of its title. The Bavarians’ blend of black metal is an immersive one, and the album’s pristine production yields an almost mesmerizing quality. But for the pace-changing fourth track, “Verbund,” this would have been a shoo-in on my Best-of list.
Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
So much of the narrative around VII rightfully focused on Randy Blythe’s perseverance in the face of his incredible three-year ordeal in the Czech Republic. But don’t forget: there’s also a killer set of tunes here, and it might be the best-paced record Lamb of God’s ever done. Welcome back.
Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis
Barshasketh may only have formed six years ago, but there’s a kind of raw, traditional feel to them that suggests a wisdom beyond their years. On Ophidian Henosis, they serve up some of the year’s bleakest, most searing riffage, and vocalist Krigeist matches it every step of the way with a grimy, vicious performance. All told, it makes for 45 terrific minutes.
Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz
There’s a reason this thing was my most-played album of the year on Spotify (yes, really): these songs are catchy as all hell. After all the black metal this year — seriously, you guys, SO much black metal — it was nice having something non-tremolo-picked/blast-beaten to chill out with. For me, more often than not, that something was Santa Cruz.
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
When an album’s born out of the kind of turmoil this thing was, it makes sense that it’d then create more turmoil for its listeners. Let’s not mince words: on Scar Sighted, Jef Whitehead delivered some of the most aggressively disturbing metal of the year. Listen at your peril.
High on Fire – Luminiferous
What…you didn’t think Matt Pike & Co. were going to run out of incredible riffs, did you? Album No. 7 hits you with everything from devastating sludge (“Carcosa”) to bluesy introspection (“The Cave”) and comes through as one of High on Fire’s strongest sets to date.
Outre – Ghost Chants
Outre’s debut album, Ghost Chants, is a terrific collection of Deathspell Omega-inspired black metal. It’s a dynamic, aggressive performance throughout, but at times (“Equilibrium”) the Poles also serve up some of the eeriest stuff the genre gave us all year. Not bad for a band who lost their vocalist while recording and had to finish the job with a session guy. Not bad at all.
That’ll do it. All in all, it was a solid year for metal, and 2016 promises to be a great one, too. But you know what’ll be even greater? Taking the next couple of weeks off and not listening to any new albums. Decompression mode: ENGAGE. Later, kids.
Keep it heavy,