And with that, 2015 has come and gone. A stupendous year for metal. So many bands deserve a nod for their forays into death metal, experimentalism, progressiveness, power metal, speed metal, black metal, blackened death metal and even technical death metal. So without further ado, here are the best albums of 2015 (in my opinion of course).
Visigoth – The Revenant King: Visigoth made it cool to play Dungeons & Dragons. They also showed that power metal was alive, well and thematically updated for 2015. If they hadn’t stolen the rhythm riff for “Mammoth Rider” from “The Darkness” and that annoying song “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” they might have made the Top 25. Listen here.
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis: Here is 2015’s love it or hate it album. Drop dead beautiful artwork on the cover and mainly entrancing pieces that are interrupted by some odd musical choices at times. For me, those choices kept it interesting and fresh every time I came back to it. Definitely worth a listen when you’re in the right frame of mind. Sadly, for me, it just couldn’t live up to the bar set by their prior release, Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. Listen here.
Adversarial – Death Endless Nothing and the Black Knife of Nihilism: One of the more dark and chaotic releases of 2015. These Canadians hold nothing back as they plow through eight tracks (and an intro) of relentless assault. Pretty much a masterpiece of demented and anarchistic/nihilistic blackened death metal. Listen here.
Grave Ritual – Morbid Throne: The same boys that make up Abysmal Lord make up Grave Ritual. A pretty stellar work of death metal with a hint of the black stuff. The second full length from these Americans holding it down for U.S. death metal. Listen here.
Violent Reaction – Marching On: Yea. It’s not metal. Technically it’s punk. Potentially bordering on British Oi! and skins music (not the Nazi kind). Regardless, this album kicks a whole bunch of corporate butt and should be in heavy rotation on your Victrola. Listen here.
Kvltist – Catachesis: Kvltist was a long time in the making. Nearly two years passed before the duo released their first album (this one). But in that time they crafted some solid music that would stand up to the great year that 2015 was for metal. Listen here.
Speedtrap – Straight Shooter: A number of cock rockin’ albums full of American muscle cars and leather and steel. But it was the Finnish band Speedtrap that likely took the crown. Straight Shooter is a beer swiggin’, tire-melting assault on your masculinity. So fill that gas tank up with premium and peel out. Listen here.
Diavolos – You Lived, Now Die: Just imagine what was here before nearly the end of the year when I sat down and reviewed Diavolos! This album bumped something extremely good out of this list. It’s a fantastic work of roots death metal that grabs influences from across the board, rhythmically. A definite crowd pleaser and a real gem. Listen here.
Revenge – Behold.Total.Rejection: No year would be complete without some killer bestial metal to get fired up about. Unlike their more complex brethren in the sub-genre, Revenge are quite straight-forward. The band prefers to blast away, nearing grind, and absolutely pummel their listener. Listen here.
Night Demon – Curse of the Damned: A genuinely fun record, Night Demon created the perfect updated power trio take on heavy metal. Traditional and energetic, Curse of the Damned is a genuinely enjoyable experience. Listen here.
Death Karma – The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I: Yea, it’s a concept album. And yes, when I reviewed it I was down on a few tracks (most notable “India”). But sometimes you have to take a risk and Death Karma took enough of a risk to keep them on my mind. Thus, they made the list. Listen here.
VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky: Everyone is going to have this album in their top 10. I’m not arguing against that. It’s a solid choice. Deeper Than Sky is a pretty remarkable work of experimentation, musicianship, bravery and stunning artwork. But, for me, it just didn’t click as well as say Horrendous or Ævangelist. Listen Here.
Akhlys – The Dreaming I: Why this album gets an honorable mention instead of top honors is a mere testament to the strength of 2015’s metal output. A genius concept album of atmospheric, dream-like black metal, Akhlys has certainly turned the page in his career. Listen here.
Fórn – Weltschmerz: The year wouldn’t be complete without a perfect doom record. Despite the comeback of Hooded Menace that crown was owed to Tyranny. Sliding under that radar was Fórn with their four track beauty (although Monolithe’s brief three-song was also marvelous). Weltschmerz is a work of near perfection in the doom genre with just a hing ot atmosphere. Listen here.
Abhorrent – Intransigence: In January 2015 I was never expecting to have two technical death metal albums on my year end list. So that should speak to the force of Abhorrent and Serocs. While Abhorrent’s album may have been the underdog it’s a solid release of blistering talent and anger. Listen here.
Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice: No matter how many times i listened to Realm of Sacrifice it never sounded like an actual debut. Perhaps it was a result of the backing of Profound Lore but Realm of Sacrifice sounded more polished and mature than I expected. Another reason to respect the U.S. black metal scene. Listen here.
Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages: Few bands could let me down this much yet still make it onto this list. Cruciamentum’s debut EP, Engulfed in Desolation, was a work of art. Something akin to their sister band Grave Miasma. On Charnel Passages, the band departed from that sound and headed a bit more mainstream. Sad but true. Listen here.
Die Like Gentlemen – Five Easy Lies: Disjointed and discordant, post-hardcore or post-metal or whatever can be done many ways but it’s usually not done well. Die Like Gentlemen make an album that’s truly lovable. Listen here.
Disterror – Catharsis: If my life was like Jerry Maguire I would constantly be uttering, “you had me at crust.” Well, Disterror is a crusty, d-beat laden and death metal influenced Mexican outfit that absolutely brings the annihilation. Listen here.
Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn: There’s nothing quite like an album that is so solid the review writes itself. That’s kind of how Serpents Lair panned out for me. The album was insanely solid and I wasn’t really expecting much. Combine those factors and you get an honorable mention. Yet another Danish band stepping into the realm of mention. Listen here.
Tod Huetet Uebel – Malícia: Here’s an album that we didn’t even review. Something I found on Bandcamp for “Name Your Price.” The price is awesome because this work of black metal blasphemy waits for no mortal. Listen here.
Dragged Into the Sunlight/Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V.: Sadly, the brilliance of this album was mostly overshadowed by a horrible written and politically arrogant review over at Pitchfork. That reviewer failed to grasp the absolute brilliance of societal commentary by way of genius and artful metal that makes up this LP. It’s amazing and horrifying and chilling and a great artistic commentary on society. Hey, at least the band completely owned Pitchfork via Twitter. Listen here.
Leviathan – Scar Sighted: An album that began as an end of the year contender slowly faded as other albums knocked it out of contention. Still, Scar Sighted, is a terrific work from a prolific American musician. Listen here.
24. Panopticon: Autumn Eternal: Panopticon is an exciting band. Full of folk influences from the 1500’s to the late 1960’s, Autumn Eternal abounds with atmospheric black metal. A beautiful work. Listen here.
21. Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu: An album with something for everyone, Misþyrming combine elements of black metal, atmosphere and death metal to build a brilliant, beautiful masterpiece.
20. Serocs – And When the Sky Was Opened: I didn’t expect to include any technical death metal in this list. Not even in the honorable mentions. Yet here it sits in my top 25. Why? Because the multi-national outfit Serocs is just begging for me to love them. This album absolutely slays amid a torrent of technically proficient rhythm changes. Listen here.
19. Mefitic – Woes of Mortal Devotion: By no means was 2015 a weak year for Italy. Some great work was put out. Not to be outdone by Grime, Mefitic rose forth to join the elite ranks of blackened death metal with Woes of Mortal Devotion. Listen here.
18. Porta Nigra – Kaiserschnitt: Here’s another late addition that bumped a bunch of things down on my list. It’s an album that started off as fun, turned into catchy and finished the year as absolute genius. This is a work of art and pretty much exactly how industrialized German black metal should forever sound. Listen here.
17. Amestigon – Thier: Also returning from a 10 year hiatus, Amestigon burst back onto the scene with a fresh sound and take on their uniquely Austrian brand of occult black metal.(Another band I got to interview.) Listen here.
14. Nightfell – Darkness Evermore: When Todd Burdette and Tim Call get together to make an album people stop and notice. It’s not everyday that two veteran geniuses get the chance to sit down and do things their way and on their own timeline. While Darkness Evermore is a bit of a step back for Nightfell, when compared to 2014’s The Living Ever Mourn, their 2015 effort is still top notch—a nod to the insane talent and vision of this duo. Listen here.
13. Desecresy – Stoic Death: There isn’t much to say here. Desecresy is absolutely amazing and they put out another album this year. The 4th from the Finnish bangers. Somehow, despite my undying love of them the release escaped my scouring eye until December (I blame terrible Bandcamp labeling. Fans of Bolt Thrower and Derketa will probably destroy their pants at some point during the album. Listen here.
12. Temple of Baal – Mysterium: There are few things I love more than blackened death metal. And a few great albums in that genre were released in 2015. Temple of Baal was quietly released. Something I found on Bandcamp thanks to our resident Daemoness. A real, real winner. Listen here.
11. Grime – Circle of Molestors: While many people hailed Nightslug’s Loathe as the sludge album of the year, I chose Grime. This breathtaking work of sewer dwelling sludge was just the shot in the arm that the sludge world needed. Listen here.
10. Undergang – Døden Læger Alle Sår: It pains me to keep this album out of the top 9. It pains me to not just make it #1 and forsake all others in favor of this heathen masterpiece. Because it is beautiful in its debauchery and filth. Listen here.
THE TOP NINE
9. Batushka – Litourgiya: This was a late addition. And it took a lot of work to move this list around and order it properly and slide this guy up here. So believe that it was well worth it or I would never have put in so much effort. A beautiful work of church chants, blast beats and rhythmic alterations sure to keep you bouncing your head. A band shrouded in mystery regarding the band members yet hailing from Poland so, you decide.
8. Tau Cross – Tau Cross: Many, many of us grew up on Amebix. The Punk to metal crossover is quite possible the single most common phenomenon of heavy music in the 1990’s. Thus, when Amebix, Voidod, War//Plague and Misery get together, the entire community takes notice. That notice was well worth it as Tau Cross ripped off an aggressive, punk-laden record full of metal darkness amid enjoyable hooks and catchy riffs. This is an all-timer.
7. Horrendous – Anareta: Another band I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing earlier this year, this Philadelphia trio ooze musicianship and talent. Their progressive take on melodic death metal includes completely clean bass work and complex but accessible song writing. An honorable followup that somehow passes it’s younger brother Ecdysis, Anareta was a close contender for album of the year.
6. Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator: Archgoat has previously been a blasphemous band that recorded using purposefully outdated technology. In 2015 they realized that an evil sound could be achieved while maintaining audio intergrity. The result was an album easily linked to early second wave black metal but laced with just a hint of blackened death. And it was magical. This album will forever stand as a pillar of the genre and shall light the path going forward. #ArchgoatArmy
5. Ævangelist – Enthrall to the Void of Bliss: There is progression and there is experimentalism. Both can utterly fail. Ævangelist is the latter. Experimentalism on steroids. To put an album together that tries this many new ideas out and still sounds this great is akin to winning the lottery. But Ævangelist pulled it off. Enthrall to the Void of Bliss is a monumental work of forward thinking metal.
4. Ahab – The Boats of the Glen Carrig: Simply referring to Ahab as ‘funeral doom’ is doing them a great injustice. The band is progressive doom at its finest. And not only progressive, but conceptual, the album follows the plot of a 1907 William Hope Hodgson novella by the same title. The album is a beautiful, sorrowful, mournful, tension filled and ultimately completely moving experience.
3. Tribulation – The Children of the Night: Tribulation nearly made it all the way through 2015 as my album to beat. The forward thinking, rock-inspired death metal produced by these Swedes showed ingenuity, musicianship and an overall appreciation for an eclectic amount of music styles. Interviewing them was a highlight of my year. A very close runner-up for album of the year, Children of the Night is one of the most exciting metal albums in a long time.
2. Vastum – Hole Below: Again, perfection. An album of 100% death metal perfection. If not for Mgła or my obsession with the direction in which Tribulation bounded, Vastum easily could have been #1 of 2015. The album is without critique over the course of it’s six-tracks in just under thirty-seven minutes.
1. Mgła – Exercises in Futility: You would be hard pressed to find a better album over the last three years than this one. From start to finish this album is blistering with perfection. From the perfect vocals to the swirling yet melodic guitars and the ground-breaking drumming, Exercises in Futility will be on rotation for a very, very long time.
Until next year,