It’s hard to say how I will look back on 2015. On a personal level, the last twelve months have been significant. Thanks to the efforts of our Nine Circles team, I have been given the opportunity to explore deeper into the metal universe, uncovering more obscure bands that have significantly impacted my musical life for the better. My position within metal’s audience has undeniably reached a new level, and I have no reason to not be excited about what’s to come. So from that standpoint, 2015 has been a phenomenal year.
That said, looking at metal from a higher perspective, when you compare the last couple of years, it would be difficult to say that 2015 was especially exceptional. The peaks of this past year just don’t quite measure up to those of the preceding year in my opinion. But still, a number of great albums surfaced that I have enjoyed immensely. Overall, this past year has been solid across all genres of metal. So, without further delay, here are my personal favorites from 2015.
Disclosure: For those that follow The Nine Circles Podcast, you have probably already heard my favorite 15 albums of the year. Those albums are all mentioned below, but in compiling this list the rankings may have shifted slightly.
Corey’s Favorite Albums of 2015
When I look back at 2015, this is undoubtedly my definitive album. The third full-length from the Bavarians soars to new heights through their implementation of immensely diverse atmosphere over more traditional black metal elements. Stellar is easy to latch onto as a listener, but it’s their progressiveness and natural energy that keeps you locked in. Blissful and dark, endlessly captivating, Stellar only get better with time and is, without a doubt, my top pick of 2015.
While Exercises In Futility may not have taken my top spot for 2015, I still believe this was the most cohesive, and most complete, album of the year. Once again, Mgła prove they are the absolute masters of their black metal craft. Each song is addicting in its own way, yet everything ties together nicely. An album you can listen to straight through or pick apart, there isn’t a moment of weakness anywhere.
For a number of reasons, Litany was an album I took to immediately and continued to appreciate as time passed. It is an incredibly somber, almost doom-driven, take on black metal that is as beautiful as it is dark. It meanders across vast landscapes of sound through diverse song structures and tempos. An ambitious effort without question, but one that resonates with an audience long after the final note.
I don’t think an album challenged me more this past year than Leviathan’s Scar Sighted. It is a jarring, pounding display of black and death metal that leaves you weak once it has finally resolved. An impressive display of musicianship and song writing creativity, all surrounding one of the most emotionally punishing albums of the year, make for an album will be remember for years to come.
I originally saw this band in February — completely oblivious to their music — when they opened for Behemoth. They impressed to say the least. Later, when Children of the Night dropped, Tribulation truly emerged into my periphery. I still have not found anyone that does not appreciate this album on some level. Their unique black n’ roll sound is both catchy and haunting, forming an awesome mental image to go with the sound.
I have been a huge fan of the black metal emerging from Iceland in recent years, but Misþyrming might be my favorite so far. Calling on influences from the volcanoes of the natural Icelandic environment, Söngvar elds og óreiðu features a sound that listens with a burning ferocity. Incorporating enough influences to capture the attention of any fan of black or death metal, Misþyrming have released one of the most impressive albums of the year across genres.
Thulcandra’s Ascension Lost was an album I enjoyed early in the year (it was one of the first ones I reviewed) and it continues to impress today. Featuring Steffen Kummerer of Obscura, the sound actually leaves much of the technicality behind. It is, quite simply, a killer melodic black/death metal album from start to finish. It is high energy, powerful, and layered with extremely well-placed melodies and leads. Consistently enjoyable, with virtually no flaws whatsoever, it is a great album from a band I look forward to following in the years to come.
This album seems to have been a popular one this year. While some did not appreciate Deafheaven implementing a grittier, darker feel to their sound in followup to 2013’s Sunbather, I personally loved it. New Bermuda uses more traditional approaches to black metal, but never loses sight of the structure and passion that made their preceding album so impressive. Following up one of the best albums of 2013 is no small order, but New Bermuda did not disappoint and continues to prove that Deafheaven are here to stay.
Aria Of Vernal Tombs ended up being a late grower for me. I didn’t familiarize myself with it to any extent when it first dropped, but as time has gone on, I find myself more and more addicted to it. The use of harps, and heavily acoustic sounds in general, make this one of the more unique albums of the past year. It is a brilliant display of medieval black metal, making this an album that will surely be revisited for some time.
Nine Honorable Mentions
In No Particular Order…
The passion and energy Vattnet Viskar brings might better any other band going. With Settler, they have truly grown into their own gritty take on black metal in the most impressive of ways.
The self-titled debut from this supergroup has been stuck with me all year. It’s phenomenal display of catchy riffage, crunchy leads, and diverse compositions.
With Autumn Eternal, Austin Lunn followed up 2014’s Roads to the North brilliantly. Many of the same influences at work, but an overall more ambitious album, and an ambition that pays off.
While tagged only as EP, Gnosis should not be listened to as such. Never limited in creativity or atmosphere, Gnosis evolves with brilliant musicianship and song-writing ability.
There were a number of notable black metal albums that dropped in 2015. Ophidian Henosis is one of those. The grandiosity of Barshasketh’s sound is immediately captivating and never lets up.
Some of the most organic black metal from 2015, Abhor’s sound stands out through intricate symphonic elements and raw emotions. It is a fascinating fusion of beauty and suffering.
With Romantik, Valborg brings gorgeous melodic doom metal that is incredibly easy to get lost in. Deliberate and beautiful, yet somber, this album definitely left its mark on 2015.
Easily one of the more compelling albums of this past year, Moonlover is melodic, yet filled with pain. The transitions from light to dark, can be challenging, but in a way that keeps a listener entranced.
Amorphis hadn’t done much to impress me in the most recent years. But with Under The Red Cloud, they return to their folk roots of the past and showcase an impressive return to form.
And that wraps up another year. To the end of 2015 and another solid year in metal… Prost!
“Ein Bier… bitte.”