The middle of February is an appropriate time to release a best-of list for the previous year in my opinion. No, seriously. The folks at AngryMetalGuy have the right idea - you need at least a month to listen to December’s output! In any case, here’s the list of my top ten metal releases in 2015, accompanied by two-sentence descriptions:
Honorable mentions: Visigoth - The Revenant King, Sumac - The Deal, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - The Night Creeper, Paradise Lost - The Plague Within, Intronaut - The Direction of Last Things, Trials - This Ruined World, Khemmis - Absolution, Deafheaven - New Bermuda
10. Rivers of Nihil - Monarchy
Not having been on a technical death metal trip for a long time, Rivers of Nihil’s sophomore effort, Monarchy, is the perfect foray back into the field. Monarchy maintains a fine line balancing technical structures, grooviness, and songwriting skills, and is chockfull of memorable riffs and extremely talented instrumentation.
9. Ghost - Meliora
God damn it (Satan damn it?), I was never a Ghost (or Ghost B.C.?) fan until 2015, when I went against my better judgement to see what all the fuss was about, and inevitably got sucked into the endlessly catchy vortex of Blue Öyster Cult jams and church music choruses. Meliora is on par with the other two Ghost albums: a solid throwback album with slow-paced, groovy, downtuned rock ’n roll riffs that stick to your brain and somehow don’t give you a saccharine overdose when you come back for seconds.
8. Tau Cross - Tau Cross
I got turned onto Tau Cross even before I found out about its Amebix/Voivod roots by the incredibly grim album artwork. The remarkably refreshing self-titled debut delivers on all counts of a noteworthy metal album including how epic and anthemic it sounds despite its relentlessly crusty approach.
7. Horrendous - Anareta
My word - this album took me by complete and utter surprise considering my expectations for exhilarating progressive death metal in the last few years. In a pool filled with multiple ‘old-school death metal’ tropes, Anareta delivers like nobody else, with fantastic, cohesive songwriting replete with somber, subtle melodies, and unsettling structures that are reminiscent of a much ‘doomier’ version of Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence.
6. Fluisteraars - Luwte
Though it is disappointing that no other black metal made my 2015 list (A Pregnant Light wasn’t a full length!), Dutch band Fluisteraars’ Luwte, takes the best parts of Drudkh, Summoning, Hate Forest, and Burzum’s naturalistic (and suicidal) tendencies and juxtaposes them with a unique, riff-driven, second-wave mentality that rivals the ferocity of any of the aforementioned bands. These guys are the European answer to the recent Cascadian black metal movement.
5. Goatsnake - Black Age Blues
When I saw Goatsnake live in early 2015, on top of being able to see these legends perform, I had no idea that they were writing new material, let alone releasing a new album in the coming months! Black Age Blues is menacing, evil, folksy, bluesy, heavy as hell, and everything you could wish for in a Goatsnake album - classic entertainment right here.
4. Tribulation - The Children of the Night
What an inconceivable progression it has been for Tribulation from 2009’s rabid death/thrash metal homage to Entombed/Dismember, The Horror, to 2015’s goth ’n roll Children of the Night with its middle eastern melodies, atmospheric songwriting, and ethereal aura - who would’ve guessed? Though this was one of the first few new albums I heard in 2015, I have kept coming back for more, and it is always a blast - just like their live performance.
3. Satan - Atom by Atom
How were they ever going to top the heavy metal fury that was Life Sentence, which was also arguably the best return-to-form album in history? Well, here we are with Atom by Atom, an absolute stunner of a heavy metal record with ripping twin guitars, intricately complex structures, roaring solos, and some of the best bass-drum interplay I’ve heard in a while; simply stunning putting every other revival NWOBHM album to shame.
2. Royal Thunder - Crooked Doors
Having seen them live twice, Royal Thunder are fast becoming one of my favorite bands. Crooked Doors is on the natural, upward trajectory from Royal Thunder's humble beginnings, but the maturity, depth, and character of this record somehow resonates with me on a fundamental level almost as if the most infectious moments of Anathema, Opeth, and Alice in Chains were fused onto one album. Go listen to it!
1. Elder - Lore
I am unable to find flaw with this unreservedly immense record (including its absolutely gorgeous cover artwork). This is one phenomenal journey, tumultuous crescendo after crescendo that never dulls, tying together the best facets of heavy music that pulls influences from across the spectrum and adds up to an incredibly expansive, satisfying, and rewarding listen! I cannot wait to see Elder perform Lore in a live setting!