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January 12, 2016

Top 10 Metal Albums of 2015

Brutal Tunes

Chelsea Wolfe abyss

It’s that time again, the time I dig deep into the depths of my dark soul and issue forth a list of the albums I’ve heard in 2015 that I think are worth a mention. (See 2014’s, 2013’s, 2012’s, 2011’s, and 2010’s lists here).

I’m going to be honest ­– I have no doubt that many amazing albums were released this year, but I probably didn’t hear them. I’ve been pretty distracted by 3-4 truly amazing albums this year, as well as discovering some old bands who I’ve never listened to before, and so I haven’t paid attention to new metal releases like I usually do. As a result, I really struggled to put together this list, so I gratefully accept any recommendations in the comments.

1. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

Chelsea Wolfe abyss

Blame this album for distracting me for most of the year. It is not only my top choice for 2015, it is one of my favourite albums of all time. Wolfe weaves drudging, dissonant riffs with a haunting vocal line that speaks of personal sorrow and torment. Her sounds has its roots firmly planted in folk but the raw, doom-style guitar brings her many fans among the metal crowd. A powerful and evocative release, perfectly produced to bring out the layers of sound and the bleak beauty of Wolfe’s songwriting. Although I’ve adored all her previous releases, especially 2013’s Pain is Beauty, on Abyss Wolfe demonstrates that she has mastered her craft.

Chelsea Wolfe is my new #girlcrush.

Buy Abyss.

2. Ghost – Meliora

ghost meliora

I am absolutely infatuated with Ghost, and as I said in my previous review Meliora has sealed my adoration. By far their best album yet, Meliora does away with some of the Mercyful Fate-lite elements of Infestissumam and return to their heavy roots and catchy hooks. There is not a single bad song on this album, from the aggressive, hook-laden, “The Pinnacle to the Pit”, to the deliciously beautiful melody of ‘He Is.” Meliora is accessible and commercial and heavy as fuck. I now worship ardently at the altar of Ghost.

Buy Meliora

3. Obsequiae ­– Aria of Vernal Tombs

Obsequiae

I haven’t heard a raw black metal album I liked in a long time, but Obsequiae is definitely my kind of thing. The Minneapolis trio blend medieval harp and strange, echoing vocals with their dark, hypnotic black metal to create an album that is part early Sacramentum, part bubonic plague, but all brilliant.

Buy Aria of Vernal Tombs.

4. Skepticism ­– Ordeal

skepticism ordeal

My favourite funeral doom band return after FAR too long with an album of haunting beauty and depth. recorded live in front of an audience in Turku, Finland, and featuring six new songs alongside two old tracks, the live element adds a depth and immediacy to the often theatrical and always elegant depiction of suffering.

Buy Ordeal.

5. Draconian – Sovran

sovran

I have already reviewed Draconian’s Sovran here, so if you want more details about the album, have a look there. Suffice it to say that I have been quite enamoured with the new doom-laden direction this Swedish gothic quintet have taken their sound. If you’re in doubt, just listen to “Pale Tortured Blue”, and I’m sure you’ll come around. New vocalist Heike has added a unique depth to the music, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Buy Sovran.

6. Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards

6. Gloryhammer-Space-1992-500x500

I haven’t seen this album on any other top lists for 2015, which makes me sad. Maybe it’s because “serious” reviewers from “serious” publications only like “serious” metal ­– American blackgaze and post-metal so drawn out glaciers get an inferiority complex. But what happens when you’ve had your fill of pseudo-intellectualism and you just want some music you can actually enjoy?

Gloryhammer is what happens. From the thundering, infectious chorus of “Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy” to the obligatory narrated epic of “Apocalypse 1992”, these guys fill their songs with catchy hooks and brilliant lyrics. Why does Gloryhammer work? Because it’s damn good music written not to take the piss, but with brilliant and sincere conviction and a firm love of the genre it so expertly lambasts. Space 1992 isn’t just profoundly silly, it is also the best power metal release of the year, hands down, no contest.

Life’s too short to be drowning in funeral doom all the time. Sometimes, you just need some unicorn-slaying goblin king anthems.

Buy Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards.

7. Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden

cryptsermon

There is a lot of really decent doom hybrids coming out over the last couple of years. In fact, I’d almost go so far as to say doom as a genre is having a bit of a shot at the limelight. But I haven’t heard a straight doom release in a LONG time that measures up to Out of the Garden. And knowing that this is the debut LP from a relatively unknown Philedelphia quintet makes it even more remarkable. There’s a bit of Candlemass worship going on in the first half of the album, but that’s not a bad thing when the songs are solid and the musicianship tight. My favourite track is “Into the Holy of Holies” ­– the longest track on Out of the Garden, as well as the most ambitious.

Buy Out of the Garden.

8. Elder – Lore

Elder-lore

I’ve heard Elder before, but I’d written them off long ago as a mediocre stoner bnad. Now I have no idea where I got that label from. Lore is a masterpiece of progression mixed with the deep bass and churning riffs we love about doom. There are only five tracks on this record, each one a thundering epic, each one filled with the complex melodies, clever transitions and purging, atmospheric riffs. Dirty vocals give a polished record a gritty edge, and the whole package leaves you gasping for more.

Buy Lore.

9. Arcturus – Arcturian

Arcturus-Arcturian

I was a bit disillusioned with the last Arcturus release, (Sideshow Symphonies, back in 2005) but Arcturian has renewed my faith in the kings of avant garde. manage to combine a with some ambitious vocal trickery from Vortex and the weird, shambolic guitar riffs. Hellhammers machine-gun beats pummel through the entire record. And what makes me so happy is that the songwriting is back to the same level it was on The Sham Mirrors. It’s a bit of a slow burn, and I took at least three plays through to really enjoy it, but now that I do it’s on constant rotation.

Buy Arcturian.

10. Vhöl – Deeper than Sky

Vhol deeper than sky

Combining members of Hammers of Misfortune, YOB, and Agalloch, Vhöl’s second album Deeper than Sky is a surreal mix of styles. While the first two tracks feel a bit familiar, when you get to the epic 12 minute “Deeper than Sky”, you really see what creativity has been unleashed. The immense, apocalyptic “Lightless Sun” and the crazy instrumental “Paino” are other highlights. This is a bit of an odd album rooted in pure thrash and it’s really fun to blast loud.

Buy Deeper than Sky.

There are a few honourable mentions, as new releases from Deafhaven, Paradise Lost, High on Fire, Monolord, and Blind Guardian have been on rotation a bit around here. Now tell me metal people, what am I missing? Hit me with your 2015 favourites.

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5 Comments on “Top 10 Metal Albums of 2015

Émile
February 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

I got stuck listening to my favorite albums of 2014 all year… The only 2 albums I really enjoyed this year (in the few I’ve listened to) are One man army, god I’m a huge ensiferum fanboy and Noita of korpiklanni. I am in love withe the finish metal scene right now. If somoene has anything to recommend I would love to hear more from 2015. I’ll also check Jype’s list

steff
March 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

@Émile – Jype has great recommendations. I really like Svartsot, who are Finnish as well, I believe. I think they had a record out in 2015.

Jype
January 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

I’m a complete opposite of you in this case, since I listened to a lot of new music in 2015. I think I could list 30 great albums that I’ve listened to. Only ones from your list that I know are Ghost and Gloryhammer though. I completely agree with you on Ghost. I also think Gloryhammer’s album is much better than their first one, but there’s couple of songs that I find myself skipping everytime I listen to it.

I tihnk Motörhead’s Bad Magic was the best album that came out all year, but I thought I could list some not-that-well-known albums that people should listen to.

Death Hawks – Sun Future Moon
Death Hawks started as a very old-school rock ‘n’ roll band, but have taken more and more progressive and psychedelic influences with their second and now third album. I think Sun Future Moon is great if you want to listen to something calm, beautiful and mystical.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ad_u4ZwSzEY

Jess & The Ancient Ones – Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
Jess & The Ancient Ones gathered much interest with their debut album in 2012. Their fanbase has been rapidly growing ever since. Their second album introduced more psychedelic elements to their sometimes groovy and sometimes peaceful, yet threatening occult rock.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGQ4tDgjV7o

Ranger – Where Evil Dwells
Traditional metal music has been making a comeback for a while now. It has given us a gunch of great albums that sound like they could’ve been made in the 70’s or 80’s. Ranger’s debut album is traditional, heavy, fast and cheesy combination of traditional heavy metal and speed metal with a bit of thrash thrown in. One of the best albums of 2015.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGQ4tDgjV7o

Speedtrap – Straight Shooter
Also playing their music so fast your head starts to spin, Speedtrap returned with their second album. Not as cheesy as Ranger, but even faster and more straight-forward.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5by98xCqlo

Melrose – Got It Made
Legendary rock ‘n’ roll -band made a new album after taking a 13 year hiatus from recording. I didn’t even know the band before this album came out, but after running into them at a festival I got my hands on their new album and fell in love. Not many bands make old-school rock ‘n’ roll like this anymore, and certainly not as well as Melrose.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLIsJh37kFQ

Mörbid Vomit – Doctrine of Violence
Another great debut album last year. Mörbid Vomit’s music is raw, ugly, groovy and heavy death metal in it’s purest form. They are a new band, but already made a bigger impact than most death metal bands do on their whole career these days.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYDmnINGIek

Pentagram – Curious Volume
Pentagram is not exactly an unknown band, but much smaller than they could and should be. Anyway, their new album is probably the best one they’ve made since Day of Reckoning which was released in 1987. Curious Volume has heavy and slow doom songs, but also some lively rock ‘n’ rollish stuff. Seems like they finally got their shit togehter after fooling around for decades. It’s a shame Pentagram never made it big, but I respect them for still going out there and making great music.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcnXjXzXUCA

Ufomammut – Ecate
Psychedelic doom/sludge/whatever has found a new meaning with Ufomammut. I’ve never heard anything like their music. It’s huge, heavy, brutal and hypnotic. I saw these guys play this album live and it nearly blew my brains out. This album is best served when listened to in it’s entirety.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho88ZlrLQBk

Well, there’s couple. I still left most of my favorites out. Also I didn’t see point in listing albums from likes of Motörhead, Iron Maiden, David Gilmour etc. because most people already know those. I hope someone finds something new they like from the albums I listed.

steff
January 26, 2016 at 1:19 pm

@Jype – awesome list. I haven’t heard of a lot of those, so will check out. I didn’t even know Jess and the Ancient Ones released a new album, and I loved their first one, so going to go thrash that. Also, that Pentagram album is bloody good, actually. I’ve never been much of a fan because one of my favourite bands EVER is Pentagram from Turkey (who had to change their name to Mezayrkabul because of the name clash, but they’re Pentagram on Spotify) and they were often confused but not as good IMO. But damn, that album is killer!

Jype
January 26, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Nice to hear. Most of those bands are finnish so that might explain why you haven’t heard of them. They aren’t huge even in Finland though, let alone in any other country. But they make the future of music seem bright. 2015 was great for finnish music.
You should check out Pentagram’s first two albums if you already haven’t. I think they’re great too. Be Forewarned is okay too. After that it all kind fo went to shit with all te line-up changes. Now they’re good again when their singer got rid of drugs and the real guitarist returned to the band. I guess it’s better late than never. I have actually heard of the other Pentagram, but never listened to their music. Maybe I should give them a try.

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