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
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.
2. 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.
3. Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs
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
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.
5. Draconian – 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.
6. Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards
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.
7. Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
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
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.
9. 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.
10. Vhöl – 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.