2015 might not have been the most consistent year for great releases, and those that were were few and far between, I also didn’t have as much time to delve into the more underground and unknown releases as much this year, which this list will reflect. So it is that this year’s top 30—especially the bottom half-dozen or so—represents more those albums that have captured my personal attention throughout the year to the neglect of perhaps more-deserving and well rounded albums (I hear that Mgla album is quite good) that I simply haven’t had time to get around to, life and theses being what they are and all that. Anyway, without further ado, I present, what I consider to be, the 30 most excellent albums of 2015:
30. Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang
VII: Sturm Und Drang might be deeply flawed, and it’s certainly in the running for the worst album title of the year, but it’s first four tracks are some of the strongest material Lamb Of God have ever released, and the rest of the album (for the most part) ain’t to shabby either.
29. Fit For An Autopsy – Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell
Did someone order the deathcore supreme? It’s even harder to take trendy acts like Thy Art Is Murder and Lorna Shore seriously when bands like Fit For An Autopsy are putting out albums as good as Absolute Horror, Absolute Hell. #Brutal
28. From First To Last – Dead Trees
For a decidedly light-weight record, Dead Tree’s packs one hell of a punch! I was never a fan of From First To Last Before This, but I do love Spencer Sotello’s vocals and it’s gtreat to hear him cutting loose in a “less-serious” environment.
27. Slugdge – Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms
It never really occured to me that what my life was missing was a two-man, independently-released, slug-themed death metal project, but TMO’s sludgiest contributor Evan has shown me the light, and there’s no turning back.
26. Angelus Apatrida – Hidden Evolution
Another TMO reccomendation, this time from the thrashtastic Matt, Hidden Evolution is a solid slab of old-school thrash and the true sequel to Testament’s The Ritual that I always wanted.
25. Heart Of A Coward – Deliverance
I feel a bit guilty picking Deliverance over (vocalist Jamie Graham’s previous band) Sylosis’s more-ambitious Dormant Heart, but what Deliverance lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in ferociousness and tenacity—delivering in spades.
24. Devil You Know – They Bleed Red
Anyone who wrote Devil You know off after their lackluster debut last year would do well to pick up They Bleed Red. Everything about this record is bigger, better, and more extreme, with fantastic songwriting and Francesco Artusato’s jaw dropping leads to boot!
23. Queensrÿche – Condition Human
The previous, self-titled album showed promise for post-Tate Queensrÿche, but Condition Human is where they’ve really come into their own. An awesome throwback to the Operation Mindcrime and Empire era, and some of the band’s heaviest work to date.
22. The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal
Abysmal might not have as many stand-out tracks as some of The Black Dahlia Murder’s previous efforts, but that doesn’t stop it from being an outstanding slab of melodic brutality from front to back.
21. Byzantine – To Release Is To Resolve
This is a record that’s sort of dropped off the radar for me since its release, but every time I revisit To Release Is To Resolve I’m reminded of what an impressive and perfectly composed album it really is.
20. Decimatus – Catalyst For Rage
I’ve gone back and forth on Catalyst For Rage all year; from initially being blown away upon its release to finding it near-unlistenable due to production gripes. However, at the time of writing it’s sitting favorably with me (despite some pretty rough live sets in the interim) and, whatever problems there might be with its presentation, the material remains flawless.
19. W.A.S.P. – Golgotha
Like I said in my review, Golgotha is more of the same, but it’s also absolutely brilliant and one of the strongest W.A.S.P. releases yet. This one just gets better with every listen.
18. August Burns Red – Found In Far Away Places
Without doing anything all that innovative or unlikely, with Found In Far Away Places, August Burns Red have proved there’s still plenty of juice left in the metalcore tank yet. This is simply a fantastic record and one of the biggest surprises of 2015.
17. Deafhaven – New Bermuda
I never got on board with Sunbather, or any other ambient/post-black metal (or whatever) really, but New Bermuda is an undeniably outstanding work of art. It may be “entry level,” but that doesn’t stop it from being great.
16. Dark Sermon – The Oracle
The Oracle is one of 2015’s filthiest and most-punishing releases. Imagine if Nails discovered black metal and you’re starting to understand what kinds of abrasive treasures lie within. Oh, and also, it’s really freaking good.
15. Shredhead – Death Is Righteous
Death Is Righteous was the first album I heard of 2015 (way back in November of 2014) and it also wound up being one of the best. Not whole lot to say about this one except that it’s Pantera worship done right, and immediate disapproval of the notion that thrash and groove should never mix.
14. Psycroptic – Psycroptic
It’s still pretty amazing to see a Psycroptic on my list of best anything, but ten months on and this album still blows me away every time I put it on. Easily the band’s best and most-daring release yet.
13. Gorod – A Maze Of Recycled Creeds
2015 was year dominated by death metal, as far as I’m concerned, and that an album as good as A Maze Of Recycled Creeds sits outside the top ten on this list, with another dozen or so “better” extreme releases above it is only testament to that.
12. Terminal Function – Clockwork Sky
Much as Shredhead did with Pantera, Terminal Function practice straight-up Meshuggah worship. Yet—again like that previous mentioned release—they nail that legendary band’s sound to a tee; making Clockwork Sky a more-than-worthy successor to Koloss and Obzen.
11. Six Feet Under – Crypt Of The Devil
I figured Unborn was a one-off fluke, but goddamn it if Six Feet Under haven’t done it again. Crypt Of The Devil might not have the scope nor prowess of some of the other releases on this list, but it also happens to be one of the most death metal of death metal records out there and features an unprecedented, career-high performance from the Cannabis Corpse boys.
10. Arcturus – Arcturian
Electronic, avant-garde black metal you say? Well, why not; especially when its pulled off as well as it is here by ICS Vortex and co. Bring on 2016 and the new Borknagar record!
9. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Cattle Decapitation are at the top of their game and the death metal game in general at the moment, and that an album as brilliant as The Anthropocene Extinction isn’t even they,…
8. Armageddon – Captivity & Devourment
This one snuck under the radar a bit. Yet even though he’ll always be known for his time with arch Enemy, Captivity & Denouement will likely turn out to be Christopher Ammott’s finest hour.
7. Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Captivating, mesmerizing and utterly transcendental—Epistemology is an album that is at once expansive and regressive and which demands to be heard.
6. In Malice’s Wake – Light Upon The Wicked
Sitting just outside the top five are my hometown-heroes, In Malice’s Wake. This band are easily the best thrash act out there at the moment and are utterly untouchable both live and in the studio, and have managed to add yet another flawless slab of thrash destruction to their catalog in Light Upon The Wicked.
5. Jorn Lande & Trond Holter – Dracula: Swing Of Death
In all fairness, nothing about Swing Of Death should work. Yet, Lande and Holter have seemingly managed the impossible and produced possibly the cheesiest, campiest record ever, of all-time (which also doubles the soundtrack to a theoretical opera) … which also rocks you harder than any album has any right to.
4. Clutch – Psychic Wafare
Clutch are back baby! Sure, Earthrocker was pretty decent, but Psychic Warfare is operating at a whole ‘nother level entirely. This is the decade’s greatest and most underrated rock act firing on all cylinders and it is—putting it bluntly—just fucking awesome.
3. Orden Ogen – Ravenhead
Not that I’m a big power metal guy or anything, but Ravenhead might just be my favorite power metal release ever. That might have a lot to do with it being roughly 70% thrash and heavier than a ton of bricks; nevertheless, credit where credit is due.
2. Rivers Of Nihil – Monarchy
I think, objectively, it is Monarchy (along with The Anthropocene Extinction) that will prove the most important metal album released in 2015, and for good reason. Monarchy is progressive tech death perfection.
1. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic
The Ride Majestic might not be as integral to the wider metal landscape than the last few releases mentioned on this list, but it is unquestionably the album I’ve had the strongest personal reaction to and continue to revisit and discover most frequently.
Honorable Mentions: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly; Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor.
Dishonorable Mention: Enabler – Fail To Feel Safe.
Most Disappointing Album: Cancer Bats – Searching For Zero.
And the 5+1 least best albums I came across in 2015:
6. Helloween – My God-Given Right
5. Lorna Shore – Psalms
4. Deez Nuts – Word Is Bond
3. Coal Chamber – Rivals
2. Def Deppard – Def Leppard
1. Danzig – Skeletons