It’s the end of the year once again, and you know what that means! Time for me to tell you all about the heavy metal albums that you could’ve been listening to instead of being drunk in the gutter outside 7-11. Here we go with my list of The Best Metal Albums of 2015!
Listen: “Breath and Levitation”
Buy it for €6.66 because that’s evil
10. Akhlys – The Dreaming I
Do you like bleak, depressing, kvlt black metal? Do you like words that are hard to read and harder to pronounce? You’ll love Akhlys’ dreary opus The Dreaming I. Filled with rasping shrieks and blast beats, my rap-loving roommate declared that this album is “the worst fucking thing I’ve ever heard” so you know it’s good. In fact, it’s so good you won’t even notice that there’s only 5 songs because they’re all 10 minutes long.
The album cover rules too, because you simply can’t go wrong with a gigantic evil head vomiting blackness into a vortex.
9. Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the Antisphere
HP Lovecraft’s stories are the basis of all good metal lyrics. You know you’re getting a strong dose of Lovecraft when the album opens with some ocean sounds and evil whispering chants. Sulphur Aeon sort of sound like a Cthulhu-inspired version of Immolation if Immolation wasn’t boring as shit and actually wrote good riffs. It’s gettin’ good and heavy at the bottom of the ocean. So heavy that the roommate says, “if you listen to this you’ll probably kill yourself”.
Not only is Gateway to the Antisphere a fantastic album, but it wins my award for “Best Cover Art of the Year” too. What’s more badass than some freaky huge underwater tentacle blasting out of the ocean and growing into some nasty cancer across the sky? The answer: Nothing.
8. Deathwish – Out For Blood
When Deathwish came through Denver back in April, I’d never heard them before. I got in on the guest list (I used to play in a band with their drummer) and wound up being seriously impressed with their performance. Dat album cover tho! A zombie full of arrows with a gun in its mouth and pills spilling everywhere? You damn well better believe I bought a shirt and a CD. Out For Blood is my soundtrack for heading to the gym and it’s barely left my CD player.
Deathwish aren’t exactly “metal”, but they’re metal enough to appeal to metalheads, while simultaneously getting crust punks, rockers and hardcore kids fired up. It’s a weird line to ride, but Deathwish works it supremely well. Out For Blood is filled with catchy songwriting, spot-on drumming and lyrics that reach into your brain and demand you to shout along. Don’t miss out on these Wisconsin cheeseheads.
7. Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis
A lot of people accuse metal of being base-level music for idiots, but I had to look up what “henosis” meant on three separate occasions. Plus I can’t even pronounce “Barshasketh”, so think about that shit the next time you’re huffing rubber cement while listening to Silento.
Ophidian Henosis is what Gorgoroth’s new album should’ve sounded like since Barshasketh’s vocalist has the same tortured rasp as Pest on Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt. Gorgoroth fired Pest and filled up their latest album with mediocre riffs, so luckily Barshasketh stepped up to fill in the gap. Get yourself a copy of Ophidian Henosis and discover the album that made my roommate say, “No wonder you only fuck weird chicks bro, you listen to this shit”. Also FYI: “Henosis” is apparently a Greek word for “mystical oneness”. The more you know!
6. Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs
Speaking of “shit I can’t pronounce”, Obsequiae is a fantastic band that I would never guess is from Minnesota. According to my roommate I need to “shut that fucking Irish music off”, which is almost kinda right for once. There’s a ton of interesting pagan/folk influences to be found on Aria of Vernal Tombs, ranging from instrumental medieval guitar passages to doom-ish songs with black metal vocals.
Obsequiae is completely contradictory in the sense that it’s “chill” metal (if such a thing exists) – like a ballsier version of Alcest combined with Summoning’s soaring melodies. I only found this album about two weeks ago, and it straight fucking blew me out of my Irish jig boots. It really says something that, within two weeks, it’s on my Best Metal Albums of 2015 list. If you don’t hurry up and listen to this album right now, a feudal lord will condemn you to a life of serfdom and beat you over the head with a turnip.
5. Black Fast – Terms of Surrender
Black Fast blew me away with their debut EP Starving Out The Light, so I was expecting big things from their follow up album. Terms of Surrender doesn’t disappoint, delivering a heapin’ helpin’ of unique, dynamic blackened thrash. In fact, Black Fast kinda sounds like if Kreator and Death got in a freak accident involving a blender and two cats, then formed a band with the guys who survived. Plus their album art features a rotting skeleton with a scythe puking up a cloud of blackness, which rules.
I was one of maybe a dozen people who braved a freakish snow storm to see Black Fast at a tiny coffee shop/record store and it was one of the best shows of the year. I spoke at length to all the guys in the band (minus their drummer). They’re really cool, fun and humble dudes who seriously brought the thunder despite the small crowd. Don’t sleep on Terms of Surrender because Black Fast is excellent. I sincerely hope these guys go far.
4. Raising The Veil – Bosonic Quantvm Phenomena
All I have to say is “Wow”. These guys followed me on Twitter one day and I’m damn glad they did, otherwise I’d never have heard of Raising The Veil. This band is everything I love about tech death. Catchy, progressive, technical riffs that aren’t wanky. Bass playing you can actually hear. Flawless drumming courtesy of the guy from Necrophagist. Lyrics about wacky space stuff. Seriously, whose inner nerd won’t love songs like “Superdense Coding Scheme” or “Ekpyrotic Model Simulator”? It’s a win across the board.
Bosonic Quantvm Phenomena sports an absolutely beautiful and fantastically detailed album cover, complete with an atomic posthuman with three eyes controlling energy and triangles with his mind. These guys should be a LOT bigger than they are with an album this good, so do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
3. Mgła – Exercises In Futility
Krakow’s finest export isn’t pierogis or hot girls, it’s Mgła and their brand of depressive black metal. Since hearing their previous album With Hearts Towards None a few years ago, I’ve been a huge Mgła fan. Exercises In Futility isn’t brutal, but beautifully cold and depressing. The album flows well as a whole and it’s a rare combination of “immediate” and “takes about 10 listens to really appreciate”.
Exercises In Futility showcases Mgła’s talent for capturing crushing desolation. I’m a big fan of “darkness and Satan will overcome all” lyrical themes, but Mgła’s nihilism gives Exercises In Futility a rare depth that most black metal bands don’t have. This album is the perfect soundtrack to suicide, so fire it up next time you feel like hanging yourself from a light post in front of the local elementary school while dressed like a party clown.
2. Reign of Fury – Death Be Thy Shepherd
I do a fair amount of design work for Reign of Fury’s record label, Static Tension Recordings. Static Tension has some great bands, and from time to time I get copies of their albums. It’s pretty sick to see my logo on the back of ST releases.
When Static Tension dropped a copy of Death Be Thy Shepherd in my lap, I was blown away. If you’ve ever played metal for a non-metalhead, the first thing they say is “this sounds like Metallica”. For once it actually applies as Reign of Fury kind of sounds like Metallica’s best years if they were fronted by John Bush from Anthrax. Grandiose songs complete with blazing solos and tons of galloping beats done to perfection make Death Be Thy Shepherd one of the best non-80s thrash albums I’ve ever heard. The fact that I don’t even notice several tracks are 6+ minutes show how well Reign of Fury craft their songs. The weaker “Fade To Black”-ish ballad song can’t stop the momentum these guys create.
Even the album art is fantastic. Bright, eye-cataching colors complete with a morbid zombie preacher tearing off his own face? You can’t get any more metal! I have a copy of this album and the blood splatter vinyl is absolutely gorgeous. The ol’ roommate even told me “at least this guy isn’t growling like a wounded bear”, which I’ll consider the highest compliment he’ll offer. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Death Be Thy Shepherd. You’ll be glad you did.
Listen: “Glorification Upon The Powdered Bones Of The Sundered Dead”
Bless yourself with a copy of this album
1. Sarpanitum – Blessed Be My Brothers
Ever since my days as a wee little headbanger in the early 90s, I’ve always loved Morbid Angel. Imagine my delight when Blessed Be My Brothers came crashing through my speakers, as it sounds like an atmospheric, melodic take on MA’s Formulas Fatal To The Flesh. Blessed Be My Brothers is crushing and brutal, yet Sarpanitum’s soaring melodies make this album something completely unique to behold. Even the album cover is something different, featuring a medieval-style sort of stained glass feel.
Death metal typically isn’t immediate, but any fan of the genre can pick up this album and be a fan halfway through one song. Brutality, progressive elements, melody – Sarpanitum’s got what you need in lethal doses. Blessed Be My Brothers is an adventure from start to finish, with zero filler. Even the interludes are excellent. If you don’t own this album, beat yourself over the head with a hammer in shame, then beg the doctor to order you a copy.
Enforcer – From Beyond: Excellent old-school rock/thrash/NWOBHM from Sweden. Supremely catchy with high pitched 80s vocals. I dare you not to get into this.
Bonehunter – Evil Triumphs Again: Superior, catchy blackened thrash.
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis: Dark, foreboding death metal. Absolutely brutal.
Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards: Hilarious cheese metal at its finest. Do yourself a favor and watch their videos.
Beaten To Death – Unplugged: Great song titles combined with blasting yet melodic grind.
Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed: How do you say that? We ge dude? Whatever, it’s fantastic melodic black metal. My only complaint is there are only 4 songs.
Tribulation – The Children of the Night: Kinda sounds like a goth-rock band with black metal vocals. Bizarre but unique and well worth checking out.
Visigoth – The Revenant King: Epic, cheesy and badass traditional metal with Dungeons and Dragons references. Highly recommended.
Of Feather and Bone – Embrace The Wretched Flesh: Grind-ish crusty hardcore from some old friends of mine. Great guys and a solid album.
Vhol – Deeper Than The Sky: Weird stuff with a wide array of sounds throughout the album.
Krallice – Ygg Huur: Complex, challenging compositions a la Gorguts. Great band but difficult to get into for the average listener.
Thanks for tuning in to my list of the Best Metal Albums of 2015! Go forth with your dozens of wonderful new suggestions and spread the glory of metal throughout the land.
Want to hear more good stuff? Check out my Best Metal Albums from previous years: