While it’s impossible to listen to every release in a given year, the albums below provided my personal soundtrack for 2015. And with the exception of a couple bands, all the others in my top 10 are new to my year-end best-of lists. This, to me, proves heavy metal is alive and well. View the list inside.
10. MOTORHEAD – ‘Bad Magic’
9. GHOST – ‘Meliora’
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a huge fan of Ghost (or Ghost B.C. for a time) save for a few select songs. I could appreciate what they were doing, but it always just felt like they could be doing a lot more. With Meliora, Ghost has realized this potential and embraced all that has made them who they are and can become. The Black Sabbath meets Blue Oyster Cult sound casts an aura unlike any other band out there today. I also hear Type O Negative meets Simon and Garfunkle, but the first one sounds a bit cooler.
8. TRIBULATION – ‘The Children of the Night’
Sweden’s Tribulation formed over a decade ago, but its third album, Children of the Night, was my first taste of its style of black metal played to rock ‘n’ roll. After hearing “Melancholia,” I was intrigued, then swept into this album of amazing instrumentation, memorable songs and, presumably, evil. If you could imagine a black metal band like Watain or Marduk playing with The Doors or Deep Purple, this is Tribulation.
7. THY ART IS MURDER – ‘Holy War’
Holy War is a—if not the—breakout extreme metal album of 2015. It’s a damn shame vocalist C. J. McMahon recently announced his departure from the band, mainly for financial reasons. While we wait for the band’s next frontman and new material, we still have an album in Holy War that is deathcore at its most volatile and memorable. Read review here.
6. BORN OF OSIRIS – ‘Soul Sphere’
On its fourth album, Soul Sphere, the Chicago quintet Born of Osiris might now become what many have been saying since the band’s inception: the next big thing. While its hallmark attributes remain intact, Born of Osiris has taken the first baby step in leaving the former class of experimental djent bands behind and is entering more mainstream musical territory with bigger choruses and more memorable songs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Read review here.
5. BRING ME THE HORIZON – ‘That’s the Spirit’
Bring Me the Horizon had been on an upward trajectory with each album it released, but I think it’s safe to say the band exploded with That’s the Spirit. Gone are the days of deathcore for these hungry Brits, as this album has a decidedly more modern metal feel. The only remnants are the ferocious screams of vocalist Oliver Sykes, now a charismatic millennial icon, pouring out his emotions for today’s youth. Songs like “Happy Song,” “Throne” and “Drown” are heavy, yet instantly memorable, as well.
4. PARADISE LOST – ‘The Plague Within’
Following a similar career path to Metallica and In Flames, Paradise Lost’s albums have evolved with each release, some met with backlash, others becoming classics in underground metal. In the mid-’90s, the albums Icon and the very Metallica-sounding Draconian Times got me into the band. I hadn’t been back much since. But if you’re a fan of those albums, you’ll love The Plague Within, a memorable return to form for Paradise Lost that can rest easily beside the band’s classics. Read review here.
3. ENSLAVED – ‘In Times’
On its astonishing 13th studio album, In Times, long-running Norwegian progressive black metal band Enslaved follows its recent releases Axioma Ethica Odini (2010) and RIITIIR (2012) in developing its sound further, progressing into unknown territory for an extreme metal band, yet managing to retain a substance of its roots. In Times is an album meant to be taken in as a whole; I know that’s a cliche, but really it is. So give yourself some much-deserved time. Come back to it time and time again. You’re bound to hear something new with each listen. I sure did. Read review here
2. LAMB OF GOD – ‘Sturm Und Drang’
Be it a result of vocalist Randy Blythe’s time in a Czech prison in 2012 (on a manslaughter charge for which he eventually was exonerated) or simply a metal band’s maturation, Lamb of God returned with an invigorated sound and new ideas for its seventh album, Sturm Und Drang. Listen to the Alice in Chains-style power ballad “Overlord” for proof. Yet the band still retained its violent core style with new staples like “Still Echoes” and “512.”
1. CATTLE DECAPITATION – ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’
No doubt topping countless lists for extreme metal album of the year, 2015 was “The Year of the Cattle.” This was a no-brainer. Between excessive blasting of this soundtrack to our dying earth, interviewing guitarist Josh Elmore (read here) and seeing the band absolutely destroy the stage on the 2015 Summer Slaughter Tour (read review), I think I spent two months of my life with the The Anthropocene Extinction. Time well spent—I hope you enjoyed the countdown to extinction as much as I did. Read review here.