It has taken way too long to publish this. My bad really, I should have been a little more pro-active in completing this list before year’s end but if you ask me there’s no point in posting a “best-of…” list before the year’s end since some releases don’t arrive until December. Then my day job picked up again, which made it more difficult to give records a listen. Anyway, like any best-of list there is going to be a certain level of bias based on the tastes of the person making the list. I’ve tried to remain as objective as possible and not make fanboy choices (I failed on this front a bit) or be swayed by the popular choices (pretty sure it can be said I failed on this end too, fml) to put together a list of albums that kick serious ass. Without further ado, here are my top choices of the year.
Slayer – Repentless
Like I said, I failed on the fanboy front a bit because I love Slayer. They were a game changer in my transition to die-hard metalhead and they have been one of my favorite bands since then. However, it’s not totally biased because Repentless really is a good record and Slayer deserve the accolades considering that it was made without Jeff Hanneman, whose only contribution was the track “Piano Wire”. Since Hanneman’s passing people had written off the legendary thrashers and even more so when it was announced that they’d be releasing a new record. But that didn’t stop them and they came back with a swift kick to the teeth and middle finger to anyone who said the band should call it a day. I found the album to be equal parts fast and aggressive, and slow/mid-paced and dark. Lyrically it’s very direct, in some cases a bit cheesy, but still getting their point across. It certainly isn’t their but it’s not garbage either, depending on who you ask.
Choice tracks: “Repentless”, “Implode”, “Atrocity Vendor”
Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit
Bring Me The Horizon have without a doubt abandoned their deathcore beginnings with their fifth studio record. It’s even a pretty big departure from the sound the Sheffield, Yorkshire quintet had on their previous effort, 2013’s Sempiternal. The record features a pop/rock sound that is synth-heavy and catchy as hell in a good way. There’s awful catchy, like what you generally hear on the radio, and there’s good catchy; in my opinion this is the latter. All the pieces that make up this record fit well and run smoothly, with a hiccup here and there, but nothing that derails how good it is collectively.
Choice tracks: “Doomed”, “Follow You”, “Run”
The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal
Detroit melodic death metaller’s The Black Dahlia Murder continue to deliver their quality brand of Sweden-meets-Florida death metal with their seventh offering. I’ll admit there is a level of fanboy in this choice because I’m a big Black Dahlia Murder, but it’s not undeserving because it is a solid album that maintains the outfit’s ability to put together a quality album. I’m not entirely crazy about the band’s first two records (2003’s Unhallowed and 2005’s Miasma) but despite their production – the big drawback for me – even those are good. Since their third album though (2007’s Nocturnal), they have released a series of records that are distinctly their own. I guess you can say that their repetitive but it’s not because they’re rehashing riffs, it’s because they are a band that knows who they are and write what they want to hear. Vocalist Trevor Strnad’s combination screech/guttural vocal style is as sick as ever and the ten tracks that make up the album are not lacking in precision, brutality, blast beats, and everything else that makes the band a force to be reckoned with.
Choice tracks: “Receipt”, “Vlad, Son Of The Dragon”, “Threat Level No. 3”
Ghost – Meliora
The Swedish heavy metal band’s third record didn’t really have my attention at first listen, but after a handful of listens it really hits you. The band’s sound hasn’t really changed much and that’s OK because what they’re doing works. What really got me with subsequent spins was how much groove the record packs in conjunction with the catchiness of it. Once I really listened to Meliora I found myself nodding along to the entire record, singing along to the choruses, ready for another after the final note. This is a band and album that I would recommend to anyone looking for something epic that rocks.
Choice tracks: “Spirit”, “Cirice”, “Mummy Dust”
Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang
The past few years have not been uneventful for Richmond, VA metallers Lamb Of God; the biggest and most publicized event probably being the death of a fan and incarceration/trial of frontman Randy Blythe. This record is definitely deserving of recognition because it not only features the killer, groove-laden metal that the band have become known but also a number of things I can’t say I’ve heard from the band before. The biggest “risk” being the album’s sixth offering “Overlord”, which features clean vocals from Blythe that fit the track’s bluesy mood perfectly. Aside from that are guest spots by Deftones’ Chino Moreno on “Embers” and The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato on album-closer “Torches”. Their presence on their respective songs are definitely shining moments on the record for me that add a really cool vibe to already stellar songs. It’s heavy, with some freshness from the group, and definitely worth a listen regardless of how you feel about them.
Choice tracks: “Still Echoes”, “Embers”, “Torches”
The Bunny The Bear – A Liar Wrote This
The Bunny The Bear’s sixth full-length takes the New York outfit’s approach to experimental post-hardcore in a new direction. The abrasive vocal attack of Matthew Tybor is still present, but he has also proven to be more than capable at delivering clean vocals. Not in the range of the departed Chris Hutka but in a register that complements the outfit’s new “Bear”, Haley Roback. Speaking of Roback, her performance brings a new dynamic to The Bunny The Bear that I don’t think could have been achieved with a vocalist like Hutka. This record is not only different because of the change to a female co-vocalist, but also in terms of the music. The electronica of previous efforts is scaled back along with hardcore for a poppier, more rock-driven record. This is obviously not a bad thing since it’s made it onto this list. Though the songs are stylistically different, the dark, melancholic atmosphere that I really like about The Bunny The Bear is still found in A Liar Wrote This; along with more upbeat rockers. I would like for the next effort to be a little heavier but am definitely not complaining about where Tybor is taking the band.
Choice tracks: “Love, Trust, And Compromise”, “Lover’s Touch” “Somewhat Standards”
Thy Art Is Murder – Holy War
Although Thy Art Is Murder have been around since 2006, they are another band that wasn’t really on my radar until more recently. Holy War, their third full-length, has really taken me. It’s a good blend of deathcore meets death metal, with plenty of fast parts and groove to maintain my attention. Holy War is a record that I keep going back to when I need some skull-crushing music to listen to.
Choice tracks: “Holy War”, “Absolute Genocide”, “Naked And Cold”
George Kollias – Invictus
In case you weren’t aware (as was the case with me), Nile’s George Kollias is not only a top tier drummer but multi-instrumentalist that has put together one hell of a death metal record. The Greek-born musician proves that he not only has chops behind the kit on Invictus, but that he can shred on guitar and sing like any capable death metal vocalist. If straight to the point death metal is your cup of tea, then this might be the release for you.
Choice tracks: “Voices”, “Invictus”, “Shall Rise/Shall Be Dead”
Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
One of the earliest release of 2015 was Marilyn Manson’s The Pale Emperor and from the first few listens I knew this album was in the running for this list. To be honest I haven’t really kept up with the albums that followed 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me so I can’t comment much on the transition from hard rock to the melancholic blues sound that permeates the essence of The Pale Emperor. What I can say is that it works. Though the musical style is very singular, the songs groove together very well, keeping the album intact.
Choice tracks: “Killing Strangers”, “Deep Six”, “The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles”
Arkaik – Lucid Dawn
Carefully crafted, technical death metal with some serious groove to round it out. I’m new to Arkaik’s but this album – their fourth overall – has me sold on the band. It’s heavy and definitely worthy of multiple spins when you’re in the mood for something to brutalize your day.
Choice tracks: “From The Void”, “Fleshwalkers”, “Awaken The I”
August Burns Red – Found In Far Away Places
When I was first introduced to August Burns Red in the early 2000s I was a serious stick in the mud about them. Mainly because I was in high school and coming into my own as a metalhead. If it wasn’t Slayer or something that was dark and fast I wasn’t really interested. But, my tastes have matured and I have a new found appreciation for all music and August Burns Red. Their new album Found In Far Away Places is no different than its predecessors in that it finds the band playing the music they are known for: heavy-hitting metalcore with progressive elements and the interesting incorporation of non-metal interludes mid-song (see “Separating The Seas” around the 2:20-2:30 mark and “Majoring In The Minors” around 2:10). The Pennsylvania quintet continues to produce music that is captivating, with impressive musicianship on all fronts.
Choice tracks: “Ghosts”, “The Wake”, “Majoring In The Minors”
Orpheus Omega – Partum Vita Mortem
Of all the new music that I’ve come across throughout the year I can’t say that any of it was melodic death metal in the vein of Dark Tranquillity, one of my favorite bands to play in that style. The Australian quintet cover the genre on all fronts: it’s heavy, fast, with just the right amount of synth, and plenty of melody.
Choice tracks: “I, Architect”, “Karma Favours The Weak”, “Beacons”
Rivers Of Nihil – Monarchy
Rivers Of Nihil’s have delivered one hell of a slab of death metal with their sophomore full-length. The Pennsylvania tech-death quintet have put together a record that crushes with heaviness and sways the listener with its dark, ethereal atmosphere. There is no shortage of grove and brutality through the albums ten tracks. There are also some really sick melodic parts that send shivers down my spine. I can’t really think of much else to say other than you should get yourself a copy and blast this on repeat.
Choice tracks: “Perpetual Growth Machine”, “Sand Baptism”, “Monarchy”
Intervals – The Shape Of Colour
Progressive metal outfit Intervals’ sophomore full-length is without a doubt one of the finest instrumental releases I’ve listened to this year. The Shape Of Colour is a great guitar album that makes songwriting the primary centerpiece, with technical flair there to accent each composition. Mastermind Aaron Marshall applies just the right amount of showmanship without making the record a platform for him to demonstrate that he can shred circles around you. Technical, but tasteful with soaring melodies and good production (that guitar tone!). Definitely a great listen for any fan of progressive music or guitar enthusiast.
Choice tracks: “I’m Awake”, “Fable”, “Meridian”
GOLD – No Image
I don’t know what to say about dark post-rocker GOLD except that their new album No Image is great. I’m definitely more of a metalhead but there is something about this record that has me hooked on the band. I think it’s the bleak, gloomy ambiance that frontwoman Milena Eva’s voice creates. It’s a great mix of haunting and mesmerizing that fits like a glove with the melancholic atmosphere of the music. Whether this is what the Dutch outfit was going for or not (I think it may have considering they describe themselves on Facebook as “post-everything dark rock”), it works and is worth of a listen or two, or in my case several.
Choice tracks: “Servant”, “O.D.I.R.”, “Shapeless”, “And I Know Now”
The Animal In Me – Words & Actions
The combination vocal attack of screamer Shane Gould and clean singer Laura Vierra never disappoints. The Animal In Me is another new favorite of mine that I only discovered more recently and is definitely a band to look out for. A completely DIY band, they have fantastic production chops and great song-writing to boot. The California outfit is a mix of hard rock, metalcore, with some synth and it melds famously.
Choice tracks: “Actions”, “Overwhelmed”
I have also included a handful of records that didn’t make the cut but are definitely worth checking out.
The Devil Wears Prada – Space EP
Kublai Khan – New Strength
The Agonist – Eye Of Providence
Dark Sermon – The Oracle
iwrestledabearonce – Hail Mary
Continents – Reprisal