In a lot of ways, 2015 has been a slower year than most for metal for me. Last year, I heard a large collection of bands and albums that just completely blew me away, and this year, there were much less of that. That being said, there were still enough fantastic albums this year to make choosing a top five a challenge, and this list is by no means a perfect representation of what I thought was the best of the year because of that, and especially the last two albums are very much arbitrarily picked over albums of similar quality.
Finally, there are a good amount of albums that I just didn’t listen enough to for an AOTY consideration, either because I fucked up or because they came out too late to really justify it; the bands that put those out are Megiddo (the biggest one, I think; if I’d hit the new album more, they’d almost certainly be on my top five), Revenge, Iconoclasm, Saligia, Sacral Rage, and Terminus. Past that, the hardest exclusions for albums that I DID hit a ton were the new Aktor, Satan, Christian Mistress, Elder, Uncle Acid, and Perversor.
With that out of the way, here we go:
#5) Noisem – Blossoming Decay
Quality aside for a moment, Noisem has, for their relatively short existence (first as Necropsy, then as Noisem) been one of those bands that really makes you question what the fuck you’re doing with your life. They’ve been going for seven years now and put out three full lengths as of this year, and half of the band can’t even legally drink in the United States yet. How many people can say that they’ve relentlessly toured with their death/thrash band since before they could gamble?
With that out of the way, I gotta admit, I’ve never been much of a fan of Noisem musically. They’ve been middling death/thrash to me that puts on a great live show…until now. Blossoming Decay is an exercise in stripped down, no-frills, punk-infused hatred that despite only being a hair over twenty four minutes long delivers one of the most punishing, just plain mean records of the year. If you want to be pummeled to death, get on this.
#4) Caedes Cruenta- Ερείπια ψυχών
Anybody that knows me well knows that I have a soft spot for Hellenic black metal, and the new Caedes Cruenta album was a much-loved addition to that style that I’m happy to have grabbed on vinyl. Ερείπια ψυχών is chock full of riffs somewhere in between Varathron and Rotting Christ, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re familiar with Hellenic black metal as a style, then this album needs no more description: just listen and love.
Note: yes, the album technically dropped in late 2014, but considering that it came out after all of the year-end lists were done (including mine), I’m calling it fair game as a 2015 year-end contender.
#3) Cruciamentum – Charnal Passages
Cruciamentum has been making waves in the cavernous death metal scene for some years now, pulling a lot of comparisons to an even filthier Incantation. To many people’s complete shock (and dismay), Charnal Passages pulled off a lot of the filthiness and, even worse, added in some synths. The riffing style changed a bit, and suddenly, we’re listening to Kaamos turned Incantation worship with tasteful synth use instead of listening to the Grave Miasma alternative that we all know and love.
Frankly, that’s totally fine with me- I love Kaamos, and the less-murky production doesn’t bother me at all on this album because it fits the style they were going for. I really, really adore this addition to the death metal scene that I love, and highly recommend it to anyone. Love Incantation? Love Kaamos? Well, you’ll love this.
#2) Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth
Hooded Menace’s style of playing death/doom over Candlemass style leads has never really clicked with me, much as I’ve wanted it to. The new album slows down a lot of the death/doom side to a dirging crawl and, for the first time, puts the leads into a place that I really like them; they’re almost a melancholy addition to the riffs that somehow transforms a band’s style that I’ve never particularly enjoyed into one that I absolutely adore. Weird, dirging death/doom with melodic leads has never been my thing before, but it totally is now. Highly recommended.
#1) Ares Kingdom – The Unburiable Dead
Ares Kingdom is a band that every old school fan should probably know. After Order From Chaos dissolved, it came back to existence as a highly traditional and speed influenced death/thrash band in the form of the band we’re now talking about. Mixing fierce, crushing thrash rhythms with the aforementioned leads, their new album is more melodic and ambitious than ever, ending with an eleven minute epic, their longest to date. I’m not going to bother with a lengthy write-up about the album because I already did a full-length review for Fetid Dead, but long story short, this album is easily the best that I’ve heard this year and completely lived up to expectations. Thank you Mike Miller, Chuck Keller, and Alex Blume for putting out this total ripper that I expect to be listening to for years to come along with your other great works.