It’s quite surprising that we made it to 2016 in one piece. 2015 turned out to be a huge downer of a year with so many tragedies marking the highlights and on a personal front too, it was a tasking period. But speaking purely in terms of metal releases, 2015 is easily one of the best years with chock full of releases spanning the entire metal spectrum. Picking out the top releases in such a year is a task that is easier said than done. For last year’s list, we did a countdown of the ten records which I felt were the best. This time though, the list has been expanded to include 15 albums and the albums are not numbered. The reason behind this, is that each of these albums is as good as the other and the numbering should not be indicative of the quality of the album. With that in mind, here is what made 2015 so memorable in my opinion.
Before getting into the main list, here are some honourable mentions.
- The Kill – Kill Them… All (Grindcore, Blastasfuk Records, Australia)
- Porta Nigra – Kaiserschnitt (Avant Garde Black Metal, Debemur Morti Productions, Germany)
- Chaos Echoes – Transient (Avant Garde Death Metal, Nuclear War Now! Productions, France)
- Tribulation – Children of the Night (Progressive Death Metal, Century Media Records, Sweden)
- Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega (Black / Industrial Metal, Peaceville Records, Norway)
- Cloud Rat – Qliphoth (Grindcore, Halo of Flies, USA)
- Napalm Death – Apex Predator: Easy Meat (Death Metal / Grindcore, Century Media Records, UK)
- Tanned Christ – Antipodean Sickness (Grindcore, Grindhead Records, Australia)
Highlights of 2015
Hellbastard – Feral (Thrash Metal / Crust Punk, PATAC Records, UK)
Hellbastard is a band that has been around for more than two decades now and are responsible for shaping the early sound of crust punk. So when they released their third full length, ‘Feral’ this year, I expected a throwback sound. However, Hellbastard prove to be a band that is forever evolving with the changing times and their newest release manages to breathe some fresh air into thrash metal. Blending thrash with crust punk aesthetics, almost every track on ‘Feral’ is memorable, with their melodic undertones and it even features a cameo from Rob ‘The Baron’ Miller, where he spits out rhymes like he’s almost rapping. It’s a return to form record from these crusty veterans, as they make a strong impact after a 6 year gap between full lengths.
Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats (Black / Industrial Metal / Noise, Crucial Blast, Netherlands)
The one man institution known as Gnaw Their Tongues released one of the most
depraved sounding records this year. ‘Abyss of Longing Throats’ is an experimental record that makes use of harsh industrial soundscape and black metal elements, subjecting the listener to harsh, claustrophobic atmospheres. Maurice de Jong is no stranger to making challenging music, as is evident from his various different projects. But with this record, he achieves a certain emotional depth in addition to the complexity of the music. A more straightforward record compared to the back catalogue, Gnaw Their Tongues achieve the middle ground between the love for noise and black metal misanthropy.
Markradonn – The Serpentine Deception EP (Experimental Death Metal, Bluntface Records, USA)
The follow up to Markradonn’s debut EP came out towards the end of 2015 and it expands the band’s unique mix of brass music with extreme metal. Armed with a raw, organic sound, ‘The Serpentine Deception’ is a ballsy album that is carving out it’s own unique path. The use of hand percussion and timpani lends a strong ritualistic feel to the record and suits the mythological lyrical content perfectly. Markradonn’s progressive nature is also on display on this record, particularly towards the latter half. Easily, this is one of the freshest sounding records to come out this year. The ideas presented here have rarely been attempted before and it’s not something that will be commonplace soon.
Dead in the Manger – Cessation (Black / Doom Metal / Grindcore, 20 Buck Spin, International)
The mysterious international entity that goes by the name Dead in the Manger debuted their full length ‘Cessation’ earlier this year and the sound is as enigmatic as the band itself. Taking cues from across the spectrum like black metal, doom metal and grindcore, the band takes the listener on a six part journey that weaves through various moods and emotions. Ranging from abrasive grindcore sections to beautiful atmospheric melodies, Dead in the Manger deliver a record that is interesting and addictive at the same time. The unified sound present on this record manages to transcend sub genre tags, creating something unique and refreshing.
Death Karma – The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I (Black Metal, Czech Republic, Iron Bonehead Productions)
Composed of two thirds of Cult of Fire, the Czech black metal duo Death Karma play a raw and abrasive form of black metal. The genre’s predisposition to the strange and occult subject matter is used well by the band in putting together this concept record which deals with various burial rituals practised around the world. Armed with an abrasive atmosphere and scathing tone, Death Karma infuse unique flavours into each track that melds so well with the subject matter. Each track ends up being a unique experience and the album has a tendency of growing on the listener with each listen.
Khemmis – Absolution (Stoner / Doom Metal, 20 Buck Spin, USA)
Khemmis’ ‘Absolution’ is easily my most played album of the year. Every time I toked with my friends, we some how ended up playing this particular record over and over. This is well written stoner doom record that offers tonnes of memorability, psychedelic melodies and a groove that is more addictive than the green stuff itself. The album is an endless riff fest and most of them tend to stay with the listener long after the album stops playing. Oh, and the album has one of the best artworks of this year.
Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the Antisphere (Death Metal, Imperium Productions, Germany)
The mighty Ctulhu invoking riffs of Sulphur Aeon came out of nowhere and is easily one of the best death metal records of the year (and there were quite a few contenders for this position). ‘Gateway to the Antisphere’ embraced the Lovecraftian melodies and fused it with some hard hitting death metal. The resulting record seems to be dripping with pure evil and the thundering blast beats coupled with the mesmerizing riffs is sure to leave any death metal fan weak in the knees. The album tends to tighten it’s grip with it’s long tentacles every time I give it a spin, dragging me deeper into the abyss.
Marduk – Frontschwein (Black Metal, Century Media Records, Sweden)
The Swedish black metallers return to doing what they do best; creating blistering black metal inspired by war. With ‘Frontschwein’ the band turns its attention back to the great war. The raging form of black metal on this record manages to capture the destructive nature of the wars quite well. The riffs and the blast beats feel like artillery shelling, encouraging the listener to storm the enemy lines. Mortuus’ vocal performance deserves special mention and his vocal delivery on ‘Thousand Fold Death’ is unlike anything you’ve heard before.
Scythian – Hubris in Excelsis (Thrash / Death Metal, Hell’s Headbangers Records, UK)
Speaking of war like metal, Scythian’s second full length ‘Hubris in Excelsis’ is the top contender for ‘the album to listen to when on an mindless killing spree’. The razor sharp riffs assault the listener relentlessly with the thrash metal overtones present throughout the record. The aggressive nature of the record is bolstered further by the double bass action and the dissonant lead guitar work offers a dynamic range to the music. ‘Hubris in Excelsis’ is an album that keeps getting progressively better as the album progresses and there is absolutely no trace of fillers on this record. The only breathing space the album provides is during the spoken word sections of ‘War Graves…’ which lends to the narrative quality of the record.
Into Darkness – Sinister Demise (Death Metal, Rising Nemesis Records, Germany)
‘Sinister Demise’ is an example of how to construct a pure death metal album with absolutely no frills. Into Darkness’s third full length take cues from various styles of death metal like thrash death, brutal, slam death etc to create a cohesive product that is of the purest kind. If no nonsense death metal is what you’re after, then look no further than Into Darkness. These Germans mean business and their album is a heavy slab of death metal that is sure to crush the unworthy and weak.
Fuck the Facts – Desire Will Rot (Grindcore, Noise Salvation, Canada)
To label Fuck the Facts as a straight forward grindcore band would be to sell them short. Though the band’s sound is firmly rooted in the grind style, ‘Desire Will Rot’ sees the band push the envelope of sub genres. While managing to whet the appetite of grind fans with short, to the point riffs, the band brings in elements of melodic hardcore and even a bit of progression to create a sound of their own. The experimentations attempted on this record provides a fresh take on modern grindcore and it has enough aggression to keep the grindheads coming back for more.
Beaten to Death – Unplugged (Progressive Grindcore, Mas-Kina Recordings, Norway)
Prior to this record, my only idea of a progressive grind sound was that of !T.O.O.H! and even that was a more death metal based approach. Norway’s Beaten to Death take a rigid genre like grindcore and completely re-envision it by adding elements of post-rock, industrial, groove and slow crawling atmospheric sections. The surprising fact with ‘Unplugged’ is that the band manages to justify the grindcore tag, regardless of all the avant-garde experimentation they bring to the table.
Horrendous – Anareta (Death Metal, Dark Descent Records, USA)
Last year’s fantastic release ‘Ecdysis’ put Horrendous on the map for many people and within a year of that happening, the death metal trio have found their way into this year’s top albums list with ‘Anareta’. This band is the definition of paying homage to old school, without blatantly ripping off old school bands. Horrendous take up old school death metal ideas and mould them to create a sound of their own. This sound is equal parts heavy, progressive and melodic. With ‘Anareta’ the band continues to become more progressive and technical while incorporating elements of traditional heavy metal into the mix.
Dendritic Arbor – Romantic Love (Grindcore / Black Metal / Noise, Grimoire Records, USA)
‘Romantic Love’ is easily the most challenging record on this list and at the same time, it is also the most rewarding. Dendritic Arbor channel an extremely abrasive mix of grindcore and black metal, with a healthy does of noise added to it. The music of this band, though extreme, has a quality that seduces the listener to come back for more. Each repeated listen ends in a feeling of catharsis as the listener gets to understand Dendritic Arbor a bit more than before.
Tau Cross – Tau Cross (Heavy Metal / Crust Punk, Relapse Records, UK / USA / Canada)
I don’t remember the last time I fell in love with a supergroup. Tau Cross (consisting of members from Amebix, Voivod, War//Palgue and Misery) is a supergroup done right. The self titled debut from this band is one that is soaked in so much emotion from start to finish. The mix of heavy metal and crust punk comes together to create powerful and anthemic melodies that causes the listener to punch the air and shout in unison. Rob ‘The Baron’ Miller’s husky snarl lends a very powerful feel to the vocals. Every line and every riff of this record manages to move the listener emotionally. And for that very reason, Tau Cross’s debut is a record that I’ll keep spinning for a long time.