2015 was a pretty exciting year, musically, and I’ve taken the time to compile a little Top 15 list of albums that I enjoyed this year. I reviewed most of those albums on here, but I’ll give each of them a little bit of attention as I go over them, so let’s start.
15. Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar
After parting ways with their vocalist Tobias Jaschinsky, Der Weg einer Freiheit decided to not let that stop them and continue on, releasing a very solid post black metal album with guitarist Nikita Kamprad on the vocals. Songs like Eiswanderer are the truly stellar moments on this record and the band definitely stepped up their game a bit compared to their 2012 release Unstille.
14. SikTh – Opacities
Opacities is the crowdfunded first release in 9 years by modern progressive and math metal pioneers SikTh who recently reunited in 2014. The band hasn’t lost any of their fire over their hiatus and deliver a mini-album/EP with chaoticly catchy progressive metal tracks fronted by the sometimes pretty eccentric vocal duo of Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill, both still at the top of their game.
13. Sanzu – Heavy Over the Home
Australian death metal newcomers Sanzu already received a bit of attention on this blog after delivering a very solid debut album as a follow up to their Painless EP that came out earlier this year. Sanzu definitely did a good job of fusing elements of their great source of inspiration, namely french progressive death metal giants Gojira, with their own ideas, creating a heavy, intense and groovy album.
12. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Another album I recently reviewed is Cattle Decapitation’s seventh full-length record, The Anthropocene Extinction, an incredibly technical and organic sounding death metal record. The deathgrind sound of previous albums such as Monolith of Inhumanity is also still very present in the band’s music, further intensifying this already extreme album.
11. Sylosis – Dormant Heart
Sylosis’ fourth album Dormant Heart was my first review of this year and I feel like the band really established a strong personality on this record, releasing some of their strongest material to date with songs like Mercy and Leech, still among my favorite tracks of this year. Dormant Heart offers a lot of very fast, melodic thrash metal with the band’s metalcore roots still very visible. Josh Middleton’s vocal delivery on this record was also on a completely new level, showcasing a high degree of control over his sound.
10. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
American one man black metal project Panopticon received a lot of attention in the metal scene in recent years with the release of albums such as 2014′s Roads to the North, a record that incorporated instruments and elements of American folk music and bluegrass in a very nostalgic, warm and organic way, combining it with the very cold and harsh sound of black metal. The follow up to Roads of the North, Panopticon’s sixth album Autumn Eternal, actually either removed a lot of the folkier parts, replacing them with post-rock elements, or just utilized the additional instrumentation in a slightly different way, while still preserving Panopticon’s signature sound.
09. Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Another American one man black metal project released a strong album this year, namely Jef “Wrest” Whitehead’s Leviathan. Scar Sighted, which I also reviewed on here, constitutes his sixth full-length release, on which Wrest stays true to his form of the traditional, lo-fi black metal sound, but also adds a lot of very dark, atmospheric and kind of ritualistic sounding sections, which results in a very captivating and diverse black metal record.
08. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic
After releasing a few records that didn’t sit quite right with me in recent years, Soilwork returned to form for me with the release of their 10th studio album The Ride Majestic that showcases a very well done fusion of their 2000s sound with the new identity they established on their previous two records, ultimately coming together on an album that I enjoyed a lot.
07. Sarpanitum – Blessed Be My Brothers
Blessed Be My Brothers is the sophomore effort of the UK based technical death metal band Sarpanitum, that took me and big parts of the scene by surprise, delivering a very thick, dense and intense technical death metal album with some very bright and shining guitar leads, historic lyrical contents and atmospheric interludes, that make this album a pretty unique experience.
06. Botanist – Hammer of Botany
San Francisco based one man experimental black metal project Botanist released a very strong EP called Hammer of Botany in April, which I reviewed earlier this year. Replacing guitars with hammered dulcimers, Botanist manages to create a very unique and warm sounding kind of black metal. I felt like the music on this EP was a bit more dynamic and I liked how it not only had some of the band’s most intense material, but also utilized influences from genres such as shoegaze pretty well.
05. Enslaved – In Times
Entering the Top 5 of my 2015 albums, we have Enslaved’s 13th studio album In Times, which I reviewed not too long ago. Enslaved returned to form for me on this album, delivering a consistently strong kind of progressive black metal, with a very distinct atmosphere and captivating, slowly developing compositions.
04. Hamleypa – Im Morgen von Einst
My personal favorite black metal release of this year however, is the debut album of german post black metal outfit Hamleypa. Im Morgen von Einst constantly shifts back and forth between very atmospheric, post rock sections with the occasional piano and incredibly dramatic, intense black metal parts fronted by the very emotional screams of their vocalist.
03. Sumac – The Deal
Progressive sludge metal band Sumac is the collaboration of ex-Isis frontman and Old Man Gloom vocalist/guitarist, Aaron Turner, ex-Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn and Russian Circles bassist Brian Cook. The trio released its debut album The Deal earlier this year, with another album already in the works. The Deal combines an incredibly heavy sludge metal sound with atmospheric and progressive sections that also draw from doom metal and noise music in places, creating a very interesting mix of influences. I felt like the personalities and playstyles of the participating musicians came together really well, ultimately resulting in a very strong debut album, that definitely makes me look forward to their sophomore record.
02. Slugdge – Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms
Slugdge is a UK based blackened death metal duo that made it their mission to spread the gospel of Mollusca, greatfather of all gastropods and omniscient, enlightened Netherslug from the lightless depths of space. Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms is the third great album in a row for this band, a dynamic, intense and atmospheric death metal release with very unique and diverse vocals, incredibly well written lyrics and very creative use of effects, that also delivers some of the band’s best material to date. Slugdge’s sophomore effort Gastronomicon was also my second favorite album of 2014 and despite me being a little bit on the fence with their latest album initially, it grew on me a lot and Slugdge are really one of the most important bands to emerge in recent years, if you ask me. Praise Mollusca!
01. The Hirsch Effekt – Holon: Agnosie
The first place of this list and my number one album of 2015 is the third release by german avant-garde and progressive post-hardcore/mathcore trio The Hirsch Effekt, which I reviewed back in April of this year. I felt like the band really stepped up their game and came out with a consistently stunning album from front to back, showcasing incredibly technical and creative musicianship as well as very unique, ferocious, emotional and diverse vocals by Illja Lappin and Nils Wittrock. As on their previous two releases, the band also utilized a lot of additional instruments on this record, weaving them into their compositions very effectively and tastefully. The Hirsch Effekt is another very notable band of recent years for me and I feel like they’re really doing a great job of pushing the envelope while still preserving a very coherent sound.
Onwards to 2016 This concludes my Top 15 list of 2015 and I’m probably going to take a brief break until the new year comes around with new releases to review. I’m already looking at the new Conan album, that is scheduled for a release in January, to be my first review in 2016. My personal goal for this blog in the next year is to write more reviews on a more frequent basis and I’m pretty confident about that, seeing as there are releases of Meshuggah, Gojira, Neurosis, Sumac and the aforementioned Conan to look forward to in 2016. That’s it from me for this year, see you all in 2016!