We’ve reached the end of 2015 and this year I’m personally editing these Top Ten lists. For the first time (ever) I am reading the production of the different writers we’ve assembled over the last few years. I am shocked. I am dismayed. I feel angry, offended, galled. But I am not surprised. Under Steel Druhm and Madam X‘s indulgent care and averted gaze the young Angry Metal Staffers have run amok. Alas, after having actually consumed of the words these gentlemen produce, I’m firing them all. It’s back to the drawing board: me, Steel Druhm, and as much metalcore as you can eat!
So enjoy your time in the sun, boys. Thanks for the fanart and the invention of the Jørnicorn! Thanks for the excellent company you kept with me at the Opeth concert in London and thanks for the occasionally excellent musical tips! Thanks especially for writing so many reviews that make use of moderately competent constructions of the English language and hitting deadlines from time to time; we’ve really appreciated it. Your contribution to this blog has been revolutionary for us in terms of popularity, genres covered, and Steel Druhm and Madam X‘s developing understanding of copy editing.
But like all things, nostalgia eventually strikes the Jaded Angry Guy and the insight hits: everything was better before. I miss the slow publication schedule, the constant personality clashes between myself and Druhm, and a lust for life.
I also miss lists made of music I could really get behind.
But this self-portrait that little Kronos drew really brings a tear to my eye for all the good memories that we’ve shared. Spheres. Jørnicorns. A weird dude with 4 balls… wtf is that, even?
Anyway, all these feels have made me decide to give you a reprieve from your semiannual mass-firing. It’s a Christmas miracle! <3
10. Trials // This Ruined World
9. Nechochwen // Heart of Akamon
8. Alkaloid // The Malkuth Grimoire
7. Sulphur Aeon // Gateway to the Antisphere
6. Obsequiae // Aria of Vernal Tombs
5. Wilderun // Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
4. Chelsea Wolfe // Abyss
3. Horrendous // Anareta
2. Vhöl // Deeper than Sky
1. Steven Wilson // Hand.Cannot.Erase. – Steven Wilson’s status as a modern-day marvel of progressive music was well and truly established even before he busted out into solo territory. However, it wasn’t until he dropped 2013’s sublime The Raven that Refused to Sing that he convincingly sold me on his musical direction as a solo artist. Hand.Cannot.Erase. signals an ambitious and melancholic chapter in Wilson’s career, finding him boldly veering down a more contemporary and adventurous songwriting path without eschewing his soulful connection to vintage progressive rock. Beautifully written, produced and performed, Hand.Cannot.Erase. is a haunting conceptual masterwork that’s arguably the most emotive and heart-wrenching album of Wilson’s illustrious career.
Beaten to Death // Unplugged
Royal Thunder // Crooked Doors
Slugdge // Dim and Slimeridden kingdoms
Mgla // Exercises in Futility
Satan // Atom by Atom
Alustrium // A Tunnel to Eden
Song o’ the Year: Vhöl – “Deeper Than Sky“
10. Obsequiae // Aria of Vernal Tombs
9. Deadspace // The Promise of Oblivion
8. The Grand Astoria // The Mighty Few
7. Oceanwake // Sunless
6. Nechochwen // Heart of Akamon
5. Beardfish // +4616–Comfortzone
4. Lik // Mass Funeral Evocation
3. The Night Flight Orchestra // Skyline Whispers
2. Serious Black // As Daylight Breaks
1. Wilderun // Sleep at the Edge of the Earth – Where do I even begin with this one? I happen to be in the camp backing 2015 as a great year for metal, but Wilderun was just so far ahead of the competition. I would literally not change a single aspect of Sleep at the Edge of the Earth and I’m convinced it will go on to be a truly standout album of the 2010s. Though broadly folk metal, the myriad of genres at play are executed and integrated with sincerity and skill, including black metal, melodeath, prog and classical. Full of pomp, bombast and yet realizing an earthy mysticism, this was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
Song o’ the Year: Finsterforst – “Mach Dich Frei”
Dr. A.N. Grier
10. Jørn Lande and Trond Holter // Dracula: The Swing of Death
9. Enshine // Singularity
8. Tau Cross // Tau Cross
7. Leviathan // Scar Sighted
6. Trials // This Ruined World
5. Kampfar // Profan
4. Serious Black // As Daylight Breaks
3. Ethereal Shroud // They Became the Falling Ash
2. Gorgoroth // Instinctus Bestialis
1. Reign of Fury // Death Be Thy Shepherd – This year has been a combination of new beginnings and nostalgia for Dr. Grier. Losing my job at the end of last year led me on a cyclic journey of relocation to the very town I obtained my undergraduate education years before. The difference, however, being that I graduated from student to professor. So, it’s only fitting that my Record o’ the Year further chills me to the bone with déjà vu and nostalgia. Based solely on the Bay Area thrash of yesteryear, Reign of Fury‘s Death Be Thy Shepherd is undeniably classic and unashamedly precise; producing material for those of us that grew up when Metallica, et al. (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) ruled the underground. Besides being the most fun I have had all year, Death Be Thy Shepherd ceases to bore me and—without a doubt—is my most-spun album of 2015. Being one that selects top picks based on the number of return visits, Death Be Thy Shepherd took the crown without a fight.
Ghost // Meliora
Spock’s Beard // The Oblivion Particle
Death Alley // Black Magick Boogieland
Cattle Decapitation // The Anthropocene Extinction
Stellar Master Elite // III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter
War Curse // Final Days
Song o’ the Year: Reign of Fury – “Death Be Thy Shepherd”
Diabolus in Muzaka
10. Gorelust // We Are the Undead
9. Deathhammer // Evil Power
8. Gorgoroth // Instinctus Bestialis
7. Acherontas // Ma IoN: Formulas of Reptilian Unification
6. Paradise Lost // The Plague Within
5. Predatoria // Unmarked Graves…Tell No Tales
4. Kataklysm // Of Ghosts and Gods
3. Kjeld // Skym
2. Visigoth // The Revenant King
1. Sulphur Aeon // Gateway to the Antisphere – Melodic death metal that draws from the wellsprings of Morbid Angel and Immolation instead of sucking Slaughter of the Soul even more dry, Gateway to the Antisphere stands as a testament to what metal should be in 2015. Instead of being purely revivalist or obnoxiously modern, Sulphur Aeon craft music that will sound fresh, timely, and vital when we’re listening to it a decade from now; the only thing that will put a date stamp on this is when we fondly remember it as 2015’s best offering. I’ve been listening to this consistently since April, and that shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Gateway to the Antisphere is the whole package: incredible songs, a nearly flawless listen from front to back, stunning cover art, and the best song of the year. 2015 wasn’t a good year for Sulphur Aeon, 2015 belonged to Sulphur Aeon.
Song o’ the Year: Sulphur Aeon – “He is the Gate”
10. Gorod // A Maze of Recycled Creeds
9. Sarpanitum // Blessed Be My Brothers…
8. Satan // Atom by Atom
7. Slugdge // Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms
6. Night Flight Orchestra // Skyline Whispers
5. Lychgate // An Antidote for the Glass Pill
4. The Gentle Storm // The Diary
3. Horrendous // Anareta
2. Beaten to Death // Unplugged
1. Vhöl // Deeper than Sky – It was a super tricky pick between the top two, but Vhöl just about edged it. This album has everything good about heavy metal densely packed into forty-two insane minutes of sheer delight. Brilliant songs, hammering riffs, insane vocals, righteous attitude, and plenty of curveballs have me reaching for the play button again every time this finishes. The ludicrously tight performances, great production and awesome cover art provide the icing, cherries and magic candles on top of this scrumptious and unique aural gateaux.
Song o’ the Year: Ghost – “Cirice”
10. Deathhammer // Evil Power
9. Iskra // Ruins
8. Cult Leader // Lightless Walk
7. Infernal War // Axiom
6. Frosthelm // The Endless Winter
5. Scythian // Hubris in Excelsis
4. Mgla // Exercises in Futility
3. Abstracter // Wound Empire
2. Vattnet Viskar // Settler
1. Macabre Omen // Gods of War – At War – I went full metal nerd this year developing my Top 10 list, meticulously documenting every new album I listened to with a series of color-coded spreadsheets and cryptic iPhone notes. In the end it didn’t matter—by my third or fourth listen of Gods, it was clear this was going to trump everything else from 2015 anyway. As discussed in my Things You Might Have Missed, Gods is simply an outstanding album through and through: dynamic and richly layered without being overbearing, epic without a trace of cheese, and with some of the most potent and triumphant melodies I heard this year. Songs like the title track and “Rhodian Pride” feel raw, powerful, and genuine, and the rest of the album follows suit with soaring operatic vocals and well-placed acoustic flourishes. The concept, production, songwriting—everything here is top-notch, resulting in a record that serves as a reminder of just how great metal can be.
Song o’ the Year: Mgla – “Exercises in Futility VI”
10. Khost // Corrosive Shroud
9. Sulphur Aeon // Gateway to the Antisphere
8. Ufomammut // Ecate
7. Cruciamentum // Charnel Passages
6. Chaos Echœs // Transient
5. Kampfar // Profan
4. Amestigon // Thier
3. Batushka // Litourgiya
2. Lychgate // An Antidote for the Glass Pill
1. Liturgy // The Ark Work – While I had a hard time picking only 10 entries for this list and many great records were left out (My Dying Bride and Krallice, for example), I didn’t have any doubts whatsoever about #1. Because when I think of 2015 in music, and not just metal, it’s Liturgy‘s divisive, yet unequivocably unique and forward-thinking, record that steals the limelight. I find The Ark Work to be one of those idiosyncratic albums whose radical challenges towards the status quo make belittling and derision inevitable, but that carry the potential of becoming influential cult classics once the dust settles. Time will tell whether I’m a fool or a prophet.
Song o’ the Year: Ghost – “Cirice”
10. Unleashed // Dawn of the Nine
9. Down among the Dead Men // Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy!
8. Vassafor/Temple Nightside // Call of the Maelstrom
7. Perdition Temple // The Tempter’s Victorious
6. Revenge // Behold. Total. Rejection.
5. Trials // This Ruined World
4. Ghoulgotha // The Deathmass Cloak
3. Watchtower // (3 songs from) Mathematics
2. Ares Kingdom // The Unburiable Dead
1. Faith No More // Sol Invictus – Few albums this year have polarized the general public and the AMG staff as much as Sol Invictus. Clearly I am on the “pro” team. A challenging album from a band that has pretty much always refused to do what the fans want (besides still playing “Epic” at live shows for some unfathomable reason). If everyone loved it, it probably wouldn’t be so fucking great.
Song o’ the Year: Faith No More – “Cone of Shame”
Sentynel (our tireless and ever wigilant IT nerd)
10. Steven Wilson // Hand.Cannot.Erase.
9. Myrkur // M
8. Jess and the Ancient Ones // Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
7. Year of the Goat // The Unspeakable
6. Avatarium // The Girl with the Raven Mask
5. Gloryhammer // Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards
4. Ghost // Meliora
3. Public Service Broadcasting // The Race for Space
2. The Night Flight Orchestra // Skyline Whispers
1. The Gentle Storm // The Diary
Song o’ the Year: The Gentle Storm – “Heart of Amsterdam“