Castillo2015 seems to have yielded a larger-than-usual crop of good music. For the first time since I’ve joined this fine website, I’ve found a lot more than 10 albums that could have easily made this list, and I’ve had to make some tough calls. Obviously, this is a good problem to have, and I’m not complaining.

As always, if your favorite album isn’t on my list, it’s because your opinion is wrong, you have terrible taste in music and I don’t like you. Onward!


(ish). Tau Cross // Tau Cross – From the ashes of the short-lived Amebix reunion comes Tau Cross, featuring Amebix frontman Rob Miller alongside members of Misery and, of all people, Voivod‘s Michael Langevin on drums. The resulting music resembles a more organic Killing Joke at times, or perhaps Motorhead with a social conscience. The album does have a few more tracks than are absolutely necessary, but “Fire in the Sky,” “Stonecracker,” “Prison” and “We Control the Fear” are all winners.

10. Satan // Atom by Atom – On a roll following the unbelievable comeback of 2013’s Life Sentence, NWoBHM legends Satan take a victory lap with Atom by Atom. Classic, catchy metal riffs are plentiful here, bolstered by songwriting chops that newer “retro”-minded bands can only wish they had. Atom By Atom does pale somewhat in comparison to Life Sentence, and I’ll admit that I’m not quite as enamored by it as I was initially. However, it’s still a damn fine record, and it goes a long way towards scratching that classic metal itch that Iron Maiden‘s new record didn’t quite reach.

9. The Night Flight Orchestra // Skyline Whispers – The 2nd album from Soilwork frontman Björn Strid’s ’70s rock vanity project. Chock full of era-appropriate synth work and tasty lead guitar, Skyline Whispers effectively evokes the era of tiny shorts, mustaches and Camaros. It doesn’t quite measure up to the band’s debut Internal Affairs in terms of songwriting or audacity, but there’s still a lot of good things happening here. Tracks like “Stiletto,” “Demon Princess,” and “Living for the Nighttime” will rock you like a hurricane.

8. Queensrÿche // Condition Hüman – Other than perhaps Body Count, there is no band that has inspired years of totally unwarranted adulation from this author quite like Queensrÿche. This time though, my praise is well-earned: Condition Hüman finds the band on solid ground for the first time in over two decades, and marks a return to a more blatantly metal/hard rock approach. The songs here are catchy, heavy, and somewhat progressive, boasting plenty of dual guitar work and the powerful voice of new-ish singer Todd LaTorre. Hüman is the record most Queensrÿche fans have been waiting for since Empire, and it settles any arguments about this lineup’s legitimacy once and for all.

7. Mutoid Man // Bleeder – While his main band Cave-In botched their comeback attempt with the pretentious and unlistenable White Silence, singer/guitarist Steven Brodsky proves that he’s still got his wits about him. Bleeder‘s material is heavier, shorter, and more direct than most of the Cave-In catalog, and for lack of a better term, it’s pretty fun. As the sole guitarist, Brodsky gets to show off his chops more than usual, backed up by insanely fuzzed-out bass and the spastic drumming of Converge‘s Ben Koller. As a side note, these guys put on one of the most entertaining live shows I’ve seen this year. 

Baroness_Purple_016. Baroness // Purple – Baroness‘ 4th album lives up to some high expectations while avoiding predictability. The huge choruses and songwriting prowess displayed on Yellow are still in full force, yet that approach is tempered by the presence of heavy, proggy riffs that are more reminiscent the band’s early years. Longtime members John Baizley and Pete Adams continue to deliver anthemic guitar work and impressionist lyrics, capably backed up by a new rhythm section. While relatively concise by Baroness standards, Purple covers an awful lot of sonic ground, and proves that despite some major setbacks over the last few years, this band has continued to grow and evolve.

5. Wilderun // Sleep at the Edge of the Earth – I suppose we have you, the AMG readers, to thank for this one, since you told us about it via the AMG ForumWilderun combines Opeth-esque riffs and vocals with traditional folk instrumentation and some classically-inspired arrangements. Musical themes and vocal lines reappear throughout the album, giving it thematic cohesion and an almost cinematic feel. And, even when removed from the context of this album, “Linger” is possibly the most gorgeous piece of music I’ve heard all year. Sleep is a monster record, one that actually delivers on its massively ambitious aims. Keep an eye on these guys.

4. Killing Joke // Pylon – If I seem slightly less impressed by Pylon than my colleague Grymm (who gave this album the coveted 5 out of 5), it’s because Killing Joke has spoiled me rotten. Everything they’ve released since 1996’s Democracy has ranged between “really good” and “head-explodingly awesome,” and Pylon is no exception. This record contains some of the bleakest, most abrasive music of the band’s career (see “Dawn of the Hive,” “Delete”), while balancing it with more sublime tracks like “Euphoria” and “War on Freedom.” Not content with having influenced everyone from Metallica to Ministry to Nirvana, Killing Joke will probably continue to beat the shit out of our eardrums for decades to come.

3. Vhöl // Deeper than Sky – My fanboyish worship of guitarist John Cobbett (Ludicra/Hammers of Misfortune/Slough Feg) is further encouraged by Vhöl‘s sophomore record. The band pulls from classic speed and thrash metal, then augments those influences with equal parts prog rock, black metal, and psychedelia, resulting in a truly unique and strange sound. Cobbett’s efforts are backed by an absolutely grinding rhythm section and the deranged vocals of Mike Scheidt (also of Yob). Oh, and the slide guitar section during the title track wins the 2015 Riff o’ the Year™ award — the 2nd time Vhöl has taken that trophy home.

2. Royal Thunder // Crooked Doors – Making the most of some Fleetwood Mac-style inter-band turmoil, Atlanta’s Royal Thunder delivers an incredibly mature and emotionally charged sophomore album. Crooked Doors may be somewhat less aggressive than debut album CVI, but it’s also miles ahead in terms of songwriting and performance. I honestly can’t believe this album was released this past April, because these songs feel like they’ve been with me for years. Credit must also be given to vocalist/bassist Mlny Parsonz, who happens to possess what might be the most powerful singing voice on earth. Like Baroness before them, Royal Thunder is transitioning from “another sludgy metal band” into “writers of great songs,” and Crooked Doors is the tipping point.

1. Failure // The Heart Is a Monster – In perhaps the most flawless comeback since CarcassSurgical Steel, 1990’s space-rock icons Failure return with their classic lineup and musical prowess intact after an 18-year layoff. The songwriting tandem of Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards is still a force to be reckoned with, and the resulting material, while more nuanced and less blatantly drugged-out than before, is absolutely mind-blowing. “Mulholland Dr.” and “Snow Angel” still give me chills, while “Fair Light Era” and “Hot Traveler” are loud and weird, just as Failure should be. Extra points are given for operating via PledgeMusic instead of a traditional record label, thereby delivering top-notch music directly to the fans.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Tribulation // The Children of the Night
W.A.S.P. // Golgotha
Therapy? // Disquiet
Riverside // Love, Fear & the Time Machine

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  • Luis Onieva Marenco

    I was waiting for Da Fisting, always with some damn good recommendations. Disrupted for not seeing Steven Wilson and Gentle Storm here, but getting Failure to the year´s top banana dignifies this list awesomely. Picking Queensryche´s and Royal Thunder´s for a later heard.

    By the way, thanks for the pleasant writing guys :D

    • Dr_Fisting

      Ah shit, I totally forgot about Steven Wilson…that probably should have been on here. Like I said, there were a LOT of good records this year.

  • Why isn’t Trials on your list!?!?

    • RuySan

      Because it sounds like Pantera

      • You wot m8?

        I actually remember you making this comment on the original review. Back then, it still didn’t make any sense.

        • RuySan

          It was AMG who said it, not me

      • Artorias Pyrelord

        wat

    • Artorias Pyrelord

      Why isn’t Tribulation on ANYONE’s list? What the fuck.

      • Thatguy

        Because it is OK

      • Wilhelm

        It’s cool they’re doing something different, but their move away from death metal and to alt/goth rockish metal results in songs that aren’t as engaging. I like it but their new sound seems a bit bland compared to The Formulas of Death.

      • Ask Steel Druhm. He’s the guy who wanted it to be RotM!

  • Kronos

    All hail the Fisting Listing!

  • Kyle Elliott

    Happy to see baroness on the list. Purple has some really strong songwriting, maybe some of their best. It’s just a shame that it’s buried under a poor mix/master

    • Dr_Fisting

      The mastering and the 12/18 release date are both infuriating to me. They came very close to not making this list merely because I hadn’t heard the album until last week.

    • Heifer Madness

      The drums in particular sound just awful. I feel like the guitars and vocals work out well for most of the record, and the bass is ok depending on the song, but the drums just sound like shit.

  • Have we already made “the doctor is in” Jones about Dr. Fisting?

    • [not a Dr]

      That’s why we like having a proctodontist around.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Vhol AND Satan? I love me some Fisting sometimes.

    Wait…

    • Dr_Fisting

      Who doesn’t?

    • Pimpolho

      Ah, the sweet marvelous connotations…

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Nice. Riff Of The Year?

    • Diego Molero

      “Oh, and the slide guitar section during the title track wins the 2015 Riff o’ the Year™ award — the 2nd time Vhöl has taken that trophy home.”

      • Lacertilian

        I’m partial to the slide guitar in the intro on “Big Red” from Turbid North’s latest.

        • Dr_Fisting

          I’ll have to check that one out. I’m not changing my list though.

  • Diego Molero

    Excellent list Doc! Have to check out The Night Flight Orchestra, Royal Thunder and that Queensrÿche album that I didn’t know it existed until now. Glad to see Failure in the #1 spot, really a surprise

  • One More Thing

    I really like your list. Very well thought out (despite the lack of Steven Wilson). Thanks for another great year of reviews!

    • Artorias Pyrelord

      Why does everyone have a hard on about that steven wilson album anyways? it’s good, but i dont see the hype behind it.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I loved it because it got better everytime I listened to it. Music you really feel.

      • One More Thing

        Because of the level of depth and dimension that the material possesses. The music paints the picture of the concept extraordinarily well on its own without the aid of the lyrics. However, the lyrics are so thoughtfully worded that they add another level of sorrow that gradually intensifies as the album calmly progresses forward. By the end of the album, I was incredibly sad because I was identifying with the character. While not for everyone (and speaking for only myself), the fact that an album can take that much of a toll on me emotionally is an impressive feat. Simply put, it’s a beautiful album in every aspect, IMO.

      • MelbCro

        I don’t know man, might have something to do with the music being amazing?

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Your reasoning and One More Thing’s are both extremely accurate.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    So much stuff I’ve missed out on, but wow, I can kick myself for not checking out Vhöl before. That is some great stuff.
    New Killing Joke was sweet too, it’s incredible how they continue to bring something new to the table with each new album, a rare feat for most older bands.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    And so we begin the old-man lists!

    Brilliant list, Doc! Thanks for all the awesome write-ups during 2015, and all the best for 2016!

  • Thatguy

    For what it’s worth my take is that this is a solid list – not one I could hate but not can I endorse it whole heartedly.

    I used to play in a band called Night Flight but I do not get the love for the Night Flight Orchestra.

    • Clearly you aren’t living for the nighttime.

      I kinda like the night.

  • You wot m8?

    I’m glad that Wilderun has gotten as much attention as it has on several year-end lists. I was a bit worried that it might fall through the cracks.

  • William Hebblewhite

    Interesting list. Haven’t given much thought to Queensryche lately so I guess I should give it a spin.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      That’s the one album on that list that had me scratching my head.

      • Dr_Fisting

        Give it a listen, if you haven’t already.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Well, if you’re personally suggesting it, I’ll check it out. That’s what Spotify’s for. Gotta admit, though, my hopes aren’t high. Never too big on Queensryche’s uber-popular stuff, so now that they’re getting old.._ of course I didn’t have high hopes for Killing Joke either, and I can’t get enough of that album.

          • Dr_Fisting

            Due to lineup changes, Queenryche may be the one ’80s band that’s technically getting younger, not older. Still, if the ‘Ryche is not your thing, this album probably won’t change your mind.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Alright, I checked it out and it was better than I’d expect from such an aging band. I really liked “Bulletproof, ” and REALLY liked “Arrow of Time,” but as a whole, it just reinforced why, as you put it, the ‘Ryche just isn’t my thing. Musically, they certainly ooze professionalism in their playing and writing and the production was top notch, but with them and other world class musical bands such as Dream Theater, this can be somewhat detrimental as the songs all have that similar sheen to them and I have trouble telling one from the next. Well done album if you’re into them, though, so I can see why you’d put it on your list.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Solid! I completely forgot about that Failure album, another thing for me to put on my playlists for the new year. I gotta thank you for your Satan and Vhol write ups. Atom by Atom and Deeper than Sky are easily two of the best metal albums and songs of the year and are among my favourites this year
    BTW I admire your modesty. This Ruined World is the album I wish Slayer had made this year!

    • Dr_Fisting

      Thanks! Although if Slayer had released TRW I’d be pretty upset, since we wrote those songs.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Is “Atom by Atom” really metal? I’d just call it straight up rock. Doesn’t really matter because there’s no “metal only” criteria on these lists (wouldn’t really call Killing Joke or Failure metal either). Just kind of curious to hear you call “Atom by Atom” a metal album. I never even considered it that.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I’d say Atom by Atom is every bit the metal album. With the duelling twin leads, proto thrash NWBHM drums, Brian Ross’s quintessentially and unmistakably metal vocal style, even the band name and album artwork are metal as fuck…I can’t see the confusion :)

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Thanks for the clarification. Must be just me. When I think of NWOBHM, I just think of Maiden, even though the genre had other members that I’m not too familiar with (such as Satan). I’m gonna listen to that album again tonight. Every time I’d play it I’d be thinking “these guys are REALLY good,” but then I just never felt like playing it again. No clue as to why.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I only know their contemporary work, it’s worth persisting with. The trick is to not take it too seriously it’s meant to be good old fashioned dangerous fun.
            It’s a very retro style but they’re of the era and do it with such flair I can’t help but enjoy it.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            I think it would click better for me if I could smoke a bowl before I play it. My medical card still has a month on it. I think I’ll call the club next month and then check out “Atom by Atom” when I’m in a slightly different mindset.

      • Dr_Fisting

        If Maiden, Sabbath, Motorhead, Diamond Head etc. are metal, than Satan (and their albums) are definitively metal as well.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Diamond Head? OK, I guess I’d call them metal. I’m just an annoying dork.

  • testiklees

    Great to see Royal Thunder get a nod. Time Machine is a sledgehammer of a track. I would urge you to check out the new Lucifer also, and give Myrkur some love!

    • Dr_Fisting

      Go back a couple days to Grymm’s list, he had some very nice things to say about Myrkur.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Even though Failure may not have been on my top 10 list, it was a great album, better than their last. Also, props for recognizing Riverside and Pylon which both are on my top 10 list. 3 of these discs I just ordered and should get next month: Wilderun, Vhol and Baroness (any actual review coming for that one?). I also have Trials, Alustrium, Dreamgrave and Coldplay’s new album on the way. Next month should be sweet. I tried hard to get into Satan and Mutoid Man but they haven’t clicked yet. Great list, though, like pretty much every one of the reviewers for this site. My top 5 of the year (even though I know no one cares):

    5. Kingcrow -“Eidos”
    4. Khemmis – “Absolution”
    3. Gloryhammer- “1992”
    2. Killing Joke – “Pylon”
    1. Riverside – “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine”

    Honorable mention:
    Iron Maiden – “Book of Souls”
    Steven Wilson – “Hand. Cannot. Erase”
    Blur – “The Magic Whip”
    Cain’s Offering – “Stormcrow”
    Coheed and Cambria – “The Color Befor the Sun”

    I probably missed something, it was tough narrowing them down.

    • Pimpolho

      Kingcrow! Yay!

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Right on! Album got slightly overlooked, but it was pure progressive brilliance.

  • Philip Pledger

    Always happy to see Sleep getting some love. It’s been firmly planted at the top of my list since May, and is probably my favorite metal record to date.

  • Luke_22

    Great list. I really dig Crooked Doors but I was so floored and addicted to CVI that in comparison it hasn’t quite hit me as hard, although it’s a very strong follow-up and great album in its own right. Baroness is also great, despite the atrocious mastering job. .

  • El_Cuervo

    See, I’d actually take Skyline Whispers above Internal Affairs. I think the highs are higher and I prefer the long song! But both are so great.

  • Kryopsis

    Pff! None of these albums are as as good as ‘This Ruined World’!
    (But seriously, nice list)