The past couple years have been amazingly impressive for metal. The sheer number of bands putting out incredible music is staggering and stretches all across the board, from old genre stalwarts, to new bands forging their own path, and bands performing at the peak of creativity: metal fucking owned this year.
This year I consumed a ton of new metal and to be quite honest, a good majority of it was killer so this year was particularly hard to actualize a favorites list (hence my extensive honorable mentions list). You’ll notice my list is mostly black metal this year. Black metal is my favorite of the metal genres but this years output was just beyond compare. Well, maybe not compare but black metal was clearly crushing it. Not to be outdone, power metal also had a killer year and I was hoping that would be the case. My other beloved genre, death metal, was not as impressive as last year but there were some incredible gems amongst the mix. Regardless, now is the best time to be a music fan, particularly of metal music. There’s something for everybody and if people could expand their rigid, narrow view of music they might actually be amazed, even inspired by what the genre has to offer.
Below is my top 25 albums of the year. All 25 albums will have links to where you can hear the music. If something sounds awesome to you, check it out.
1. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
I knew, as soon as I found out there was going to be a new Panopticon album this year, it would be my favorite album of the year. Now that sort of blind enthusiasm can lead to disappointment but that’s just how powerful Panopticon’s music is, and of course, here it sits as my favorite release of the year. People keep referring to Autumn Eternal as the conclusion of a musical trilogy and if that’s the case I’m no longer certain which of the three albums would be my favorite as all three are extremely powerful works of music and art and there’s a lot worse situations to be in than choosing between three amazing albums, so I won’t. What I will say is that this album is a goddamn masterpiece and Panopticon has already released two other masterpieces. This one has a darker, more tranquil approach mixed with the highly emotive and unique folk infused black metal of his previous two albums. I could live in the song “A Superior Lament.” I could also go on and on forever about Panopticon and this album, suffice to say it’s without a doubt the album of the year.
2. Visigoth – The Revenant King
This album is satisfying in all ways metal should be. I’m all about boundary pushing, genre defying, creative and unique takes on genre but sometimes I just want to force my fist up with authority and rock… the… fuck… out. This is easily my most listened to album of the year (had Panopticon’s new one come out earlier that might have been flipped) and it’s just about a perfect heavy metal album. I defy you to have a better time listen to a new album this year.
3. Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs
Obsequiae is making some of the most unique and beautiful black metal around. His mixture of classic black metal aesthetics with folk and medieval music is a thing of beauty and compliment each other so well it makes me wonder what the world was like without it.
4. Mgla – Exercises in Futility
I knew as soon as this was announced for release, and I called it in my weekly review when it did come out that this was going to make the list. Mgla are on fucking fire and are just killing black metal. There’s so much going right with this album it’s mind boggling.
5. Nechochwen – Heart of Akamon
Simply beautiful. I new without even hearing a single note that the new Nechochwen was going to be a force to be reckoned with. The incredibly written atmospheric black metal blends seamlessly with the quieter, American native, folk infused acoustic passages and makes this one for the ages. Bindrune has a knack for releasing incredible music and it’s no wander numerous of their menagerie appear on this list of mine, not only this year, but every year.
6. Khemmis – Absolution
This may be one of the catchiest doom albums ever made. It’s been stuck in my head for most of the year and I can’t get enough of it. The combination of classic doom elements with twin lead guitars is infectious. Equal parts doom, Iron Maiden and Dawnbringer, this one is fucking killer.
7. Vallendusk – Homeward Path
I knew as soon as this one hit, it was going to be on the year end list. Their previous album was so killer, I knew if they could maintain a minuscule amount of that power the follow up would be tremendous, and sure as shit it is. Vallendusk falls into that post, atmospheric black metal category but without all the trendy post trappings. Instead they focus on huge, beautiful, warm, atmospheric landscapes infused with hyper melodic folk passages. I love this album.
8. Sühnopfer – Offertoire
Sühnopfer kill it so thoroughly it baffles my mind there’s not more fervor around this one man band. While this came out at the tail end of 2014 I didn’t hear about it until 2015 so I’m counting it because this melodic black metal masterpiece would have surely claimed a high spot on my 2014 list. Yes, I said masterpiece.
9. Revenge – Behold.Total.Rejection
Revenge’s full on, black metal war assault is at full steam on this one. This album is a punishing, violent attack on all your senses with no concern for your well being. As fierce as they come.
10. Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror
Power metal had a hell of a year and who better than to prove that then genre kings Blind Guardian. After a couple stumbles Blind Guardian are back with this rip roaring, fist pumping, power metal monster. Proving once again if you are using the world epic and not talking about Blind Guardian, you’re using it wrong.
11. Horn – Feldpost
Feldpost or “Mail From the Field” is Horn taking on a more morose and moody style of black metal to fit the war torn imagery of the album and guess what? It’s fucking killer. This band never disappoints.
12. False – Untitled
Yet another American black metal band staking a claim on the genre. False fucking killed it on this one. It’s absolutely stunning, from start to finish. Lead singer Rachel’s vocals are a thing of chaotic beauty, perfectly fitting with their intense but often introspective and sublime metal.
13. Selvans – Lupercalia
This Italian band just sort of blasted in out of nowhere with their highly melodic and infectious take on atmospheric/folk black metal. The folk part is more subdued but this is a full on scorcher from note one. Easily one of the more fun black metal albums of the year.
14. Amestigon – Thier
This one seems to be (painfully) flying under the radar this year. You’d think that a band consisting of members from Abigor and Summoning would herald more excitement. Not to say that just because previously amazing musicians combining forces automatically makes for another amazing project, but in this case, it 100% means that as Amestigon have released one of the finest black metal albums of the year.
15. Grimoire – L’aorasie des spectres rêveurs EP
One of the earliest albums from this year that I just want crazy for. Jaw dropping-ly, beautiful, atmospheric black metal from drummer of Forteresse and Csejthe which hits my weakness for Canadian black metal. Only an EP but a powerhouse of black metal in just over 20 minutes.
16. Old Graves – The Ruin Beneath Snowfall EP
There’s so much to love on this EP in only 25 minutes. Lush, epic, Canadian atmospheric black metal that gets everything about the genre perfect. It’s beautifully captivating in it’s magnificence.
17. Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the Antisphere
Soul crushing, Lovecraft inspired death metal. This album has had its hooks in me all year. Their previous album was impressive but this one took it to the next level, sonically, epically, and punishingly.
18. NettleCarrier – Black Coffin Rites
NettleCarrier play black metal. Straight forward, no gimmickry and they do it better than most. This album is a black metal love letter through and through and is jam packed with all things that make the genre great, played with such force it’ll set your head spinning for weeks.
19. Alda – Passage
This album is sheer beauty unleashed through black metal mastery. This album is forceful yet tranquil and almost perfect in every way. Atmospheric black metal at some of it’s finest.
20. Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
Iceland has been threatening to take over as the dominating force in extreme metal, particularly black metal and Misþyrming is a prime example of the countries force. Scorching black metal, atmospheric and melodic in places and pummeling the whole way through.
21. House of Atreus – The Spear and the Ichor that Follows
Dark Descent Records always impresses and House of Atreus is no exception. Adding to their catalog of killer doom, and black metal bands is House of Atreus battle ready melodic death metal. No, this isn’t the Gothenburg style, more gritty loose style that sets the scene for the bands Greek/Shakespearean tragedy laden themes. Shakespeare in metal? Trust me, it fucking works. It fucking slays.
22. Akhlys – The Dreaming I
I’m a huge Nightbringer fan (their last album was one of my favorites from 2014) so when I got wind that Naas al Alcameth was releasing a new side project of course I needed to hear it. Bathed in nightmarish sonic landscapes of twisted, despondent black metal Akhyls might have surpassed Nightbringer with this album.
23. Death Karma – The History of Death and Burial Ritual Part 1
This one has been ringing in my ears all year. It’s from two of the members of the incredible Czech band Cult of Fire and every time through it’s more rewarding. The concept is the death and burial rituals of different nations and the songs seem tailored towards each country, thematically and musically. I’m fascinated with this album. One of the more captivating death/black metal albums of the year.
24. Panphage – Storm
Jarnvidr & Panphage – Gøthalandom
Panphage released his first full length this year after years of putting out incredible demos and or course it’s amazing. Dark, swirling, anti-cosmic, beautiful, black metal. His contribution to the split with Jarnvidr is also some incredible black metal. Panphage may be off the beaten path but his music stacks up against the best.
TIE FOR 25
25. Skepticism – Ordeal
Feeling like you want all the light sucked out of the room? Skepticism returns with their massive new album to do just that. What I like about Skepticism is despite being one of the mainstays and originals of funeral doom they refuse to adhere to the genre standards. While this is a miserable slab of despondent music, you’d be surprised how alive this band sounds. Maybe because this whole album was recorded in one take, live if front of an audience. Fucking awesome.
25. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields
Beautiful, luscious landscapes of musical despair. Shape of Despair showed up from a long absence and crushed funeral doom like they never left. This album is miserable as much as it is transcendent.
Zgard – Totem
Enisum – Arpitanian Lands
Tribulation – The Children of the Night
A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
Galar – De Gjenlevende
Windfaerer – Tenebrosum
Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War
Ruby the Hatchet – Valley of The Snake
Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
Napalm Death – Apex Predator-Easy Meat
Orden Ogan – Ravenhead
Blaze of Sorrow – Fulgida reminiscenza EP
Caïna – Setter of Unseen Snares
Arcturus – Arcturian
Horrendous – Anareta
Hegemon – The Hierarch
Invoker – Aeon
Paths – Beauty and Nihility
Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth
Vhol – Deeper Than Sky
Ares Kingdom – The Unburiable Dead
Gloryhammer – Space 1992:Rise of the Chaos Wizards
Slugdge – Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms
Nightfell – Darkness Evermore
Infera Bruo – In Conjuration
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
Seeds in Barren Fields – Let the Earth Be Silent After Ye
Cain’s Offering – Stormcrow
Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short
Tau Cross – Tau Cross*
Kroda – Ginnungagap Ginnungagaldr Ginnungakaos
Bosse-De-Nage – All Fours
Dynfari – Vegferð Tímans
Feral – Where Dead Dreams Dwell
Blaze of Sorrow – Eremita Del Fuoco
Magic Circle – Journey Blind
Downfall of Nur – Umbras De Barbagia
Death Hammer – Evil Power
Khors – Night Falls onto the Front of Ours
Grift – Syner
A Pregnant Light – All Saint’s Day EP
Ranger – Where Evil Dwells
Enforcer – From Beyond
Outre – Ghost Chants
Jute Gyte – Ship of Theseus
Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
Ram – Svbversvm
High on Fire – Luminiferou
Christian Mistress – To Your Death
Denner Shermann – Satan’s Tomb
Cloud Rat – Qliphoth
Slvyj Yar – Burial Shrouds
Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death
Judicator – At the Expense of Humanity
Black Tower – The Secret Fire
Ethereal Shroud – They Became the Falling Ash
Dødheimsgard – A Umbra Omega
Lluvia – Eternidad Solemne
Here’s to next year!