Best Metal Album of 2015 – 5th Annual Loudwire Music Awards
What a year! Some of metal's biggest bands released stellar efforts and some groups in the underground are starting to make ripples in the big pond, as well. Whether you like your metal old school and traditional, black, death, thrash, doom, sludge, or a mix of any and all combinations, 2015 was sure to please!
After some painstaking debate, the year's nominees for Best Metal Album have been whittled down to the 20 releases across all of metal's stylings. Check out the 20 albums for you to vote on to determine the Best Metal Album of 2015 in the 5th Annual Loudwire Music Awards! Fans can vote once per hour through the deadline of Dec. 1 at 8AM ET, so get those votes in to pick the winner!
Amorphis are a band as mercurial as their name makes them out to be. Always looking to evolve, the band cohesively ties their sound together across every album while expanding into new territory. The Red Cloud is no exception, boasting some of the best work to date from the Finnish outfit with songs like "Death of a King" and "Dark Path." Forging beauty with brawn, Amorphis remain at the top of their game.
It's been 10 years since we last heard any new Arcturus, but the band's comeback Arcturian certainly makes the decade-long drought easier to stomach. To be fair, the Norwegians disbanded for four years during that timeframe. The album cover brilliantly defines the band's sense of mystery and things only get weirder from there, especially when introduced to the electro-heavy beginning of the opener "The Arcturian Sign." Black metal riffing collides head on with orchestral arrangements and the wonderfully unique voice of ICS Vortex.
Between the Buried and Me's evolution took its next step with 'Coma Ecliptic,' which has been described as a rock opera by the band. BTBAM is dead right, as Coma Ecliptic finds the band delivering its most theatrical record yet. Never afraid to get weird, BTBAM go into Queen / Frank Zappa territory while keeping their core sound in tact thanks in part to longtime producer Jamie King. It may take a few listens for 'Coma Ecliptic' to click, but once it does, you'll be hopelessly addicted to tracks like "King Redeem - Queen Serene" and "The Ectopic Stroll."
Cradle of Filth remain one of the most unique entities out there with their malevolent brand of what can only be simply summed up as extreme metal. Blending orchestration, ethereal female vocals, and Dani Filth's inhuman voice and lengthy lyrics, the English group is still creating some of the best music of their career. Hammer of the Witches is a diverse album that sees every member firing on all cylinders.
Cattle Decapitation got more atmospheric on The Anthropocene Exctinction, but still retained all the gore and continue to hemorrhage pure and brutal death metal. Travis Ryan employs a distinctly unique "clean" voice that fuses those atmospheric parts, creating a feeling of impending doom. Considering the subject matter is routinely a disgust of the human race mucking up the planet, this fits right in line with what Cattle Decapitation were all about in the first place.
Deafheaven are one of black metal's most polarizing bands, largely due to their lack of what most would consider mandatory metal attire. The music is what's truly important, which is why New Bermuda is one of the year's best releases. Weaving together hypnotic Cascadian black metal around their roots, the band flip the switch, wresting the listener from the icy trance into a dream state with the shoegaze moments that are just as arresting.
Norway's black metal legends Enslaved are one of the genre's most outgoing bands. Even when black metal was in its infancy, the band was already tinkering with the formula and adding progressive elements right from the start. Fast forward almost a quarter century and you've got the band's 13th release, In Times. The album may appear short with only 6 tracks to its span, but In Times occupies nearly an hour with progressive black metal mastery. Enslaved go for the throat with the opener "Thurisaz Dreaming" and also invoke some dream-like states later on with "Nauthir Bleeding."
Ghost's aim on Meliora was to craft an all-encompassing album that felt like a traditional mass from beginning to end. The band uses similar pacing to the church's music along with its tried and true methods, but with delightfully nefarious intent despite the band's seeming ambiguity. Giant choral arrangements decorate the album, giving it a a feel of the sum of its parts being greater than any singular moment, proving why Ghost are one of the most popular acts to emerge in recent times.
Hate Eternal are one of death metal's most punishing bands with Erik Rutan bringing a relentless fury with each album. Infernus is possibly the band's crowning achievement thus far, both musically and from a production standpoint as Rutan handled every aspect. On the surface, the album seems like an exercise in brutality for the sake of brutality, but a closer listen will reveal the intricacies of the band's music, especially the frenzied drumming of Chason Westmoreland elevating Infernus to new heights in the genre.
Matt Pike is a terror on guitar, producing some of the thickest guitar sounds in metal. The riffmonger hit paydirt once again with Luminferous, which is a potent exercise in sonic mastery with his gravely Lemmy-esque rasp barking over the speed and sludge. The rest of the band are no slouches either with some furious and forceful drumming pounding away and anchoring the band with the bass remaining lockstep and thunderous. Songs like “The Black Plot” prove that High on Fire are still blazing a trail seven albums into it.
After a five year drought, Iron Maiden delivered their first double album to date, boasting 90 minutes of, well, Iron Maiden! Bruce Dickinson dominated the cancer that left two tumors on the back of his tongue pulling off one of his finest studio performances in his career. The band took a focused group approach to writing the album and each members’ style can be heard across the expansive album. From the ripping opener “If Eternity Should Fail,” to quick-paced jams like “Speed of Light” and “Death or Glory,” to the epic title track, and down to the 18 minute Dickinson-penned opus “Empire of the Clouds,” Iron Maiden are still on top.
Randy Blythe's nightmarish Czech trial and incarceration thankfully ended in an exoneration for the vocalist, and fans knew some seriously dark music would come from the ordeal. Lyrically, Blythe undoubtedly delivered while experimenting with clean and spoken-word vocal styles. With Lamb of God's instrumental section bringing its A-game as well, VII: Sturm und Drang will surely go down as one of LoG's strongest works.
The one man black metal machine Leviathan is back with the first release in four years. Scar Sighted introduces a plethora of new elements to the sound mastermind Wrest started almost 20 years ago. While all the black metal and droning ambient aspects are still in full-effect, swirling, cavernous death metal elements meld with the familiar sounds to create a sinister and caustic atmosphere. Songs like "Gardens of Coprolite" and "All Tongues Forward" are some of the finest examples of Wrest's ability to seamlessly fuse his influences.
Sweden's Marduk are the sonic equivalent of relentless artillery fire. War and Marduk go hand-in-hand and Frontschwein is no exception. Between the near ceaseless blast beats and Mortuus' vomit-soaked vocals, fewer black metal bands come across with more of a purpose than Marduk. When the band isn't blasting away, they conjure up dissonant rhythms that sway back and forth like a fresh corpse who just had the chair kicked out from underneath their feet. If anyone ever asks what black metal is, just play "Thousand-Fold Death" and sit back with crossed arms and a frozen stare.
Napalm Death have been grinding longer than anyone and still continue to do it better than most, serving up Apex Predator - Easy Meat as their 15th studio release. Frontman/madman Barney Greenway once again completely loses his temper in the form of socio-political barking fits backed by pummeling grooves, dizzying rhythms, and concussive blast beats. By this point, fans know exactly what to expect from Napalm Death, but tracks like "Smash a Single Digit" and "Timeless Flogging" prove predictability isn't always a bad thing.
Paradise Lost are one of the big three death/doom bands from England who helped pioneer the genre and take it to new heights time and time again. Ever-changing, the band sounds as fresh as ever on The Plague Within. Vocalist Nick Holmes is decidedly more aggressive and incorporates more of his death growls into the music than he has in recent years. This works wonderfully, allowing for songs like the melodic "An Eternity of Lies" to really stand out and shine against some of the harsher material.
After making waves with their first two full-length albums, Periphery embarked on their most ambitious project yet. Periphery's double Juggernaut release, 'Alpha' and 'Omega' goes for an epic 80 minutes, exploring sonic realms far beyond this planet. With a tasteful mix of djent, progressive metal and a pop sensibility, Periphery's 'Juggernaut' releases are sure to make many year-end lists.
Queensryche's second effort under the new era with Todd La Torre sees the band expand on a lot of idea they started with on their self-titled release. While Queensryche was largely hard-hitting and to the point, Condition Human sees a more diverse range of songwriting, catering to the diversity of the musicians. The showcase this with rippers like "Guardian," the soft and mellow "Just Us" and the modern and progressive title track. Full of energy and dynamic songwriting, Condition Human thrusts Queensryche back into the heavy metal spotlight.
Slayer's Repentless is the band's first album without the late Jeff Hanneman, as Kerry King shouldered the songwriting load. Under pressure to produce a standout disc following the loss of a key member, Slayer succeeded with Exodus' Gary Holt serving as Hanneman's replacement. The band churned out an album that sounds like, well, SLAAAAAYYERRRR! Thrashy and just downright heavy, Repentless is a proud effort that makes a statement that Slayer are here to stay.
Tribulation are a peculiar band that has changed styles with each album released. The Children of the Night borrows heavily from traditional metal, gothic rock, and the occult rock of the '70s. These sounds provide the backdrop for the lone extreme metal element left, which is the raspy growled vocals that, in turn, provides a fresh take on the influx of traditional metal and rock bands springing up. Vocal hooks give off a light pop sensibility here, but there's nothing radio friendly about songs like "Strange Gateways Beckon" and "Strains of Horror."