It's the most wonderful time of the year — Best of 2015 lists! Every December metalheads everywhere engage in tireless debates over the musical merits of the year. Defending their favorites, lists fly out everywhere laying accolades on the bands who have contributed the best music over the last 12 months. Being no exception to this phenomenon, we've assembled some lists of our own!
This list will count down the 20 Best Metal Songs of 2015! These songs were ranked based on a combination of songwriting, impact, ambition and more. We have songs from some of metal's most enduring acts as well as cuts from the underground and modern mainstays. It wasn't easy, but we did it. Time to celebrate the 20 Best Metal Songs of 2015!
"Vlad, Son of the Dragon"The Black Dahlia Murder
The Black Dahlia Murder are one of the best death metal bands to emerge in the modern metal era, walking a fine line between melody and brutality. Jagged riffing collides head-first with frantic and memorable melodies that coalesce to give vocalist Trevor Strnad his platform. Taking delight in the strange, he utilizes throat-shredding highs and demonic lows to maneuver through "Vlad, Son of the Dragon" and its treacherous death metal landscape.
Portugal's leading metal band have been at it for over two decades and continue to impress. "Medusalem" comes off Moonspell's latest release, Exctinct, and showcases the group's goth-tinged metal styling with an obvious affinity for bands like the Sisters of Mercy and Love Like Blood. Upbeat and bouncy, the song contains one of the most infectious choruses that isn't fully realized until it makes its way back around the second time. Folk melodies dominate the synth work, giving off a high amount of energy for the typically sinister sounding band.
"Sand Baptism"Rivers of Nihil
Rivers of Nihil had a strong debut in 2013 with The Conscious Seed of Light and kept the brutality going into 2015's Monarchy. Rivers of Nihil couldn't be tighter on "Sand Baptism" as drummer Alan Balamut brilliantly accents his bandmates' blistering chugs and crisp solos. "Sand Baptism" also stands out as a death metal track which knows how to integrate a catchy chorus. Fans will certainly be screaming, "I am the sun, I am the moon," along with Rivers of Nihil in every city they hit up.
Periphery finally came through on the long-anticipated Juggernaut dual album this year. The band who helped pioneer the djent genre have moved forward and expanded their sound while still retaining the core elements of the band's style that incorporates the push and pull rhythms. This sets the tone for singer Spencer Sotelo to utilize his high nasal-toned voice that soars over the warring rhythms as well as unleash throat-tearing screams that still give the band their edge. "Alpha" playfully balances those two facets and gives something for the band's longtime fans to celebrate as well as new fans with more pop punk tinged sensibilities.
"Strange Gateways Beckon"Tribulation
Tribulation kick off The Children of the Night with an eerie organ melody that slowly gives way to dirge-laden guitar playing. The Swedes have created a unique style for themselves, leaving their death metal past behind in favor of more conventional song structures, fusing gleaming power chords with goth rock lead playing behind the raspy throat of bassist Johannes Andersson. "Strange Gateways Beckon" introduces the band's new style and is a perfect representation of everything that is heard on the following nine songs.
"Right Wing of the Garden Triptych"Cradle of Filth
Cradle of Filth's 11th studio album, Hammer of the Witches, had fans championing the release as arguably the band's best album since Midian at the turn of the millennium. "Right Wing of the Garden Triptych" is one of the glimmering examples of the album's greatness, unleashing a speeding attack to paint the aural picture to Dani Filth's imaginative and lengthy lyrics. The wind-up music box styled piano elements add the delicate touch that makes the song so unbelievably haunting.
"Road of Resistance"BabyMetal
BabyMetal only needed one song to leave an impact on 2015 and that came by way of "Road of Resistance." The song features high-octane power metal shredding fury with more extreme elements thrown in rhythmically and through backing screams. The idol trio takes front and center letting their collective voices soar over the dizzying speed of the song. Lyrically, "Road of Resistance" strays from the band's typical youthful innocence and urges for everyone to unite and follow their hearts.
"Fatal Illusion" is one of two Megadeth songs to be released this year as we await the band's 2016 album, Dystopia. With a star-studded new lineup in tow, Dave Mustaine and company put out one of the best songs of 2015. After a chugging buildup, the song gives way to David Ellefson in a bass spotlight before getting to the thrashing. The song has everything one could want out of Megadeth — sociopolitical lyrics, melody-infused uptempo rhythms and, of course, shredding!
"Waiting for the Screams"Autopsy
Autopsy are one of the filthiest sounding bands out there, priding themselves on their horror and gore mentality that permeates every facet of the band. "Waiting for the Screams" comes off the Skull Grinder EP, boasting a gritty production that cuts down to the bone. As the pioneers who combined slow, agonizing doom passages and reckless death metal with punk-like energy, Autopsy are still volleying tempos like indecisive maniacs. Chris Reifert's tortured vocals add to the dirty platter of death that is "Waiting for the Screams."
Queensryche did a perfect job of blending their trademark sound with a modern day twist on "Guardian." Familiar lead playing takes hold with the rolling drums that start the song and before long, singer Todd La Torre employs his dynamic range to ramp up the energy. The start and stop of the chorus helps to deliver one of the most anthemic refrains of the year. "Guardian" brings back moments that gave the band their rise to fame and avoids sounding rehashed and recycled.
The year marked one of the biggest events in Slayer history with the band releasing their first ever album without legendary guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Following the passing of the co-founding guitarist, fans wondered if Slayer would continue writing in his absence. The answer was yes and "Repentless" put everyone at ease. The song is classic Slayer through and through and could easily hang with the classics off some of the band's best albums.
"The Black Plot"High on Fire
High on Fire are one of metal most consistent acts and fans know exactly what they're going to get when the power trio smashes through the gate with another blistering attack of sludge and speed. "The Black Plot" gets down to business in a hurry with Matt Pike's guitar screaming out riff after riff with his gravely voice leading the familiar charge. The song sounds like it comes to a crash ending around the four minute mark, but the band pauses and Pike lets out a wail and starts soloing, which is what helped propel "The Black Plot" to No. 9 on the 20 Best Metal Songs of 2015.
Intronaut are one of progressive metal's most exciting modern bands. Though Intronaut is an extremely technical band, the hook for "Fast Worms" is simple as can be, but it immediately makes an impression while grounding the out-there cut. "Fast Worms" channels a peaceful dimension during its middle movement, only to smack the listener out of their unexpected calm. Another marathon track on this list, "Fast Worms," begs to be heard by the immersive listener.
"Manufactured Exctinct"Cattle Decapitation
Vegan grinders Cattle Decapitation know how to evoke a feeling of guilt from the listener. Marrying foreboding doom tempos with low, animalistic gutturals, they build the tension before unleashing a tirade of lyrics shaming humanity. The band often employs terms typically resigned to discussing the animal kingdom and turn them on the human race, eluding to the notion it should be eradicated. "Manufactured Extinct" opens The Anthropocene Exctinction in devastating fashion, making for one of the best songs of 2015.
Lamb of God's "512" is a dark and dissonant tune that sees the band hit on all the trademarks of the sound they've honed over the last 15 years. Opening with an ominous lead, the song plods at first and then starts to groove, keeping the same tempo. Randy Blythe's lyrics largely deal with the burden of guilt and being unable to escape the past as he screams "My hands are painted red / My future's painted black!"
"Memory Palace"Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me have never been afraid to get weird, and they took experimentation to a new level with their seventh full-length, Coma Ecliptic. "Memory Palace" was our first taste of Coma Ecliptic, which explores the concept of a man in a coma journeying through his past lives. The 10-minute "Memory Palace" embodies the rock opera style BTBAM were going for, building an entire stage with music and coloring its details through expressive instrumentation.
"Smash a Single Digit"Napalm Death
The grind freaks in Napalm Death only needed a minute and a half to leave a lasting impression on 2015. "Smash A Single Digit" is a straight pissed off song that sees madman Barney Greenway bark through politically-charged lyrics. He condemns the fact that big businesses will crunch numbers and ultimately make decisions based on statistics, even when it comes to quantifying human lives. Urging people are more than just a stat on a piece of paper, the rage couldn't be more palpable here.
"Death of a King"Amorphis
Ever since Amorphis recruited vocalist Tomi Joutsen, the band's run has been absolutely explosive. Amorphis kept the melodic death metal coming this year with Under the Red Cloud and its standout single, "Death of a King." Utilizing Middle Eastern instrumentals, "Death of a King" peaks during its chorus as Joutsen's voice soars into the heavens.
After taking apart an experimental nine-minute track, Ghost crafted the brilliant 2015 single "Cirice." Despite Ghost's previous music being shunned by mainstream outlets due to its overtly Satanic nature, "Cirice" was able to crack into the Top 10 of Active Rock radio and even allowed Ghost to perform on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. There's something unforgettably haunting about Papa Emeritus III singing, "Can't you see that you're lost without me?"
"Empire of the Clouds"Iron Maiden
The closing track on Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls is the longest and most ambitious song the band has even written in their 35 year professional history. The song was penned solely by Bruce Dickinson, who composed the song on the piano, an instrument he wasn't even entirely experienced playing. The result was a 19 minute epic that includes four movements and adventurous elements, including horns, woodwind instruments and more orchestral pieces. The song tells the tragedy of the crashing of the world's largest airship of the time, the R101, in October 1930 in France.