Sargon the Terrible
1. Manilla Road - The Blessed Curse
After a few disappointing albums, the mighty Road come back with their best album of epic metal since Spiral Castle. There was no way this was not going to be my album of the year.
2. Windfaerer - Tenebrosum
Following their masterful EP Solar, Windfaerer have proved they have what it takes with a tremendous album.
3. Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere
Sulphur Aeon have come from nowhere to become a major force in the underground. Here they have followed their stellar debut with the best Death Metal album of 2015
4. Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs
Another relatively new band who have grasped exactly what they are good at and what they are trying to do. The follow up to Suspended in the Brume of Eos proves to be an improvement of their sound in every way.
5. Sarpanitum - Blessed Be My Brothers...
Another out-of-nowhere release, this is a technical, furious, and melodic tour de force that really blazes a trail across the Death Metal firmament.
6. Elder - Lore
After a sophomore slump, this eldritch Doom band comes back with their best work yet. Arcane, murky, and bursting with outstanding riffs.
7. Athor - Invincible Forces Legions of Iron
Talk about riffs. This unknown Colombian band strikes like a bushmaster with an album full of old-school, steel-bleeding Thrash riffs and unlimited attitude.
8. Macabre Omen - Gods of War - At War
For their second album in a 20-year career, Macabre Omen have produced a savage, ripping hell-beast of an album, steeped in epic myth and Bathory-styled crunch.
9. Temple Of Baal - Mysterium
This band has changed a lot over the years. Gone is the dirty, evil band of their old days, and instead we get a massive, melodic, haunting album of evil and pain.
10. Scythian - Hubris in Excelsis
As their follow up to a lauded debut, Scythian crank out a more melodic, more textured, but still punishing album of their signature sound.
It's been another good year for metal, with both established and newly formed acts producing strong, memorable records. Here's a list of those that spent the most time in my rotation.
1. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
This legendary and iconic band gain the top spot with a stunning double album full of epic, brooding moments that not only push Maiden in new directions, but also touch upon their classic work.
2. Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation
The follow up to the infamous Black Light Bacchanalia, this one shows David DeFeis bringing back the vicious nature of Invictus to join the more tender and soulful direction Virgin Steele have taken lately. A grower, but definitely worth your time.
3. Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
Another astonishing record from the German Power Metal masters. Futuristic and forward-thinking, this one sits among their best work.
4. Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Finally, Nightwish make the right decision in hiring vocalist extraordinaire Floor Jansen, creating their best record since Century Child.
5. Dragony - Shadowplay
An unexpected entry here from this Austrian band, keeping the flame alive for the kind of Power Metal I grew up listening to.
6. Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death
Death Metal album of the year for me, no question. You can't deny the riffs on this album. It will hate you for even trying.
7. Sivyj Yar - Burial Shrouds
A despondent and yearning album of despairing Black Metal from this Russian one-man band. Little in the field has come to beat it.
8. Orden Ogan - Ravenhead
After the masterful To The End, the future kings of German Power Metal unleash this, their most mature and consistent album to date.
9. Sorcerer - In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross
Epic Doom with a dash of traditional metal, this newly reformed band hit hard with this album, and with good cause. Special mention goes to vocalist Anders Engberg who puts in a towering performance.
10. Cain's Offering - Stormcrow
Some may turn their nose up at this, but I haven't stopped listening to it since I bought it. A great album of melodic Power Metal from genre stalwarts Timo Kotipelto and Jani Liimatainen. Perfect for easily listening.
When I started thinking back on 2015 I was hard-pressed to come up with many quality albums off the top of my head. Then I started to go back over my reviews and found quite a few I'd lost track of, something I guess can happen when you review over 175 albums in a year. There were only a few "locks" and I've had to leave off some worthy releases (Xandria, Terminus, Orden Ogan, Raven) to get down to 10. As is my custom, only albums that I've reviewed here at the Metal Crypt are on the list so if your favorite album isn't here it, I probably didn't listen to it or it may have just sucked. Nothing personal.
1. Manilla Road - The Blessed Curse
How much did I like this album? I bought it just to be able to say I reviewed it, as I didn't get the promo from the label. The kings of Epic Metal show once again why theirs is the head that wears the crown. And normally I don't like lengthy albums but the bonus disc of rare material (After the Muse) is outstanding as well. A triumph of excellent songwriting after a couple of less than stellar albums. Long live the Kings.
2. Visigoth - The Revenant King
Since I first ran across Visigoth's Vengeance demo while surfing Metal Archives in 2010 they've impressed with every step forward they've taken culminating in signing a record deal with legendary Metal Blade records and releasing a monster in The Revenant King. All fans of old school Traditional Heavy Metal need to own this album. Classic riffs, sweet leads and masters-of-old vocals are this record's calling cards and not one is not worth your full attention.
3. Symphony X - Underworld
A band cursed by their own greatness. Underworld didn't make the same splash as their previous album Iconoclast mostly because the bar was set so high. Underworld is a fantastic display of Progressive Metal that doesn't get bogged down with frivolous details and unnecessary showmanship.
4. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
The best album of the second Bruce era, Maiden's The Book of Souls shows they still have what it takes to be one of the best Heavy Metal bands ever. The cover doesn't live up to past efforts and the album is entirely too long at over and hour and a half but there are some excellent songs from this long running band.
5. Impellitteri - Venom
Bands centered around guitarists had their heyday back in the 80s, when Impellitteri was getting started. The fact that they are still around is a tribute to their tenacity. The fact the band chose to write songs and allow all the instruments to play their part rather than hang some lyrics and a beat on a fancy solo is why this album is so good.
6. Leaves' Eyes - King of Kings
Leaves Eyes has their collective fingers on the pulse of Symphonic Metal right now. They strike a perfect balance between Heavy Metal crunch and Gothic emotion and maintain it for the entire length of the album.
7. Scythian - Hubris in Excelsis
Every year I wonder which Death Metal album will the one that keeps alive my hope that one day I'll learn to appreciate this genre. This year is it Scythian's Hubris in Excelsis, a dark and thundering album with surprising melody and some unique twists that raise it above the competition.
8. Sorcerer - In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross
Like I said in my review, Sorcerer has come up with a haunting and powerful album that doesn't rely on slow to emphasize the feelings of dread. In the Shadows of the Inverted Cross makes good use of Epic and Traditional elements to keep things moving along and never loses focus.
9. Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation
After the putrid Black Light Bacchanalia album of a few years ago and having never been a fan of this band, I wasn't expecting much of Nocturnes... Imagine my surprise when it turns out David DeFeis doesn't have to sound like a kitten going through a wood chipper. Sure, he's still eccentric but he's toned it down and his vocal lines work with the songs as opposed to dominating them. A solid album from a band that's done it before.
10. U.D.O. - Decadent
If you've never been a fan of Accept or any of Udo Dirkschneider's solo works this one isn't going to change you mind. But if you did spend significant time blasting Restless and Wild, Balls to the Wall and Metal Heart like I did, Decadent is going to bring a smile to your face. Dirkschneider is often reportedly distancing himself from his former band and even saying unpleasant things about the current incarnation but on this album he fully embraces the things that made the 80s a time of great success for Accept.
1. The Murder of My Sweet - Beth Out of Hell
This band was always a little too Gothic for me but this new album is so drenched with pop melodies and vocal lines and the guitars so underused it makes you wonder if they are even trying to be Metal anymore.
2. Damnation Angels - The Valiant Fire
More awful Hard Rock melodies on this album, made worse by the fact they aren't even good Hard Rock melodies.
3. Killer - Monsters of Rock
Belgium's Killer was always a second-tier band even back in the 80s though they certainly had some fun songs. That can't be said of their comeback album, as there is nothing fun about it, just recycled riffs and vocal lines that weren't good the first time around.
Here are the ten records I enjoyed the most in 2015, no disappointments this year!
1. Terminus - The Reaper's Spiral
Simply too cool for school, Terminus serves up a killer blend of sci-fi imagery and Heavy Metal mastery. Maybe not the most original release this year, but undoubtedly strong and sincere. As metal as it comes, and guaranteed fist-pumping, foot-stomping, head-banging action.
2. Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden
Epic Doom was well and truly alive in 2015, and Crypt Sermon totally delivered the goods. A perfect blend of crushing riffs, thought-provoking lyricism, enthralling atmosphere, and stunning art direction.
3. Sacral Rage - Illusions in Infinite Void
An endearing blend of early Agent Steel and Watchtower spliced with all those ripping Megadeth mid-sections from the late eighties/early nineties. 2015 was a killer year for debut records, as evident in my top three, and Sacral Rage held the monopoly on ripping Speed/Power/Thrash awesomeness.
4. Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death
Frankly the best Death Metal album I've heard in ages. Black Breath eschewed a solid wedge of their hardcore influence in favour of a more dynamic, epic Death Metal vibe; with the end result played out like the bastard child of Like An Everflowing Stream and Ride The Lightning.
5. Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
It took a while to get here, thanks to its odd, mechanical production, but Beyond The Red Mirror shows Blind Guardian boldly stepping into tomorrow. Immensely deep and layered, there's a reason we wait so long between Blind Guardian albums.
6. Visigoth - The Revenant King
At first I did prefer the Final Spell EP, but throughout the year I kept coming back for more. Equal parts epic and nerdy, and completely thunderous throughout, The Revenant King will have you beating your chest and bellowing your heart out. Visigoth have truly cemented themselves as epic metal heroes, hold your sword high.
7. Rocka Rollas - Pagan Ritual
How many records was Ced behind this year? The dude displays scary levels of productivity, all the more noteworthy due to the overall quality between each release, with Pagan Ritual being the strongest. Pure, hyper-charged, Power Metal majesty, with every dial cranked past eleven.
8. Horrendous - Anareta
A wonderful, game-changing slab of progressively tinged, sub-genre splicing Death Metal. Horrendous continue to jump from strength to strength, setting an awe-inspiring tempo for all to follow. I shudder to think where they can go from here.
9. Galneryus - Under the Force of Courage
Hot on a godly streak of records, Galneryus continue to deliver the goods with their most Progressive Metal-oriented release to date. Chock full of face-searing musicianship, deft songwriting, and all of that expected Galneryus charm and Power Metal mastery.
10. Eternal Champion/Gatekeeper - Retaliator / Vigilance
Too good not to include, this split received an insane amount of airplay at Foley HQ. Both bands absolutely nail it, from Eternal Champion's first class display of US Power Metal, to Gatekeeper's pounding Epic Doom/Traditional; a real winner!
1. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
Whenever a new Iron Maiden album comes out it is always a happening. Maiden's 16th studio album, The Book of Souls, divided opinions among fans due to its lengthy songs and way too progressive approach to it. The album seemed to form two different camps among Maiden fans; haters and lovers (as far as I can recall, the same thing happened with Priest's Nostradamus). Obviously I belonged to the latter camp... ;o)
2. Satan's Host - Pre-dating God - Part 1 & 2
Satan's Host's career has been skyrocketing since Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin (also in Jag Panzer) rejoined the band in 2010. On the band's 9th studio album Pre-dating God - Part 1 & 2 Satan's Host truly outdid themselves and recorded their best album of their career. Awesome, evil-oozing Heavy Metal in its finest form! Hailz! \m/
3. Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere
Death Metal with tons of striking atmosphere can hardly get any better than this.
4. Dr. Shrinker - Contorted Dioramic Palette
When one of my underground tape-trading heroes Dr. Shrinker announced in 2013 they were reformed, I became very excited. Now, two years later, they (finally) released their debut album and I was floored!! Unique, vicious Death Metal like back in the day the one and only Dr. Shrinker style. Welcome back buddies!
5. Black Talon - Endless Realities
Riff-tastic! Thrash-tastic!! Simply awesome Thrash from these Scots on their debut album!!!
6. In Malice's Wake - Light Upon the Wicked
Australian Thrash Metal heroes' first international release. Dark, brutal and mean hasn't sounded this good in a very long time. Simply awesome record from this Australian Thrash patrol! \m/
7. Worthless - Grim Catharsis
... And in total and cold darkness they shone beautiful grimness that wrapped all of us around it...
8. Gruesome - Savage Land
Total early Death worship à la Leprosy era. If you need a perfect tribute to Chuck's early works, look no further; here it is!
9. Ranger - Where Evil Dwells
Finnish Speed merchants Ranger can do no wrong. The band's debut album oozes more Thrash Metal elements than any other Ranger demo/EP release so far. Old school reeking? You bet that's what it is!
10. Sarpentra - Supernova
Russian Death Metallers strong tour de force, challenging Nile in complexity and technical finesse.
Edward T. Head
1. Orden Ogan - Ravenhead
I keep waiting for Orden Ogan to let me down, and the band keeps refusing to do so. Ravenhead is yet another testament to how amazing Power Metal can be when in the correct hands.
2. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
I was a bit apprehensive about the length of The Book of Souls prior to its release, but it turned out to be everything I love about modern Maiden, cranked up to 11.
3. Symphony X - Underworld
After a small letdown with Iconoclast, it's great to hear Symphony X back at the top of the Progressive Metal pedestal with Underworld.
4. Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
The most bombastic album since the vastly underrated A Night at the Opera, Beyond the Red Mirror proves that Blind Guardian isn't ready to slow down any time soon.
5. Tulsadoom - Storms of the Netherworld
Beastly and barbaric Heavy/Thrash/Death Metal that's old-school as hell. Storms of the Netherworld sounds like Omen meets Usurper meets Venom at a Robert E. Howard convention. Badass!
6. Armageddon - Captivity & Devourment
So Chris Amott leaves Arch Enemy due to artistic differences or some such, and comes back with a much better Melodic Death Metal album than Arch Enemy has released in years. Maybe he was just tired of mediocre metal?
7. Ensiferum - One Man Army
From the very beginning, I have never tired of Ensiferum's brand of anthemic, bouncing Folk/Power/Melodic Death Metal. One Man Army is the band's strongest statement since Iron.
8. Breitenhold - The Inn Of Sorrowing Souls
Worshipping at the altar of early Blind Guardian is a sure-fire way to catch my ear, and Breitenhold do it better than most. Speedy and catchy, The Inn of Sorrowing Souls is simply fun from start to finish.
9. Swallow the Sun - Songs from the North I, II & III
As ambitious as an album can get, and Swallow the Sun managed to pull it off. While not perfect, all three gloomy discs are engaging, with II being an absolute thing of beauty.
10. Marduk - Frontschwein
Marduk has finally released what I think of as the spiritual successor to Panzer Division Marduk, and I couldn't be happier. Full blast(ing) Black Metal, that's also catchy? Yes, please.
1. Dark Moor - Project X
What the hell happened to Dark Moor? I was fine with the shift from Power Metal to a more symphonically-driven sound, but this is just spacey, Progressive Rock junk. And I actually like Progressive Rock.
2. Unleashed - Dawn of the Nine
Uninspired and rehashed. While I'd never expect Unleashed to "reinvent the wheel", Dawn of the Nine sounds like a collection of B-sides from the band's much better last two albums.
3. Secrets of the Moon - SUN
While I still enjoy SUN, the band's nearly complete turn to Post Metal left me a bit cold, especially following the greatness that was Seven Bells.
4. Amorphis - Under the Red Cloud
This album only makes the disappointments list because I expect so much from Amorphis, and the fact that Under the Red Cloud couldn't crack my top 10 is disheartening at the very least.
5. Helloween - My God-Given Right
Helloween has been living off past glories for a while now, but My God Given Right takes it a step further, sounding tired, and epitomizing the cliché of "mailing it in".
It's been a while since we had this many high-quality debut albums in the Heavy Metal scene. Hell, I can't even remember a year since we had so many excellent first releases in this century: Terminus' Reaper's Spiral, Serious Black's As Daylight Breaks and Accelerator's self-titled debut are only a few of the strong efforts by new bands, proving that it is indeed a great era to be a Heavy Metal fan. We also could witness good comebacks by bands once forgotten or that just went on hiatus, the case being with good albums like Disciples of the Sun by Pyramaze, No Child Left Behind by Viking, Scanner's The Judgement, etc. Great efforts also by the likes of Rocka Rollas, Blazon Stone, Forefather, Symphony X, Impellitteri, Enforcer, Melechesh...I could go on all day. This list was really hard for me to create because of the number of high-quality albums to pick from, but hey, this was a welcome headache, as it notes that Heavy Metal is as strong as ever. So, without further ado, here are my top 10 picks for 2015.
1. Sacral Rage - Illusions in Infinite Void
It's no shocker that my favorite album of 2015 comes from a band that pays homage to the Speed/Heavy metal from the golden age of the genre, one of my favorites. Although reminiscing Agent Steel, Helstar and other greats, Illusions in Infinite Void stands on its own and gets better with each listen. Intricate, complex and, most of all, fun.
2. Manilla Road - The Blessed Curse
The Blessed Curse has everything we need in a Manilla Road album, with potent songwriting and masterfully created melodies, reminiscing at times The Deluge and Open the Gates. This is their best album in a while, and one of their best works overall.
3. Orden Ogan - Ravenhead
Ravenhead is far superior than any other Power Metal release this year, and it's not even close. It's well-played, fun and full of attitude. What is really scary is that Orden Ogan has talent to grow even more and something tells me that we haven't seen their best yet.
4. Visigoth - The Revenant King
Traditional, heavy, epic, and now highly respected. This is the greatest surprise of the year and well deserved of the top 5 spot in my list.
5. Horacle - Dead Eyes Revelations
Guess what? It's another debut album. Those who love bands like Agent Steel, Attacker and Liege Lord will feast with Dead Eyes Revelations. Lord Sabbathan managed to capture the essence of the 80's Speed Metal with mastery.
6. Satan's Host - Pre-dating God - Part 1 & 2
I won't count this as cheating, because technically this is only one album, and the release of parts I and II were separated by only one day. Pre-Dating God is practically a culmination of Satan's Host entire history, and trust me, this is a good thing.
7. Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden
Epicness, heaviness, melancholy, anger. Out of the Garden is the epitome of all we love in the Doom Metal genre, and more. More impressive than the music itself is the fact that this is the debut album by Crypt Sermon: It has a level of maturity that some bands never dream of achieving, and these guys are only getting started. If you are a Doom Metal fan, rest assured that the future of the genre is in pretty damn good hands.
8. Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere
Death metal album of the year. Period.
9. Dark Witch - The Circle of Blood
Imagine a mix between Crescent Shield, Battleroar, Paragon, Brainstorm and Wizard, and you will have an idea of what this album sounds like. This is a celebration of true Heavy Metal, and will quickly become an underground classic.
10. RAM - Svbversvm
Sweden Speed Metal sensation RAM releases its first really good album and it's so good it deserved a special place in my top albums this year. Great old-school vibe.
1. Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation
Those who know me will get surprised to see Virgin Steele in my disappointment list, being a huge fan of the band since I was a kid. This is not the Virgin Steele I know, though. In fact, I dare you to find a spot in the album which doesn't feature DeFeis screaming, whining or crying for more than 10 seconds. Sad.
2. Steelwing - Reset, Reboot, Redeem
It feels to me that this Steelwing is merely a shell of the band that released an album so strong it was compared to early Scanner. Highly flawed and full of weird screams and sounds, Reset, Reboot, Redeem placed Steelwing once again in the common ground.
3. Evil - Shoot the Messenger
This is not even close to the Evil that released the highly praised Evil's Message back in 1984. In fact, this album features a completely different sound than everyone expected. Bland and uninspired, Shoot the Messenger is doomed to be forgotten and it can even stain Evil's legendary status.
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