Dave’s Top 10 Metal Albums Of 2015

With 2015 now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look back at the metal year that was. Like Alex, I think that this year was more egalitarian than recent years past in terms of really solid releases in pretty much all sub-genres. While there were some high profile disappointments (The Diary, Love, Fear, and the Time Machine, Songs of the North), there was also lots to enjoy this year, particularly after the winter blues subsided.

In regards to the ever present Loudness War, I’m sad to say that if anything, we seem to have moved backwards. Things like Youtube gain-matching were supposed to bring about an armistice, but that has yet to come, and while last year we had a bevy of great sounding releases to choose from for our annual “Best and Worst” list, this year there were little more than a handful. If you’re a regular reader though, you know we’re not going to give up. We’ll keep doing everything we can to highlight great sounding releases and support bands that choose dynamics. If there is a positive that can be gleaned from this year, it’s that more people seem to at least be aware of this issue than ever. The Dynamic Range Database has also become a major resource with a massive amount of metal now represented there, so thank you to everyone who’s been measuring and posting DR scores there, you rock!

Without further ado, here were my favorites of ‘15. As per usual, this list is in no particular order, with the exception of the final entry which is my album of the year.

Gorod – A Maze of Recycled Creeds

Gorod’s A Perfect Absolution was one of my favorites of 2012, and the French tech death metal masters again brought the heat this year with A Maze Of Recycled Creeds. Tech death can and far too often does fall into the trap of riff salad and “how many notes can I cram in this?” syndrome, but these guys never forget that underneath it all you need a bedrock of genuine musicality to make songs that actually stick with you.

Kingcrow – Eidos

Italy’s Kingcrow have been releasing albums for a solid fifteen years, but until the release of this year’s Eidos, they were always under my radar. Eidos blends brilliant progressive songwriting with just the right amount of power cues, and the result is simply captivating. The excellent DR8 production certainly doesn’t hurt either. This is definitely a band I will be keeping a close eye on in the future.

Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of the Earth

Do I even need to say it? After drawing you into its spell with the haunting, sorrowful “Dust and Crooked Thoughts,” Sleep At The Edge Of The Earth, grabs you by the throat and will not let go. This progressive/folk masterpiece is nearly flawless, and were it not for the irritatingly loud production (though I suppose it could’ve been a lot worse – looking at you Finsterforst), it might’ve been my album of the year. Despite that, if you’ve been living under a rock and somehow missed this album, do yourself a favor and get on it. Now.

Thurisaz – The Pulse Of Mourning

A new Thurisaz album doesn’t come along too often, and 2015 was definitely made better with the triumphant return of these Belgian dark metal gods. The Pulse Of Mourning’s blend of melodic death doom and atmospheric black remains as infectious as ever. Check out “One Final Step.” Thank me later.

A Forest Of Stars – Beware The Sword You Cannot See

While I suppose one could argue that the rest of the album isn’t able to reach the heights of the incredible “Drawing Down The Rain,” Beware The Sword You Cannot See builds on everything that A Shadowplay For Yesterdays was, and is definitely the band’s best work to date. And hell, “Drawing Down The Rain,” particularly in its second half, is worth the price of admission alone.

Orden Ogan – Ravenhead

Does Orden Ogan stick to their formula too much? Maybe, but the formula is still working. If you’ve heard these Germans before, you know what to expect – hard driving folk metal riffs, and choruses tailor made to stick in your head. 2012’s To The End maybe did it a bit better, but Ravenhead is still an old fashioned good time.

Scale The Summit - V

I normally run screaming from any “verb the noun” band, but this ain’t deathcore. Scale The Summit plays modern instrumental progressive, and they do it really well. V I think even exceeds Exivious’ 2013 release, Liminal. It’s just brilliant. Sadly, it’s also DR6, and when the instruments are everything, over-loud production takes even more of a toll. It sounds nowhere near as bad as the latest Animals As Leaders album, but things could be so much better with just a few more points of DR. Hopefully the vinyl is an improvement.

Earthside – A Dream In Static

Earthside may have taken quite awhile to finally release their debut, but their patience and dedication has definitely paid off, as A Dream In Static has the fantastic writing and stellar musicianship of a band that’s been at it for years. Bringing together guest vocalists Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT), Bjorn Strid (Soilwork), Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust), and Eric Zirlinger (Face the King), the band has created one of the most varied and interesting progressive albums I’ve heard in quite some time. Sadly, despite production by no less than David Castillo, and engineering by Jens Bogren, the sound could definitely use some improvement. Still, I’m definitely excited to hear more from these guys in the future.

Angelus Apatrida – Hidden Evolution

For the most part I’ve been fairly bored with the retro thrash revival, with most of the albums released in the last few years sounding a lot more like bland later day Exodus than the Bay Area magic from the late ‘80s. On their latest effort, Angelus Apartrida have managed to deftly thread the needle, blending classic thrash cues with more modern elements into something that’s part Megadeth and part Revocation, and the result is a blast. Sadly, the mastering is thoroughly modern in all the worst ways.

Ahab – The Boats Of The Glen Carrig

After 2012’s somewhat disappointing The Giant, I wouldn’t have expected at the start of 2015 that my album of the year would be The Boats Of The Glen Carrig, and yet, here we are. The band’s fourth full length release is a definite return to form. Like the ocean, it’s at times soft and gentle, at other times ferocious and terrifying. It’s always a hell of an experience though, and if you enjoy the sensation of being crushed to death, The Boats Of The Glen Carrig delivers in spades.