There's no doubt that headbangers enjoyed another banner year in 2015. These last 12 months proved to be a successful for many established, and up-and-coming metal bands from various sub genres. Through it all, we've been keeping track of our favorites and the bands that surprised us the most.This was not an easy list to compile, but we now present our year-end list of the 10 Best Metal Albums of 2015.
Palace of Vision
Bay Area stoner metal band Saviours probably shouldn’t just be pigeonholed as a stoner metal band, since they bring so much more musically to the table. Since the band formed 11 years ago, it has codified a revitalizing sound of speed metal, British New Wave of Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and a doomy. And yes, there’s plenty of stoner vibes. With the band’s fifth full-length, Palace of Vision, the songs are faster than normal, and executed with razor-sharp skill. The result is a slightly darker approach than the band’s previous efforts with a more aggressive, chugging energy surging through the entire of the album. Songs such as “Burning Shrine,” “Hells Floor,” “Devil’s Crown,” and “The Beast Within,” suggest a bleak future and apocalyptic themes, which pairs perfectly with the thrashy, stoner metal the band has crafted on this record.
9. High On Fire
This album is a heavy, distorted, hour-long ride down the rabbit hole with a fast, dark and thunderous sound. Although guitarist Matt Pike is the lead singer of High On Fire, the trio functions as a unit as the songs bleed into one another. Pike fuses the work of his past band, the legendary stoner metal unit, SLEEP, along with the sounds of Venom and Motorhead to create a dark, sludgy musical force dedicated to all things esoteric including many conspiracy theories and occult subjects. This album is inspired by writers like David Icke, Zacharia Sitchin and Joseph Campbell, among others. Tunes on this record such as “The Black Plot,” “The Sunless Years,” and “Slave the Hive,” speak of the non-human Reptilian forces working to enslave humanity, the secret societies that run the world behind and the proliferation of chemtrails into the atmosphere. This album might make you think about some way-out their crazy shit, if you get into the lyrics, but you’ll be banging your head while doing it.
8. Cattle Decapitation
The Anthropocene Extinction
Cattle Decapitation possess a sound that has turned them into one of the hardest working and most extreme metal bands in the scene, pushing forth with visions of brutality in the meat industry, and other misanthropic themes. With The Anthropocene Extinction the band has never been tighter, with the drums and guttural vocals standing out clearer than before. The record also dives into a bit of experimental territory for the band, with small hints of various samples and other sounds used throughout. Lyrically, rather than focus on the inhumane treatment of animals, Cattle Decapitation instead use this record to highlight the destruction and poisoning of the Earth by humankind. Some parts of the album’s songs are a lot darker, and a bit more slow than usual for than anything the band has put out, but this is not a slow record by any means. Songs such as “Plaugeborne,” “Pacific Grim,” “The Burden of Seven Billion,” and “Mutual Assured Destruction,” detail the pollution and irreversible damage being done to the earth, and paint a pessimistic picture of the future on our planet, if there is one.
The Direction of Last Things
LA’s favorite prog metal band display true talent with the fifth full length album, which is a comprehensive testament to a sound that no other band in metal has. The songs seem to encompass a sense of urgency and consciousness that is dreamy, metallic and proggy, but manage to retain a sense of tribal heaviness and funky rhythm section. Together, the sounds can leave listeners hypnotized within a few minutes of listening. The band’s creative and abstract form of metal has evolved over the years but always managed to transform genres, blending doom metal, stoner metal, prog and even djent, creating music that defies boundaries, as the years go on. This record proves that a band’s chemistry onstage can be captured on record. The musicianship and songwriting craftsmanship of Intronaut is top notch, and this is a prefect thinking man’s metal album.
6. Napalm Death
Apex Predator-Easy Meat
Despite numerous changes in lineup, Napalm Death has been in existence for three decades. As a band many cite as creating the grindcore scene internationally, Napalm Death has perfected their ravenous blend of old school punk and death metal responsible for sub-genres such as power-violence and crust. With the latest album, Apex Predator-Easy Meat, the band not only hasn’t slowed down over the years, they have gotten faster, bringing more intense riffs, blast beat fury and vocals that are demented and inhuman sounding. Thematically the band’s rejection of capitalism, call to end poverty, oppression, and war for profits are expressed in songs such as “Timeless Flogging,” “Dear Slum Lord,” “Cesspits,” and “Bloodless Coup.” The band’s age has nothing to do with the shredding intensity and raw power of the music, which many younger bands today fail to emulate. This might be one of Napalm Death’s fastest records in recent years.
5. The Black Dahlia Murder
Michigan’s The Black Dahlia Murder have paved the way for the younger generation of death metal bands, with a sound that took from American and European influences. With Abysmal, the band’s seventh record, the band’s roots in old-school death metal and hints of metalcore and black metal are explored. The Black Dahlia Murder has always had an intensity around them, with high pitch demonic vocals and blast beat drumming faster than a machine. The band is even more focused on Abysmal with an evil and more sinister sound more prevalent in such songs as “Vlad, Son of the Dragon,” “Stygiophobic,” and “The Fog.”
4. Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls
This is the band’s 16th album, and Iron Maiden prove that they still hold onto a magical sound that catapulted heavy metal music into the international spotlight. This 90-minute album is Iron Maiden’s first double album, and is so epic that it makes time fly when you listen to it. The band’s successful formula of including long, fully formed tales turned into songs songs has continued with “The Red and the Black” lasting 13-and-a-half minutes, “The Book of Souls” at 10-and-a-half minutes and the 18-minute album closer “Empire of Clouds,” which now surpasses the band’s classic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” as the band’s longest song. This album definitely has a Powerslave feel to it, with the songs flowing one after another and sticking in your head after they are gone. The band is still on fire after all these years, and without disrespecting the band’s past catalog.
3. Lamb of God
VII Sturm Und Drang
Lamb of God as a band has gone to Hell and back within the past few years. With the incarceration of singer Randy Blythe in 2012 in the Czech Republic for the death of a fan at a concert, to being eventually acquitted of all charges, and the recent cancellation of the tour in Europe due to the Paris Terrorist attacks the band has had a rough past few years. Any other band would call it quits. Not Lamb of God. Despite the obstacles of life, they carry on, holding the torch for metal music for future generations. With an aggressive and heavy approach to heavy metal, many claim Lamb of God took over where Pantera left off in the American heavy metal scene. With the band’s seventh album, VIII Sturm und Drang, the band used the turmoil of the recent past to create a more focused album than previous efforts. Blythe’s prison experiences form the majority of the album’s darker, psychologically tortured songs, which are reflective and full of rage and solitude. The music was a collaborative effort, with Blythe penning 90 percent of the lyrics while incarcerated and awaiting charges of manslaughter. This is a very emotional, unrelenting, and soul bearing record. The inspiration can be both felt and heard in Blythe’s voice and the musical focus is apparent in every song as the layers of each instrument help to cauterize this record into something that sounds like typical Lamb of God, but also still manages to sound refreshing innovative.
After everyone questioned whether the band was done after the untimely death of founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman in 2013, Slayer fights on, despite any detractors and haters who are adamant the band should ended with Hanneman’s demise. But tell that to a defiant Kerry King and Tom Araya, who with the help of Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt still keep Slayer alive. Repentless, is Slayer’s 11th studio record, released on September 11, 2015. This is the first album to feature guitarist Holt, but Kerry King, wrote most of the songs, except for the song “Piano Wire” which was written by the late Hanneman before his death. The music is still fast and violent with the songs covering topics such as Armageddon, religious hypocrisy, hate and violence and alcoholism. Repentless is proof that Slayer might be getting older, and be without of it its founders, but they are still keeping the legacy and influence of thrash metal alive and well.
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1. Fear Factory
As masters of melody and menacing sci-fi industrial metal, LA’s Fear Factory have released their ninth full-length studio album this year to much critical acclaim. The band’s sound, although somewhat static over the past two decades, has been at the forefront of so many younger metal bands. Fear Factory is a band who you know by sound, and each album might be different from the band's catalog, as they had a few years between with messy line up changes. Yet, on Genexus, the duo of founding members, guitarist Dino Cazares and vocalist Burton C. Bell, showcase the talent and showmanship in creating an album about the future of humanity that has been chronicled by so many dystopian films and novels. This is a super heavy teutonic album, which many critics and fans say is where the band should have continued after the album Demanufacture, what is said to be the band’s classic 1995 offering. Fear Factory’s computerized, mechanical and technocratic sound buzzes well with the enormous riffs of Cazares and the Burton’s dual vocals of aggressive and melodic interludes that has influenced a generation of metal singers. Genexus displays classic Fear Factory from start to finish with hints of industrial tinged metal that pulls listeners in with songs like “Anodized,” “Dielectric,” “Soul Hacker” and “Battle for Utopia.”
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in OC Weekly, a Westword affiliate newspaper.