Greg's Top 15 Albums of 2015
All December long, Metal Injection writers are counting down their favorite albums and moments of the year. We kick things off with our senior editor, Greg Kennelty. Make sure to vote for your favorite album of the year in our Reader's Poll here…
Sometimes groups of people get together and record music. Sometimes those groups give themselves a name and release that music to the public. That happened a lot in 2015, and some of it was great! Some of it wasn't, or at least it wasn't as good as others (subjectively), but you won't be reading about those here anyway.
Here are my favorite 15 instances of people and bands releasing music in 2015.
15. The Atomic Bitchwax Gravitron
The Atomic Bitchwax is terrifyingly good at writing riffs. Every single song on Gravitron has an earworm vocal hook, and while that's always a plus, the riffs on this album are front-and-center as they run the gambit from singable to downright technically impressive.
If there's one thing Gravitron isn't, it's a lazy, coattail-riding rock and roll rock. Each song sounds meticulously composed, intricately weaving a tapestry that'll sure be adorned with some kind of "Sex, Drugs N' Rock N' Roll" patch at some point. Though really, would you have it any other way?
14. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats The Night Creeper
The Night Creeper is the sound of a band realizing its potential and running with it. The first half of this record is your typical Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats fare- massive vocal harmonies, slow-burning riffs and enough guitar harmonies to make Iron Maiden blush.
Then the second half of the record hits and all of a sudden you're right in the middle of something unsettling, bordering on horrifying. Static-laden guitars, organs droning maddeningly in the background and a closer that lives up to its name, "Slow Death." Unlike your typical acid user after a few years, the band isn't burning out anytime soon.
13. Paradise Lost The Plague Within
Paradise Lost has always maintained a baseline of "pretty good" with quite a few spikes up into the atmosphere of "oh damn, that's awesome!" The Plague Within is easily one of those spikes, if not the towering spire on that hypothetical landscape.
The Plague Within plods, crushes, buries you alive and leaves you with just enough room to dig yourself out to start the record over. It's a doom record with classic death metal influences and even a little bit of classic rock tossed in there.
12. Barren Earth On Lonely Towers
What happens when you get a bunch of dudes from various doom and folk metal bands together? Apparently crazy good progressive metal that incorporates a wide variety of keyboards, oddball guitar lines, death metal tendencies, film soundtrack-like instrumental sections and a group mentality that everyone deserves the spotlight here and there.
On Lonely Towers is a monstrously colorful record that ends up being a sum of its parts. You can't paint a descriptive picture without a diverse palette, right?
11. Napalm Death Apex Predator – Easy Meat
It's relatively easy to sound pissed off as a vocalist, but it's a whole different story when every single sound made by every single instrument simply seethes with a white-hot rage. Consider that Napalm Death put out its first record in 1987, albeit with a completely different lineup, and it makes that dedication to being unrelentingly angry, blindingly fast and still innovate all that much great.
Apex Predator – Easy Meat is equal parts classic grindcore, mid-paced obliteration and even some odd vocal stylings and bits that sit on the fringe of what might be deemed "progressive." Think of it as your old-school Napalm Death that managed to get its hands on what's going on in modern metal.
10. Deafheaven New Bermuda
This is not where I expected Deafheaven to go. Not even a little bit.
Coming off the heels of Sunbather, and given the interviews where the band's members talked about its next record being much darker, I expected Sunbather II: 2evil4u. Instead, I got a record that genuinely feels like the sounds of falling apart and finding yourself again.
New Bermuda relies less on a wall of sound and more on individual parts sitting in just the right places in the mix, giving the record a huge, spacey sound. Extraneous instrumentation is just as present as ever, with church bells, acoustic guitars, slide guitar, field recordings, timpanis, but they feel less like sideshow features and more a part of the bigger, bleaker picture.
9. Wilderun Sleep at the Edge of The Earth
I like to think Wilderun's Sleep at the Edge of The Earth was originally titled How to Make a Folk Metal Record Without Succumbing to All The Shitty Pitfalls of The Genre and their friends had to convince them to change it for marketing reasons.
Seriously though, Wilderun never once relies on some trite riff played on a mandolin so they can slap on the "folk" tag and be done with it. These are songs to be sung around a firepit in a wooden in during the dead of winter in Norway. These are the songs that you windmill to and the songs that you get goosebumps to when they reach their musical peaks after trudging through the swampy valleys. This is real, honest folk metal.
8. Solution .45 Nightmares In The Waking State, Pt. 1
Five years after Solution .45 dropped its fantastic debut album, the band is back to once again explode minds. Helmed by legendary vocalist Christian Älvestam, Solution .45 takes a much more hair-raising turn this time around.
Nightmares In The Waking State, Pt. 1 is a record that constantly sounds like it's about to collapse in on itself. Every song on here has this very unnerving sound to it, like sentient computers whispering in your ear that you're 10 seconds away from a slow dismemberment. Oh, and the 11-minute closer has one of the most haunting, ghostly choruses I think I've ever heard.
7. Panopticon Autumn Eternal
Austin Lunn finishes up his trilogy of albums just as strong as they began, with Autumn Eternal. Kentucky showed the world you can make a bluegrass band more of a blackgrass band, Roads to the North was a majesty, snowy ride through the wilderness an Autumn Eternal is a somber mixture of the two.
It's a beautiful record that really does sound like an autumn night in the mountains- breathtakingly scenic, but a chill in the air isn't afraid to bare its teeth and bite. In short, Panopticon has released yet another classic.
6. Galar De gjenlevende
Metal needs more bassoon. I didn't know metal needed more bassoon until I was turned on to De gjenlevende by Galar, but now I'm well aware that bassoon is the new saxophone. De gjenlevende is a great record that has that modern, smoothed-over black metal gloss ala Borknagar, though with a stripped down instrumentation.
Clean vocal choirs are kept to a few impactful voices, piano passages arise when the mood is just right, bassoon leads float like phantasms across the darkened landscape and the atmospheres are just never wrong. De gjenlevende is a record to get lost in.
5. Baroness Purple
Baroness has always sat comfortably in my periphery. I've liked what the group has done in the past, but it's never completely floored me. That is, until I heard Purple in its entirety… quite a few times in one sitting.
The thing about Purple is that each song has so many great sections to latch on to that it's legitimately difficult not to fall in love with it. I'd imagine this is what would've happened in Brian May sat down with an Ibanez Tube Screamer and decided he was going to write a big, crunchy rock record for the ages. Do not miss out on Purple and do not skip a single song.
4. Enslaved In Times
With its shortest song being just over 8 minutes long, and with the record being only 6 songs total, Enslaved essentially had to craft perfect songs back to back a few times over… which is exactly what the group did.
In Times is a progressive metal/black metal masterpiece that contrasts throat-shredding darkness with a chilly Norwegian progressive vibe in all the right places. The opener "Thurisaz Dreaming" wastes no time in blasting you with its frigid aural winds, only to be overtaken by clean vocals and a dreamy rock atmosphere on "Building With Fire" the very next track. Though really, is anyone surprised that Enslaved put out a great record at this point?
3. Steven Wilson Hand Cannot Erase
Simply put, this is one of the best progressive rock records I have ever heard in my entire life. Steven Wilson has only been getting better as his solo project progresses and Hand Cannot Erase is the career-spanning disc everyone should have been waiting for, or expecting.
Every single second of this record sounds like it was meticulously written to fit its concept, yet Wilson and company never lose sight of the fact that this is still meant to be a record on top of being a conveyance of real life events. This is a record that simply will never get old.
2. Beardfish +4626-COMFORTZONE
Speaking of unbeatably good progressive rock, Beardfish! Beardfish has consistently released damn near perfect records every step of the way throughout its career, and finally the band is getting back to its goofy, off-kilter progressive rock roots. After a metal endeavor titled The Void in 2012, +4626-COMFORTZONE is the band phoning home.
+4626-COMFORTZONE is all about complacency, heartbreak and the nagging despair of everyday life once you've either given up or lost who you were a long time ago. The music might be progressive, but the lyrics make some metal bands look like they're singing about sunshine and rainbows.
1. Ghost – Meliora
Shocker! It's not like I wrote slightly under 1,600 words singing this record's praise at the top of my lungs or anything like that.
From its grand opening to the mournful, haze-filled closer, Ghost knocked it out of the park with this one. Meliora is the type of record that we'll be talking about 5 years down the road and comparing not only Ghost's work to it, but the work of the hundreds of bands that walk in Ghost's footsteps as well. Whilst reviewing it, I tried so hard to come up with one thing I didn't like- a passage, a melody, anything.
I got nothin'.
See all of our Best of 2015 coverage here.