Now for me music is timeless. A lot of what I listen to is quite old. I still find it just as powerful as I did when I first listened to them. If anything I'm finding things about albums that I missed before. So being asked to do a top 10 of 2015 took me aback as I tried to think of what I had actually listened to this year. With help of friends I've gone through a lot of the albums that came out this year (Oh and thanks to my friends who decided this was an opportunity to get me listening to a lot of hip hop. Not really a fan but I listened.) I was quite surprised by some of the albums that had gone by under my radar so to speak. So here is my top 10 in no particular order.
Apocalyptica – Shadowmaker
Apocalyptica managed to make a firm and powerful argument for Cellos to become a key part of the Metal identity. Watching these guys rock out on Cello's is something that shouldn't be missed. They aren't the only band to do this but certainly managed to capture the market early with their rather unique sound. Though I prefer their instrumental tracks to their tracks with guest vocalists in, this album is a good example of when it works it can really work. Though I still make an argument for tracks like 'Riot Lights' or 'Reign of Fear'. They really can make the Cello a powerful force and an exciting instrument. This may be the 'least heaviest' album on my list but this does not mean that it isn't at all strong.They may not be brutal but they still capture a certain excitement that you may feel when listening to classic metal. Emotional, powerful, catchy and worth a listen.
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
This was another surprise for me actually. I knew Cattle Decapitation and knew what they can do but it's almost as if I'd been asleep to them, until this album forced me back into the pit. The vocals are so impressive and work so well with the brutality - they're attacking us! It's definitely worth a listen. With many brutal acts out there, there has been a tendency to throw in some clean vocals to give more variation. The clean vocals here – are they even clean? They're harrowing and powerful and give that variation without it ever being anything other than about a brutal smash straight through your ear.
Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos
Now, this one was quite an obvious one for me. Children of Bodom manage to do it every single time. Even their bad stuff I still love. Something about Alexi's playing just cuts through any skepticism or cynicism I might have. This was a solid album all the way through and had some very memorable songs and guitar licks. I know some have been concerned about where Children of Bodom have been with recent albums and I also know some refer to this album as a throwback to some earlier albums but I don't see it that way. Each album of theirs is distinct and this is just another good addition to their catalogue. Brutal and exciting, they can always put a smile on my face.
Cryptopsy – The Book of Suffering: Tome 1
Cryptopsy have proved time and time again that they are one of the core and fundamental parts of what is Death Metal. They may not be the first band yo'd listen to, but chances are if you like Death Metal you'll know what they've brought to the scene. One cannot escape their brutality it just runs straight through the instruments like pure, blunt assaults. Their intricate use of their instruments makes them so strong and this EP is no different. Showcasing some powerful music and a strong hit for anyone who likes Death Metal. It is definitely worth giving a listen.
Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short
This is an album that should be listened to from start to finish. There is a definite atmosphere to be gotten here and it's hard to explain how or why it works. You can definitely get a taste of this with some of the songs but the whole album is like a hypnotic spell. It'd be easier to describe the album in terms of a dark night story alone and isolated from society - perhaps in a cabin or forest. Drudkh are a massive hit or miss band and certainly aren't for everyone. There is a power behind it all though, this form of Black Metal feels more story-like and though there is a grizzling feeling and strength, it is all in the atmosphere.
Enslaved – In Times
This was an album that is fairly typical of me as well. Enslaved have shown some intricate song writing that pushes boundaries again and again. This is a strong album for them and a quite an original album too. Some bands you can expect to hear something but every now and again they will surprise you with something just that bit more. It impresses on such a level I can see it being one to return to for quite some time. They do not disappoint in giving an atmosphere that cuts right through you and demands that you listen. A powerful hit from Enslaved and I encourage Black Metallers to listen to it and everyone else to give it a shot. I feel it may quite surprise a few people.
Gorgoroth – Instinctus Bestialis
Gorgoroth have been a band for a lot of attention in various circles for various reasons. Unfortunately a lot of it isn't actually to do with the music itself. If we disregard most of their media attention and just consider for a second that this Gorgoroth sees a brand new line up then we might have the right perspective. The position of a vocalist can often have a striking affect on a band and I feel most would miss Gaahl or Pest with this album. If, however, we were to look at this album without any of this history and consider its strengths as is, it is actually a very strong album. It captures the sheer brutality and raw hatred of Black Metal and what Gorgoroth is actually about, whilst also making it's mark as a memorable album. The songs do stick with you. It may not be the Gorgoroth that people want or remember but it is still a good Gorgoroth album.
Hate – Crusade: Zero
Poland definitely have a strong metal scene at the moment and it seems to only get better with Hate's new album further proving that they're a force to be reckoned with. Exciting brutality throughout, this represents everything brilliant about Polish Metal. Definitely with shades of Vader and Behemoth from time to time without it being anything that isn't original in its own right. Hate aren't actually a band I'm that familiar with and so hearing the raw power made me feel as if i've really missed something. It would appear that Poland is a place to look at for extreme metal!
Marduk – Frontschwein
This is the last of the typical albums for me. Black Metal has managed to get me pretty early and I was expecting that their would be a few good additions this year. Most of the Black Metal I listen to is from 90s but Marduk have consistently shown a lot of scathing hatred in their guitars and powerful shrieks. This album managed to keep things very atmospheric and you can feel that absolute contempt all the way through despite some quite daringly groovey parts. This was quite an exciting entry for them and I think well worth a listen if Black Metal is your thing.
Vehemence – Forward Without Motion
Now, this would have been one of the albums I was expecting to be good, if it had not have gone straight under my radar. For avid fans of Vehemence I'm sure that this is exactly the brilliance you'd be expecting. Some of the tracks had been released beforehand and showed a band clawing it's way back to our very ears. It was almost as if we were helping them do this and they didn't disappoint. But, like I said, it fell beneath my radar. Looking into this build up I'm sure many were excited and I can't believe I missed the anticipation but at least I didn't miss the album. It is powerful and everything I want from Vehemence. A solid and strong album.
I couldn't avoid doing this. I was quite surprised by the quality of some of the albums out there and it was hard not to give a mention to a few more. Lamb of God's Sturm Und Drang and Nile's What Should Not Be Unearthed were also strong albums and almost on this list. I finally made my decision when I realised that both are strong bands that had a huge magic for me at one point or another. Recent albums can and are so good but they never quite recapture that magic. This isn't to say that they're not good albums at all, in fact they're well worth a listen but for me, they're not quite that magical. Overall, a surprisingly good year. It might not be one of the best years for music but it was a lot better than I thought it was!