As another year draws to a close, we metalheads tend to take time to reflect on what the year in metal meant to us, and prepare our various lists of what was great, what sucked, and everything in between.
This year we decided to get a little more up close and personal with Team Hellbound, and get a sense of not only each staffer’s favorite albums of the year, but also a sense of the state of metal in 2015 from everyone.
We here at Hellbound thank you for your continued readership, and wish you a very headbanging 2016.
Happy Holidays from Hellbound!
— Kyle Harcott
Top 10 Albums of the Year
- Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud (Nuclear Blast)
Ever since 2006’s release of “Eclipse” and the arrival of vocalist Tomi Joutsen, Amorphis’ output has been one of consistency. There haven’t been a lot of surprises along the way, as the Finns haven’t necessarily been wavering in their sound, but honing their craft. Their 6th studio album with the same lineup, “Under the Red Cloud” is the result of a well gelled group that has everything that the modern era Amorphis are known for – catchy choruses, the mixture of growling and soaring vocals and most importantly, wonderful song writing. While “Under the Red Cloud” might not be the most exciting album out this year, it’s the album that I’ve kept coming back to the most.
- Leprous – The Congregation (InsideOut)
Leprous returns with their best, most interesting and complex album in their young career. Einar Solberg’s vocals soar over some of the best technical, yet emotional music of the year.
- Bell Witch – Four Phantoms (Profound Lore)
Slow and plodding, yet graceful in its execution, Bell Witch’s “Four Phantoms” have created a doom-laden landscape soaked with an atmosphere of sorrow and emptiness. A must-listen for any funeral doom fan.
- Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors (Relapse)
Atlanta’s Royal Thunder return with their second full-length release, “Crooked Doors” which moved away from the doomy metal sound of it’s predecessor and into a more blues-y rock album. Despite the slight change in direction, vocalist Miny Parsonz puts forth one of the strongest vocal performances of the year (listen to “The Line” if you have any doubts).
- The Gentle Storm – The Diary (InsideOut)
A project from Arjen Lucassen and Anneke van Giersbergen (who have previously worked together in a number of projects), “The Diary” tells the story of two separated lovers during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th Century through a series of letters. 2 versions of the album, “The Gentle” version – a more acoustic/orchestral version – contrasts nicely with the heavier version “The Storm”. Unsurprising to anyone familiar with her work, Anneke’s masterful vocals easily pull off the emotion required for such a story.
- Swallow the Sun – Songs from the North (Century Media)
- Ahab – The Boats of Glen Carrig (Napalm)
- Vhol – Deeper Than the Sky (Profound Lore)
- Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (Bindrune)
- High on Fire – Luminiferous (eOne)
Album Cover Art of the Year
Best Gig Attended This Year
Tuska Open Air Festival – July 2015
While Tuska may not be the biggest European metal fest on the circuit, there’s something about being in the metal capital of the world and take in some of the best bands the country has to offer. The lineup was a great mix old favourites (Opeth, Amorphis), new looks of some familiar faces (the world premiere of Abbath, Bloodbath with Nick Holmes) and some fresh faces (The Sirens, Ghost Brigade). Meeting a great group of folks from all over Europe was a wonderful addition to the festival (even if one of those people did happen to be Hellbound’s own Justin Richardson) between the friends, music and atmosphere, made this festival a truly memorable experience.
Favourite Physical Album
The most meaningful physical album I’ve purchased was neither new, nor metal. The Smashing Pumpkins’ epic double-album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness had a huge impact on me musically when it came out and is still to this day, probably my most listened to album. Finally picking up the 2012 vinyl re-issue, complete with wonderful full-size artwork, new liner notes takes me back to those formative years.
My 2015 in Metal
I’ve found myself attending fewer and fewer lives shows nowadays – whether that’s a product of day-to-day life getting in the way of travelling to shows or the desire of seeing live music falling, I don’t quite know yet, but what I missed out on quantity, I definitely made up in quality.
I was fortunate enough to hit up two quality metal festivals this summer – the previously mentioned Tuska Open Air festival as well as Heavy Montreal, what I will happily call the best metal festival in North America. The organization behind the festival does an amazing job – between the location, the festival grounds setup and most importantly, the bands (Abbath, Faith No More and Neurosis to name a few). On a personal note, bringing our 16-year-old niece to the fest was a blast for everyone included – and reuniting with an old friend who made the trip from California made the festival even more special.