Hellbound’s best of 2015 year-end coverage continues with the last instalment in our definitive top 10 metal albums of the year list. 15 writers submitted 104 different albums, and we’ve narrowed down the best of the best.
We proudly present Hellbound’s best metal albums of 2015.
10. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse)
I’m probably one of the few doom critics who didn’t put Windhand’s Relapse debut Soma in his year-end top 10 in 2013. Not that I really had anything against that album; I just thought it tested my patience a tad, what with its whopping 77-minute runtime. Since then, I’ve seen ’em live twice, and while they certainly don’t play a 77-minute set, they always seem to bring the intensity, whether headlining or as a supporting act. So I do respect them in that regard. . . . So, is this record better than Soma? I’d say it’s certainly more polished, and more palatable to the general public. I’d also give ’em credit for not abandoning their doom roots. I can actually see myself listening to this one more than Soma, which I don’t revisit very often, so yes, it’s certainly worthy of a high score.
Read more from Gruesome Greg’s full review of Grief’s Infernal Flower.
9. Kadaver – Berlin (Nuclear Blast)
Berlin busts out with “Lord of the Sky,” which sounds more like The Who or The Sweet with its meaty, beaty, big and bouncy power chords than the Sabbathian image its moniker bestows. But it’s backed by the Sabbathian stomp of “Last Living Dinosaur,” which even has Lupus doing his best Ozzy impression on vocals. The retro riffs resume on “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” which sounds like one of the heavier cuts from an early Hawkwind record, while the bright, upbeat phrasing of “Filthy Illusion” is kinda like The Kinks, if only they were a proper proto-metal band, and not simply the progenitors of the genre.
Read more from Gruesome Greg’s full review of Berlin.
8. 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.
— Adam Wills
7. Leprous – The Congregation
The Congregation is the band’s fourth studio album and their best to date. There’s a hungry intensity here that isn’t new – the sound is distinctively recognizable to anyone already familiar with Leprous’s work. But without a detailed re-examination of their back catalogue it’s hard to say what it is that sets the new record apart. Nevertheless, with one or two listens, The Congregation comes across clearly as a collection of songs that simply ‘work’ and work extraordinarily well.
Read more from Laura Wiebe’s full review of The Congregation.
6. Elder – Lore
The greatest album of all time always contain features such as being timeless, epic and have the ability to transport the listener to another realm. And that’s just what Elder accomplished on their third LP. From the Led-Zep-sounding opening midsection riffing on “Compendium” to the infectious, diverse riffing on “Dead Weight”, to the crushing chug-guitar-fest at the end of “Spirit of Aphelion”, this is an album that must be heard. By containing a concoction of elements such as doom, psyche, prog and some classic rock sounds, it solidifies its stance as an album all metal fans can nod their head in enjoyment to.
— Gabe Hugh
5. Vhöl – Deeper Than Sky
With the longest clocking in at just under twelve minutes (title track Deeper Than Sky) it’s easy to imagine this ending up on many a runner’s playlist – this stuff is kinetic. Listening to it and staying still is damn near impossible as every one offers a new flavour of riffing goodness, starting off with “The desolate damned” and not letting up through to “The tomb.”
Read more from Danielle Griscti’s review of Deeper Than Sky.
4. High on Fire – Luminiferous
Writing sober for the first time, Matt Pike proves he didn’t need alcohol to rule the metal world. The revered band (including Des Kensel and Jeff Matz) continue to craft albums that appeal to a larger sphere. Crushed civilization-sized riffs, brain-caving percussion and maniacal vocals streamroll the listener throughout. Never mind production. I care not when the music takes possession of my body and consciousness. Let’s hope Luminiferous is a launching pad for the next phase in their near flawless career.
— Matt Hinch
3. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
The Book of Souls is a latter-day Maiden classic, the most ambitious album in their vast discography. At 50 minutes, disc one is the best-paced, most ferocious and towering Maiden album since Powerslave. It veers from a theatrical epic (“If Eternity Should Fail”), to a barnstorming single (“Speed of Light”), Steve Harris’s best epic song in 20 years (“The Red and the Black”), and a stupendous title track that evokes the power and energy of Maiden 30 years ago.
2. Clutch – Psychic Warfare
“Time will tell where Psychic Warfare stands in their catalog, but these unapologetic lifers for rock ‘n’ roll have taken the best bits of what they do and worked them into these new tunes. Psychic Warfare sees these bona fide men of action all giving career best performances making for one highly infectious and enjoyable album that simultaneously has you reaching for the repeat button as well as yearning to rediscover past classics. They set out to top Earth Rocker and you don’t need x-ray vision to see that they did.”
Read more from Matt Hinch’s review of Psychic Warfare on about.com.
1. Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
While I was certainly looking forward to Royal Thunder’s follow up to 2012’s CVI, I wasn’t prepared for the deep, intimate connection I would have to Crooked Doors. Every song spoke to me on such a psychic level that it actually felt as if bassist/vocalist Miny Parsonz had somehow penned an entire album based on my personal life experiences. Her impeccable, signature vocals drip with emotional presence as the album shifts from furious determination to mournful introspection and back again. It’s an album that blends heavy, groove-laden riffs with 90’s angst and bluesy melody, and it instantly captured my heart.
— Renee Trotier