And here's the token black metal release that always wiggles its way into my top 13. Mgla gets tons of hype around the metal underground, and they deserve every drop of it. The Polish brand of BM ranks as my favorite anyway, but this pushes everything a little bit further over the line by being just a little bit more harrowing, bleak, and punishing than all of their contemporaries. It doesn't fall into a lot of the same traps and cliches that so many BM bands like to fall back on, and as a result the album is extremely varied and diverse, with tons of midpaced grooves and haunting melodies. These guys are the real deal, and the percussion in particular really stands out as unique. I'm on the hype train right next to everybody else. Who's with me? Choo choo.
Evra is one of the more difficult albums for me in this countdown, being ostensibly a dissonant hardcore album with bits of metal thrown in, particularly in the melodies and trudging doom passages. This stands out to me for managing to sidestep the cliches of sludge that so many metallic hardcore bands fall into, instead taking a chaotic approach to their music and keeping it grounded in churning doom riffs and tasteful solos. The vocals also stand out for their inherent vitriol, not unlike the vocalist of Cancer Bats joining a more mellowed out The Chariot cover band that's sitting on a veritable mountain of downers. It's both vicious and introspective, and that's amazing. It's a unique experience that takes the listener on a journey of nearly every emotion possible, and it's stunning for keeping it wild and unhinged the entire time.
I don't care what anybody says, Symphony X is one of the most consistently excellent metal bands in the business today, and they've been at the top of their game ever since they waved goodbye to their more sophisticated progressive roots and focused more on simplicity, grooves, excellent riffs, and bombast. Russell Allen has done more than enough to cement himself as one of the greatest singers in metal, and Michael Romeo is possibly one of the most distinguished guitarists out there right now. Nobody writes riffs like these guys, nobody makes the agonizing wait between albums feel so worthwhile like these guys, nobody crafts progressive power metal like these guys. Everything they've been doing since 2007 has been hitting bullseye, and they're not slowing down now.
Their previous EP, Into the Brazen Bull, is the absolute best piece of Arghoslent Metal that has existed since Arghoslent went into hiding, and the fact that they don't revel in overt racism makes them so, so much easier to love. The problem with this album is simply that it isn't Into the Brazen Bull, which is unfair. The riffs are still here, the vocals are ferocious, and the songs are just as punishing and/or triumphant, depending on what they're going for, and they're still one of the only bands to play that wonderful style of death metal that utilizes more traditional metal riffs, and for that alone they deserve acclaim. I've heard them described as "nothing special, it's just four jacked dudes from Minnesota". Come on, there aren't even four jacked dudes in the Vikings' locker room. This may not surpass the master, but it's close.
I don't know where this came from but holy crap am I glad it came. This has gotten some criticism for mostly being a little cousing to Mithras, especially considering the fact that they share members, but the fact of the matter is that A) I've never heard Mithras, and B) this absolutely kicks an almost comical amount of ass. Therefore I don't give a shit how similar this is to its spiritual predecessor, because this is a very unique album. In essence, you could just call it melodic death metal, but it's approached in a way that, as far as I know, no other bands really have ever bothered approaching it (except apparently Mithras I guess). The melody is very spacey and sharp, with a lot of high pitched squealing and screaming from the guitars over inhumanly fast percussion and blastfucking death metal riffage. It's like Nile had a baby with Necron from FFIX.
Two albums with "Blessed" in the title in a row. While many of my usual suspects are absent this year, Powerwolf appears for getting their shit together and making up for the stumble that was Preachers of the Night. This is the same formula they've been milking ever since Lupus Dei, and it doesn't matter because they're still really fucking good at it. It's the same bombastic yet stripped down heavy/power metal they always do, and Dorn is still an incredibly theatrical vocalist, with booming choirs complementing his voice at every turn, with fast double bass filled numbers along with the more anthemic fist pumpers. I don't care that nothing changes, this album just has the most great songs they've ever put on an album since Bible of the Beast. "Army of the Night" is potentially their fifteenth Best Song Ever. It's big and stupid and so am I.
Satyrasis almost defies description, ostensibly being a thrash band taking influence from every other conceivable subgenre of heavy music, from black metal to progressive metal (there's even a Rush cover), and every second of it shreds faces. The best description I can muster is that this is the bizzaro Deceased, with vocals very similar to King Fowley, and riffs and melodies that reach so far beyond their initial inspiration that everything flows into a harrowing mush of blistering negativity. They stand apart marvelously on their own despite the obvious parallel, and this stands as easily the most unique album I found this year that actually kicked immeasurable amounts of ass the entire way through. I normally stick to more popular stuff, and that's obvious to any reader, but this is an unknown that deserves to break through.
Funny how last year I joked about Dark Descent owning everybody's lists except mine, and then this year two of them wind up in the top ten (spoiler alert, two more were close but didn't quite make it), and I think it shows that both of them aren't really of the style that the label is known for. Tyranny here, as you all should know, play some of the most brutal and glacial paced funeral doom on the planet. Almost nobody is heavier than these guys, barring maybe Wormphlegm, and their second album in a decade does nothing to change that perception. I've given this a full review already, so all I can really do is reiterate the Lovecraftian horror that these five dirges evoke, and it's sublime in the most crushing, spiritually draining way imaginable. More than one blood ritual surely took place during recording.
I almost didn't put this on here, and in a way I'm still a little uncomfortable putting this as high as I am, but the fact stands that this is one of the most intense and riveting albums of the year. It doesn't matter what the band members are capable of doing outside of their music, and as harrowing as the accounts of sexual abuse the vocalist/guitarist inflicted upon his former girlfriend/former bassist are, in the name of censorship I just can't pretend it doesn't exist. "Sinister Drifter" and "Drownage" are some of the best songs this band ever laid to tape. Much like All Hail the Void, this is some of the most energetic and frantic metallic hardcore on the market, and nearly every second of it is skull crushingly heavy. It's an uncomfortable listen thanks to non-musical factors, but if you can steel yourself past it, it's an incredible album.
This is another one that's garnered more hype throughout the year than nearly anything else in recent memory, and once again I just can't find myself disagreeing with the swelling fandom. This is some of the best classic metal I've heard all decade, and that's no exaggeration. Lately it seems like the only new bands that routinely impress me are the more speed metal oriented ones like Enforcer and Striker, but Visigoth here is just powerful, muscle bound heavy metal with strong baritone vocals that pound everything before it into dust. Everything about this is just strong, it's the exact kind of thing Grand Magus wishes they were. Even the Manilla Road cover, which is noticeably out of place and somewhat jarring, does nothing to stop this thundering behemoth. Visigoth tramples all of their contemporaries underhoof, and the future is bright for them.
Another year, another Enforcer album in my top 5. I swear, this band just can't be touched right now, everything they've so much as sneezed towards for the past five years has been absolute gold, and nobody can hold a candle to them in the realm of 80s heavy/speed metal revival. This is all the ludicrous speed and intensity of 1983 Metallica with the ear for melody and creativity of Judas Priest, and just like the two previous albums, everything is crafted with such care and attention to detail that even the more cliche moments are performed so earnestly and whole heartedly that a release date of 1984 would be completely believable. They nail what so many of their peers miss, this is 80s because the spirit and energy comes straight from the heart that beats for the time, not because they knick a bunch of cliches that better bands did first.
And here we are with hardcore album number three. In the realm of beatdown hardcore, Nasty has to be one of the most energetic and riff oriented, with their slams and breakdowns coming at such perfect intervals between lightning quick death metal/hardcore riffage that every track acts as an organic railroading into a steel gauntleted slapdown. Neck snapping brutality is abound at every turn, and no matter how many times I listen to this, I can't help but find more things to love. There's even a bit of levity here, with there being tiny, unobtrusive skits between a few songs of silly bullshit like the band working out and samples of The Neverending Story, and it helps to remind you that these are just four fun loving dudes who happen to love wrecking necks. THIS IS WHERE THE TERROR STARTS.
Three out of the last four years, Japan has taken home the title, clearly cementing a dynastic supremacy over heavy metal in my eyes. I've ranted over and over and over gain, but GTK is one of those bands that I swear was created specifically to my taste. They specialize in frantic, head over heels tumbling death metal, with unique flourishes like tongue waggling slap bass liberally slathered all over everything, long, organically structured songs that grow slowly and naturally, and one of the most instantly recognizable roars in the entire genre since Ross Dolan or Mads Haarlov. The previous album, Legend of Shadow ranked number 2 on my 2013 list, and every tiny little insignificant quibble I had or legit criticism leveled at the band by other critics has been addressed. The songs are generally shorter and a bit more focused, the percussion is much more frantic and tempestuous than before (everybody other than the bassist/vocalist was replaced for this album) so there's much more variety and a few smatterings of traditional death metal with more light speed double bass and blasting, each song has a bit more going on in them, being treated less like jam sessions that become pummeling death metal monsters and are instead more rehearsed, calculated offerings, complete with some Suffocation styled all-over-the-damn-place soloing. I was worried all of these factors would fuck up the mojo the band had going for them on the previous two albums, but they somehow made everything even better. Everything I say about this band illustrates something that shouldn't really work on paper, but in practice they make it even better than whatever hypothetical best case scenario I can imagine. Just listen to the few sections after the solo in "Kyoki no Senya (Insane Battlefield)", from the slap bass solo to the atmospheric lines over the frantic drumming, to the most fucking perfect breakdown of all time. I can't gush enough without turning this into a full review, but there are so many little touches and flashes of songwriting brilliance that make this an almost no-brainer for the BH Award for Album of the Year 2015.
And now for something completely the same