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 Metal Albums of the Year:
- Goatsnake – Black Age Blues (Southern Lord)
Not just the comeback album of the year, but perhaps the comeback album of all-time, at least as far as the stoner/doom/sludge (aka “Weed Metal”) triumvirate is concerned. As opposed to Eyehategod, whose self-titled return topped this list last year, Goatsnake didn’t simply take too long to put out a new album; they flat out disbanded over a decade ago. But 15 years after their last album, they’ve come through with the heaviest, crunchiest, catchiest doom-metal record of 2015. We’re still begging for that new tour to come to Canada, though…
- Kadavar – Berlin (Nuclear Blast)
Their first couple albums were growers for me, but this Berlin trio’s third record grabbed me from the get-go. Of the bands still worshipping 70’s riff rock in 2015, they might be the best of the bunch.
- Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse)
The female-fronted doom trend of recent years seemed to fizzle out this year, due to disappointing new directions from semi-established acts (Royal Thunder), along with some overhyped newcomers that brought nothing new to the table (Ruby the Hatchet). But let’s not place all the emphasis on gender here; Windhand is a solid D.C.-style doom outfit with staying power that doesn’t owe any debt to Jex Thoth.
- Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)
Speaking of bands from the D.C. area… Clutch’s latest record was the first of theirs to really make an impact on me since 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion. At a time where everybody and their dog’s going country, it’s good to see these elder statesmen keeping real rock alive stateside.
- Satan’s Satyrs – Don’t Deliver Us (Bad Omen)
Well I’ll be damned, if this ain’t the third straight band from within spitting distance of the Doom Capital on my list. Satan’s Satyrs was probably the breakout band of 2015 in these circles, capping a year where they toured with Electric Wizard and Pentagram with their third album, delivering a sizzling platter of 70’s satanic rock worship that doesn’t suck!
- Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth (Relapse)
This ain’t yer creepy British cousin’s death-doom record. The press kits for this Finnish outfit’s fourth effort emphasized its melodic sensibilities, and they weren’t exaggerating; the riffs on here recall the likes of Candlemass and U.S. doom cult heroes Apostle of Solitude. Granted, the vocals still sound like a household appliance gone haywire…
- Torche – Restarter (Relapse)
These high-octane heavy rockers are at their best when they dial up the distortion, and after a couple recordings of softer sounds, they successfully restarted the riffage on this one.
- Ufomammut – Ecate (Neurot)
I’ll concede that Ecate wasn’t quite as captivating as 2012’s Oro opus, but even less-than-optimal Ufomammut is still better than most to me.
- Denizen – Troubled Waters (Argonauta)
My favourite denizens of Montpellier, France likely won’t find themselves on too many of these lists, but after taking the trouble to send me their last CD, Whispering Wild Stories, back in 2011, I’ve kept an ear out for ‘em ever since. If you put Eyehategod and Fu Manchu in a food processor, then smear the resulting blend over a crusty baguette, you’ll get some idea of how this one goes down.
- Connoisseur – Stoner Justice (Tank Crimes)
While something like this doesn’t typically fall within my tastes, I’ve got the munchies for said Oakland stoner-themed crust trio, which drops as many sludge riffs as drug references over the course of this 14-track, 31-minute platter.
Favourite Album-Cover Art of 2015:
High on Fire – Lumniferous
You don’t even need to read some of Matt Pike’s recent batshit interviews to know that he’s big into the Illuminati and all that shit—one look at his latest album cover will do the trick.
Best gig I attended in 2015:
I definitely won’t deny that I’m an AC/DC fan; they’re the band that got me into all this heavy stuff in the first place (which is better than being weened on KISS, I reckon). I’d seen ‘em live a couple times before, but with the general-admission, standing-room-only setup at this North Toronto concert park, twas the first time I could catch ‘em from the front row!
Favourite physical-copy album I purchased in 2015:
It would be easy enough to say Goatsnake’s Black Age Blues on double LP—my number one album of the year—but I’m also pretty stoked to finally get my hands on Mothership’s second record. Oh, and I finally got a Saint Vitus tattoo. So there’s that…
Most anticipated album for 2016:
Hmm, now that they’re playing gigs again, is Sleep ever gonna put out a new record? Their Toronto date in January is definitely my most anticipated concert of 2016… and that’s with Maiden and Sabbath tickets already in hand!
My 2015 in Metal:
When I first sat down to put my list together, I thought that this had been a pretty shitty year for the slow ‘n heavy stuff that fuels my existence. While in years past, there had been at least a handful of contenders for the top spot, upon review, I only had 15 albums I’d rated 8 or higher in 2015. Goatsnake was the clear-cut winner, with Kadavar a relatively close second, but I’d say there was a pretty significant drop off after those two. In my Windhand review, I even mused that “with the dearth of truly outstanding releases within my chosen semi-obscure subgenre this year, Grief’s Infernal Flower could very well crack my year-end top 10 in 2015.” It ended up at number three.
On the concert front, the precipitous decline of the Canadian dollar prevented me from taking as many trips stateside, and I only saw two concerts south of the border this year. Contrast that with last year’s concert list, where five of my top 10 were outta-town shows… as long as you count Hamilton as being outta town. (I’m pretty sure some of our Hellbound staffers will readily admit that they ain’t Torontonians.) But there were some really high-quality gigs in the Big Smoke this year, with the long-awaited returns of Neurosis, Electric Wizard and AC/DC, Ufomammut’s first-ever appearance, and a couple outstanding lineups curated by High on Fire and Corrosion of Conformity. Turns out I didn’t hafta travel too far to get my heavy-rock fix.