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:
- Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess (Broken Limbs)
Thanks to the modern miracle that is the Internet, music lovers these days have easy access to an infinite array of styles and genres. Somewhere in the years between Myspace and Bandcamp, metal genres in particular have cross pollinated more times than an orgy of bumblebees in a garden bed. Likewise, Immortal Bird’s debut Empress/Abscess boasts an impressive bouquet of sonic influences. Vocalist Rae Amitay spits and screams and exercises all her demons over a soundtrack that shifts from blackened doom, to melodic death, to blackened progressive death metal and back again. Call it whatever you want, I just call it awesome.
- Ghost – Meliora (Metal Blade)
Although I’ve always been a fan of Ghost, I never expected their latest effort to grip me as tightly as it did. “If you’ve heard one album, you’ve heard them all,” I thought. And while the record’s initial play through resonated with a rather lackluster “meh”, there were certain moments – riffs in particular – that I wanted to hear again. There were melodies too – big, hooky ones that slowly wormed their way into the background of my daily consciousness. In fact, the more times I re-played the parts I liked, the more I appreciated the album as a whole. And really, isn’t that the essence of Ghost’s charm anyway? Before I even knew what was happening, I had lost the last days of summer to a haze of weed smoke, BBQ and Meliora on repeat.
- Imperial Triumphant – Abyssal Gods (Code 666)
Between refugees, terrorism and Donald Trump, 2015 was a year rife with uncertainty and (so it felt) apocalyptic foreshadowing. Appropriately enough, it was also the year that gave us Abyssal Gods. It’s an album that is deeply guttural and wretchedly heavy; a soundtrack to Earth’s depravity and despair. Sure, Imperial Triumphant provide a few symphonic breaks to help ease the tension, but not before locking you up in what I like to call “Dr. Claw’s Chamber of Terrors”. This might be trying music for tumultuous times, but I dig it.
- Abigail Williams – The Accuser (Candlelight)
Abigail Williams sure take a lot of shit for a band that gets better with each release.
Having long abandoned any/all core leanings, what we are left with is a definitively modern black metal album – pure and simple. It’s raw, emotionally harrowing metal that allows plenty of breathing room between passages of cold furiosity and beautiful, Agalloch-esque melody. Grab a shovel, dig a grave and toss in all your pre-conceived notions because this one will take you by surprise if you let it.
- Not Of – Pique (Independent)
Okay, so maybe this is more of a noise rock album than a metal one, but when the music is this good who really cares? For the uninitiated, Not Of is a two-piece from Toronto that makes music on their own terms. For us, that means slabs of truly honest songwriting that’s loud, fuzzed out and catchy as all hell. In a nutshell, Pique sounds like a Saturday night spent tossing back whisky with a few weirdos, a handful of beardos and a lot of good friends. A debut album worth raising a glass to!
- Enslaved – In Times (Nuclear Blast)
What can be said about Enslaved that hasn’t already been covered? Haven’t we put our complete trust in those veteran Norsemen’s weathered hands by now? In Times continues the band’s progressive foray into black metal, and it is unsurprisingly excellent from start to finish. Whether you’re a fan of old school metal or new – you can breathe easy, folks. Enslaved will take it from here.
- Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence (Nuclear Blast)
I was raised on blues music long before I followed the devil down the dark path to metal. So maybe I’m bias, but I can’t help but love everything that Graveyard does.
Their bluesy, garage-y, 70s style jams somehow never sound contrived despite how proudly they wear their influences, and their fourth album is no different. A comforting presence in my life this year, for me Innocence & Decadence is nourishment by-way-of soul food.
- Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction (Prosthetic)
It’s not often that death metal gets described as “addictive”, but as far as the metal world is concerned this album is like opening a big bag of potato chips. If the crazy blast beats and insane solos weren’t enough, then the incredibly strange duality of Travis Ryan’s vocal style should be enough to win over any metal fan. Probably my most listened to album of the year.
- Dead Quiet – Dead Quiet (Independent)
It’s a relief to know that British Columbia native Kevin Keegan has found musical life after Barn Burner. Joined by some friends (including Aaron Gustafson from Anciients), Dead Quiet is the result of Keegan’s continued musical trip down the river of stoner rock. And what a trip it is! Nestled between mountains of doom and blues, this beast of a debut maps its unique course through impeccable songwriting, passionate vocal performances and good old-fashioned debauchery. If this were a cassette, I would have worn it out already.
- Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors (Relapse)
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.
Favourite Album-Cover Art of 2015:
Best gig I attended in 2015:
Sólstafir @ The Garrison, Toronto
My first time seeing them live certainly won’t be my last.
Metal Purchase of the Year
I love the interesting items bands are slapping their logo on these days. Some of my favourites this year came courtesy of Cattle Decapitation’s Anthropocene Extinction deluxe pre-order bundle. Not only did it include the album on CD, vinyl AND cassette but it has some pretty unique items like a beach towel and a metal water canteen. Because there’s nothing like flocking your love of death metal while sipping frosty drinks poolside!
Most anticipated album for 2016:
I’m really looking forward to Abbath’s debut coming next month. And aren’t Gojira and Amon Amarth due to release something soon too?
My 2015 in Metal
For me, 2015 was a year of transition. I started writing for Exclaim! magazine in addition to Hellbound, so I had access to more new music than ever. As a result, I discovered a bunch of great, up-and-coming bands and although not all were metal, I would say the genre’s future still looks bright (although we did lose 3 Inches of Blood this year, and Skeletonwitch went through a pretty significant lineup change that saw them parting ways with vocalist Chance Garnette). It seemed to be a year of reunions with Faith No More and Failure both releasing great new records and although the world continues to get scarier, metal on the whole continues to thrive. Cheers to an awesome and heavy 2016!