It’s tough to believe that another year has come and gone, but 2015 leaves behind a slew of impressive metal releases from veterans and youngsters alike. What became apparent as the seasons faded one into the next was that death metallers were vying for the MVP crown, and they finished the year strong with a level of inventiveness that often defied the roots of the genre. With that in mind, here are the best albums that crossed my desk this year.
10. Baroness: Purple
Purple marks Baroness‘ return following the 2012 bus crash that nearly killed them. John Baizley and company continue to morph their sound from its sludge roots to something altogether different, with punchy, expansive and anthemic tracks that transcend the metal genre.
9. Burnt Books: Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire
Burnt Books‘ follow-up to their 2013 eponymous release with Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire, a scrappy album that stokes the flames of punk, no wave and metal into something white hot and spitting ash.
8. Rivers of Nihil: Monarchy
Rivers of Nihil continue to redefine death metal, twisting its form and matching its inherent fury with progressive nuances that make Monarchy an album that you must truly explore. Death metal is in good hands with Rivers of Nihil.
7. Lamb of God: VII – Sturm und Drang
Lamb of God’s first album in over three years, a period that included frontman Randy Blythe’s controversial imprisonment in the Czech Republic, is a powerful return to form and forceful statement to the band’s tenacity. VII – Sturm und Drang further cements Lamb of God’s place in the echelon of heavy metal.
6. Enslaved: In Times
Enslaved continue to take death metal into unfamiliar territory with In Times, building on its tried-and-true tenants while pushing them into the future. Along with Rivers of Nihil, Horrendous and Cattle Decapitation, they are championing innovation in a genre that can too-often wallow in the past.
5. Sylosis: Dormant Heart
Sylosis‘ versatility is on full display on Dormant Heart, the Brits’ sophomore release and one of the early challengers for album of the year in 2015. Rabid chugs and vicious growls contribute to the electric vibe, but it is the tightly wound musicianship, including the occasional Carcass-esque guitar solo, that make this album as hot as a global-warmed Christmas.
4. Kylesa: Exhausting Fire
Kylesa‘s early reputation may have been defined by the sludgy nature of their compositions, but recent albums have seen any genre-specific designations all but disappear, replaced by a textured and forceful brand of innovative metal. Exhausting Fire takes their sound to a new level, the album’s heaviness counterbalanced by brilliant, airy passages, making this the fullest realization of their sound to date.
3. Intronaut: The Direction of Last Things
Intronaut‘s technicality is at the forefront on The Direction of Last Things, but their air-tight compositions are heavier and speedier than ever while still maintaining the complexity for which they are known. This is Intronaut at their very best.
2. Cattle Decapitation: The Anthropocene Extinction
Musings on the death of Mother Earth deserve a deserve an equally dire soundtrack, and Cattle Decapitation deliver with The Anthropocene Extinction. It is a timely, unrelenting musical statement for a world that has gone crazy.
1. Horrendous: Anareta
This year was a big one for death metal, and Horrendous‘ Anareta is a prime example of why. Aggressive, progressive and genre-defying, these eight monster tracks can’t be truly understood with just one listen. In fact, a single spin of Anareta is all but impossible. It is the year’s best, and it only gets better with time.