Best of 2015

The top 10 metal albums that blew me away

’tis the season for year-end listicles fa la la la

I’ll make this quick. Compared to my ‘best of 2014’ list, 2015 seemed to have way more quality black metal releases. It would also appear that three Greek bands made it to my list. No surprise there because I am a sucker for the Hellenic scene. Most of the bands listed below are relatively new, which in my opinion is way more exciting (fresh sound and all that rot). The only criteria that I used while choosing these albums is replay value. Of course, it’ll be subjective. Without further ado, here are my top 10 metal albums of 2015:

10. Shepherd — Stereolithic Riffalocalypse
Bangalore’s sludge-y stoner band make their debut with Stereolithic. Heavy fuzzy guitars, gruff vocals and some really memorable riffs make this one of the best releases from India. Ever. Shepherd are still severely underrated in international circles and I hope this changes with time. 
Favorite track: Bog Slime
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

9. Abyssal — Antikatastaseis
After two crushing albums, Abyssal, UK’s mystery black/death metal band, return with Antikatastaseis. This album is definitely more riff-y compared to their second album (which was very Portal-esque) and bears more resemblance stylistically to their debut. If you enjoy black/death metal with a largely space-y atmosphere, you’ll dig this for sure. Also, watch out for the gorgeous artwork on this.
Favorite track: I am the Alpha and the Omega
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

8. Scythian — Repurgation
This album hit me like a bolt from the blue. This relatively new death/thrash band from UK play a style which is neither old nor re-thrash. The band employs organs and Gregorian chants in interludes and during song build ups, which only makes the entire album more enjoyable. Listen to this song for instance and wait for the tempo-shift at 1:36. 
Favorite track: Beyond the dust
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

7. Sacral Rage — Illusions in Infinite Void
If you’re a massive Helstar fanboy, I suggest you start listening to this right now! This debut album by these Greeks is a fantastic slab of thrash-y power metal. The soaring air-raid siren vocals and the gazillion riffs that showcase the tremendous musicianship make Sacral Rage a band to watch out for. 
Favorite track: Lost Chapter E-Sutratma
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

6. Batushka — Litourgiya
This album was released this month by Witching Hour Productions and it has already caused quite a stir in the underground. Shrouded in mystery, Batushka play an orthodox style of black metal. The entire album sounds like a ritual. Think Cult of Fire but more grandiose in the black metal sense of things. If I had more time to listen to this album, I might’ve definitely ranked it higher. 
Favorite track(s): Entire album
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

5. Katavasia — Sacrilegious Testament
Katavasia is a super-group of sorts with members hailing from notable Greek bands like Varathron and Hail Spirit Noir. As a Varathron fan, it was hard to control my excitement when I got to know of this project. Suffice to say, this album didn’t disappoint at all. The sound on this record hearkens back to the early Varathron albums like Walpurgisnacht and His Majesty ie. epic melodic black metal. The production on this is slightly modern but let it not take away any of the quality on this record. It only makes the sound crisper and more discernible, which is great. 
Favorite track: Symphony Des Gravens
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

4. Mgła — Exercises in Futility
It is impossible for this Polish band to release an album which doesn’t feature in any of the AOTY lists. Exercises in Futility comes after a three year gap from their previous magnum opus. These guys are, without a doubt, one of the best song writers in the genre. This latest album cements those very credentials. To paraphrase a fellow forum-member’s comment — “Nihilism never sounded this good”. 
Favorite track(s): Entire album
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

3. Lord Fist — Green Eyleen
I’ve been a long-time follower of Lord Fist. These young Finnish upstarts play some of the catchiest heavy/traditional metal I’ve ever heard. While their early material (one demo and EP) was impressive, they’ve stepped it up several notches with this debut album. Detractors might point out that the vocals aren’t coherent enough but I say when you have everything sounding so passionate and energetic, that minor flaw can be overlooked. 
Favorite track: Green Eyleen
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

2. Macabre Omen — Gods of War — At War
This Greek band returns after ten years since their last full length album. I’ll be honest here. I didn’t know of Macabre Omen until I heard about this release. Don’t worry, I’ve kicked myself enough for not coming across them earlier. There’s only one word that can describe this album perfectly and it’s ‘majestic’. This is black metal at its finest. Stylistically, this is essentially a Hellenic black metal album. If this doesn’t conjure up images of epic battles in your head, I don’t know what will. 
Favorite track: Gods of War — At War
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

1. Reverie — Bliss
Reverie’s Bliss is yet another debut album and this closes my 2015 list. They hail from Denmark and play a blackened style of death metal. There are two major reasons why this is my favorite album of the year. Firstly, Dust and Dirt has the best intros I’ve ever heard in the recent past. It packs quite an aural punch (like the rest of the album). And secondly, the entire album is replete with memorable guitar riffs from start to finish. If I used a riff-counter, this album would have OVER 9000! (Sorry). But besides that, they still manage to have tempo changes, slower sections, an instrumental, which I feel fit in quite perfectly. 
Favorite track: Dust and Dirt
Full album stream:
Bandcamp

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