2015 was an exceptionally good year for metal. Bands that we hadn’t heard from in years released new albums. Great new bands stormed onto the scene. Black metal bands found their way onto American tours for the first time ever. We saw festivals get bigger and fantastic independent bands get signed to notable, underground labels. 2015 proved that metal is still alive and thriving more than ever. With all that in mind, picking a top six for the year was an exceedingly difficult task. After much deliberation though, I finally settled on the following six releases. Keep in mind that this is just one asshole’s opinion. You are entitled to your lame opinions as well. Don’t be gay.
6. Nile| What Should Not Be Unearthed
These guys always come hard. Maybe it’s because they have been around for over twenty years and are older than dirt, which means they’ve had a lot of practice. In prior years, I wouldn’t have put them in the top six, but this release was different. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is their best album since “Annihilation of the Wicked”.
What makes this album stand out is the complexity and diversity of the songs. Each track brings something unique to the table. The guitar solos, technicality, and drum work are all irrefutably insane, leaving tech death connoisseurs speechless on their first listen. Despite this, the album has that “old school” appeal as its heaviness is unparalleled.
Also notable, are the lyrical themes on this album. The song “Call to Destruction” is particularly ballsy in its attacks on the futility and destruction of war as well as bringing attention to the dangerousness of religious fanaticism. The focus on current events is a welcome change for Nile. Yes, Nile truly outdid themselves this year, but listen for yourself and be the judge. “What Should Not Be Unearthed” is a must have for 2015.
5. Finsterforst| Mach Dich Frei
This band seriously came out of nowhere. Aside from being the sexiest folk metal band to come out of Germany in a long time, Finsterforst can tout being one of the best. “Mach Dich Frei” is the forth release from the band and the one to put them on the map. Napalm Records signed Finsterforst a few years back and can be accredited for the exposure they’ve received for “Mach Dich Frei”. Thankfully, the exposure and praise was well deserved.
Beginning to end, “Mach Dich Frei” is an unapologetic celebration of heathenistic, pagan values, espousing triumph, freedom, and victory with every breath. The folk elements on the record are unique, as the band allows for large accordion sections in the majority of the songs. Yes, Finsterforst has an accordion player and he plays a huge role in creating their distinctive sound.
One can easily be reminded of “Nordland” era Bathory while listening to “Mach Dich Frei” and the compliment is largely earned. With seven members in the band, Finsterforst creates an incredibly full and complicated sound, sprinkled with hidden intricacies and surprises. Simon Shillinger, Johannas Joseph, and Cornelius Heck’s clean vocals are truly remarkable, and cathartic. The band is also not afraid of writing longer songs. The last track on the album, entitled “Finsterforst”, is a twenty-three-minute-long metal symphony. “Mach Dich Frei” is a truly extraordinary addition to the world of blackened pagan/folk metal; a definite must listen for 2015.
4. Perdition Temple| The Tempter’s Victorious
This was one of those bands that all my friends were talking about and raving over like a bunch of drooling hounds. Other than hearing them being played in the background at afterhours parties, I waited a ridiculously long time to listen to this band. Perdition Temple is basically a continuation of black/death aficionados, Angelcorpse’s career, and their influence is apparent on “The Tempter’s Victorious”. If you’re looking for the most aggressive and dangerous sounding LP of 2015, “The Tempter’s Victorious” is definitely in the running.
The production on this album is ridiculously meaty and full, yet manages to keep in tune with the aggression of the old school and never sounds digital. The blast beats are bludgeoning and the guitar solos are in line with 80’s Teutonic thrash, yet unbelievably proficient despite their vileness. These points are exemplified on stand out tracks like “Scythes of the Antichrist” and “The Doomsday Chosen”. The anti-
Christian and anti-human lyrics are surprisingly intelligent and well thought out, and frankly, a pleasure to read. This album is a definite 10/10. If you’re looking for a sound to open the gates of hell, look no further. Listening to “The Tempter’s Victorious” will burn your fragile soul.
3. Istapp| Frostbiten
Just when I had made peace with the reality that Istapp was probably never going to release another album, they went ahead and kicked my ass with the release of “Frostbiten” back in August. What a treat this was for the fans. More than just a continuation on 2010’s “Bleklinge”, “Frostbiten” was an improvement. Istapp keeps the essence of Swedish melodic black metal alive with an incredible, throwback sound that coalesces the spirit of Dissection with early Wintersun. Folk elements are woven into the mix in an unassuming manner. The production is kvlt enough to avoid sounding like melodeath, yet remains professional sounding.
I seriously find no fault with this LP in the slightest. “Frostbiten” never bores the listener and each song is memorable. Istapp will leave your blood frozen with tracks like “Skoll”, “Apep”, and “Primim Frigidum”. “Frostbiten”, the title track, has a hauntingly beautiful and catchy chorus, sung in clean vocals. Melodies are evocatively dissonant and leave listeners absolutely captivated. I could go on and on giving this band praise but nothing compares to listening for yourself. Istapp truly impaled listeners this year, like the icicles they’re named after. “Frostbiten” was definitely worth the wait.
2. Kroda| Ginnungagap, Ginnungagaldr, Ginnungakaos
Ukrainian lyrics, Icelandic album title…..is it just me or does it seem like Kroda is trying to avoid becoming popular in America? Unfortunately, when you release an album of this caliber, you’re going to get American attention whether you like it or not. What can I really say? This is another Kroda record, almost perfection beginning to end.
Blackened dissonance permeates throughout the album, leaving listeners spellbound. Kroda gives Melodic Swedish metal bands a real run for their money with this album. The distinctiveness and beauty of each melody on this record is incomparable. Somehow, Kroda manages to create a sound that’s both victorious and misanthropic at once. This is the stuff pagan metal is made of: pure beauty, pure victory, pure nationalism, and pure freedom and harmony amongst nature. All of these ideologies resonate through Kroda’s distinctive sound.
Einenslav’s vocals are among the best in the industry, dripping with unrestrained eccentricity that’s aesthetically pleasing. The flute parts are intricate, complex, and strikingly beautiful. I can’t really say too much more. Other than being a bit slower than some prior releases, this is simply another Kroda record; an unrivalled display of absolute beauty and perfection.
1. MGLA| Exercises in Futility
A few of my favorite elitist asshole bloggers have been saying that “Exercises in Futility” is too smooth and lacks the ugliness and misanthropic aggression of early black metal. They’ve said that there’s not enough rawness in this record’s sound to classify it as true black metal. I must admit, they have a point. Black metal has been changing quite a bit over the past few years. Some might say it’s been watered down to appeal to the masses. Go ahead and call me a big old pussy trend lover then, because I can’t stop listening to this album. I’m not alone here either, as this album has boasted predominantly rave reviews.
Listeners really need to try hard not to cut themselves like emo kids after listening to “Exercises in Futility’s” extreme, nihilistic messages. The beauty in the repetitiveness of the riffs harkens back to the early days of black metal and is incredibly cathartic, yet the production is decent. No, this was not recorded on a tape deck. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Despite the album merely being broken up into six, self-titled chapters, each song had a unique personality of its own. Tracks IV and VI are particularly memorable and emotion inducing. The quality of the drumming is hard not to notice as well. Blasts are tasteful and intricate, blending beautifully with the guitar and bass. The lyrics are bleakly dark and poetic and the vocals are nothing short of amazing.
“Exercises in Futility” is addictive more than anything else. You’ll easily find yourself hitting the repeat button on your favorite song until you’re damn near late for work. MGLA really outdid themselves with this one. “Exercises in Futility” is beautiful music for you to die to.
Well, there you have it, one elitists top six picks for the year. What are yours? List them in the comments. Stay trve! Hails!