Metal music has been close to my heart since I discovered the genre as a teenager. This year many of the bands that I grew up listening to have released some new material. Although this section of my highlights is entitled “metal”, my top 10 list also features two rock albums which didn’t fit the industrial category. So here are my favourite albums of 2015:
1. Lindemann – Skills in Pills
Genre: Industrial Metal
Prior to writing the first part I wasn’t sure whether I should stick this in the industrial or the metal section. In the end I went with metal because I’ve always regarded both Rammstein and Pain as metal, so naturally a collaboration between Mr. Lindemann and Mr. Tägtgren belongs in that category too. I can’t think of any better way of describing this album than how I summarized it in my review: “It takes you on a journey during which you will experience a whole range of emotions including fear, laughter and disgust.” Best tracks: ‘Fish On’, ‘Praise Abort’ and ‘Yukon’.
2. My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
Genre: Gothic Doom Metal
The second entry on my list couldn’t be much more different than the first. Whereas ‘Skills in Pills’ was fun to listen to, making me dance and laugh along to the outrageous lyrics, ‘Feel the Misery’ is true its namesake. There’s nothing uplifting about this album, just eight beautifully crafted songs of doom and gloom. In short, it’s a classic case of My Dying Bride doing what they do best. Best tracks: ‘And My Father Left Forever’, ‘Feel the Misery’ and ‘I Celebrate Your Skin’.
3. Cradle of Filth – Hammer of the Witches
Genre: Extreme Gothic Metal
At the time when I reviewed this album, I gave it a very conservative rating of 3.5/5. Since then I have listened to it on numerous occasions and I’ve grown to appreciate it. If I were to do the same review today I would probably rate it much higher. ‘Hammer of the Witches’ is easily Cradle of Filth’s best album in years. The best tracks are ‘Blackest Magick in Practice’, ‘Enshrined in Crematoria’ and ‘The Right Wing of the Garden Triptych’.
4. Apocalyptica – Shadowmaker
Genre: Symphonic Heavy Metal
This was a tough album to review mostly because it’s so distinctively different to anything that Apocalyptica has ever done before. As with the new Cradle of Filth, it took me a few listens to fully appreciate it. The cello sounds were an instant hit but Franky Perez’s vocals are not the easiest thing to get used to. Luckily I discovered that once you do become accustomed to it, you will be rewarded for your patience. Best tracks: ‘Shadowmaker’, ‘Cold Blood’ and ‘Riot Lights’.
5. Lacrimosa – Hoffnung
Genre: Gothic Rock/Gothic Metal
Lacrimosa is one of my favourite bands. Their music isn’t the easiest to classify. I and many other people I know have always regarded them as Gothic rock, but if you ask anyone from the Goth scene they are viewed as Gothic metal. ‘Unlike its predecessor ‘Revolution’, which had a lot of metal influences, Hoffnung’ marks a return to the symphonic and orchestral style of Lacrimosa whilst still retaining the Gothic elements. Best tracks: ‘Unterwelt’, ‘Die Unbekannte Farbe’ and ‘Thunder and Lightning’.
6. Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
Genre: Alternative Rock
Whilst Lacrimosa’s classification as “metal” may be subject to debate, this one is definitely not metal. However since Marilyn Manson’s latest album has nothing in common with industrial music I decided that it was better suited for the “metal edition”. ‘The Pale Emperor’ isn’t a masterpiece like ‘Antichrist Superstar’, but it’s the best album I’ve heard by him since ‘Eat Me Drink Me’. Best tracks: ‘The Third Day of a Seven Day Binge’, ‘Deep Six’ and ‘Cupid Carries a Gun’.
7. Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos
Genre: Melodic Death Metal/Power Metal
I Worship Chaos’ is another solid effort from the world-famous Finnish extreme metal band. I must admit that I was apprehensive when I heard some of the previews on Youtube. Luckily after getting my hands on a physical copy and listening to it in full, I’m happy to report that it’s better and more memorable than their previous work ‘Halo of Blood’. Best tracks: ‘Morrigan’, ‘Horns’ and ‘I Worship Chaos’.
8. Melechesh – Enki
Genre: Black Metal
I only discovered Melechesh recently after reading one of the reviews on this album. I like their unique style and the mixture of middle eastern folk music elements with black metal. It’s also a great way to learn about Sumerian mythology. Best tracks: ‘Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged’, ‘Lost Tribes (feat. Max Cavalera) and ‘Metatron and Man’.
9. Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
Genre: Technical Death Metal
For those who don’t know death metal is one of my favourite metal sub-genres. Nile is one of the bands that I grew up listening to. I briefly lost track of them after the mediocre ‘Ithyphallic’ album but after reading a review of this album I decided to give them another go. I’m glad that I did. It’s great to see that these guys haven’t mellowed down or changed their style drastically. Best tracks: ‘Evil to Cast Out Evil’ and ‘In the Name of Amun’.
10. Ranger – Where Evil Dwells
Genre: Speed Metal
I don’t know much about speed metal. The chances are had it not been for Ranger’s highly entertaining performance at Radio City South Park festival, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to this album. Their debut ‘Where Evil Dwells’ treats you to seven tracks of ultra fast and energetic speed metal. A must for fans of the likes of Exciter and Witchburner.
Best New Discovery of 2015: Helloween (not new but new to me!)
Best live show: Cradle of Filth live in Helsinki
Most Anticipated Albums of 2016:
The Vision Bleak – Into the Unknown
And who knows… maybe we will finally get a new Metallica album?
Happy New Year Everyone!