Daniel Keating Best-of 2015

Monday, 21st December 2015

Year’s end is always a time to look back and reflect on another year gone by, for better or worse, and what usually strikes me is that I’m thankful to be an avid music fan. For those like us, we simply can not imagine life without this critical component and, for those devotees of heavy metal, it’s good to realize how lucky we indeed are that metal, perhaps more so than any other genre, casts such a diverse and wide net of music in seemingly bottomless supply. We can’t relate to those sentiments of “there is just no good music these days”. We can’t sympathize or empathize with that notion – maybe, at most, we can pity the uninitiated and uninformed, or just those with poor taste and low musical IQ.

In what may be taken as a bit of a contradiction to the above sentiment, 2015 found yours truly spending much time engrossed in music of a different era and genre. Discovering bands that I missed either due to my age or due to the artist’s level of obscurity is a great joy and a constant hobby. While my head may have been in the late seventies and early eighties for much of the year, I still enjoyed a bounty of new metal, from bands old and new alike. In fact, 2015 shaped up to be a pretty good year for our beloved genre, and yielded more notable releases than I can cram into a top-ten list. As such, here are those bands who released albums worthy of remark this year – runners up to my top-ten list: Wolfheart, Myrkur, Kontinuum, Obsequiae, Tau Cross, Pyramids, Amestigon, Downfall of Nur, Leviathan, Glaciation, Kroda, A Forest of Stars and Vision of Disorder.

1. Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Ipecac Recordings)
To the masses, FNM may be remembered for one genre-bending song at the end of the decadent decade. To those who listened, FNM became an iconic band, releasing some remarkable albums of ingenious originality (and featuring one of the greatest vocalists of our time, to boot). Sol Invictus is much more than an overdue reunion album – it’s maybe their strongest since the great Angel Dust.

2. Iron Maiden – Book of Souls (BMG)
Book of Souls has been called, by some, the best of the new millennium-era Iron Maiden. A big-time step up from 2010’s The Final Frontier, Iron Maiden has raised the bar yet again, and creating this double album opus at this point in their career is really astounding. Book of Souls shows Iron Maiden in Powerslave form.

finsterforst mach dich frei
3. Finsterforst – Mach Dich Frei (Napalm)
The fourth album from this German epic folk/black metal band is their strongest to date, living up to 2012’s excellent Rastlos. For this style of metal, Finsterforst keep only Moonsorrow as their peers – and Finsterforst certainly have their own identity and sound. Having said that, fans of Moonsorrow (and bands of the like) would be wise to buy this album.

4. Kauan – Sorni Nai (Blood Music)
It seems that every release from Russia’s Kauan is excellent. This haunting, atmospheric doom and post rock outfit sits on a higher level than most, and Sorni Nai is at least on-par, and maybe even better than their last outstanding release of Pirut in 2013.

5. Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War (Van Records)
Gods of War- At War is an awesome showing from Greece’s Macabre Omen, an epic/pagan black metal band releasing their second album. Hands-down one of the best releases under the black metal banner this year, this thing is chocked full of sentiments of ancient war. Tight, crisp, melodic, and fierce – Macabre Omen rules.

mgla exercises
6. Mgła – Exercises in Futility (Northern Heritage)
Exercises in Futility should be that album that deservedly puts Poland’s Mgła in company with other marquee headliner-status European black metal bands. Every bit as strong as 2012’s With Hearts Toward None, Mgła’s powerful use of dense, atmospheric, dark riffs and furious grooves make this an easy pick.

7. Grift – Syner (Nordvis Produktion)
Strong contender for best newcomer of the year, Grift is the work of Sweden’s Erik Gärdefors who has expertly created a stunning work of atmospheric, depressive, haunting, melodic and bleak black metal. Top to bottom, this is an impressive album.

Grimoire -L'aorasie-des-spectres-rêveurs
8. Grimoire – L’aorasie des spectres rêveurs (Eisenwald)
I’m not in the habit of placing an EP in this kind of list, but I have to be honest – this Grimoire release was in heavy rotation for me this year. These four songs of glorious atmospheric black metal span around 25 minutes, and show this Canadian one-man outfit keeping company with the likes of Elffor and Summoning, albeit in its own way.

9. Enslaved – In Times (Nuclear Blast)
Some crusty Enslaved fans really can’t get past the 1994-1998, four-album-spanning “Viking” era of the band. When more melodic, progressive elements entered the scene, some purists ran for the hills. The rest of us have been rewarded with album after album of world-renowned quality. In Times is as strong as ever, surpassing 2012’s RIITIIR.

10. Galar – De Gjenlevende (Dark Essence Records)
A stunning work of Norwegian folk and symphonic black metal (with woodwind and brass!). Melodic and furious simultaneously – a little Windir, a little Borknagar. This is some sophisticated-ass black metal.

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