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2015's best metal albums


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2015 was the strongest year for metal in recent memory, with everyone from Iron Maiden to Lamb of God churning out some A+ releases.

This list is a celebration of the diversity and enjoyment 2015’s metallers brought us in 2015, with entries ranging from household names to those from metal’s large, expansive underbelly.

Naturally, this is a subjective list of my own personal picks, so I apologise in advance if your favourite record didn’t make the cut. Without any further ado, in no particular, here are my best metal albums of 2015:

Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls

No heavy metal list will ever be complete without a nod to Iron Maiden, who have been producing some of the finest riffs, lyrics and vocal performances for over 35 years. And The Book of Souls is definitely a record that does justice to the band’s almost untouchable repertoire. Clocking in at a grandiose 92 minutes over the course of two discs, this is Iron Maiden at their most adventurous and progressive. Like all truly innovative musicians, they create the music that they want to hear, refusing to cater to critics by making Number of the Beast version 2.0.

While it does contain its radio-friendly moments – mostly in the straight-forward, hard-rocking lead single 'Speed of Light' – the beauty of The Book of Souls comes in the progressive, lengthy suites present in such songs as “Empire of the Clouds” and “The Red and the Black”. If you like your metal tracks long, powerful, anthemic, epic and – most importantly – jam-packed with blistering guitar riffs, then The Book of Souls is 2015’s album for you.

Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of the Earth

Wilderun’s Sleep at the Edge of the Earth may not only be my favourite album of 2015, but also the year’s most underrated.

This is one of the most diverse albums I have heard in a very long time, containing elements of folk rock, technical death metal and everything in between. Wilderun’s seemingly unlimited mastery of so many different genres and sub-genres not only demonstrates the Boston quartet’s skills as amazing musicians, but also surprises as the completely different styles they utilise blend together remarkably well.

The band seamlessly integrates instruments like the acoustic guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and autoharp to create a folk metal sound that is uniquely their own.

Lead single 'The Garden of Fire' perfectly showcases the band’s huge musical range by itself, using the track’s 10-minute running time to demonstrate both the soft and heavy sides of Wilderun.

The only thing I can compare Wilderun to is a fusion of Ensiferum and Dream Theater, and if that sounds as awesome to you as it does to me, then this is a band the world needs to know about!

Trivium – Silence in the Snow

Silence in the Snow is probably Trivium’s most straight-forward record. Much unlike previous efforts like Shogun and Ascendancy, this is an album that seeks less to push the boundaries of thrash and metalcore, but rather harken back to the glory days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

It is dissimilar to the prior entries in this list in that the album’s songs are very structurally simplistic: they all follow the typical verse–chorus–verse format, as Trivium abandon the screaming vocals of their previous releases to make a disc heavily reliant on melody and clean vocals. And it’s a refreshing change that, for Trivium, has been a long time coming.

Much like Maiden, the band have clearly made the album that they wanted to make, with anthemic tracks that pay tribute to their classic heavy metal heroes like Dio, Judas Priest and even Skid Row. While hardcore fans will most likely prefer the heavier, faster Trivium of old, it’s important to examine Silence in the Snow as a separate entity, one that explores the influences of one a band that has themselves influenced countless other, younger musicians.

Dendera – Pillars of Creation

It’s unlikely that you’ve ever heard of Dendera, but let me assure you that they are among the south coast’s premier heavy metal acts, having supported the likes of Sepultura, Queensrÿche, Fozzy, Evile and Anvil last year.

And their second album, Pillars of Creation, only adds to the monumental 2015 that Dendera enjoyed. The album fuses new and old perfectly, with David Stanton and Steven main’s modern thrash metal riffs combining with lead singer Ashley Edison’s classic, Rob Halford-esque vocals.

Pillars of Creation is an unapologetically heavy album, featuring seven-string guitars and relentless, ceaseless speed throughout. Put simply, this is a fantastic metal album that demonstrates unique musicianship: both nostalgic and revolutionary.

Sylosis – Dormant Heart

If I could describe Sylosis’s fourth album, Dormant Heart, in just one word, it would be “riffs”.

The thrash/death metal four-piece goes balls-to-the-walls with memorable hook after memorable hook, each better than the last.

Dormant Heart is a melancholic, hour-long ride, driven by singer/guitarist Josh Middleton’s growling, heavy vocals and blistering shredding. The album’s lead single, 'Mercy', sees the more commercial side of the album, with the traditional death metal vocals giving way to melodic singing during the chorus, while tracks like 'Victims and Pawns' and 'Servitude' demonstrate Dormant Heart’s evil, darker side.

If you’re a fan of extreme metal that’s in need of a little more progressive guitar-work, Sylosis was made for you.

Reign of Fury – Death Be Thy Shepherd

I don’t know if “melodic thrash metal” has been invented yet, but if not, it’s a term definitely applicable to Reign of Fury.

The instrumentation of the band is and always has been pure thrash, with fast solos, heavy riffs, gang vocals and quick drumming becoming almost omnipresent. And to begin with, especially on their debut EP Psycho Intentions, Reign of Fury vocalist Bison Steed’s singing mimicked traditional thrash metal singing, with raspy James Hetfield-like speed and aggression.

But their new album, Death Be Thy Shepherd, sees Bison’s voice become more grand and operatic – closer to traditional NWOBHM vocalists like Bruce Dickinson – and it’s a slight change that helps see Reign of Fury apart from the crowd.

The choruses on Death Be Thy Shepherd are awe-inspiring, and the music shows a band working in perfect sync, especially on the longer instrumental passages and sweeping solos of 'Faustian Mastery' and the album’s title track.

Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

It’s probably safe to say that a lot of things happened in the Lamb of God camp between VII and their previous album, Resolution; the most prominent being that lead singer Randy Blythe spent time in a Czech prison while on trial for manslaughter.

He was later found not guilty, but the impact of that tumultuous time on the band is clearly captured in Sturm und Drang. Many of the album’s lyrics not only centre on Blythe’s incarceration in the Czech Republic, but also the country itself. While the single '512' is named after the cell in which Blythe was kept, another track, 'Anthropoid', draws from the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia during World War II.

Perhaps it is this personal significance throughout the album that makes it one of Lamb of God’s best releases. Not only does VII: Sturm und Drang succeed as a collection of music – featuring powerful instrumentation and angered, growled vocals – but also as a character study, as Blythe’s lyrics lament on the past three years of his life. '512' sees the best and most intriguing words of the band’s career knitted into it, as Blythe contemplates the life of the young man that he was accused of ending.

The strong emotions the band dealt with through their personal struggles are felt so clearly in VII, with both music and lyrics conveying anger and sorrow but also a newfound hope for the future.

TesseracT – Polaris

Progressive metallers TesseracT returned with a bang in 2015 with not only their third album, Polaris, but also their first live album, Odyssey/Scala. Despite a busy schedule, TesseracT were still able to make Polaris a fantastic album, which leans more towards the commercial music consumer than any of their past efforts.

While their older material spawned tracks that clocked in anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five minutes, on Polaris, the longest track barely breaks six-and-a-half. And while I prefer the more complex instrumentation, I still enjoy the new material, mostly due to its ability to capture Daniel Tompkin’s calming, dream-like vocals. Tompkin’s screaming vocals – present on the band’s first release, One – are absent this time around, which I find a very welcome change: with the new, calmer music on Polaris, including harsh vocals would be superfluous.

Polaris has its heavier moments, but overall, it is a very tranquil metal album. And when you’re like me and you listen to Sylosis for hours at a time, it’s a very nice album to calm down with.

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