The Queen of all lists, the annual Albums of The Year list is once again commercial-free, hype-free and it's all about the best music that was released this past year, nothing else. Forget all other headache-giving lists and reminisce...
30. Marilyn Manson: The Pale Emperor
MM's ninth was deservedly a both critical and commercial success. The album is produced by MM and acclaimed/promising film composer, Brian Tyler, and musically it marks the band's departure from their signature industrial sound, to a more blues, traditional-influenced rock, with Manson himself citing as sources of inspiration the music of Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones and The Doors.
29. Tau Cross: Tau Cross
Tau Cross, comprised of members from Amebix, Voivod, Misery and War//Plague, didn't disappoint like supergroups' much talked about records often do. The content of their self titled debut is not easy to categorize, including elements that vary from crust and punk to folk. The album is dark, it's fast and diverse, not suitable for the narrow minded.
28. Krallice: Ygg Huur
After five albums Krallice sound more mature than ever, taking their kind of black metal to the most technical and most dramatic it can get. The first impressions, as Ygg Huur is extremely technical and complex, might leave one thinking that it is a progressive blabbering mess, but if you look closer, the overall surreal ambiance of the record makes it stand out as one of the best extreme metal releases this year.
27. Swervedriver: I Wasn't Born To Lose You
Returning with their first new album in 17 years, shoegazers Swervedriver put out I Wasn’t Born To Lose You in 2015, sounding revived, confident and about to reach to younger audiences. The album is an intriguing comeback record, that may be a bit on the lighter side of their sound, yet it definitely feels like a proper Swervedriver record, as if they never went away.
26. Blur: The Magic Whip
Twelve years after Think Tank, Blur add another chapter to their long and celebrated career. Blur have proved more than once how they are bigger than britpop and how the chemistry between them as individual musicians has worked on every occasion, in different eras. There's never been a weak link among Blur's previous seven full lengths and certainly their eighth album was neither one. The Magic Whip is a low key record, exemplary on how comebacks should be made.
25. Bosse-De-Nage: All Fours
Described as "the soundtrack to someone having the ultimate mental breakdown", All Fours harmonizes extreme black metal, post hardcore, post rock and ambient, themed around mental disintegration and shadowed by impassioned sexuality that underlines the immorality and the depravity in human nature. Produced by Jack Shirley, who has also worked with acts like Deafheaven, Botanist and Whirr, Bosse-De-Nage's fourth album sounds like their most accomplished effort so far.
24. King Dude: Songs of Flesh & Blood - In The Key of Light
Dealing with spiritual revelation, death, loss, love and violence, King Dude's 2015 album feels like the record Lee Hazlewood, Douglas P. and The Bad Seeds would have made as a whole if they've been locked up all together in a room. Like always King Dude sounds dead serious, performing intimate, personal songs as if he wrote them for himself only.
23. Beach House: Depression Cherry
The world's most successful dream pop duo at the moment, Beach House, released their fifth album in 2015, returning to the simpler structures and production of their early material. Depression Cherry came less than two months before the band's sixth album, Thank You Lucky Stars, a kind of darker and weirder, still noteworthy work. Since none of the two releases lacked in anything and since they both surely sounded like more than decent Beach House records, this sort of hyper-productivity the band showed in 2015 was pleasantly welcome.
22. The Telescopes: Hidden Fields
It's been 26 years since The Telescopes' astonishing debut and the band is still alive and well. Hidden Fields is a dark, noise-y and drone-y work of abstract shoegaze and probably their best release since the nineties, that confirms how The Telescopes is possibly the only of the old legends of the shoegaze movement that don't treat their art by longingly remembering their days of glory, but keep moving constantly forward.
21. Loma Prieta: Self Portrait
Post-hardcore dark experimental quartet from San Francisco, Loma Prieta, released their fifth album on Deathwish Inc. Produced by the same guy who produced Sunbather, Jack Shirley, Self Portrait is not as cutting and aggressive as 2012's I.V. was, yet its clearer production and the balance between cleanness and distortion, melody and noise, seems to work wonders. After five albums in almost a decade of doing great in life as a band, Loma Prieta deserve every right to become more ambitious and Self Portrait is how they became so.
20. Leviathan: Scar Sighted
Wrest's one man black metal project, Leviathan has been a force in extreme metal since the nineties. His latest album is already being considered as maybe the moniker's finest and it's a massive release, balancing between hateful nihilism and endurance, a confident work of art from the mastermind of one of the most talented musicians in USBM today. Wrest (Jef Whitehead), one release after the other, manages to keep evolving while staying faithful to the genre's traditional values.
19. Boduf Songs: Stench Of Exist
The solo project of Mat Sweet from Southampton, UK, who has previously released four albums on Kranky and a whole bunch of others on various labels, all of which are worth checking out, Boduf Songs seems to have reached his peak with his latest album, Stench Of Exist, a very esoteric and dreamlike work, that surely deserved more appreciation.
18. Lucifer: Lucifer I
After The Oath split up last year following their successful self titled album, Johanna Sardonis formed Lucifer, her new band that focuses heavily on seventies hard rock and metal, with such obvious influences, from bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult. Having Gaz Jennings, guitarist of the legendary Cathedral on their roster, Lucifer released one of the most impressive, occult themed, heavy rock albums of the year.
17. Algiers: Algiers
This amalgam of post-punk, spiritual gospel, no wave, soul and electronics that comprise Algiers' debut, has been accurately described as “dystopian soul”. Their astonishing blend of such diverse genres and notions might sound weird and imbalanced, but somehow Algiers make it work, having created the by far most genre-bending album of the year.
16. Clutch: Psychic Warfare
With almost 25 years behind them and after eleven studio albums, Clutch keep delivering one kick-ass record after another on a steady pace, with each of them clearly proving to the world how they're eligible for and most likely to win the title of the most underrated band ever. Produced by Blast Tyrant and Earth Rocker producer, Machine, like the aforementioned two, Psychic Warfare has already a place among Clutch's finest.
15. Demon Lung: A Dracula
Based on the 1977 cult Mexican film by Juan Lopez Moctezuma, Alucarda and produced by Men Of Porn's Billy Anderson, A Dracula, their second full length, finds Demon Lung at their best form yet. Appropriately associating their music with a satanic occult film like that, Las Vegas' Demon Lung are among the ones to watch in today's doom metal and so far they've never disappointed. Read our interview with vocalist Shanda Fredrick from a few months back.
14. Windhand: Grief's Infernal Flower
After the well deserved success of Soma two years ago, Windhand's latest record is another slow burner that without a doubt establishes the band as one of the frontrunners in contemporary Sabbath-esque doom metal. Leaning a tiny bit more on the alternative side (after all the record is produced by Jack Endino), the album's 71 minutes of hazy slow psych doom are twice intercepted by folk acoustic songs which highlight Dorthia Cottrell's hypnotic singing and justify the band's attempt for a more digestible record than their earlier material.
13. Monster Magnet: Cobras And Fire (The Mastermind Redux)
To include Cobras And Fire on the list, we're treating it as a proper album release, even though is a renovation of Monster Magnet's previous work, enhanced with new material. The dirtier, fuzzier, garage-infused psychedelic heavy rock sound of this redux version of The Mastermind makes one wonder why they didn't do the album that way in the first place, a sound that brings to mind the band's early days, the one that established them as one of the best in the heavy rock sphere in general.
12. The Black Heart Rebellion: People, When You See The Smoke, Do Not Think It Is The Fields They’re Burning
TBHR's third album is possibly their most accomplished work to date. After first having paved the way with Har Nevo in 2012, the band continues on the same artistic course, distancing themselves from their initial hardcore punk character.
11. Sannhet: Revisionist
New York's Sannhet returned two years after their first album, Known Flood, that was quite an impressive debut, that grabbed the attention of the metal community and beyond. Experimenting with almost every sub-genre of extreme heavy music, from black metal to sludge to even grindcore, through post-rock and shoegazing filters, Sannhet’s excellent sophomore album sounds noisy, dirty and at the same time deep and overwhelmingly sentimental.
10. Faith No More: Sol Invictus
On their first album in 18 years, Faith No More put out a record that doesn't even feel like a comeback. After all those years of Mike Patton's side projects and the other members keeping themselves busy with miscellaneous musical ventures, Sol Invictus feels like FNM confidently picked up where they left off and that it was totally worth the long wait.
9. Soft Kill: Heresy
Four years after their previous album, An Open Door, Portland's Soft Kill, released Heresy and went on tour with The Chameleons UK. The new album is a 28-minute record of darkness, with rare glimpses of light and hope that strongly resembles 80s post-punk and dakwave and its only flaw probably being its short length.
8. With The Dead: With The Dead
Legendary Cathedral vocalist, Lee Dorrian and founding Electric Wizard and Ramesses members, guitarist/bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening formed With The Dead, the latest doom metal supergroup from the UK that released their self-titled debut through Dorrian's renowned heavy rock label, Rise Above Records. To fans of those people's previous work, the result is not surprising at all: occult themed, slow and unbearably heavy doom rock, with Dorrian's vocal work being grittier than ever.
7. Mgła: Exercises In Futility
Exercises In Futility is only the third full length album by Polish black metal act Mgła (pronounced "mgwa" / meaning “fog” in Polish), but since 2005 they've been delivering a few more solid EPs, earning the appropriate respect of the black metal community with each release. Their 2015 record is probably their most impressive so far, however it's does not differ much from the artistry of either Groza or With Hearts Towards None; it's melodic, brilliantly riffed orthodox black metal that stands out from the vast amount of bands that mean the same business. Mgła's comprehension of the genre they're serving and their ability to expand while remaining “trve” to their values is really astounding and that makes Exercises In Futility a triumphant release. Even for the slightest interested in black metal, this is an essential listen.
6. Kylesa: Exhausting Fire
On their seventh studio album, Georgia's Kylesa got once again out of their comfort zone and while remaining sludgy and punk, they showed how their appetite for experimentation was more alive than ever. Exhausting Fire is still a contemporary metal album, exploring different genres and experimenting with different sounds like most of their recent entries on their catalog, but this time the songwriting is sharper and those heavyweights' curious flirtation with alternative rock is more engaging than ever.
5. Grave Babies: Holographic Violence
Setting aside the lo-fi sound of their previous records and moving towards more eighties post-punk aesthetics, Grave Babies from Seattle did a pleasantly surprising change in their direction and came up with an amazing gothic punk album, that strongly feels like the start of a brand new chapter for the band.
4. New Order: Music Complete
The fact that the best pop album of the year came from a veteran band with forty years and dozens of releases on its back, tells so much about the current state of pop music in general. Music Complete is a perfect pop album and a landmark in New Order's rich career, but probably people these days were too busy, staring at their own faces on their phones all the time, to notice.
3. Liturgy: The Ark Work
It's not easy to incorporate so many contemporary elements in black metal and get away with it without sounding like you're trying too hard or end up with something nonsensical, but Liturgy are bound to take the genre to a whole other level. So far they've been calling it “transcendental black metal”, but regarding their third album, The Ark Work, trying to categorize it and hang labels on it seems kind of pointless. It is based on black metal, it is highly artistic, progressive and extreme and it's quite difficult to take in, but once you do, you'll learn to love it.
2. John Carpenter: Lost Themes
It feels weird having to refer to Lost Themes as “Carpenter's debut solo album”, him at 67 years of age and already a much experienced composer through his film music and all around genius artist. Now that the synthwave movement is in full bloom, with dozens of releases attempting to mimic what Carpenter has been doing since the eighties, it is about time for the man to earn some more appreciation for his brilliance from yet one more generation. Lost Themes feels and sounds like a classic for the ages from start to finish and for the first time in so many years, Carpenter's music doesn't have to justify its existence through a film.
1. Chelsea Wolfe: Abyss
It's quite a surprise seeing Chelsea Wolfe's latest album ignored on almost every major website's and music magazine's lists this year. Even though musically Abyss isn't much different than her previous one, Pain Is Beauty (which scored at #2 on our list last year), it clearly shows how Wolfe has evolved as a songwriter, from experimental songstress to gothic queen in only a few years. Although Abyss is a dark and eerie work of art, it is much easier to consume than her early material, proving how Wolfe is by now ready for the mainstream audience. It's a damn shame the mainstream is not ready for her.
Again, in actual list form...
Chelsea Wolfe: Abyss
John Carpenter: Lost Themes
Liturgy: The Ark Work
New Order: Music Complete
Grave Babies: Holographic Violence
Kylesa: Exhausting Fire
Mgła: Exercises In Futility
With The Dead: With The Dead
Soft Kill: Heresy
Faith No More: Sol Invictus
The Black Heart Rebellion: People, When You See The Smoke, Do Not Think It Is The Fields They’re Burning
Monster Magnet: Cobras And Fire (The Mastermind Redux)
Windhand: Grief's Infernal Flower
Demon Lung: A Dracula
Clutch: Psychic Warfare
Lucifer: Lucifer I
Boduf Songs: Stench Of Exist
Leviathan: Scar Sighted
Loma Prieta: Self Portrait
The Telescopes: Hidden Fields
Beach House: Depression Cherry
King Dude: Songs of Flesh & Blood - In The Key of Light
Bosse-De-Nage: All Fours
Blur: The Magic Whip
Swervedriver: I Wasn't Born To Lose You
Krallice: Ygg Huur
Tau Cross: Tau Cross