I just love December’s year-end music lists. It’s always great to see what others have discovered over the past 12 months. For me, 2015 got off to an incredible early start with some albums released in January that managed to maintain their status through the entire year and make it on this list.
This is a list of the music that really spoke to me during the year. It is based on my likes and styles, and my discoveries were often influenced by many of the people I interact with and read online.
So much good music was released in 2015. No chance to hear everything. Many of the albums people have been discussing over the months did not end up here simply because I haven’t been able to give them the time they were due. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know what to expect in this list and if you’re reading this, you likely enjoy heavy music.
My top ten albums are not ranked and are presented alphabetically below. I also list ten additional releases that I thoroughly enjoyed this year. Hopefully you discover something new below that you like. – Bruce Fraser
Alda – Passage
Alda have been a favourite of mine since Tahoma was released. Their earthy, haunting music expresses a keen sense of reverence for the natural world around us and a profound sadness in witness of its exploitation. Passage is a ranging contemplative voyage, using black metal at its extreme with astonishingly beautiful melodic elements. Plus, those coyote yips in “Animis”. I love that sound. Another album in my top ten has this element as you’ll see later on.
Check them out at Bandcamp: http://records.eisenton.de/album/passage
Dark Circles – MMXIV
Discovered this band purely by accident this year as I was researching something else. There is so much good music coming out of Montreal and Quebec these days. Technically, this came out in 2014 but i didn’t discover them until Replenish issued their release in April. In MMXIV, Dark Circles have that grinding, pissed off sound I crave so much. Hardcore with a blackened cast, yet heavy on melody and riffs.
Just fucking pulverizing.
Stream or buy over at Bandcamp: https://replenishrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mmxiv
Dead to a Dying World – Litany
This was a highly anticipated release for me this year. This diverse and large Dallas assembly have crafted a perfect bleakness to their sound. Full of harrowing beauty, DtaDW create complex arrangements with a variety of instruments and melody. Eva Vonne’s viola provides that extra bit of atmosphere that exudes sentiment and emotionally immerses the listener into their doomy destiny.
Those triumphant shreiked vocals at 11:52 sold this whole album for me.
Stream or buy on Bandcamp: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/litany
Dopethrone – Hochelaga
Another incredible release out of Montreal this year. Dopethrone have really matured with Hochelaga, showing a deep depth of scuzz. This album is massive sludgy groove with a focus on booze, drugs, and excess. What more do you want?
I drink fire, smoke dope, ritual!
Turn it up and feel that dirty bong hit over at Bandcamp: https://dopethrone.bandcamp.com/album/hochelaga-3
Exgenesis – Aphotic Veil
This release was a great surprise, filled with intense death doom, wicked shreds, fervid chorals, and gorgeous guitar interludes. I love it when an album gets released early in the year and I just know it’ll make my list in December. I’m generally not a big fan of Death/Doom but Aphotic Veil’s sombre, beautiful guitar work, dense riffs, and lacerating vocals work incredibly well, providing a fresh take within this genre without sounding conformed.
Feel that ache at 2:38 minutes in. Incredible.
Embrace the gloom at: https://exgenesis.bandcamp.com/releases
Grimoire – L’aorasie des spectres rêveurs
Fiel from Grimoire has been a fixture within the Quebecois black metal scene, and a driving force behind the development and evolution of the style and sound through bands like Forteresse, Ephemer, and Csejthe. This too-short EP crams an incredible amount of emotive scenery into its ~25 minute runtime. This was another release early in the year that I knew for certain would hold up all year long. Full of pain and beauty, Fiel weaves a melancholic scene, reminiscent of chilled Quebec winterscapes.
Who says black metal can’t be beautiful? The ringing elements throughout this track remind me of an old unanswered telephone. To me, this lends a plaintive, nostalgic element to this track that has the listener contemplate lost connections.
Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess
Big, big fan of this band. Their Akrasia EP in 2013 ripped a huge hole in the scene. Amitay’s corrosive vocals are relentless and solidly backed by furious thrashy, sludgy riffs and hammering drums. This is a fierce, ferocious band. Empress/Abscess does not disappoint. This is a barbarous assault on the senses. The album is short but intense, leaving you gasping for breath.
Honestly, they don’t fuck around.
Pick it up at: https://immortalbird.bandcamp.com/
Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
This one was odd for me and well of out my usual zone. I struggled with how much I liked this album because there was a time that I loathed Manson, completely. While I appreciated his routinely underestimated intellect (always fun to watch in interviews), I pretty much hated everything about his music, shock style, impact on pop culture. Everything. Seems I’m over that now. This is the first Manson record I’ve owned, so that says something.
The Pale Emperor is a wonderful album. One that I have played over and over since it dropped in January. Manson is noticeably less heavy and more reflective in this collection of almost dark blues rock, slowly stepping away from his own theatrical persona a bit.
“Third Day of a Seven Day Binge”, “Mephistopheles of Los Angeles”, and “Warship My Wreck” are a perfectly cued trio of tracks. And then there’s those coyote yips that bookend “Odds of Even”. I told you there were two albums with coyotes in my top ten.
“Don’t need a motherfucker looking down on me”
Get it from wherever you buy music. Not hard to find, that’s for sure.
Mgła – Exercises in Futility
Metal is often about misanthropy. But most of those nihilistic concepts are pure mainstream schlock at best. Mgła’s 2015 release Exercises in Futility puts on no airs and graces about the concept and authentically hammers it home with a resounding ride cymbal crash.
This is an album that is best listened to in its entirety. Each track supports the next and compels the listener forward through the description of man’s grim failure and of our species’ deceit and decay along our futile pursuits of understanding and enlightenment.
The biggest draw for me on this album are the pulsing, memorable guitar patterns. The drum work is beyond anything I’ve heard before in the genre. The ride cymbal abuse in “Track V” is simply unforgettable. This is likely my overall favourite release of the year.
Seriously, those early calling guitars and the ride cymbal fury during the last few minutes of the song are some of my favourite ever moments in metal.
Feel the futility at https://no-solace.bandcamp.com/album/exercises-in-futility-lp-2015
Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed
Pretty certain it was Sander (@SVDD76) that got me on to these guys. So glad I was paying attention that day. Definitely one of the most impressive black metal releases of the year. Focused yet atmospheric, the album appears as a chaotic, impenetrable aural barrier. Yet as the listener yields to the fury, it presents chilling, clever melodies that have you visiting with the album over and over.
Dive in to the din at: http://wiegedood.bandcamp.com/album/de-doden-hebben-het-goed?from=embed
Other albums that caught my attention this year include:
This year really was a great one for music. Thanks to everyone who chats and contributes within the metal-twitter community. I’ve learned so much from you all. All the best this season and into 2016!