Staff Picks of 2015

Simon Milburn

By Simon Milburn

23 December 2015

Here we are at the end of another year.

2015 was the year the TheMetalForge.com celebrated 10 years online bringing you your favourite metal reviews, interviews, and news. Ten years. Wow. Only seems like yesterday I was putting this ball in motion and now, here we are. Looking back over that decade, there have been some incredible releases and some undeniable duds. We’ve seen bands come and go, trends burst and shrivel, and many, many more things as well.

This year, like the years before it, saw an increase in the number of albums released. Some delivered the goods as expected, some fell short, some surpassed expectations, and some I wish I never to endure at all. On the whole, it was good year for metal. But, right now, with the death throes of 2015 getting closer and closer, it’s time to check out my list of honourable mentions and ultimately my Top 10 for the year.

So, turn up the tunes, crack open a cold beer or three and enjoy!

Honourable Mentions

Lamb of God - VII Sturm und Drang (Nuclear Blast/Universal Music Australia)
Fear Factory - Genexus (Nuclear Blast/Universal Music Australia)
Gruesome - Savage Land (Relapse Records/Rocket)
Zombi - Shape Shift (Relapse Records/Rocket)
Snail - Feral (Small Stone Records)
King Parrot - Dead Set (EVP Recordings/Rocket)
Iron Lamb - Fool’s Gold (High Roller Records)
Feared - Synder (Independent)
Entrails - Obliteration (Metal Blade Records/Rocket)
Unleashed - Dawn of the Nine (Nuclear Blast/Universal Music Australia)
Kronos - Arisen New Era (Unique Leader/Shock)
Ur Draugr The Wretched Ascetic (Independent)

Top 10 for 2015

#10 Ohhms

Cold

Ohhms - Cold

Ohhms brought the cold, dark feel of a Kent (U.K.) winter to their latest two track EP, titled Cold. It’s an atmospheric infused mix of sludge, ‘70’s prog, and stoner and it works well for the group. They’ve taken what they began with and run with it like a kid with scissors. It’s more adventurous, a little less safe, and ultimately rewarding in the end when you get to the other side. Cold hard cuts are, well, in this case, both of them.

Holy Roar Records/Shock

 

#9 Slayer

Repentless

Slayer - Repentless

Slayer’s output post 1994 will always divide fans. Some would even think that the division goes back as far as 1990 or even 1988. Regardless of the starting point, it’s fair to say that the thrash metal titans have been responsible for some pretty hit and miss material for at least the best part of the last 20 years, if not more. They are a band that falls effortlessly into the “damned if they do/damned if they don’t” category when it comes scrutiny of their musical output. After a lack lustre list of their last few releases, Repentless is a breath of fresh air. What makes it all the more surprising is that it’s the first album without writing and input from guitarist Jeff Hannemann in the band’s history. It might not be as “classic” as their early cluster of releases but it’s easily their best in probably two decades. Consistent, thrashy and intense! Vices include “Repentless”, “Cast the First Stone” and “You Against You”.

Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia

 

#8 Halshug

Blodets Bånd

halshug-blodest_band-cd 

Oh man, wasn’t this savage little beast a pleasant surprise this year? I like it when a year’s worth of releases brings something new to my musical palette. Enter Danish band Halshug, thanks to their excellent eight track sub 18 minute release, Blodets Bånd. Pure, unbridled fury is the best way to describe this release. It’s quite simply bursting at the seams with a volatile combination of fury and energy. If the likes of Trap Them, Kvelertak and Nails form a regular part of your musical diet, then Halshug should be within that list without doubt as well. Lose your head quickly to “Knæl” and “Gudsforladt”.

Southern Lord

 

#7 Scale the Summit

V

Scale the Summit - V

Instrumental music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll give you that. To be fair, it can wear thin with me as well. But Texas (U.S.A.) quartet Scale the Summit have delivered some outstanding releases over the last handful of years and their fifth effort, not surprisingly titled V,  continues the band’s high quality output. The band’s ability to craft interesting songs that don’t come off as some try hard prog fest wankery is endearing. Each individual is a master of their craft and without doubt, the collective is far greater than the sum of its parts. Scale to new heights with tracks like “The Winged Bull” and “Kestral”.

Prosthetic Records/Rocket

 

#6 Vision of Disorder

Razed to the Ground

Vision of Disorder - Razed to the Ground

For all of the catchiness and hooks that defined Vision of Disorder’s From Bliss to Devastation, many, including this reviewer, were chuffed to see this Long Island (New York, U.S.A.) group return to their roots with 2012’s The Cursed Remain Cursed. It was a total throw back to the likes of Imprint, the album that many consider the reference point for this group. So with album number six hitting the shelves this year, Vision of Disorder have continued on with the quality material they unleashed a few years back. Razed to the Ground moves seamlessly from the band’s previous effort and sticks truer to the hardcore side of things that Vision of Disorder fans will always gravitate to. Devastating tracks include “Electric Sky” and “Amurdica - A Culture of Violence”.

Candlelight Records

 

#5 Armored Saint

Win Hands Down

Armored Saint - Win Hands Down

I’m not going to get into a vocalist debate here but clearly John Bush is one of the best vocalists in metal today. No discussion required. Whilst he had some undeniable hits with Anthrax, it’s clear that his home is with Armored Saint. The band’s latest effort, Win Hands Down, will go down as probably the most underrated and unrecognised albums of 2015. It’s criminal really but nothing new as far as Armored Saint goes. Everything about this album is killer; great songs with great production and another stand out performance from John Bush. Hands down, the best tracks are “Win Hands Down”, “An Exercise in Debauchery” and “That Was Then, Way Back When”.

Metal Blade Records/Rocket

 

#4 - Morgoth

Ungod

Morgoth - Ungod

German death metallers Morgoth always seemed to me like the Euro equivalent of the mighty Death. When I got into them when their 1991 album Cursed hit the stores, the similarities to Leprosy­­-era Death were unavoidable to my ears. Their subsequent releases were less than stellar however. They regrouped in 2010 but it would be a further five years before they would release something new. Simply titled Ungod, the bands fourth official full length was a complete return to the Cursed days which was always going to hit the mark with me. Ungodly cuts include “House of Blood”, “Ungod” and “Prison in Flesh”.

Century Media Records/Sony Music Australia


 

We're now at the business end of the list. Now, the top three were all very, very close. When you see what they are, some of you might understand why. Those that know me will definitely understand why. 

 

Third place - Faith No More

Sol Invictus

Faith No More - Sol Invictus

Whenever a band you love call it quits or in modern days speak, “goes on hiatus”, there’s always a wish, a faint hope, that someday, one day, they will regroup and continue to deliver that special magic that drew you to the band in the first place. Now, of course some reformations will always leave you scratching your head. I’m looking at you Coal Chamber. But when Faith No More returned to the live circuit after a lengthy break, anticipation was high for the release of a new album. In May of this year, they delivered. It’s like their “hiatus” never existed. Faith No More never missed a beat with this album and it’s easily on par with their previous efforts. It’s an incredible return from this eccentric quintet. The real thing is found in the beauty of “Sunny Side Up”, “Motherfucker” and “Matador”.

Reclamation Recordings/Ipecac Recordings

 

First place - TIE

Napalm Death

Apex Predator - Easy Meat

napalm_death-apex_predator-easy_meat-cd 

Century Media/Sony Music Australia

Ghost

Meliora

Ghost - Meliora

Spinefarm/Caroline/Universal Music Australia

I’m not sure it’s possible to have a more polar opposite pairing than Napalm Death and Ghost tied for the number one slot for my Top 10 Albums for 2015. These two albums I simply could not split.

As far as Napalm Death goes, the godfathers of grindcore delivered another stellar effort with their fifteenth album. Since their renaissance of sorts that began with 2001’s aptly titled Enemy of the Music Business, the now quartet have simply continued on an upward trajectory and Apex Predator is further proof of that. Get your grind on to “Smash a Single Digit”, “Dear Slum Landlord”, “How the Years Condemn”.

Ghost took many by surprise with their debut album, 2010’s Opus Eponymous. Their noticeable change of direction with their sophomore effort three years later was polarizing to say the least. This year, the band’s third effort, dubbed Meliora, dropped and delivered 42 minutes of perfection. Bow down to “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, “Cirice” and “Deus in Absentia”.

More from Ohhms, Slayer, Halshug, Scale the Summit, Vision of Disorder, Armored Saint, Morgoth, Faith No More, Napalm Death and Ghost