Nov 192015

Decibel Top 40 of 2015


Every year our Listmania series of posts includes not only lists of the year’s best releases as compiled by our staff, invited guests, and our esteemed readers, but also lists assembled by what we call “big platform” web sites and selected print magazines. Today we feature the first of the 2015 lists we’ve seen from that category of web sites and print zines — and fittingly, it comes from the best metal magazine on the planet, DECIBEL.

The list appears in the January edition of DECIBEL, which features Lamb of God on the cover and is beginning to arrive in the mailboxes of subscribers now. My copy is taking its sweet time making it to my mailbox up here in the far northwest corner of the U.S., but a friend on the East Coast sent me pics of the list, which is why I’m able to bring you this post. I know I’m stealing some of DECIBEL’s thunder, because they haven’t posted the list online themselves. But I’ve been doing this thunder-stealing for six years now, and it’s too late to stop.

Year-end lists serve several useful purposes. One, of course, is to introduce fans to albums they may have overlooked. I also know people who don’t buy much music during the year and actually wait to read year-end rankings before preparing their shopping lists. And, perhaps most obviously, they give us something to discuss and argue about. Because, duh, we don’t have enough to argue about already.

And it’s easy to argue over year-end lists. No matter who compiles them, they’re going to leave out albums you think should be included, they’re going to include albums you don’t think belong, and they’re going to screw up the rankings. I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? The only list that could possibly satisfy any individual fan from start to finish is the one they make for themselves.

I usually try to hold my own comments to a minimum when I post these year-end lists, but here are a few observations about this one, which I must preface by saying that I managed to miss listening to about a third of the albums on the list.

First, I’m delighted to see Panopticon’s new album ranked so highly, especially because Austin Lunn made the decision not to distribute the album widely for reviews or to engage in any of the other usual promotional activities for it.

Second, I’m also delighted to see talented upstarts like Crypt Sermon and Khemmis make the rankings, and it’s great that Skepticism (of whom I became a slavish follower after witnessing their daylight performance at MDF this year) made the Top 10.

Third (and on the negative side of things), while I heartily applaud the Top 20 ranking of Leviathan, Mgła, and False, the list is pretty light on black metal; I can already hear the gnashing of teeth over the inclusion of Myrkur and Deafheaven over a myriad of other qualified BM contenders (though I do like both of those albums).

Fourth, I’m expecting lots of commentary about the choice for Album of the Year. But that’s always true.

So I’ll stop there and let you guys pick up the conversation below.

40. Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages
39. Author & Punisher – Melk En Honing
38. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields
37. Enslaved – In Times
36. Cult Leader – Lightless Walk
35. Spectral Voice – Necrotic Doom
34. Ghost – Meliora
33. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
32. Swallow the Sun – Songs From the North I, II & III
31. Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
30. Dead To A Dying World – Litany
29. With the Dead – With the Dead
28. Myrkur – M
27. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
26. Hate Eternal – Infernus
25. Napalm Death – Apex Predator-Easy Meat
24. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
23. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
22. Failure – The Heart Is A Monster
21. Bosse-De-Nage – All Fours
20. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
19. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
18. Noisem – Blossoming Decay
17. My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
16. Leviathan – Scar Sighted
15. Refused – Freedom
14. Mgła – Exercises In Futility
13. False – untitled
12. Satan – Atom By Atom
11. Sarpanitum – Blessed Be My Brothers
10. Killing Joke – Pylon
09. Khemmis – Absolution
08. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
07. Skepticism – Ordeal
06. Baroness – Purple
05. Lucifer – Lucifer I
04. High On Fire – Luminiferous
03. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
02. Tribulation – The Children of the Night
01. Horrendous – Anareta

P.S. If you’d like to read what DECIBEL has to say about each of the albums on the list, you can order the January issue here (it comes with a limited edition flexi disc by Misery Index).

P.P.S. There are lots of other lists in this issue, including the “Top 5 Dumbest Band Names That Aren’t Black Pussy”, topped by Make Me A Donut.


  1. Not a bad list, really. Paradise Lost is way too high up, but that’s probably Albert’s doing, and the omission of Royal Thunder is hard to swallow, but Anareta has a damn good chance at being my AOTY as well, unless Purple ends up being as good as it seems to be promising.

    • Yep, Royal Thunder was awesome, lots of emotion and very strong vocals. Also Bask’s American Hollow was great too, if you liked Royal Thunder you’ll probably like Bask too

  2. That’s… probably about what I’d expect from Decibel.

    Which isn’t a criticism, by and by.

    Although I will admit… I think I’ve only listened to about 14/15 of the albums from that list in total.

  3. I would agree with 3-4 albums on this list. Opinions are like assholes, but holy Geesh they had lots of crap on there and missed a plethora of gems.

  4. I can’t keep up enough to have a strong opinion on any best-of list. I’ve heard maybe 10 of these all the way through. For me it’s notably missing Between the Buried and Me, Wild Throne, Slugdge, Native Construct, Faith No More (not metal, I guess) and – based only on what I’ve heard of it – the new Turbid North.

    I’d like to see Deafheaven higher in the list, but I’m happy Ghost found its place on there. Such a fun record and their best work by far. That’s a super high spot for Baroness. We’ll see. Horrendous wouldn’t make my list at all. I know people go ape-y for that band, and all the better to’em, but their music does not speak to me, and I can’t stand that low-fi, distant-sounding production.

    • Didn’t even realize BTBAM wasn’t on here – definitely an album that deserved to be on this list, although Decibel hasn’t been too kind to them for some reason. Psyched to catch them, Enslaved, and Intronaut tonight.

      • Catching that show when it hits Dallas next month. Can’t friggin’ wait. Spied BTBAM’s set list on this morning. It’s an awesome set, but I didn’t realize this wasn’t a full album playthrough tour. All good, though. Only thing notably missing for me that I haven’t heard live would be “King Redeem, Quene Serene.” Love that way.

        • I saw them live when they headlined in London, they were good but didn’t really make an impression on me. I was wearing earplugs, so maybe that took away from the power of the sound? I use Alpine Music Safe Classic earplugs, don’t know if an of you can recommend me better ones… these ones take away the distortion, so the music sounds a bit too clean for my taste.

          • Sorry you didn’t dig them more. I can’t help with the earplugs, as I don’t wear any. (Even though I really, really should). I know a lot of people on this forum wear them though, so if you don’t get a response here, maybe mention it early in an active column, like the Sunday confessional column that Andy does. Always a lot of commenters there.

            I’ve seen BTBAM several times, and I’m a super-fan of the music, so it’s always a treat to see them. I can see where you’re coming from though. Except for Tommy who gets a little crazy sometimes, they’re a sedate live act, and they’re such precise, clean players (playing highly technical music) that some of the raw feeling of METAL isn’t there.

            • The band themselves may not be flashy showmen, but frankly almost every time I’ve seen them (and it’s been six or seven times at this point, since they’ve always been good about hitting all-ages San Diego venues on most of their US tours over the past few years) they’ve put on a hell of a show. The crowd is normally beyond stoked to see them so that you don’t even need to really watch them – you can just let their great tunes play out and have a hell of a time.

          • I’m gonna blame the House of Blues Chicago’s awful mixing job, but last night (with Enslaved definitely, and probably BTBAM to some extent) it sounded awful with earplugs in – I couldn’t hear any guitar at all. Had to take them out to get a decent mix.

    • I’m another one who doesn’t comprehend the love for Horrendous. You said what I feel about them perfectly 🙂

    • Interesting coincidence — I just listened to one of the new Turbid North songs yesterday and quite liked it. I remember writing about them a hell of a long time ago and had forgotten about them. And how many other bands hail from North Pole, Alaska?

  5. Some hits and misses as with any list. Cattle Decapitation would probably top my list, also strange not seeing Sulphur Aeon making the list.

    Amestigon, Outre and Azavatar also released strong albums and are among my top releases this year.

    • I mentioned the dearth of black metal on the list, but also should have mentioned the relative scarcity of death metal, or at least the kind of soul-destroying death metal I like (Sulphur Aeon being a prime example).

  6. Some really good picks, and some unforgivable exclusions. Such is life 🙂

  7. I agree with Andy..this is pretty much what Id expect from Decibel. Its neither a great list nor an embarrassing one.

    ..and speaking as someone who likes that Mykur album, I dont think it deserves to be on here. Way too many people seem to want to demonize it as the worst thing ever, or hold it up as the greatest thing since sliced bread, when ultimately its just a decent little album in a style we’ve all heard a million times before

    • …for the record, I probably wouldnt have put Cruciamentum on there either..decent effort, but didnt live up to the potential of their previous work

    • “and speaking as someone who likes that Mykur album, I dont think it deserves to be on here. Way too many people seem to want to demonize it as the worst thing ever, or hold it up as the greatest thing since sliced bread, when ultimately its just a decent little album in a style we’ve all heard a million times before.”

      As Meatloaf once said/sang… you took the words right out of my mouth.

  8. I’m happy to see Sarpanitum getting some recognition here – Blessed be My Brothers was one of the year’s most welcome surprises.

    Cruciamentum – decent, but not I’m with SurgicalBrute that it’s not Best-of list material. I’d rather see Chapel of Disease get a nod in that spot.

    I’m rather dismayed that neither Scythian nor Ares Kingdom appear here; I’m hoping that others recognize just how great their 2015 releases were. Frankly, I hate war metal as a genre – can’t stand it or what it typically stands for – but somehow I came to love those two albums.

    • Scythian and Ares Kingdom war metal? Their lyrical themes may be about war, but if I’m not mistaken war metal bands are like Teitanblood and Revenge, you know, wall of noise blasting with bestial howling and zero melody.

      • I’ve seen both referred to as war metal before – at the very least, I can’t find a better term to use for them. Generically speaking, they’re rather primal black-thrash, and if someone asked me to define “war metal,” that’s how I would describe it – black thrash. It really boils down to just how specific a genre term needs to be; I tend to use them broadly.

    • +1 for the Sarpanitum comment. +2 for Scythian, though I agree with Mauricio regarding the war metal label.

      There are so many good releases every year that it’s easy for an album like Scythian’s to get lost in the shuffle. It’s a shame but I can’t really fault Decibel for not including it. I’m just happy that Sarpanitum was there.

    • Both those albums are really good, and I’m ashamed I didn’t devote more attention to them before they came out.

  9. I did not know there was a new Killing Joke this year

  10. Not a bad list, glad to see Sarpanitum getting a mention. But, missing quite a few key releases which include Sulphur Aeon, Obsequiae, Putridity, Nechochwen, Abyssal, Iniquitous Deeds to name a few. Lack of quality extreme metal

    • The list was better than I expected to be honest, but Nechochwen’s Heart Of Akamon is without a question my album of the year, so that’s a big miss in their list.

      About Sulphur Aeon… I tried several times to get into Gateway… but it just doesn’t make an impression on me. Their debut Swallowed… was stellar, and the rawer underwater production gave a lot of atmosphere and power to the riffs, but the new album’s production took a lot from the enjoyment of the album for me. The great songwriting and powerful melody is still there, but it’s nearly impossible for me to actually feel it due to the unmemorable production. But more power to you for being able to enjoy it, I wish I could like it as much as did like their debut 🙂

      • I agree about the production on Gateway to the Antisphere to an extent. There were definitely moments on the album where I was frustrated by the production for not being able to hear the guitars clearly and there are parts where the murkiness of it tends to bleed the guitar and kick drums together and it sounds like a wall of noise. I definitely preferred the production on the first album. That said, I still enjoyed the album immensely! Very dark and atmospheric and the musicianship and songwriting is top notch!

    • All six of those are great choices, and I’ll be very surprised if we don’t see at least most of them on other lists we post before the year is out.

  11. Well, no surprises there. Decibel has always produced lists that primarily feature the big kids of underground metal, plus a couple of newbies. Nothing wrong with that. The list is, as you rightly point out, just one of many. So there’ll be plenty more opinions to survey and gripe about in the coming weeks. Great to see Panopticon in the top 10 though. Such an fantastic release. Looking forward, as always, to the round-up posts and NCS’s own lists in 2015. Cheers for yet another year of sterling reportage!

    • Many thanks. I’m starting to get excited about our year-end extravaganza. As much listening as I try to do each year, I always realize from the lists we post how much really good music I’ve missed.

  12. Imperial Triumphant’s Abyssal Gods is such a great album (and got such rave reviews when it came out) that I’m surprised it’s not on this list. Maybe this speaks to your comment about the dearth of black metal, but that album breaks the BM mold in so many ways…

  13. Not a bad list but no Alkaloid!??

  14. I dont really understand the long Year end lists. Most years only a few albums stand out to me.

    I could probably make a list of 40, but that would just be a list of ” albums i have enjoyed this year”

    When position 1 is the best album i have heard all year, and has been played to death, and will be played again several times every year until i die, and position 40 is just” this album was pretty good!” it feels kinda wrong putting them in the same list. Sorta belittles the greatness of position 1.

    • I don’t think having a longish list reflects at all on the album at #1. Sometimes there’s one album that stands apart from the rest, sometimes there’s not (and this year there’s not, imo). But listing 40 doesn’t necessarily mean that all the albums are on the same tier. #1 is still #1, y’know?

  15. Woah, Willie Adler has lost weight… I suppose the last time I saw him was for the making of Sacrament DVD, but still. Partially unrecognisable.

    List is list.

  16. I’m rly missing Abyssal, Minsk, Bell Witch, Obsequiae, Dodheimsgard and Krallice. But they did a good job! Well deserved couple on top and also great picks in between like Khemmis, False, Bosse-de-Nage, Crypt Sermon and Leviathan. Im also rly happy with Spectral Voice.. what a great Demo! Huge diversity in there.. gotta check out the noisy Prurient – sounds interesting!

  17. I am actually pretty happy (and gladly surprised) to see Panopticon at number 8!

    • Yeah, I think that made me happier than almost anything else about this list, not only because I really admire the album but also because it was probably the most under-promoted record of its quality that came out this year.

  18. Agree or not with this list, but where the hell is Amorphis – “under the red cloud”

    • I enjoyed that album way more than I expected I would. They’ve recorded a few of my all-time favorite songs, but at least for me it has been a while since they grabbed me like they diid with Red Cloud.

  19. I really tried to like Horrendous but it just seems so ridiculously tedious to me. Like someone is trying to make “Death Metal” with little to no passion for the music itself. A lot of great stuff missing but it was to be expected.

  20. Better list than I’d have thought.

    No Faith No More? Whatever.

    I was not aware there is derision surrounding the Myrkur album. That’s dumb.

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