(This is the second of Andy Synn’s 5-part year-end series this week. To see his list of the “Great Albums” of 2015, go here.)
Now, depending on how you interpret it, I realise that the word “Good” can be a bit of a… loaded term.
On the one hand it can be entirely positive. “This is really good!” and so forth… and on the other it can be used in a much more grudging manner. “This is good enough, I suppose”.
So rejoice my friends, because the majority of the albums on this list definitely fall into the “Really good!” category, and many of them just missed out on getting on the “Great” list by the skin of their teeth.
Some of the year’s biggest names definitely came within a hair’s breadth of true greatness, such as Arcturus and their long-awaited comeback album Arcturian, or Autumn Eternal, the latest album by the much beloved Panopticon, or resurgent Satanic slaughterlords Gorgoroth – and I’d be more than happy to take on board arguments for why they belong on the “Great” list, even if I didn’t feel like they were quite there myself.
On the more modern end of the Death Metal scale, both A Loathing Requiem and Dawn of Azazel continued to push their technical talents to new levels, and Apophys unleashed their own brand of semi-apocalyptic pummelling with Prime Incursion, while The Black Dahlia Murder came out swinging with yet another red-toothed and razor-clawed album, albeit one that felt a bit more like an update of their early sound rather than an attempt at breaking any new ground.
Meanwhile French murder-metallers Otargos pushed onwards into ever more Death Metal infected zones with Xeno Kaos, and bands like Kronos, Black Tongue, and Dark Sermon all demonstrated that having roots in the Deathcore scene doesn’t mean you can’t progress and grow into something bigger, better, and more unique if you put your mind to it.
The old-school scene was well represented too, with both Grave and Unleashed delivering new albums that definitely deserve a place towards the upper echelons of each band’s back catalogue, while both Horna and Tsjuder kept the black flame burning as bright as ever with Hengen Tulet and Antiliv.
Other famous names like Marduk, Nile, Shining (Swe) and Kataklysm all produced really good albums this year – with What Should Not Be Unearthed in particular standing closest to greatness (though Of Ghosts and Gods continued to suffer from an approx. 70:30 ratio of killer to filler).
Both Sigh and Solefald came out with new (and highly anticipated) releases in 2015 which, while perhaps not their best work, were still brimming with each band’s particular brand of high-quality weirdness, as did Norwegien progmeisters Krakow, whose third album, Amaran, may just be their best yet (and only just missed out on a place on the “Great” list).
New albums from two NCS favourites – The Crown and Byzantine – delivered some undeniable thrills, but definitely felt a little lacking compared to the fantastic comeback albums that preceded them, though the long-awaited reunion album by Vehemence certainly lived up to most people’s expectations (and then some), as did Razed To The Ground, the second new Vision of Disorder album to be released since the Hardcore legends reunited in 2012.
Titular “supergroups” Firespawn and Tau Cross showcased some old dogs learning some impressive new tricks, with the latter album in particular teetering on the edge of greatness, while more established acts like Leprous, Scale the Summit, Psycroptic and Disarmonia Mundi continued to polish and refine their own specific forms of musical magic without necessarily making any major developmental steps.
Endlessly prolific riffmongers Hatesphere and Drowning the Light spawned some fresh new moments of metallic mayhem with New Hell and From the Abyss respectively, as did the revitalised Skinless, while the ever provocative An Autumn For Crippled Children returned to delight and divide their audience in equal measure with The Long Goodbye.
Blaze of Perdition overcame some truly crushing adversity to release the aptly-titled Near Death Revelations, while Greek legends Acherontas produced one of their best works with Ma-Ion (Formulas of Reptilian Unification), as did some other long-time favourites of the site, with Kroda, Callisto, and Porta Nigra all crafting albums that teeter on the edge of greatness.
2015, though, will be remembered as the year where the site (and myself in particular) made a host of new discoveries – some of which were entirely new bands, and others were simply bands we’d not yet heard of until this year.
The industrialised blackened doom of Stellar Master Elite and the ravenous technical brutality of Prion were both key discoveries for me this year, as were superfluously good albums by Downfall of Nur and Red Moon Architect (the latter in particular being one of my favourite albums of the year).
Debut albums from cosmic scions Mesarthim, grim riffians Hæthen, and the always divisive Myrkur all made a major impression on me over the course of the last twelve months, as did late entries to this list from Blaze of Sorrow and Bloodway, both of which I’m still in the process of fully digesting, alongside new albums from Infesting Swarm and Inner Sanctum, which you should definitely check out asap if you haven’t already.
On top of this the debut from ascendant Death Metal overlords Sarpentra hinted at great things in the future for the band, even if the album in question (aka Supernova) was still a little too in thrall to its influences to achieve true greatness on its own terms.
The land Down Under unleashed several waves of thunder on the unsuspecting world this year, with Advent Sorrow and Claret Ash grabbing my attention immediately (check both those albums out immediately, if you haven’t already), closely followed by the monolithic ruckus of Hope Drone (who were introduced to me by our own DGR) and Perth-based Black Metallers Wardaemonic.
Sticking to the harsher, blacker side of things, Pennsylvanian punishers Veilburner and Californian catastrophists Secrets of the Sky both stepped things up on their respective sophomore releases, mixing in some hefty helpings of Death-like fury and Doom-laden power along the way, whilst arch-dukes of sonic disgust Ævangelist gave us yet another unwelcome glimpse into hell with Enthrall to the Void of Bliss.
Not to be outdone by their American counterparts, several representatives of the UK Extreme Metal scene made sure to make some waves of their own, with debut albums from Ethereal and Ninkharsag raising the black banner with grim pride, while new releases from Chronocide and Winds of Genocide provided a welcome injection of grindy, crusty, Death Metal goodness right into 2015’s already almost overdosed veins.
Once again we’ll wrap things up with a quick look at some of the bands/albums who didn’t quite fit in with any of the above groupings, the pick of the bunch being the windswept, subtly anthemic Prog-Metal stylings of Iceland’s own Kontinuum (though the abundance of clean vocals and general absence of any of the band’s earlier Black Metal influences might be a bit much for some of our readers).
In a similar manner Hungary’s Perihelion shed almost all of their more blackened elements in favour of a remarkably Solstafir-esque sound on Zeng (though they really do make it work for them), whilst Norwegian progophiles Mantric provided a solid, if not stunning, follow-up to their debut album with Sin.
Swedish Stoner-Doom riffmongers Mammoth Storm kicked up a heavy, fuzz-soaked fuss with their debut album Fornjot this year, and I expect to be hearing much more about them in the future, as I do from German folk-metallers Finsterforst, whose fourth album, Mach Dich Frei, was my first exposure to the band (but probably not my last).
Oh, and did I mention how good the new Moonspell was? Because I really should have…
As always you can find the complete list of bands/albums below:
Acherontas – Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification)
Advent Sorrow – All Light Leaves Her
Aevangelist – Enthrall to the Void of Bliss
A Loathing Requiem – Acolytes Eternal
Apophys – Prime Incursion
An Autumn For Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye
Arcturus – Arcturian
The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal
Black Tongue – The Unconquerable Dark
Blaze of Perdition – Near Death Revelations
Blaze of Sorrow – Eremita del Fuoco
Bloodway – Mapping the Moment With the Logic of Dreams
Byzantine – To Release Is To Resolve
Callisto – Secret Youth
Chronicide – Meditations
Claret Ash – The Cleansing
The Crown – Death Is Not Dead
Dark Sermon – The Oracle
Dawn of Azazel – The Tides of Damocles
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
Downfall of Nur – Umbras De Barbagia
Drowning The Light – From The Abyss
Ethereal – Opus Aetherium
Finsterforst – Mach Dich Frei
Firespawn – Shadow Realms
Gorgoroth – Instinctus Bestialis
Grave – Out Of Respect For the Dead
Hæthen – Shaped By Aeolian Winds
Hatesphere – New Hell
Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
Horna – Hengen Tulet
Infesting Swarm – Desolation Road
Inner Sanctum – Legions Awake
Kataklysm – Of Ghosts and Gods
Kontinuum – Kyrr
Krakow – Amaran
Kroda – GinnungaGap-GinnungaGaldr-GinnungaKaos
Kronos – Arisen New Era
Leprous – The Congregation
Mammoth Storm – Fornjot
Mantric – Sin
Marduk – Frontschwein
Mesarthim – Isolate
Moonspell – Extinct
Myrkur – M
Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
Ninkharsag – The Blood of Celestial Kings
Otargos – Xeno Kaos
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
Perihelion – Zeng
Porta Nigra – Kaiserschnitt
Prion – Uncertain Process
Psycroptic – Psycroptic
Red Moon Architect – Fall
Sarpentra – Supernova
Scale The Summit – V
Secrets of the Sky – Pathway
Shining IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends
Sigh – Graveward
Skinless – Only the Ruthless Remain
Solefald – World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud
Stellar Master Elite – III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter
Tau Cross – Tau Coss
Tsjuder – Antiliv
Unleashed – Dawn of the Nine
Vehemence – Forward Without Motion
Veilburner – Noumenon
Vision of Disorder – Razed to the Ground
Wardaemonic – Obsequium
Winds of Genocide – Usurping the Throne of Disease
Up next we have my list of the most “Disappointing” releases of 2015… so if you haven’t seen an album appear on either of my lists so far, now maybe it’s time to start sharpening your knives for the inevitable flame-war that’s about to ensue.
On the other hand, maybe you’re the type of person who considers disagreement on these things to be the spice of life, and you’re more than willing to listen/read and engage with contrary opinions without descending into personal attacks and mindless profanity?
We’ll find out tomorrow I suppose!