Dec 152015

NCS Best of 2015 graphic


(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.


Otargos-Xeno Kaos


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.


Nile-What Should Not Be Unearthed


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.


Tau CRoss cover


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.


Stellar Master Elite-II


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.


Claret Ash-The Cleansing


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.


Aevangelist-Enthrall To The Void Of Bliss


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!

  20 Responses to “2015 – A YEAR IN REVIEW(S): THE GOOD ALBUMS”

  1. So many bands I didn’t get around to this year… what I heard of the Blaze of Sorrow was real good though. I also liked the new offering from Leprous, although some of it was bloated, and only a few choice cuts stood out to me.

    I wanted to like Acherontas, and Dawn of Azazel (that first single “Vassalplasty” has a great breakdown at the end!) but they ended up not really clicking for me.

    As usual, thanks for another myriad bands to check out!

    • You’re welcome. I like doing these lists a lot, because it gives people something they can keep coming back to and cherry-picking from over time if they like.

  2. Mammoth Storm feels like a token stoner doom record here. And, for me, it wasn’t that memorable.

    • Nothing “token” about it I’m afraid. It was simply an album I stumbled across quite randomly (not even sure where/how) and thought was really good!

  3. Dang, I think forgot to include Firespawn on ny list, they’re debut is fantastic! 😀

  4. Interesting for me: Across the year I’ve purchased 48 LP/EP released in 2015. Seven of those appear in your Great Albums, and another seven in your Good Albums. But in ‘retrospection’ I like the 7 Good Albums much more and listened to them way longer. So what’s my f****** problem? Average taste? Less demanding…a philistine?!

    • This happens to me a lot. There are albums that, at first, sound a little boring, but after a few listens, you begin to appreciate their subtlety or craftsmanship. Other albums are impressive at first, but rely on novelty or pyrotechnics; Once the novelty wears off, repeated listening are less rewarding.

    • Interesting. Care to say which ones?

      And just because I’ve rated them “Great” or “Good” doesn’t mean you won’t rate them differently yourself. It’s all subjective to an extent… despite the fact that I’ve tried to be as objective as possible with these lists!

      • Great Albums List:
        Abigail Williams, Antlion, Leviathan, Martriden (the best of these), Mgla, Misþyrming, Wiegedood.
        Good Albums List:
        Bloodway (that voice…, my 5y old son says “let’s listen to the music with the poor man again”), Claret Ash (my whole summer holidays are connected to this and…), Hope Drone, Downfall of Nur, Mesarthim (omg, thats as strange as…), Sigh (those musical smurfs! with Desperate Dreams eternally connected to this years Eurovision Song Contest) and finally Porta Nigra (with Koblenz being 100km from here in my beloved Rhineland).

        So I think it’s almost every record I connect something with and which is mostly kind of unusual black metal. Only the best concept album (Ecferus) is missing here.

        Maybe I just jumped on the hype train with some of the Great Albums and then didn’t like them personally.

  5. Blaze of Perdition and Shining put out fantastic BM releases – I would’ve probably put them in a Great Albums list myself. And though that Secrets of the Sky release was pretty good, it really didn’t live up to the promise of the debut – bit of a disappointment for me unfortunately.

    • Interestingly Shining was the first album I thought of when I thought of albums that were “Good, but not Great”.

      Don’t get me wrong, I really like it. But it’s not up there with the band’s very best.

      • A fair point to make, though one I can’t really weigh in on, since IX was my introduction to the band, and I haven’t carved out the requisite time to explore their back catalog.

  6. More albums to follow up on! I’m just listening to Mesarthrim now. I also only found Secrets of the Sky last week – interesting approach with some diversions into genuinely lighter passages in there. I like how you’ve included some non-2015 releases you’ve just discovered too – every year there’s more albums from the past I get around to that I end up loving.

    Off the top of my head a few ‘good but not great’ albums I’ve come across this year but haven’t seen mentioned around are:
    Krimh – Krimhera: The solo album of the new Septic Flesh drummer (admittedly from Dec 2014 – the curse of the late year release!)
    Mesarthrim – The Undying Thing. French band with similarities to Hacride or Gojira. Good, but sounds a bit ‘debuty’ like they’re just finding their feet in places which kept it from greatness in my mind:

    • I absolutely love that Mesarthim album, I really do.

      But I don’t think any of these albums are not from 2015?

      • Doh! I had been going back and forth between reading and streaming things off this list and others in Austin Lunn’s post, where he has a few pre-2015 picks. That’ll teach me to multi-task 🙂

      • I’m just looking back through these lists and streaming a few extra picks – and just thought I should add: if you like ‘Mach Dich Frei’ I’d say definitely check out their previous album ‘Rastlos’; probably my favourite of theirs so far. Heavier (in the traditional sense) than Mach Dich Frei, definitely with a heavier, crunchier guitar tone.

  7. I love those year end lists, I have discovered so many great bands over the years through them, thanks to you! I have just started to listen to Claret Ash and they are very good. I will gladly go through the rest of the list after I’m done listening to their album.

    Keep up the amazing work!

    • I’m really glad you appreciate it dude.

      I know there’s a LOT of albums on both these lists, but really this is just me trying to sum up the last twelve months as best I can, and maybe give something back – to the bands and to the fans – in the process, in the hope that people WILL be able to go through these lists and find new bands and new albums to fall in love with.

      And yeah, I absolutely love that Claret Ash album. Even though it only made it onto the “good” list… it’s still REALLY fucking good, and I happily have a copy of that, and the previous album, on cd now.

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