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Kelsey Chapstick’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2015

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Burn-Witch-Burn-BlairI wish I had more time and more room to talk about all the music I loved in 2015, but alas, here are the ones that standout the most right now for me, the ones that left the deepest impressions. As this was my first year as a full-timer in the music industry, I decided I needed to explore the loopholes in my wheelhouse and pay attention to the artists I’d let slip by in the past. While by no means comprehensive, here is the soundtrack to my year.

Hallas15. Hällas – Self-titled (The Sign Records)

The first time I heard this, I felt like I was 13 in my parents’ rec room listening to Uriah Heep’s “Demons and Wizards” all over again, only with better vocals and a less drugged-out delivery. Beautifully executed classic rock that manages to toe the retro line without resorting to the cheesy mechanisms so trendy with so many American stoner-throwback bands. I wouldn’t expect any less from a group of Swedes.

akhlys- the dreaming i14. Akhlys – The Dreaming I  (Debemur Morti)

As much as I love Nightbringer (main project of Nass Alcameth, sole creator of Akhlys), I have to agree with several reviewers that this blows it out of the water. The Dreaming I is gorgeous and eerie, with a creeping descent into madness that never teeters into amateur territory like so many other solo BM projects.

Pigs_Wronger_CMYK72dpi13. Pigs – Wronger (Solar Flare Records)

Heavy noise from a band that includes a member of Unsane? Sold.

vhol212. Vhöl – Deeper Than Sky (Profound Lore)

I’m extremely pleased that Vhöl turned into an ongoing project rather than the one-off it was initially set to be. Vhöl’s second effort is speed metal at its best and most adventurous, with another scorching vocal performance from one of my favorites in the game, YOB frontman Mike Scheidt.

Baroness - Purple11. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)

Even if I wasn’t privileged enough to have heard the whole album already, I probably would have included it based on my intense love for these guys and the ways they’ve grown and persevered in the face of much-discussed tragedy. Purple is a return to a more urgent sound for Baroness, less progressive and experimental, conveying an understanding that life is short and, while exploration is fantastic, sometimes it’s good just to be home.

Strung-Out-Transmission.Alpha_.Delta-Review10. Strung Out – Transmission Alpha Delta (Fat Wreck Chords)

Yeah, yeah — it’s not metal, but there’s a strong metal sensibility with Strung Out that keeps me coming back to this band album after album. I’m a bit of a Fat Wreck fangirl, and DEFINITELY a Strung Out fan girl (minus the logo tattoo) and considering these guys are all metalheads themselves it only makes sense their music scratches in itch deep down in my blackened punk rock soul.

Torche - Restarter9. Torche – Restarter (Relapse Records)

Torche’s kept their signature brand of bubblegum doom a bit less poppy this time around while maintaining a certain joie de vivre that only they can bring to skull-crushing riffs and extended, challenging bouts of dissonance.

Primitive Man - Home is Where the Hatred Is8. Primitive Man – Home is Where the Hatred Is (Relapse Records)

I like to put this on while I’m walking through the streets of Manhattan on especially crowded, shitty days. Pounding, chugging tribal drums give way to vitriolic venom-vomit on “Loathe,” and the album only continues to shove you down and dig its heavy knees into your chest from there.

Graveyard - Innocence7. Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence (Nuclear Blast Records)

Graveyard have been a long-time favorite for me, and this album didn’t disappoint. It’s Swedish hard rock with a classic tinge, and as usual, Joakim Nilsson continues to have one of the most haunting, satisfying voices I’ve ever heard.

Death Karma6. Death Karma – The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I (Iron Bonehead Productions)

Black metal chronicling death rituals in countries from Slovakia to China. It sounds exactly like you’d expect: a funeral devolving into a chaotic cacophony of torment and blasphemy. Beautiful, painful, and under-appreciated in a year when faux-Chinese garbage black metal caught the attention of people I thought knew better.

watchtower-radiantmoon5. Watchtower – Radiant Moon EP (Magnetic Eye Records)

Disgusting, filthy, sexy Australian sludge that, upon rewarding subsequent listens, open into layers I wanna crawl into and nap inside. This decimated the majority of the phoned-in albums from the old guard in a mere two songs. I can’t wait to hear more from these guys. It’s only two songs, so listen to the whole thing:

Mutoid Man - Bleeder4. Mutoid Man – Bleeder (Sargent House)

I wore this album OUT. So fun, so catchy, and the perfect remedy to the stresses of existing in 2015, when metal and culture as a whole seemed entirely too serious at times.

High-On-Fire_Luminiferous3. High on Fire – Luminiferous (E1 Records)

Matt Pike is the closest thing I have to Jesus, except I’m pretty sure most Christians don’t have sex dreams about their lord and savior. High on Fire have done literally no wrong — I’m a staunch defender of Snakes for the Divine — and Luminiferous is a beautiful evolution in the sound they perfected on their previous collaboration with powerhouse producer Kurt Ballou.

Mgla - Exercises in Futility2. Mgla – Exercises in Futility (Northern Heritage)

This album is a thin sheet of ice being licked from below by the roaring flames of Hell, and you as the listener are dancing on that watery crust. Give in to the fire and fall right in.

1. Tribulation – Children of the Night (Century Media)

Tribulation - The Children of the Night

This record was kind of a sleeper for me, because at first I thought the hype was too big to be true. Once I relelnted on that foolishness I found out I was terribly wrong, and if you don’t immediately start dancing when the main riff in “Meloncholia” kicks in, we vibrate at different frequencies on the atomic level. Still, I wasn’t a thousand percent sold on putting them so high up on the list until I recently saw them live and realized that not only do they put out the most danceable filth rock n’ roll in years, they fucking OOZE sex on stage and bring to mind the glam-rockers of the ’70s I so dearly love like T. Rex. Throw in a dash of pure Robert Plant-infused slither and sensuality, and let the corpse-painted grit gurgle up from the bottom and boil over into one entrancing smokeshow.

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