Best of 2018 (Music)

Ahoy!

*insert tumbleweed gif*

This space has been awfully quiet. My listening habits have also taken a slight backseat but nonetheless, heavy music über alles! As it has been in the past four years, I’ve managed to conjure up a list of my favorite (aka most played) albums that were released this year. The criteria for choosing these albums has always been replay value and how memorable the music is. I must confess though, my consumption of new music is now a fraction of what it used to be - primarily due to the fact that I barely visit the blogs, forums, discord channels et al. So if I do not mention a popular album, it’s because I probably missed it. Spoiler alert - there’s a lot of black metal.

Without further ado, here are the ten.

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10. Black Viper - Hellions of Fire

Norway is increasingly garnering attention for the flock of bands who play old school heavy and thrash metal. Bands like Nekromantheon, Deathhammer and Condor have cemented Norwegian thrash metal on the world map. Black Viper’s debut Hellions of Fire is a noteworthy addition to that list. Their musical style is very reminiscent of 80s speed metal with a production to match. Prepare to have your head bobbing continuously as you meander through the more traditional heavy metal passages in Quest For Power to the blistering guitar solos in Suspiria. The album isn’t a gimmicky nostalgia driven effort, it’s legit and honest for what it is. Much like their peers, Black Viper wear their influences on their sleeves. Hellions of Fire pays tribute to the bygone era of traditional heavy/speed metal of the 1980s and is a must-listen for any fan of this sub-genre.

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9. Kriegsmaschine - Apocalypticists


Kriegsmaschine is the lesser known project of the two key members of Mgła, who are arguably a very established black metal band in the underground circuit. It is, thus, inevitable to compare the two. The moment you tune into Apocalypticists, you’ll instantly notice how prominent and hard-hitting the drums are. This is a feature throughout the album where an atmosphere created by atonal riffs is pierced by pulsating (utterly progressive sounding) drum sounds. It’s as if Darkside (drummer of Mgła & Kriegsmaschine) unleashes his pent up fury on record. I also feel that Kriegsmaschine’s take on black metal is that of a less traditional path by relying less on blast-beats and tremolo riffing. The music is definitely hypnotic. While we wait for Mgła’s next magnum opus, Kriegsmaschine’s Apocalypticists will satiate your palate quite well.

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8. Deceased - Ghostly White

Deceased are the grand-daddies of death/thrash/heavy metal who have a particular penchant for all things horror. It’s in their lyrical themes and of course, in their artwork. Deceased have been around for 35 years and are still going strong in the underground. Ghostly White proves just that and with this album, you will hear more of the same Deceased sound. The album’s got dollops of traditional heavy metal passages with twin guitar solos, King Fowley’s signature howls and a truckload of galloping goodness. Up the tombstones!

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7. Gaerea - Unsettling Whispers

Unsettling Whispers is Gaerea’s debut album. Hailing from Portugal, Gaerea play a style of black metal which bands like Mgła and Uada are known for. Considering this is only their debut, Gaerea have managed to present listeners with some stellar atmospheric and melodic black metal. What sets this band apart though is that they don’t seem to be afraid to go with a cleaner and more polished sound. It’s not overproduced in any way but it does have this ‘modern’ sound, which many in this sub-genre shy away from. The musical spectrum ranges from dreary melancholic soundscapes to tremolo riffing over blast-beats. Personally, I’ve had this album on rotation for quite a long time since its release and it’s very enjoyable to say the least.

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6. Sargeist - Unbound

Shatraug, the musical genius behind Sargeist (and Horna among many), has recruited new members into Sargeist and they present a new face of the band with their latest release Unbound. Let it be known that I’m a sucker for Finnish black metal - it’s the melodies that get me good! Unbound is no different in that regard. But what makes this album more memorable are the vocal patterns employed by new vocalist, Profundis. They range from seething angry rasps to almost Alan Averill (legendary vocalist of Primordial) like shouts. That said, Sargeist seem to have also grown in their sound. For lack of a better word, it’s more dynamic. Yes, we still hear all the Sargeist elements - the melodic riffing, the underlying rock n’ roll sensibilities and the overarching evil atmosphere. But, it somehow feels more expansive, you know. It’s beautiful and it’s worth a listen.

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5. Sacral Rage - Beyond Celestial Echoes

Beyond Celestial Echoes is the band’s sophomore album. Back in 2015, Sacral Rage caused massive waves with their debut and unsurprisingly they also featured on my AOTY list. I touted them as the Helstar of this generation. Suffice to say, expectations were quite high when I learnt of this release. The band returns with their own brand of technical/proggy power and thrash metal. Beyond Celestial Echoes takes you further into dizzying technical musicianship. It paces itself quite well with welcome breaks consisting of interludes and grand buildups. Take for example, the epic 13 minute track called ‘The Glass’ which feels like a journey into space. It does takes a few listens for the album to soak in. While it’s definitely denser than their debut ‘Illusions In Infinite Void’, this album does establish Sacral Rage as a technical power/thrash metal juggernaut. Personally, I really hope to catch this band live one day!

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4. Visigoth - Conqueror’s Oath

From the get-go, Visigoth waste no time in diving straight into what Conqueror’s Oath is all about. From the album opener ‘Steel and Silver’ to the more epic ‘Traitor’s Gate’, Visigoth deliver a slab of 80s traditional heavy metal which will make Mark Shelton smile wherever he is (RIP you legend you!). It’s straightforward heavy metal without any fillers. You get what you expect to listen when you pick up this album - it has epic singalong choruses, loads of riffs and a few softer ballad-like interludes thrown in. Before you know it, you’ll have your fist held high chanting in unison with the tunes. If you like bands like Manilla Road, Omen, Grand Magus and their kind, you’ll surely dig Visigoth.

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3. Tomb Mold - Manor Of Infinite Forms

Tomb Mold’s debut album slipped under my radar in 2017 and when I heard about their second album being released this year, I jumped on it promptly. Manor of Infinite Forms makes you wonder how prolific a death metal band truly is after putting out releases in two consecutive years without compromising on quality. Tomb Mold’s sound harkens back to the late 80s early 90s era of death metal. It’s murky, disgusting and envelopes you with shroud of a suffocatingly dense atmosphere. You’ll give in to making a stink face while nodding violently to the barrage of riffs the band throws at you. The caveman vocals are supremely guttural and fit this style perfectly. Above all what I love most about this record is that it’s very well produced - just the right amount of rawness to bring out the best in Tomb Mold.

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2. Craft - White Noise and Black Metal

I won’t pretend that I’ve been a big Craft fan for many years. I only started listening to these legendary Swedish black metallers in 2017. In that regard, I approached White Noise and Black Metal with an open mind, unsure of what to expect since the band hadn’t put out something in a while. By the time, I got to the second track ‘Again’, I was sure as hell that I was listening to the riff of the decade. Through the imagery and lyrical themes, you can easily tell that Craft are proud misanthropes and nihilists. This is, of course, reflected in the music they put out. But what’s the point if this hateful music lacks the catchiness that would make you want to listen to it again and again? The album draws you in with plenty of grooves that is often lacking in black metal these days. To sum up, I’d say this is one of the best black metal albums in the past decade - it’s something any avid fan of the genre would look for.

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1. Chapel of Disease - ...And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye

To me, Chapel of Disease were among the many death metal bands who were influenced by the Swedeath sound - buzzsaw guitars et al. Nothing too memorable and not much to write home about. However, things have changed for this German death metal band after releasing ...And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye last month. Yes, the title is quite a mouthful. But I honestly don’t know where to begin. The band has stripped away their generic Swedeath death metal sound and introduced more progressive, punky and melodic elements. It’s as if they suddenly became fans of early Kverletak. The entire album feels free-flowing, effortless and at the same time flirts with the boundaries of not getting too progressive or adventurous with their new found sound. The band does retain its heaviness. No doubt about that. The vocals are reminiscent of a less gurgly version of Martin Van Drunen (of Asphyx fame). The album is great to listen to in its entirety, this isn’t a “song’s album” if you catch my drift. The main reason why I rate this as my numero uno album of 2018 is because every time I listen to it, I hear something new, something fresh. I hope this is the start of something new for the band. Onwards and upwards!

Best of 2017 (Music)

It's listicle time! ♫ 

For the last 3 years, I've been making Albums Of The Year (#AOTY) lists, so 2017 won't be different in any way. These lists consist of albums which have caught my fancy, have high repeat-spins, are "unique" and bring something fresh to the world where most music is shite. While, it's impossible to listen to all the popular and critical releases of 2017, I reckon I would've sampled at least 100 odd full lengths. My personal taste lean towards heavy music, hence these lists comprise mostly of metal music. 

This year had a string of stellar releases popping up towards the end of the year. I've luckily managed to come across such albums this month and have promptly added to my AOTY list. So here goes nothing, in descending order. 

10. Jordablod - Upon My Cremation Pyre
Jordablod's debut was picked up by the (in)famous Iron Bonehead records and that in itself is a reason why it deserves at least a listen. Hailing from Sweden, this one-man band plays black metal swathed in luscious and grand atmospheric/psychedelic vibes. What stood out for me is the guitar work, especially the solos which isn't something that one talks much about in black metal music. I look forward to his future releases. 
Full album stream: https://ironboneheadproductions.bandcamp.com/album/jordablod-upon-my-cremation-pyre

9. Contaminated - Final Man
This is another full length debut to make my list. Contaminated are a death metal band from Australia and they love their tunes crunchy, buzz-saw like (Swedeath influenced), played through a filthy and raw filter with an additional dose of doomy sections. I feel this album borrows the best bits of the Incantation/Immolation sound and marries it beautifully with what death metal bands from Sweden are best known for. It packs quite a punch! 
Full album stream: https://bloodharvestrecords.bandcamp.com/album/final-man-12lp-cd

8. Nokturnal Mortum - Verity
While many die-hard fans would've expected this band to recreate another Voice of Steel (their magnum opus), I honestly feel Nokturnal Mortum did quite a stellar job with Verity. It's more of the same ol' grand and symphonic folk black metal that you'd expect from the band. Verity has an abundance of melodic riffs which will get your head bobbing in no time. For any of you unfamiliar with the band, you can expect a lot of folky sounds played on traditional Ukrainian instruments.
Full album stream: https://nokturnalmortum1.bandcamp.com/album/verity

7. Wiegedood - De Doden Hebben Het Goed II
Wiegedood are a black metal band from Belgium, somewhat born out of an older band called Oathbreaker who play post-hardcore/metal (or some such abomination). I've never been a fan of Oathbreaker so my apprehension to listen to album was justified. Much to the fanfare surrounding this release, I'm glad I checked this album out. It's beautiful if intense tremolo riffing over blast-beats is your thing. The album is also atmospheric in the modern/contemporary black metal way. While this may not appeal much to purists, I feel Wiegedood have produced a great black metal record. I'll definitely revisit this in the years to come.
Full album stream: https://wiegedood.bandcamp.com/album/de-doden-hebben-het-goed-ii

6. Malokarpatan - Nordkarpatenland
Malokarpatan were a last minute addition to my AOTY list as I started listening to this album only two weeks ago. I feel with a couple more full listens, this album could be bumped up to a higher rank. They play a primal form of black metal which essentially is heavy metal with harsh/screechy vocals. Fans of early Venom, Master's Hammer, Bathory or Mortuary Drape will really enjoy this sophomore album by Malokarpatan. As an added bonus, the band also experiments with folky sounds, making it quite an interesting listen. Funnily, the band calls their music - "Old school rural Slovak black metal". A very apt descriptor. 
Full album stream: https://malokarpatan.bandcamp.com/album/nordkarpatenland

5. Hällas - Excerpts From a Future Past
Given this list, I reckon this album will be most accessible for "non-metal" listeners. Hällas play 70s influenced rock, almost progressive too. You'll hear instrumental passages where guitar solos harmonize perfectly with Deep Purple-esque keys. Even if you're overly tired with the retro bandwagon that many bands keep jumping onto, you should still give Hällas a listen because the lovely instrumentation and the song composition are top-notch. It's only their second release and you can hear the maturity in their songs. One of the main reasons I really enjoy Excerpts is because on a deep personal level, I feel the songs/music put me in a self-reflective mood. Not sure what I mean? Listen to the album. 
Full album stream: https://thesignrecords.bandcamp.com/album/h-llas-excerpts-from-a-future-past

4. Perturbator - New Model
James Kent aka Perturbator breathes in new life into his project with New Model. While the foundation of New Model is still built on the retro-synth wave sound, the songs are way more darker and grittier than the previous releases. I've been an ardent follower of Perturbator since 2012, I've also been lucky to see him live (plugging the live video I took in 2015). In that regard, you could call me a big Perturbator fan so my expectations were quite high. Synth-wave as a genre can get very insipid and boring very fast, and hence experimentation is key. Perturbator does just that with different vocal delivery on songs, by slowing down sections and playing around with various industrial elements. New Model makes it difficult to pigeonhole Perturbator as just another retro-synth wave artist, which is great in my opinion. 
Full album stream: https://perturbator.bandcamp.com/album/new-model

3. Shaarimoth - Temple Of The Adversarial Fire
This was the first release of 2017 that caught my attention. Very early on I proclaimed it to be AOTY material and it's survived a whole year retained in my top 10 list. Shaarimoth are from Norway, a place where underrated death metal bands are ready to burst into the scene. Temple of Adversarial Fire is an album which would appeal to black metal fans too, as it rubs off heavily with that characteristic atmospheric sound. While still being very riff-heavy, the band experiments with lots of vacant instrumental doomy passages, tremolo riffing and fast thrashy sections. The production is perfect for my liking where it's finely balanced between murky-sounding and "good clean discernible" sounding. I wish more metalheads listened to Shaarimoth because the album quality retains its consistency from start to finish, making it a truly memorable record.
Full album stream: https://wtcproductions.bandcamp.com/album/temple-of-the-adversarial-fire

2. The Ruins of Beverast - Exuvia
Exuvia is the remains of an insect's exoskeleton when it has shed it off. Is it a metaphor for the new album by Alexander von Meilenwald (the genius behind TRoB)? It could be. TRoB have an extensive discography spanning close to 14 years and Exuvia, in my opinion, gives the early albums a run for their money as TRoB's best work. Exuvia is like a journey into shamanic rituals (look at the album art as well). It is psychedelic, doomy, atmospheric and retains TRoB's characteristic black metal sound. Similar to TRoB's older material, Exuvia's songs meander long and winding, almost merging into one another and they're best consumed from album start to finish. I can't think of a better album in 2017 if a listener wants to immerse herself into a meditative state. Truly hypnotic and highly recommended! 
Full album stream: https://theruinsofbeverast.bandcamp.com/album/exuvia

1. Elder - Reflections of a Floating World
Well well well, here's my favorite release of the year. Elder's 2015 album was highly rated, which I'll admit I missed out on and hereby regret not including it in my list. I'm making amends this year because Reflections of a Floating World is if not better but as good as their previous album. The album is primarily an instrumental stoner/doom masterpiece. It crests with beautiful guitar melodies and then troughs (in a good way) with heavy pounding guitars and drums. I think what makes this album a masterpiece is its wide-appeal. Fans of rock (heavy rock, progressive, rock n' roll), doom metal, psychedelic/stoner music and anyone who appreciates great musicianship will dig this album quite a lot. I see myself still revisiting this album many more times in the future. How will Elder top two successively brilliant releases? One can hope. Until then, enjoy the full album stream below! 
Full album stream: https://beholdtheelder.bandcamp.com/album/reflections-of-a-floating-world

 

Best of 2016

It's that time of the year again where I list down my favorite metal albums of 2016. This is a practice that I've been following over the past two years (Czech out the 2015 and 2014 lists). 2016 started off weak with very few releases catching my fancy. But fortunately, the latter part of the year dazzled me with some stellar releases. Traditional heavy metal ruled the roost for me and newcomer bands like Eternal Champion and Sumerlands got multiple plays. There were also some off-kilter releases from Khonsu and Mithras. Overall, the list below is representative of the different genres in metal. Without further ado, I'll dive into them one by one. 

 

10. Khonsu - The Xun Protectorate
Khonsu's sophomore album might fly under the radar for many but let's give them the attention they deserve. The band hails from Bergen (Norway) and their sound can be best described as industrial/progressive metal with a healthy dose of black metal injected in it, making it sound fairly evil. Khonsu is very accessible and for all I know, they may appeal to the Gojira/Ministry fan as well. The sci-fi theme, really detailed artwork, blast beats overlaying industrial sounds and stomping choruses, all make it a grandiose record.

9. Ripper - Experiment of Existence
Ripper from Chile play death/thrash in the vein of early Sepultura and Possessed. The production on the album does justice to the 80s sound and I'm most pleased about that. The second most satisfying thing to hear on the album is the bass. Ripper have paid adequate attention to the bass, as if they are the garnishing atop the onslaught of riffs. This young band will go far! 

8. Blood Incantation - Starspawn
Starspawn is the only pure death metal styled album that caught my fancy this year. Blood Incantation do riffs excellently and by Jove, will the riffs hit you hard! The band primarily lies in the intersection of old school death metal and tech-death sound. On a side note, the more you listen to this album, the more you will appreciate the song arrangements and the good use of atmospheric passages (which build up to full fledged songs). 

7. Mithras - On Strange Loops
Mithras make a triumphant return with an album after 9 years and it did not disappoint at all. Sure, I could rank it higher but I was severely biased towards other sub-genres. Attempting to classify On Strange Loops would be a task carried out in vain but nonetheless here goes nothing. While the foundation of the album is laid in tech-death, Mithras have also created modern-sounding atmsopheric and progressive elements in their songs. It took a while to appreciate the album but when I was able to, it was very satisfying. 

6. Thrawsunblat - Metachthonia
I can't recall many melodic/folk black metal albums that have made an impact on me in the past couple of years. Well, Thrawsunblat have certainly done so with Metachthonia. The album meets all the expectations one might have before listening to songs in this genre. There is never a dull moment while listening to this, which only exemplifies the excellent songwriting. Vocals alternate appropriately between clean and harsh. There are acoustic-foresty snippets which add fresh and new dimensions to the songs. The catchy melodies will get your head bobbing in no time. The album clocks in close to an hour and at the end of it, you'll probably tell yourself that this band needs to keep going to make many more such albums!

5. Mare Cognitum - Luminiferous Aether
Mare Cognitum is the brainchild of Jacob Buczarski, who has been unrelenting with his project's releases year after year. While Luminiferous Aether may not be his best work, this album does carry on in the same vein as his previous albums; Dripping in cosmic themes, lots of tremolo-picked riffery while at the same time creating that warm characteristic black metal atmosphere. The album serves as excellent background music as well as one to be discerned with scrutiny. 

4. Eternal Champion - The Armor of Ire
We're moving into traditional heavy metal territory now. This piqued my interest because of a Manowar-like album cover. Eternal Champion is a name taken from an epic fantasy Multiverse novel series by Michael Moorcock. Naturally, the lyrical themes do justice to that. As far as the musicality is concerned, the band plays traditional heavy metal with some first wave traditional doom-laden parts too. It's a great debut full length release for the band, although I would've liked to hear more anthemic memorable choruses in this. 

3. Vektor - Terminal Redux
Enter the mad scientists of who thrash as much as they prog! This has probably been one of my most anticipated albums of 2016 and they delivered an album which sounds as fresh today as it will many years down the line. The songs, much a characteristic to Vektor's style of writing, are long and winding. This needs repeat listens to gain an appreciation of the intricate layering put forth in this record. Terminal Redux is easily the best thrash album of the year. 

2. Khemmis - Hunted
Khemmis is the only doom band on my list. But it rightfully earns this position because of a stellar sophomore album. While I did say 'doom', many of the songs delve into heavy metal and stoner rock territories. I think what won me over is the vocals - clean, soaring and somewhat reminiscent of Solstice (UK band). Another aspect of Khemmis that I really liked was the variation. Doom bands can get caught in the rut with monotonous songs but not Khemmis. They switched it up a bit with galloping tunes like Three Gates. Almost sounded like the band High On Fire and before you know it, they were back to their epic doom parts. The guitar work (riffs and solos) is top-notch on Hunted.  

1. Sumerlands - Sumerlands
So it came as a massive surprise to me that the two guitarists from Eternal Champion play for Sumerlands too. The other surprise was seeing Phil Swanson, of Hour of 13 fame, do vocals here. For lack of a better word, Sumerlands' debut is a very complete album. This is heavy metal at its finest and I think Phil's voice suits this kind of music brilliantly. I can liken his vocals to early Black Sabbath. With each of the 8 songs averaging at around the 4 minute mark, it's fairly easy to get through the album in no time. There's no fluff. Sumerlands packs as much as they can into those minutes, while giving each song a different treatment. The quality of music spreads across all songs evenly (if there's such a thing like that) and that's my main criteria for ranking Sumerlands numero uno. So give this album a spin and enjoy riding its glorious riffs!

Best Metal Albums of 2015

'tis the season for year-end listicles fa la la la ♬

I'll make this quick. Compared to my 'best of 2014' list, 2015 seemed to have way more quality black metal releases. It would also appear that three Greek bands made it to my list. No surprise there because I am a sucker for the Hellenic scene. Most of the bands listed below are relatively new, which in my opinion is way more exciting (fresh sound and all that rot). The only criteria that I used while choosing these albums is replay value. Of course, it'll be subjective. Without further ado, here are my top 10 metal albums of 2015:

10. Shepherd - Stereolithic Riffalocalypse
Bangalore's sludge-y stoner band make their debut with Stereolithic. Heavy fuzzy guitars, gruff vocals and some really memorable riffs make this one of the best releases from India. Ever. Shepherd are still severely underrated in international circles and I hope this changes with time. 
Favorite track: Bog Slime
Full album stream: Bandcamp

9. Abyssal - Antikatastaseis
After two crushing albums, Abyssal, UK's mystery black/death metal band, return with Antikatastaseis. This album is definitely more riff-y compared to their second album (which was very Portal-esque) and bears more resemblance stylistically to their debut. If you enjoy black/death metal with a largely space-y atmosphere, you'll dig this for sure. Also, watch out for the gorgeous artwork on this.
Favorite track: I am the Alpha and the Omega
Full album stream: Bandcamp

8. Scythian - Repurgation
This album hit me like a bolt from the blue. This relatively new death/thrash band from UK play a style which is neither old nor re-thrash. The band employs organs and Gregorian chants in interludes and during song build ups, which only makes the entire album more enjoyable. Listen to this song for instance and wait for the tempo-shift at 1:36. 
Favorite track: Beyond the dust
Full album stream: Bandcamp

7. Sacral Rage - Illusions in Infinite Void
If you're a massive Helstar fanboy, I suggest you start listening to this right now! This debut album by these Greeks is a fantastic slab of thrash-y power metal. The soaring air-raid siren vocals and the gazillion riffs that showcase the tremendous musicianship make Sacral Rage a band to watch out for. 
Favorite track: Lost Chapter E-Sutratma
Full album stream: Bandcamp

6. Batushka - Litourgiya
This album was released this month by Witching Hour Productions and it has already caused quite a stir in the underground. Shrouded in mystery, Batushka play an orthodox style of black metal. The entire album sounds like a ritual. Think Cult of Fire but more grandiose in the black metal sense of things. If I had more time to listen to this album, I might've definitely ranked it higher. 
Favorite track(s): Entire album
Full album stream: Bandcamp

5. Katavasia - Sacrilegious Testament
Katavasia is a super-group of sorts with members hailing from notable Greek bands like Varathron and Hail Spirit Noir. As a Varathron fan, it was hard to control my excitement when I got to know of this project. Suffice to say, this album didn't disappoint at all. The sound on this record hearkens back to the early Varathron albums like Walpurgisnacht and His Majesty ie. epic melodic black metal. The production on this is slightly modern but let it not take away any of the quality on this record. It only makes the sound crisper and more discernible, which is great.  
Favorite track: Symphony Des Gravens
Full album stream: Bandcamp

4. Mgła - Exercises in Futility
It is impossible for this Polish band to release an album which doesn't feature in any of the AOTY lists. Exercises in Futility comes after a three year gap from their previous magnum opus. These guys are, without a doubt, one of the best song writers in the genre. This latest album cements those very credentials. To paraphrase a fellow forum-member's comment - "Nihilism never sounded this good". 
Favorite track(s): Entire album
Full album stream: Bandcamp

3. Lord Fist - Green Eyleen
I've been a long-time follower of Lord Fist. These young Finnish upstarts play some of the catchiest heavy/traditional metal I've ever heard. While their early material (one demo and EP) was impressive, they've stepped it up several notches with this debut album. Detractors might point out that the vocals aren't coherent enough but I say when you have everything sounding so passionate and energetic, that minor flaw can be overlooked. 
Favorite track: Green Eyleen
Full album stream: Bandcamp

2. Macabre Omen - Gods of War - At War
This Greek band returns after ten years since their last full length album. I'll be honest here. I didn't know of Macabre Omen until I heard about this release. Don't worry, I've kicked myself enough for not coming across them earlier. There's only one word that can describe this album perfectly and it's 'majestic'. This is black metal at its finest. Stylistically, this is essentially a Hellenic black metal album. If this doesn't conjure up images of epic battles in your head, I don't know what will. 
Favorite track: Gods of War - At War
Full album stream: Bandcamp

1. Reverie - Bliss
Reverie's Bliss is yet another debut album and this closes my 2015 list. They hail from Denmark and play a blackened style of death metal. There are two major reasons why this is my favorite album of the year. Firstly, Dust and Dirt has the best intros I've ever heard in the recent past. It packs quite an aural punch (like the rest of the album). And secondly, the entire album is replete with memorable guitar riffs from start to finish. If I used a riff-counter, this album would have OVER 9000! (Sorry). But besides that, they still manage to have tempo changes, slower sections, an instrumental, which I feel fit in quite perfectly. 
Favorite track: Dust and Dirt
Full album stream: Bandcamp