All this week, we’re counting down the 25 best metal albums of 2015 (here’s Part 1). Here are the next five albums.
20. The Black Dahlia Murder, Abysmal
The Black Dahlia Murder’s music isn’t terribly original, but their blend of incredibly fast riffing, machine-gun drums, squiggly outbursts of guitar shred, and frontman Trevor Strnad’s unique vocals (he switches back and forth between a high-pitched, almost black metal screech and a forceful death metal bark/growl, so quickly and seamlessly you could swear there are two of him) can be thrilling when it’s done well. Their track record is 50/50; their odd-numbered albums (Unhallowed, Nocturnal, Ritual) tend to be great, while the even-numbered releases (Miasma, Deflorate, Everblack) are solid but not quite there compared with the others. This is album number seven, and it’s a winner, building on the strengths of the ambitious Ritual and adding even more manic energy and gasp-inducing instrumental ferocity.
19. Iron Maiden, The Book Of Souls
A lot of Iron Maiden fans assumed their last album, The Final Frontier, was the band’s farewell statement. (It had “Final” right in the title!) But they returned in 2015 with a 90-minute two-CD set that includes some of their strongest instrumental performances ever, particularly the nearly 14-minute “The Red and the Black” and the 10-minute title track. The Book of Souls is a mixed bag, to say the least: the 18-minute, piano-driven “Empire of the Clouds” doesn’t merit a second listen, and “Tears of a Clown” would actually have been better had it been a Smokey Robinson cover, instead of a weepy song about Robin Williams. But there’s enough good stuff here to make it worth every Maiden fan’s time.
18. Blind Guardian, Beyond The Red Mirror
This German symphonic power metal act has demonstrated remarkable evolution over the course of a near 30-year career, gradually upping their bombast game until now, on their 10th studio album, they’ve got two orchestras and three choirs. Seriously. So if it’s subtlety you’re after, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to bang your head with a goofy-ass grin on your face, this is your album. (Note: this is a direct sequel to 1995’s Imaginations From The Other Side, but newcomers need not care; Beyond stands on its own.) The near-10-minute opening track, “The Ninth Wave,” is one of the most glorious slabs of metal released by anyone in 2015, and the rest of the record maintains that level of grandiosity and awesomeness.
17. Full Of Hell, Full Of Hell & Merzbow
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Full Of Hell are more of a grindcore/noise-rock band than a metal band, and this album finds them collaborating with Japanese noise overlord Merzbow (who previously remixed art-grind kings Discordance Axis). But the results will please anyone enthusiastic about the harsher, uglier side of 21st Century aggressive music. The band’s fierce, bellowing grindcore is bolstered on the album proper by washes of static and high-pitched electronic screeches. On the second disc, five longer tracks allow Merzbow to take over almost completely, chopping the band’s grindcore-ish roar into bits, leaving behind mostly the drums, which serve to batter his explosive digital outbursts this way and that. This album finds multiple ways to overwhelm and terrify the listener, and for that alone it’s a must-hear.
16. Prurient, Frozen Niagara Falls
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A 90-minute two-disc set, Frozen Niagara Falls begins with “Myth of Building Bridges,” initially a collage of static, distant booms and sounds like a factory disassembling itself, pierced by high-pitched sine waves. But synthesizer melodies straight from the soundtrack of an ’80s horror movie ooze through the murk, settling the listener in for the journey to come. Other tracks explore pounding industrial dance or fall back on traditionalist harsh noise techniques. The real jewels, though, are “Jester in Agony” and “Shoulders of Summerstones”—no more assaultive than Ministry circa Twitch, and often quite pretty. The second disc is more surprising; the 11-minute “Christ Among the Broken Glass” features acoustic guitar, fretless bass, and atmospheric synth, more like progressive metal than “noise.”