- Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Almost 30 years into their career, Paradise Lost released what’s arguably the strongest album in their canon. Gems like “No Hope in Sight”, “Terminal” and “Beneath Broken Earth” are just as powerful as classics like “Eternal”, “Gothic”, or “As I Die”. Often imitated but never duplicated, Paradise Lost makes balancing delicate melodic gloom with crushing deathly aggression sound so easy.
- Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Cattle Decap did the impossible in 2015 and released an album that bested MONOLITH OF INHUMANITY. Pushing the limits of acceptability within death metal, THE ANTHROPOCENE EXTINCTION was a more self-confident and mature release that leveled the competition with blinding speed, technical mastery and some stark predictions for the end of the human race.
- Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
Does Iron Maiden really need an explanation? I love classic Maiden, but it’d been ages since I really cared about anything new from them. That all changed with THE BOOK OF SOULS; I don’t think I’ve been able to play this album without listening to the entire thing. THE BOOK OF SOULS is a reminder for those of us who may have fallen off the wagon as to why we fell in love with Iron Maiden in the first place.
- Napalm Death – Apex Predator-Easy Meat
- My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
- Mgla – Exercises in Futility
- Moonspell – Extinct
- Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy
- Tribulation – Children of the Night
- Swallow the Sun – Tales from the North I, II, & III
- Gruesome – Savage Land
- Motorhead – Bad Magic
- Soilwork – The Ride Majestic
- Goatsnake – Black Age Blues
- Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – S/T
- Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
- Vhöl – Deeper Than Sky
- Jungle Rot – Order Shall Prevail
- Plaugewielder – Chambers of Death
- Skepticism – Ordeal
Best Live Album
Paradise Lost – SYMPHONY FOR THE LOST
Such an amazing way to experience Paradise Lost. The band is well underrated as a live act, but SYMPHONY FOR THE LOST dispels any doubts that they’re at the top of their class. Everything about this album is magic – 2 performances in one of Europe’s oldest theaters, an orchestral accompaniment, a companion DVD and a gorgeous CD package packed to the hilt with phots and notes. Albums like this remind you of a time when live albums were supposed to get you excited.
Denner/Shermann – SATAN’S TOMB
We will likely never get another Mercyful Fate album, but that didn’t stop Michael Denner and Hank Shermann from recording an EP of remarkably Fate like material. As long as they can keep putting out material like “Satan’s Tomb” and “New Gods”, I’m okay with Mercyful Fate staying dead and in the ground.
Best Remake Album
Exhumed – GORE METAL: A NECROSPECTIVE
Exhumed’s evolution over the years isn’t dissimilar from that of Carcass. Originating as a raw, almost sloppy at times goregrind band and eventually graduating to becoming one of the most technically proficient and melodically brutal bands of the genre, Exhumed’s body of work shows that progression on each successive album. Matt Harvey and crew did the original GORE METAL justice in this revisiting, making sure to not lose any of the guts and viscera in the process of cleaning up the production and performances.
CHOOSING DEATH-THE IMPROBABLE HISTORY OF DEATH METAL AND GRINDCORE, by Albert Mudrian
Originally published in 2004 and updated for a wealth of new content, this updated version of CHOOSING DEATH should be considered the ‘top shelf’ edition. An amazing read for even casual fans of the genre, Mudrian details the rise, fall, and resurrection of metal’s most abrasive genres across various global scenes with the dedication of a doctoral dissertation.
At times hysterical, other times horrific, DEATHGASM is the best summation of what it’s like to be a small town adolescent metalhead. With a fantastic soundtrack and enough nods to the faithful that the filmmakers know what they’re talking about, DEATHGASM is a good time headbanging horror fest.
Cattle Decapitation w/ Abiotic, at the Orpheum Tampa
My first time seeing Cattle Decap live and the band didn’t disappoint. Being able to pull of the kind of musical and vocal histrionics that the band deploys on each album can’t be easy, but they sounded flawless. If you’ve never seen Cattle Decapitation live, you’re missing something amazing.
Best Local Band
Nixa, South Florida
I caught these guys opening up for Crowbar last month, and what an incredible pairing that was. Honest, blue collar sludge doom is the best that I can describe their sound, but Nixa had a skeptical audience eating out of their hands by the end of their set. They’ve got some stuff available through Bandcamp right now, and they’re definitely worth a listen. nixaband.bandcamp.com/
Best New Band
I love, LOVE Gruesome. A homage to the late, great Chuck Schuldiner, Gruesome’s SAVAGE LAND totally captures the vibe of late 80’s Death without sounding like a parody band. A new EP is on the way in 2016, can’t wait.
Slayer-REPENTLESS / Pentagram-CURIOUS VOLUME (tie)
Anyone who thought that a new Slayer album written solely by Kerry King wasn’t going to suck was deluding themselves. Yes, I too got worked up over the title track, but a glut of laughably juvenile lyrics and chugged down bro-riffs make for an easily forgettable album from thrash’s biggest band. As for Pentagram – Bobby Liebling either needs to retire or seek help for whatever it is that he’s back into these days. CURIOUS VOLUME was an embarrassing letdown from LAST RITES, showcasing that Bobby’s days of excess have finally caught up with his ability to perform.
Major Events in Metal
Lemmy is God. Lemmy is Dead. God is Dead.
Hopes for 2016
So many bands that seem to have been in the studio forever, hopefully we’ll have something to show for it soon. Dark Angel, C.O.C., Atheist, Morbid Angel, along with a slim chance we’ll finally get some new King Diamond give me hope that 2016 will be another heavy year for the scene.