As always, the top albums of the year are for full albums (no EP’s or demos) released in 2015. They are new studio albums for the year, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live albums. Below the combined TOP 30 are links to each individual staff members’ personal “best of” lists which besides their top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray, best metal book, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for 2016, personal metal discovery of the year, and various other categories. Enjoy!
1. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
It should come as no surprise that this comes in at #1. After all, this is a double album that just about everyone into metal and hard rock has now checked out, with most liking it quite a bit. THE BOOK OF SOULS is easily the freshest Iron Maiden album in 15 long years – since BRAVE NEW WORLD. The band are still in full stride, mature, confident, with nothing left to prove, yet they can still bring some fire to the table!
2. Slayer – Repentless
Overcoming near insurmountable odds, Slayer returned with an unrelenting and brutal album in 2015 with REPENTLESS. While many thought this was not going to live up to the past glories, Slayer shocked many and kicked everyone’s ass with the best thrash/speed metal album of the year.
3. Helloween – My God Given Right
MY GOD GIVEN-RIGHT is Helloween’s 15th studio album after more than thirty years together. Helloween invented European power metal as we know it, so their legacy is intact. They have taken their own path, much as they did 30 years ago, and in doing so prove that they still have much to offer.
4. Stratovarius – Eternal
ETERNAL sees the veteran Finnish Power Metal act firing on all cylinders and more. The band comes back with another one word album title, another 10 song album that runs just under an hour. Everything you need, want and expect is in full force, Kotipelto’s soaring range, fiery solos, pounding double-kick drums and keyboard washes. The production is superb on this largely fast album of the standard 4-5 minute long songs. The choruses are huge and catchy and very easily memorable. As the band celebrates their 30th anniversary, we are delighted they still produce superb albums, 15 albums deep.
5. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Paradise Lost returns with their 14th album in THE PLAGUE WITHIN, an album that on first listen brings the band full circle. It is tempting to call this album a return to the roots, and in many ways it is, THE PLAGUE WITHIN encompassing elements of all the band’s many phases.
6. Queensryche – Condition Human
Queensryche returned in 2015 with their 14th album, CONDITION HUMAN. It fully put the band back on the CURRENT map of prog/melodic metal. This was a spot that they once owned, up until the EMPIRE album, before their fall from the metal realms. Overall, this album sounds like a perfect follow up to EMPIRE in terms of style and tone. If you liked Queensryche from 1983-1991, grab this album immediately.
7. Motorhead – Bad Magic
This is Motorhead’s 22nd, and sadly, final, studio album. While it’s not their best album, it’s hardly a clunker. There are plenty of ass-kicking tracks and even (in retrospect) poignant moments on here. Despite being the band’s final studio album, it still had plenty of fire and metal. They did what they do best – right until the end. RIP LEMMY!
8. Saxon – Battering Ram
Another year, another Saxon album. As of 2015, Saxon is in a rarified class of band, having existed for nearly 40 years and now, with the offering of BATTERING RAM, have released 21 full-length studio albums. That’s an astonishing pace of music production. Unbelievably, the band has remained stable with the newest member joining 20 years ago. In that same 20 years, the band has been on an incredible run, releasing nine albums prior to this one and each one has been high quality and worth owning!
9. Cain’s Offering – Stormcrow
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 6 full years since power metal “super group” Cain’s Offering released their highly acclaimed debut album, GATHER THE FAITHFUL. The band was initially formed by ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen when he joined forces with Stratovarius singer Timo Kotipelto. STORMCROW is a very rewarding and entertaining album to listen to. Timo Kotipelto sounds as great as he ever has, and Liimatainen’s writing and playing is at the top of his game. One of the best power metal albums of 2015.
10. Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror
Blind Guardian proved to be still very much alive in 2015, despite a 5 year gap between albums, with BEYOND THE RED MIRROR. For their power/symphonic metal style, Blind Guardian is nearly without equal. The band assembled three different choirs (from Prague, Budapest and Boston) and a ninety-piece orchestra for the creation of “Beyond the Red Mirror”, and the presentation of the album is downright Broadway caliber. This is some busy and rewarding music to delve into that does not get boring with repeated spins.
11. Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
12. Kamelot – Haven
13. Stryper – Fallen
14. Eclipse – Armageddonize
15. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
16. Angra – Secret Garden
17. Mgla – Exercises in Futility
18. Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards
19. Orden Ogan – Ravenhead
20. Moonspell – Extinct
21. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
22. Royal Hunt – Devil’s Dozen
23. Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
24. Serious Black – As Daylight Breaks
25. Marduk – Frontschwein
26. Gruesome – Savage Land
27. Powerwolf – Blessed & Possessed
28. Armored Saint – Win Hands Down
29. Europe – War of Kings
30. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus (Symphonia Ignis Divinus)