Sunday, January 3, 2016


This is eventually what I turn into when
my students won't shut the fuck up in class.
This year, I'm going to be doing something a bit different.   Of course, I'll be including my own top 10 (which, I think we can all admit, is going to be much better than everyone else's you'll find on this blog or any other place on the internet (ESPECIALLY Judge Dredd's wack-ass list, but everyone already knew that :p), but this time around I'm going to take advantage of my current situation as a temporary denizen of the Far East to find out what people around here, expats and/or Koreans, are digging as well!   So, prepare yourself for not just my dumb list, BUT a slew of other lists of well from the Korean underground metal community!   In my opinion, you can never have too many Top 10 lists because ever since we all got high-speed internet and access to virtually any music that's ever been recorded EVER, you'll find a seemingly infinite amount of variety, and, more importantly, inevitably at least one hidden gem every time you browse.

It's funny, I was actually talking to my buddy WinterTriangles about submitting his own Top 10 list for the MI blog when he told me that he actually found the whole Top 10 albums-of-the-year lists frustrating because he felt like they just end up being completely different in a couple of years after you inevitably discover all the other shit later on that you missed when it came out.   However, while I do feel like this is a valid point, I'd like to argue that instead, these Top 10 lists should be like a snapshot of what your favorite jams of the year were at the time you made the list, instead of being considered like THE definitive guide to THE BEST METAL ALBUMS OF "YEAR X".   So, let the party begin!


10.   Ghost - Meliora
I don't care if this sounds like music from the '70s Scooby Doo cartoon, the whole thing is a gimmick, etc.   These are great songs, even if they are barely metal (definitely more on the hard rock side of the spectrum).   A lot of people felt like maybe this band was on the decline after the mixed reception that was seen with the release of their sophomore record, Infestissumam (2013), but I think the general consensus with Meliora is that Ghost are back with a vengeance, proving to everyone that they're here to stay and still have the skills and songwriting ability to pull off a great album.  Of course, it's not as good as their debut, Opus Eponymous (2010), and they probably won't ever put out anything that will be as good, but I still enjoyed the hell out of this album!
RIYL: Blue Öyster Cult, The Devil's Blood, Blood Ceremony, Mercyful Fate, Deep Purple
Recommended track: "From the Pinnacle to the Pit"

9.   Myrkur - M
At this point, I'm so fucking sick of the whole controversy surrounding Myrkur that I'm not even going to talk about it because it's just been done to death and I don't really have anything to add.   However, I WILL say that I found the music on this record to be fantastic, even if it did, at times, get a bit "New Age-y / Enya" for my tastes.   Also, the drums are too quiet and sound too digital or over-produced...I'm not exactly sure what the right term is, but this kind of album needs the drums to be louder and more raw!   That way everyone knows that you're not fucking around!
   Anyway, not to take anything away from Ms. Bruun's own composition skills, but I do also feel like M benefited immensely by enlisting Garm as producer and adding a real drummer (the drums on her 2014 self-titled EP are programmed) and a bunch of other session musicians to add to the dark, neo-folk-ish atmospheric ambiance (horns, violins, fiddles, etc.).   While the ambient pieces by themselves are quite pretty, the real gems on this album are when Myrkur goes for the jugular with the black metal.   She retains her own sound and style, but definitely takes some influence from Darkthrone, Ulver (old and new!), and maybe even like Amorphis or Otyg (lol).   Fuck the haterz!  This album won't score you any points with basement black metal dorks, but it is definitely a badass, refreshing new take on the genre and a welcome addition to the whole "post-black metal" scene that's all the rage right now.   Don't let the naysayers get you down, Amalie!    is a beautiful album!   Gorgeous album art too.
RIYL:  Ulver, Alcest, Wolves in the Throne Room, God Seed
Recommended track: "Hævnen"
You can listen to the entire album for free here.

8.   厄鬼 (Aek Gwi) - 靈樹林 (Forest of Ghost)
It's entirely possible that Vhan (the dude behind Aek Gwi, one of his many pseudonyms) created this album entirely in one sitting when he was drunk one night in his basement.   I don't care!   It's fucking brilliant!   I'm actually in the process of writing an entire post about Aek Gwi (including an interview with Vhan himself!), so I'm going to keep this description short.   All I'm going to say is that it kind of reminds me of a mix between like Nortt and some "Oriental" ambient/ritualistic bedroom black metal, so you know what that means!   Turn off the lights, put on your headphones, and let this baby take you on a mysterious journey deep into the various layers of the Buddhist hells.
RIYL:  Beherit, Nortt, Xasthur, Sunn O))), Burzum
Recommended track: "靈樹林 (Forest of Ghost) - Part 1"
You can listen to the entire album for free here.

7.   Vastum - Hole Below
In the mood for absolutely crushing, evil-ass death metal?   These guys nail that "cavernous" sound perfectly, except for some reason when listening to this I imagine the band playing in some dilapidated abandoned factory instead of a cave.   Catchy riffs, plenty of groove, and otherworldly guttural vocals meant for summoning demonic entities from the Abyss.   Really hits the spot when you want some occult-tinged punishing brutality!
RIYL:   Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Incantation, Dead Congregation
Recommended track: "Sodomistic Malevolence"
You can listen to the entire album for free here.

6.   Ghost Bath - Moonlover
Yeah, yeah, these guys are posers and tried to make us think they were a DSBM collective from China but really they're just an indie rock band and blah blah, but I don't give a fuck.   This stuff is great!  With gorgeous melodies that masterfully evoke the angst, sadness, and beautiful, haunting despair that we all expect when listening to this kind of "Graduation Day black metal", if that sounds like your thing then I highly recommend checking this out.   It's going to be interesting to see where the band decides to go from here.   Whether or not this is a "gimmick" (same goes with some of the other albums in my list) is beside the point- this is killer stuff.
RIYL:  Silencer, Alcest, Nachtmystium, Deafheaven, Woods of Desolation, Lifelover
Recommended track:  "Golden Number"
Read Wulf's interview with the band here.
Read CJ's review of the album here.

5.   A Forest of Stars - Beware of the Sword You Cannot See
The madness continues!!   There's a lot to love about this band- their weird backstory, the obsession with Victorian England, and the sheer insanity and experimentation that goes into their psychedelic black metal-based music.   I'm not going to waste time and debate genres here, because it's obvious that A Forest of Stars have their own thing going on here.   The music conjures up scenes of Theosophistic séances, perusing the wares of a semi-forgotten curio shoppe, hallucinatory visions in the midst of an opium overdose, or even at times the violence and sheer insanity akin to something you'd see in the Lovecraftian-esque horror/action/rpg Playstation 4 game Bloodborne (easily one of my favorite games of all time).   The second half also comprises of one "song" split into six parts (titled "Pawn on the Universal Chessboard")
RIYL:  Negură Bunget, Arcturus, Oranssi Pazuzu, Peste Noire, Nachtmystium
Recommended track: "Drawing Down the Rain"
You can listen to the entire album for free here.

4.   Archgoat - The Apocalyptic Triumphator 
The mighty Archgoat return with another blasphemic, evil, bestial collection of elite hymns dedicated to all things perverted and sacrilegious.   This is no-frills, no bullshit, straight to the point, punishing mayhem.   Badass album art too, you can always count on Thorncross to bring the grimness.
RIYL:  Blasphemy, Beherit, Black Witchery, Incantation, Inquisition
Recommended track: "Nuns, Cunts & Darkness"
You can listen to the entire album for free here.

3.   Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs
Underrated band AND album!   Is it because they're on a small label?   Is their name too hard to pronounce?   Maybe it's because they have a harpist in the band.   Either way, this album fucking rules.   Yeah, the cover art is kind of lame and the drums are too quiet, buried, and sound a bit too sterile (almost programmed), but those are characteristics easily ignored when you have those goddamn gorgeous lead guitars running the show!   The vocals are also great as well, mixed just right as they're slightly buried and echoing from the back of a Medieval castle's great hall or an ancient cathedral.   When you think "medieval metal", your mind immediately goes to cheesy power metal like Hammerfall or Rhapsody, with synth horns, nonstop double bass, etc.   Not so with Obsequiae!   I'm not exactly sure how they do it, but by combining the atmosphere and aesthetics of black metal with the production (kind of) and melody of The Jester Race-era In Flames.   Thematically I feel like there's a lot going on here too, but haven't had enough time to really explore that angle yet.   Definitely going to come back to this one in the future.   Brilliant stuff!
RIYL: (old) In Flames, Forefather, Peste Noire
Recommended track: "Autumnal Pyre"
You can listen to the entire album for free here

2.   Tribulation - The Children of the Night
This band took me awhile to get into for whatever reason, but once I started reading their interviews and realizing how much fun they are I started really digging their music.   So, without further ado, I'm going to jump on the Tribulation bandwagon now (I remember Judge Dredd has been telling me to check them out for a couple of years now!) and join in the chorus of praise that's being heaped on these guys right now.   It's a melodramatic, adventurous, kick-ass journey that blends black metal, death metal, and progressive rock into something that is catchy, mysterious, and theatrical.   I don't know exactly how serious they are about the occult lyrical themes, but it doesn't matter because this just straight-up bad-ass music.
RIYL:  Mercyful Fate, Dissection, Ghost, Watain, Witchcraft
Recommended track:  "Strange Gateways Beckon"

1.   Akhlys - The Dreaming I
At this point I'm going to argue that the US has the best black metal scene right now.   While Europe has seemingly had a monopoly on the genre since its inception, at some point in the last 10 years USBM went from a joke to putting out the most innovative and compelling material not just in black metal, but in all of heavy metal regardless of the subgenre.   If you would have asked me in the early 2000s, I'd probably have said Europe would still be the leader in the genre, but anyone who still seriously believes that clearly isn't keeping up with the times.
Just look at this new Akhlys record.   As a once dark ambient side project of Naas Alcameth (Nightbringer), what we have here is some top-notch, evil as fuck USBM from the majestic mountains of Colorado.   Some parts of this album I'd imagine are perfect for standing at the top of a craggy peak whilst performing a bizarre occultic ritual under an ominous starry evening sky.  Some of this is unrelentingly frantic in its intensity, and would be the perfect soundtrack to people being swallowed up by the earth and plunging headlong into Hell.
RIYL:  Lucifyre, Pestilential Shadows, Emperor, Nightbringer, Blut aus Nord
Recommended tracks: "Breath and Levitation"
You can listen to the entire album for free here.

Honorable mentions:
There was a lot of other great stuff that came out this year that didn't make it on my list that I'd still like to talk about, but I'm not sure if I have the time or patience to go through each one.   So, here's just a (lame) list of other stuff I really enjoyed this year:
Ancient Rites (Laguz), Drowning the Light (From the Abyss), Leviathan (Scar Sighted), Pyramids (A Northern Meadow), Drudkh (Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)), Liturgy (The Ark Work), Arcturus (Arcturian), Negură Bunget (Tău), Violet Cold (Desperate Dreams), Sarpanitum (Blessed Be My Brothers...), Deafheaven (New Bermuda), Árstíðir Lífsins (Aldafǫðr ok Munka Dróttinn), Vhöl (Deeper Than Sky), Kroda (GinnungaGap GinnungaGaldr GinnungaKaos), Abigail Williams (The Accuser), Ævangelist (Enthrall to the Void of Bliss), Panopticon (Autumn Eternal), Havukruunu (Havulinnaan), Enthauptung (Adirondack), Marduk (Frontschwein), Thorr-Axe (Gates of Winter), Doomentor (The Second Ceremony), Enslaved (In Times), Visigoth (The Revenant King), Crypt Sermon (Out of the Garden), Melechesh (Enki), Peste Noire (La Chaise-Dyable), Dead in the Manger (Cessation), Venom (From the Very Depths), Abstracter (Wound Empire), Carach Angren (This is No Fairytale), Abyss (Heretical Anatomy), Goat Semen (Ego Svm Satana), Shining (IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends), Dødheimsgard (A Umbra Omega), Forefather (Curse of the Cwelled), Blaze of Perdition (Near Death Revelations), Hypothermia (Svartkonst), Xibalba (Tierra y Libertad), House of Atreus (The Spear and the Ichor That Follows), Terra (Terra), Enforcer (From Beyond), Napalm Death (Apex Predator - Easy Meat), Night Demon (Curse of the Damned).

Dungeon Synth
Do you REALLY think I'd end my list of favorite albums without including some dungeon synth?   Yeah, I know it's not metal, but it's definitely in the metal "spirit", plus I guarantee you that most dungeon synth fans/artists are black metal fans as well!  Many of the dungeon synth artists themselves actually have their own black metal projects too.   It's not a coincidence that a lot of these dudes have corpsepaint in their promo pics and black metal-esque logos and album covers.   Anyway, I know you're dying to find out the best DS albums of this year, so let's get to it!

So far, Deivlforst Records has been killing it this year with some really great stuff.   I'm not going to name names, but some of the DS labels/groups out there don't really seem to discriminate when it comes to who they'll include in their roster, so their Bandcamp page has become bogged down with a bunch of crapola.   Like any music genre, the vast majority of the stuff is mediocre, and dungeon synth is no exception.   Luckily, though, there are labels and collectives that you can almost always count on to only put out high-quality material, and Deivlforst so far has proven to be one of them!

Murgrind - Inheritor of the Forest
First up is what is probably my favorite DS album of the year, Murgrind's Inheritor of the Forest Throne (either that or Grimrik's Die Mauern der Nacht, see below).  It's arguably just as good as his last album, Journey Through the Mountain (2013), but I feel like this time around the production is slightly better.  Anyway, it continues the epic story that began with the previous album, and retains the same ancient beauty and old-world atmosphere as well.   Definitely going to write more about this album in a future post, because it's absolutely killer and really sets the bar for what truly excellent dungeon synth sound like.

Grimrik - Die Mauern der Nacht
Grimrik is another amazing Deivlforst artist, although musically it is quite different from Murgrind or really any other DS artist for that matter.   I don't know if you can consider this even DS at this point.   Instead of being transported to a mystical fantasy world, Grimrik's music sends you into the cosmos.      Anyway, it took me awhile to get into his last album, Eisreich (2013), but I took to Die Mauern der Nacht immediately.   This is the soundtrack to the exploration of hulking, derelict spaceships, to arcane alien technology, and to collapsing, ancient galactic civilizations.   Same as Murgrind's Die Mauern der Nacht (see above), I planning on writing more about this album in a future post.   Anyway, this album fucking rules, and while I can't honestly say it's 100% dungeon synth, it's thus far my favorite release of the year within the "DS scene", whatever that means.

Sviatibor - Discovery of a
Blazing Emptiness
Last, I'd like to briefly discuss Sviatibor's Deivlforst Records debut, Discovery of a Blazing Emptiness.   I guess it's kind of in the same boat as Grimrik in that I don't know if this really counts as dungeon synth, but I suppose it could work!   Definitely cosmic-themed (according to his Bandcamp, this album is heavily inspired by the movie Interstellar (2014) and its OST), this album will have you floating amidst the vast comic sea in no time.   Can't wait to write more about this album later, it's pretty cool!   As a side note, it looks like he also puts out black metal under the Sviatibor moniker as well, so I'll have to remember to check that out as well.

Lord Lovidicus - The Book of
Lore - Vol. I
Moving away from Deivlforst Records, we can't end the discussion without talking about (arguably) the two major heavyweights of new-school dungeon synth, Lord Lovidicus and Erang.   Lord Lovidicus picked up sound-wise where he left off with with his last album, the amazing Wandervogel des Waldes (2014), except thematically he's incorporating a bit more "dungeon" in his dungeon synth this time around (going back to his roots or whatever) and taking heavy inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien, with a concept centered around The Silmarillion.   I haven't read the Silmarillion, but I'm assuming that this music will be a pretty good soundtrack to go along with whatever's happening in the book as you read.   While I don't feel like Book of Lore - Vol. I was quite nearly as good as Wandervogel des Waldes, it's still a badass album and wayyyy better than 99% (seriously) of the other DS out there.

Erang, not to be outdone, dropped TWO different albums this year, with The Kingdom of Erang in March and Tome X in October.   Unlike Mr. Lovidicus, all of Erang's music seems to be based on a fantasy tabletop RPG (probably D&D) campaign (set in a world known as "The Land of the Five Seasons") he was involved with when he was younger, so it's kind of cool when you listen to his music because each song offers another glimpse into this mystical realm which had such a strong impact on him as a teenager and continues to haunt his imagination as an adult.

Erang - Kingdom of Erang
However, just like Lord Lovidicus' latest album, Erang's 2015 material wasn't quite as amazing as his earlier stuff, such as Another World, Another Time (2013) and In the Land of My Imagination, I am the Only God (2014).   Kingdom of Erang is quite experimental in terms of new-school dungeon synth, and is almost transcending the genre entirely and getting into proper video game soundtracks and new age ambient stuff.   It's still definitely Erang and retains that mysterious, medieval fantasy atmosphere, not bad, but I prefer his older stuff more.

Erang - Tome X
 His other release, Tome X, is all over the place just like Kingdom of Erang.   You've got beauty, intrigue, tiptoeing through the dungeons, whimsical madness, etc.  All in all, this is definitely one of his more diverse albums, but still does an amazing job of stimulating the imagination!   I'd say Tome X is the stronger album of the two, although I'm going to need more time to explore it to really get a feel for what's going on.   All you need to know for now is that it's another fine Erang release, although I would recommend it more as music for listening to as its presented rather than as tabletop fantasy RPG background music (same goes for Kingdom of Erang as well).

Foglord - Celestial
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention an artist who's been in the game for a few years now but whose music has improved dramatically- Foglord!   While he did put out a short demo earlier in May (The Old Wanderers Tale) containing a couple of unused tracks, I'm going to focus on his excellent full-length album, Celestial, released a few months later in August.   Celestial works on a bunch of different levels- you can listen to it as music to relax to, to fall asleep and dream to, and, of course, as background music for a tabletop RPG :)  It's quite dreamy, ethereal, and minimalist, so there's plenty of room for you to let your imagination wander.   Really beautiful stuff!

Are you interested in reading my other articles about DUNGEON SYNTH??   Of course you are!   You can read ALL of Wulf's posts about DS here.


JON CAMP (US Air Force)
I've only met Jon a handful of times, but he's a really nice dude who clearly knows his extreme metal, especially when it comes to brutal death metal!   Check out his list below, there's a ton of great stuff!!

10.   Chapel of Disease - The Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art
Really awesome production and a morbid, cemetery-like vibe has kept my interest since I got this.   It's not the flashiest album of the year and is maybe a bit of a sleeper because of that.   Crank up the volume, as this sucker clocks in at an amazing DR11.

9.   Sarpanitum - Blessed be My Brothers
Really spaced out sounding progressive death metal.   If this didn't sound so much like Mithras it probably would have ranked higher, as it's very good.   The guitar melodies/solos and drumming are definitely the backbone of the album.   This is interesting music through and through.   And we're getting treated to the new Mithras in 2016.

8.   Kronos - Arisen New Era
Very catchy brutal death metal that makes me want to pump my fist and bang my head.   It's plenty technical, plenty brutal, and just plain good.

7.   Horrendous - Anareta
I'm a big Horrendous fan, but I was kind of let down by this the first couple weeks I had it.   I (finally) gave it a chance, and it has blown me away since.   These guys are incredibly talented, and they know how to make a song move.   I'm still digesting it, so it might become more of a favorite as time goes on.

6.   Scythian - Hubris in Excelsis
A blackened death/thrash scorcher!   Who needs genre tags anyway?   Great riffing, mind-blowing solos, twisted vocals with plenty of variety, and great songwriting.   A must buy for fans of extreme metal.

5.   Spectral Voice - Necrotic Doom
The best death/doom I've ever heard.   The album title says it all...this is doom and it's necrotic.   This might be the heaviest thing released this year, and I can't stop playing it.   Again, next year's full-length on Dark Descent is getting purchased as soon as it drops.

4.   Blood Incantation - Interstellar Extinction
After several listens, this bite-size morsel is hard to chew and has gotten stuck in my head.   When I tell people that I listen to technical death metal, this is what I mean!   Please get Rings of Saturn or whatever other off-the-shelf tripe out of your vocabulary and listen to technical DEATH METAL, not TECHNICAL death metal.   I'm eagerly awaiting the 2016 full-length announced by Dark Descent.

3.   Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere
Lovecraftian-themed death metal that is dark and epic.   I've listened to it enough times (too many to count) that I know the songs inside and out.   I can confidently say that these dudes didn't miss a beat writing this album.   Fantastic.

2.   Monolithe - Epsilon Aurigae 
The long wait is finally over.   Monolithe have ditched the slower portions that kind of helped them keep the funeral doom handle for a much (relatively) faster-moving sound, and they've succeeded in making some mighty fine music that doesn't fit any genre mold that I've come across.   The entire album is like the mid-section of III...very moving, engaging, dark metal with interwoven guitar melodies, unexpected shifts in mood, an epic sound, and overall stunning performances.   This could very well steal the number one spot (in my Top 10 list) from Ad Nauseam in the coming months, but with a December release it's hard to tell.   Overall, excellent!

1.   Ad Nauseam - Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est
Twisting, twisted progressive death metal with plenty of technical flair, fantastic songwriting (songs? overrated!), and an eerie backdrop.   The production job is one of the best I've heard all year, and I can't get enough of this bizarre masterpiece of mind-bending music.   To think that this is a debut...

DAN OROZCO (Asia Metalhead)
In addition to being a metal enthusiast and
all-around nice guy, Mr. Orozco is an MMA
fighter, is almost penta-lingual (English, Japanese,
Korean, Japanese Sign Language, and some
Spanish!), and runs the Asia Metalhead blog. 
Dan Orozco is arguably the leader of the expat metalheads in Seoul, and I'm happy to say that he's a good friend as well!   On top of that, he happens to be a great source of information for all things metal that are going on in East Asia (from India to Japan), so why not check out his list of favorite albums over on his site, Asia Metalhead?   It seems kind of silly/plagiarizing to just copy and paste Mr. Orozco's Top 10 on here, so I'm just going to link you to his blog so you can see for yourself!   While it's mostly non-Asian metal that ended up making his list, he does mention a couple notable albums by Asian metal bands that are worth checking out, such as new stuff by Gotsu Totsu Kotsu (Japan) and Ishtar (South Korea)!
Check it out here:


Does this dude look familiar?   Of course he does!  We just posted his interview a few days ago on here!   Because it took me forever to get the interview translated and published, while we were going over the layout and corrections to the post I realized that it was getting close to the end of the year, so I was lucky enough to get his picks for the best metal of 2015.    Check out the list below to see which records especially tortured his eardrums...

10.   Cruciamentum - Charnel Passages
Dark, brutally atmosphere psalm!!!   "Charnel Passages" is pure essence of death metal in U.K.!!

9.   Abominator - Evil Proclaimed
Aussie demonic hordes!!   Blasphemous, non-stop brutal assault.

8.   Embrace of Thorns - Darkness Impenetrable 
Greek extremists' 4th album!!   Heavy, solid, and barbarous death/black metal.

7.   Doombringer - The Grand Sabbath
Brooding, heavy, epic death/black metal with a doom metal touch!!   Impressive!!!

6.   Goat Semen - Ego Svm Satana
Debut full-length from Peruvian goat trips since 2000!!!   Evil madness sound!!!!

5.   Deiphago - Into the Eye of Satan 

Filipino Antichrist are back!!!   Primitive black/death of war!   Must get it or die motherfuckers!!!

4.   Black Witchery / Revenge - Holocaustic Death March to Humanity's Doom 
Two barbarians unite!   Total chaotic and brutal split.

3.   Revenge - Behold.Total.Rejection
Canadian Antichrist elitists rise!!   New chaotic/bestial attack!!!   Recommend.

2.   Archgoat - The Apocalyptic Triumphator
One of the best albums of 2015 without any doubts!!   Obscure black/death metal.

1.   Blasphemy - Fallen Angel of Doom (2015 re-issue)
In short, a classic war/death metal album!!   There's no need to explain any more!!!

MOON SANG-HO (문상호) (厄鬼 - Aekgwi, Misanthropic Art Productions, Misanthropic Artworks)

This dude's artwork fucking rules.   Yeah, it's kind of a rip-off of Thorncross, and yeah, his logos are kind of look like every other metal logo out there (especially those by Christophe Szpajdel) but I don't give a fuck!  This kid has immense talent!   Not only that, but I really dig his music too (see #8 on my own top 10 list above!).   Judging by his art, I'm pretty sure he listens to nothing but kvlt-as-fvck bestial black metal 99% of the time, and my suspicions were confirmed as you can see below...

10.   Selbst - An Ominous Landscape
A rising newcomer BM band from Venezuela.

9.   Herxsebet Dí Ad Vermes
I have no doubt in Herxsebet.   True Mexican cult BM.

8.   Sad / Sarkistra - Fury of the Doomsday Apostles
Both elite bands' splits are amazing.

7.   Pimeydentuoja - The Devil's Epoch
Archgoat, Beherit, Teitanblood worship sound.   Blasphemous black death metal

6.   Initiation - A Ritual of Blood, a Pact of Ashes
Rising newcomer raw BM band from USA,   Highly-infused Drowning the Light, Mutiilation, Judas Iscariot, Sargeist, I think.

5.   Belkètre - Ryan Èvn-a
Long-awaited legendary French BM.   There was no disappointment.

4.   Osculum Infame - Axis of Blood

French elite BM horde.   Killer album, for sure.

3.   Drowning the Light - From the Abyss
DTL often releases albums, and most of the albums are great.   But this album is even more amazing.

2.   Vlad Tepes - The Drakksteim Sessions
Reissue of rare music.   The value is sufficient by itself.

1.   Mgła - Exercises in Futility
I have no doubt in this Polish band.   They are always right.

Mark Bruno (It Djents webzine)
Believe it or not, It Djents is so huge in South Korea that Mr. Bruno
really can't go anywhere without hordes of fans (mostly female,
of course) crowding around him and begging for a photo.   You can't
go anywhere with this guy!!
Same as Dan Orozco (Asia Metalhead), Mr. Bruno is a strong force (or at least a loud voice :D) in the crowd of local expat metalheads, and he also happens to be one of my best friends here in Korea as well!   Because he's a writer for It Djents, it's obvious that we don't always see eye to eye when it comes to metal (or pretty much anything else, for that matter!), but don't let that stop you from checking out his list over at It Djents!   Who knows, you may find an album or two that's halfway decent among whatever drivel he's thrown up there ;)
Check it out here:

Norse Rage (ex-Groove Magazine contributor)
I have no idea what the fuck is going on in this picture, but
I think it's cool that his cat has a denim vest!!
Mr. Rage felt entitled to give us 11 instead of 10, as everyone who's seen This is Spinal Tap (1984) knows that 11 is ONE more than 10, and thus superior.   Also, he's a pretty big dude and could easily crush our heads like grapes and stuff our bodies into the nearest trash can.   Seriously though, Ian (what his parents call him whenever he manages to make it back home to good ol' North Carolina) is a super-cool dude and extremely knowledgeable about the Korean metal scene, as well as all things DOOM.

11.   Uncle Acid - The Night Creeper 
Yep.   Fuzzed out hymns to everything bad in the late 60’s.   Makes me wanna stab someone for a fucking bong rip.   Ugh.

10.   Thulcandra - Ascension Lost 
This is fucking Black Metal.   Although these guys are German, this sounds like straight mid-90’s era Dissection, but a bit more low end in the production.   Frosty, melodic, wind-swept, hate-filled.   Jon Andreas Nödtveidt and the MLO would be proud.

9.   Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction 
Deathgrind, on my list?!?!   You know these guys have come a long way.   I saw them in like 2000 with GWAR and they were just generic death metal but good.   This new shit is tight, super technical but not contrived.   Also his other “manic” vocals are one of a kind.   They show up at like 2:24 and at 4:00 in this track.

8.   Paradise Lost - The Plague Within
Holy shit this is heavy.   Never got into to hardly any of the “Peaceville 3” but these guys have dropped the bomb on what is cutting edge death/doom.   Not all gritty, there’s some soaring parts ala Type O here and there.   And a lot of Crowbar.

7.   Forgotten Tomb - Hurt Yourselves and the Ones you Love Italian...strangely!   Not much Italian stuff in my collection!   Hahaha (Sorry Emmanuele).....more black and roll than straight black metal.   Dirty, grimy, groovy, misanthropic.

6.   Ghost - Meloria 
Back from their sophomore slump, keeping the polished production but way more of those slick hooks we had on the debut.   Tight, catchy as hell 70’s occult metal.

5.   Shape of Despair - Monotony Fields 
Crushing glacial funeral doom.   Hahaha wow.   SO much atmosphere. Not for the casual doom fan that’s for sure.

4.   Nightfell - The Living Ever Mourn
This is ALSO FUCKING BLACK METAL!!!   Hahaha and doom/crust.   Some crust punks like Todd Burdette from Tragedy. Love the live feel of the drums.   Pummeling and jacked up without delving into noise ever.

3.   Arcturus - Arcturian 
Our favorite black metal space jesters return, with more artistry and not giving a fuck about being TROO than any other asshole in Norway.   I mean, if it's got ICS Vortex on clean vocals, how can it not kick total unrepentant ass? So glad to hear these fuckers again.

2.   Karyn Crisis' Gospel of the Witches - Salem's Wounds
How do you even describe this?   A blend of all heavy elements, but mostly moody, slow mournful, amazing clean female vocals and a hardcore punk angst at times. Low end by members of Immolation.   TOTALLY ORIGINAL, freshest release this year.

1.   Khemmis - Absolution
WOW. WOW. Yeah some doom, but mostly just heavy metal.   How often do you simply get to describe something as heavy metal these days?   Pentagram core, Pallbearer vocals, Thin Lizzy/Iron Maiden harmonies/leads. Hardcore group shoutouts.   This takes me back to 12 year-old Ian hearing Sabbath’s Paranoid the first time.   It does everything I want in heavy music.

Matt Ross (Fake the Future, Atlantic A.M.)

(taken from his Facebook page, reprinted here with permission)
Matt Ross is the fuckin' man.   Not only is the frontman for two rock bands (Fake the Future and Atlantic A.M.) here in Daejeon, South Korea, but he's also the GM for the new Vampire: the Requiem campaign I just joined.   Obviously, it kind of goes without saying that he's into metal as well.   Check out his list below to see what, in his opinion, were the top records this year to jam while knocking back a pint or two of blood...

10.   Wrong - Stop Giving
Given that Helmet’s recent records have left a lot to be desired, somebody had to go back and resuscitate what made their first few records so great. No, it’s not original, but damned if I didn’t listen to this EP so many times this year. Crushing tone, tight arrangements.

9.   Demon Lung - A Dracula 
A band to watch. They are heavy as hell, are tasteful with the atmospherics, and have a great vocalist. Anybody who makes a concept album based on the 70’s Mexican horror film Alucarda is cool in my book.

8.   With the Dead - With the Dead
Doom record of the year from some serious veterans coming together for a new project. Morbid and absolutely devastating in its heaviness, the way true doom must be.

7.   False - Untitled
Maybe the best USBM today for my money. Ambitious and progressive without overstaying their welcome. Somehow both tasteful and daring…a neat trick. 

6.   Deafheaven - New Bermuda 
Call me a hipster if you want but I had very little expectations for this record and I think I like it more than Sunbather by more than a little bit. I think this is the sound of a band with something to prove, namely that they aren't a flash in the pan, and I think New Bermuda makes a strong case that they've got good things ahead of them. Argue about their haircuts and Morrissey shirts all you want but there’s real weight here.

5.   Ghost - Meliora 
All hail the ABBA of heavy metal.

4.   Mutoid Man - Bleeder
These showoffs manage to keep me engaged throughout with their lightning fast riffs, off kilter rhythms, and alternately super poppy and melodic moments with their full on rages. A must for any Converge or Cave-In fan, obviously.

3.   Baroness - Purple 
Holy hell. I said I’d wait to post this list ‘til the new Baroness came out and boy was I shocked at its excellence, particularly after how much I disliked Yellow & Green, their last effort. Often gorgeous in the way the very best 70’s prog rock was capable of (when it was concerned with feel and emotion rather than just virtuosity), it is a record that is full of little twists and turns that are nonetheless satisfying and still sound like Baroness. When they go heavy, they go full battering ram to the midsection.

2.   Clutch - Psychic Warfare
All I had to do was hear X-Ray Visions once and it was all over for me.  I was in love. Even though I am so late to the Clutch party it’s sad it is clear to me that they are great geniuses and should be a much bigger act than they seem to be. This record was so good I bought a bunch of their old ones immediately and was likewise not disappointed. The riffs are so rockin’ and the lyrics are funny and strange and great. A clear dedication to great songcraft and the true weirdness of rock ‘n roll.

1.   Tribulation - Children of the Night
Hi, I’m Matt Ross, I’m 15 years old, I love Vampire: The Masquerade, I've been Dracula for Halloween about 8 times, and my favorite metal record of the year is Tribulation’s Children of the Night. Visual aesthetics aside, this record actually feels classically vampiric to me: seductive, threatening, and ominous. It’s also very fun and clearly doesn't take itself that seriously. Children of the Night is heavy on an atmosphere and is catchy as hell. We may have hit peak 70’s classic rock influence in metal here in 2015 but looking over my previous years’ lists, I can’t pretend I’m not a fan of this subgenre. It can be done well, and I think Tribulation has set a high bar with it.

Michael O'Dwyer (Seoul Film Club)
For whatever reason, Mr. O'Dwyer wasn't kvlt enough to give us a top 10, so we're sadly left with an awkward top 9.   However, he is, of course, still a die-hard metalhead and a total sweetie, so of course we were honored to have the privilege of sharing his list!   He even has some Korean metal in there as well!   Someone should probably tell him that the deal with Ghost not ACTUALLY changing singers and that it's just kind of a joke :p   Anyway, check out his picks below:

9.   Danzig - Skeletons   I'm going to admit that I really thought this album was going to be amazing. Just these insane maxed out rock/metal covers of Elvis Presley songs. I wasn't really impressed with the album and felt like he was trying too hard to sound like Elvis and it came across as an Elvis cover band than Danzig reinterpreting Elvis. The more I think about it, the more I'm disappointed with this album as the recording sounded sloppy and the songs just not inspired. I did like his version of "Satan" just for hearing Danzig work his "WHOOAAAA" into it.

8.  Method - Abstract 
Method is one of my favorite bands in and out of Korea. They've been on fire this past year and their new album is awesome! Just great fast, fun death thrash metal.

7.  Tribulation - Children of the Night
Melodic metal/Death Metal with downright catchy hooks! What the hell!?

6.   Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor
I know Marilyn Manson has taken to saying ridiculously stupid things in interviews in recent years. And he's put out a few stinkers of albums. But Pale Emperor is pretty goddamn good. Never gets as fast as a typical metal but he made a set of really intense, moody, dark songs that are great for listening at night when you can't sleep. Pale Emperor is probably his most mature, thoughtful album.

5.   Nekrogoblikon - Heavy Meta
NekroGoblin is great as they're an intense sludge/death metal band that can make fun intense songs and fun songs that have intelligent lyrics that tell a story. They deserve more recognition.

 4.   Chelsea Wolfe - The Abyss
This is another artist I was told about very recently. Very much ambient, experimental metal and I love it. It's all dark atmospheric. I love the cover art too, I'm trying to do some photography in the near future inspired by the album's cover art.)

3.   Windhand - Grief’s Infernal Flower 
I literally found out about this band and this album a few weeks ago and fell in love. It's just the sound and ambient metal I needed to hear this winter.

2.   Ghost - Meliora
I love this band. I love everything about it. I love that they concept albums, that they change the singers, and that's it's so theatrical. I love the love songs to Lucifer and just can't say enough great things about Ghost and the all the related projects the musicians from this band are in.

1.   Motörhead - Bad Magic
I kinda took Lemmy's death hard when I heard about it. My first metal concert I ever saw when I was 14 was Motörhead and Morbid Angel opening for Black Sabbath. Both those bands blew the hell out of Black Sabbath (they were in that phase between Ozzy and Dio, I don't know the name of the singer and was unimpressed after seeing Motörhead just annihilate the venue.

Well, that about wraps it up!   What did you think?   Too many lists?   Are you depressed because you missed out on so much great music, even though you probably spent the entire year thinking that THIS time around you were going to stay up to date??   Fill us in on your inner turmoil in the comments section!   Oh, and Kate MulDOOM, if you're reading this, I hope you have a great fucking night!!!! :p

Judge Dredd (left) and Wulf (right) - "Happier Times"

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