As the Earth and the world of metal complete yet another revolution of the sun… it’s time for HMO’s Top Albums of the Year! This is the second end-of-year list to feature at HMO and, like the proverbial second album, it has proven most difficult. 2014 had some very clear outliers but in 2015 there was very little to separate the albums on my list. Placing them in order was a challenge and whittling it down to ten was tough. As a result, there were some especially painful omissions: Europe’s War of Kings; Australasia’s Notturno; Un’s The Tomb of All Things; Possession’s 1585-1646 and Macabre Omen’s Gods of War – At War. In a weaker year any of these albums might have made the cut but, much as it pains me, I couldn’t include them here.
So, without further ado… the list! Drum roll please.
THE HMO TOP ALBUMS OF 2015
NUMBER TEN: Obscene Entity – Lamentia
Obscene Entity don’t reinvent any wheels on their debut album but they do kick the absolute fuck out of them. Tight, accomplished, well-written and intensely performed death metal. It’s impossible to tear your ears away from this.
[Obscene Entity – Euphoric Vanity]
NUMBER NINE: The Antichrist Imperium – The Antichrist Imperium
David Gray and Matt Wilcock continue the work of their former band Akercocke with their new project The Antichrist Imperium. And it’s the devil’s work! The dual vocals of Sam Bean and Sam Loynes add a sexy eclecticism to proceedings but Wilcock’s guitar performance is the star here. He riffs and solos like a man… umm… possessed.
[The Antichrist Imperium – Elegy]
NUMBER EIGHT: Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Paradise Lost go deathier and doomier: reintroducing some long-abandoned extreme elements from their early days. The added fire and brimstone of the band’s delivery mixes with the band’s more established melodic goth metal to ensure this is less a throwback and more a new beginning. Few bands of their vintage sound this vital.
[Paradise Lost – Beneath Broken Earth]
NUMBER SEVEN: Mgła – Exercises in Futility
As soon as you hear the opening, ringing chords you know this album is going to be the real deal. It’s black metal in the most classic sense: frosty and nihilistic. The music expresses a bleak sense of hopelessness but it’s also strangely inspiring. So never mind your broken dreams or the shitey sky hanging over you, just enjoy this new chapter in the handbook of classic black metal.
[Mgła – Exercises in Futility IV]
NUMBER SIX: Shrines – Shrines
Matt Adnett (Obscene Entity) and Sam Loynes (The Antichrist Imperium) make the list twice by teaming up for Shrines’ impressive and moreish debut album. A couple of right list-hogs! Myriad styles and influences weave and thread throughout the album and Loynes’ idiosyncratic vocals make Shrines one of the most hypnotic and magnetic listens of the year. A very promising debut indeed.
[Shrines – Ariadne’s Thread]
NUMBER FIVE: Saxon – Battering Ram
It might be tempting to call this “business as usual” for the still-prolific metal legends but there’s magic at work on album No. 21. Thanks to Hell’s Andy Sneap, this is the best-sounding album they’ve put out in aeons and the tracks are all well-crafted and fully-realised: the veteran band finding the perfect intersection between their Hard and Fast metal pounding and their uncanny knack for melody. And the best of it is, you know Saxon will be back with more of this in a year or two. All hail the old school!
[Saxon – Battering Ram]
NUMBER FOUR: Avatarium – The Girl with the Raven Mask
Avatarium’s 2013 debut was a big act to follow but they pull it off by expanding their sound into a glorious technicolour of classic rock. The whole band sound like they’ve been allowed more input here: there’s Heeps of Hammond, a vibe right out of Purple’s Soldier of Fortune, awesome Blackmore-esque leads and it’s all topped off with Jennie-Ann Smith’s magnificent and sumptious vocals. But the whole thing rests, as always, on Leif Edling’s songwriting wizardry and bottomless well of quality riffs.
[Avatarium – Hypnotized]
NUMBER THREE: Tribulation – The Children of the Night
Sweden has produced more than its fair share of quality metal bands over the years and Tribulation thrillingly combine elements from a whole bunch of them: the classic rock and occultism of Ghost; the snarling danger of Watain; and the crusty, dug-up goth and swagger of In Solitude’s Sister. I knew I had to get this the moment I heard the opening track but, as well as being immediate, The Children of the Night has a lot of depth. It rewards repeat listens and I keep finding new things to like.
[Tribulation – Strange Gateways Beckon]
NUMBER TWO: Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Earlier in the year I would not have predicted a top spot on the podium going to Faith No More. I was not a fan of the initial “singles” from the album but even the best Faith No More albums took many listens to reveal themselves and Sol Invictus follows that tradition. The album just oozes confidence, wit and theatricality. It’s a more modern and mature sound and even the tracks I thought were crap at first now sound like old favourites. Classic Faith No More then! Reunions don’t count for anything unless they’re backed up with new music and Faith No More have made their reunion count with Sol Invictus.
[Faith No More – Sunny Side Up]
But there can be only one! And the HMO Top Album of 2015 award goes to…
NUMBER ONE: My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
My Dying Bride’s recent albums have been more solid than remarkable but they’ve pulled off an incredible return to form with Feel the Misery. It’s their first in 15 years to feature original guitarist Calvin Robertshaw and his return seems to have brought new life to the band. The album heaves with colossal riffs, profound lyrics and a rich atmosphere that transports you right back to the glory days of the “Peaceville Three”. Of that unholy trinity, I’ve always preferred Paradise Lost and Anathema but My Dying Bride have surpassed both with this masterpiece. And delivered the best metal album of 2015 while they’re at it.
[My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery]
HMO TOP ALBUMS BY YEAR
2015: My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
2014: Voices – London