I am sure I can’t be the only one saying this, but 2015 flew by incredibly fast. It was far too full of fantastic releases all around the heavy metal genres to narrow it down to only five, but that of course is my toughest job at the end of every year. I was going to try and publish Geoff Tate’s Queensryche – “Frequency Unknown” as the best album of the year, but even in my most smart-assery moments, I just couldn’t do that. So as every year in the past, the ranking here reflects my personal opinion on songwriting, lyrics, and overall sound. However, I also include play counts on the more difficult choices (like trying to rank the top 5). So throughout the year, these were my favourite releases. If there are some new names on here, please check out these albums! If anyone ever says that metal is dead, they are not looking hard enough!
What can I say? Marius Danielsen took a line-up of my dreams and made a killer metal opera – OF COURSE it is on my list. Legend of Valley Doom features names like Edu Falaschi (ex-Angra, Almah), Elisa C. Martin (Hamka, ex-Dark Moor, ex-Fairyland), Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland), Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Jimmy Hedlund (Falconer), Barend Courbois (Blind Guardian), Mike LePond (Symphony X), and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire). Are you excited yet? Well you should be. If you are a fan of metal operas, larger than life arrangements, fantasy story lines, and artwork that would make Manowar jealous, you have got to get your hands on this album!
Songs to check out: “Raise Your Shields”, “Fallen Heroes”
One of the most anticipated albums of this year for me absolutely did not disappoint. All too often fans get caught up in minuscule details about what a band may be conveying in a line of lyrics that they actually stop enjoying the music for what it is. Power metal is supposed to be full of fantasy, uplifting tunes with great keyboards, killer riffs and speed metal guitar solos, but most of all it should be enjoyed. Gloryhammer lets fans relax and laugh along with hilarious lyrics, while still kicking your ass with amazing power metal music at the same time. I mean, the album is set in the future (1992) and there is a massive war raging on the galaxy. The story told in this album is full of wizards, space knights of Crail, and the might of Zargothrax. If that isn’t power metal enough for you, you probably shouldn’t be reading this article.
Songs to check out: “Legend of the Astral Hammer”, “Apocalypse 1992”
Orden Ogan is ranked up there with my favourite power metal bands, but with the amount of plays I have built up for this album, it is shocking to think that it was released this past year. I know ‘Ravenhead’ inside and out; every note and every lyric, and still to this day have songs stuck in my hand randomly reminding me to listen to the album again. I said back in January of 2015, this release set the bar extremely high for the year’s power metal releases. ‘Ravenhead’ is full of larger than life choruses, heavy, intricate drum and bass, fantastic guitar work, and emotional lyrics that really sink deep into any listener. Frequently compared to Blind Guardian, as the German metal scene is probably the most competitive today, I would argue that the comparison is no longer applicable. The band has grown into themselves so well over the past few years that they are setting themselves apart from that need entirely.
Songs to check out: “Here At The End Of The World”, “Sorrow is Your Tale”
Judicator is composed of some of the hardest working people in the U.S. metal world, and are creating a new standard for U.S. Power Metal (for all of you striving musicians out there… look this way). 2015 marked the release of their third full length album, ‘At the Expense of Humanity’ and I was absolutely blown away. This release tells an intense story of the passing of front-man John Yelland‘s brother as he lost his battle with cancer. The first two releases focused on historical concepts which is quite common in the power metal world, but a strong, emotional, and heart-wrenching story such as this… well let’s just say I would have never imagined such an amazing album coming from such saddening subject matter. This is definitely the most mature and well thought-out album Judicator has released, and I can not wait to see what the future brings for the band.
Songs to check out: “Coping Mechanism”, “At The Expense Of Humanity”
It never fails. The fangirl comes out of me with every Powerwolf release and ‘Blessed & Possessed’ is not any different. I don’t even feel bad, and do you want to know why? Since I discovered this German power metal powerhouse, I have been talking about them with everyone I know; and I must add – have been thanked by a ton of people for suggesting this band. One of the beautiful things about Powerwolf is hearing their progression over the years. The earlier years are dark and doomy, while the later years are bombastic and full of religious lyrics and imagery, while the music stays relatively repetitive. However, ‘Blessed & Possessed’ in particular, is a step up from their previous release, while staying very true to their roots. This album features more intricate drum patterns, harder and heavier guitar riffs, and all around faster tempos compared to previous albums. Combine that with the operatic vocal style, the traditional pipe organs, and the Latin chanting, and you have one fantastic release. But in all honesty, I wouldn’t expect less from Powerwolf. And frankly my friends, you shouldn’t expect anything less from me than naming Powerwolf‘s latest release as my album of the year.
Songs to check out: “Army Of The Night”, “Christ & Combat”, “Let There Be Night”