2015: A Year In Metal - The Critics' Poll Albums 5-1
The sounds that defined 2015 continued...
Merlin Alderslade, Jason Arnopp, Oliver Badin, Joe Daly, Malcolm Dome, Eleanor Goodman, Stephen Hill, Dom Lawson, Dave Ling, Edwin McFee, Morat, Luke Morton, Tom O’Boyle, Dayal Patterson, Adam Rees, Natasha Scharf, Jonathan Selzer, Holly Wright
5. Paradise Lost
THE PLAGUE WITHIN
There are few experiences more satisfying than witnessing a legendary metal band return to their very best form. Having taken a fair few stylistic detours in their past, Paradise Lost have been churning out great records for ages now, but The Plague Within still took everyone by surprise. Heavier, doomier and more resolutely grim than anything the British veterans have released since their early days, this was a reaffirmation of values, vitality and prowess. With vocalist Nick Holmes in a peerless, guttural mode no doubt reignited by his addition to the ranks of death metal supergroup Bloodbath, he and his bandmates delivered a career-best tour de force of balls-out heaviness, stately sufferance and epic grandeur. From the brooding No Hope In Sight to the devastating denouement that was Return To The Sun, Paradise Lost’s 14th opus was simply this unhappy clan’s greatest album to date.
Sweden’s favourite ghouls returned with their third album, proving once again there’s more to this band than theatrical gimmicks and the questionable truth about their ever-changing frontman. More subtle in its execution than the bells-and-whistles, kitchen sink approach of Infestissumam, Meliora not only delivered another collection of creepy-yet-catchy odes destined to be hits onstage, but their guitar-focused steer threw up an extra treat in the form of classic riffs and thumping, rousing sermons. From the opening eerie strains of Spirit to the closing, haunting, choral-inflected goodbye of Deus In Absentia, Meliora perfectly balanced Ghost’s uncanny and unholy knack for a sense of foreboding with a stained-glass sense of optimism. Whatever you may think about Ghost’s gimmick, one thing rings true yet again: they know how to write a damn good song, and Meliora has them to spare.
From the gasoline-soaked roar of X-Ray Visions through to paint-peeling belters such as Firebirds and Noble Savage, Psychic Warfare saw the Maryland rockers notch a blistering return to the boogie-powered brawling of their early days. Leaner and sleazier than 2013’s Earth Rocker, the band’s 11th album conjured a ridiculously infectious backdrop of barrelhouse grooves and spiritualised, shoutout choruses for Neil Fallon’s paranoia-drenched alternate reality of outcasts, witches, mythological beasts and even the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Clutch reached deep into the heart of the American consciousness by roaming amongst its lost highways and the surreal inhabitants populating its psychic cul-de-sacs. Steeped in a siege of locomotive-force tempos and wall-trembling riffs, Psychic Warfare proved that if there’s a mightier rock band in the universe, it sure as shit ain’t on this planet.