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2015: A Year In Metal - The Critics' Poll Albums 50-16

Our writers agonised over their top records of the year, and then we crunched the results. From metal’s greats to rising unknowns, here are the sounds that defined 2015...

Written by: 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

50. Macabre Omen

GODS OF WAR – AT WAR

VÁN

Macabre Omen merged Bathory with Greek BM to offer a more complex but heartfelt sound.

49. Lucifer

LUCIFER I

RISE ABOVE

The Oath’s Johanna Sadonis and Gaz Jennings (ex-Cathedral) journeyed into Luciferian wonder.

48. Hate Eternal

INFERNUS

SEASON OF MIST

Erik Rutan, death metal’s best producer, helmed one of the most powerful albums of the genre’s history.

47. Goatsnake

BLACK AGE BLUES

SOUTHERN LORD

The resurrected stoner rockers’ first album in 15 years reaffirmed their status as legends of the scene. 

46. Tremonti

CAUTERIZE

FRET12

This solo album from Alter Bridge’s guitar wizard was a treasure trove of soaring choruses and ace fretwork.

45. Svalbard

ONE DAY ALL THIS WILL END 

HOLY ROAR

A remedy to knucklehead hardcore, Svalbard tempered their throat-ripping brawl with post-rock spirit.

44. Kylesa

EXHAUSTING FIRE

SEASON OF MIST

The experimentation and old-school thrills on Kylesa’s seventh album excited fans past and present.

43. Frank Carter  & The Rattlesnakes

BLOSSOM

INTERNATIONAL DEATH CULT

The former Gallows frontman created his rawest record to date. 

42. Cancer Bats

SEARCHING FOR ZERO

BMG

The Canadian road dogs pushed through grief to produce this thrashy, life-affirming burst of energy.

41. Myrkur

M

RELAPSE

This Danish, one-woman project wove haunting strings and primal vox into stunning black metal hymns.

40. Thy Art Is Murder

HOLY WAR

NUCLEAR BLAST

Thy Art’s third album was a fire-spewing, breakdown-packing DM masterclass.

39. Royal Thunder

CROOKED DOORS

RELAPSE

Wistful balladry, dreamy psych-metal voyaging and bludgeoning hooks made for a soulful rock masterpiece.

38. Graveyard

INNOCENCE & DECADENCE

NUCLEAR BLAST

The retro-rocking Swedes trod their same, glorious path, as scuzzy garage rock collided with bluesy grooves.

37. Baroness

PURPLE

ABRAXAN HYMNS

After their near-death experience, the sludgesters laid on strokes of classic rock, melody and texture.

36. Satan

ATOM BY ATOM

LISTENABLE

A near-perfect injection of innovation and youthful élan into the pub-crawlers’ quirky take on NWOBHM.

35. Nightwish

ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL

NUCLEAR BLAST

ReVamp’s Floor Jansen was perfect for Nightwish’s heavier sound on this stunning prog metal opus.

34. Arcturus

ARCTURIAN

PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS

After a decade away, Arcturus came back with new ideas and invigorating, memorable songs.

33. Pentagram

CURIOUS VOLUME

PEACEVILLE

Virginia’s doom metal pioneers were in a reflective mood – a class act steeped in rock lore.

32. Danko Jones

FIRE MUSIC

BAD TASTE 

A masterclass in balls-out rock’n’roll with a heavy metal heart, Fire Music had riffs, hooks and lyrical genius.

31. Failure

THE HEART IS A MONSTER

XTRA MILE

Failure’s comeback master-class in alt-rock dynamism was laced with melodic beauty and chilling suspense.

30. Ahab

THE BOATS OF THE GLEN CARRIG

NAPALM

Ahab perfected their formula of progressively minded, crushingly fathomless funereal doom.

29. Shape Of Despair

MONOTONY FIELDS

SEASON OF MIST 

This ghostly masterpiece from the Finnish legends was a glacial voyage through the outer limits of sorrow.

28. Cattle Decapitation

THE ANTHROPOCENE EXTINCTION

METAL BLADE

Who knew wickedly brutal, putrid deathgrind could be this catchy? 

27. Enslaved 

IN TIMES

NUCLEAR BLAST 

Moving even further from their BM roots, Enslaved brought us a cosmic platter of progressive ferocity.

26. Halestorm

INTO THE WILD LIFE

ATLANTIC

With skyscraper vocals and crisp production, Lzzy Hale’s crew delivered their slickest set to date.

25. Therapy?

DISQUIET

AMAZING RECORD CO

Therapy? released a batch of killer songs that sounded like an all-new Greatest Hits collection.

24. Soulfly

ARCHANGEL

NUCLEAR BLAST

An avalanche of mammoth riffs and a belligerent attitude, this was Max and co’s best effort in years.

23. Refused

FREEDOM

EPITAPH

Refused’s reinvigorated, socially charged display of post-hardcore made a fine addition to their legacy.

22. The Prodigy

THE DAY IS MY ENEMY

COOKING VINYL

Laced with big beats and menace, the Prodigy’s sixth album was another genre-defying knockout.

21. Between The Buried And Me

COMA ECLIPTIC

METAL BLADE

BTBAM streamlined their brilliant ideas into a sleek, beautiful prog metal journey.

20. Grave Pleasures

DREAMCRASH

SONY

Having pretty much kickstarted an underground resurgence of 80s post-punk and goth, Beastmilk returned in a new guise with a darker, more garage-y sound that lacked the immediacy of 2013’s Climax but deepened frontman Kvohst’s alluringly apocalyptic vision. Dreamcrash’s skeletal grooves seemed to amplify a cold shiver of the soul until they became exhilarating, edge-of-precipice rallying cries.

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