Last Rites’ Best Of 2015 – Combined Staff List

Hails and nails, fellow howlers at the moon. It’s time once again to gather about yon round table to celebrate/dispute the Kingdom of Heavy Metal’s top albums of the year. Having recently divulged our picks for favorite album artwork and top EPs, it’s now time to jump into the boiling bedlam that is The Collective Last Rites Staff Top 25 Albums of the Year.

Similar to previous campaigns, we locked ourselves in a room for a month with nothing but stacks and stacks and STACKS of promos, gallons of mead and ale, CapriSuns (with silly straws), and approximately 400 boxes of Samoas from our local chapter of The Girl Scouts. The following list of champions is what managed to survive the tournament. Again, if your favorite(s) is/are missing, it’s probably because we sabotaged their melee with nerf lances and balsa polearms. Blame the unscrupulous intern we brought in from The Vale of Cheatinborough.

As always, we would love to see how our readers’ lists stack up against ours, and we encourage you to throw glorifications and insults alike in the comments below. Individual staff lists will begin on Monday, December 14th.

We would also like to extend a very earnest thank you to everyone who reads our work, participates through comments, runs with our Facebook pack, or chases us on the Twitter. We sincerely hope 2015 was as good to you as humanly possible, and we look forward to marching into 2016 at your side.

The Last Rites Crew

Awake the iron!


• • • • •


“If I had to sell you on this album with one song, however, “Horus the Avenger” would be the choice, as it represents everything great and glorious about heavy metal. The riffs gallop and chug; the bass drums rumble in your chest; the melodies writhe like cobras; the chorus soars like all those other choruses you read about; and if all that wasn’t enough, the band throws in an interlude that’s fast as a god-damned shark, if you catch my drift.” [JEREMY MORSE]

Released: Cruz del Sur Music, October 2nd


• • • • •


The Insolent is a true AAA in a year that so far has seen a dearth of quality. It has, essentially, something to please almost every metal fan in some way, though it’s careful not to pander to any single one. Antigama definitely has another bona fide classic on their hands. And barring nine other albums coming out that are even half this good (spoiler: that won’t happen), this one’s an automatic top-tenner. ” [CHRIS REDAR]

Released: Selfmade God Records, May 7th


• • • • •


“In the end, Luminiferous is a fine record, even a return to form of sorts, and most fans will find exactly what they are looking for on it. However, there is no denying that there is not much on this record that High On Fire has not done before, and in many cases, done better. Whether or not that matters is for you to decide. Few bands are able to keep it fresh for fifteen years, and of those that do, keeping it fresh too often means losing most of what you liked them for in the first place. High on Fire might be bringing more or less the same thunder they’ve always brought, but they’re still bringing it like they mean it.” [JEREMY MORSE]

Released: Entertainment One June 23rd


• • • • •


“High flying, solo- and lead-ridden, reverb- and delay-drenched, keyboard-enhanced, click-drummed gold. By the time “By Virtuous Reclamation” reaches the first of what feels like about 250 insanely memorable lead motifs, it’s damn near impossible to resist the album’s infectiously melodic nature. But when the rhythm guitars do their best Trey Azagthoth impression, sliding up and down the fret board both loosely and bluntly, it becomes hard to resist the album’s neck wrecking and brutal side. In short, it’s just plain hard to resist.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Willowtip Records February 17th


• • • • •


If you are familiar with the work of Austin Lunn, aka Panopticon, there should be no surprise that this year’s album found its way onto our year-end list. Characterized as one of the more prolific acts in the realm of American black metal, Panopticon’s music is so much more than just one label or genre, it is first and foremost a privileged insight into one man’s introspections and his reflections regarding his reality and surroundings.

We can, of course, come up with labeling words for the sake of a potential listener who hasn’t had a chance to listen to Lunn’s work – atmospheric, melodic, folk, North, nature, philosophy, spirituality – but the sum of all the parts does not always equal the whole. In order to fully understand Autumn Eternal, one must realize that this is a single piece in a longer journey and that “the whole” also lies in previous works and albums yet to come.

Autumn Eternal is an integral part of a continuing musical mural, and lucky for us, each new piece shines new light into Lunn’s creative narration that’s wrapped in the framework of some of the best (black) metal of the last couple of years. [MIRE TRAVAR]

Released: Bindrune Recordings October 16th


• • • • •


“Heavy metal is chock full of heroically persistent artists that have earned more spotlight than they’ll probably ever get. Thy Catafalque is among the most deserving, having laid out a spotless discography of peerless avant-garde metal over more than a decade. With Sgùrr, Tamás Kátai translates another chapter of his life and its attendant questions into amazing music. He’ll share his highs and lows and faith and doubt and we’ll find consistency there with our own. It’s just heavy metal, in the end, but once again, Thy Catafalque makes it feel like Life distilled into a 52 minute epic adventure.” [LONE WATIE]

Released: Season of Mist October 16th


• • • • •


“But that’s really the key with Enslaved. You need some time to unlock it. To appreciate the syncopations, the chord progressions, the harmonies. To groove to Grutle’s bass, headbang to Cato’s beats, and space out to Arve’s solos. In Times is an album that is absolutely going to reward the time you spend with it.” [KEITH ROSS]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records March 6th


• • • • •


“Unlike too many of its Very Serious peers, Abyssal backs up its tar-black aesthetic with tremendous riffs, unexpected ambient and atmospheric passages, and a canny sense of naturalistic songwriting. Where a band like Ulcerate has recently tended to be too transparent in pulling the listener again and again to one side solely for the trick of dropping that seasick twist and yanking her back to the other side, Abyssal’s songs breathe more openly. They still know their way around tension and release, however, as the glorious melodic climax of “The Cornucopian” proves. Though all the instrumentation clatters and bleats and hammers as one would expect from this sort of blackened, lurching death metal, the drumming is inventive and thoughtful throughout, as on the jazz-leaning, gently tripping accents in the first few minutes of “Chrysalis”.” [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

Released: Profound Lore Records June 23rd


• • • • •


The Children of the Night digs deep into the alt-rock subgenres, it’s true, but there’s still a bared claws, gnashing teeth attitude about the music, and not just because Johannes Andersson’s vocals are throat-rendingly aggressive. This isn’t a laid-back jam album, and it’s not a navel-gazing contemplation piece either. The whole band digs into the music with vengeance; listen to “The Motherhood of God” and think about how much less impact it would have if, say, Fields of the Nephilim played it.” [KEITH ROSS]

Released: Century Media Records April 20th



• • • • •


“So here I am, 750 words later and still not feeling like I’ve done this album justice. Such is the ups-and-downs of music journalism. They can’t all be zingers, I guess. Sometimes, an album just turns you into a total fanboy incapable of rational thought. Yeah. I’m gonna go with that. You are hereby strongly recommended and highly encouraged to turn off your critical thinking mechanisms, let Blind Guardian take you Beyond the Red Mirror, and simply bask in its musical glory.” [DAVE PIRTLE]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records January 30th


• • • • •



Seems like that old adage should be a given for any band interested in playing this style, but too often these days the riff seems to exist simply as an obligation, not as a centerpiece. Luckily, everything about album number three from these pulverizers reaffirms and sanctifies heaviness by crushing the listener into mucilage right from the gate. The title track here alone could crack a mountain; its opening rumbles and bolt-throws as well as the masters of war themselves. And “In Sickness and in Death” might be the heaviest thing to hit this planet since that asteroid strike some 65 million years ago. Sayonara, Headbanglasaurus.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: 20 Buck Spin November 6th


• • • • •


“The album, if you have not noticed, is called Feel the Misery. Take a minute and let that sink in: Feel. The. Misery. If you were trying to write a parody album of maudlin doom/death, you could plumb the most sopping wet depths of Robert Smith’s and Morrissey’s psyches and never come up with a title better than Feel the Misery. Call it masterful trolling or call it canny self-critique, but what matters is that Feel the Misery is a tremendous righting of the ship after the career low point that was A Map of All Our Failures.” [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

Released: Peaceville Records September 18th



• • • • •


“I’ve got a question for you: Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Have you howled your burning freedom loud enough to split the sky? Have you tasted the blood-red marrow of creation? Do you remember the first time heavy metal sank its teeth in you? The feeling that you had tapped into something bigger than yourself and bigger than the musicians who had channeled it? Bigger than Jesus, heavier than God, and brighter than a thousand suns?

I can’t guarantee Enki will bring you back to that place, but by hell and damnation, it does for me.” [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records February 27th


• • • • •


“Epic doom will likely never be the apple of heavy metal’s eye. It’s too slow, too stubbornly rooted to the past, too… cleanly sung. And it’s fickle, too. Bands like Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and Solstice have never been all that stable, so fans often exercise a dizzying amount of perseverance when it comes to waiting for their next bender. That’s precisely the sort of thing that makes a release like Out of the Garden so timely. It’s been two years since Procession’s To Reap Heavens Apart. Two years since Solstice’s Death’s Crown is Victory. Two years since Atlantean Kodex’s The White Goddess. We have been very patient in our lingering and hoping to feel yet another epic doom haymaker to the jaw, and with Crypt Sermon’s towering debut, that lull has finally come to an end.

Get fucking epic.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Dark Descent Records February 24th


• • • • •


“Many bands reunite to cash in on a long-building legacy, and far be it from me to blame them. Satan, however, still had heaps of things to sing, say, and play, and if they were concerned with adding to their legacy or getting some stamps of approval, it would come through negatively in the music. Even so, it’s hard to not be a tad amazed by their resurrection, especially as it continues. It’s one thing to strike gold with one post-reunion album; those might have been long-developing song ideas inside any of the five band members’ heads. But another album that sees the band still advancing and growing? That just isn’t supposed to happen, friends. Thankfully, it did.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Listenable Records October 2nd


• • • • •


“I could dissect every song on Apex Predator in ten different ways, riff by riff, line by line, in terms of production or performance. But the fact remains this: Napalm Death may very well be the greatest extreme metal band of our time, perhaps of all time. Apex Predator may quite seriously be their best record, and if it isn’t, by some microscopic margin, then it’s still on equal footing with anything they’ve done in the past two decades. This is the sound of extremity; this is the sound of everything in metal done right.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Century Media Records January 27th



• • • • •


“As predictable as it may seem, Mgla’s style of songwriting will have ninety nine percent of modern black metal bands eating its dust as they’re left standing on the side of the Autobahn attempting to reinvent the wheel. Isn’t it ironic that one of the most unique sounding bands of this decade has achieved greatness by simply not attempting too many unique things at all and merely sticking with what works? That may not be entirely true, as there are plenty of “aesthetically” orthodox albums recently that could put even the most caffeinated of us to sleep (stop pretending that bands like Marduk and Watain excite you). But perhaps Mgla’s ability to captivate comes simply from the fact that their hearts really are in it. That’s right… members M. and Darkside hold their brand of nihilism sincerely in the innermost center of their precious aortas. How’s that for a paradox?” [KONRAD KANTOR]

Released: Northern Heritage Records September 4th


• • • • •


“From the get go with album opener “The Nihilist”, Horrendous has upped its game. The production is an improvement over that of Ecdysis, retaining the oomph while intensifying the clarity of each instrument, a prerequisite in putting a band at the top of this genre. The songwriting, what I’m looking for the most, is excellent with a seamless blend of NWOBHM, progressive metal, and with moments of mildly brutal Swedish death metal that pepper the album.” [DAVE SCHALEK]

Released: Dark Descent Records October 27th


• • • • •


“Fortunately, The Book of Souls, once again, throws down the goods. A flood of goods. The sort of goods that sustain the faith and unquestionably deliver that comforting blanket we’ve grown so used to wrapping ourselves in when we need an escape. Sure, the band’s methods and how it’s delivered are brazenly familiar, but we really wouldn’t have it any other way.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Parlophone September 4th


• • • • •


“Those riffs, though. No offense, but if the 4:40 mark of “The Desolate Damned” and 7:45 into the title cut don’t make you feel like you just took five across the lip from a 30ft Fred G. Sanford, you might want to consider turning in your “I Am a Decent Human Being” card and just jump into a raging tire fire already.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Profound Lore Records October 23rd


• • • • •


“…Obsequiae’s melodies are now greatly enhanced by the incorporation of the medieval harp, courtesy of Spanish musician Vicente La Camera Mariño. His presence is immediately felt as a dynamic, natural progression of Obsequiae’s sound; Mariño’s harp takes the place of Anderson’s acoustic guitar playing in short passages that pepper Aria Of Vernal Tombs, solidifying what was already a wonderful approach to the atmosphere.” [DAVE SCHALEK]

Released: 20 Buck Spin May 26th


• • • • •


“I ain’t about to step away from this review with a bold statement akin to “ANY fan of Amorphis will be able to walk away from Under the Red Cloud completely satisfied” (there’s an asshole on every block, right?), but I will say if you appreciate what the band’s been doing for the last decade or so, you’ll find plenty to sink your teeth into with this record. Dynamic, dramatic, contagious, moody, melodic, elegant, roaring: These are all very suitable descriptors for Under the Red Cloud, but this is still the sort of work that’s best suited for those who understand that Amorphis remain more of a rock ‘n’ roll band who’ve become particularly skilled at blending in elements of death and progressive metal. If you happen to be one of those people, do not miss this wonderful record.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records September 4th


• • • • •


“With such a powerful set of records behind them, you couldn’t really hold it against Nile if they chose to call an end to their ithyphallic musical crusade. But we should be glad they haven’t. Nothing else sounds quite like Nile, and What Should Not Be Unearthed shows that they have plenty of absolutely monstrous music still to come.” [KEITH ROSS]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records August 28th


• • • • •


“There is no band that does melancholic metal better than Paradise Lost – their ability to inject energy into sadness and vice versa is simply unrivalled. Lesser gothic or death/doom bands succumb to the Morrissey-ish maudlin, or they fail to temper their downtrodden misery with appropriate melody or propulsion and the whole becomes an exercise in plodding mediocrity. A few others have come close, sure, but no one has yet beaten the masters at their own game. By combining Paradise Lost’s strengths into one conglomerate of darkness, The Plague Within resets the bar that this band set for itself decades ago. Better than Draconian, better than Gothic, Plague is the best album that Paradise Lost has released in a twenty-five year career thusfar. It’s their finest hour, undoubtedly one of 2015’s best, and as both, it’s hands-down a contender for album of the year.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Century Media Records May 29th



• • • • •


“In the end, the degree of necessity for a record plugged as hard as Tau Cross depends on a number of considerations. Some may expect to love it based on principle alone; how could an album involving members of Amebix, Voivod, Misery and War//Plague be anything short of great? Others may trudge into the foray with an itchy trigger finger simply because that’s their gut reaction to nearly anything that receives extensive hype. The bottom line is this: Fusing varying levels of crust with death, black or whatever-the-hell metal is very fashionable these days, and the good has quickly become outnumbered by a near endless sea of d-beating d-bags who are about as interesting as last week’s yard clippings. Given this grim truth, it’s great to uncover an album that does a wonderful job of showcasing such a wide depth of influence, experience and talent. Tau Cross’s debut delivers a fresh take on a deep-rooted design that’s honestly more relevant today than it’s ever been, and that’s great news for mongrels both old and new alike.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Relapse Records May 15th


• • • • •

Posted by Last Rites


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.