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20 Best Metal Albums of 2015

Nineties legends and future-minded grinders: The year in heavy

20 Best Metal Albums of 2015

Illustration by Brittany Falussy

Metal grew out more than it grew up this year. Baroness got their groove back with anthemic triumphalism, "blackgaze" groups like Deafheaven and Bosse-de-Nage reveled in ecstasy and agony, Iron Maiden wrote their longest-ever epic, and Faith No More returned after 17 years with three-part harmonies. Here's the year in heavy.

20 Best Metal Albums of 2015
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High on Fire, ‘Luminiferous’

The seventh full-length by Oakland's stoner-metal warriors sees vocalist Matt Pike fighting the very real demon of alcoholism. Luminiferous is the first High on Fire album written and performed by an entirely sober Pike, which some fans worried would dull the shirtless wonder's edge. But the music tells a different story — a ferocious blast of charging guitars, blasting drums and Pike's inimitable hoarse roar. Tracks like "Carcoas" and "Slave The Hive" are breakneck assaults, while moodier moments like "The Falconist" and "The Cave" have practiced precision: Pike's drying out has revealed a focused predator. C.K.

20 Best Metal Albums of 2015
3

Tau Cross, ‘Tau Cross’

Tau Cross made as confident a metal debut as we've seen in ages — but the band's three-plus-decade collective pedigree makes them a bit of a special case. The international quartet features two survivors of the Eighties underground: bassist-vocalist Rob "The Baron" Miller of British crust-punk originators Amebix and drummer Michel "Away" Langevin of Québécois sci-fi-thrash machine Voivod. No lazy supergroup effort, Tau Cross stake out clear aesthetic terrain — in this case, a melding of moody, Killing Joke–style postpunk and anthemic, post-Motörhead hard rock. Miller's lyrics can skew cornball ("Night falls; these walls are leaking memories again"), but he sells the material with conviction, singing in a gravelly, yet determinedly melodic croak. H.S.

20 Best Metal Albums of 2015
2

Faith No More, ‘Sol Invictus’

The alterna-metal square pegs return 18 years since their last LP and still refuse to fit anywhere. Though you could fill an Ozzfest and an All Tomorrow's Parties with the bands they've influenced, Faith No More instead lean into post-punk rhythmic hypnosis, goth-tinged atmosphere, castanet-flecked Morricone metal, three-part harmonies and one barking anthem featuring a metaphor about breakfast cereal. Vocalist Mike Patton has spent the last two decades extending his throat into a versatile instrument that's at home gurgling moist splatter-jazz alongside John Zorn or crooning silky Italian pop with Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini, and now he absolutely floats above the monolithic grooves of drummer Mike Bordin and bassist Billy Gould, still a hard-hitting, sui generis rhythm section 30 years on. C.W.

20 Best Metal Albums of 2015
1

Marilyn Manson, ‘The Pale Emperor’

With The Pale Emperor, Marilyn Manson finally realized the goth-metal album he had been threatening to make since he declared himself the "Antichrist Superstar" back in '96. All he needed was a little restraint. Where the Manson of yore reveled in over-the-top, garish showmanship — the first words he bellowed on his 1994 debut were "I am the God of Fuck" — the stately Pale Emperor, age 46, would rather swagger his way through eerie textures, primal drums and whining guitar to whisper about feeling lonely before, naturally, dubbing himself the "Mephistopheles of Los Angeles" on one of the record's standouts. Moody tracks like "Third Day of a Seven Day Binge" and "Odds of Even" serve as treatises on the after-effects of decadence, while the disco-ish "Deep Six" is the best dance-floor banger he's come up with since "The Beautiful People." Gone, though, are the thumping signposts of nu-metal (save a couple of cheeky one-liners), replaced instead with echoes of Bauhaus, Bowie and, most surprising, the blues. For once, Manson's true voice — husky, morose, full — shines through. Our boy's all grown up. K.G.

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