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: Jonathon Besanko’s Top Albums of 2015

By on December 23, 2015

Jon BesankoWhat a year 2015 has been. This year has seen a wealth of remarkable releases, both locally and internationally. From new albums from my favourites bands, to the discovery of new acts, and further to all the new bands who have toured here in Australia for the first time ever, 2015 has been quite the ride. It’s been great to watch the homegrown metal scene in Australia continue to grow and evolve with bands like Orpheus Omega, Silent Knight, In Malice’s Wake, and others I sadly didn’t have the space to fit in, putting out some exceptional albums this year. Internationally, the power metal world reigned king for me; with many of favourite bands putting out records that destroyed the competition, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see what 2016 will hold, and with new releases from the likes of Rotting Christ announced, it’s already looking to be a good one. But alas, on to the list (in no particular order)!

The List

Conquer & Command artworkSilent Knight — Conquer & Command

This year has yielded some absolutely jaw-dropping power metal albums, and Perth’s Silent Knight have this year given us one of the genre’s best with their second full-length album, ‘Conquer & Command’. Channeling the power metal bands of the past few decades, Silent Knight return with the follow up to their superb debut album ‘Masterplan’ (which also found itself situated on my Best Of 2013 list). ‘Conquer & Command’ is everything you could hope for from a traditional power metal record. The solos are sharp, the riffs are sharper, and the vocals, lyrics, and all round performances are spot on the whole way through. This album packs real punch. Silent Knight only continue to surprise and impress me the more they mature as a group, and if ‘Conquer & Command’ is only a taste of what’s still to come with these guys, bring on the next few years, I say! Check out “Empty Threat”.

UTA Time Stands StillUnleash The Archers — Time Stands Still

Unleash The Archers are a band I have followed intently ever since I first discovered them on YouTube with their song “General Of The Dark Army”. Already a fan of their earlier music and of their style, I was keen to hear what the new album would hold. ‘Time Stands Still’ assuredly blows all previous efforts clean out of the water. At every corner of this album there are unexpected twists and turns. Where at some stages, you’re met with the familiar and welcome sight of high-soaring power metal majesty, at others, you’re brought it with this quiet melody that erupts into an epic, melodic-death tinged masterwork. Unleash The Archers have undoubtedly put out one of the best and more prolific albums the power metal subgenre has seen in some time. There is so much to discover here. An exceptional record. Check out “Dreamcrusher”.

orden ogan ravenheadOrden Ogan — Ravenhead

‘Ravenhead’ is one of the best examples you will find of power metal done right. ‘Ravenhead’ has to be one of Orden Ogan’s best releases to date. It’s more experimental in its approach than previous records, and these songs contain some truly phenomenal choruses and hooks. The guitar and vocal work is also some of the best I’ve seen to date. There must be something in the waters of Germany, I think. Their metal is just too damn good! And album ‘Ravenhead’ just happens to be one of this country’s best. Check out “F.E.V.E.R.”.

IMW - Light Upon the WickedIn Malice’s Wake — Light Upon The Wicked

With their long awaited third studio album, In Malice’s Wake have put out one of the strongest and most refreshing thrash metal albums of this year. ‘Light Upon The Wicked’ sees the full progression and evolution of the band’s music, pushing their musical and creative depths to new heights. The result is a dark and brooding and powerful album; one which is tied together with some of the best drum and guitar work I’ve seen from any other record this year. One of the most impressive and innovative Australian releases of 2015. ‘Light Upon The Wicked’ sees the thrash metal subgenre at its most elevated and interesting. Check out “In Darkness”.

Gloryhammer Space 1992Gloryhammer — Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards

Following their brilliant 2013 debut, ‘Tales From The Kingdom of Fife’, Gloryhammer (the side-project of Alestorm mastermind, Christopher Bowes) has returned with this cosmic gem of epic metal proportions. Once again parodying the common tropes of power metal, ‘Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards’ shifts focus to a fantastical science-fiction setting in the “far future of the year 1992”. With a greater focus this time around on the orchestrations and uses of ’80s style keyboard synth, the lyrics are as ridiculously cheesy and awesome as ever, and importantly, this record brings forth some absolutely catchy tunes such as “Universe On Fire” and “Goblin King Of The Darkstorm Galaxy”. I’ve said it before but these guys are like the Steel Panther of power metal, and they do it incredibly well and convincingly! Check out “Universe On Fire”.

Ensiferum_-_One_Man_ArmyEnsiferum — One Man Army

I remember finding myself left rather wanting with 2012’s ‘Unsung Heroes’. And in a small way, I felt at the time that Ensiferum had lost a bit of that “special something” they had back in the days of their self-titled album and ‘Iron’. With ‘One Man Army’, all of that changes. This is one of the most enjoyable folk metal albums I have heard in some time. Ensiferum manage to channel here everything that made them brilliant as a band to begin with, and return it ten-fold. Frontman Petri Lindroos hasn’t sounded this good since the days of ‘Victory Songs’. In fact, he sounds better. This is Ensiferum as they are meant to be. Check out  “One Man Army”.

Partum Vita Mortem artworkOrpheus Omega — Partum Vita Mortem

This is one album that hasn’t left my mind or stereo since it was first released earlier this year, and for good reason. As an interesting conceptual parallel, where ‘Partum Vita Mortem’ chronicles the human condition from birth, life, and then ultimately death, this record similarly orchestrates the progression of Orpheus Omega themselves. This album shows a band seasoned in the game. A band who continue to push the boundaries of their own ability and musical talents. The result is one of the strongest melodic death metal albums to grace this humble country of ours. Check out “Tomorrow’s Fiends And Yesterday’s Ghosts”.

powerwolf blessed and possessedPowerwolf — Blessed & Possessed

Over the past couple years since I first began listening to this band, Powerwolf have steadily become one of my absolute favourite metal bands of all time (in the top five for sure!). Powerwolf have taken something special and made it wholly their own. Whether it’s in Attila Dorn’s ever amazing orchestral vocal performance, the lyrics that centre around Judeo-Christian superstitions and common folklore (both favoured areas of interest of mine), or in just the sheer catchiness of their power metal style, Powerwolf further prove why Germany is one of the main hubs for quality metal. ‘Blessed & Possessed’ mostly keeps to the same formula of their previous records, but as with bands like Iron Maiden and AC/DC, this formula continues to be a winning one, and the band honestly doesn’t need to change too much. Powerwolf know their strengths and they play to them to majestic effect. This is sublime power metal. Check out “Armata Strigoi”.

Sulphur-Aeon-Gateway-to-the-Antisphere-01-300x300Sulphur Aeon — Gateway To The Antisphere

I have my close friend and fellow Metal Obsessor, Prarthana, to thank for the discovery of this gem. Where many bands in the past have been inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, what Sulphur Aeon have forged with their second album, ‘Gateway To The Antisphere’, is nothing short of breathtaking. This album is a phenomenal piece of musical ingenuity and inspired songwriting. There is an overwhelming and resonant atmosphere that carries across with this album, and the haunting, caustic notes bear the weight of this album’s ominous foreboding. The riffs claw at your throat, the lugubrious vocals beckon the deep, and the melodies coax you into the leering shadows. ‘Gateway To The Antisphere’ is quite simply death metal at its finest. Check out “Diluvial Ascension – Gateway To The Antisphere”.

Prometheus SID 2015Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody — Prometheus — Symphonia Ignis Divinus

The sophomore release from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody is not only one of the strongest albums I have heard so far this year, but it is also one of the most innovative and unique albums I have ever sat down to listen to. ‘Prometheus — Symphonia Ignis Divinus’ is not so much simply a metal album as it is an orchestral and symphonic masterwork. Inspired by the great film composers of the past few decades, what Luca Turilli has created here can rightfully stand alongside the greats as a work of cinematic-styled ingenuity. This album takes Luca Turilli’s strengths as a founder of the symphonic power metal movement of the ‘90s, and then instills that with a melodious and cinematic breath. This album is a real treasure trove among a familiar horde of sameness. Check out “Prometheus”.

Honourable mentions

BG - Beyond the Red MirrorBlind Guardian — Beyond The Red Mirror

Their first album in five years, ‘Beyond The Red Mirror’ brought with it much anticipation and speculation. This album delivers on its promise in more ways than one. Lyrically-speaking, this album is a sequel to 1995’s ‘Imaginations From The Other Side’. The overarching tale Hansi Kürsch has crafted with this album is both complex and imaginative. Every variation and progression that you hear throughout this album feels like the musical equivalent of the turning of a page. One of the highest credits I can award ‘Beyond The Red Mirror’ is that you feel as if you yourself are in the shoes of the protagonists of this story. As a fan of fantasy and sci-fi, it is a highly rewarding journey. Check out “Twilight Of The Gods”.

Dragony ShadowplayDragony — Shadowplay

Limb Music are fronting some of my favourite bands right now. They already have Ancient Bards and now I’ve found Dragony too. These lads from Austria were a recent discovery for me, having found them through their cover of David Hasselhoff’s “True Survivor”. Going on to listen through their latest release, ‘Shadowplay’, I was very impressed by what I heard. Dragony channel the best aspects of power metal, which at times touches on symphonic ground. The production quality on this record is excellent and it serves to make vocalist Siegfried Samer — so named “The Dragonslayer” — shine through even further. The combination of Samer’s vocals alongside the smooth musicianship of the band, Dragony do an almost seamless job of transporting you elsewhere; to that place of heroes and legends, where the sweet kiss of honeydew sits on the air and the cool rush of battle greets you upon arrival. Check out “Wolves Of The North”.

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.