Bearing in mind how strong 2015 was for heavy metal – at least in my opinion – what better way to keep that year alive a little longer by taking a look at my favourite ten individual songs of the year? As with last year, this post is coming a bit late but hopefully you can all forgive that.
My Top 30 of 2015 was a mammoth undertaking but hopefully this will be a little more digestible for those looking for an instant recommendation or two.
The following list is in no particular order – there’s no rating from one to ten. The order is purely arbitrary and no notice should be taken of it; all of these songs deserve their place in this list and should be treated equally for the purposes of this blog post.
And, with that, I give you my ten favourite tracks of 2015…
Riverside – Found (The Unexpected Flaw Of Searching)
On an album full of great music, there was only ever going to be one winner when it came to a representative on this list. Riverside can do melody, they can do atmosphere and they can also do lyrics. In the case of ‘Found (The Unexpected flaw Of Searching)’, the album closer, this song has all three. But primarily, as good as the melodies are, it is the simplicity of the track and the lyrical content that has had the biggest impact upon me. In a year where I’ve wanted to throw in the towel many times, this was the song that kept me going and gave me the motivation to keep going. ‘It’s a lovely life, you have gone so far don’t give it up’ – sends shivers down my spine and brings tears to my ears every time I listen.
From the album: Love, Fear And The Time Machine
Kingcrow – If Only
Italian progressive metal band Kingcrow delivered a stunning album in 2015 in the shape of ‘Eidos’ and top of the tree in terms of individual songs has to be ‘If Only’. It begins quietly with the most beautiful and strangely moving melody before building slowly through to a majestic crescendo to end the album in an energetic and scintillating manner. I love the initially gentle acoustic guitars and the quietly-delivered vocals; as the track opens up to include drums and the other instruments, the layered vocals are brilliant as is the lead guitar solo that ushers in the powerful and compelling crescendo. It is, in some ways, a song of two halves but they both work so well and together combine to create a track that is arguably one of Kingcrow’s best creations to date.
From the album: Eidos
Earthside – The Closest I’ve Come
To be honest, I could have chosen any track off Earthside’s debut album for inclusion in this list, such is the consistent quality of their debut album, ‘A Dream In Static’. However, I have plumped for ‘The Closest I’ve Come’ for a few reasons. To begin with, it was the first sounds that I ever heard from the band and opened my eyes and ears to a whole new musical experience. Secondly, I love the progressive nature of the mid-section, as it plays around with several different ideas but with positive intent. And then there’s that melody. Spine-tingling, majestic and beautiful, it serves as a powerful audio metaphor for the entire album, my overall number one for 2015.
From the album: A Dream In Static
Klone – Nebulous
On a very solid album, ‘Nebulous’ stood out for me head and shoulders above all the others. It begins quietly with those gravelly vocals and then the track delivers the chorus. And what a chorus. It is completely and utterly addictive to the point where I have been known to listen to it on repeat perhaps five or six times in one go. The vocals are stunning, full of passion and power and they sit atop a hook-laden melody that gets lodged in your head far too easily. I also love the bass work which acts like the song’s pulse throughout whilst around it, magic happens. What a track.
From the album: Here Comes The Sun
Abnormal Thought Patterns – Nocturnal Haven
‘Nocuturnal Haven’ is my choice from a stellar album from the Tipton brothers and Co. in the guise of Abnormal Thought Patterns. The track boasts guest appearances from Between The Buried And Me’s vocalist Tommy Rogers and Arch Enemy guitarist Jeff Loomis but this only enhances what is an already killer song. Running the gauntlet from quiet and introspective to all-out blood and thunder extreme metal, it also contains some of the most emotionally intense and beautiful music that the prog genre has ever created. The atmospherics are on point, the drama is palpable and it features some of the most spine-tingling lead guitar work I’ve ever heard. It’s the song that proves beyond doubt the fact that when a guitar truly sings, there are few sounds on this Earth that are better.
From the album: Altered States Of Consciousness
Soilwork – Enemies In Fidelty
The Swedish melodeath stalwarts Soilwork are always capable of delivering a tune and their 2015 effort ‘The Ride Majestic’ is no different. There are a few serious contenders but I have to plump for ‘Enemies In Fidelity’, primarily because of the vocals. On this track, the peerless Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid delivers some of his best work to date. The sheer range and the gentle sophistication with which he nails the chorus is magnificent. It helps of course that the chorus is a thing of beauty, brilliantly contrasted by a blast beat underneath, but it’s taken to a new level by Speed. And the fact that it is surrounded by some properly frenetic, heavy and muscular metal, only enhances the excellence. Will Soilwork ever stop writing memorable songs?
From the album: The Ride Majestic
AudioPlastik – Bulletproof
Another album that featured in my top 30 of 2015, Audioplastik delivered many contenders for this list within ‘In The Head Of A Maniac’. However, it has to be ‘Bulletproof’. On this track, their wonderfully rich blend of melodic progressive rock, metal and pop with cinematic overtones never sounded better. The opening riffing is busy, the rhythm section is hectic and the overall feel is of a slightly heavier composition than most other songs on the album. However, juxtaposing this is the chorus which grabbed me from the first time I heard it. It is gorgeous; warm, powerful and hook-laden – a real earworm that never lets go.
From the album: In The Head Of A Maniac
(this isn’t the song in question but it’s better than nothing!)
Cattle Decapitation – Manufactured Extinct
It’s not often that a properly brutal track makes it into my top 10 songs of the year but Cattle Decapitation are worthy of such an accolade. In particular, I’m thinking of the opening track of ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’. Beginning quietly, ‘Manufactured Extinct’ soon builds to a stomping riff before exploding in a flurry of insane drumming, lightning fast riffs and vocals that sound like Travis Ryan is gargling bitumen six feet under. But then, the track opens out into a surprisingly groovy and melodic chorus of sorts complimented by an unsettling ‘clean’ vocal. I’m a sucker for a blast beat-driven groove and this track delivers this in satisfying fashion. Unsettling, brutal and uncompromising it may be, but it’s also brilliantly compelling.
From the album: The Anthropocene Extinction
Moonspell – Medusalem
Portuguese metallers Moonspell came screaming back into my conscious this year with an excellent album ‘Extinct’ that harked back to their very best. On that album, they created one of my favourite tracks of the year in the form of ‘Medusalem’. It channels the spirit of Orphaned Land with traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation and melodies but this is fused with Moonspell’s overt Gothic overtones, led by the unmistakably deep croon of Fernando Ribeiro. It is an up-tempo track that delights from start to finish, featuring within it an amazingly powerful and addictive chorus that still has me hooked to this day.
From the album: Extinct
Swallow The Sun – Lost And Catatonic
No-one does heavy, emotional and melodic quite like Swallow The Sun and with ‘Lost And Catatonic’, they have once again hit musical gold. Blending some rich and grandiose orchestration with extreme death/doom metal and some sublime melodies, this song is a winner in every possible way. The brutal guitars and double pedal drumming pummel, the orchestration gives an air of the grandiose and the chorus is beautiful. It is also sorrowful and full of exquisite melancholy in the way that only Swallow The Sun can convey. The vocals flit between growling and a hauntingly subtle clean delivery and the whole thing is pulled together with real majestic style and panache.
From the album: Songs From The North I, II & III