Well, I managed to do it. I've narrowed the field down to five (and a half...I can do that). While preparing for this piece, I realized that there weren't many records from the last calendar year that I LOVED. Also, this was a strange year for me, from a musical perspective. Because of our financial situation, I haven't been buying much music, and it's vexing as hell. I haven't been buying much of anything. That's not to say that I haven't heard a bunch of stuff; I have. Nonetheless, I haven't guzzled a considerable amount of long players that demanded repeated spins. Just my two pennies.
Let's start at the top. Because?
1. Alkaloid - The Malkuth Grimoire ~ This band includes within its ranks members of Obscura and Dark Fortress. To me, it feels like the natural successor to the former's Omnivium. There is plenty of Obscura happening here, which is an orgasmic thing for a chick like me. I obsess over melodic, progressive death metal, and this is a prime example of dat shit. Every instrument is played with stringent precision. The drumming (as contributed by Hannes Grossman) is goddamn binary, and I'm not 100% clear on what "binary" means. It doesn't matter! As for guitars, scope the solos on "Carbon Phrases" and "Alter Magnitudes." Why can't more extreme bands figure out that aimless mongrel shredding doesn't cut it these days?
2. Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss ~ I got turned onto this pale goddess a couple of years ago, and I've been addicted ever since. There may be extant restraining orders. Just kidding! Nervous laughter! In my churlish opinion, Abyss is Chelsea's magnum opus. She keeps topping herself and finding ways to broaden her sonic base without striking insincere chords. This is easily her heaviest record yet, piling sunken doom riffs atop sparse electronic beats and cantering sounds that fill the room. And then you have Chelsea's fragile voice hovering over it all acting as the ribbon that ties the music together. Abyss was so fucking close to being numero uno. It's almost a tie.
3. Faith No More - Sol Invictus ~ I'll come right out and say it. I have problems with this album. For starters, it's too fucking short (we only waited eighteen years, guys), and there are a couple of tracks that I skip outright. So why is it my third favorite compact disc of 2015? Because the quality material is so FNM, it hurts. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but this doesn't sound like a group of fortysomethings. Sol Invictus could have been released in the mid-90's. "Separation Anxiety" and "Matador" make me feel the way that "Caffeine" and "Ricochet" made me feel when I first heard them. Honestly, I didn't think that was possible. Feel the feels!
4. Unleash the Archers - Time Stands Still ~ I've scribbled a bit about this Canadian collective on this here site, so I won't burble into the night. Having said that, you need to know that this was the best speed metal release of the year. But it can also be considered a fantastic power metal release. And yes, death metal is sprinkled betwixt the excavations. Vocalist Brittany Hayes/Slayes is the star of the show. She fucking defines "powerhouse," hitting notes that murder bats (as of this writing, I lack forensic evidence, but the court of public opinion finds Ms. Hayes guilty of premeditated bat murder). Her Halford-esque screams will induce labor, whether you're pregnant or not.
5. Horrendous - Anareta ~ I'm actually jamming this one as I type. I might prefer 2014's Ecdysis, but this is a vigorous follow-up. If you're not privy, these Americans (split between Pennsylvania and South Carolina) ply their trade with old school death metal. However, there is a kicker. The tunes are technical and super melodic. Think Pestilence or latter day Death. There isn't a word for how catchy "Ozymandias" and "Polaris" happen to be. I do have issues with the production, but I love Horrendous anyway. Despite wearing their influences on their sleeve(s), they have a fresh identity, and they are completely unaffected by trends. Fuck. Yes.
94. Leviathan - Scar Sighted ~ This is my #6, but I wanted to give it a healthy mention. If we're talking "one-man black metal" projects, Leviathan takes the red velvet cake. Wrest (a.k.a. Jef Whitehead) does everything by himself. That's nothing short of phenomenal, as this album is a dense colossus of intricate nightmare bebop. Now, when I say "bebop," I mean "suicide music." The ambient sections are scary.
Here's a quick tally of other 2015 records to engage...
Xibalba - Tierra y Libertad (hardcore/death metal)
Nile - What Should Not Be Unearthed (heavier than Satan)
Turnstile - Nonstop Feeling (alternative hardcore, very 90's)
Spylacopa - Parallels (experimental hard rock)
Gruesome - Savage Land (old school death metal)
Dolven - Navigating the Labyrinth (acoustic black metal)
Violet Cold - Desperate Dreams (poppy black metal)