Honorable Mentions: Pitch Black Forecast, Marilyn Manson, 36 Crazyfists, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, The Agonist, Halestorm, Tyler the Creator, Faith No More, Murs, Six Feet Under, Kamelot, Tremonti, Between the Buried and Me, Veil of Maya, Soulfly, Bullet For My Valentine, Cattle Decapitation, Disturbed, Act of Defiance, Battlecross, Dr. Dre, Motorhead, Five Finger Death Punch, Amorphis, Gary Clark Jr., Metal Allegiance, Huntress, Clutch, Children of Bodom, Audiotopsy, Trivium, Queensryche, Sevendust, Def Leppard, and Dead Sara.
TOP 10 ALBUMS
10. Dark Before Dawn – Breaking Benjamin
Key Songs: “Angels Fall”, “Breaking the Silence”, and “Defeated”
9. Sturm Und Drang – Lamb of God
Key Songs: “Erase This”, “Embers”, and “Overlord”
8. Art of Anarchy – Art of Anarchy
Key Songs: “Time Every Time”, “Grand Applause”, and “Till The Dust Is Gone”
7. They Bleed Red – Devil You Know
Key Songs: “Consume the Damned”, “The Way We Die”, and “Stay of Execution”
6. Genexus – Fear Factory
Key Songs: “Dielectric”, “Genexus”, and “Regenerate”
5. Golgotha – W.A.S.P.
Key Songs: “Scream”, “Eyes of My Maker”, and “Golgotha”
4. Luminiferous – High on Fire
Key Songs: “The Black Pot”, “Slave the Hive”, and “The Cave”
3. The Book of Souls – Iron Maiden
Key Songs: “If Eternity Should Fail”, “Speed of Light”, and “Tears of a Clown”
2. Repentless – Slayer
Key Songs: “Repentless”, “Vices”, and “When the Stillness Comes”
1. High Country – The Sword
Key Songs: “Empty Temples”, “Mist & Shadows”, and “Suffer No Fools”
TOP 10 SONGS of 2015
1. “Mist & Shadows”-The Sword
2. “The Cave”-High on Fire
3. “Until the World Goes Cold”-Trivium
4. “Slave the Hive”-High on Fire
5. “Grand Applause”-Art of Anarchy
9. “Defeated”-Breaking Benjamin
10. “Medicine Man”- Dr. Dre feat. Eminem, Candice Pillay, and Anderson Paak
BEST NEW BAND: Act of Defiance
Metal heads that pay as much attention as I do maybe confused with this one. Let me explain. Yes, Act of Defiance did not make my top ten but Art of Anarchy did. I loved both albums but Act of Defiance is a band where as Art of Anarchy was a side project. AoA never planned on touring and hasn’t hinted at making a second one. With Scott Weiland’s death, I doubt we see a replacement. Act of Defiance is a new thrash metal power house created with two former members of Megadeth, Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick. The band released the album in August and was followed by their first headlining tour. Birth and the Burial is an aggressive album with a mix of modern day metal and 80’s thrash. I look forward to what the band has in store for the future.
Other Nominees: Pitch Black Forecast, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, Audiotopsy, and Red Sun Rising.
BEST COMEBACK: Breaking Benjamin
Six years had passed since the band’s fourth album, Dear Agony. During that time, band members were fired and Ben Burnley became very ill. A band with a unique, distinct sound with one of the most dedicated fan bases in hard rock had just disappeared. Finally, in 2014, the wait was over. New members were added and new music was on the way. I was one of the lucky few that had the opportunity to see the band’s first show back in five years. It wasn’t a good concert. It was fantastic. Two hours of the Pennsylvania rockers playing classics and fan favorites. Ben sounded as good, if not better, than he ever had. The new album made some fans nervous. Would they pull it together with this new group and please the Breaking Ben fans? SPOILER ALERT! They did. The album landed number one on the Billboard 200 and owned the competition. Interesting enough, a little over 80% of the sales were physical copies. In an age where downloading mp3s is the norm, that was rare. Especially for the best selling album. But then again, you’re talking about metal heads. Physical copies are the best, my opinion. Dark Before Dawn exceeded my expectations and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still remember hearing “So Cold” at thirteen years old thinking it was one of the best jams I ever heard.
Other Nominees: 36 Crazyfists, Faith No More, Disturbed, and Dr. Dre.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Slayer
Slayer’s world was turned upside down following the death of Jeff Hanneman. Shorty before Jeff died, Dave Lombardo was fired. Only two original members remained. Gary Holt of Exodus was filling in for Hanneman while he was sick. Holt was retained, and for the first time in the band’s history someone else was playing next to Kerry King. Paul Bostaph was brought in to replace Lombardo behind the set . . . again. Many Slayer fans liked Bostaph’s return to the band but questioned the direction going forward. I was going to pick up Repentless regardless. I knew Jeff would want the fans to buy and blast it. I remember my jaw about hit the ground listening to it. This was not Slayer. This was SSSLLLLAAAAYYYYYYEEEEEERRRR!!!!!! Old school aggressive thrash metal Slayer fans grew up to love was back! I knew the album was going to be good, but little did I know that it would be their best album in years. Jeff would have been proud.
Other Nominees: Murs, Fear Factory, The Sword, and W.A.S.P.
SPECIAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Metal Allegiance
Last year, I gave this award to Sevendust for their acoustic album. This year was something a little bit different and a treat for metal heads. The Metal Allegiance started out as a show featuring metal musicians from different bands getting together and covering songs. It was basically a big metal cover band for fun to entertain the metal community in the area. It was one of the only times you could hear Pantera and Dio songs in the same show with out some local wannabe fucking it up. Then one day, a brilliant idea was brought up. One thing led to another, and the Metal Allegiance album was made. Every song consisted of Alex Skolnick (Testament) on the guitar, David Ellefson (Megadeth) on bass, and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Winery Dogs) on drums. All the material was original with the exception of the killer Dio cover at the end. Guests vocalist included Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Phil Anselmo (ex-Pantera, Down), Chuck Billy (Testament), Matt Heafy (Trivium), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), and more. This was the only metal album I ever heard where you got thrash, doom, progressive, and alternative metal in one. Definitely something every metal head should give a try.
BEST LIVE BAND: Fear Factory
An award I give to the band I felt performed the best out of the concerts I attended this year. You can tell by the blurry quality of the picture that it was taken by me. Unfortunately, I was limited to concerts due to my last two semesters of school, but managed to see a few good ones. This was my first time seeing the industrial metallers. They were opening for Coal Chamber that day and played a full set. It was hands down one of the most intense shows I ever attended. You could feel the energy in the air while the band drove their sound down your throat. Sounds unpleasent, but if you love Fear Factory it was outstanding. They will one day take my money again.
Other Nominees: Arch Enemy, Devil You Know, Trivium, and Tremonti
ROCK HEAVEN AWARD (TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN): B.B. King, Scott Weiland, and Lemmy Kilmister.
B.B. King: The King of Blues had the world singing the blues when he left us on May 14th. The man did more than give a good name to blues, he inspired artists from many different genres. As a metal head, I am very thankful for Mr. King. Rock and metal would be no where without the blues. His music influenced artists such as the Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Those artists influenced others such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. You can see the pattern. B. B. was a good musician and soul. The guy died doing what he loved and gave us great tunes to pass down to future generations.
Scott Weiland: I sometimes get asked about how I got into heavy metal. Before I was a headbanger, I grew up listening to 90’s hard rock. I loved Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and other bands that came out of that time period. The Stone Temple Pilots was the first rock band I ever heard. Scott Weiland’s vocals was my introduction to rock ‘n roll. My first concert was STP in Akron, Ohio in 2008. A show I will never forget. I was determined to see them again. Sadly, it never happened. On December 3rd, I lost one of my favorite vocalists. After reading the news, it felt like part of my world had just vanished. I never knew Scott and I never met him. But I took his life and talents for granted. The realization he was gone hurt. Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver were monumental bands for my generation. Scott was one of a kind. His albums with The Wildabouts and Art of Anarchy helped make my year. The man was a rare talent but he also struggled with addiction most of his life. The battle is over, buddy. Rest in peace, and thank you.
Lemmy Kilmister: A bomb was dropped on the metal world December 28th. An icon passed away a few days after his 70th birthday. Lemmy was a one of a kind person. There is a case to be made he was the first badass in music history. He loved what he did and he loved the fans more. I remember a fan telling me a story of a solo show he did in Cleveland, Ohio. The venue ceiling was falling apart and his loud bass was not helping. He was told to end his show abruptly for the safety of the crowd. The audience and the band didn’t feel like anyone’s life was in danger. Lemmy cussed out security and demanded they give everyone’s money back for ruining their show. No one does that. He wasn’t willing to take their money and run with it. Lemmy recognized what was important in his life and didn’t take anything for granted. The rock ‘n roll lifestyle may have been tough on his body near the end, but he lived with no regrets. Motorhead was a huge part of metal history. Even though the man says they were rock ‘n roll and not metal, I think we can agree it doesn’t matter. Lemmy created a monster that will be remembered till the end of time. Was he the best singer around? No, but he rocked! Was he the best looking dude of all time? No, but that didn’t stop the babes from sitting on his face. Yes, even the bass player gets laid. It is tough realizing he’s gone, but his former band members said it best. HAVE A DRINK! PLAY ROCK LOUD! ENJOY YOURSELF! Thanks for everything you crazy son of a bitch.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Motorhead
I didn’t plan on giving this award this year but due to Lemmy’s death, Motorhead officially called it quits. It’s depressing seeing another legendary band fold, but what would we do without them?! Thanks for all the albums and memories. MOTORHEAD FOR LIFE!
TOP 10 MOST ANTICIPATED FOR 2016
10. Tool: Love this band. I have them ranked in the top ten every year. But I’m getting a little impatient. No new album in about eight years. Now I will add that their lawsuit with an artist is officially over, and that played a hand in the delay. Pictures have surfaced of them in the studio, a new song was played during their Halloween show, and a tour is being put together as we speak. I mean if hell can freeze over enough for Slash to return to Guns N Roses, than a little bit more chill may result in a new Tool album.
9. Anthrax: The New York thrashers will release their follow up to Worship Music, February 26th. The band suffered only one lineup change since then but the new song sounds like old school Anthrax. Sounds like another potential masterpiece on it’s way.
8. Animals as Leaders: The band has not announced for sure they’ll release another album in 2016, but I’m going with my gut here and say you will see new material from the Atlanta metallers.
7. Testament: The thrash legends took their time with the new album. They originally aimed for early 2015, but decided not to rush it. New material has been compared to The Gathering. If that’s true, fans are in for a real treat.
6. Deftones: The band has admitted the album is done and mixed. It was originally supposed to be out in November, but was pushed back for early 2016. There are still rumors they may release the unfinished album, Eros, featuring late bassist, Chi Cheng. Either way, they can have my money.
5. Meshuggah: FINALLY! If all goes as planned we will have new Meshuggah album soon. Last few albums were some of their best work.
4. Alice in Chains: The Devil Put The Dinosaurs Here was an okay album. Not what I expected to follow Black Gives Way to Blue. But these guys always put their best efforts in the studio and I know they got a lot left in the tank. Always up for new Chains.
3. Gojira: They entered the studio with Pantera like riffs and claims they’re making the best album of all time. Sounds cocky but Gojira fans will tell you if anyone can do it, it’s them. To top it off, they’re re-releasing their first album. Good things coming from France in 2016.
2. Killswitch Engage: Ah, the band that got me into metal will drop their next album in March. The new song “Strength of the Mind” was released in November and made fans hungry for more. This will be the second album in Jesse Leach’s second stint with the band. In my opinon, he has done a hell of a job since Howard left. Look forward to more of his lyrics.
1. Megadeth: Those that know me know I love Megadeth. After Broderick and Drover left, some fans felt that it was time to hang it up. They forgot that Dave Mustaine never gives up. Megadeth will release Dystopia on Janurary 22. Lamb of God’s Chris Alder filled in behind the set for only the album and some live performances. The band hired Kiko Loureiro from Angra as a permanent replacement for Broderick. Two songs have been released and the fans continue to rave about them. Some still have doubts that the lineup changes were a good idea. Let me remind them this isn’t the first time major changes have happened to Megadeth. Titles such as The System has Failed, United Abomination, and what was that one called ?. . . Oh yeah! Rust in Peace, were results of lineup changes. The world needs more Megadeth.
Another year in the books! Here’s to 2016! 🤘🏻