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This is my first list piece and it's a tough one for this year. So many good releases from old timers and young'ns alike, so little time. Everything from the coldest of black metal to straight up rock was on display in 2015, and for those with varied tastes, that meant a banner year. Doom as a genre was in fine form as well. Without further ado, here's my top ten, in no particular order, starting with a Billy Anderson-produced triad of awesomeness:

—Matt Schmahl

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10. Ufomammut - Ecate (Neurot Records, Italy)

Italy’s hurtling psych-doom comet returns from the cosmos with their heaviest slab to date. The opening synths and rolling drum beat climax into their patented roar and it's all over from there. I was lucky enough to see Ufomammut tour for this album, and it was reminiscent of a bad float tank experience. I mean that in the best of ways. If you like your doom spaced out and mightier than the pyramids, this is for you.

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9. Clutch - Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker Music, USA)

Rock done right from some of the best around. Clutch is one of those love-em or hate-em bands, and I've loved them since they first started out as a garage hardcore act in Maryland. They've evolved quite a bit from that of course, but without losing their sense of fun, and Psychic Warfare is the most fun you will have with an album this year if you give it a chance. Stand outs for me are “Sucker For the Witch” and “A Quick Death in Texas.” It's a rollicking good time.

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8. Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade, USA)

The righteous follow up to Monolith of Inhumanity. I've seen some folks say some negative things about this album, but considering the impact of the former I think this is the best route they could have chosen. There's still the whirlwind drums and manic riffage, as well as the cleans/growls/shrieks/bellows, and they don't change the formula up too much, choosing instead to pummel the listener with a barrage that fits in nicely with their previous stuff. Listen to “Prophets of Loss” and dig it.

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7. CHRCH - Unanswered Hymns (Battleground Records / Transylvanian Tapes, USA)

This is an EP of gorgeous droning doom from Sacramento but it's certainly long enough to count as an album. The funeral vibe they put off perfectly accompanies the hypnotic vocals, and though I haven't seen them live yet I've heard they aren't to be missed. It's also a great driving record on a rainy day.

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6. MGLA – Exercises in Futility (Northern Heritage/No Solace Records, Poland)

Exercises in Futility is the perfect black metal winter soundscape. I have to admit I missed their earlier work when it came out, but ever since I heard this I've been addicted. Go buy it and show them you care. It's easily one of the best purchases you'll make this year. Check out "Exercises in Futility VI."

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5. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within (Century Media, UK)

An ethereal and punishing return to form. I'm one of those people who hadn't really paid attention to Paradise Lost for quite awhile (since, like, the '90s) [You’re missing out. - Ed.], and was depressingly surprised with this. “Beneath Broken Earth” was on repeat for much of the fall in my house, which either means it's a great song or I need to talk to a therapist.

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4. Vhol – Deeper than Sky (Profound Lore, USA)

Members of Yob, Agalloch, and Hammers of Misfortune got together and put out the best metal album of the year. No adjectives, no categories, no sub sub genres, just metal. If they put on a proper tour for this record (which they probably won't given their schedules, understandably) it would automatically be one of the best of the year by far. Just buy it already, jeez...

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3. Leviathan – Scar Sighted (Profound Lore Records, USA)

Revenge against humanity recorded in surround sound, complete with stunning original artwork. Sole member Jef "Wrest" Whitehead has a large back catalog of misanthropy laid down to various forms of media, but this is his most diverse and avant garde work to date. Starting with a brief lulling intro, everything after the sampled dialogue of "Every fucking thing that crawls.. is gonna pay" is pure vengeance. It's unsettling and merciless, which in this context means it's amazing.

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2. Acid King – Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere (Svart Records, USA)

A warm slab of fuzzed out beauty and weight from Lori S and company. If you've ever seen them live, you know she is able to summon an absolutely monstrous tone with minimal pedals and doodads, and this recording by Anderson captures it perfectly. It's like being suffocated and crushed at the same time. The album is weighted down with some of the most solid drumming and bass lines you'll hear in a while as well, check out Red River." I missed this band.

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1. Bell Witch - Four Phantoms (Profound Lore, USA)

An instant doom classic with some of the most haunting songs I've heard in years. The chilling vocals and crushing melodies of this Seattle duo are perfectly represented by the ethereally solemn cover art and all encompassing production by Anderson. I don't have a favorite song on this album, the whole thing is as perfect as it gets.

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