Metal and heavy music are experiencing a renaissance. Labels and bands, from the majors to the tiniest boutique indies, are actually making money, selling records, and packing venues. There’s a widespread sense of community across scenes. As artists move their music in new directions, combining genres to create new sounds, they are also bringing together the once-segmented metal culture. Go to a Mastodon show, and you’ll see the hardcore kids, the black metal misanthropes, the stoners, the crusties of all ages and genders. To attend a show is to come together in the name of art, and a universal acceptance has set in.

    The following 20 albums are by no means the only 20 heavy albums we’re psyched for in 2015, but rather the one’s we’re most excited for. Some aren’t metal by the traditional definition. But the smattering is why it’s so exciting to be a fan of heavy music in our time; expectations have given way to mystery and discovery. Embrace it with an open ear and an open mind.

    –Jon Hadusek
    Senior Staff Writer

    King Woman – Doubt (The Flenser)

    Release date: February 17th


    King Woman leader and former Whirr vocalist Kristina Esfandiari wrote Doubt in a moment of catharsis to liberate herself from her oppressive Christian upbringing, a final, absolute rejection of an imposed past that wasn’t really hers. Anger and resentment motivate these songs; yet, their lasting message is one of resolution. Esfandiari has the rare ability to project this vast emotional palette through her voice alone. Wisely, her band holds back, providing a bed of understated doom riffs. The minimal arrangements keep the focus where it needs to be: on Esfandiari. –Jon Hadusek

    Torche – Restarter (Relapse)

    Release date: February 24th

    Torche - Restarter albumRestarter is a 40-minute crusher. Steve Brooks’ soaring vocals are still there in all their glory, but more than ever before, they are threatened by a quaking rhythm section (cheap sound systems beware!) and occasional psych-noise freak-outs. Freeing themselves from the pop song structures of Harmonicraft, Torche stretches out and experiments on Restarter, a refreshing entry in an already strong catalog. –Jon Hadusek

    Elder – Lore (Stickman Records)

    Release date: February 27th


    Boston’s Elder are the doom metal band with the most breakout potential this year. They’ve logged hundreds of shows and built a sizeable following since dropping Dead Roots Stirring, a masterpiece of downtuned mysticism and guitar interplay. They have a colossal sound rivaling that of YOB and any given Southern Lord band, so if you like that stuff, keep an eye out for Lore when it drops on Stickman Records in Europe (and on Armageddon Records in the US in April). –Jon Hadusek

    Deathhammer – Evil Power (Hell’s Headbangers)

    Release date: March 9th


    Nobody’s doing old-school thrash better than the young contingent out of Norway made up of Deathhammer, Obliteration, Black Magic, and Nekromantheon. The fuck-all-and-shred spirit of metal’s early days is very much alive, and the musical performances are just as enthusiastic. Deathhammer especially look and sound like an ’80s thrash band misplaced in time.–Jon Hadusek

    Enslaved – In Times (Nuclear Blast)

    Release date: March 10th


    Over the past two decades, Enslaved has established itself as one of the most consistent acts in black metal. The band’s output is prolific — 14 LPs — but always inspired. Of those 14 records, there’s not a bad one in the lot. No reason to think In Times will be the first. –Jon Hadusek

    Ghost Bath – Moonlover (Northern Silence)

    Release date: March 13th


    With the arrival and acclaim of Deafheaven’s Sunbather in 2013, controversy was sparked in the metal community about whether depressive black metal could even be constituted as “true black metal” with its shimmering shoegazey chords and woeful lyrics. But with all that ridiculous debate hopefully behind us, in comes Ghost Bath, a band out of China, whose release, out in March, could certainly be one of the best albums to ever represent the depressive genre. “Golden Number”, the only single released from Moonlover thus far, seems to have everything for those who love this sort of blackgaze along with the howling vocals and operatic tonal shifts for those who still find themselves on the fence about the genre. –Sean Barry

    WAND – Golem (In the Red)

    Release date: March 17th


    This is some seriously spiraling heaviness, like Meatbodies (one of frontman Cory Hanson’s former bands) via Electric Wizard. Like many of the fine records by FUZZ, Thee Oh Sees, and Mikal Cronin in recent years, Golem was recorded by Chris Woodhouse at The Hangar in Sacramento. –Jon Hadusek

    Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors (Relapse)

    Release date: April 8th


    At Bonnaroo in 2013, I was pulled away from the end of David Byrne and St. Vincent’s set by the warm and welcoming sound of sweet Southern heavy metal, which, in context, was a bit surprising to hear down on the farm. As it turns out, the band producing such alluring and psychedelic sounds was fellow Georgia natives Royal Thunder, who plan on releasing their sophomore album in April. Lead vocalist Mlny Parsonz has got a voice cut out for Southern doom, and guitarist Josh Weaver’s proficiency leaves little to be desired. Here’s hoping Crooked Doors proves again that great metal can come from where snow rarely touches ground. –Sean Barry

    Monolord – Vaenir (RidingEasy Records)

    Release date: Late spring/Summer


    Sweden + doom metal = the shit. RidingEasy Records knows the formula, signing Salem’s Pot and fellow Swedes Monolord, who drop their sophomore LP, Vaenir, in the coming months. This stuff is just so massive and twisted and druggy (in the best way). Churning riffs and bong hits. –Jon Hadusek

    Grimoire – L’aorasie des spectres (Eisenwald)

    Release date: TBA

    a2229941130_10Out of Quebec, Grimoire has mastered the grand, heroic yet melancholic sort of black metal with a special focus on its mysticism and roots in folk and mythology. Their music is immense and sprawling, and it seems like the type that would inspire the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. Expected to be released at any point, this new EP might renew that sense of dream and wonder seemingly lost from a lot of contemporary metal. –Sean Barry