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