1995 was a pretty good year for heavy metal. My list of the best of the year includes a wide variety of artists in genres like melodic death metal, death metal, power metal and others. There's also a wide geographic representation, from Sweden to Germany to Norway to the U.S. Here are my choices for the best heavy metal albums released in 1995.
Symbolic continued Death's string of excellent releases, even with the continual lineup changes. For this album guitarist Andy LaRocque and bassist Steve DiGiorgio were gone, replaced with Bobby Koelbe and Kelly Conlon. Chuck Schuldiner's songwriting continued to improve, and the band's combination of technical skill and willingness to experiment and push the musical envelope made for a brilliant album that still stands the test of time.
Wolfheart was the first full-length album from the Portugese band Moonspell. It's a dark and melancholy album that features elements of gothic, folk, doom and black metal. Some songs are dramatic and atmospheric while others are more intense and aggressive. Fernando Ribeiro's vocals range from deep, doomy melodic singing to harsh screaming. It's a well rounded and really good gothic metal album.
After their debut album just missed making my 1993 Top 10 list, Dissection's second release was even better. Storm Of The Light's Bane remains an extremely influential album. The Swedish band blended black and melodic death metal into a very compelling combination. The songs are cold, dark, evil and extreme. The songwriting is outstanding, and Jon Nödtveidt's lyrics are really good. This is a classic album in its genre.
Slaughter Of The Soul was the swan song for the Swedish melodic death metal band At The Gates. Shortly after its release they broke up. The band went out on top, paving the way for the "Gothenburg sound." Even though they drew (and still draw) criticism for a more accessible sound on this album, At The Gates masterfully combined catchy thrash riffs and brutality.
Blind Guardian were at the forefront of the German power/speed metal scene, and by Imaginations From The Other Side had already been around for a decade and released several excellent albums. Combining speed metal and power metal, the guitars really stand out with powerful riffs and some really creative solos. The songs are complex, melodic and atmospheric. Vocalist Hansi Kursch has a great voice, and this is an outstanding power metal album.
The German power metal band Gamma Ray was founded by former Helloween frontman Kai Hansen, who played guitar with his new group. Ralf Scheepers handled the vocals for the band's first few albums, but he left the band before Land Of The Free. It had been a few years since Hansen had been a lead vocalist, but he stepped right in and didn't miss a step. It's an epic album with great songs and excellent vocals. It is one of Gamma Ray's best efforts.
Destroy Erase Improve was Meshuggah's second album, released four years after their debut. They did release a couple of EPs in the interim. The Swedish band's brand of complex, technical and brutal metal is relatively common now, but at the time was pretty groundbreaking. Meshuggah combines unusual and even experimental song structures with intense thrash and also incorporate a surprising amount of melody.
Dark Tranquillity are one of the pioneering melodic death metal bands from Sweden. The Gallery was their second full-length album. After singing on their debut, Anders Friden had left the band for In Flames, and guitarist Mikael Stanne took over vocal duties. This is an innovative album, as Dark Tranquillity utilized progressive and folk influences and female vocals along with great guitar riffs and solos. This was Dark Tranquillity's most inspired album and one of their best.
Demanufacture was Fear Factory's second full-length, and the band's sound evolved into a darker and more diverse groove based style that combined extremity with elements of electronica. The keyboards combined with the excellent guitar work from Dino Cazares made for a powerful and catchy combination. Burton Bell was equally strong with the growling and singing vocals. It's an aggressive and memorable album.
10. Down - Nola
Nola was the debut album from the Southern metal supergroup Down, made up of vocalist Phil Anselmo (Pantera), guitarist Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity), and members of other groups such as Eyehategod and Crowbar. It's an album of groovy and gritty sludge metal. Anselmo's voice is perfect for this down and dirty collection of songs that have influences of everyone from Sabbath to Skynyrd.