This list is dedicated to Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, two irreplaceable, top-tier members of the metal pantheon, and Paul Gray, who set me on the path to extreme metal.
Debut of the Year
What better place to start the list than with the best debut? Kvelertak defeated the competition soundly with their self-titled album, an incredibly energetic and fun blend of black metal, sludge, thrash metal, stoner metal, hard rock, hardcore punk, and just about everything else out there. As recently as May, nobody had even heard of this band, but now they're impossible to miss. I was one of their earliest champions, giving them a perfect score back on July 16.
Honorable Mention: Castevet's Mounds of Ash is an arty but entirely satisfying blend of black metal and hardcore.
Best ComebackGlenn Danzig had been off his game for the last 16 years, but he came back strong with Deth Red Sabaoth. In my original review I mentioned how it combined some of the best elements of the first four Danzig albums. It's catchy rock-and-roll played with a thunderous heavy metal sound. Anyone who stopped buying his albums needs to seriously consider this one.
Honorable Mention: Fear Factory's Mechanize is easily their best since 1998's Obsolete, proving that the core lineup is Bell and Cazares, and they know the futuristic industrial/death/groove metal style best.
Biggest DisappointmentSoilwork should have come back stronger than ever. Their hook-writing skills had just reached their peak, and guitarist Peter Wichers came back to lend his capable hands to the mix. But Bjorn Strid put in his wimpiest performance ever on The Panic Broadcast. It's still not a bad album, but it should have been amazing. It wasn't. Read my review here.
Dishonorable Mention: Nevermore (The Obsidian Conspiracy) also put out a mixed-bag album marred by weak vocal performance from someone who is capable of much better. And Mastodon's Jonah Hex soundtrack, well, I won't even go there.
Worst Album of the YearPeriphery's self-titled debut is djent metalcore, and it would have been a pretty good album if it weren't for annoying radio-metalcore vocals and the cheesy joke they threw in. It's sadistic the way it draws you in with some cool instrumental work, and then, instead of rewarding you with better things, spits in your face. It was kind of like that M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie The Village, which started out really cool, but when the twist came it ruined it. But it's worse, because after this album was ruined, they promised it would get cool again, and then ruined it again, and kept repeating this cycle. For more on this one, don't read my brief review: Read the Wikipedia article on the cycle of abuse. It applies equally well here.
Dishonorable Mention: Anathema's We're Here Because We're Here is dull post-rock packaged up and sold to metalheads based on the fact that the band used to be one of our own. I had to mainline some Behemoth after listening to this. East of the Wall's Ressentiment is another pile of crap being sold to metalheads, although it would have been listenable if the tracks weren't so long.