While we look forward to some of the exciting albums coming out in 2015, it's also good to take a look back at what we've enjoyed this year. Here are my picks - what are yours?
10. In This Moment - Black Widow
In This Moment's Maria Brink loves to challenge perceptions of what women in metal can be, and this album is a great example of that. Killer singles like Sex Metal Barbie, Sick Like Me and Big Bad Wolf dominate the record.
9. Amberian Dawn - Magic Forest
After reinventing their sound with new singer Capri, Amberian Dawn are sure to see more success. This fun and catchy dose of power metal is reminiscent of Nightwish. Check out the lead single, also titled Magic Forest and opener Cherish My Memory for a taster.
8. Amaranthe - Massive Addictive
You don't get much more fun and catchy than the poptastic Amaranthe. This album lives up to its title, with tons of upbeat tracks to give you motivation. Digital World and title track Massive Addictive are particular highlights.
7. Eluveitie - Origins
Eluveitie have outdone themselves with this beautiful record. Fans of the more melodic side of things will enjoy Anna Murphy's vocals on Call of the Mountains and Vianna, while those who like things heavier might like the brilliant King and Celtos.
6. Xandria - Sacrificium
Many questioned if Xandria could better their stellar Neverworld's End, but Sacrificium certainly at least equals it. New vocalist Dianne Van Giersbergen has a wonderful voice (even better live!). If you're not hooked by the epic opening title track, try the singles Nightfall and Dreamkeeper.
5. Within Temptation - Hydra
Although it has prompted many differences of opinion, Hydra is nonetheless one of the biggest hits of the year. In this record, Within Temptation try on all the different heads they can manage - whether it's metal, rock, pop or even rap. Whether they're successful or not is down to opinion, but tracks like Paradise (What About Us?) and Tell Me Why are a must-listen.
4. Delain - The Human Contradiction
With this album Delain were finally given the creative freedom that they've craved, and it totally paid off. This is quite possibly the best music the band have produced - heavier and darker whilst never losing their melodic roots. And there's a welcome return by Marco Hietala! To get a feel for this record, try Your Body is a Battleground and The Tragedy of the Commons.
3. Lacuna Coil - Broken Crown Halo
This one is a grower, but now one I can't stop listening to. Broken Crown Halo brings Lacuna Coil back to top form. Strong lyrics and passion-infused music are what really sells this one - plus it's nice to see the band trying out some orchestral elements as well. Nothing Stands In Our Way is a great anthem, and there's also some more poignant and moving tracks like Victims and One Cold Day.
2. Epica - The Quantum Enigma
You may be surprised to see this in the number 2 spot. Almost universally acclaimed as the album of the year by many symphonic fans, it is certainly one of the best you will ever listen to. The compositions are excellent, buoyed up by great sound quality and mixing. The Quantum Enigma is inescapable - if you enjoy this genre, you need to give it a try. Check out The Fifth Guardian/Chemical Insomnia and Natural Corruption.
1. Tuomas Holopainen - The Life and Times of Scrooge
For me, there was no other choice for album of the year. I never could have predicted that I could feel so much love for a record about a cartoon duck... But The Life and Times of Scrooge simply has something that transcends music. It paints you a story with sound, creating a truly beautiful and unique adventure. This is a testament to Tuomas Holopainen's skill as a composer.
The best way to listen to this album is to play it all the way through headphones, preferably with no other distractions, to experience how emotional and evocative it is. To begin with, though, Cold Heart of the Klondike and The Last Sled are a great place to start.