Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Best of 2015: 2015 in review

My best of 2015 week starts with a segment that actually is not in a best of segment. I have decided to scrap my special awards since I find that segment to be dumb. First off, I am having trouble to come up with new awards every year, and second, most of these awards were insignificant things. So instead, I chose to just look in the rear view mirror and reflect on 2015, it is more or less the same thing as the special awards, but it feels a little classier. So then, let's get talking!

It has been a fun year

Metal used to be kind of stale and over the top serious, but maybe we are seeing a kind of global warming on that part. 2015 has seen a good number of releases that are out right fun, both musically and spiritually. Just take Gloryhammer for example. Who would have thought that one of the best albums in 2015 would be a concept album about chaos wizards in space from 1992. That is complete bonkers.

Gloryhammer are not alone in bringing the fun. Bands like Angra, 6:33, Standing Ovation, Gama Bomb and Clutch also helps out in making this year incredibly fun. My mouth is sore from smiling so much.

What a year for power metal

I have already mentioned Gloryhammer and Angra, but they were not the only power metal bands that released great albums this year. The whole genre has had a stellar year, seeing nice releases from Stratovarius, Blind Guardian, Cain's Offering, and Nightwish. Actually, the only ones that I can think of that really dropped the ball this year was Battle Beast and Helloween, both released quite boring albums that are no where near their best outings. Despite those duds, it goes to show that power metal is once again relevant in the metal business.

The beauty of metal

Another thing that has impressed me this year is that the amount of beautiful album covers is through the roof. We all know that the sound of an album is the most important part, but there is no feeling like the one of looking at a great and striking album cover. Several bands have come through with some amazing artwork, like Children of Bodom, Ghost, Saxon, Teramaze, Queensrÿche and Enslaved. But the cake is taken by Magic Kingdom. God damn, if someone needed a step by step guide to make a power metal cover art, you just have to look at this one as inspiration and let the power metal flow through your veins. After that, you just go full Bob Ross mode, and make happy little accidents.

Just some of the amazing art pieces from 2015

The beginning of the end

Okay, this beginning of the end of the classic metal bands have already started, but it has not been until this year that this has been obvious. Lemmy has had back to back medical issues, and now that Phil Campbell also has checked into the hospital, we know that the days of Motörhead are counting down. At the same time, Mötley Crüe is doing their last ever tour, and we know that they will not pull a Rolling Stones on us since they declared themselves dead with tomb stones. The definite sign of this though is the announcement of Black Sabbath's last ever world tour. It is not at all surprising (the guys are seniors after all), but it is still a little sad.

We all knew that they would not be here forever, so let us now enjoy these last moments while we still can. I know I will by going to the upcoming shows of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath this summer.

The plague called "Super" groups

I do not know about you guys, but I have felt that the metal community saw a big increase in bands that consists of members that are or used to be in a big, established band, aka super groups. I get that musicians want to broaden their horizons and try to spice up their career, but this is getting ridiculous. And it is not like we are happy over this.

Most of these groups flat out blows, not because they fail to create music that lives up to their names (no super group has, and will never be able to reach that goal), but because they just put out mediocre shit. Here is a list of all the super groups I have heard new material from this year.

Act of Defiance, Cain's Offering, Civil War, Devil You Know, Firespawn, Level 10, Lindemann, Metal Allegiance, Operation: Mindcrime, The Night Flight Orchestra, Tremonti, and if you would add them to this category as well (I am not sure they fit in here), Kiske/Somerville and Magnus Karlsson's Freefall. I am also sure that I have missed several other ones out there.

Some of these have actually put out some good music (Cain's Offering's "Stormcrow" got a 9/10), but the reputation is there for a reason. For the love of god, stay away from Metal Allegiance's self titled album and Level 10's "Chapter 1", both are just god awful. These albums may be made by fantastic musicians such as Mike Portnoy, Russell Allen, and David Ellefson, but that does not mean that they just get an automatic stamp of approval.

Speaking of bad music...

Where's the Black Tide I know and love?

As I wrote in my review of "Chasing Shadows", Black Tide quickly became one of my favourites when they released their debut album "Light From Above". If their latest album would have been the first one I heard from the band, I would have not bothered in hearing "Light From Above", which means I would have missed several amazing tracks such as "Shockwave", "Black Abyss", and "Warriors of Time".

I can understand that people change, and that their music evolves into something different than what made them famous. Just look at all the established artist today, the only ones that plays more or less the same thing they did when they emerged are AC/DC and Motörhead. However, the path that Black Tide has taken is more of a devolution into something that is bland and unimaginative. That is exactly why I have lost faith in them, and why "Chasing Shadows" is without any competition my pick for worst album of the year.

The world is seriously f****d up

There is no denying that this world is on the brink of witnessing a third world war. ISIS is roaming wild and crazy, blowing up and shooting everything within the eye's sight, and all of the world's leaders can do is argue over how to take action (at least they got a climate agreement now, so they are at least slowly getting somewhere). I have always believed that religion is okay, you sometimes do need some higher power to believe in, but the members of ISIS takes that belief to the extreme. What kind of god would allow this madness?

And at the same time, we others are not much better, destroying our only planet by destroying nature, causing global warming, and arguing over the littlest things just for the sake of arguing. I wish I could meet those who argued over the red coffee cups at Starbucks and give them a grand Ziltoid slap in their faces. Just do what I do, if I see something that mildly annoys me, I shut up and move on.

My personal 2015

Time to get personal. My year has been a busy one, not only did I have to deal with my first full time job, but I have had other personal issues that I will not go further into. Why am I talking about this? Because it has effected my time with the blog and my ability to listen to new music. I would have loved to do more reviews, but I just have not managed my time all to well. That is why my new year's resolution will be to improve my time management to optimize my writing.

One thing I am more proud of is that I have managed to increase my CD collection quite a bit this year. I do not have the exact number of how many albums I have purchased this year, but I did reach the 100 album milestone this year at least. I have mostly focused on two things. 1. getting all albums from Dream Theater and Iron Maiden (only have "Falling Into Infinity" left with DT), and 2. acquiring as many classics as possible, some that I got this year was Rainbow "Rising", Guns N' Roses "Appetite for Destruction", Slayer "Reign In Blood" and Opeth "Blackwater Park" + "Ghost Reveries". Does this mean I ignore the newer releases? No, some newer albums that I have gotten are Blind Guardian "Beyond The Red Mirror", Iron Maiden "The Book of Souls", Moonspell "Extinct", Cain's Offering "Stormcrow" and Ghost "Meliora". I may not be rich, but I have spent a lot of cash on music, and I feel good about it. Really feel like my collection is coming along nicely.

A look into 2016

In conclusion, 2015 was a fairly good year for metal, but not so much for the overall well being of the world. No matter what, I am really looking forward to 2016. Not only do I get the chance to visit some great shows, but looking at the list of albums that are going to be released in the beginning of next year, it promises to be a great start. Or what do we say about new releases from Mechina, Cloudscape, Rhapsody of Fire, Witchcraft, Steven Wilson, Megadeth, Avantasia, Primal Fear, Lost Society, Omnium Gatherum, Holy Grail, Entombed A. D. and Anvil? Oh, and let us not forget Dream Theater, whom is releasing a double album concept that has a total of 34 (!) tracks. I AM SO HYPED!!!

I really hoped you enjoyed this article (even if it turned out to be long as hell), and that you all appreciate what 2015 has given us. Let me know what you think of 2015, has it been a good or a bad year? Let me know on the commentary section below, or on Twitter (@FATGreviews).

Be sure to be on the look out for the next part of my best of 2015 series, which is my top 50 songs of 2015.

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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