Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best of 2015: Albums

Another year officially over, and what a quick one it has been. Time just flies by when you are having fun, or as for me, being crazy busy all the time. My personal life has been hectic, which has left me with less time to listen to music, which in its turn means that I have missed out on several titles that I wanted to listen to. I tried to go through as many albums as possible here in December, and I think I got most of them. My new year's resolution will be divided into three parts. 1. Listen to more music, 2. be more efficient when listening to music, and 3. reviewing more unknown bands.

Unfortunately, the year ended in the worst possible way. After a couple of years with illness, and recently diagnosed with cancer, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister passed away on the 28th. Not only is he the founder and frontman of Motörhead, one of the greatest bands of all time, but he was one of the coolest profiles in metal all together, doing his own thing until his death. No matter if it was about Jeans shorts, gambling, or collecting Nazi memorabilia, Lemmy lived his life in full, and did so while doing what he loved, to play music for the masses, no matter if it was a gigantic festival stage or a dark little bar in some unknown town, he performed with passion and a hell of a lot of volume. I am so happy that I got a chance to see him and the band live before he started to feel ill.

Finally Killed By Death, rest in peace you loud, magnificent bastard.

But enough talk about that, it is all in the past, let us instead focus on what albums made 2015 special. Sadly, another year without a perfect score, although 2 particular albums got very, very close. Overall, the quality has been pretty good, but the tops could have been both higher and more in numbers. Without further ado, here is the best 20 albums from 2015.

Honorable Mentions: Finsterforst - Mach Dich Frei, Kamelot - Haven, Mechina - Acheron, Teramaze - Her Halo, Tribulation - The Children of The Night

20. TesseracT - Polaris
TesseracT keeps on building a very respectable discography, where every album is as good as its last. However, "Polaris" is a different story from its brethren, it is brighter and more direct, and it also consists of only male vocals this time. Blend in some classic TesseracT djent riffs in it, and you got yourself a fantastic album.

19. Queensrÿche - Condition Hüman
Another grand slam for a band that once again has the license to unleash its true self among the public, "Condition Hüman" is just another proof that Queensrÿche is back in business. Todd La Torre's singing is fantastic, the band feels passionate again, and the songs have that classic feel, while still being up to date. Feels good to have you back, old friend.

18. Gama Bomb - Untouchable Glory
No one is frowning when Gama Bomb is around, and no one is sitting still either. "Untouchable Glory" is just another stellar cross over thrash piece with a lot of speed, comedy, and insanity. It definitely holds the same class as 2013's "The Terror Tapes", but this time, we have ninjas!

17. Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The acquisition of Floor Jansen has really been a lift for the Finns, whom unraveled a marvelous fantasy album that will stand as one of the greatest in their discography. Even if Floor gives the band a new edge, it is still recognizable Nightwish music from top to bottom, a album that should please, and win back, fans from around the globe.

16. Symphony X - Underworld
After tons of crazy adventures that were of mixed quality, Russell Allen finally found home again with Symphony X and delivered a great record with the rest of the band. "Underworld" keeps the momentum that "Iconoclast" created, and does a magnificent job in establishing a strong sound picture. Love the overall theme of the album as well.

15. Killing Joke - Pylon
I had not even heard of Killing Joke before this year, but it seems like they have had quite a great career, being one of the most influential industrial metal bands for the last 30 years. "Pylon" struck me with its melancholic flow that felt so natural, so fluent that all one could do is to sit there and enjoy it with all your senses. If this is a representation of the music the band has made, then I am sold.

14. Judicator - At The Expense of Humanity
I just love the feeling that I get when I start listening to a album by a totally unknown band, and it turns out that it is a hidden gem. "At The Expense of Humanity" is one of the finest power metal records this year, but not only for the power, but also the emotional nerve that Judicator keeps on hitting with their performance and their lyrics.

13. Enshine - Singularity
They are still fairly new to the scene, but Enshine has already established themselves as one of the strongest forces in atmospheric doom metal. The space like atmosphere that is created in the sophomore effort "Singularity" is extra ordinary and uplifting. If this is what Nirvana feels like, then I would love to reach it some day.

12. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within
The masters of doom never disappoints, and "The Plague Within" is no exception. Paradise Lost digs deep into the roots of their career and unravels a melancholic, bone chilling album that feels so right on so many levels. It is amazing to see that Paradise Lost can succeed even when they make a complete u-turn in their sound in just a couple of years.

11. Atlas Losing Grip - Currents
I for one assumed that the skate punk genre was practically dead, but the Swedes in Atlas Losing Grip performed some CPR and transformed it into something more than just teenage music. This album is really diverse, bringing in a more progressive element to the classic speed that defines the genre. Certainly the biggest surprise of 2015.

10. Amorphis - Under The Red Cloud
Amorphis has always been a "like, but never love" band for me, but perhaps everything changes now after the release of "Under The Red Cloud". With an even and strong song line-up, the band has created their strongest offering since "Skyforger", which of course is quite the compliment.

9. Ghost - Meliora
Put all of the mystery and satanism aside, and you will find out that Ghost is more than a couple of ghouls and papas. With every new album, Ghost pushes the boundaries in their music so that they can evolve into something that is larger than the afterlife. I still like "Infestisumam" better than "Meliora", mostly because of the song quality, but this album is still a strong fortress that strengthen the band's grip of the masses.

8. Between The Buried And Me - Coma Ecliptic
Clearly inspired by the likes of Queen and Pink Floyd, Between The Buried And Me has really created a marvelous progressive rock opera about a man in a coma that relives his previous lives. The band may not make anything ground breaking to their music, but why fix something that ain't broke. Just another fantastic concept album to put in the collection called the BTBAM discography.

7. Moonspell - Extinct
With oriental influences and a groovy flow that is hard to match, Moonspell played their way straight into my heart with a catchy and amazing effort in "Extinct". These Portuguese men have created a incredible line-up of songs. From the epic "Breathe (Until We Are No More)" to the fast paced "Medusalem", Moonspell puts a mesmerizing spell on us that wears for a long time.

6. Enslaved - In Times
It is easily accessible, and catchy as hell, but do not think for a second that Enslaved has sold out and become mainstream. "In Times" is just another proof that the Norwegians never stop evolving, creating stunning music that is new and refreshing. What you get here is six amazing songs that shows extreme diversity, but is still rooted into the band's black metal roots. Enslaved keeps changing its sound, but not its approach, and we love them for it.

5. Gloryhammer - Space 1992: Rise of The Chaos Wizards
How could this happen? A album about knights, wizards, and goblins in space breaching the top 5? What year is it, 1992? It is crazy when you think about it, but the cheesy assault that Gloryhammer delivers is one of the freshest breaths of air in power metal history, mocking, and honoring, the things that once laid the ground for the genre. The concept is insane, the music is fun as hell, and the musicians responsible for it are nuts. Without a doubt, the most fun you can have while listening to music.

4. Vanden Plas - Chronicles of The Immortals: Netherworld II
I am not surprised at all that Vanden Plas managed to create a equally strong effort as last year's first part. Part II feels a little stronger, not only in the album cover, but mostly because the song quality is better and more even. Otherwise, it is the classic Vanden Plas sound that we all know and love, and with the help from author Wolfgang Hohlbein, they have created a marvelous double concept album series that stands as a highlight in the band's career.

3. Cain's Offering - Stormcrow
Take one former founder of Sonata Arctica, and add two current members of Stratovarius, and you get Finnish power metal glory. "Stormcrow" is not ground breaking what so ever, but it is just awesome, classic power metal from first to last second. Liimatainen has pulled out all his tricks to make his project's sophomore effort a good one. I bet there are some Sonata Arctica fans out there now that would beg to have him back.

2. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
I was not worried at all that Iron Maiden would release a bad album, they simply don't, but I did not expect "The Book of Souls" to be such a meaty double album, even less that it would have such quality to it. This album is the best the band  has put out in the 21st century, the diversity and strength is through the roof. It is just as progressive as "The Final Frontier", but it has more of the classic Maiden traits in it. Can't wait to see them live!

1. Fear Factory - Genexus
There is no album this year that has felt so thought out, so well constructed, and so extremely solid all the way through as the 9th offering from Fear Factory. "Genexus" is industrial candy from start to finish, showing off all of the band's strengths. There is not a single weak track to be found here, and the production is as clean and shining as chrome. The guys may be from America, but knowing how good this album is, one would think it was hand crafted by German engineers. A much deserved winner of the best album of 2015.

That marks the end of 2015, a happy new year to you all, and cheers for hoping that 2016 will be even greater

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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