Saturday, 26 December 2015

Best Album of 2015

While it's only the beginning of I Only Listen To Real Music, 2015 will soon be drawing to a close, marking the end of a year filled with massive albums in rock and metal music, with albums such as Bring Me The Horizon's That's The Spirit and Ire from Aussie metalcore giants Parkway Drive both dividing opinions strongly in their respective genres. I'll offer my thoughts on the year's 20 most important albums, , before I pick my favourite album of the lot.

August Burns Red - Found in Far Away Places
One of the most consistent bands in metalcore is August Burns Red, who have delivered with each release since their first EP Looks Fragile After All. However, this consistency had often led to their previous albums being... well... exactly the same. However, Found In Far Away Places, I think, is a breath of fresh air. Songs like twenty one grams bring the ABR we all know, with an intensity and technicality rarely found in metalcore. They also have some stuff we're not used to - for example, majoring in the minors suddenly turns into something that sounds like it's been taken straight out of the Wild West. No, I don't know either...

Angelmaker - Dissentient
Anyone who listens to a lot of deathcore will know that the genre is starting to become pretty stale. Another Black Tongue rip off...? *Yawn.* Angelmaker's ferocious debut full-length has brought life to the genre. The first two tracks, Godless and No Haven, have a few elements of slam, without the repetetiveness, but still with the rip-a-baby's-head-off brutatilty. The rest of the album then has strong black metal influences, making this one of the darkest and heaviest albums of the year, and a definite strong contender for 2015's best album. Let's just hope we don't have a load of Angelmaker clones by this time next year.

Anti-Flag - American Spring
These Pittsburgh punks have released a huge number of albums, with American Spring being the 9th Full-length studio album. Their political messages are as relevant as ever in today's world, but can the same be said for their music? I think so. Their isn't many punk bands left who are still making music, so the ones who still put out good albums are important. And most importantly, this is a good album. Ok, it's no For Blood And Empire but Sky Is Falling and Bradenburg Gate are still out there keeping punk alive.

Bring Me The Horizon - That's The Spirit
Never has a band divided opinions like Bring Me The Horizon. The Sheffield outfit have transformed from deathcore in their 2004 and 2006 releases all the way to their new style, which is hard to categorise but is probably closest to alt rock. From their original EP all the way to 2013's Sempiternal, I was a huge fan of all their releases. But That's The Spirit is a bit... meh. They still have a number of good songs - Drown. Throne and Happy Song are particularly catchy - but in my opinion this album isn't on the same level as their previous releases.

Bullet For My Valentine - Venom
Let's be honest, even the most die-hard bullet fans know Fever and Temper Temper were nowhere near the Welsh metalcore band's best that we saw on The Poison and Scream Aim Fire. At first I thought that Venom would also be more watered-down radio rock. But when I heard the first single, No Way Out, I knew this was different. In Venom Bullet have an album which can compete with the first 2. We've finally had a return to the screams we heard in the earlier songs, with Padge's insane shredding in the guitar solos. Bullet came back as heavy as ever in Venom, with one of their best albums to date.

Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction
Holy moly guacamole. Cattle Decapitation have topped 2012's absolute masterpiece Monolith Of Inhumanity with this new album, which before I heard it would've said is impossible. This album runs rings around anything else in death metal at the moment. Every aspect of this album is just perfect - Travis' vocals are as beastly as ever, with his eerie cleans (or whatever they are) featuring more than ever, the drumming is as intense and relentless as on Monolith, and the guitar work is even better. In Prophets Of Loss we even hear a tiny amount of black metal influence, (maybe?) which we have not heard before from CD, andis just as amazing if not more than their more traditional deathgrind songs.

Ice Nine Kills - Every Trick In The Book
Ice Nine Kills are a band who over time have changed a lot since their 2006 debut Last Chance To Make Amends, and this is probably their most ambitious album yet. Unlike most bands that change their sound who go soft (pah, boring...) this is the band's heaviest album yet - for example communion of the cursed features very little clean vocals, which is a pretty new idea for INK. The concept of the album (Yes, a concept album by a metalcore band) is also great - the songs talk about the human mind in different ways, and have some very thought-provoking lyrics, especially Me, Myself and Hyde, which is one of the most well-thought-out songs of the year.

Iron Maiden - Book Of Souls
I have a confession to make - I've never properly listened to Iron Maiden, apart from the odd song, so I didn't really know what to expect from this album. And while it's not my favourite style of metal, The Book Of Souls is still pretty damn good. Bruce has shown how unstoppable he is, after coming back from throat cancer to give such a god-like vocal performance, and the guitar work in songs like Speed Of Light is just as epic. But it can be a bit too epic; the guitar solos are way, way too long, and can seem a bit self-indulgent a lot of the time. But this is still a good album from one of metal's all time greats.

Lamb Of God - VII. Sturm Und Drang
The masters of groove metal have returned with their first album since Randy Blythe's (the vocalist) 44 days spent in a Czech prison with one of their best albums so far. It's a bit surprising that only 2 of the songs focus on Randy's time behind bars - while many frontmen/-women would talk about it for the whole album, Randy chooses not to. However,when Blythe is talking about his time in prison in 512, it makes for a great song, and you can really feel how he felt in prison. Overlord brings something new to the table; clean vocals. The song is something new, and works perfectly; it slowly builds up from a slow start to the heavy Lamb Of God that we all know.

Muse - Drones
Muse never fail to a-muse the listener, and are a band deserving of their huge following. This year's album, Muse's 7th, was no exception, and saw them talk about the destruction of humanity, as caused by robots. Ok then... Drones is also a great album in terms of sound. Mercy was one of the more emotive songs, and also one of the best, while towards the end of the album we saw the more experimental side of Muse. The Globalist was one of these; it is a 10 minute epic, much less heavy than a lot of Muse's material, and is another one of Muse's more emotive songs.

Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat
We all know what to expect from Napalm Death by now - no-nonsense, straight to the point grindcore. That's exactly what we get in Apex Predator. Apart from some spoken vocals in the title track and Dear Slum Landlord, this album is just as chaotic and heavy as a grindcore album should be. The vocals on this album are just as insane-sounding as the instruments, as you would expect, and you hear every ounce of rage that Barney (vocalist) has at the world. And believe me, he might be 45, but there is still a hell of a lot of it.

Neck Deep - Life's Not Out To Get You
Neck Deep are another band I'd never listened to before writing this, and really I can't believe I've been missing out on them. Life's Not Out To Get You is probably the best modern pop-punk album I've ever heard, and is even up there with my all-time favourites, Enema Of The State and Take Off Your Pants And Jacket by Blink-182. Citizens Of The Earth and The Beach Is For Lovers were great and had me dancing around my room like my inner pop-punk kid. December, the acoustic song, was also a brilliant song, with more of a sad feel than the other songs.

Parkway Drive - Ire
Like Bring Me The Horizons' album from this year, Ire was one which really divided opinions. Parkway are leaving behind their metalcore roots, and have made an entirely breakdown-free album. Their new direction has brought some great songs with it, such as the Rage Against The Machine-inspired Crushed. But not all of the new stuff is as good as songs like Crushed and Bottom Feeder. Vice Grip is the most guilty of this - it just seems... not as well thought-out as older Parkway albums, especially some of the lyrics. ("Yeeeaaah, yeah yeah" isn't exactly inspiritional lyrics) But there were still some good songs, showing PWD still have a lot left in the tank.

Periphery - Juggernaut:Omega/Juggernaut:Alpha
Periphery's two releases from 2015 both bring a different side of djent to the table. Omega shows off Periphery's heavier side, with the exception of the largely acoustic song Priestess, with screams much imrpoved from Periphery's older work. Alpha on the other hand is a lot more melodic. MK Ultra includes some very chaotic sounding guitar work, but apart from that this album has very few riffs, and is almost completely clean vocals. Alpha isn't really my thing, unlike Omega, but they are both still very well put together albums, and Periphery are undoubtedly one of the best bands in progressive metal.

Slayer - Repentless
Everyone's favourite thrash metal band returned in 2015 with Repentless, the first album since the passing of legendary shredder Jeff Hanneman. Many would've thought it wouldn't be the same without him, but Slayer are still going strong. The lead single and title track of the album is heavy as ever, and I have to admit it, I think it's even better than Slayer classics like Angel Of Death and Raining Blood. When The Stillness Comes and Pride In Prejudice are also very good songs, in a different way to the faster songs, and give a nice break from the brutal riffs and vocals very harsh for a thrash metal band.

Stray From The Path - Subliminal Criminals
What would happen if Rage Against The Machine had a baby that grew up to be a hardcore kid? Well, it would sound something like Stray From The Path. In Subliminal Criminals they rage at businessmen, the police, and well... everyone. This album is their best yet, now they've found the perfect balance between regular hardcore and their RATM influences. Outbreak is an especially catchy song, and it only takes a couple of listens to be screaming along to the chorus ("OOUUTBREEAAK! SUBLIMINAL CRIMINALS!") while Eavesdropper and D.i.e.p.i.g. make you want to start a one-person mosh pit wherever you are.

The Black Dahlia Murder - Abysmal
The album's called abysmal, but The Black Dahlia Murder's latest effort is definitely not abysmal. (Geddit? Never mind...) This album is their most relentless attack on our ears yet, with songs such as Receipt and Threat Level No.3 being the best melodic death metal material out there. Trevor Strnad brings his usual insane vocals, while his lyrics are some of the best in metal, with the best song lyrically (in my opinion) being receipt. The one criticism I have of Abysmal is that TBDM have never really changed their sound a lot over time - the one difference in this album is it is slightly faster, but apart from that this sounds pretty similar to all their other albums.

Thy Art Is Murder - Holy War
We recently found out that Thy Art will be parting ways with vocalist CJ, meaning this was his last album, but at least we can say he went out on a high. Holy War transformed TAIM into one of the biggest deathcore bands out there right now. The first 5 songs of Holy War are deserving of this - they mix different elements of extreme metal in perfect balance, although admittedly are a bit over-produced. But then after those 5 songs, it seems like the band just sort of... ran out of ideas. Sure, the rest of the songs are good, but they can't compare with the first 5 of the album, which are near enough deathcore perfection.

While She Sleeps - Brainwashed
WSS might not be the most famous metalcore band at the moment, but they sure are one of the best. After vocalist Loz's throat surgery, they have somehow managed to come back and top their debut album This Is The Six. They have a perfect balance between heaviness and melody - the title track and Trophies Of Violence bring the aggressive lyrics, (and the title track has one of the best endings to a song I've ever heard) while Our Legacy and Four Walls have beautiful melodies. The thing I love most is how real Sleeps are; in the video for Our Legacy we see the band members growing up together, and you can tell that their music is made completely out of passion for music by a group of best friends.

Young Guns - Ones And Zeros
Young Guns' most recent album, curiously named after an Emmure guitar tab, is one of the more upbeat albums on this list. Feel-good songs like I Want Out and Memento Mori are impossible not to get up and dance around to, and the increased synth use makes this album very arena-ready. That could be where Young Guns are headed after this album, because they are really starting to sound like a band who are going places, and going places soon. They haven't completely left behind their guitar-orientated style though - Speaking In Tongues features a lot more guitar than some of the other songs, and sounds a lot closer to Young Guns' older music.

So, what was the best of the bunch then? Neck Deep's Life's Not Out To Get You was up there, great for easy listening or for cheering you up. On the other end of the scale The Anthropocene Extinction from Cattle Decapitation was a masterpiece in extreme metal. But my favourite album of 2015 was Brainwashed by While She Sleeps. It is one of the best and most well put-together albums I have ever heard, but more importantly you can feel the intense emotion and passion that those guys put into their music, Congratulations While She Sleeps on an absolute masterpiece!

Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you enjoyed. Let me know in the comments section what your favourite album of 2015 was! Hope you all had a great Christmas, and have a happy 2016!

1 comment:

  1. Good to see Iron Maiden included but this album doesn't come anywhere near "Number of the Beast" or "Power Slave"