I have been doing this annually since 2005, but I rarely mention it publically. I usually post these things on Facebook for friends, but I had a few people tell me they wish to see this on my website. So here we go!
15. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
With the band’s first double album, The Book of Souls explores many progressive concepts that really seem to harken back to 1984’s Powerslave. With three songs over ten minutes, the album expands on Maiden’s already great musicianship shows off their compositions. Save for the single, the rest of the album has a lot more technical prowess to it.
Watch the music video for the single, “Speed of Light”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F7A24f6gNc
14. Himinbjorg – Wyrd
Folk black metal band Himinbjorg have always been rather absent from the music scene. Featuring the somewhat lackluster albums in the past, their newest release, Wyrd, steps up their songwriting and production game to a new level. With a vast array of song styles within the rather moody album, I have to say I was super impressed of the band’s change.
Listen to “The World of Men Without Virture”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUWCtX5K3JM
13. Symphony X – Underworld
Breaking new ground with 2002’s release, The Odyssey, the band now had to live up to certain expectations. With 2007’s Paradise Lost, they really pushed it to the limit. 2011’s Iconoclast fell flat. Now in 2015, Underworld brings them back up – not to previous standards, but pushing different standards and setting a new precedent for themselves. Unlike traditional SX fashion, the first few songs – while impressive – are not nearly as good as the last half of the album. Underworld mixes with new sounds and shows the listener that the old progressive metal band they once were is gone. With Underworld, we hear SX aren’t afraid to try something new and experiment again.
Listen to the opening track “Nevermore”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z3AHbjeb1U
12. Frank Zappa – Dance Me This
Even though he passed away in 1993, he had enough music recorded to be released up until now. Dance Me This, both Zappa’s 100th and final album, features Frank predominately performing with a Synclavier – a digital sampling device – along with Siberian throat singers. While the album is definitely an acquired taste, I can honestly say that even twenty-plus years after his death, Frank is still pushing the musical envelope with this album – making me hear things I’ve never heard before. This rings especially true with the final track, Calculus.
Listen to the opening title track and what is considered Frank’s final guitar solo, “Dance Me This”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHns_UnyWZQ
11. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
Another year and unsurprisingly another Amorphis album makes my list. Can this band do no wrong? They have a formula and they stick to it. However, unlike previous albums, Under the Red Cloud plays around with more musical themes outside of their traditional Finnish roots. Always impressing and improving on their sound, there’s no wonder why this band still dominates in the music world.
Listen to the single, “Sacrifice”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiOX2axSWvg
10. Venom – From The Very Depths
Where did this come from? Never did I expect to see new Venom in a top fifteen list of mine, and yet here we are! While credited as one of the originators of the black metal genre, Venom has grown far away from that to the point. Fom the Very Depths sounds like a cross between bands like Testament, Overkill, and Motörhead. Pulse-pounding and relentlessly heavy, this new release breathes fresh air in the band and excites me for their next release.
Listen to the single, “Long Haired Punks”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KwCOoEI0rM
9. Sigh – Graveward
As expected, this Japanese band gives the listener more than they could ever expect. From the far-extreme to the slow-mellow, Sigh have always gone with the strange, purposeful “under produced” sound with incredible quality in their music. Graveward never ceases to impress throughout the entire album.
Be surprised! Listen to the single, “Kaedit Nos Pestis”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iczcILBMlcs
8. Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
This American tech-death band features a return-to-form after the disappointing 2012 release, At the Gate of Sethu. With crushing riffs and pulse-pounding drum beats, Nile’s newest release is perfect for the listener who’s looking to be blown away from the intensity the album provides. As usual, expect lengthy write ups about each song’s meaning in the linear notes.
Listen to the single/opening track, “Call to Destruction”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSVqclCr4fI
7. Nordic Giants – A Séance of Dark Delusions
The debut full-length album from this English duo is nothing short of impressive. Almost as if each song is a soundtrack from a movie, it is difficult to explain what Nordic Giants are. With each song different from the other, featuring keys, trumpets, drums, guitar, operatic vocals – they are a rock band but with unconventional instruments. An absolutely breathtaking album. I’m confident it will impress.
Watch the music video to “Rapture”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K79YFZLXobM
6. Torche – Restarter
After 2012’s lovely Harmonicraft, Restarter ups the ante and gets heavier, dirtier, and sludgier (new word) with overdriven bass, pounding kicks, and gruff vocals. Still keeping true to their song-writing roots, Torche simply makes the same music they always have, but they made it heavier. While that defaults as a bonus in my books, the band does so naturally without losing who they are. That alone speaks volumes to both the quality of the band and of this album.
Watch the music video to “Annihilation Affair”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWt7V-E9S7U
5. Arcturus – Arcturian
As a band known for helping change the sound of black metal, some would say their newest, Arcturian, is far from it. And you know, it certainly doesn’t sound like it would be considered black metal – yet it still is. Always different and never boring, Arcturian is the band’s first album in ten years and still sounds as if they never stopped being themselves along the way.
Listen to the first track/single, “The Arcturian Sign”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uWIg5hI7hE
4. My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
As expected with a band name like this, My Dying Bride pushes your chest in and holds you there as you experience the sheer brutal sorrow of this album. From the gothic, poetic lyrics and dark sounds, Feel the Misery absorbs you into it and refuses to let go. Hands-down, one of the band’s – if not the band’s – best release.
Watch the video of the title track, “Feel the Misery”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4e_c3XAPoUI
3. Ozric Tentacles – Technicians of the Sacred
Another first double album for a band in this list, the instrumental band Ozric Tentacles, release their fifteenth album in spectacular fashion. As a band that always seems to do something stranger than the last, Technicians of the Sacred still manages to pull some punches with the hefty variety of music it brings. Spoiler alert: I’m a big Ozric fan. I can say that this is their best album since 1993’s Jurassic Shift.
Listen to the full album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cmg7wXhy41I
2. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.
What Steven Wilson does for music is like what the sun does to plants for Earth. His newest release, Hand. Cannot. Erase., is bold, touching, emotional, driven, brilliant, moody, intense, beautiful, and oh-so much more. Blending both pop music and progressive rock, the album still features a concept, unlike most pop albums: and the concept of the album is remarkable, if not a bit depressing. Guest vocalist, Ninet Tayeb, provides a balanced contrast and freshness to both the album and Wilson’s production.
Watch the gorgeous music video to “Perfect Life”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOU_zWdhAoE
Watch the heart-breaking music video for “Routine”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCn-CNanD_g
1. Riverside – Love, Fear, and the Time Machine
After the release of 2005’s Second Life Syndrome, the Polish band, Riverside (much like Symphony X), seemed to lose themselves in a couple of stale albums. Love, Fear, and the Time Machine changes everything and puts the band up on a pedestal that surpasses everything they’ve done.
Never slowing down, but hardly ever breaking the precedent set by the first track, Riverside finds their stride with the opening notes and continues through to the end. LF&tTM keeps a constant sublime and melancholic feeling throughout the album – right up until the final note is played. The album is calming, yet still intricate enough to satisfy the listener with the layers of beauty within each song.
Often upbeat, despite the rather relaxed mix and mastering of the album, LF&tTM features a variety of tunes that all share familiarity to each other while still being completely different in structure and theme.
For these reasons, and because it’s my most listened to album this year, does Riverside take the top spot on my list.
Watch the music video to “Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)” – which pretty much captures the feeling of the album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN0uSZ8xNcs
Listen to the single, “Discard Your Fear”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc4MSBVLF2c
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
Kamelot – Haven
Moonspell – Extinct
George Kollias – Invictus
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Kylsea – Exhausting Fire
Spectral Lore – Gnosis
Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror
Annihilator – Suicide Society
Royal Hunt – Devil’s Dozen
Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? What have you?