And starting off at number fifteen. . .
15. Kylesa – Ultraviolet
Psychedelic rock, sludge rock, stoner rock – whatever you want to call it – Kylesa’s “Ultraviolet” is all that and a bag of potato chips. Resonating back to the early nineties with bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Kyuss, Kylesa’s newest is a slug-fest of dirty, crunchy, pulse-pounding songs. However, you’re guaranteed to lose yourself listening to this album. To put it simply: Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope kick butt.
Listen to “Unspoken” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-APQ1SQQ6M
14. Occultist – Death Sigils
Taking from the grunge scene, this half punk, half thrash debut album is all-out fantastic. “Death Sigils” offers a refreshing takes on the genres and really throws it in your face with wonderful female vocals. The mix is what really what stands out though. It is a clean and organised chaos -something that is rarely done well in the genre – let alone with a debut album. Occultist does it all right.
Listen to the entire album here: http://occultist.bandcamp.com/
13. Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen
I feel bad having Ihsahn squeeze his way into my top fifteen again this year,but he continues to push out incredible music. Mixed from jazz, fusion, progressive, black, doom, avant-garde, and so on, he’s really all over the place – yet it all feels like home in the album. To put it simply, “Das Seelenbrechen” is more of an incredible sample of genres that flows together naturally. There’s such a variety of elements are involved with creating such a daunting animal as this album. You owe it to yourself to give it a listen to.
Listen to “NaCI” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92g3KGbZXU0
12. Fates Warning – Darkness in a Different Light
The pioneers of prog are back! A well-orchestrated and return-to-form album by Fates Warning after along hiatus proves they are still a force to be reckoned with. Screaming from their late eighties/early nineties sound, “Darkness in a Different Light”is a welcomed listen, featuring a wide variety of styles in both guitar and bass work. Not to mention, Ron Jarzombek is drumming on the album. ‘Nuff said.
Listen to single, “I Am” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChFbgZNgCh0
11. Ayreon – The Theory of Everything
Over-the-top as always, songwriter Arjen Lucassen manages to create a symphonic concept album featuring four songs over twenty minutes on two discs. To make matters even nerdier, this science-fiction album is broken up into forty-two tracks for you Hitchhiker fans out there. Along with other science-fiction nods, this album is filled with exciting orchestrations, brilliant story-telling, and an incredible line up of guest musicians putting “The Theory of Everything” in my number eleven spot.
Listen to the song “The Theory of Everything” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E98C5BcXnE
10. Amorphis – Circle
Finnish folk-rockers Amorphis released “Circle” earlier in the year. An excellent, straight-forward album with solid compositions and Tomi Joutsen’s gorgeous vocals puts this album into the beginning of my top ten.
Listen to the single “The Wanderer” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDpEBMHRp4g
9. Levin, Minnemann, Rudess – Levin, Minnemann, Rudess
What happens when you throw three legendary musicians together? Bassist Tony Levin, drummer Marco Minnemann, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, come together and piece an incredible fusion album with awesome concepts and moods to melt your ears. This near all-instrumental album seems to shift focus halfway through, with the first half being a mix of blues, while the second takes you back to the early eighties and nineties in video games.
Listen to the single “Scrod” here (and try not to think of playing on the Sega Genesis): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF9JZTVDB7I
8. Black Sabbath – 13
I was fearful of this album when it was first announced. I knew Ozzy was too old and worn out to continue writing solid music. While yes, Ozzy’s tired voice was clearly corrected for the album, the song writing, is something else. Black Sabbath makes a clear impression that they are really the godfathers of heavy metal (as if that wasn’t clear already). Sticking true to their form by honouring both blues and jazz, “13” is a solid and incredible album – save for the two singles (which are also the first two songs on the album). Dear Father may be one of my favourite Sabbath tunes of all-time. If anything,”13″ could have been released in the seventies it would have been a perfect fit.
Listen to “Dear Father” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZHUl9G9hfg
7. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Everyone thinks either “Rated R” or “Songs for the Deaf” are QotSA’s best albums. Well, guess which two albums had a baby together? “…Like Clockwork” is a great return for the band after their recent musical flops. Very moody and at times sinister, the album cannot help but force a smirk on your face. Such as when you pick up on the subtle soundscapes in the background, or when you recognise when Dave Grohl’s signature drumming sound becomes real apparent.
Listen to “I Appear Missing” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCy8pjhl97A
6. Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance
This is hands-down some of the most fun I’ve had ever listening to an album. I dare you to try not to crack a smile when listening.
Listen to “Leave No Cross Unturned” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0tsFqTulM8
5. Woodkid – The Golden Age
A friend recommended me this album and two songs in, I fell in love. Yoann Lemoine makes sure “The Golden Age” overflows with grandeur and experimental stylings. It’s indie, but epic. It’s elegant, but shines bright.This album will drop your jaw onto the ground with its audio brilliance. There’s layers and layers of love thrown into each song, making you want to listen to each track carefully if only to grin wildly along with it. There is a reason why this album makes my top five.
Watch the music video to “Run Boy Run” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmc21V-zBq0
4. Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn
This dark, ambient album – as with all Summoning albums – is loosely based off of Lord of the Rings. This album features great soundscapes and themes in the long, epic songs on the album. Singing of nature, loss, and a variety of LotR-based locations, you cannot help but feel the wonder behind some of the songs. At times I wish Peter Jackson would attach these songs to his films.What makes this album stand out the most, however, is the beautiful and diverse arrangements the band pieces together.
Listen to “The White Tower” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMQyeise1Ic
3. Carcass – Surgical Steel
I debated endlessly with myself on whether or not this album deserved the second place spot or not. The return of one of death metal’s greatest bands proves to be an incredible one.
“Surgical Steel” features eleven pounding tracks which not only make you feel exhilarated, but it throws interesting philosophies about human consumption and the nature of man. Reeking in irony, it is quite the educational and introspective album for the impressionable listener.
Watch the music video to “Captive Bolt Pistol” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3fRKGD2GW0
2. Gorguts – Colored Sands
Speaking of reunions, it has been over a decade since Canadian band Gorguts released anything. “Colored Sands” is one of the most emotional albums I’ve heard in a long time. Focusing more on the spirituality of Buddhism and Tibetans under Chinese rule, lyrically, this album is not only a historical lesson, but also an exploration of man. Luc Lemay writes an incredible scope of stories filled with both sorrow and pain making the liner notes compliment the album well.
Musically, however, Colored Sands is an incredible journey with a wide variety of musical styles blended into the technical death metal genre. Not only does the album feature odd-timed waltzes or jazz interludes, but the middle of the album features a string quartet for an awesome classical arrangement.
While I’ve given the link to the album below, I strongly recommend listening to my favourite track,”Absconders.” It is, in my opinion, the most emotional song off of the album. The last few minutes of the song really hits the point home.
Listen to the entire album here: http://gorguts.bandcamp.com/album/colored-sands
1. Steven Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)
When this album was released in February, I knew after the first listen it was something special. Not only is each song a self-contained story, but it is also an audio adventure for the listener. It is rare for the stories and music to complement each other well enough to create a satisfying final product, but each song on Wilson’s album does so perfectly – and seemingly with ease.
The true beauty of the album is how each song sounds different, but still the same. Every song on the album features different tones, atmospheres, influences, and attention to detail, making all of the stories unique onto themselves in the canonical album.
Brilliant, haunting, touching, beautiful, daring, progressive – whatever you want to call it, this album offers it and so much more.
Watch the music video to “The Raven that Refused to Sing” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4XevlloPY4
Anneke van Giersbergen – Drive
Haken – The Mountain
Magenta – The Twenty Seven Club
The Ocean – Pelagial
Portal – Vexovoid
Toxic Holocaust – Chemistry of Consciousness
Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? What have you?