OK, this pretty much speaks for itself as this is overall, no genre left behind and ranked by how much I actually listened to it though out the course of the year, which is an impressive feat for an album to stay in rotation as I sometimes listen to an upwards of ten albums a day and that just to review, not counting in the car, walking to the gym etc. So here are the Top 15 Albums of 2015.
15- Tidemouth :"Velvet And Stone"
If there had not been a hardcore/ punk list this year, this album would have been on the goth list. The trend in the maturation of hard core kids seems to be pulling out Nick Cave and Echo and the Bunnymen albums. This could be due to the interest in vinyl these kids took a few years back which might have caused them to stumble over these old 80s albums. I am fine with this as long as they do no become to slavish in their devotion only to Joy Division. I love Joy Division , but I do think dark music begins or ends with the. in the they do not abandon their hard core side. It is put through a darker filter. An incredible album that gives me just what I needed , they blend the "gothy" elements in a very fluid and natural manner similar to how Atriarch does this with metal. Each listen the more hard core emoish parts grew on me. It's one of those albums that becomes more enriched the further you dig into its grave. Worth your time for sure if you like dark and heavy music, these guys got the balance right without trying to hard.
14- Shape of Despair :"Monotony Fields"
this Finnish band has taken the past fifteen years to perfect their very melodic and atmospheric brand of doom . The vocals range from are a low gurgle, to female oohs and aahs stacked like Type O Negative in the background. The stay on a depressing path through out. The oppressive feeling is almost tangible. The band is aware they have been notorious for putting long spans of time between releases, so everything is right where it should be with every nuance dialed in, so it was not time wasted. It might not dig as deep and dark of a grave as other funeral doom bands , but the songs are masterfully varied and dynamic to create an awesome album.
13-Nechochwen : " Heart of Akamon"
West Virginia is an unlikely breeding ground for this kind of music. Roughly black metal in some sense, it is highly progressive in the same manner as old Agalloch. The clean vocals are stronger and they layer clean sounds and the more metallic grim ones through a different lens than the Portland band. In some ways these sounds are blended much like their label mate Panopticon. The clean tones are very organic and often allowed to stand along. The blast pretty furiously into "Lost on the Trail of the Setting Sun". The drums are masterful insanity in motion. The footwork pretty breathtaking even in a genre where it is expected. The vocals are well layered and punchy. While they work in many twists and turns over the course of a song they do not exceed the seven minute mark. They are also good at not placing the clean vocals in the obvious Killswitch places to make it the good cop/ bad cop dynamic.
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12- Them are Us Too: "Remain"
Right from the first song Kennedy Ashlyn Wenning's voice makes you take notice, before "The Problem With Red Heads" allows her to shed some of the Elizabeth Fraser worship when the duo drifts into an alluringly dreamy rock. Sure this would not have been out of place on 4AD, in the 80s and the band encourages these comparisons. This also reminds of the Gatherings post- metal moments. Her choice of melodies shows she cares abut crafting something that is not just a tribute. I can almost hear more Cure than Cocteau Twins until Cash Askew's guitar comes to prove he has discovered the lost secrets to Robin Guthrie's sound.Their influences might be worn on their sleeves ,but lets face it the Cocteau Twins are never going to make another album or tour again.
Another album that forsakes metallic overdrive and instead employs a more organic yet dark hearted Neo-folk with an Appalachian breeze blowing through it. The members switch off vocals resulting in a wide range of moodiness to the dirge like mourning allowing each instrument and voice embraces while adding another swathe of gray to the sonic tapestry. hey have really created something unique here. The lyrics carry the indignant unease of post- punk, while they set upon a soundtrack with the elegance that is the x-factor many a wanna-be goth bands just doesn't get . This brings the emotional weight making it heavy in feeling rather than metal.When I played this for my wife just dismissed it as more of the droning drug music I like, so you have to listen to this as a whole work to really get the full effect or have to have been involved with heavy narcotic use for a period of more than five years. Do not play while operating heavy machinery.
10- Iron Maiden- "the Book of Souls"
Right behind Black Sabbath when it comes being one of the most revered classic metal bands of all time. This is for good reason as they have they have maintained tons of integrity over the years even if they did break down and use keyboards and made the poor choice of trying to replace Bruce with Blaze. This album upholds their legacy and I would not be surprised if it was their last as it feels they want to try everything they have yet to do and make the most of every solo. It would not be out of place if I decided to make a top ten power metal albums of the year or a top ten prog albums of the year... the latter being more likely as I doubt I listened to ten power metal albums this year, however they transcend both of those genres. Have done better and it might not be on the level of the albums that came before "Fear of the Dark", which is a bar held incredibly high, But they never outright miss the mark and even if this was just dialed in it would still be better than everything else. But that is the beauty of this they are still committed to putting their all into what they do and there is a lot of heart put into this, they are just older and wiser with that wisdom compensating for the fire that was in their music when they were a younger band, this is still an album made by one of the greatest bands ever.
9- Eye of NIX : "Moros"
This is more experimental than prog, though it is progressive in the sense the songs go somewhere. That is more can be said for many so called prog bands that remain stagnant in favor of wanking on the fret board. The album starts off as a more post-rock version of Dead Can Dance. Lead singer Joy Von Spain lets it all out in an operatic soprano as things get blasty beneath her. Male growls add a grit to their shifts into crustier paces. While Mykur gave us similar dynamics earlier this year, each end of the dynamic range here is pushed a little further. Joy is dynamic range extends into the not afraid to shred her vocals chords a little with some screams. Sometimes they play by the more typical metal rules and the veer off into slow-core. They sometimes build into the type of chaos that can be found in some of Swans' freak out moments but with a more metallic command.They incorporate every element of music that love into this one album in a cohesive fashion.
8- Kylesa : "Exhausting Fire"
These Savannah rockers continue to evolve, in someways that makes them progressive , since they are not where I first found them when I picked up a copy of "To Walk a Middle Course" ten years ago. There sludge roots are still intact but they have enough dark psychedelics is place to appeal to the hesher sect. They used to cover Pink Floyd, so this side of the band should come as not surprise. Laura's vocals which have continues to grow sometimes take on a more Siouxsie like croon to them. There are plenty of balls this times around injected to these heavy grooves. After a dazed and glazed cover of the Sabbath classic "Paranoid" the path of the band is best in explained in the lyrics of the closing song where Laura says she is throwing caution to the wind and taking her chances again here. Even when they wander off into a more heady direction the bass line holds down the fort, until they bring the smack down the happy ending that blazes out with solos in true rock god/goddess fashion. Another moment of triumph for this band.
7- Health :"Death Magic"
I first questioned some of the reviews where this project referred to as industrial, they seemed more like edm with a dark and dirty slant to it and a kick , but Industrial ? Well it took many listens to convince me of this. This is their sixth album and it's been five years in the making, so no wonder they have become masters at layering some clever vocal melodies over yearning grooves to create some hooks that sink into your brain and pull you along for the ride. The first hint it might just be industrial came in the tribal pound of drums that open " Men Today" that has some noise to it , while the sounds assembled are cool , for an album with such emphasis place on sex and drugs it feels sometimes like foreplay with no climax.Until the subtle hooks are latched into your brain. There's an old 80s dance feel to "Flesh World" the androgynous are very fey in the same manner of Sliversun Pick ups or Savage Garden. There are some glitch ridden sounds thrown into the sonic jumble. I have always wondered if the remixes are going to sound better than the originals , then why not just make the original songs sound like that in the first place? Well the solve that by making "Flesh World" sound like it has already been re-mixed. This album made me want to go back and dig up their earlier stuff, which I was unable to do since I was so hooked on this one.
6- Ryan Adams : "1989"
This album served as the methadone for my Taylor Swift addiction. My wife doesn't like Taylor Swift, she is banned from being played in the car, but this album is totally acceptable. Ryan Adams who also must be a pretty big fan as well as a metal head...just look up his cover of "Holy Diver", made a bold move in covering Swift's "1989" in its entirety and the results are pretty great.He really makes these songs his own which is an impressive feat and colors them with more of a Bruce Springsteen feel.
5-the Weeknd : "Beauty Behind the Madness"
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye goes about things in a manner darker than your average r&b singer and has been known to sample both Siouxsie and the Cocteau Twins, his drug use might explain for this taste in music .He gives many winks to another addict...Michael Jackson. Lyrically the album has bi-polar moments, either he's a pimped out playa or hopeless romantic in the tug of war his pimp side is lyrically more interesting. He is a master of hook and they keep me returning to this album.
4- Tribulation - the Children of the Night
Was a little torn as to if this album even belonged here, until I went back and listened to the album and "Music From the Other " sealed the deal. While I liked the band's last album, but found them much more fascinating of a creature on stage when I saw them open for Watain, so I am hoping some of those more progressive and wandering qualities have carried over from the road and right from the first few chords of the opener it seems like they have. There is an almost Opeth like lushness to the sound. They don't use the traditional metal crunch, instead just going for an organic tone that they are playing loudly. The vocals are more intelligible than the previous album. When they dive deeper into the darkness answering the question what would it have sounded like if DeepPurple had written the soundtrack to the Exorcist. This is another step forward for the band that continues to grow with every album, they blend the more classic metal elements in with their more ethereal colors with ease, as they are not afraid to push the bounds of what death metal can be.
3-Twin Shadow: "Eclipse" This album caught me by surprise I'll tell you right off the bat it's a strong contender for album of the year. From the first song he shows you how to make a chorus carry the most emotional impact possible.Who said pop music has to be a bad thing? More common with the 80s he sings in an urgent baritone, think Corey Hart but with a larger dose of soul injected in the phrasing. It's a crime not to check out this piece of greatness. Every vocal oozes like a hook in it's own right, one of the most perfect vocal performances.
2-Royal Thunder: " Crooked Doors"
This band continues to evolve from the blues soaked stoner rock, they have put the Black Sabbath albums away and now have become more of an indie rock band that takes on a rough edged hard rock dynamic. On the opener "Time Machine" which the band premiered on Npr, Parsonz puts some angry husk to her voice when the band begins to climax toward the end of the song. The band was never fully committed to being a metal band even they they had a fetish for playing with metal bands , but they have taken another step away from metal with this album. This is not a bad thing as the new direction lends it's self to a compelling array of sounds and emotive glimpses into who this band is.
1- Chelsea Wolfe -Abyss
This might not have been the metal album every one hope it would be but it all works together perfectly. She might balk at being on this list because she denied begin goth when I interviewed her, though she said she like Nick Cave and the Cocteau Twins so she is in denial. This album might not be metal but it does have some pounding beauty. She stays true to her ethereal vocal style which works well over the hammering beats. Though "Iron Moon" seemed surprisingly heavy when the song was first released in the context of the album she is giving you are breather. Even more experimental than "Pain is Beauty" the fuzzed out bass to "Dragged Out" rumbles over her ghostly plea that sits back into the dark background. The chorus builds into a more industrial din as the song expands and contracts.he has not disappointed, in fact exceeded expectations and the bar was raised really high. I didn't think she could beat "Pain is Beauty" , but that is what has happened.