1- Faith No More – Sol Invictus
2- Paradise Lost – the Plague Within
3- Clutch – Psychic Warfare
4- Moonspell – Extinct
5- Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase
6- Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
7- Florence & the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
8- Muse – Drones
9 – Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust
10- Le Butcherettes – A Raw Youth
If you know me, you know Faith No More is my all-time favorite band, but just because they put out their first album of new material since 1997 they were not promised the top spot in my list. In fact, it was pretty close. I gave serious consideration to each of the top 4 albums as a possible Album of the Year. However, Faith No More’s Sol Invictus did in fact get the prize.
Despite having heard a few songs from Sol Invictus prior to its release and really enjoying them, I was iffy when I first heard the album. I wasn’t sure if it was a really good Faith No More album I was listening to or if it was an excellent Tomahawk album. Of course, Tomahawk being another project from Faith No More’s Mike Patton. But, I couldn’t stop listening to Sol Invictus. And the more I listened, the more I liked it. It’s THAT good. Tracks 4 and 5, “Separation Anxiety” and “Cone of Shame” may be the best 1-2 punch of songs they’ve had since “Caffeine” and “Midlife Crisis” from 1992’s Angel Dust. I could seriously go on and on about this album, but I have others to discuss here as well. Trust me, Sol Invictus is THAT good.
If I had to pick out just a few tracks that showcase the diversity of Faith No More better than others do from this album, I would say “Superhero,” “Separation Anxiety,” “Cone of Shame,” “Motherfucker,” and “Matador.” But, the rest of the album does a good job of it too.
So, how can I praise Sol Invictus so much and say that other albums has such a good chance of getting the top spot? It’s easy, the other albums were also THAT GOOD. Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes stopped doing death metal growl vocals over 20 years ago. When he stepped in as the frontman in Bloodbath last year, he returned to that style. Then Paradise Lost recorded a new album and I was curious to see if he would incorporate that style with Paradise Lost once again. He did. And it was great. The first track on the Plague Within was “No Hope in Sight” and it was released a few weeks before the album was. I must have watched the video for it on YouTube dozens of times. I couldn’t get enough of it. The mixture of growls and clean vocals was exactly what Paradise Lost needed to remind the world that the whole death metal thing, it’s theirs. If you’ve ever listened to Paradise Lost and have not heard the Plague Within, I strongly urge you to get a copy. You won’t be disappointed.
Tracks worth checking out on this album include:
“No Hope in Sight,” “An Eternity of Lies,” “Victim of the Past,” and “Cry Out.”
Clutch’s Psychic Warfare threw a monkey wrench into my list. It came out later in the year than some of other albums. I was starting to figure out what order I would be ranking things and then this album happened. If you want to talk about “1-2” punches, “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds” delivers that very well. But, Clutch often does that. This album is a great example of Clutch’s Pure Rock Fury style of music that sprinkles in some of their more bluesy songs as well. Just like I said about Paradise Lost, if you’re a fan of Clutch and haven’t heard Psychic Warfare you’re missing out.
Some top tracks that I haven’t already discussed include “A Quick Death in Texas,” “Son of Virginia,” “Noble Savage,” and the track that is currently my favorite on the album, “Our Lady of Electric Light.”
Moonspell has been so consistently good over the past 10 years. They were awarded my album of the year in 2008 and were in my top 10 two other times since I started doing this list. This year’s album from them, Extinct is another album that easily could have been #1. It’s THAT good. From the first song “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” all the way to the last song, the quite different “La Baphomette,” there isn’t a track I haven’t wanted to hear. In fact, some of the songs on this album rank among some of my favorite songs from Moonspell.
In addition to the songs I’ve mentioned, listen to “Extinct,” “Domina,” “Funeral Bloom,” and especially “Malignia.”
I used to start off every review of an album Steven Wilson was a part of with the line “Steven Wilson is a genius.” Well, his genius wore thin on me. His former projects, Porcupine Tree and Blackfield went from being can’t miss albums to “ugh, what did I just listen to?” I wasn’t too into his solo work either. And don’t get me started on his Storm Corrosion project. However, I gave him another chance with Hand.Cannot.Erase. I could not be happier I did. In my opinion, this is easily the best album he’s released since Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet in 2007, which was my Album of the Year. It doesn’t get quite as heavy as Porcupine Tree stuff would, but it takes me for the ride that Porcupine Tree did, which is really what I’ve been hoping for in his solo work.
I recommend the title track, as well as “Perfect Life,” and “Routine” as tracks worth checking out.
I had completely given up on Amorphis. The last few records from them bored me to the point that I just didn’t want to listen to the band anymore. A friend had told me that they put out a new album and insisted I listen to it. I got a copy and I couldn’t believe what I listening to. It was basically everything I wanted Amorphis to be again. Seriously! I don’t like using the term “return to form,” but it’s true in their case. This album Under the Red Cloud is just good. I know I’ve been repeating myself a bit here, but if you’re an Amorphis fan and, like me, you gave up on them, give them another chance.
The title track, “Sacrifice,” and especially “Death of a King” are the tracks to check out on Under the Red Cloud.
Florence & the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is just one of those albums I like. They’re a well-polished machine, see what I did there? Their albums are well produced and I just really like Florence Welch’s singing voice. I have to admit to being a bit surprised when I saw the video for “What Kind of Man.” The only thing I’ll say about it here is that it’s on the “NSFW” side. Go watch it if you want to. You’ll know what I mean.
“Ship to Wreck,” “Third Eye,” and “Make Up Your Mind” are also tracks that I like.
Muse is another very consistent band that I enjoy listening to. Since I first got into them a few years ago they’ve put out a few albums and they’ve all appeared on my Top 10 list. 2015’s Drones is just like their previous releases in that it’s just really good. It’s one of those things that I can’t really describe, but it’s known when it’s heard. They have the “it factor.”
My favorite tracks on the album include “Dead Inside,” “Psycho,” and “Mercy.”
I like “Porch Music.” What that means is the type of blues/bluegrass/country style that is simple, stripped down, and somewhat relaxing to listen to. Warren Haynes’ Ashes & Dust is one of the best examples of that style that I’ve heard in a very long time. I also really like how, with a full band behind him, he was able to create such a basic sound on this album. It’s so very folk like in its core, yet it still rocks. Listen to it and it’ll make sense. Trust me.
“Company Man,” “Stranded in Self-Pity,” and without question “Is it Me or You” are the tracks to check out from this record.
I had never heard of Le Butcherettes before this year. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single song from them at all before I saw them as the opening act for Faith No More in May. I was very captivated by their stage presence. They’re singer, Teri Gender Bender has an interesting way of conducting herself while performing. Basically, after seeing them live I decided to check out their newest record, A Raw Youth. I really enjoyed it. In fact, I liked it more than I thought I would and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
“Witchless C Spot” is my favorite song from the album, but other favorites include “Shave the Pride,” Lonely & Drunk,” and “Reason to Die Young.”
And now that I’ve covered my Top 10 Albums of 2015, here’s some notes on some other releases:
While Faith No More’s first album since 1997 didn’t disappoint me, another of my favorite groups from the mid-90s, Veruca Salt’s new album really did. I saw them on their reunion tour in 2014 and it was perfect. It was so much fun and exactly as good as I expected. I was excited to hear they were putting out a new album, Ghost Notes, but it did NOTHING for me. I really can’t stress that enough. It’s just disappointing.
William Elliot Whitmore’s Radium Death and the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s So Delicious were both strong choices for the top 10, but were just a little short.
Anneke van Giersbergen is my favorite female singer. And I usually like stuff that Arjen Lucassen produces, but not even her singing could stop their Gentle Storm project from boring me.
I hadn’t listened to Leaves’ Eyes in many year. I found out they put out a new album, so I gave it a listen. To me, it sounded like they’re trying to be Therion now. I don’t know if that’s the direction they were going in for a while, but their newest album, King of Kings, also did nothing for me.
I don’t mind country music when it’s good. I definitely prefer the more classic stuff. I also didn’t mind when Kid Rock went in more of a country direction. I ranked 15 albums in 2015 and Kid Rock’s Rebel Soul made the list in the 15th spot. It was good enough, but lacked the power I was used to from him. Whatever power was left 3 years ago was certainly not on this year’s album, First Kiss. I listened to it all the way through one time. I had no desire to go back. That says something for his direction, and it’s not good.
I guess it doesn’t matter how many times Nightwish changes singers if they’re not going to put out a good album, does it? Yeah, that’s how much I didn’t like their new album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful.
The Screaming Females, Iron Maiden, and Doug MacLeod also had releases in 2015, and they were just okay.
2016 could be very interesting for this list. I believe Katatonia could be putting out a new album. Since I’ve been doing this list, they’ve been awarded with Album of the Year twice, but with a few lineup changes, they may be a bit different. Their singer, Jonas Renkse teamed up with Bruce Soord to put out Wisdom of Crowds in 2013, which was also album of the year. I believe they’ll also be putting out another album in 2016. I also know Lacuna Coil will have a new album and I want it to (at least) as good as 2012’s Broken Crown Halo, which was my runner up that year. I also look forward to the new Tedeschi-Trucks Band record. I hope it’s a good year.
A note about eligibility for my 2015 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2015
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material