2017 Album of the Year

Medusa

1- Paradise Lost – Medusa
2- Blondie – Pollinator
3- Depeche Mode – Spirit
4- Life of Agony – a Place Where There’s No More Pain
5- Dead Cross – Dead Cross
6- Butcher Babies – Lilith
7- Arch Enemy – Will to Power
8- Fozzy – Judas
9- Scott H. Biram – the Bad Testament
10- Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy

Paradise Lost need to retire.
Yes, that’s how I’m starting off my Album of the Year post. Yes, that’s how I’m talking about the band responsible for the album that I believe is the best album to come out in 2017. The reason I say they need to retire is that their sound has gone full circle. The evolution of Paradise Lost from beginning to now makes a lot of sense if you listen to their albums in order. You may be confused if you skip around without prior knowledge of their changes. Medusa’s sound is very much like their original sound. That does not mean they’ve regressed, it means they just got back to the sound. And I’m glad they did. This album has a great mix of death metal vocals and clean vocals. It also has the signature doomy sound from the guitars that Paradise Lost is known for. I don’t know where they can go from here. They keep reinventing themselves and genres, but what’s left? If you’re a fan of Paradise Lost and you haven’t heard this record, you’re really missing out.

Some of the better tracks on Medusa include “the Longest Winter,” “Shrines,” “No Passage for the Dead,” and especially “Fearless Sky.” I’ve joked that “Fearless Sky” is the best Opeth song to be released in 10 years. It’s over 8 minutes long and it takes me on a slow musical rollercoaster. It’s a great song.

I don’t know if I could praise Blondie’s Pollinator enough. Like Medusa, it’s reminiscent of its band’s early work. Blondie has been around since the mid-1970s and there’s songs on this album that will most definitely be a “best of” compilation one day. It’s just a damn good record. It starts off with “Doom or Destiny” which reminds of their hit “Call Me” with the tempo. It has a few good songs after that one, my favorite song on the album, “Fun” comes on. It sounds like it could have come out during the end of the disco era, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Just like I said about Paradise Lost’s Medusa, if you’re a fan of Blondie and you haven’t heard this one, you’re really missing out.

“Long Time,” “Too Much,” and “Love Level” are also some of my favorite tracks from Pollinator. “Love Level” also features the What Cheer? Brigade as the horn section. They’re a fun act to see.

Depeche Mode’s Spirit is a bit political. But, it resonates with me. And it resonated enough to be ranked as the 3rd best Album of the Year. “Going Backwards” is the opening track and it is a damning view of the world’s political scene as it currently is. The album continues to strike chords about the direction of the world, but with the classic Depeche Mode sound.

“Going Backwards” is my favorite track from the album. I think it’s the most damning song I’ve heard about the current state of the world. “Poor Man” is another song that I relate to. “Where’s the Revolution?” and “Poison Heart” are also worth checking out.

Life of Agony hadn’t put out an album of new songs since 2005. Their 2017 release, A Place Where There’s No More Pain, picked up right where they left off. It’s like they didn’t miss a beat. Of course, they had been touring on and off since then, but that doesn’t necessarily mean new material would be good. In this case, the songs are good. They didn’t play a lot of the new songs during their 2017 tour, and honestly I like the album enough that maybe if I had heard a few more of them done live, I may have ranked this album higher. Live performances can make a difference sometimes, but regardless of that, they put out a damn good album.

“Meet My Maker,” “A New Low,” “Right the Wrong,” and the title track are some of my favorites from this album and I think they fit in with the Life of Agony catalog very well.

Mike Patton has appeared in my Top 10 lists with Faith No More, Peeping Tom, Tomahawk, and his Mondo Cane project. He’s one here again with Dead Cross. I never know what to expect with Patton. Dead Cross’s sound is a mixture of punk, thrash metal, and grind core. With Patton screaming and growling throughout most of the album, it just works. I saw them perform this album in its entirety in September and it was worth it. I’ve never seen Mike Patton so aggressive on stage.

The album starts off with “Seizure and Desist,” which I really enjoy. I also really like their cover of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But, I think my favorite track is “Shillelagh.” It’s probably the best example of what Dead Cross is. This album may not be for everyone, but if you’re a Mike Patton fan, it’s worth checking out.

I had never heard anything from Butcher Babies until a few months ago. They were recommended to me and I sought out a few songs. I was impressed. I noticed they had a new album coming out and I ordered a copy. I was even more impressed. I have no idea how they had escaped my radar. Their album Lilith is one that I will definitely be listening to for a long time. I’ve already listened to it A LOT. Their sound is a heavy and guitar driven. They have two female singers and I really enjoy how they trade back and forth.

“Burn the Straw Man” opens the album and blew me away. The title track “Lilith” is the second track and I had heard that before I got the album because they had a video for it. They continued with “Headspin,” which I really like, but the 4th track, “Korova” is probably my favorite track. Give them a listen.

It’s because I like bands such as Arch Enemy that I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Butcher Babies before. Arch Enemy also put out an album in 2017, Will to Power. This is their second studio release with Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. As I said about her debut with them, I think she’s breathed new life into them. I know some fans weren’t happy that she incorporated clean (non-growl) vocals into one track, “Reason to Believe,” but I liked it. It was not expected and it works with the Arch Enemy sound. It’s my favorite song on the album.

Other tracks I really like include “Dreams of Retribution,” “the Race,” and “the World is Yours.”

Chris Jericho is a promotional genius. He knows how to get his name out there and how to get attention on himself. He had been playing the title track from his band Fozzy’s new album, Judas, on his podcast for months before it was released. I didn’t mind because it’s a good song. He was able to market the album in a way that I was very excited about the release date. Fozzy is consistently good. I’ve ranked them in my lists a few times.

“Burn Me Out,” “Drinking with Jesus,” and “Weight of My World” are other favorite of mine from this album.

I don’t know why Scott H. Biram’s the Bad Testament took a while to grow on me. But, once it did, I realized how damn good it is. Maybe I was thinking it would sound differently, but what I got was an album that reminded me of (what I think are) his best albums the Dirty Old One Man Band and Graveyard Shift. Those two albums were the first things I heard from him after I had been introduced to his act after I saw him open for Clutch. What I like about Biram’s stuff is that while each album is good by itself, I can put his catalog on random and just lose myself in his blues/country/punk style. That’s needed sometimes.

I know I’m saying this a lot, but if you’re a fan of Scott H. Biram, you need to hear this album. Some of tracks that stand out (more than others) to me include “Set Me Free,” “Still Around,” “Train Wrecker,” “Crippled & Crazy,” and “True Religion.”

2015’s 10th best album was A Raw Youth from Le Butcherettes. I saw them open for Faith No More and I was intrigued. Their singer, Terri Gender Bender is a captivating performer. She’s different. Along with some other people on the Ipecac Records label, she formed Crystal Fairy, and their debut album is this year’s 10th best album. They have a heavy sound and her vocal style ranges from singing, to screaming, to screeching, none of which is bad.

I recommend “Chiseler,” “Necklace of Divorce,” the title track “Crystal Fairy,” and “Secret Agent Rat” as songs worth trying.

A few albums that were good, but just didn’t crack my Top 10 list include Steven Wilson’s To the Bone, the Front Porch Sessions by the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and TajMo by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’.

Some notes about other albums from the year:
Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new project VUUR released their debut album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities. She’s my favorite female voice in music, but this album didn’t draw me in.

Anathema’s the Optimist starts off great, but lost my interest.

Moonspell put out 1775. But, all the lyrics are in Portuguese. I couldn’t follow along.

Ayreon’s the Source was a major disappointment.

Blackfield V was just boring.

Gov’t Mule’s Revolution Come, Revolution Go has good stuff on it, but it nothing too special.

Gregg Allman released what will likely be his final album, Southern Blood. He died during the year and that made this album difficult for me to listen to. There’s definitely good songs on it, but some of them deal with his impending demise and that made it too real. Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band meant so much to me for so long. I wish this album wasn’t his last.

Neither Garbage nor Muse released new albums in 2017, but they both released one new song. “No Horses” and “Dig Down,” respectively. Both songs are fantastic and make me look forward to their next albums.

I know Clutch and Lacuna Coil have new albums being worked on and I think both will be relased in 2018. Lacuna Coil’s 2016 album, Delirium, was my album of the year. I really hope they follow up with something good. I guess time will tell.

A note about eligibility for my 2017 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2017
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

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2016 Album of the Year

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1- Lacuna Coil – Delirium
2- Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
3- Opeth – Sorceress
4- Katatonia – the Fall of Hearts
5- Heaven Shall Burn – Wanderer
6- Garbage – Strange Little Birds
7- Those Poor Bastards – Sing it Ugly
8- Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct
9- Eric Clapton – I Still Do
10- Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

I’m genuinely proud that I’ve been able to announce my 2016 Album of the Year is going to Lacuna Coil’s Delirium. I have wanted to give this award to Lacuna Coil before, and I came close with 2012’s Dark Adrenaline , but they were just edged out by Katatonia’s Dead End Kings, and I mean JUST edged out.  I ranked Lacuna Coil’s 2014 album, Broken Crown Haloat number 10. It was okay, but not great. When I first heard tracks on Delirium, I was taken aback a bit. I was surprised by the sound. With a slightly modified lineup, the album was louder, heavier, and more aggressive than Lacuna Coil had been in years. Their male singer, Andrea Ferro was performing growling death metal style vocals for the first time since their early demo tapes, while their female singer, Cristina Scabbia’s voice was hitting ranges I hadn’t heard before.

Not long after the album came out, I saw Lacuna Coil perform live. I got to see some of the new songs in person for the first time and was BLOWN AWAY. That’s when I realized that Delirium was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for. It just fits perfectly. While other bands, such as Paradise Lost, have also embraced their death metal beginnings , so has Lacuna Coil, and both bands have blended those sounds together flawlessly with what they had done in since those days. Again, this is the album I’ve waited for from them. And having been friendly with members of the band for a few years, I’m so proud to finally be able to say they’ve got my Album of the Year.

Tracks I recommend listening to from Delirium include “the House of Shame,” “You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate You,” “Blood, Tears, Dust,” “Ghost in the Mist,” and the title track “Delirium.” I also seriously recommend their cover of Madonna’s “Live to Tell.” But, if there’s one song on the album stands out to as unique, it’s “Take Me Home.” That one definitely threw me off at first, but easily stood out as a favorite quickly.

I’ve said this before, but bands in the “Gothenburg Sound” genre have all fallen by the wayside and have mostly become impossible to listen to. Except one:
Dark Tranquillity has not only not fallen by the wayside, they’ve remained consistent to what their sound is and put out album after album of quality music. Atoma is another example of a great album from them. Before the album came out, they flooded YouTube with new videos from the album. As I heard each one, I got more and more excited about the album. And, like Lacuna Coil, I got to see songs from this album performed live early on, and they fit perfectly into the show. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re one of the most fun bands I’ve ever seen live. I’ve said they’re the “Happiest Death Metal Band” ever. Go see them live and you’ll understand.

Songs that stand out to me from Atoma include the title track, “Encircled,” “Forward Momentum,” “the Pitiless,” and “Our Proof of Life.”

I’ve always liked the ride that Opeth albums took me on. Their brutal death metal sound and their more mellow approach during songs were often a roller coaster for me. When they started to downplay the death metal and then outright abandon it on their albums, I felt I didn’t go on that ride anymore, ot at the very least, it was a different ride. Sorceress is their third album without any death metal vocals on it, and I feel it’s the first one that successfully takes me on the ride I’ve wanted from them without that style of vocals. And they’ve pretty much said the same thing, this is the album that they’ve found where they want to be now. And also, like the new Lacuna Coil songs, I saw some of the new Opeth songs performed live and they fit right into the show. Opeth may be where I want them to be again.

Songs I recommend from Sorceress include the title track, “the Wilde Flowers,” “Will O the Wisp,” and “Strange Brew.”

In all of the years that I’ve been doing these lists, I’ve never ranked at Katatonia album lower than third. That is, until now. Katatonia’s the Fall of Hearts is my 4th Best Album of 2016. The album is very good. The songs that stand out are great songs. But, there’s a few factors in them being ranked at only 4. The first one is that the albums ahead of them are THAT good. The second is that while the songs that are good are very good, the other songs are not as good. I said that seeing Lacuna Coil, Dark Tranquillity, and Opeth perform some of their new songs live helped win me over if it was necessary. Katatonia hasn’t toured the United States for this album yet. I think it’s possible I would have thought more of this album if I had seen songs done live. 4th Best Album of the Year isn’t bad, by any means. But, for a band that I’ve given Album of the Year to in 2009 and 2012, I have certain expectations. They weren’t necessarily met here.

The songs that I feel are the real good ones from the Fall of Hearts include “Takeover,” “Serein,” “Sanction,” “Last Song Before the Fade,” “Decima,” and especially “Old Hearts Fall.” And if you get a chance to hear their cover of Judas Priest’s “Night Comes Down” I definitely suggest you do.

Not only had I forgotten about Heaven Shall Burn, I didn’t even know they had a new album out in 2016. I hadn’t heard anything new from them since 2008. I looked them upo one day and saw they had a new album called Wanderer. I saw the video for “Bring the War Home” and had to heard more. I ordered the album and when I got it, I heard some of the angrist, most agressive, brutal, and good new music I’ve heard in a long time. I got the special edition which had a second disc over cover songs. Some of the songs on that were some of my favorite songs from some of my favorite bands. I was completely won over. I’ve never seen Heaven Shall Burn play live. I had tickets to see them back in maybe 2008, but for various reasons, they canceled the show. Maybe one day I’ll tell that story in a blog.

If you feel the need to listen to some angry music, listen to “the Loss of Fury,” “Bring the War Home,” “Downshifter,” and “Save Me.” If you want to hear some interesting takes on Paradise Lost and Life of Agony songs, listen to the “True Belief” and “River Runs Red.”

I like Garbage. What can I say? Before you make any snide remarks, I’m talking about Garbage, the band. Strange Little Birds is the second album they’ve put out since they got back together in 2012 and it’s a solid record. It is definitely Garbage. And when I say that, it’s a good thing. The opening track is “Sometimes.” It reminds me a lot of their early b-sides and rare songs, which immediately made me excited to hear more. And from that song, the album goes right into “Empty,” which is a solid candidate for a “best of” album one day. Garbage is consistent. They’re Garbage. That’s what I like about them.

In addition to the songs I’ve mentioned, I really like “If I Lost You,” “Even Though Our Love is Doomed,” and “So We Can Stay Alive.”

Those Poor Bastards are a band with a unique sound. I don’t have many albums from their library, but the two that have come out since I’ve been listening to them have both been ranked in my Top 10. 2014’s Vicious Losers and now, 2016’s Sing it Ugly at number 7. I haven’t ever seen this band live, and without question, they’re at the top of my list of acts I would like to see. I find whatever I’ve heard from them to be unique and seriously different for a modern band.

“No Light,” “Unwanted,” “Headed Nowhere,” “Ten Ton Hammer,” and “Sorry for Everything” are the songs that I listen to the most from this record.

Sometimes I just want to hear a good straight-up Blues album. I don’t want fancy Blues with lots of bells and whistles. I feel that takes away from what I’m supposed to feel with the Blues. Eric Clapton has been guilty of putting out albums with bells and whistles, but in recent years he’s returned to the roots of the Blues. And his album, “I Still Do” is a good example of that and is my 8th Best Album of 2016. There is much more I can say to talk about with this album. It’s just a good Blues album, which should be a good enough description.

I like “Alabama Woman Blues,” “Spiral,” and “Cypress Grove” on this album as the standouts.

I am not the biggest Metallica fan and I probably never will be. But, I do like them. To be clear, I like them when they put out a good album. Their critics are right, they’ve put out some bad ones over the past 20 years. But, they seem to have found themselves again. The 9th Best Album of 2016 is Metallica’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. It sounds like Metallica. It doesn’t sound like Metallica trying to be Metallica again. It just sounds like Metallica. That probably makes sense to some of you.

“Hardwired,” “Moth into Flames,” and “ManUNkind” are my favorite tracks from this record.

The 10th Best Album and the last one on my list is Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker. Sadly, Mr. Cohen died right after this album was release. But, if you listen to it, he was aware his days were coming to an end. He’s always been very aware of depression and darkness, which was why I liked him. This album is a great farewell for him and from him. He went out well.

The title track, “Treaty,” “Steer Your Way,” and “If I Didn’t Have Your Love” are the songs I would play to someone to hear the best from this album.

Some albums that didn’t crack my Top 10, but were close include Let Me Get By from Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Dion’s New York is My Home, and Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate.

Steven Wilson put out 4 1/2 in 2016 and it probably would have been ranked high, if it wasn’t just unreleased and re-done versions of some of his older songs. But, because it’s not necessarily new material, it wasn’t eligible.

Mike Patton joined a few other people as Nevermen and put out an album. Like much of what Patton does, I don’t know what to make of it. It’s good, but I don’t know how often I’ll ever think of a song from this album I need to hear.

And I have to make a note of David Bowie’s Blackstar. Like Leonard Cohen, Bowie knew he was dying and released one last album, which happened to come out two days before his death. I don’t know how much attention this album would have received if it wasn’t for the sad circumstances. There’s a few songs on it that I really like, but I just couldn’t rank it. Die-hard Bowie fans may feel differently, and I respect that, but it just didn’t do it for me.

2016 was a pretty good year for new music. My Top 5 albums could all have been #1 in other years. I don’t know of many new albums coming out in 2017, but I’m looking forward to a new one from Clutch. I also can’t wait to hear what the new Life of Agony album, which should be very interesting. I’m also very anxious to hear Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new band, VUUR. We’ll see how these all rank next year.

A note about eligibility for my 2016 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2016
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

2015 Album of the Year

Faith_No_More_-_Sol_Invictus

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

2014 Album of the Year

mushroomhead-righteous-butterfly-artwork

1- Mushroomhead – the Righteous and the Butterfly
2- The Black Keys – Turn Blue
3- Those Poor Bastards – Vicious Losers
4- Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral
5- Fozzy – Do You Wanna Start a War?
6- Scott H. Biram – Nothin’ But Blood
7- Within Temptation – Hydra
8- Arch Enemy – War Eternal
9- Opeth – Pale Communion
10- Lacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo

Mushroomhead’s the Righteous and the Butterfly was dedicated to two of their fallen friends and they did them proud. From beginning to end, the album did not disappoint me. In fact, there’s not a single track on the album that I dislike. And also considering the lineup changes and the fact that their old singer J. Mann returned while not replacing his replacement Waylon, just joining him and Jeffrey Nothing to make Mushroomhead have three vocalists made it a very interesting dynamic. Their album prior to this one, 2010’s Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children was a weaker effort for them. The Righteous and the Butterfly is a great return to form and then some. And besides, they covered Adele’s “Rumor Has It,” which is a must hear.

Tracks I highly recommend hearing on this album include “Our Apologies,” “How Many Times,” “Qwerty,” “Portraits of the Poor,” “Childlike,” “We Are the Truth,” and “Rumor Has It.”

In early June I went for a long ride in my car and the Black Keys’ Turn Blue was the soundtrack for that ride. It was the perfect soundtrack for the day and my mood. I’m somewhat new to the Black Keys, having only been listening to them for the last few years, but they’re good. I probably should look into their old albums. But, Turn Blue is one I think most people would like. It’s got a nice moden bluesy feel to it that I really appreciate.

I recommends songs such as “Weight of Love,” “In Time,” “Turn Blue,” “Waiting on Words,” and “Gotta Get Away.”

A few years ago Hank Williams III talked about his friends Those Poor Bastards on his Facebook page. I downloaded am album and occasionally listed to it. Maybe two months ago I decided to really give it a listen and it just clicked with me. I decided to see if they had any newer releases and to my pleasant surprise, they had a new album out. I ordered it and haven’t stopped listening to it and this group has shot up to the top of my list of bands I would like to see live. Their style is described as “miserable and primitive old-time gothic country music.” That sounds good to me, literally and figuratively. If any of this sounds interesting, check out Vicious Losers.

Some of the better tracks from Vicious Losers include “I am Lost,” “Give Me Drugs,” “Lonely Man,” “Trouble at Home,” and “Born to Preach.”

Bloodbath’s Grand Morbid Funeral is their third consecutive album with a new singer. On this album, they went deep into their Death Metal roots and got Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost to return to his own Death Metal roots and be the new singer. Once I heard that news I was IMMEDIATELY interested in this album. Seriously, how could an album featuring members of Katatonia, Opeth, and now Paradise Lost disappoint? Well, it didn’t. It’s just pure Death Metal at its best. If you’ve ever been a fan of the genre, and even if you’ve fallen out of it, this is an album you need to hear. Holmes was able to belt out some good growls that we haven’t heard from him in nearly 20 years.

I suggest “Let the Stillborn Come to Me,” “Anne,” “Church of Vastitas,” “Beyond Cremation,” and “Unite in Pain” as good sample tracks.

Some people still don’t take Fozzy seriously just because it’s a band featuring a professional wrestler as its singer. Well, I can honestly say that I may not have given them a chance if that connection didn’t exist. But, I’ve been listening to them almost since day one and they’re damn good. Chris Jericho’s vocal range is not as appreciated as it should be. He’s very influenced by hard rock bands of the 1980s, but he’s able to sing a bit more than just their style of music. There’s been some lineup changes since their formation, but Fozzy pretty much started off as Stuck Mojo with Chris Jericho singing, but even with those changes, the integrity of their style has remained intact. They appeared in my Top 10 Albums List in 2010 and they’re back now in 2014 with Do You Wanna Start a War.

“Do You Wanna Start a War,” “Lights Go Out,” and their cover of ABBA’s “SOS” are some of the better tracks on this album.

I’ve been listening to Scott H. Biram for almost a full decade now. His songs range from straight up Southern Blues to Hellbilly to Punk. And he’s yet to release an album that I didn’t like. Nothin’ But Blood is no exception to that rule. This album has a mix of everything I just described. Sometimes it’s very nice to listen to something that doesn’t have a lot of production and effects. I appreciate and respect it. If you like an old fashioned Blues album with a mix of a few different influences, check out Biram and Nothin’ But Blood.

Tracks such as “Gotta Get to Heaven,” “Alcohol Blues,” “Jack of Diamonds,” “Church Point Girls,” and especially “Slow & Easy” are the highlights of this really solid album.

Within Temptation has an almost majestic sound to them. Hydra is not any different from their previous releases, in that aspect. They are one of two former Album of the Year winners to appear on this list, as 2011’s the Unforgiving won the award. Hydra is not necessarily weaker than the Unforgiving, but it didn’t pull me in as much as the Unforgiving. However, that doesn’t mean Hyrda is bad at all, obviously not, if it’s the 7th best of 2014. It’s definitely a Within Temptation album, and that’s a good thing.

“Let Us Burn,” “Paradise (What About Us),” “And We Run,” and “Covered by Roses” are some of the standout tracks, as well as their cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” which appears on the bonus disc.

Over the last years, Arch Enemy has been a band that I pretty much gave up on. It’s not that they put out any particularly bad albums, but I just lost interest in them. When I saw the news earlier in 2014 that their singer, Angela Gossow was stepping away and their new album, War Eternal would have a new singer Alissa White-Gluz, I thought I would give them another shot. Maybe they would be rejuvenated. Well, I was not disappointed. I had not liked an Arch Enemy album this much in years. Their musical style remained intact and White-Gluz fit right in to the vocal style perfectly. It also made me want to hear more of her catalog, and I may check that out as well.

“War Eternal,” “You Will Know My Name,” and ” As the Pages Burn” are my favorite tracks on this album.

Opeth, Opeth, Opeth….. Well, Pale Communion did not disappoint me. This was their first release since they’ve stopped doing Death Metal style vocals that I knew what I was getting into and didn’t miss it. That says a lot. Actually, Pale Communion makes me want to makes want to listen to the last two Opeth albums a bit more. It makes me dislike them less, because now they have more in their library that doesn’t have the Death Metal vocals and the “new” style is more focused. They’re definitely more of a progressive band than a death band now, and I don’t necessarily miss the old style anymore. I do admit that Pale Communion DID have to grow on me, but it did. And I do like it more with each listen.

My favorite tracks on Pale Communion are “Eternal Rains Will Come,” “Cusp of Eternity,” and “Voice of Treason.”

Lacuna Coil’s 2012 Dark Adrenaline was the best release they had in a decade. They followed it up with Broken Crown Halo, which was not as strong. When I first heard the name of the album, I thought it sounded like a Katatonia album without the ironic humor. But that doesn’t matter, the quality of the music does. And while it’s not a bad album, it doesn’t come close to their best work. I think it starts off great with “Nothing Stands in Our Way.” In fact, I had such incredible hopes when I first heard that track. The fact that there were some growling vocals on it got me a lot more interested in the rest of the album, but not only did they not reappear, the rest of the album didn’t live up to the opening track. I saw Lacuna Coil perform live in September and some of the songs of Broken Crown Halo were done in the show and they grew on me a little bit. The album is good enough to be in my Top 10, but they’ve done better.

Besides “Nothing Stands in Our Way” I recommend “Die & Rise” and “In the End I Feel Alive” as good tracks to hear.

So with my top 10 out of the way, that brings me to some other releases in 2014.

After waiting almost 20 years to see Downset live, I finally had the chance in July. The show was what I hoped it to be and I was 100% satisfied. They had a new album called One Blood with all new tracks. I got the album and gave it shot. It sounds exactly like their 1994 release. And while that should be a good thing, it isn’t. It’s too formulaic and cliche for them. I’m glad they’re back together and doing stuff, but this wasn’t great.

Anathema’s Weather Systems came out in 2012 and if it wasn’t for so many great albums that year, it would likely have been ranked higher than 4th on my list. It was that good, and so was 2012, in general, for new music. So, the anticipation for their 2014 album, Distant Satellites, was high. Not only did it not live up to the anticipation, it just annoyed me. There is only one track on it that really stood out, and it was for the wrong reasons. When I first heard “You’re Not Alone” I contacted some friends and told them the song sounded like Steven Wilson at his most pretentious. Later on, I found out that he actually produced that song, and it all made sense. Bottom line, Distant Satellites is not the best effort from Anathema.

There was also another new CD from Hank Williams III, but like some previous years, it’s just a money grab from his former record label. They keep releasing compilations of songs that he did on other things and making some money off of his name, so that album is not eligible for Album of the Year.

I don’t rank live albums on my list, but there were some damn good ones this year, including:
– Timeless by John Hammond
– All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman
– Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theater 1992 by the Allman Brothers Band
– Last Fair Day Gone Night from Katatonia

I am very much looking forward to 2015’s releases. I know that Clutch is working on new material and I look forward to that. Lacuna Coil has already discussed what direction they’re going in for their next album, and I hope it’s a good one. Nick Holmes has stated he’s been inspired by his work on Bloodbath and it’s possible that the next Paradise Lost record could have some more Death Metal elements in it. And that leads to the most anticipated release I’ve known of in a very long time. In early Spring, Faith No More will release their first new album since 1997. I am biased and I admit now that I hope it’s ranked #1 at this point next year. Although, I also hope it’s good enough to be there, but other albums make me question it.

A note about eligibility for my 2014 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2014
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material