It has become a bit of a tradition for me to list my favourite albums of the year, and as such, I will give you here a list of what I listened to the most, what I enjoyed about them and why you should (or not, I’m not your boss…) give them a go. Here’s my Top 10:
2015 saw plenty of amazing releases and it was specially difficult for me to find only 10 albums. If your favourite albums aren’t on this list I’m afraid to tell you that you’re wrong, because this is a factual list. (Maybe not…)
So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
10 – Angra – Secret Garden
This was a specially difficult album to get into, not going to lie, mostly because newcomer Fabio Lione has a very unique sound to his voice and it’s sometimes hard to associate with other bands. Once past that pet peeve of mine, this album features the band’s trademark mix of power progressive metal and Brazilian roots, which is complimented by the amazing musicianship of everyone in the band. Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt trade lines throughout the entire record, Rafael sings a few tunes as well, and they also have some very special guests like Simone Simmons (Epica) and Doro Pesch (Warlock). Produced by Jens Bogren, the album has a deep and warm sound and the music sounds cohesive throughout.
Listen to Newborn Me
9 – Gama Bomb – Untouchable Glory
Mindless Speed/Thrash metal from Ireland. Need I say more? Fast paced and a lot of fun, Gama Bomb has always been a band that doesn’t care all that much. They live fast and the music shows it. This record is a lot of fun to listen to and it will certainly motivate you on those morning runs.
Listen to Ninja Untouchable/Untouchable Glory:
8 – Faith No More – Sol Invictus
It was 2014 when Faith No More unofficially released their newest song, Motherfucker, during a concert in Europe. I wasn’t impressed and figured they were just mocking around and making fun of people, which is definitely one of the things they enjoy doing. Fast forward to the end of 2014 and a shiny studio version of Motherfucker was out for the public; bold statement that of making your first single in 17 years something that can’t be even named on the radio; slow clap.
When Sol Invictus was released, it was clear that these guys were in a perfect spot when it came to writing and playing together. This album hit almost all perfect marks of what a NEW Faith No More record should be and I was more than impressed, I giggled all the way through. However, the album is about 12 seconds long and that’s why it’s relatively low on this list… Way to go, chaps!
Listen to Sunny Side Up:
7 – Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Speaking of bold statements, Spock’s Beard, one of your quintessential nerd prog rock bands, has been around for a long time now and have gone through an intensive reshaping over the last few years. Their last album, 2013’s Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep hit all the marks for a rejuvenated band and let us know that their legacy was in good hands. With The Oblivion Particle they just threw all safety out and crafted an extremely ambitious album, far more daring, more progressive even, and succeeded massively. This album sounds totally fresh yet maintaining that Spock’s Beard traditional songwriting prowess, vocal arrangements, catchy melodies and crazy and intricate instrumental passages. Almost flawless!
Listen to Tides of Time.
6 – Kingcrow – Eidos
This is one of the earliest releases of 2015. Italian proggers announced themselves loudly to the world with 2013’s In Crescendo. This time around there was more expectation and my goat! did they deliver! Eidos follows up on that sound and improves it on every aspect, more mature songwriting and a more focused sound. Still maintaining that element that could see some of their tunes being played on regular air radio without people making sour faces. The lead single is one of the best examples of epic songwriting ever, packing every possible thing you’d want to hear in an eclectic prog song, and it does this in about 4 minutes!!!
Listen to The Moth.
5 – Frank Zappa – Dance Me This
Released posthumously, 21 years after it’s intended 1994 release, Dance Me This encompasses the genius of Frank. Originally intended to be al album aimed at modern dance groups, it is his official 100th release, and was recorded while on the road in 1993. This album is beyond amazing, but you have to understand Zappa to appreciate it. You have to realize that every note played on this record was meant to be that way and that way only. Dance Me This (the song) features what is believed to be Frank’s last ever recorded guitar solo, and the last track, Calculus just simply and plainly blows my mind.
Listen to Dance Me This.
4 – Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Another album on this list produced by Jens Bogren, genius. This album is outstanding from start to finish, full of melody, aggression, delicate passages, it has it all. Carefully crafted and perfectly distributed, Amorphis really delivered with this album. There were doubts based on their last efforts, but this clears it all. Truly a masterpiece.
Listen to Under The Red Cloud.
3 – Symphony X – Underworld
2007’s Paradise Lost was, in my opinion, their last good record. That has changed with Underworld, a record that gets progressively better throughout and that delivers, but it does it in a different way than any of their older albums. There are sounds that remind me more of Mr. Big than Dream Theater, Better songwriting and less style barriers. From the lead single, Nevermore, which sounds exactly like you would expect from a power progressive metal band, to songs like Run With The Devil, that delivers melody over power, and it’s still powerful enough to blow your socks off! Or the power ballads Without You and Swan Song, Which are filled with a massive case of “the feels”. This album is Symphony X at its best… and better!
Listen to Nevermore.
2 – Riverside – Love, Fear and The Time Machine
Albums one and two were decided via coin flip. I do believe that, minus one song, this album is perfect. Polish progressive rock band came out with a masterpiece in every aspect. Sound, songwriting, musicianship, everything is top notch. I want to write an album like this when I grow up.
Listen to Discard Your Fear.
1 – Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Much like Riverside‘s album, I do believe that this album is perfect. And while it goes away from the general sound of the also-perfect The Raven That Refused to Sing (2013), Hand. Cannot. Erase. Finds new light by exploring into different soundscapes that fit the intricate story created by Wilson. When it was first announced, scepticism was flowing all around; it was way too ambitious, to the point that you’d believe the story is real, and it might as well be… This album submerges so deep into the character’s mind that once you’re finished listening to it, you strongly believe that this all happened and you just got to witness it. Pair Wilson’s songwriting with absurd musicianship and feeling and you get the recipe for one of the best albums in Progressive Rock’s history hands down.
Listen to Perfect Life.
Like I said earlier, it was difficult to leave some albums outside of this list, so here are another albums that I think are worth a listen, two or seventeen!
Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
Queensrÿche – Condition Human
Satan – Atom by Atom
Gazpacho – Molok
Von Hertzen Brothers – New Day Rising
Intervals – The Shape of Colour
So, there you go. What have you been listening to?
Let me know on Twitter @AlejandroPino