December 21, 2015 CrypticRock Presents: The Best Albums of 2015
The year of 2015 featured a mass of excellent new albums. Whether it be comeback records, highly anticipated follow-ups, or career changing offerings, the year in review shows no shortage of surprises. With listeners becoming more diverse in their tastes than ever before, chances are many dabbled in an array of genres throughout the years and discovered new artists. With that said, CrypticRock has sorted through the massive list of 2015 albums and narrowed it down to Top 5 albums in a list of respective genres.
(Click on album artwork to read full album review)
Top 5 Alternative Rock albums:
Civil Twilight – Story of an Immigrant: Simply put, every song on Story of an Immigrant is its own kind of music. The vocals are top notch, the compositions themselves are refreshing and cleanly played. Civil Twilight is a band with broad influence, so it makes perfect sense that the styles are so varied on Story of an Immigrant. There is no doubt that the band took some risks this time around, only showing they are more comfortable with letting the world know who they really are.
Editors – In Dreams: Ever since their debut record, The Back Room, a decade ago, Alternative Rock band Editors has been turning heads with their style. Expanding their sound over the years, In Dreams sees the band return to SynthRock style that will wow their fans once again. Dark, deep, and introspective, this is an album essential to an Editors’ fan collection.
Killing Joke – Pylon: Few bands whose careers began in the 1970’s can boast the energy, zest, and effectiveness of Notting Hill, England’s vitriolic Killing Joke. Pylon is chock-full of New Wave, Disco, Punk, Metal, and balls-to-the-wall energy that makes this band so unique. Coleman’s voice is massive, the tunes are unforgettable, and the mood is ripe for rebellion. Do not let it pass you by.
Muse – Drones: Delivering another stellar album, with all their well-known elements that one expects from Muse. The dark underbelly of paranoia, mixed with strong, dark Metal Rock, the hopeful sounds of freedom with their Progressive Techno Rock, and their piecing together of all elements tell one hell of a Science Fiction odyssey. To help tell the story is Bellamy’s unique vocal range and sound, that makes people know that the songs could only be Muse.
Top 5 Hard Rock albums:
Breaking Benjamin – Dark Before Dawn: Dark Before Dawn is easily an album that could be listened to multiple times before the listener realizes the album has looped back around. A mix of hard Alternative Rock, power ballads, and a couple instrumentals with thought-provoking lyrics makes Dark Before Dawn a nice reinvention for Breaking Benjamin while leaving established flavors in the mix for returning fans to remember.
Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit: With slightly modified mainstream justification, Sheffield, England’s finest Metalcore act keeps climbing the ladder of success. Sold out tours and top-chart-positions in countless countries were the logic consequence. Still a must-hear modern Rock album.
Entwine – Chaotic Nation: After a lengthy hiatus that lasted six years, Finland’s Entwine return in epic fashion with Chaotic Nation. Retaining their emotional approach to Rock, Entwine bring a thoughtful, uplifting new record of tunes that is bound to please their dedicated fans as well as enlist new ones as well.
Red – Of Beauty and Rage: An melancholic, atmospheric, dark fairytale dragging the listener into its ban from the intro to the final notes. Also visually staged perfectly to give fans the latest buzz.
Young Guns – Ones and Zeros: Ever morphing into something bigger than they were each record prior, Young Guns’ Ones and Zeros is their most majestic effort to date. Featuring a list of songs that open their sound to a more Alternative audience, Ones and Zeros is a record that has highs, lows, and sophisticated sound everyone is going to want to hear.
Top 5 Hip Hop albums:
Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin: An Electronica to Hip Hop genre border-breaking, voyeuristic journey through daily life and love. Shedding Skin leads through Jazz to nostalgic movie-soundtrack moments. It hi-jacks to its own world of dusky abysses and tastes like a well maturated wine!
Hollywood Undead – Day of the Dead: Maybe the most honest and biographical album of LA’s Gangsta Rap-rockers. A modern groove-monster with ups and downs like a perfect thrilling roller coaster drive and a killing, skull cutting, clear, and powerful production.
Insane Clown Posse – The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost: Insane Clown Posse’s no nonsense, intentional eschewing any comic elements, Horrorcore style imagery married to Metal/Hip Hop, tinged with occasional melodic piano/synth work, coupled with smooth line delivery and sometimes raspy dulcet choruses, bordering on R&B belies the positivity that pervades The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost. There is a sincerity to this album that makes it truly the marvelous missing link.
Public Enemy- Man Plans God Laughs: The number thirteen is lucky for Public Enemy and their latest album, Man Plans God Laughs. With catchy, innovative beats and def lyric delivery, the album brings the social commentary straight, serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek way, bringing the ongoing plight and the hypocrisies of a people, of the corporate arena and media, and the world at large as only Public Enemy’s educated eye and rhyme can.
Twiztid – The Darkness: Hip Hop duo Twiztid made a big return in 2015 with their full-length record The Darkness. Mixing Horror, Rap, and even Rock, it is it is a perfect addition to any Rap fan’s rotation, Juggalo or not.
Top 5 Metal albums:
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud: Since hiring Tomi Joutsen as their singer way back in 2004, Helsinki, Finland’s Amorphis has bestowed album after album of melodic, driven, soulful Heavy Metal music. With Under The Red Cloud, the growl and bite comes to the fore as expertly crafted music led by the unrivaled guitar duo of Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen once again prove why they are two of the most formidable six-stringers in all of heavy music.
Coal Chamber – Revivals: Brutality at its best, Coal Chamber has dusted off the cobwebs and shook off the rust only to deliver one of their best albums to date. With guest appearance of Uncle Al Jourgenson on tap, this album does not pull punches, it kicks your ass.
Iron Maiden – Book of Souls: The best overall Iron Maiden album since 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Book of Souls sees these Heavy Metal innovators riding at the top of their game. From the gallop and valor of “The Red and the Black” and “Speed of Light” to the 19 minute epic “Empire of the Clouds,” this is Iron Maiden flying at the top of their game.
Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful: Endless Forms Most Beautiful is the 8th album from the Finnish orchestral Metal band Nightwish. It is also their first one with their new vocalist Floor Jansen and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley. The album is a pompous journey from the beginning of life until the end of mankind. With the lead of Jansen, Nightwish is more powerful and better than ever.
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within: The underrated British Dark Metal masters Paradise Lost return with this heavy, beautiful, and at times brutal Doom Metal masterpiece. They continue to prove why they are a band that deserves the highest praise for their contributions to Rock/Metal.
Top 5 New Wave/Synthpop albums:
a-ha – Cast in Steel: After giving it a few spins, the attentive listener should be able to acknowledge that A-ha’s latest, tenth album, Cast in Steel, is yet another well-planned, well-written, and well-arranged masterpiece. It is steeped in melancholic poetry; cast in Norwegian Pop and glazed with New Wave and Classical sensibilities; and painted with catchy choruses and memorable melodies. The combined genius of Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen, and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy has indeed returned, even if only for another short time, ready to uplift again the spirits of the fans they abandoned for five years.
China Crisis – Autumn in the Neighborhood: The long-awaited seventh album, Autumn in the Neighbourhood, of China Crisis sounds very assured, grounded, characteristic of this English band’s trademark sonic style, and assuring, especially to the band’s longtime fans. It is a good mix of the non-Punk New Wave sound of the band’s early albums, the more Sophistipop-oriented sensibilities of its latter works, and a bit of other pleasantly surprising unlikely influences. Considering this styling, it is doubtless a positive addition to the musical legacy of one of English New Wave’s best kept secrets.
IAMX – Metanoia: One of this year’s sexiest, honest, and inspirational releases. Chris Corner and company have outdone themselves with this must have album.
New Order – Music Complete: The very existence of New Order without its original bass player may come across to many purist fans as sacrilegious and mathematically incomplete, considering that Peter Hook helped shape the sonic identity of New Order. However, musically and objectively speaking, with every detail considered, Music Complete, the latest, tenth album of this pioneering English band – the first without Hook in it – is still complete New Order music.
The Church – Further/ Deeper: Those who thought that The Church went away should refresh themselves on this prolific band’s captivating sound in reverse order: from the latest, twenty-fourth album down to the Post-Punk legacy of its debut, 1981’s Of Skins and Hearts. Moody, dark at times, but most of all a lush soundscape of Rock, Further/Deeper is a well-crafted new adventure for this musically imaginative Australian band but with dips and dashes of its usual Psychedelic Rock, Jangle Pop, and Folk Rock sensibilities.
Top 5 Pop Rock albums:
Adele – 25: Powerhouse vocalist Adele is back with her newest album 25. After a hiatus from the music industry to focus on family, she has seemed to have shown no signs of ever having left the industry. Her return has created an album and single “Hello” that has already broken record sales. Her newest work is raw, vulnerable, yet also shows off her strength as a true singer and songwriter, being able to mix power ballads and Pop songs that resonate with her fans.
Fireflight – Innova: Once considered an Hard Rock band, Fireflight spread their wings and dived into a new genre with Innova. While dedicated followers may be a little confused about the direction of Innova, the record proves that Fireflight is a multi-talented band who can, and should, continue to explore new sounds.
Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors: The highly anticipated second effort from this superstar Alternative Rock band is a winner in more ways than one. Smoke + Mirrors sees the band spread their wings, try new sounds, and perhaps even expand their fanbase with more edge. The sky is the limit for Imagine Dragons and they certainly shattered the concept of a sophomore jinx.
New Politics – Vikings : New Politics wanted to make an album that let them explore their sound, but still make a solid album. Their mix of different genre’s sounds from what a listener expects of them, and ones they did not, make Vikings an album to add to any party Rock playlist.
Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface: Twenty One Pilots are an anomaly in the music industry, and it has proven to be their biggest strength. They have a broad spectrum of talents; from Tyler Joseph’s poetry lyrics, his singing, rapping, and screaming ability, to Joseph and Dun’s musical ability and undying love for the people who help them get over their inner demons so that they can help the rest of the world battle theirs. Blurryface was an album that was eagerly anticipated and for good reason.
Top 5 Progressive Rock/Metal albums:
Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic: Between the Buried and Me return with their most Progressive Rock influenced record to date. Known for grand conceptual records such as 2011’s The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues and 2012’s The Parallax II: Future Sequence, Coma Ecliptic is an exciting new saga in the growth of one of Metal’s most extraordinary bands.
Enslaved – In Times: As regular as that essential cup of coffee from your favorite cafe, Enslaved has proven once again that out of the Viking Black Metal of their Norwegian origins comes an endless universe of proggy, innovative heavy music of equal parts nuance and nastiness. In Times is arguably stronger than 2012’s RIITIIR album, making it one of the strongest releases from a band who keeps on evolving without ever losing their spirit or their fire.
Ghost – Meliora: Meliora, latin for “better,” is the 3rd offering from the explosive Swedish occult-Rock band is not ushered in not only Papa Emeritus III to the helm, but brought the band to its first Billboard top placing, charting at #8. After their sophomore release, Infestissumam, Papa and the Ghouls focused on bringing guitars back to the forefront, mixing heavy riffs and Pop chorus melodies that showcase their wide array of Progressive influences. The track “Spirit” even has a very Doctor Who-esque intro. This record has thrust Ghost into a fast track cult and devoted following with their hybrid blend of Psychedelic, Pop, Goth, Horror, Metal, and of course, Satan.
Steve Hackett – Wolflight: The latest, twenty-fourth oeuvre of Steve Hackett, one of the most revered guitar players in the Rock scene since his early days with the English band Genesis, is a smorgasbord of sonic styles sure to satisfy enthusiasts of classic Progressive Rock and Glam/Power Metal, making it a sure treat not only to both old and new fans but also to those who love Hackett’s guitar wizardry. Entitled Wolflight, it is a solid collection of well-crafted songs and instrumentals; a concept masterpiece from the music sage who inspired other eventual guitar wizards who came after him.
Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.: A pure Wilson magic, yet again. Featuring guest appearances by Ninet Tayeb and inspired by Kate Bush’s The Dreaming, the album is rooted in the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman whose death went unnoticed for two years. Less jazzy than The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), but with the same musicians onboard, it pushes the envelope to beautiful new depths. Wilson’s aim is to make you feel. Try not to leave with tears in your eyes.
Top 5 Rock albums:
Halestorm – Into the Wild Life: Halestorm grabs listeners by the balls while giving generations of girls a mature, headstrong role model with Into the Wild. Covering the gamut of emotions, from tear-inducing to pure rage, the album is easily a multiple listen.
Highly Suspect – Mister Asylum: Spearheading the Rock revival, Highly Suspect brings a raw and gritty sound that does not pull punches. Mister Asylum, their first full-length album, showcases the band’s musical talent and ambition with chart-hitting songs such as “Lydia.”
Joe Jackson – Fast Forward: The four-part Fast Forward may be regarded as the English solo artist Joe Jackson’s summary of all his genre-jumping excursions, packaged in one big album. Despite its stylistic diversity, it still bears a distinct identity, owing to the recognizable piano performance, velvety vocals, and jazzy song structures that are the centerpiece of the trademark sound of Jackson, a proficient and prolific artist who did not stop from performing and making music since he made his first demo tape in 1978.
Shinedown – Threat to Survival: Shinedown has delivered a timeless classic that tackles timeless issues with Threat to Survival. Ever thought-provoking, Shinedown swung for the fences, and hit the grand slam.
The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn: The Dead Weather are contrived of some of the most notable artist today, with Jack White (White Stripes/Raconteurs), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), Jack Lawerence (The Greenhorues/City and Colur) and Alison Mooshart (Discount, The Kills). Their latest release, Dodge and Burn, consists of twelve songs that are unique and groundbreaking. The music brings to mind the old nostalgic sound of the 1970’s. However, the music is only done The Dead Weather way, through intertwining Reggae, Blues, Psychedelic, and Grunge throughout their songs.