2015 has been an odd year. It’s brought with it astounding highs and some pretty spectacular lows. It’s brought surprises and disappointments. Several festivals, many many gigs, and further reinforced the fact that music is the most perfect way of bringing people together.
So despite this rollercoaster of a year, it would never be traded for anything else – yet standing in front of the mammoth task of wading back through a year’s worth of releases to condense into a list of ten records that have shaped 2015 is less than enthusing. Nevertheless, from twenty-four contenders, down to ten, and presented in alphabetical order…here we go:
Black Tongue – The Unconquerable Dark
4th September – Century Media
Many albums claim to be the darkest thing ever, or the most brutal – whatever spiel the PR agent uses to sell it to the angsty metallers who use it as a badge of honour. I’m sure we’ve all seen them ‘my music scares people’ memes that float about the various social media feeds.
Well, Black Tongue created something so dark it remains unconquerable. Whilst it is indeed brutal and absolutely pitch black, it’s so much more than a collection of generic feels taken from a teenager’s Tumblr account.
The Unconquerable Dark is for the most part a collected and concise assault on the psyche that also happens to be barbarically heavy and disgustingly sludgy. Frontman Alex Teyen‘s vocals are a step up from their previous output, feeling ever more succinct and in shape. Songs like “Vermintide” and “L’appel du Vide” show off this new and sharper Black Tongue whilst “I’m So Tired Of Sighing, Oh Lord Please Let It Be Light” is purely and simply evil. It’s everything Black Tongue are, condensed into a single song that is both haunting and destructive.
Black Tongue aren’t a band you can ignore; they’ll just come and drag you down with them anyway.
Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit
11th September – Columbia Records
There can be no doubt that That’s The Spirit has been Bring Me The Horizon‘s most successful endeavour to date. It peaked at number 2 on the UK album charts and has seen the band play massive shows across the world.
Usually when a band gets to this size they fail to live up to their own hype and collapse under the weight of their own success. Fortunately for BMTH this isn’t the case. Not only is That’s The Spirit one of the best albums of 2015, it happens to be one of the most important releases in recent years. Bring Me The Horizon are now the UK front runners for British metal and whilst some might claim they’ve had to drastically alter their sound in order to become this behemoth, the counter argument is that they’re just as heavy as they ever have been.
Their transformation from angsty deathcore upstarts to arena selling superstars has been refreshing. Their musical progression might have altered their approach but their ability to write memorable hooks and infectious grooves is just as strong as it ever has been. That’s The Spirit utilises synth-lead pop textures to create expansive soundscapes that would have otherwise been unobtainable by the band. Tracks like “Doomed” and “Follow You” go hand in hand with the metal tinged “Happy Song” and “Throne“, with an eye on the cinematic in breathtaking “Oh No“.
This is the album BMTH were always supposed to make; from Edge of Your Seat to Sempiternal, everything was pointing to this record. Don’t let it pass you by.
Caspian – Dust and Disquiet
25th September – Triple Crown Records
Some records just creep up and surprise you. Having been a fan of Caspian for a while now, there was an immense level of trepidation, but all fears were cast aside as the opening notes of “Separation No.2” rung out.
Caspian have further cemented their place at the forefront of the post-rock scene. The vast and expansive soundscape of Dust and Disquiet is both brilliant and inherently personal. Tracks like “Run Dry” and “Sad Heart Of Mine” almost beg you to look introspectively.
Dust and Disquiet is a deeply personal journey, but when it’s over you’ll feel brighter, you’ll feel bolder, and you will most certainly be thankful for the experience. The variation of dynamics and bold sentiments are what set this record apart from the contemporaries and for that, we’re grateful.
Coheed and Cambria – The Color Before The Sun
16th October – 300 Entertainment
Coheed and Cambria are known for their lengthy prog epics about Heaven’s Fence, the universe they created for themselves; sci-fi stories that have deeper meanings generally rooted closer to Earth.
So, what happens when you ditch that universe? When you bring the music back to Earth and pen an album almost entirely around personal experiences? Will it be lacklustre and forgettable?
Not on your life. The Color Before The Sun was always coming, but its execution on the other hand couldn’t be more perfect. From the charming and thoughtful “Island” to the gorgeous “Here To Mars” and the the immeasurably adorable “Atlas“, the band have pulled out all of the stops to make this album as solid as it could be.
With beautifully delivered instrumentation sweeping around Claudio Sanchez‘s unique and brilliant vocal there is little to dislike about this record. Finishing with the Beatles-esque “Peace To The Mountain“, a sense of overwhelming calm descends. Coheed don’t need to be lightyears from us to write music that sounds lightyears ahead of their contemporaries. This is all the proof you’d ever need.
Fightstar – Behind The Devil’s Back
16th October – Self Released
It’s been a long road for Fightstar. Coming together as Charlie Simpson‘s time in Busted came to an end in 2003, they went on to release three brilliant examples of modern post-hardcore before disappearing into the ether in 2010.
Some time has passed, and now they’re back with their fourth effort Behind The Devil’s Back. It appears that this break has done the band the world of good; their refreshed and focused approach feels succinct. It has room to grow and develop whilst still staying true to the roots of the band this is no mean feat.
The Deftones influence is apparent, blending dream-like passiveness and angular riffing in tracks like “Murder All Over” which makes for a charming and rewarding listen. “More Human Than Human” gives Alex Westaway a chance to let his dreamy vocals shine, and “Dive” that delivers a monolithic sized nod to legacy of Fightstar. Outstanding.
Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
25th March – Nuclear Blast Entertainment
Being seven albums into your band’s career and gearing up to write the eighth could seem like a mammoth task for anyone who isn’t Tuomas Holopainen, maestro and principal songwriter for Finnish progressive metallers Nightwish. Whilst previous works have considered love, mythology and poetry, their newest opus Endless Forms Most Beautiful moves away from that quite impressively. Instead the focus this time is life, the world and humanity’s place amongst the animal kingdom. It doesn’t get much more grandiose than that…oh, and it includes narration from renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
Nightwish as an entity are limitless. If they want to write a twenty-eight-minute song about the evolution of the planet then they will. If they want to deliver a five-minute rock song with a bunch of infectious hooks and soaring choruses, they can do that also. In fact, with this album they do both. This is a new chapter of a band that are ever changing their ideas of how they believe their music should sound.
Of course it has its usual bombastic cinematics and more orchestration than you can shake a stick at, but Endless Forms Most Beautiful feels like Nightwish revitalised. With three new additions to the band – one of them the vocalist – transition records are never simple. But much like Dark Passion Play, it’s handled with both grace and style.
Rolo Tomassi - Grievances
June 1st – Holy Roar Records
Rolo Tomassi have always left a lot to be desired musically. Sure, their live show is intense and they’re a supremely powerful band that command your attention, but there was this overwhelming and unshakable feeling that something was missing; a level of darkness to the music that would bring the intensity of the live show to life on record.
Grievances not only brings that level of darkness, it proves how necessary it was all along. It could be said that the band have reigned themselves in somewhat but this isn’t the case. With glimmers of post-rock, jazz and mathcore all blending together, the result is inspiring, with flourishes of brilliance paired with despair. With vocalist Eva Spence spending almost as much time on her haunting cleans as she does on her violent screams this feels like a much needed progression. This record is the coming of age for a band that have paid their dues over the past ten years.
So Hideous - Laurestine
16th October – Prosthetic Records
If there was one album released in 2015 that gets stuck in your head and try as you might you can’t seem to shake it, it’d be this one.
Laurestine is a haunting and suffocating view of death, both lamented and tormented. The intense arrangements are an exercise in post-black metal excellence; its crushing yet sophisticated soundscapes are refreshing to hear, whilst the cinematic swells and crystal clear production make sure that not even the tiniest detail goes unheard.
Pair this with the real orchestrations and unique approach to the genre, and So Hideous have only just started to realise their potential.
Thus far, it’s magnificent.
Valley – Sunburst
9th September – Version Studio Records
Valley probably take the prize for surprise of the year. Their debut EP Sunburst is a spectacular example of a band taking the most simplistic of structures and sculpting them into something vast and brilliant.
This intelligent and engaging record is a remarkable body of work that spans several stylistic avenues from post-rock to prog. With chunks of Pink Floyd-esque flourish and shoegaze sparkle these tracks are soulful and massive but dynamic and concise.
Closing track “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door” is remarkable; its journey into self enlightenment through the experience of a psychedelic trip is both bold and brilliant, and its tranquil yet meaningful meanderings are a bright and shimmering close to this release.
The future of Valley is bright – very bright indeed.
We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs
July 23rd – Bird’s Robe Records
Concept albums come and go. They vary from being frighteningly grandiose to supremely lacklustre and under developed. Fortunately, Departure Songs is none of those things.
In fact, the concept is more of a set of eulogies intricately woven to deliver a greater message. These songs are inspired by failed but brilliant journeys or events throughout history upon which people have embarked selflessly to influence mankind. The songs are written about these people and it feels like a conclusion to the journeys they never saw completed.
We Lost The Sea‘s carefully crafted swan songs are intricate and bold pieces of post-rock excellence. Whilst completely instrumental – sans some spoken word sample section – the emotionally charged performances are more than enough to carry the message home. This album demands to be listened to in full and with all the due care and attention it deserves.