2015 turned out to be a great year for music, full of great expected releases as well as some surprise discoveries. It was bound to be a good year with Muse, Tesseract, Heart of a Coward and Enter Shikari all releasing new albums but there were also many surprises such as Leprous, Stray From The Path and Chvrches all catching my eye. It was quite difficult to narrow down my year to just 10 albums as there were many great ones that just missed out on the list like Enter Shikari, Turnstile, Continents, Vola and Nero.
10. Shattered Skies – The World We Used To Know
12th January – Self Released
Following a three-year wait for their debut album – a wait that felt like being a kid on Christmas Eve, watching the clock tick by agonisingly slowly – Shattered Skies finally teased snippets and music videos towards the end that made things all the more frustrating.
Once released however, it was a massive relief. Soaring vocals from Sean Murphy more akin to power metal, alongside Ian Rockett’s crushing guitar with resemblance to Heart of a Coward’s crunch-infused tone, are tied together by an inspiring amount of technical melody and rhythm. It’s an unlikely but stellar combination.
Much as Destiny Potato’s LUN was in 2014, The World We Used To Know is the ‘pop tech’ album of the year, albeit with its own distinct twists; a welcomed direction for the tech genre.
It is a crying shame that, following such a powerful release, we saw the same curse hit Shattered Skies that falls upon many bands of the scene, with Murphy
leaving the band in the latter part of the year. Here’s hoping in 2016 they manage to find a replacement that can leave as much of an impact to get themselves back on track.
09. Stray From The Path – Subliminal Criminals
14th August – Sumerian Records
While Subliminal Criminals managed to evade me on first release – excluding its ravenous single “Outbreak” – I finally came around to listening to it and damn…it’s been a while since such a explosive hardcore punk album has caught my attention. Even with Frank Carter’s triumphant return to the genre with Blossom, Turnstile’s positively charged Nonstop Feeling, and Continents‘ furious reinvention of their sound on Reprisal, I felt that they just lost out to Stray From The Path in terms of full ‘in your face’ attitude.
With guest spots from Sam Carter, Rou Reynolds and Coby B Ware, Subliminal Criminals simply doesn’t let off. Having not jumped on the Stray From The Path hype train back with Anonymous (as much as I tried) I feel that this release has filled in all the gaps the last one left open.
With its aggressive riffs and immense breakdowns this album is the perfect motivator for any occasion!
08. Silversun Pickups – Better Nature
25th September – New Machine Recordings
After having spontaneously remembered Silversun Pickups‘ shoegazey rock from Carnavas, I caught up with what I’d missed since 2007 and wondered why I hadn’t included this band into my life since. I feel like I let slip a vital underdog with their last three releases, only to discover their most recent album came out in September.
Better Nature has the makings of an alt-rock album, but with the Pickups’ grungey shoegaze roots underpinning the sound. Brian Aubert’s signature raspy vocals are dreamy yet peculiar in the same way Chino Moreno’s are for Deftones, and they help create their melancholic yet catchy tone.
The band also utilise electronics effectively to give that balance between heavy and soft which gives the album its post grunge vibe. Better Nature is uplifting at times, yet introspective at others, and it’s a great mix.
07. Heart Of A Coward – Deliverance
2nd October – Century Media Records
One of my most anticipated albums came from one of one of my favourite rising UK bands, believe it or not. Heart Of A Coward‘s third effort Deliverance is just as gritty it predecessor Severance, but with a little more melodic experimentation.
I saw them five times in 2015 alone, and their experience on the live circuit shows through; they know exactly what they do best, and Deliverance shows it all off perfectly, all the while hinting at interesting avenues they can explore in the future. As with its predecessor, it has a brilliant balance of furious aggression and their technical edge which allows intensity but with brains.
Now that Heart Of A Coward have become a recognised name in the mainstream live circuit, how they develop their sound from here – following songs like “Skeletal” and “Hollow” that will be truly interesting.
06. TesseracT – Polaris
18th September – Kscope
The surprise news that Dan Tompkins was rejoining TesseracT back in 2014 was welcomed by many, despite Ashe O’Hara’s wonderful turn on the spectacular Altered State. Polaris rides along in that niche they created with the last album nicely; the flowing riffs and punchy bass lines make for an almost sensual listen and the atmosphere they create is uplifting and ambient. This is a clear distillation of their signature sound, and it does everything incredibly well.
While Polaris does little in the way of step into new territory, it handles its emotional content well; it’s filled with tight and affecting melodies in “Hexes“, catchy single “Survival” and “Tourniquet“.
There are some points in which the album does feel a bit like a part two to Altered State which is why the album did not stun me as much as their previous album but that is by no means a bad thing. Polaris does well to showcase their ability to write both progressive masterpieces as well as radio friendly songs. Why change when you have reached near perfection?
05. Leprous – The Congregation
25th May – Inside Out Music
A charming surprise to my top ten, but one that I was looking forward to nonetheless after seeing Leprous at Euroblast 2014 and being stunned by their sound.
The Congregation is an emotionally-fuelled prog masterpiece that ticks all the right boxes. The musicianship is golden and powerful as is the songwriting. Nothing feels overdone either which can be a trap for prog bands at times, where one of the instruments becoming so virtuosic it starts to seem gloating, or with vocals that brim with too much ego but Leprous manage to refrain from that.
Songs like “Moon“, “Slave“, “Rewind” and “Red” all manage to conjure their own sound yet still remain distinctly Leprous. Like a prog infused Muse, the songs ooze atmosphere and their varied use of key parts helps give each song their own character. Vocalist Einar Solberg’s melodies are hauntingly epic and full of memorable hooks while the guitar parts show flairs of different influences.
The Congregation is a must listen to any progressive rock or metal fan for 2015.
04. While She Sleeps – Brainwashed
23rd March – Search & Destroy Records
Building up with an ambiguous intro of shouting, Brainwashed bursts in with debut single “New World Torture“, a first look at the band’s new, sleek, metal-inflused hardcore sound. Bursting with anthemic choruses, in between raging riffs and leads, While She Sleeps‘ latest is as intense as it is memorable and melodic.
Vocalist Lawrence Taylor has proven that, on record at least, he his back with bite; his pitched shouts flow effortlessly over the rhythm of the songs and he throws out some really grand choruses, full of emotion. Sean Long’s lead work is also a highlight, and something that seems to have improved dramatically – writing wise – since This Is The Six, weaving catchy little hooks in the right moments amidst the thrashy rhythms.
With songs that almost have a likeness to Slipknot, and the interludes that divide them (on the deluxe edition), Brainwashed is a call to arms and one done so well that it feels almost surprising that While She Sleeps haven’t become the biggest UK band of the style – especially with Bring Me The Horizon charting other seas.
03. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
25th September – Virgin/Glassnote
Writing CHVRCHES off as some sort of indie band, I missed the hype surrounding The Bones of What You Believe in 2013, but caught on this time around, and was upset I had not caught on sooner.
Brimming with positivity and hooks, Every Open Eye‘s electro/dream pop is well-written and instantly infectious. Lauren Mayberry’s pristine vocals are airy yet punctuated over the tightly layered electronics, and are among the catchiest you will hear this year . The contrast provided by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty brings an even more mellow tone occasionally, and while their sound can be compared to The Naked & Famous, CHVRCHES have taken that sound and stripped it of the indie rock elements and created something that is incredibly upbeat and uplifting.
02. Agent Fresco – Destrier
7th August – Long Branch Records
Having slowly infected the hearts and minds of UKTM crowd and beyond since 2010s anathematic A Long Time Listening, Icelandic sweethearts Agent Fresco finally released their second album Destrier in 2015, and just as with the debut it packs both a emotional punch and musical virtuosity.
Yet there is improvement. This time they have managed to make their material more concise. For a band that are still relatively unknown it is becoming harder to see why and their slow ascent to common knowledge is relieving that with each passing day.
The album itself is extraordinary and seems to draw influences from everything from Sigur Ros to Coldplay, and Biffy Clyro to Muse, blending them into a glowing art rock style in which they explore every crevice. With a successful UK tour complete and their fan base widening, it is likely that we will be hearing a lot more of Agent Fresco in 2016.
01. Muse – Drones
5th June – Warner Music/Helium-3
As hoped, Muse manage to win me over yet again with an album even rawer than their previous couple of efforts.
That said, they still manage to showcase the range of styles that they have encompassed over the years. Opening track “Dead Inside” continues their more recent electronic side, before returning to the stadium rock sound they adopted so successfully on Black Holes & Revelations.
Using some of the strongest riffs they’ve put out in years – some taken from their live jams – and paired with their instantly recognisable melodies, Muse have created a brilliant all round rock album that, at times, is straight forward and angsty, and others more progressive, moody and emotional.
As always, each song has a distinctive sound and quality that sets it apart from the others. Songs touch base with Depeche Mode, Rage Against The Machine and Pink Floyd amongst others, and whilst Drones is perhaps not their best ever, it still manages to bring together everything that they have written so far, and incredibly well.