Has it really been a whole fucking year? I can’t believe it. At the beginning of every year I find myself saying, “How is this year going to even top the previous one?” but then low and behold a whole plethora of great music is unleashed for me devour and to add the soundtrack of my life.
2015 was a very exciting year of new bands releasing new music. I can’t think of a time when I was more excited to be a fan of music as I was this year. So many great bands, both new and old releasing albums that solidified just why I love this music so fucking much. Well, without further adieu, let’s get this show on the road shall we? Here it is, my top albums of 2015!
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Jess and the Ancient Ones – Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
So before we even get started, I know what you’re saying. “Brainfart, how can you have two albums listed as album of the year?” Well, because it’s my fucking blog that’s why and if you don’t like it, start your own fucking blog. Anyways, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Graveyard, and Christian Mistress put out three of my favorite albums this year. Trying to figure out which one of these was better than the other was really hard for me and damn near impossible. I could’ve really taken the cheesy way and just given album of the year to all three but in the end, there can be only one and while it was VERY close between all three, I had to go with Jess and the Ancient Ones!
Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes was without a doubt one of the most impacting and important releases of the year. With this album, Jess and the Ancient Ones broke away from the pack and proved to be the true leaders of the psych/occult rock movement. This album is absolutely magical and is a listening experience unlike any that I have experienced in quite a long time. This album not only made me excited to be a JATAO fan but to be a fan of music in general and because of that, they get my pick for album of the year!
1 – Graveyard – Innocence and Decadence
Inching in by 1/2 a hair or so is Graveyard’s Innocence and Decadence. Wow. What can I say? This is by far my favorite Graveyard album. What I loved so much about this album is that this was the album that Graveyard wanted to make. They didn’t cater to the expectations of their fans or the general public and the end result is an absolutely mesmerizing, captivating collection of songs that upon first listen never takes you where you think it’s going to take you. Every time I listen to this album I find something else in there that I didn’t find the previous time and my favorite song changes just about every 3rd listen or so. This is by far Graveyard’s most diverse, personal, and exciting album to date and without a doubt an album that will stand the test of time for many, many years to come.
2 – Christian Mistress – To Your Death
And here we are just coming in 3rd by a nose hair with Christian Mistress’ To Your Death. To Your Death was one of the albums I was anticipating and my expectations were not even met; they were surpassed. Much like Graveyard, Christian Mistress’ latest album was made with little to no concern for the expectations that were placed upon them for this album. Christian Mistress made a truly epic album that not only they wanted to make but that they needed to make. To Your Death is a metal masterpiece and the song “Ultimate Freedom” is without a doubt one of the greatest moments modern metal has ever seen. Christian Mistress is one of the most important bands of the metal genre. Not to put pressure on them but in Christian Mistress I see the REAL future of metal. I see a future that I hope will flourish and grow and sound just like this.
3 – The Exploding Eyes Orchestra – I
I guess you can say that Jess and the Ancient Ones are the only band to be able to make the same top albums list with two different albums as two different bands. The Exploding Eyes Orchestra which is comprised of 5/6 of the Jess and the Ancient Ones released their self-titled album, I, this year and absolutely blew my mind. It’s hard to describe but while there are definitely elements of Jess and the Ancient Ones to this album, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra is an entity all its own. With it’s keyboard driven psychedelic rock, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra put out a collection of very diverse and mind blowing material. From the psych rock of “The Smoke” to the smoky, mellow, dingy barroom sounding “Crazy Heart”, and the album highlight, “Farewell to All-In-One”, “I” covers a lot of ground and showcases just what a talented, diverse, and songwriter Thomas Corpse (guitar) really is.
4 – Lucifer – I
From the ashes of The Oath, lead vocalist/songwriter Johanna Sadonis rose like a phoenix with her newest (and best) band, Lucifer. This somewhat supergroup featuring legendary Cathedral guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings, Angel Witch drummer Andy Prestidge, and Ladytron bassist Dino Gollnick , Lucifer released their debut album, “I” to rave reviews from everyone that heard it and rightfully so. Sounding less like the NWOBHM influenced The Oath, Lucifer tugged at the influences of old and dipped their toes into a more occult rock sound ala Coven and Black Widow. The album as a whole is a flawless collection of some of the best modern occult rock out there today. The epic album closer, “A Grave For Each One of Us”, in my opinion, showcases the depth and talent of Johnna Sadonis as it offers one of her greatest vocal performances.
5 – Europe – War of Kings
Ok. If you would’ve told me last year that in 2015, an album from Europe would make my top albums list I would’ve heartily laughed at you. Well, guess what? In 2015 Europe put out easily one of the best fucking albums I heard in 2015. Yes, that Europe. “The Final Countdown”, “Carrie”, “Cherokee”. THAT fucking Europe. Their album War of Kings was song for song an absolutely jaw dropping album that sounded at times like a long lost Deep Purple album. The opening title track has lead singer Joey Tempest tipping his hat to the great Ian Gillan while “Second Day” is such a dark and haunting song with a hook and chorus that sends chills down my spine. Europe really blew my mind with War of Kings and it was even enough to pique my interest to go and dig into this band’s long, vast, and unsung history. Europe is a band that cannot be defined but the “one hit” that they are so known for and rightfully so. Trust me. You just have to hear it to believe it.
6 – Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
I’m sure I’m going to catch a lot of shit for Maiden being so far down this list but hey, I just call it like I see it. Iron Maiden wowed the world with the news that they were releasing a brand new double album’s worth of material. I only hoped that they would meet the expectations of a bar set so high but the end result just fell somewhat flat. While containing some of the band’s best written songs to date such as “If Eternity Shall Fail”, “The Book of Souls”, and “Empire of the Clouds”, the album itself proved to be a tad over indulgent and contained just too much filler. Had the band shaved this album down to about 50 minutes or so, they damn well could’ve had a mind blowing album. This isn’t to say that the album sucks. The album is really quite good and even the filler isn’t horrendous but it does slow down the flow of what should’ve been an amazing album. That being said, this album still made my list because of the fact that the material that was good was, again, some of their best material in years.
7 – Venom – From the Very Depths
As a young, fledgling metal head in the 80’s I was a HUGE Venom fan. Those first three Venom albums (Welcome to Hell, Black Metal, and At War With Satan) were sacred to me as it was unlike anything I had ever heard in my short time as a metal fan. After At War With Satan, I would lose touch in interest in Venom until this year when a good friend of mine told me that I had to give their latest album From the Very Depths a listen. When I heard this album I was so floored. I just wanted to start running around in circles knocking people down while screaming “Arrrrghhhhh!” If you want to hear the very beginning and roots of a genre, just listen to this album. Even though this album only boasts one original Venom member (founder/songwriter Cronos), everything about this album screams classic Venom. It’s got the fire, the attitude, and passion that forged a genre. “We blast metal, no hip hop or funk, demons from hell, long haired punks.” How the fuck can you argue with that?
8 – Kadavar – Berlin
Kadavar is yet another band that returned to the game in 2015 and released their best album to date hands down. While this album definitely sounds like the Kadavar I fell in love with, the songwriting show a significant growth and maturity. Songs like “Thousand Miles Away From Home”, “The Old Man”, and “Into The Night” captured the electricity and energy of Kadavar’s live show which is a feat that most bands sadly fail at with their studio recordings. Kadavar really took their time on this album and the hard work and emphasis put on strengthening the craft of their songwriting shows very much so. This is an album that Kadavar should be very proud of and it’s an album that I haven’t been able to stop listening to since its release. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a Kadavar tour this year on the East Coast but I am hoping that will change in 2016.
9 – Stryper – Fallen
Last year, Stryper completely blew me away with their album No More Hell to Pay. Not only did I think it was their best album but it was amazing enough to make my top albums list for 2014. Well, Stryper did it again this year with their latest album Fallen. Fallen is an epic metal masterpiece that has Stryper not only out doing themselves but once again putting out one of the best albums of the year. Song for song, Fallen is a metal riff lover’s dream on songs like, “Yahweh”, “Pride”, and “Heaven.” Just when I thought my mind couldn’t be blown any more on this album, here they come with a face melting cover of the Black Sabbath classic, “After Forever.” Without even having to change a single lyric, Stryper proves that this Sabbath song just may be one of the greatest Christian metal songs ever written. You don’t have to be a “believer” to truly enjoy this amazing album. All you really have to believe in is the power of truly great heavy metal music and if you do, than this album will be a great addition to your collection without a doubt.
10 – Enforcer – From Beyond
The first time I ever heard Enforcer was this year when their video for the song “Destroyer” was released. When I saw this video, the first thing I thought was this was some unearthed gem from 1984 but low and behold, they were a bunch of young kids who formed in 2004 in, SURPRISE: Sweden. From Beyond is a metal masterpiece that I feel like is a VERY important metal release. Much like I felt like 3 Inches of Blood did, Enforcer is preserving a very classic and timeless kind of heavy metal music that is very sadly absent in these times. Enforcer embodies that classic NWOBHM sound and at times I find them to be eerily reminiscent of Grim Reaper. Trust me, this is a great thing. Songs like, “Undying Evil”, “The Banshee” and the epic album closer “Hell Will Follow” should be enough to convert you into an Enforcer fan for life and send to their live shows donning studded bracelets while pumping your fists in the air.
11 – Shaolin Death Squad – As You Become Us
Coming in last but not least (and one louder) is Texas based prog metal warriors, Shaolin Death Squad. The band re-emerged in 2015 just in the nick of time to release their first collection of new music in five years and let me tell you, this shit was well worth the wait. The EP features some of the band’s best material including the stellar title track, a face melting, mind bending, mind blowing cover of the Queen classic “Death on Two Legs”, and “Race of the Thinkers” which I feel is one of Shaolin Death Squad’s most epic, shining moments. Lead singer Andrew O’Hearn solidified himself in the top tier of my favorite metal singers and this EP just re-ignited my love for this band. According to the band, there as a lot of material that has been written and yet to be recorded so I can only imagine the greatness that lies ahead.