As the year draws to a close, I thought I’d write up a little top 15 albums of 20, 15 piece to reflect on what has been a pretty gargantuan year in the rock community so here goes…
To start, I’ve got a tiny band with a tiny fanbase and a tiny tracklist in Dead Reckoning’s Myth EP. This is a killer 3-track release, influenced by “Pantera… Trivium… Machine Head…”, so the Milton Keynes-based 5 piece are clearly of pedigree. I actually found them around mid-December this year after a friend of mine picked up the record free as they supported a Dorje concert (YouTube-famous Rob Chapman‘s band) and dropped it to me because it was a bit heavy for him. He wasn’t kidding. At first listen, [opening track] Omen was seemingly average, but Atlas was instantly bone-crushing with deep, resonating riffs matched with hellish vocals for a truly brilliant tune, followed up perfectly by closer Gaia. Highly recommended and I’m sure this band will go a long, long way in the UK metalcore scene.
At 14, it has to be Fearless Vampire Killers with the redefining mini-album Bruises. The long-teased 8 track CD includes both Danger and Braindead, the singles recorded before [2014 album] Unbreakable Hearts, both setting the world alight with the latter earning them their first play on BBC Radio 1. The tracks were recorded using the life savings of [guitarist] Shane’s mother, and until the release mid-August this year they had nothing to show for the cash. Luckily though, the two tracks were both quality surpassing anything of FVK past, taking them to the new height everyone knew they would reach. They’re one of the most genuine groups around, and every single one of them is very humbled to be in the situation they are.
At 13, Arizona catholic metalcore nuts Blessthefall with To Those Left Behind, purely for its beauty and grace fully intertwined with the incredible vocals of Beau Bokan, which creates a very nicely rounded, polished rock record. Not much more to say than that, just a pretty solid job done!
At 12, High Wycombe/London band Young Guns with Ones And Zeros. These guys forged their reputation with second album [2012’s Bones] which gave them serious wide recognition so 2015 was a real test of their credentials and after supporting BMTH at Wembley Arena on their career and era defining iconic show, they were very much in the eye of the scene but this year proved highly successful. With this album getting a top 40 UK position and a top 3 in US Billboard Top Heatseakers chart and a headline run in the latter part of the year (including Warped UK), this band seemed to be unstoppable until Leeds robbers took a van-full of gear and they had to cancel a show in MK… Ah well!
At 11, a band I found at Reading Festival this year in Nothing But Thieves wit their self-titled debut. After hearing the first few bars in that little tent in a field, I could just sense the star quality flowing from these 5, sounding like Muse but with even more depth and clarity which really does go to show that a new band is not always an underformed band. The wait between live and record was around 2 months but it was well worth the wait: the record is full of blues riffs and soaring choruses that are practically uncontrollable and in every way stunning. Hopefully seeing them again in the new year and looking forward to anything else they can show off!
At 10, a proper metal record in Saint Asonia’s self-titled debut. The Toronto supergroup consists of ex-Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier and ex-Staind and Newsted guitarist Mike Mushok, along with a couple of mates (Corey Lowry and Rich Beddoe). These are a real, hard, heavy 11 songs that are all total belters, and they’ve managed to push through to some pretty huge shows (namely Motley Crue’s final UK tour as a support) and become really popular with all of the forefathers of metal and will almost certainly be appearing at Sonisphere 2016 dates!
At 9, just pipping their ex-vocalist’s band is Three Days Grace. Human is the fifth album from the band, the first with new vocalist [ex-My Darkest Days frontman and brother of bassist Brad] Matt Walst, who brings another dark yet dramatically different viewpoint to the band to take them even further where Gontier could not. The album is a heavy but emotional journey through thoughts about what it really means to be human, with songs like So What talking about mental health and attitudes, and Car Crash about the distinct futility of life and how it can be changed in an instant. The return to heavy instrumentals and the hugely emotive vocals go on for a real winner of a record!
At 8, glam-metal/post-hardcore/hardcore-hiphop band Falling In Reverse with Just Like You. The record combines post-hardcore/metalcore screams and heavy riffs (most notably in The Guillotine IV) with rap/electronics (most notably in Wait and See) to produce a high quality record like few others in the genre. (Now ex) guitarist Jackie Vincent’s colourful sweeping solos and pacey verse riffs bring the same depth to the instrumental division of the band, and as per usual Ronnie Radke is so irritating yet so annoyingly addictive that this record itself becomes like a hard drug… Luckily, (new guitarist and close friend of Vincent) Christian Thompson can play practically all of the songs fully with aplomb, yet with his own unique twist that makes it even better. Looking forward to more crazy antics from this lot next year, and still hoping as always that Radke will be allowed to tour our very British shores.
At 7, electronicore from Herts with The Mindsweep. This record put Shikari into the big time as they started to sell out the biggest UK venues [namely Alexandra Palace, London] and Kerrang really started playing them this year. I was hooked at the first single The Last Garrison, and Anaesthetist only strengthened that further. The record is an even mix of nutty electronics with heavy vocals and acoustics and piano pieces with huge emotion and it really shows the depth of the band. As per usual, most of the lyrics are very left-wing and outspoken but that adds to the protest and outrage that Shikari always bring to us. Solid record and a well-deserved position in the chart.
At 6, Baltimore heroes All Time Low with their 6th instalment to their catalogue, Future Hearts. This album was released after an arena co-headline tour with You Me At Six and a sell-out Wembley Arena date (at which I was luckily present) and featured guest writing from Good Charlotte’s Joel & Benji Madden, as well as guest vocals from the former of the pair (on Bail Me Out) and Blink-182 bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus (on Tidal Waves), and was produced by [5SOS, Black Veil Brides, Sleeping With Sirens] producer John Feldmann. The album features huge songs in the form of Something’s Gotta Give and (personally one of my favourite songs of all time, let alone the year) Kids In The Dark. This is a cracking album with great tracks and marks a definite step up for the band after hitting the charts in all the major markets.
At 5, the only real non-scene-kid record record on the list: James Bay’s Chaos And The Calm. Hertfordshire-born Bay has really hit the big time in 2015 with this album, peaking at UK number 1 and US Billboard 200 number 15 and considering this is a debut record, that’s not bad going. The songs are a mix of bluesy, soulful, jazzy rock tunes and acoustic folk tracks, combined to make a frankly stunning collection. Getting BBC coverage at Glastonbury and a load of radio airplay, he really is going somewhere and will hit new heights in the next few years, no doubt.
At 4, ex-Asking Alexandria vocalist Danny Worsnop’s band with their self-titled album We Are Harlot. The record is heavily influenced by 70s-90s rock & roll bands including Skid Row, Queen and Motley Crue, and it sounds right at home among those names. The whole album “is about sex”, yet Danny manages to make it seem a whole lot classier than a lot of Asking’s sexual lyrics and it creates a lot more of a censored album, much like those of the 20th Century. As with Saint Asonia, they’ve hit it off with all the fathers of rock and have landed themselves in festivals and as supports for some rather large tours, but hopefully a UK tour is coming next year (hint hint…).
At 3, YouTube star Patty Walters‘ band As It Is with debut album Never Happy, Ever After. I’ve been a huge fan of Patty and his music for a couple of years now and I watched as he pieced together his 5 man band, because he couldn’t play the songs live, as he played everything on them (the same was true of Dave Grohl when he first formed Foo Fighters, to give you an idea of talent here…) and I watched as they released song by song their early recorded pieces and I knew there was something special going on. With Patty’s sickly sweet American pop-punk vocals and Ben Biss’ English growls, it makes a masterpiece vocal-wise, backed up with great instrumentalists to form a pop-punk band to rival any US band, but defeated by one band and one band only who just so happen to have the penultimate record on the list…
The second-last release on the countdown is Wrexham pop-punks Neck Deep with record number two in the same number of years, this one named aptly Life’s Not Out To Get You. The record was created with a surrounding of proven and successful people in A Day To Remember vocalist Jeremy McKinnon, as well as their producer Andrew Wade and ex-guitarist-turned-producer Tom Denney. 2015 turned life pretty real for the guys, supporting All Time Low in March at a sold-out Wembley Arena then hitting Slam Dunk festival then just before ATL on Main Stage at Reading & Leeds and finally to a sold-out Alexandra Palace in support of BMTH in November, and somewhere in that time bagging a top 10 UK spot for this record. Now, that’s pretty good going in all honesty. Sadly, however, they lost guitarist Lloyd Roberts amid sexual misconduct allegations and despite having no case to answer stepped down from the band to focus on family and other music projects, which made way for interim guitarist Sam Bowden to become a full time member and to move forward into 2016, with a world tour and Download festival dates announced, it looks to be another big, busy and successful one so best of luck to them!
And finally at number 1, of course, is the latest installment to the BMTH evolution in That’s The Spirit. While it didn’t quite top the charts, the undeniable success of this album was cemented yesterday [30th Dec] as the band received a gold disc each for 100k record sales which, in this climate, is rather rare for a band of this type. Marking the final shift from metalcore to a more synth & rock-driven sound, That’s The Spirit further pushes the boundaries of what rock music can be: brutal yet mellow, electronic yet instrumental. With an incredible performance at Reading & Leeds festivals and a US & Europe headline tour completed this year, 2016 looks to be yet another enormous year for the Sheffield rockers and I cannot wait to see what they can bring with them next outing.
So there we have it, the best 15 albums of 2015 (in my humble opinion, of course), check back tomorrow for a look forward through 2016!