The 5SOS Debate

The 5SOS Debate

Similar to my (James’) last post, I’m going to weigh in on this debate too.

Now, 5 Seconds of Summer have made it from nothing to chart-toppers in only about 3 years through a tour with One Direction and I suppose that’s where quite a lot of the stick they get is actually centred.

Their music is deep-rooted in the pop punk scene and they can regularly be seen wearing Nirvana and Green Day shirts both on stage and off stage; they record with John Feldmann (as are pop punk legends All Time Low and blink-182) and for some reason they still get called out constantly.

Ask yourself this: if you’re offered a chance to be the main support of one of the biggest world tours of the last 10 years, would you say yes? What about if you were certain it would give your band exposure to hundreds of thousands of huge-spending teenagers around the globe and give yourselves a global fanbase that will buy anything you release ever? What about if you could covert them all to loving all your punk and pop punk influences as well as your own music?

Frankly, that’s what 5SOS did. They got massive exposure on the One Direction world tour and subsequently have released 2 albums which both hit the big time instantly, making the 4 boys millionaires in a matter of months. They’ve also written with some of the biggest names in pop punk and alternative music (written with Mike Duce of Lower Than Atlantis, Ash features on Andy Biersack’s new solo album Andy Black and they’ve met all their idols including Gerard Way and Mark Hoppus) and I don’t think anyone in their situation would have done a single thing differently: I know for a fact I wouldn’t have…

Just to add to it, they had a free choice of songs to play or cover in the BBC Live Lounge and they chose a BMTH track, which clearly shows they know where it’s at!

So as they get ready to play various gigantic arenas, the pop punkers (supported by none other than STATE CHAMPS, one of the core modern pop punk bands) are doing a hell of a lot better than practically anyone else, all thanks to taking opportunities and not being stupid enough to discriminate because it wasn’t someone of their musical style.

If it’s the boyband, stupendously attractive image you have a problem with, you need to re-evaluate how you judge people. Stupendously attractive people do and can make quality music just like the rest of us, okay?

Leave that high horse well alone, it’s far too tall for small minded people.

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The Black Veil Brides Debate

The Black Veil Brides Debate

Right, so this is me (James) weighing in on the debate that splits our scene in two and really  riles me up…

DISCLAIMER: no, I’m not a crazy fangirl with no sense; I am just a music fan that has an opinion and it is well-reasoned as you will tell.

If you’re unfamiliar with this the Black Veil Brides, here’s a few photos of them through their 4 phases:

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Clockwise from top left: pre-first album (2007/8), Set The World On Fire (2011), Wretched and Divine (2012-early 14), self-titled (late 2014-)

 

I can understand people not liking the band in the first album era; they weren’t in a community and they were breaking out into a scene that didn’t exist in a cross between metalcore, hair metal and acoustic rock which led to a pretty weirdly mixed record that they advertised was “for fans of Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold” which was a pretty bizarre comparison yet was the closest they had to a like band. They were very much a bunch of misfits making music they liked while living in a van touring the US and that did show in some ways, but they pushed on with life.

Then they swapped the eyeliner-all-over look for a full-on, almost Kiss-style painted look with huge hair and a lot of catsuits and tight leather. This brought with it a far more melodic sound reminiscent in parts of 80s hair metal legends Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Dokken, which earned them their first real following in the UK though didn’t allow them to fully break through in the US. The visual décor led to many people dismissing them as “another emo band” or “weird nutters” as I have heard people refer to them oh so many times and I suppose in that respect they didn’t necessarily make a choice that would make them any more popular while they were trying to find their feet in a re-establishing hair and glam metal market on both continents.

Ditching facepaint for warpaint marked the move from second to third album, and the introduction of the “BVB Army” name for the fanbase that meant an ever growing amount as the band went into production of a musical film titled Legion of the Black to accompany the release of the third album. This was their first major chart success as it hit the UK and US charts with pretty reasonable successes on both sides of the pond. This era came partially courtesy of legendary producer John Feldmann, who directed them into a more freely adapted musical style that led them to let out all their creativity in the form of a 22-song, double disc concept album following the Legion in an apocalyptic world, fighting against the church. While I understand how this could be controversial, this was taken to use against them by so many who just looked for another reason to hate them.

Employing master-metalhead Bob Rock for their self-titled album (commonly known as BVB IV) gave them their first undeniable credibility in the scene in both countries. The record took them even higher into the charts and gave them a more classic metal sounding instrumental in parts comparable to that of Metallica’s Black album in that it was polished in a very Bob Rock style, yet it was kept listenable to the mass market through Andy’s mainly melodic vocals (with the exception of Stolen Omen which was a mixture of processed whispers and shouts).

Now from the clips, they look to be delving even deeper into the realms of heavier music and they’re back in the studio with John Feldmann and genuinely I’m excited to see what this next record has in store for us, and if the last few eras have been anything to go by then a dramatic change will be hitting us as they release material from this record.

So before you go bashing this lot, they really aren’t that much different from classics like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses, just not quite as mental, and quite a lot more civilised and mature in a number of ways!

The Art of Demo

All aspiring artists have been there, myself included: which song shall I record? How shall I mix it? Why does it sound so horrendous?

The art of the demo is a fine and precise one, with the main aim to record anything you would be prepared to submit to a label in the vague hope of getting any kind of deal. In reality, demos end up sounding like total garbage that has been recorded in the bottom of a ditch with a 1990s headphone mic…

Recently, I’ve been snapping up studio kit (namely a vocal mic) and making tracks both solo and with my other band member and I can safely say demos are not as difficult as they used to be. The youth of today have more disposable income than ever before and through this can actually buy some pretty cheap pieces of kit which are better quality than ever before. Recording software can even go for free with programs like Audacity and even these are half decent, they don’t have graphic equalisers or mixing tools but they have gain and headphone settings and the products aren’t all that bad.

So it could be said that with the modern cash, a home-recorded demo is easy and I would tend to agree but it doesn’t compare to a studio mixed track at all!

Metalhead Problems: Addicted To Pop

Metalhead Problems: Addicted To Pop

“OH GOD NO, I HAVE THAT STUCK IN MY HEAD NOW”

As a metalhead and pop punk fan, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of pop songs, however when my brother has the radio on playing a bit of Bieber or whoever I just get the tune stuck in my head and I have a little crisis as I realise I’m singing a song by Justin Bieber but I have developed a solution.

Ages ago, I discovered the Punk Goes series which spans: Metal, Pop, Acoustic, 80s, 90s, Acoustic 2, Crunk, Pop 2, Classic Rock, Pop 3, X (Winter X Games 2011 songs), Pop 4, Pop 5, Christmas, 90s 2 and Pop 6, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a pretty comprehensive list. The covered artists include Britney, Bruno Mars and Coolio and they’re nearly all quite hardcore (though not quite punk in most cases…) so that’s one way of escaping the dreaded pop trash easily. My favourites are probably I Prevail’s Blank Space (Taylor Swift), Pierce The Veil’s Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars) and Pvris’ Chandelier (Sia).

More recently though, I discovered a bloke called Leo Moracchioli who runs a Frog Leap Studio in Norway and he does some pretty nutty covers in general. Spanning 6 metal covers albums and 3 acoustics, he has at least one song released per month and he’s currently releasing about every fortnight. My personal favourites have to be Sia’s Chandelier and Demi Lovato’s Let It Go.

In addition, there are some pretty cool covers from other bands they’ve released as singles like Our Last Night, Against The Current and even All Time Low so before you go and ruin your reputation, DO YOUR RESEARCH! There’s almost certainly a cover that you can listen to that’ll be more your style and more reputable.

Streaming: My Confession

Streaming: My Confession

After several conversations with my bosses at work, I was thinking about music streaming and all it offers, both positively and negatively and I did what I would have seen unthinkable: I paid for my first month’s Spotify Premium.

I’ve blogged about this, I’ve debated and I’ve even given a speech about this matter and now I feel a huge sense of hypocrisy which is why this is a confession, but I’ve decided it can actually be positive after all despite such a fight to spread my opinion.

My thought process basically went along the lines of “artists that are happy with it put it up for streams, the rest don’t…”, which is a pretty simple one and since paying that cash last week I’ve gotten into several bands I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise and of course I’m enjoying it!

But me being me, I’ve pledged to still buy CDs and I’ve just paid for my first ever vinyl (SUPER EXCITED) to support my favourite baby band Creeper and I have no intention of giving up on adding to my rapidly expanding CD collection, and Spotify will be my method to playlist and share but CDs will be my main way of supporting artists still.

So there we have it, it’s off my chest and out there for everyone to see and it feels better honestly!

 

(PS a few more posts will be coming over the next week, potentially up to 4 before next Saturday so stay tuned!)

2016: Exciting Events

With the new year finally here, I’ve been looking forward to a fair few things this coming year, both lives and records, so follow the links for the full experience and in no particular order, here are the most exciting we know of so far…

 

The Black, the newly announced Asking Alexandria record that comes out March this year. The record will be the first to feature new singer Denis “Stoff” Shaforostov, formerly of Make me Famous and Down & Dirty, and will feature the first two singles released (I Won’t Give In and Undivided) which went down very well in both sales and crowd reactions. The band have hinted at a new music video which hopefully will be a new song altogether but we’ll see. Safe to say I’m very excited.

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Related to The Black, Asking Alexandria hinted at a post-album UK tour when playing Warped UK. This will be the first tour that Denis has a proper chance to sing his own lyrics and based on the performance on the last tour, this could be a vicious and enthralling experience like no Asking tour before  and if I have any choice in the matter whatsoever I’ll be there.

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Of course BMTH had to be in here somewhere… In the late stages of last year, it was announced that they had been booked to play the first Teenage Cancer Trust gig of the season in the Royal Albert Hall but with a twist: they are going to play the whole gig (on Friday 22nd April) with a full orchestra, so expect tunes like Follow You and Avalanche to be pulled from the catalogue and used on stage. The show sold out in around 2 hours, only taking so long due to the queueing process that took ages to get through! In the last week, they have also announced a full UK arena tour for November (for £45 a ticket…), but it’s pretty safe to say that won’t be with an orchestra…

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After much teasing through the year, 30th October marked the announcement of Tonight Alive‘s new record Limitless, produced by David Bendeth [Of Mice & Men, Asking Alexandria, Bring Me The Horizon]. The record marks a shift towards an electronically driven sound evident in second single To Be Free. The album will hopefully take the Aussies to unseen levels after the critical acclaim of [2013’s] The Other Side.

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Again related to a previous one, Tonight Alive touring the UK in February with support from Our Last Night and Milk Teeth, hitting all the mid-sized venues. It should prove to be pretty important for OLN and MT to play such large venues as they’re on the verge of breaking into the Kerrang/Rock Sound worlds but need something to just tip them over and this could finally be it.

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On 22nd December, renowned hardcore label Fearless Records announced a load of new records would be turning up from their roster, namely the afformentioned Tonight Alive record, plus pop-punks Real Friends, hardcore men The Word Alive and The Color Morale. This is set to be a huge year for fearless by all accounts, and they’ll be brought to new heights by new bands like I Prevail, which will add depth to their quality even further.

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As a fair few of you may have worked out from the above picture, the silence has been partially broken with the announcement that a Pierce The Veil album will drop this year, having been finished for about 3 months already. This will follow the release of The Divine Zero at the start of the Vans Warped Tour (during which PTV played headline slots), and hopefully this album will turn up sooner rather than later. As with The Divine Zero, there are rumours created by a Twitter release from the record label that the record could drop with little to no warning at all. All of us have been waiting over 3 years for this record and it should be a pretty good one if that single is anything to go by.
EDIT (8pm GMT 1/1/16): New album from As It Is included on the list as of today.

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Fearless aren’t the only record label doing a little bit of hinting, Rise Records are hitting the social networks too. A huge festive season has just passed for them as they released first edition vinyls for practically all of their albums including some that have left their roster [Sleeping With Sirens]. They confirmed via Facebook that Of Mice & MenISSUES and many others will be getting releases out this year, as well as “some surprises” so I guess we just have to wait and see…

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Now a one-man band, Panic! At The Disco are releasing the 5th instalment to the catalogue, Death Of A Bachelor which features the huge new songs VictoriousLA DevoteeHallelujah, Emperor’s New Clothes and the title-track. Brendon Urie has actually played and sung everything on this album, as well as having a hand in the production and mixing, so it really is his band. This album actually comes out very early on this year, hitting UK stores in a fortnight on the 15th Jan, which leaves the market wide open as few albums come out so very early. Good move Brendon, very tactical…

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Elsewhere in the world, the initial lineup for Slam Dunk festival has been made with the second announcement set for the 20th January. The initial announcement came with the news that Panic! would be hitting the UK for the second time this year (after a 12th January pre-album show in Brixton Academy, London). The line-up also includes lots of metalcore with Of Mice & Men, Issues, Memphis May Fire and Every Time I Die. Look back for an update on the next update to the lineup on 20th Jan.

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Another band going very, very strong through to the new year is Neck Deep, and towards the end of last year the band announced a tour round the UK in early February, then a further 4 dates as a “homecoming” from their world tour. Along for the ride on both runs are up-and-coming band Creeper, the first run has fellow pop-punk sensations State Champs and Light Years, the second having WSTR. Should be a real way for the Wrexham boys to cement their position at the top of the scene, and for Creeper to get that little bit better known. See dates below…

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2016 marks some huge returns, but only one for which I’m very excited: the fathers of pop punk; creators of most of the recent masterpieces on the scene; Good Charlotte are coming back. They played a couple of shows towards the end of last year and released a new song Makeshift Love and being mates with All Time Low they’ve managed to get themselves a support slot for the Back To The Future Hearts UK 2016 Tour along with up-and-coming 3-piece Against The Current. The tour will hit London’s O2, Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena along with a few others, and of course I’m going crazy with anticipation for what the shows and comeback may bring…

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As with every year, Reading & Leeds festivals are back. While the first announcement is quite disappointing, it included Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slaves and Crossfaith, as well as Twenty One Pilots (who I can’t stand but are quite popular in the scene) and since have announced Eagles of Death Metal will be there too, so let’s hope the next announcement is really killer!

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Last but not least least, the king of all large festivals Download has a massive, massive lineup this year, with headlining slots for Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden respectively. Further down the bill, the likes of Amity Affliction, Breaking Benjamin, Ghost, Halestorm and Tremonti will all be there, and the only real downside is that since the passing of Lemmy last week, there will be no Motorhead performance… But as the man himself would have wished, Download 2016 will go on, bigger and better than ever before and as per usual, I’m certain some other stunning bands will be added to the already stellar lineup!

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Here’s to a good one, it’s looking to be one of the best so far for rock music so let’s hit it head on!

2015: A 15-Record Reflection

2015: A 15-Record Reflection

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.

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Listen free here

 

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…).

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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!