Alright folks, if you've known about me the last four and a half years as That Drummer Guy or you've known me longer than that before I had the radio show. Your favorite time of year is about to drop once again. That Drummer Guy's Top 10 Albums of 2015.
To some people, they wanna know every single album I've checked out and get my thoughts on them, good or bad. Others just wanna know the top 10 and screw the rest because, hey, who has the time to discover new music? Every year this is a labor of love for me, which makes it even harder that this is the last time I'm doing my reviews at the end of the year. In fact I'm starting them back up January 4th and going to be going all year round with doing a year end wrap up kinda similar to what I did this year. I'll do a Top 100, but I'll do much more including EPs, Favorite shows, favorite interviews and a whole lot more! Rather than kill myself every year in December, why not do it all year round, specifically right after I get each album?
2015 has been an interesting year for me to say the least. I'll keep the non-album related info on my social media. Here let's keep it about the music! This year had incredible releases from all over the Rock and Metal world. Some albums were the best in a band's career, others were simply the worst. I like keeping my attention on the best music because there is enough negativity in our lives. I wanna try to be that shining silver lining in the dark clouds of life for all the rock and metal fans out there. So for those that dig what I do. Here is what I consider to be the best of the best, the top of the top, the cream of the crop. THE 10 BEST ALBUMS OF 2015!!!
10.) Loch Vostok- From These Waters
FFO- Extreme Progressive Metal
The most underrated band in my Top 50 albums if not in all 100 albums that made the cut this year. When I discovered these guys a few years ago, I never heard anything like them. At the time, it reminded me of a mix between Fates Warning and Emperor and it still has that feeling to me to this day. The main clean vocals do have the Ray Alder style, while the screams....well...scream of Ihsahn. The music has absolutely no boundaries, which I couldn't appreciate more. When they get melodic, like the title track for instance. It simply doesn't get better. A great mix of Progressive Metal that is not afraid to touch on other genres because they aren't afraid to play what they want and make it work. When they enter the more extreme sound of their style is sounds just as dark, evil, brutal and awesome as any of the leading bands in those styles. If bands needs any inspiration these days, they need to take it from Loch Vostok. No boundaries, all heart! Sadly, there is little to no chance of the band ever hitting the United States. It's rare for me to travel outside of Minnesota mainly because of the cost of it all. But if I have to travel to see these guys in Europe, I wouldn't even think twice. I'll be saving up to go just for them! Seriously, check these guys out!
9.) Swallow The Sun- Songs From The North I, II, III
FFO- (Disc 1- Doom Metal, Gothic Metal, Death Metal; Disc 2- Atmospheric Rock; Disc 3- Funeral Doom Metal)
It takes a tremendous amount of balls to put out an album in 2015 with the decline of album sales. You are completely out of your mind to release a double album under the same circumstances. But it takes level of lunacy that's unheard of to release a TRIPLE ALBUM in 2015! Not 3 EPs, A TRIPLE ALBUM WITH 3 FULL LENGTH DISCS OF BRAND NEW MATERIAL. That's absolutely bonkers. But here's the kicker, it worked out perfectly. Disc I is along the same lines that Swallow The Sun has become known for. Dark, Heavy, Gothic, Doomy, and just a slight twinge of Death Metal. It's a beautiful mix the way they do it. Disc II is along the lines of Post Rock and Atmospheric Rock. To keep it simple. This is the music I wish Alcest was making when we found out they weren't going to play Metal anymore. Disc III is the uber Doomy album. Ultra slow and absolutely evil ala Funeral Doom Metal. For a fan of the slower side of evil Metal, Swallow the sun covered almost every style for you with Songs From The North. This behemoth of a triple album will be sure to blow you away!
8.)Native Construct- Quiet World
FFO- Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Theatrical/Orchestral
This was my number 1 album for quite a long time this year and even now, it is still worthy of the number 1 spot. But there was 7 other albums I love just as much if not a tiny bit more. To keep things simple. This is the album I wish Between The Buried and Me made after Colors. I love that in 2015 that boundaries for what can be done in Metal are diminishing because there should be no boundaries. Native Construct have put out an album that is just as much extreme as it is thought out as it is theatrical. Think of a collaboration between BTBAM and Queen written by Frank Zappa. This is not only a concept album from the band (which is a really cool story by the way) but it is also the bands DEBUT ALBUM! It's hard to get more impressive than that with what these guys have accomplished. Seriously, I can't wait to see what's next for these guys if this is what they can pull off for their first album. They are going to be legends in the Prog Metal world if they continue this momentum, just you watch!
7.) So Hideous- Laurestine
FFO- Cinematic/Film Score, Atmospheric Black Metal, Post Rock
As I already reviewed this album, check out the very in depth album review here:
6.) Ghost- Meliora
FFO- Occult Rock, Heavy Metal, Psychedelic
Ghost, quite possibly the most famous Satanic Rock band to come in the 21st century (and beyond?). Ghost has released their 3rd and most successful album to date, Meliora. That couldn't be more deserving as this is the best Ghost album to date. Yes, the first album is the heaviest and the 2nd album is the most varied. Meliora combines the best moments of both. Keeping the variety, keeping parts pretty heavy for their style, and making it unbelievably heavy. I wonder how many Christians are listening to Cirice on the radio and singing along and bobbing their heads, not realizing how purely evil the song is, haha. The album also features many throwbacks, musically, to the psychedelic eras of the 60s and somewhat into the 70s. Mixing that with Blue Oyster Cult riffing, Mercyful Fate style vocals and modern production make this the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album of 2015. I want Ghost to only get bigger and bigger and bigger as the years go on. Not so much for the vocab of their lyrics, but simply because this proves A.) Evil music can be catchy and on the radio and B.) music doesn't need to be over the top technical and wanky to be enjoyed by everyone in Metal. It just needs to be solid.
5.) Soilwork- The Ride Majestic
FFO- Melodic Death Metal
As I already reviewed this album, check out the very in depth review here: http://www.thatdrummerguy.com/blog/album-review-soilwork-the-ride-majestic
4.) Vattnet Viskar- Settler
FFO- Blackgaze, Post Rock
I love everything that came before this latest album from Vattnet Viskar, especially the previous album, Sky Swallower. But nothing prepared me for the perfection that is Settler. While the album cover may seem very un-metal (which people on the internet have no problem proclaiming that) it actually couldn't be MORE Metal. The album cover is an inspiration of the picture of Christa McAuliffe, a crew member on the NASA spaceship, Challenger, who in 1986, 73 seconds after blastoff, exploded, killing everyone on board. The music matches the tone of the story. Upon it's Blackgaze filled attack, there are moments of Post Rock glory, somewhat Hard Rock moments and an overall haunting beauty behind it all. There is no filler on this album at all, just killer (no pun intended). IF you need a band that gets associated with the new generation of Black Metal in the vein of Deafheaven, and you wanna like Deafheaven but you just hate Deafheaven by proxy because otherwise everyone will hate you because....internet....give Vattnet Viskar a shot. They are by far, leading the pack in this style and I wish for them nothing but the best. They deserve it.
3.) Intronaut- The Direction of Last Things
FFO- Progressive Metal, Sludge Metal, Atmospheric
As I already reviewed this album, check out the very in depth review here: http://www.thatdrummerguy.com/blog/album-review-intronaut-the-direction-of-last-things
2.) 6:33- Deadly Scenes
FFO- The Devin Townsend/Mike Patton collaboration we've always wanted, but doesn't feature Townsend nor Patton
This was one for the first promos I received in 2015 and it has always been in my top 10 if not higher. This was being contemplated as the best album of the year but fell shy to the one right below this review. This album has everything a guy like me could ever possibly want. It is Progressive, Quirky and goes completely across the board and has no boundaries. Picture Devin Townsend doing a collaboration with Mr. Bungle and that's how I envision this album. It go from Blast Beat heavy to Funky on the turn of a dime and it makes sense. The vocals switch from Mike Patton to Devin Townsend to their own style seamlessly. While there are moments of brutality throughout, it is more focused on story telling in each song rather than being brutal and "Metal". This album is for the music nerd in all of us, whether you admit you are a nerd or not. If you don't know if you are or not, here's how you can tell....if you are reading this, you are a music nerd. 6:33 undeniably underrated and needs the utmost love and respect. Show them the love they deserve. HALLELUJAH!
1.) Earthside- A Dream In Static
FFO- Cinematic Rock, Progressive Metal, Atmosphere.
Not many things in life can make my jaw drop in music. Some things I can really enjoy, love, wanna support, etc. But when the PR for Earthside got a hold of me asking me if I was interested in checking out this band, I got sent the YouTube single for the first song, The Closest I've Come and I fell instantly in love. It's the kind of love I felt when I heard Avoid The Light by Long Distance Calling back in 2009. It's exactly what I want in a band. A band that can show off so many different sides of their playing. Find the right singer for each song they feel needs vocals and are able to tell an amazing story with the music in the instrumentals. Harking back to the vocalists. Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust, Dan Tompkins of TesseracT and Skyharbor, Speed from Soilwork and Eric Zirlinger of Face The King all make appearances as lead vocalists on their respected songs. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra also makes 2 appearances on the album, which it is always appreciated when a real orchestra can be used instead of just programming. The songs from start to finish are so beautifully orchestrated and pull on your heartstrings. I love an album that can make me feel real emotions like this album does with every listen. This has the power to not only be my number 1 album of 2015, but it is also landed a spot in one of my favorite albums ever made. So what could possibly make this album better than the way I've described it? IT'S THEIR DEBUT ALBUM!!! It should not be humanly possible to make an album this perfect on a debut album (notable exception being Ne Obliviscaris- Portal Of I. While this album won't be everyone's cup of tea. Anyone who wants a Progressive Post Rock tour de force featuring some of the best vocalists in Metal, this album is for you!
And there you have it folks. The Top 100 Albums of 2015 as selected by me, That Drummer Guy. If this is the 100 Best albums of 2015, I can't wait to see what's in store for 2016. Make sure to keep track of me wherever you know me from (the website, social media, forums, etc) because 2016 is already on a roll with amazing albums. And starting January 4th, I'll be starting my collection of 2016 reviews!
HAVE A FUN, SAFE, AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
- Josh Rundquist
Soilwork- The Ride Majestic
FFO- Melodic Death Metal, Progressive Metal
Soilwork has been a staple in Metal since their debut, Steelbath Suicide back in 1998. So how is the band holding up 17 years later? Like many bands in that amount of time, they have changed almost drastically. Although the band does keep their MDM roots in check, the band, now a days, is focusing much more on a proggier approach to songwriting, The Ride Majestic almost marks a turning point in the band, in which they are continuing to blend chaos with beauty. A great example of this is one of the sexiest ways to play Metal: Blast Beats Over Clean Vocals. The Ride Majestic also showcases a very mature approach to songwriting, no added segments, just because, no extra frills and shakes, just solid playing. Now how does this album compare to the past?
The albums tarts with the title track, The Ride Majestic. It starts with a slower, bluesy guitar riff before coming in with complete devastation and heaviness. What really sells the song is the melodic guitar over the heaviness. The song hearkens back to the days of Figure Number Five in the verse and the chorus of The Living Infinite. Alight In The Aftermath starts off extremely heavy with vibes going back all the way to Steelbath Suicide in parts. This is the first example of doing blast beats over clean vocals. The song goes through many tempo and style variations with a very bluesy solo in between the acts of chaos the rest of the song is. Death In General starts off with some guitar feedback and guitar in the background before the drums kick in with a tom assault. The main riff is a bluesy metal riff over a Meshuggah style beat. While still fast, this is one of the slower songs on the album verse wise. Then mind screws you with some blast beats before the second chorus. Enemies In Fidelity is one of the highlights of the album. It hints at the Figure Number Five and Stabbing The Drama eras of the band with a chorus that blows you away and is the best example of blast beats over clean vocals as the chorus (seriously, how sexy is this?). Petrichor By Surfer is a more dancey, almost pop metal song with a very haunting chorus. If mainstream radio gave it a chance, this would be a great single to have on Top 40 Rock. The Phantom is the most surprising song on the album because it touches on a genre you'd never expect, Black Metal. It even has some Black Metal screams in the beginning of the song. It completely feels like a mix of Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal (that's a genre that should be started asap!). The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic) is essentially Soilwork does Dream Theater, but with more blast beats. A part two of the title track if you will, lyrically. Whirl Of Pain starts off with a somber guitar riff and continues on with the slowest song of the album. Even with this being a “ballad” it is still incredibly heavy. All Along Echoing Pain is one of the more mid tempo songs on the album and again, has a Dance Metal feel to it though most of the song. This is quickly changed as soon as blast beats come into play. This could turn into a really great remix if someone decides to give it that kind of attention. Shining Lights is without question fastest song on the album. While the whole song isn't just about speed, it does tears everything apart in it's way with aggression and the right amount of melodicness. Father And Son Watching The World Go Down has a very Progressive Metal vibe throughout due in part to the keyboards and the drums. It has one of the most epic feeling choruses on the album and absolutely perfect closer to the album.
The Ride Majestic is, without question, the highlight of Soilwork's career so far. Everyone is performing at their absolute best. The absolute star of this album is Dirk Verbeuren. I had the pleasure of talking to Dirk a couple years back in support of The Living Infinite and at the time of the interview, he referred to Soilwork as similar to playing in AC/DC where he can, for the most part, relax and groove, compared to what he normally does outside of Soilwork. That is no longer the case. On this album he is balls to the wall from start to finish and showcasing some of his most impressive drum work he has ever recorded. I didn't think it was possible for Soilwork to out-due themselves with the double album, The Living Infinite, but they have shattered all my expectations and released possibly the finest albums in the world of Melodic Death Metal. The Ride Majestic gives to meaning to the words Brutality, Chaos, Melody and Perfection!
Soilwork- The Ride Majestic available now via Nuclear Blast Records
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.
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