Last year we ran a 5-part series listing 25 of our favorite albums from the first half of 2014 with the premise that 2014 was simply such an amazing year musically that we just had to talk about some of our favorites at the year’s mid-point and whittle down all the great releases to an impossible list of 25.
What fools were we.
2015, across the board, is truly turning out to be a banner year for music as a whole, but in particular the kind of music we cover here at Heavy Blog. Between old favorites putting out expected blockbuster releases, smaller bands making huge leaps to stake a claim for our attention, and new or obscure bands putting out releases out of left field that have completely caught us off-guard in the best way, it’s been nearly impossible to keep up with the output of superb music that 2015 has offered us thus far. We are now at the end of the sixth month of the year, and thus have decided to give this another try, albeit in a slightly different format.
Like last year, the following 25 albums are left unranked (because if you’re seriously concerned about ranking this time of year you need to chilllllllllll), but they are all together within one post over 5 pages rather than 5 posts. We also have left out listing the many worthy albums who were in contention but just missed the cut, of which there were many. Also important to note is that we didn’t include any albums released past the middle of this month (when we did our original internal polling), so a couple of albums we’ve already reviewed (such as Coma Ecliptic) will not appear on this list. However, all of these albums though are absolutely ones you should give a listen to even if it’s not a style you normally listen to. Trust us, we’re music scientists.
Time has shown again and again that “supergroups” are not always what they’re cut out to be. More often than not, having several highly distinct musical personalities in a room together leads to an awkward resultant sound, with the disparate parts of the music clearly cobbled together from the various unpleasant compromises that come with collaborating as individual big-name musicians. With The Malkuth Grimoire, however, Alkaloid chose to fully embrace their musical differences and let them pull things into another dimension entirely.
The final product is something unprecedented in progressive death metal and tech death alike — the album never spreads itself too thin, yet manages to cover more ground in its 70-odd minutes (with abundant flair and personality, to boot) than bands have done in decade-long careers. The carefully constructed 15-minute album centrepiece “Dyson Sphere” is brilliant both musically and conceptually in ways previously unheard of in the genre, and every other song on the record brings with it a completely unique sound and feel to the overarching science fiction-inspired theme. Indeed, The Malkuth Grimoire is the type of album that other bands will take years and years down the road to catch up to, and considering that Alkaloid has now become the main project for several of its members following the album’s resounding success, these other bands are likely in for a lot of legwork in trying to keep up.
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Do you like fun? Good. You like this album. And So I watch You From Afar have mastered the art of delivering tracks that are bouncing with boundless energy, careening from an off-tempo groove into a choral gang shout that ends up going back to a passionate, enthusiastic melody. Their 2015 offering, Heirs, is the perfect example of this: the music flows and glows throughout the 45 minutes, blending electronic math-rock with groovy post-rock influences. Never overly technical or dull, it’s the perfect follow-up to their last album, 2013’s All Hail Bright Futures, further expanding outwards in diversity while solidifying their unique sound.
Every song offers something different. From the short and sweet fuzzy vibes of “Fucking Lifer” to the climactic 6-minute buildup of “A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor”, the sheer amount of ground the band covers is unbelievable. At once emotional, fun, and musically diverse, Heirs is a lighthearted romp through a musical world of luminescent wonder.
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Welcome to the next level. Arcturus are one of the most unique bands out there, and not in music alone: in a time where once-great acts are forcing upon our ears tired album after tired album, it is refreshing to see a band that simply stops making music until it has something to say. It’s been ten years since Arcturus’s last album and boy was it worth the wait. Arcturian is nothing short of fantastic; it’s dubbed as avant-garde black metal because of the musicians behind it but it’s so much more than that. It blends a masterful command of theatrics, never too cheesy or epic, industrial tendencies in the form of weird and gripping synths and one of the best vocal performances of the year.
To those familiar with ICS Vortex, that should come as no surprise. However, the amazing cleans on this album are not only impressive in a performative sense: they are also creative in composition. They draw on oriental, black metal and operatic influences to create the crowning moments of this album. The instruments lend the album its flesh but the vocals are the mind and soul of this creation, elevating it all to the degree of masterpiece. It is without a doubt when we say that this album is one of the most inventive and yet most infectious albums of 2015 so far. No album comes close to the perfect blend between approachability and bizarreness, of experimentation and cohesion.
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Blue Swan Records have been a force to be reckoned with for a while. Containing such bands as Stolas and Secret Band, it’s one of the leading names in melodic hardcore. Once in the backdrop of this scene, Eidola have now burst onto center stage with their virtuous, sophomore effort, Degeneraterra. What’s this album like? Try mixing the angrier parts of Stolas with gates’s approach to melody, sprinkle in a groove section that draws from Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Mars Volta while finally introducing the larger than life sound of Thrice and there you have Eidola.
Think that’s a tall order? You’re right. This album goes so many places during its considerable run time. Admittedly, this creates an initial listening experience which can be hard to focus on. However, once you spin it a few times and start picking up on its overall structure and hooks, it’s transformed into a wild ride, a rollercoaster of approaches and sounds within the melodic harcore millieu. One last point: the lyrics are also brilliant. Being a concept album but one which is not too aggressive with its themes, Degeneraterra offers a lush lyrical field to analyze and come to terms with. Do you need to drive somewhere fast? Is your heart in need of an emotional spike? Do you really miss Thrice? Spin this.
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These are high times (hue hue) for bands who ascribe to the “stoner” brand of metal, but few, if any, are more at the top of their game right now than Boston natives Elder. After releasing two full-lengths and a handful of EPs and splits that were all well more than solid, the band seemingly reached way down and kicked their songwriting up a notch or two to create something truly great. Lore is as grand and epic as the title implies. At nearly an hour spread over 5 tracks, vocalist/guitarist Nick DiSalvo conjures up mammoth riffs, blistering solos, and howling melodies that swell gradually to form towering images matching the sun-kissed peaks that adorn the album’s cover. Taking cues from everything from classically epic stompers like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to modern doom and sludge titans Electric Wizard and Windhand, Elder manage to forge their own unique path that lures the listener on a powerful and emotional journey. Do yourself a favor and go for a ride or two (or twenty) with this album.
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