Time flies when you’re having fun. Cherish the time you have right now, as you’ll soon look back and wonder where the time has gone. Those are a couple of sayings I’ve been told thousands of times growing up but it’s only been the past few where’s it’s sunk in after wondering why there’s snow outside right now when I swear it was just June like last week. Has it really been six months?
Whether I like it or not though, it’s officially 2016 now and with it closes a year that I dub the best year for music in my life. It came as a surprise to me too as at this time last year writing up my top 10 list thinking that it was a pretty barren looking year, yet when July or August came around I could no longer keep track of the number of amazing music I had listened to. I had flashbacks of the days I spent in high school discovering new band after new band.
I also dub this past year as the year of amazing sound engineering. So many albums I’ve listened to sound absolutely stunning. From Trivium’s Silence in the Snow to Foo Fighters, to Between the Buried and Me, I found myself thinking “This is what I perfect album sounds like to me” only to reconsider when I listened to the next album.
This is my top 10 of a banner year:
10. Good Tiger – A Full of Moonlight
This is the most unique album I listened to this year. More progressive rock than anything, Good Tiger released a very good debut album. These guys are supporting Between the Buried and Me on their next tour so I decided to give them a spin before seeing them this April. The album excels at flowing from heavy and soft moments naturally, with “‘67 Pontiac Firebird” having one of the heaviest sections I’ve heard throughout the year. Definitely excited to see these guys live soon.
9. Disturbed – Immortalized
Biggest surprise of 2015 for me. The last album I thoroughly enjoyed by Disturbed was 2008’s Indestructible. I lost interest after Asylum and after they went on hiatus I had almost forgotten about the band. I was also pretty angry at David Draiman influencing Trivium too much on their Vengeance Falls album. The quality I look for most in music is uniqueness and Asylum just didn’t have it. It sounded just like any other Disturbed album. Immortalized definitely could have been slimmed down a few songs and would have been better for it but songs like “The Light” and their cover of “Sound of Madness” show the band can be versatile in style and show David Draiman’s singing chops
8. Lamb of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang
I’ve never been the greatest fan of this band up until this point. Last July I saw the band had released their latest album to high praise and the fact that it was the first album released after Randy Blythe’s stay in jail interested me in hearing how it’d sound. “512” perfectly encapsulates Blythe’s experiences. This is a freakin brutal and intense record with riff after riff punching you in the face and has a groove that’s irresistible to headbang to. I’d easily award this the band’s best, most consistent album yet and have turned me from a casual fan to one eager to hear what else they’ll come out with.
7. Trivium – Silence In The Snow
Biggest disappointment of 2015. By a monumental amount. Silence in the Snow excels at being mediocre. There’s was such hope and promise before too. The motif of snow, the cold, with the artwork, songs, videos; it all reminded me of the similar things they did with In Waves and I really enjoyed it. But it was all thrown out with generic, cliche lyrics, uninspired riffs and solos and predictable song structures. I’ve always held the belief that there’s good and bad, and then mediocre which is even worse than bad. Matt Heafy, the band’s frontman and lead singer, has said multiple times that the usual screaming isn’t needed, that this is the kind of music that they want to write, and I absolutely respect and accept that. What I don’t accept is how basic and predictable the songs are. There’s a stark contrast between the songs on Shogun to the songs on this album. The eight minute long epics are gone and replaced with repetitive verse-chorus-verse-chorus dribble.
Not all is bad with this record though, which is why it’s on my list and in this spot. In the few months since it’s released I’ve accepted the album for what it is and it must not be that bad if I keep going back to it every so often. Firstly, the sound of this record is absolutely amazing. Michael Baskette and Josh Wilbur outdid themselves. Everything sounds crisp and thick without anything overbearing on the other. Secondly, Matt Heafy’s vocals are amazing. I feel like I say that every time I review an album of theirs, but each time he just gets better. I really, really do wish there was some screaming though. Despite Matt saying he doesn’t feel the songs need it, he’s too good of a screamer and I feel like some really would have benefited just from the simple fact that it adds more variety to the album. Get rid of three songs (“Pull Me From The Void,” “Until the World Goes Cold,” “Rise Above The Tides”) and explore some of the others more would give the album more substance, uniqueness, and staying power. “Breathe in the Flames” and “The Darkness of My Mind,” songs whose structures are more loose, are both legitimately good songs though; do more of that in the future, Trivium.
6. Atreyu – Long Live
I’m one of the few people I think that actually enjoyed Atreyu’s last two albums Congregation of the Damned and Lead Sails Paper Anchor much more than their older stuff. They weren’t anything amazing or groundbreaking, yet I never thought that’s what the band were trying to do. They’re both just really good hard rock records. Long Live is the band’s first album after a six year hiatus and they’re almost better than ever; can Alex Varkatzas please learn how to scream better? That’s the biggest setback of Long Live. Still a very good comeback album from the band despite being a bit too formulaic. “Live to Labor” is abundant with energy, while “I Would Kill/Lie/Die (For You)” is one of the more heartfelt songs of the year.
5. Bullet For My Valentine – Venom
Happiest surprise of the year for me here. After the mediocre Fever, and god-awful terrible Temper Temper, Bullet for my Valentine released what might be their best yet. Everything from how heavy this album is, the screams, the mixing, it’s all top notch. What I love most about this album is that it sounds like the perfect progression the band should have taken after Scream, Aim, Fire. Mix a little bit of “Spit you Out” Off of The Poison with “Begging for Mercy” from Fever, and give it a new fresh take and you get a song like “Pariah.” “Army of Noise” is the band’s thrashiest, best song to date. Dat solo, too. Best of the year. Massive props to the band for getting me interested again and excited to see this band live this February.
4. Periphery – Juggernaut: Alpha/Omega
Back in 2010 this band Periphery comes out and blows metalheads away with their first album. I was not one of those people. I remember having a hard time getting past the first songs because of how chuggy the songs and riffs were and Spencer Sotelo’s singing was terrible (I did like his screaming quite a bit though). The band’s talent was incredibly apparent; just wasn’t my cup of tea. Randomly I decided to check out Periphery and see they released a double album, which I’m a sucker for, and holy crap did they improve. Spencer’s an amazing singer now, the songs are much more well written, more melodic, more memorable and still incredibly proggy. The title track “Alpha” is a masterpiece. Awesome way to have started 2015. I need to see this band live now.
3. Protest The Hero – Pacific Myth
This is a little bit of a different choice as Protest the Hero haven’t released a full length album yet. Their last album, Volition, was done completely independently through crowdfunding and this time around they’re releasing a EP a song at a time, once a month if you subscribe to their bandcamp for either $12 or $25. I love that this band is not afraid to take risks and release music in a number of unconventional ways. Three songs have been released so far, with Tidal being my favorite. If you take the song “Skies” on Volition, mix in the aggressiveness of the band’s first couple albums, so far that’s what you get with Pacific Myth.
2. Native Construct – Quiet World
Ever listen to something that just makes you fall in love with music all over again? Last November I went to see Between the Buried and Me live with Native Construct being the opening band. They were the only one went in completely blind to, not knowing what I was going to hear, and holy crap am I glad I didn’t as they absolutely blew me away. This group of guys from the Berklee College somehow manages to mix sounds from Between the Buried and Me, Pinkly Smooth, Queen and make it sound amazing. There’s even a freakin saxophone solo in one of the songs and it doesn’t sound out of place at all. If you’re a fan of progressive metal at all you owe it to yourself to listen to these guys. “Come Hell or High Water” is the best song of 2015.
1. Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic
I knew it. Ever since I heard Between the Buried and Me were going to put out a new record I knew it was going to be my favorite of the year. I had some early apprehension as to how soft the band’s direction was going to be after reading about how they wanted to go more melodic, but it was quickly put to rest after listening to the whole album. Also, another concept album? I love that this band keeps writing them and Coma Ecliptic is my favorite story from the band thus far.
This is Between the Buried and Me’s most accessible album to date as well as the most operatic album the band has done to date with every single note perfectly placed, given extensive thought. Seeing “The Coma Machine” live and headbanging along to the main riff was one of my favorite moments of 2015.