Sunday, 27 December 2015

Sams Top 10 Albums of 2015!

10: I Cried Wolf - Hollow Heart 

 #10 on this list but #1 in surprise factor, the unsigned band released an underrated EP that brims with aggression and charisma. The electric "I Scratched My Head With Ink" opens the disk with a Danny Worsnop-esque growl over the top of scratchy riffs and frenetic percussion.

Head-noddingly catchy with a real punk-rock sleaze, I Cried Wolf have a very bright future if they keep producing efforts like "Hollow Heart". Genuine melody is found here too, such as the conclusion of "Massokiss Me". A phenomenal effort from an unsigned group.

9: Bullet For My Valentine - Venom 

"Venom" is an appropriate title for BFMV's new album as, thankfully, it is more reminiscent of it's synonymous sister "The Poison" than the horrific "Temper Temper".

The album is classic Bullet, combining powerful choruses with impressive guitar passages and excellent production. "No Way Out" is a typical Bullet number, growling and jumping in all the right places while the lead melodies dance around Matt Tuck's vocals.

"Army of Noise" is a "Scream Aim Fire" imitation (by no means a bad thing) while title track "Venom" is the emotional ballad that you get at least once on every BFMV album.

A personal favourite is "Pariah", a song that explodes with aggression from the opening note, enveloping into a thrashy number that maintains the accessible hook that makes BFMV so recognisably effective.

An impressive release, Bullet have successfully reverted back to what made them such a rocket story 10 years ago. It's Bullet by numbers, but Bullet by numbers is better than most.

8: For Today - Wake

For Today pull no punches, so it's unsurprising that new effort "Wake" feels like being hit in the throat with a glass bottle. "No Truth No Sacrifice" opens with an enjoyably disgusting breakdown and the album doesn't look back from there; a tribute to brutality at every opportunity.

Don't be fooled though, there is evidence of melody here too, "Bitter Roots" is a surprisingly introspective and thoughtful effort from a band that is continually growing. However, it isn't sentiment that most come to For Today for, and they tap into their market expertly with an album that sounds like it was intended to be the soundtrack to a nuclear holocaust. 

7: Northlane - Node 

Northlane are a thinking man's metal band (as odd as that seems to write), seldom settling for the monotonal, singularity (excuse the pun) of other band's breakdowns. Instead, the Australian group combine complex rhythms and studio sounds to create an oddly haunting and strangely beautiful effort.

However there is the base brutality there for those who are so inclined, "Rot" is wonderfully heavy while "Leech" tries to rip your head off just before the three minute mark.

"Node" isn't as impressive as previous album "Singularity" was, but still fills the speakers with intelligent musicality, impressive and memorable songs alongside complex structure and timing. An excellent album.

6: Lamb Of God - Sturm Und Drang 

Another band that are aware they don't need to reinvent the wheel, Lamb Of God are the Ramones of the modern metal world. Future generations may wonder how we enjoy hearing small variations on the same album every 3 years or so, but like AC/DC, LOG have found a winning formula and there's no shame in sticking to it.

"Sturm Und Drang" does have some tweaks, the vocal experimentation from Randy Blythe includes some interesting melodic elements but as a band the good stuff is still there; Chris Adler hammers the kick pedals, Mark Morton somehow makes metal sound like a smoky corner of a Chicago blues club four or five times during the record and Blythe works his unique magic over the groovy riffs.

"Erase This" and "512" are classic Lamb Of God tracks featuring all the successful hallmarks of the band's career while "Delusion Pandemic" combines complexity and simplicity with the ease we've come to expect from the Richmond based band.

5: A$AP Rocky - At. Long. Last. 

An anomaly among all the metal albums, but A$AP hit the rap gold mine with new album "At. Long. Last.", a record that combines A$AP's laidback drawl with a musicality often lost in most records in this genre.

Too often hip-hop and rap artists abandon instrumental integrity for the dry, voice-altered mixing of many studios but Rocky's use of track is impressive, the listener being treated to organs and choir in haunting opener "Holy Ghost" while "Canal St" combines Rocky's streetwise prose with a delayed bassline that changes the context and depth of the song in seconds.

The lyrics are typically impressive but the rhythm of the verse is the most impactful element of A$AP's work, working in a beautiful balance with the tracks. The album still features the classic club-fillers you'd expect from an album like this, "Lord Pretty Flacko Jordye 2" has a beat that would make many a speaker shake but it is still punctuated with a refereshingly breathy rhythm that gives it individuality among the rat race for rap pace.

4: Bring Me The Horizon - That's The Spirit 

The inhale of breath you hear at the start of "Doomed", the opening track from BMTH's "That's The Spirit" Album, could've been the collective breath held by every Bring Me fan on the planet as the northern duo dropped their most ambitious - and risky - album to date.

That's The Spirit was a bold move from a band that polarises as many fans as it wins, taking a deliberate move away from the deathcore sound that made the band so popular, banking that the depth of songwriting on display in their new album would help fans shake off the significant lack of breakdowns or screamed vocals.

The risk paid off, songs like "Throne", "Avalanche" and "Follow You" are emphatic and powerful statements that focus on punchy choruses and subtler changes of rhythm than BMTH fans are used to.

It does miss a little heaviness, as one gets to the end of the album feeling there was room to extend a guitar solo here or add an extra riff there. That said, these are minor tweaks to what is a bold and successful transition into a more generic and wider reaching genre, one that Bring Me will surely rule in the coming years. If they don't already.

3: Fightstar - Behind The Devil's Back

An extraordinarily surprising album from a band that many (this writer included) believed were a one-trick pony. Former-Current-Former-Only-On-Tour-For-The-Money Busted singer Charlie Simpson' success outside of Fightstar have many associating this band as Simpson's attempts to prove he was a greebo when he was 15 like the rest of us, but "Behind The Devil's Back" shows more than a vanity project, Fightstar may be taking the leap into "Holy Sh*t, these actually might be a really good band" territory.

Exploding with depth and musicality that blew this writer away, Fightstar combine impressive and soaring vocals from Simpson with delightfully heavy guitar sections. "Sharp Tongue" and "Behind The Devil's Back" are terrific examples of this, simultaneously catchy and weighty.

Crushing riffs give way to let the exceptionally talented Simpson test his vocal range out before cascading back in. Dexterity on drums and bass show that the band are more than one man, while "More Human Than Human" show that the band can do a slow song WRITTEN FROM A MAN WHO WAS/IS IN BUSTED WITHOUT IT BEING HORRIFICALLY CHEESY. For that, this band, this album and (ugh) - Charlie Simpson - deserve huge credit.

2: Parkway Drive - IRE 

Another risk-taker of 2015, Parkway Drive moved away from the hardcore, pace and space (the combination of thrashy verse sequences and much slower, gutteral breakdowns that literally leave space between riffs) style that they built a fanbase around and went down a more melodic route, putting a typically reactive fan base on high alert.

No need to worry though, as Parkway absolutely nailed it. Songs like "Vice Grip" and the amazing "Dying To Believe" are a vicious cocktail of the unrelenting sound PD are known for and this new-found appreciation of simpler songwriting.

Instead of jumping to the first rhythm that the open chord gives you three minutes into every song, Parkway Drive found guitar solos, harmonies and - gasp - repeat choruses.

That said, IRE is balanced well with recognisable elements of what make PD great in the first place though, the ending of "Dying To Believe" will make you want to fight everyone around you (trust me, I heard it on a bus for the first time and nearly turned the #3 into a scene from Mortal Kombat) while "Crushed" explores religious punishment with a riff that feels like an anvil is being dropped on your head.

It is songs like closer "A Deathless Song" that are the highlights for the reader though, showing the maturity of a band slowly growing into a juggernaut. An acoustic intro effortlessly blends into a beautiful harmony guitar while a memorable chorus dances in between epic riffs. This would not have been on Atlas, PD's last album. There may be more on the next one. I can't wait.

1: While She Sleeps - Brainwashed 

The best album of the year, the most impressive metal album of the year, the most surprising album of the year and arguably, one of the best metal albums of the last decade.

All statements that can (and will) be applied to WTS's incredible album "Brainwashed", which explodes with true intelligence, power and tangible force of will.

The record brims with energy and a wonderful narrative; the injection of soundtracks that prequel the songs give the album additional ambience and if possible, make the songs more effective.

The group vocal style in choruses make every song seem like an inspiring call-to-arms while the band blends ridiculously head-bang-friendly sequences with huge choruses and breakdowns.

Subtlety and beauty are found on this album in spades too; "We Are Alive At Night" leading into "Our Legacy" gives a melodic platform to an anthemic track that mixes sharp, understated guitar melodies with frenetic drums and passionate vocals.

"Four Walls" raises hairs on the back of your neck before attempting to snap it seconds later before you sit listening to "Kangaezu Ni" wondering which member is so good at piano before "Life In Tension" again reminds you of the bands scope as songwriters, instantly hooking you in with an echoed guitar melody and terrific chorus. It's a theme found throughout the album, a record where no song feels out of place, nothing feels overdone and you're left wanting more from the album, despite knowing that the band have just given you everything.

While She Sleep's latest is not just the metal album of the year, but it might one of the ten best of the last decade. We're all Brainwashed.

Fuel Rock Club

Fuel Rock Club
Cardiff's Only Dedicated Rock & Metal Bar and Club