Regular Readers will know that SonicAbuse embraces a wide-range of genres which can make for interesting work, but which frequently makes our end of year lists look bizarre. This has rarely been more obvious than in 2015, a year in which we’ve seen amazing albums from the metal world such as Lamb of God’s epic ‘VII – Sturm und drang’ and equally impressive offerings from the worlds of blues and electronica such as Chentel Mcgregor’s amazing southern gothic effort and The Orb’s impressively imaginative ‘Moonbuilding 2703 AD’. Who cares, really, about genres anyway when the music is this good? Found below are the albums that found their way back to our stereo time and again. It’s not about band size or popularity here, it’s simply about the music that meant something to us or made us bang our heads silly. Here you’ll find gritty blues, blistering metal and blissed out ambient, but the one thing that all these records have in common is the power and the emotion that these artists have bought to bear on their respective genres. So, read on and, if you find something new, or rediscover an old favourite band (or simply want to argue our choices) we’d be happy to hear from you!
Faith no more – Sol Invictus
There are two distinct reasons why Faith no more had to make the list this year. First of all, there’s the simple remarkable fact of the band’s return to recording – something which had seemed increasingly unlikely. Secondly is the simple, unassailable fact that ‘Sol Invictus’ is an astonishing album. Rarely far from the record deck these last months, the album demonstrates unequivocally the multifaceted approach that the band have employed to such awe-inspiring effect over the years. From the short, moody title track via the super-charged, ecstasy-inducing, auditory riot that is ‘superhero’ through to immense, rumbling growers like ‘motherfucker’, ‘sol invictus’ is a blistering piece of work that has yet to grow stale.
Kataklysm – ‘Of ghosts and gods’
Kataklysm rule. It’s tempting just to leave it at that, but when it comes to ‘of ghosts and gods’, there’s so much more. One of the year’s most potent metal albums, it sees the Kataklysm formula refined to so ferocious a point that it’s hard to imagine another band coming close. From the moment ‘breaching the asylum’ appears with its stately opening riff, ‘of ghosts and gods’ just sounds bigger and bolder and the quality steadfastly refuses to dip. One of the year’s best death metal albums, ‘of ghosts and gods’ is a hell of a ride and it has remained firmly lodged in the stereo.
Coal Chamber – ‘Rivals’
Yep, Coal Chamber. Widely mocked in the years following their dissolution, it never seemed likely that Dez and co. would set foot on a stage again together, far less that the band would appear with a new album of such quality. Yet Coal Chamber never deserved the opprobrium heaped upon them and the instigators must be feeling mighty silly given the high quality of ‘rivals’, the band’s blistering return to action. Highlights include the juddering duet with Al Jourgenson of Ministry (long a supporter of the band), ‘suffer in silence’ and the furious opening track ‘I.O.U Nothing’, but in truth, little on the album is weak and it’s clear that, with a renewed sense of purpose, Coal Chamber are a force to be reckoned with once more.
My Dying Bride – ‘Feel the misery’
It has been asserted on SonicAbuse before that My Dying Bride have never yet released a bad album. That said, some MDB albums stand head and shoulders above the rest and ‘feel the misery’ is one such album. From the brutal opening of ‘and my father left forever’ to the lascivious darkness of ‘I celebrate your skin’, My Dying Bride continue to stake their claim as one finest doom bands on the planet.
Sonny Landreth – ‘Bound by the blues’
Sonny Landreth produced one of the best blues albums of the year with this tribute to the many facets of the genre. A unique and astonishingly talented guitarist, Sonny’s mix of slide and picking produces a sound that is all his own, whilst ability to pen tunes that cut straight to the bone remains undiminished. ‘Bound by the blues’ is an absolute gem from start to finish and should be mandatory listening for all blues fans.
Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – ‘Dying to live’
From the moment ‘say goodbye to the sun’ kicks off like a lost effort from Dio himself, Joel Hoekstra proves himself to be one of the finest hard rock guitarists (and song writers) currently treading the boards. Surrounding himself with legends of the hard rock scene, Joel Hoekstra described his project as classic hard rock, tastefully played… and he hit the nail right on the head. If you dig hard rock with plenty of attitude, ‘dying to live’ is a life-affirming blast that will keep you rocking into 2016.
The Orb ‘Moonbuilding 2703 AD’
The ambient kings return with a trippy voyage that further blurs the lines between the epic progressive work-outs of ‘meddle’-era Pink Floyd and the hypnotic psychedelia of lengthy ambient soundscapes. One of the outfit’s best albums in years, ‘Moonbuilding 2703 AD’ is the head trip that ‘metallic spheres’ wanted to be and is the perfect choice for zoning out as the night slowly fades to dawn.
Joe Bonamassa ‘Muddy Wolf’
Normally live albums would not be included in best of lists, but Muddy Wolf is a different. A stunning tribute to two of the blues’ biggest heroes (with a few cracking self-penned numbers thrown in at the end), ‘Muddy Wolf’ is a blistering tour de force of blues musicianship played by one of the world’s greatest guitarists and backed up by a collection of sterling musicians. Everything from the evocative landscape of Red Rocks to the expert selection of tracks just works and the result is a rare tribute performance which captures the power of the originals whilst putting a modern spin upon the. Joe puts himself at the heart of every single track and the album is a joyful outpouring that is quite simply unmissable.
Chantel McGregor – ‘Lose Control’
Possessed of a voice that could ensnare the soul and a mean exponent upon the guitar, Chantel McGregor tore up the blues rule book, infused her song-writing with the heady aura of southern gothic fiction and created a masterpiece in the process. A bold, beautiful album that possesses a heady atmosphere that is all its own, ‘lose control’ is a revelation and a clear indication of the talent and ambition Chantel brings to bear. One listen and you’ll be hooked, and, like a favourite novel, the richness of the atmosphere will repay endless repeat visits. For highlights you could point to the blistering ‘take the power’ or the beautiful ‘anaesthetize’, but, in truth, the album is nothing but highlights and the best is just to listen to it from start to finish.
Baroness – ‘Purple’
That Baroness are with us at all is something of a minor miracle; and that ‘purple’, recorded with two new members, is such a triumph is even more of a victory for a band who suffered the tragedy of a major bus crash. ‘Purple’ is a brilliant album. A blazing mix of stoner rock, progressive, psychedelia and more, it has melodies that stick in the brain and riffs that batter the listener into submission. An end-of-year highlight, ‘purple’ is an absolute joy.
Iron Maiden – ‘Book of souls’
Surprisingly, ‘book of souls’ is Maiden’s first double album and yet the conceit fits them perfectly. No strangers to epic song writing, everything about ‘book of souls’ just feels bigger and it’s notable that neither disc drags. Iron Maiden have long been honing a progressive edge to their metal bombast and on ‘book of souls’ that progressive element is given free reign but never at the expense of a good riff or compelling hook. This, coupled with the massive relief at Bruce Dickinson’s recovery from a health scare, makes ‘book of souls’ a true celebration of the life-affirming power of heavy metal.
Whitesnake – ‘The Purple Album’
Another purple album in this year’s best of, but this time it’s a fitting tribute to the wonderful Deep Purple from one of hard rock’s biggest bands (not to mention one of Purple’s frontmen). Respectful to the source material, yet delivered in the inimitable style of the ‘snake, ‘the purple album’ breathes new life into material from the Coverdale era, and, lest it be overlooked, the album flat-out rocks. Few hard rock albums of the year packed quite so satisfying a punch as this emotionally charged tribute to one of the greatest rock bands to have set foot on stage.
Lamb of God – ‘VII Sturm and Drang’
How could it not be so? Drawing upon the conflict that surrounded the band in the wake of Randy Blythe’s incarceration in Prague, Lamb of God delivered arguably the best album of their illustrious career. Where, with some bands, the introduction of clean vocals might signal a softening, here the clean vocals, whilst perfectly delivered, are kept to a minimum and predominantly serve to underscore the ferocious edge the band have honed over their career. It is a brutal, ferocious effort and bests even the stunning ‘as the palaces burn’.
Between the buried and me – ‘Coma Ecliptic’
Whilst Between the buried and me have been delivering ferocious, technically adept progressive metal for years, ‘coma ecliptic’ is the greatest summation yet of their considerable powers. Combining subtle melody with monstrous riffs and allowing their sound to breathe more freely than on the more metallic ‘parallax II: Future sequence’, ‘coma ecliptic’ shows a more mature side to BTBAM without reducing their potency. Likely to be considered a masterpiece in the years to come, ‘coma ecliptic’ is simply a stunning record.
David Gilmour – ‘Rattle that lock’
Having closed the door upon Pink Floyd forever, the sadness of that band’s passing was ameliorated by the newfound creative freedom it seems to have afforded David Gilmour. Never the most prolific of writers, David completed ‘rattle that lock’ with input from wife and author Polly Samson and the result is a deeply lyrical album that satisfies on many levels. Exploring a wider musical palette than the beautiful, understated, ‘on an island’, ‘rattle that lock’ offers jazz, blues, progressive rock and more, all tethered by David’s typically languid playing and measured vocal delivery. The result is an album that quietly revels in its own sense of freedom and hopefully heralds a more active period in David’s career.