RockAtlantic’s Top 10 Records of 2015 Part 2

On Tuesday I went through the first half of this year’s top 10 record list, which you can find here. However whilst positions 10 to 6 are of course very important, there’s really only one number we care about…

5 – Riverside – Love, Fear & The Time Machine

This Polish prog band began life with Porcupine Tree comparisons, but only over the last three albums have they begun to step out of that shadow and emerge as a progressive force in their own right. Their sixth album sees the band taking their first big risk. The metal riffage has been severely reduced, replaced with gorgeous atmospheres and relaxed tones, creating a soundtrack for a daydream. Yes, this album can rock, but you’ll find most enjoyment from the beautiful musicality hidden within.

4 – Clutch – Psychic Warfare

How to follow up Earth Rocker was the key question on every Clutch fan’s mind. The answer, it turned out, was simple; follow the same formula, but add just enough new ideas to keep it sounding fresh – and it worked! Psychic Warfare is even more relentless than Earth Rocker was. Thick, blues inspired hard rock riffs, with simple, yet hard hitting rhythm sections, topped off with Neil Fallon’s unique vocal style make Psychic Warfare the best hard rock album of the year. Clutch are a band that just keep on giving.

3 – Between the Buried & Me – Coma Ecliptic

Between the Buried & Me (BTBAM) have always been superb musicians, in regards to both their technical proficiency and their songwriting skills. However, they have never truly grabbed the attention of the progressive world because of their heavy leanings toward death metal. With Coma Ecliptic that has all changed. Yes, there’s still growled vocals and riffs that decay into sheer noise, but the album is also populated with bubbling keyboards, clean vocals, unusual tempos and excellent guitar work; everything to make fans of progressive music swoon. Coma Ecliptic is BTBAM’s masterpiece thus far and is quite an imperious statement of intent.

2 – Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

Marilyn Manson may no longer be the infamous pop culture rebel of the nineties, but when he’s making music this good, he doesn’t need to be. The majority of his post-best of work has seen Manson haphazardly stumbling from album to album, as he has tried to adopt a more artistic persona. This matured Manson has long been considered out for the count, but The Pale Emperor is an exciting rebirth that takes the spark of his early work and combines it with the greater artistry he’s developed over the last ten years. There’s music to shock, music to make you think, music to rock out to and most importantly music to get you excited. If it wasn’t for his croaky, drug-hurt voice, The Pale Emperor could easily be placed alongside his triptych work (Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, Holy Wood).

1 – Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.

It seems impossible, but Wilson’s output just keeps improving with time. Hand. Cannot. Erase. somehow manages to take the classic prog sound he has developed over his last few records and make it sound fresh and modern to fit the album’s concept. Hand. Cannot. Erase. still contains lengthy instrumental sections with swelling keyboards and organs, twiddly guitar solos, flute cameos and nods to King Crimson, but Wilson has woven in gentle electronics, female vocals, rich atmospheres and lively percussion to lift his traditional prog into the 21st century. His team of virtuosi execute his ambitious music perfectly, adding character to complex segments and creating musical moments to savour. Steven Wilson has finished his classic prog nostalgia and is now making what can only be described as a new-wave of progressive music – and it’s superb!

That concludes the 2015 countdown. Do you agree with my choices? Who do you think deserves the number one spot? Please comment, favourite, share and subscribe if you enjoyed this post. Thank you for reading.

James

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RockAtlantic’s Top 10 Records of 2015 Part 1

First of all I want to say sorry for the lack of posts on this blog. It has been a while since my last post (about a month I believe) because it turns out working and running a blog don’t always go hand in hand! Like all good bands coming back from a hiatus, I want to bring my own hiatus to an end with something special. So here’s the first of two blogs listing RockAtlantic’s top 10 records released in the year of 2015! Today it’s numbers 10 to 6.

10 – David Maxim Micic – EGO & ECO

I featured Micic and his 2015 EP pairing on an Introducing blog in August. EGO is a more progressive effort than its counterpart, mixing djent elements with his virtuoso guitar playing to produce four supremely detailed tracks. Contrast this with ECO‘s more relaxed, almost hypnotic vibe, and you soon begin to realise how diverse and talented Micic is. His music is never going to trouble the charts, but for fans of instrumental progressive music Micic’s collection of unique EPs is a great find.

9 – Lamb of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang

The first record after vocalist Randy Blythe’s imprisonment and lawsuit was always going to be a monumental occasion. Fortunately for LOG fans, the five-piece channeled their traumatic times into a concise effort that when it wasn’t busy ripping your face off, surprised listeners with the odd experimentation in song structure and style. Notably Overlord introduced a grungy clean vocal and a soft blues-influence, from a band that until now has never done anything but blast drop-tuned riffs at eleven. Sturm Und Drang is Lamb of God reaching maturity and it will undoubtedly provide a stepping stone to a more diverse metal sound on future records.

8 – Tesseract – Polaris

Where once only a handful of bands occupied the scene, djent is now an over-saturated genre sagging under the weight of mediocrity. Very few bands have been able to differentiate themselves and stand out as either a pioneer or a front-runner, but even with a revolving door of high-pitched vocalists, Tesseract have cemented themselves as leaders of the djent genre. Polaris sees the British quintet develop their ethereal brand of djent further into the realm progressive metal, by employing the stereotypical percussive riffs carefully and learning to focus on song structure and dynamics.The only question remaining around Tesseract is whether they can maintain a stable lineup or not.

7 – Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

It’s hard to rate The Color Before The Sun because it is so different compared to the rest of their discography. Firstly it is their first record not to be written around their sprawling sci-fi concept and secondly progressive rock has given way for a much poppier sound. Looking at things critically The Color Before The Sun has some superb moments. The Audience is a fantastic and aggressive guitar-led track, Peace to the Mountain is an emotional acoustic journey and Atlas is a beautiful song dedicated to vocalist Claudio Sanchez’s newborn son. The Color Before The Sun is a very honest and personal record and whilst pop melodies and slick production might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no doubt that Sanchez and co. can still write an engaging rock album.

6 – Bruce Soord – Bruce Soord

The Pineapple Thief leader has often been thought of as a mix between Steven Wilson and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. With this self titled record, Soord continues his parallels with the former by breaking free from his band environment (which, like Wilson, he has full creative control of) to release a record that sees him delve into a more eclectic and left-field array of influences. Bruce Soord delivers sparse droning piano keys, grooving orchestration and Floyd-esque guitar solos in one bundle, which would be considered too unpopular for a conventional Pineapple Thief release. However on his own he is allowed a free reign, resulting in an unusual, yet somewhat charming debut effort, which is of course exactly how Wilson’s blossoming solo career began in 2008. Watch this space.

The second half of my top 10 countdown will be available soon and I hope to blog more frequently in the coming months! As always thank you for reading and if you’ve enjoyed this blog post please comment, favourite, share and subscribe.

James