In complete contrast to my Top 5 games list, I listened to a lot more music this year! Mind you, music is a lot cheaper than games. Plus I used my ear parts, and the techno-magic of my phone, so it made listening to music a much more simple task… It’s a no-brainer really. Here’s my list of my 10 favourite albums of 2015 (in alphabetical order of artist, other than my number 1 choice).
Ashbury Heights – The Looking Glass Society
Genre: Synthpop, Release Date: 24th July, Label: Out of Line Music
After a five year absence, Ashbury Heights returned in July with “The Looking Glass Society”, and what a fantastic comeback it was! In this latest release, founder Anders Hagström is joined by new signer Tea F. Thimé, and their vocal delivery melds together in harmony from start to finish. A huge kudos to Thimé too, who had never worked in the music industry prior to this release, and also co-wrote the lyrics. I have to say that TLGS has, quite possibly, the most bizarre blends of genres on this entire list, but they work in such wonderful ways. The styles continuously transition between that of renaissance music, and modern electro/synthpop, as well as having plenty of gothic influences. At times it sounds haunting and eerie, before completely switching to a more upbeat, dance-y club style. This change of pace does sound jarring on paper (or screen, in this case), but the duo have nailed the execution. The best examples of this are “Glow”, that combines classical strings, with catchy synths throughout the track, “Hollow”, which almost sounds Tim Burton-esque, giving way to a conglomeration of electronic goodness, and “Phantasmagoria”, which opens with a haunting melody, reminiscent of “Tubular Bells”, before an electro rhythm swoops in, complemented by cinematic sounding strings in the background. Other highlights include “Piano” that opens with a dark… piano (obviously), flicking to an almost trance style, then into a slick club track, “Starlight”, which has an upbeat meteorological soundscape, with a nice spacey feel, and closer “November Corrosion”, that has a very clever usage of musical layers, to create different feels. Overall, “The Looking Glass Society” is a brave, but fantastic, new direction for Ashbury Heights. This album is filled with atmosphere and vibrancy.
Top Tracks: Phantasmagoria, Starlight, Glow
Bad Pollyanna – The Broken Toys
Genre: Gothic Rock, Release Date: 1st December, Label: Self-released
After another successful Pledge Music campaign, Bad Pollyanna are back, with the follow up to their 2013 debut “Monstrous Child.” Their previous release was brilliant, so I expected good things from this offering. However, what I listened to simply blew me away! From start to finish, “The Broken Toys” is an engrossing, enthralling experience, all grounded in a strong concept. The concept follows the theme of how we can lose ourselves to the negative voices in our head, and how we can overcome them, which is woven into amazing lyrics, deep with meaning and metaphors. The album bursts into life with “Define Me”, which has been retouched for TBT, and it gives the track more of an edge, with clearer layers, and a much heavier, richer sound. Swooping synths introduce the next track “Bionic Heart”, melding into catchy guitar and bass riffs. “Pull The Trigger” almost feels nu-metal, whilst still retaining a gothic vibe, which is bound to get rooms of people moving and singing in unison. It’s all complimented with a nice acoustic section towards the end of the track. “Hooks”, in comparison is very heavy indeed, whilst “Ugly Love” changes things up a lot, with an unexpected, but brilliant, acoustic style that sounds quite poppy, before becoming another anthemic track. “Create Me” is a stunning blend of synths and rock, making this a stunning ballad. “Blood and Rust” is a huge contrast, and the most electronic sounding song on the album, before erupting into an absolutely massive finish. It’s incredibly atmospheric, dark, and could easily be used as backing for the end credits of a blockbuster movie. “Out Of My Mind” flows from the previous track perfectly, and really ups the tempo once again, whilst the title track, “The Broken Toys” flows between eerie atmospherics and catchy gothic rock. Closing track, the acoustic “I See You” is incredible. The lyrics, the way it sounds, it’s just beautiful, so much that it had me in tears. It’s a strong way to round off this fantastic album. “The Broken Toys” is dark and haunting, whilst being packed with a ton of energy and beauty. Olivia Hyde’s vocals throughout are astounding, and she delivers harmonies flawlessly. This is extremely brave and experimental for a second album, and just shows the confidence and skill Bad Pollyanna truly have. It’s everything it should be and so much more.
Top Tracks: I See You, Pull The Trigger, Blood and Rust
Biomechanimal – Biomechanimal
Genre: Harsh Dance/Industrial, Release Date: 15th May, Label: CRL Studios
Formed in 2011, this is the debut album from London-based Biomechanimal. Opening with a dramatic orchestral score in “Ov Glory”, the track flawlessly transitions into a stompy electro track, constantly switching between the two styles. “Elder Gods”, feat. AnimusTrax, continues this theme, and has an incredibly dark vibe to it. If I’m honest, I love it when these different genres get mashed together, and I’m definitely not disappointed here! Something like this really shouldn’t work, but Biomechanimal pull it off. Afterwards, the album moves to a more trance-y feel in “Abyssal Zone” and “Wasteland”, with the latter including clean vocals. Both tracks sound absolutely massive. Clean vocals are once again utilised in “Granfalloon”, and mixed with their usual harsh vocals. It’s quite surprising to hear, but it’s an effective contrast, that gives the tracks even more depth. “Desekreator” features Ruinizer, and styles from both projects resonate perfectly, to create an extremely destructive sounding track. “Commonwealth” almost hearkens back to the orchestral style at the start of the album, with Cryogenic Echelon and Studio-X adding their own flair into the mix. In comparison, “Broken Wings” feels quite minimal sounding, yet it’s an effective follow-up, as well as being refreshing take on the 2011 version. “Monster” is a pretty standard dance-y affair, but is still quite catchy . “Skullz” uses many different layers, and keeps changing pace and rhythm, making it one of the most diverse tracks on the album. Finally, “Catching Sparks” has an extremely rhythmic striking melody, plus includes a more harmonic duet with Laurie Black. It’s a fantastic way to round off the album. Overall, this is a strong debut, and there’s plenty of interesting, contrasting aspects going on, whilst it remaining a coherent package. I really look forward to seeing what direction they’ll take next.
Top Tracks: Elder Gods, Desekreator (feat. Ruinizer), Catching Sparks (feat. Laurie Black)
Chvrches – Every Open Eye
Genre: Synthpop, Release Date: 25th September, Label: Virgin/Glassnote
Chvrches exploded onto the music scene with “The Bones of What You Believe” in 2013, to much fanfare. Whilst I thought it was a great album, I felt it lacked direction, and was a bit sparse. However, with “Every Open Eye”, Chvrches have really gone from strength-to-strength, focusing on the best elements of their previous endeavour, and enhancing them massively. It doesn’t hesitate with opener “Never Ending Circles”, and keeps the momentum going throughout the entire album (with the exception of some slower, more atmospheric sections when needed, to give us time to catch our breath, of course.) All throughout “Every Open Eye”, there are catchy synths and melodies, whilst are more confident Lauren Mayberry delivers lyrics with full conviction. Her vocals don’t just have presence here, they soar. Occasionally, Martin Doherty takes to the frontline for vocals, but I much prefer it when he’s on synths, alongside Iain Cook, but, that’s only one minor weak point in what is a superb album (also, maybe I’m a bit biased.) Tracks, such as the lead single “Leave a Trace”, “Clearest Blue” (which takes clear inspiration from Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough”, which is not a bad thing) and “Empty Threat” are bound to get anyone dancing. Honestly, there are too many good tracks to name here, not a single one is a dud. This is everything a follow-up album should be, and more. Chvrches are definitely going to big places, they seem unstoppable right now.
Top Tracks: Leave a Trace, Clearest Blue, Empty Threat
Disturbed – Immortalized
Genre: Heavy Metal, Release Date: 21st August, Label: Reprise/Warner
After a long hiatus, Disturbed finally returned from the shadows. The thing was, I was expecting it to be good, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be as brilliant as it ended up being! Whilst it delivers the typical, yet epic, Disturbed sound that we’ve all come to expect, the band have also experimented with new ideas. “The Light” has a softer, poppier feel to it, “You’re Mine” is electronic to the point where it almost sounds industrial and “The Sound of Silence” is a superbly beautiful cover of the Simon and Garfunkel song (as well as being the definite highlight of the entire album.) It’s certainly an eclectic mix, that somehow just works. Of course their staple sound is always good, and the title track “Immortalized”, lead single “The Vengeful One”, the anthemic “Open Your Eyes” and “Save Our Last Goodbye” utilise this well. Naturally, David Draiman’s vocals are prominent throughout the album, and his unique voice is absolutely on-point. However, it’s the fact that the band returned so reinvigorated and re-energized that makes this so special. Throughout the album, it’s clear that they are giving it their all, and it makes “Immortalized” an absolute blast listen to. As I said in my review a few months ago (and my first ever album review on EoE), this is one of the best comeback albums I’ve ever heard, and that statement still stands.
Top Tracks: The Sound of Silence, Save the Last Goodbye, You’re Mine
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Genre: Dance, Release Date: 30th March, Label: Take Me To The Hospital/Warner
Another album that definitely took way too long, there was a whole six year gap between The Prodigy’s previous release, “Invaders Must Die”, and this chapter. It’s lucky, then, that the wait was entirely worth it. The band have a strong reputation for filling dance floors and transcending musical/social scenes, and this legacy will no doubt continue on in this album cycle. It’s an eclectic mix of electronic genres, that have been blended together in a unique way that only The Prodigy can get away with. From the second the tribal sounding drums kick in on the album’s title track, I was instantly addicted. Lead single “Nasty” echoes their old-school vibes, and keeps the adrenaline pumping, along with the superb “Rebel Radio”. Tracks such as “Wild Frontier”, “Rok-Weiler”, “Get Your Fight On” and “Wall of Death” are definite stand-outs too, all filled with bass-destroying goodness. During the promotion of this album, they promised it was an album of “pure violent energy”, and I have to say, they definitely delivered on that front! It still has its points where it slows down and gives enough room for breathing space, but the overall feel is pretty aggressive. This style really helps to drive the album, at takes it to highly energetic levels, unseen in any other mainstream dance music. Expect this one to be playing at clubs for a while to come, and rightfully so too.
Top Tracks: Rebel Radio, Get Your Fight on, The Day is My Enemy
Ruinizer – Decimation in HD
Genre: Swaggrotech/EBM/Industrial, Release Date: 24th April, Label: Digital World Audio
Yup, you did read that genre correctly, your eyes are not deceiving you. Ruinizer is the brainchild of Jay Ruin (formerly of Cedigest), who mixes sounds from hip-hop, trap, metal, industrial, EBM, shoves them all into a blender, and the result is the genre he penned as “sawaggrotech.” In a word, I’d describe this album as brutal. The follow up to the 2014 debut, “Mechanical Exhumation of the Antichrist”, takes all the best elements of the previous instalment, evolves them, and turns up the volume up well past 11. A sea of hard electronic rhythms and beats are accompanied by fierce, growling vocals, although these are complimented with harmonic, more melodic breakdowns. It’s difficult to try and convey how this sounds, as it’s such a unique and bizarre blend, it’s genius! The title track “Decimation in H.D.”, is definitely the best representation of all these themes. Meanwhile, “Somewhere Between God and Machine” is extremely catchy, and probably has the slickest vocal delivery on the album. Guest artists Avarice in Audio, Surgyn and Seraphim System also add their own flair into the mix on the various tracks they’re featured in. As heavy and dark as this album is, it’s actually a huge amount of fun and feels extremely vibrant. Jay Ruin has definitely created a monster, and it’s awesome!
Top Tracks: Decimation in H.D, Somewhere Between God and Machine, Subhuman
SIRUS – Satellite Empire
Genre: Cyberpunk, Release Date: 6th November, Label: Digital World Audio
SIRUS have been known for thinking outside the box, and trying out new things. “Satellite Empire” continues this trend, and is probably the Australian quartet’s most risky, experimental album yet. Naturally, these experiments have completely paid off, as it’s made it to this list. Where the success of this album lies, is in the utilisation of a number of different electronic genres, that have been blended in such a way to make them feel fresh, whilst still retaining an Industrial sound, with harsh, aggressive vocals. Opening with “Ministries of Truth”, an ambient track with samples from reports on surveillance (the concept of the album), it seamlessly transitions to “Surveillance State” and “Full Scale Revolt”, both focusing on a hard electro, with a stompy club feel. The later even utilizes guitar effects, for good measure. “You Are Hollow” adds dubstep elements to the mix, whilst “L.O.I.C” is a completely mental track, constantly changing pace, and transcending genres. “The People We’ve Lost” slows the pace, is highly atmospheric, and is dramatic. It would easily fit into the soundtrack of a film. “P.R.I.S.M.” is a high-octane instrumental, and is sheer brilliance, whilst “We have the Technology” revisits the electro elements from earlier in the album. “Neon Dominion” comes as a massive surprise, as it uses clean vocals, and is probably the softest track on the album, it almost sounds like Future Pop. Finally, “Surfacing” is an ambient finish, with a beautiful piano piece. Long story short, this album is a mash of genres that blends together in a strange, yet satisfying way, and it works magnificently. At times it’s completely off-the-rails, at others it’s epic and beautiful. This album is an untameable beast, and it’s fantastic!
Top Tracks: P.R.I.S.M., Full Scale Revolt, L.O.I.C
Solar Fake – Another Manic Episode
Genre: Future Pop, Release Date: 30th October, Label: Out Of Line Music
When it comes to creating music, and releasing albums, Solar Fake never seem to disappoint, and their latest release, “Another Manic Episode”, is no exception. It has the usual electronic melodies and beats that we all know and love them for, as well as experimenting with a few new soundscapes. What we have here is an album filled with deep, meaningful lyrics, and anthemic sing-along choruses. It gets right into the action with the opening track “Not What I Wanted”, and it sounds absolutely massive. Things go a bit more old-school sounding in the following track “Fake To Be Alive”, even though it manages to sneak in a dubstep-esque breakdown. Lead single “All the Things You Say” has trance-y vibes, whilst “Observer” has a minimal verse structure and a lot of different elements in the choruses. It’s an album filled with contrasts, and constantly switches between softer moments, and builds up to high-octane beats. It’s this contrast that works so well. “The Race of the Rats”, in particular, sounds dark, and “Stay” is, lyrically and stylistically the perfect ending to the album. Solar Fake keep the pace going throughout, whilst retaining an incredibly atmospheric vibe, making it an absolute joy to listen to. Once again, Solar Fake will no doubt get dance floors crowded with this latest addition to their already strong discography.
Top Tracks: Not What I wanted, All The Things You Say, Observer
My No.1 Album of 2015 goes to…..
Muse – Drones
Genre: Alternative Rock, Release Date: 8th June, Label: Helium 3/Warner
With my disappointment of Muse’s previous effort, the lacklustre “The 2nd Law”, the band needed to pull out all the stops to regain my interest. Luckily, that’s exactly what they did… and then some! This is easily their strongest work since 2006’s “Black Holes & Revelations.” It’s filled with the colossal guitar work, the strong bass lines and slick drum beats expected from a Muse release. Even though the band initially claimed this would be a stripped-back effort, it’s far from that (although you could argue it is… for them, at least). It’s filled with huge moments, is still very experimental at times, and is quite bombastic. This is their first foray into a full-on concept (of a protagonist who gets brainwashed by the military/government into becoming a killing machine, but then breaks free from their grasp), and whilst this is presented in a basic fashion, and Matt Bellamy’s lyrics can be extremely cringe-worthy, it’s still interesting enough. The concept is definitely worth following, and is a pretty interesting modern metaphor on loosing empathy. However, where the album truly shines, is in its sonic qualities. “Drones” constantly treads new ground, whilst, at times, harkening back to their older sound. From the electro-inspired “Dead Inside”, to the sleazy rock sound of “Psycho”, plus the massive riffs of “Reapers” and “The Handler”, this album is filled with magnificent moments. The more experimental second half, with the heavy sounding “Defector”, the pop-rock focused “Revolt”, the beautiful, Pink Floyd-esque, love song “Aftermath” and the epic 10 minute finale that is “The Globalist”, is guaranteed to keep you hooked. This may sound like an absolute mess of different genres, but it really doesn’t feel like it. Unlike their last album, this still manages to be a coherent piece of work, without breaking sequence. In fact, I’d argue this is their most coherent album since “Black Holes & Revelations”. “Drones” isn’t just a collection of songs, it’s a journey, and one worth seeing through until the very end. It’s a triumphant return to form for the Devonshire trio.
Top Tracks: The Handler, Reapers, Dead Inside
And those are my top 10 albums of 2015! Let me know what you think, and feel free to comment on what albums you liked the most this year. Also, tune in tomorrow for a list of honourable mentions, because there’s just been too many awesome albums this year!