My Personal Top 20 Albums (2015) Pt. 2

 

And now to continue the list I started yesterday. 2015 has been a great year for music, and below are the 10 albums that truly struck a chord with me.

(see Part 1 here)


 

#10: Extinct – Moonspell

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This album was a strange one, but I was surprised how it somehow fulfilled a great portion of my musical wants. Extinct and Medusalem were interesting songs, clearly with varied inspirations. That’s not to say the rest of the songs weren’t good, and I could loop Breathe (Until We Are No More) and A Dying Breed several times. A Dying Breed in particular stretches the emotional variety of this album, as well as, dare I say, it’s progressiveness. All in all, while many consider this a mediocre release typical of Moonspell, I consider it a great record from a band whose country I just visited this year.


#9: Unplugged – Beaten to Death

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THIS IS SUCH A FUN RECORD. I enjoy Grindcore because of it’s precision and efficiency in dishing out musical madness. Beaten to Death made Grindcore even better by adding melodic intricacies that would only be found in a Post-Metal record. The prime example of this is Don’t You Dare Call Us Heavy Metal which is undeniably one of the most entertaining and somewhat ironic songs I’ve heard this year. Speaking of irony, this album is funny, and that makes it unique in another aspect. A truly fun record from an excellent band, and an appropriate introduction for those uninitiated to br00tal Grindcore.


#8: The Congregation – Leprous

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Leprous. Ah yes, one of the most consistent bands to ever exist. If they were to make something, it will most definitely be good. At least that’s what it seems so far. The Congregation is Coal with influences from Bilateral, which is, as christened by many fans, the masterpiece of these Norwegian Progsters. Personally, I found this album to be on the same level as Bilateral, if not, better in some aspects. The Third Law is one of the most gripping songs I’ve heard this year, with an introduction that’s confusing as it is enthralling. Tracks like The Price and Rewind do make it seem that the first half is stronger than the second, but that’s hardly a complaint considering the intricacy and musical quality of each song. This is the face of Progressive Metal, and it’s a pretty face.


#7: Born Under Saturn – Django Django

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I never thought I would like this album. It seems like one of those Indie albums that’s hard to like because of its sheer pretentiousness. Strangely enough, I liked this album… eventually. First Reflections (i.e. one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard), then Pause Repeat, then First Light, then Vibrations, and then Giant and then the rest of the album. Song by song, this album has insane variety and suddenly their pretentiousness becomes enlightening. This is a fantastic album, and perhaps the most pop-ish album I’ve enjoyed in a while. Hipstur as it might be, it’s musically solid. #7 seems like too low a position to give this album.


#6: The Color Before The Sun – Coheed and Cambria

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This album… Hmm, where do I start? The Color Before The Sun is a good album with all the characteristics of a good album, like variety, intricacies, complexity, good lyrics, interesting concepts, great songwriting etc. One of the most solid non-metal records I’ve heard this year, that’s for sure. For those looking for an emotional ride with negative time and relatable experiences, this is one album to check out.

Oh, the podium is all yours, go right ahead
The plastic king of castle polyethylene
Go on, time to be a good little pig
You’re worth it, oh you’re so, so

Did I mention that the lyrics just hit all the right parts? Because they really do. Also, that guitar tone. Wow.


#5: Under the Red Cloud – Amorphis

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A return to form. This is a fantastic album, and every single song can be listened to several times. Definitely better than Circle, this album is just epic on a whole new level. When I was feeling down or unmotivated, this album helps me push through, and under the red cloud I am suddenly more powerful. This invigoration propelled this album to the top quarter of my list, and it stayed there for a pretty long while. Released around the same time as Iron Maiden‘s The Book of Souls, this album provided a contrast for the latter album, and in the eyes of many, proved to be a superior listen. The Book of Souls was really good, but this was really really good. (Iron Maiden is still my favorite band though.)

I rose up in circle of stones
Made my way down in the valley
Followed the banks of a rushing river
To a shore of an icy sea


#4: Meliora – Ghost

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The beloved Swedish band has a new offering, and it’s their juiciest yet. First things first, that album art is jawdroppingly clever (see the skull from afar?) and, yes, that probably affected my decision. Musically speaking, I viewed their debut and sophomore as being on the same level, despite changes in style. Meliora blows the other two out of the water. This is an album that means business, and suddenly the usually uncreative and done-to-death topics become alive again, creating a strange connection with the listener that some rather not have. For me, it’s just amusing that such controversial themes can be expressed in such a classic way. I won’t be pulled to the dark side, though. And yes, this is probably the most controversial addition. Ah well, it’s a good album.

“Let none of this Earth inherit
This vision of my spirit”
[Edgar Allan Poe]


#3: Sleep at the Edge of the Earth – Wilderun

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Entries #9 to #4 are so close in quality that it was painful trying to rank them. However, the top 3 entries are in a class of their own, and it was equally painful to not give any of these albums the Number 1 spot. I kid thee not, all three albums have been placed at #1 on the list that I’ve maintained for the whole year. Finally, I have decided that the current combination was the most appropriate as it fulfilled most of my biases. And so we have Sleep at the Edge of the Earth at #3. I don’t know what I can say about this album that I haven’t said before. Progressive Death Metal is a sunset genre, and it’s amazing to see new bands make amazing music in it. This is a magnificent album; one that will raise the bar of Progressive Metal, Death Metal and Metal in general for years to come. The Garden of Fire is one of the best Metal song I’ve heard in my entire life. My entire life. That’s how perfect it is. 

For now we will surrender to the fading sun
We’ll wake and we will find intention and action are one
So don’t despair if you can’t find your mind
For tonight we drink together from the goblet of time


#2: Sueños – Saurom

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This is what I would call a perfect Spanish-style album. Saurom took what Mägo de Oz offered and made it simply perfect. Yes, perhaps I have innate bias towards this album because of the simple reason that I take Spanish (or rather, took Spanish) as a language in school. Yes, perhaps it’s because it’s so refreshing to hear something that’s not Gaia every night before a Spanish exam. Yes, perhaps it’s because I actually went to Spain this year and conversed with the locals to a certain extent. But I am sure of one thing: this is a really really amazing album. Every song is great, and that’s quite an accomplishment considering it’s a double album. If I listen to one song, I won’t even stop the autoplay. Each song is as good as the one before it, and ultimately, we have one of the best Folk Metal releases this year (at least in my opinion). It’s difficult to choose a favorite song, as every song, despite being of the same folk formula, is clearly inspired, to the extent where the finale La Mujer Dormida is reminiscent of Bling Blind Guardian. This is a fantastic album, and I’ve probably derived more enjoyment from it than would the average listener, mostly due to the biases mentioned above. Este mundo sería mejor with these people around.

Quiero ver junto a ti las murallas caer
Para hoy descubrir un nuevo amanecer
Y encontrar esa canción
Que hasta el fin de los tiempos cantemos tú y yo


#1: Hand. Cannot. Erase. – Steven Wilson

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For those who read my previous posts, you would know that I excessively praised this album, so much so that I barely provided enough details of how much of a masterpiece it is. And it is. It is a masterpiece. Details seem unnecessary and irrelevant to this album. Every listen, I find more and more things to love, and listening to the album in one shot, truly appreciating the concept in question, pulls at my heartstrings and leaves me emotionally broken. This album is everything; it’s musical salvation. Thank you so much, Steven Wilson, for making this absolute, beautiful work of art. 

My final decision to declare this album as the best album of the year was made resolute only when I saw the great amount of work put into the album. A twitter account, a website, one of the best deluxe editions in existence etc… This was an album that was determined to drag you into the concept even before the first listen. There are certain feelings all of us don’t want to feel, like abandonment, isolation, betrayal, and yet this album shamelessly makes us feel everything, and the solitary listener becomes the omnipresent yet powerless audience to the eventual decline into madness of the protagonist… and her eventual redemption and release. There is hope in this album, and hope is painful.

This was in many ways an emotional year for me personally, and through this album, I actually developed a greater degree of understanding for my own emotions. Yeah sure, there are many albums nowadays that are introspective, but this is really on a whole new level. I declare Happy Returns as, after listening to the whole album, the best and most emotionally draining song of the whole year. There is hope that we’ll all recover from the terrible things that have happened to us, and this hope will stay on. 

Hey brother, I feel I’m living in parentheses
And I’ve got trouble with the bills
Do the kids remember me?
Well I got gifts for them
And for you more sorrow
But I’m feeling kind of drowsy now
So I’ll finish this tomorrow

This album is one of those that will be looked at 20 years down the road, and declared a classic, a defining album of its time, or as one reviewer said, The Wall for the Facebook generation. Now, go give this album a spin; it’s a journey you’ll never regret taking. These songs are exemplified by their context in the album, so I can only start you off:


Thanks all for reading, and ’til next post!

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