Friday, January 1, 2016

Favorite Heavy Records of 2015

Wow! Not a single post in 2015. That is sad. As my second resolution for 2016, I will write more often. Let's set a goal of at least once a week.

For my first entry of the year, I will list my favorite heavy records of 2015. I decided to break my list into two because a) it gives me an opportunity to write two lists; and b) while I think good music is good music, I am also somewhat nitpick when it comes to genres. So instead of going deep into Best Heavy Rock and Best Metal and Best Power-pop and Best Acoustic-Driven-Singer-Songwriter, I am just going to do heavy and not-heavy.

There's no order to these, except for alphabetical. Which I guess means there is an order. Just not favorite-like.

Purple by Baroness: After nearly killing themselves in a bus crash in the UK, Baroness returns (with a new rhythm section) for their latest LP. What I like about them is that they are an evolving band. They stick to their heavy roots, but they aren't afraid to branch out. This new one does that by incorporating synths alongside their heavy-riff-based muscle. That's a good thing, because it is used really well.

Meliora by Ghost: Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls return for more Dio-inspired pop-metal. The Satan-worhsiping schtick is still there, but it is so tongue-in-cheek you can't help but chuckle at it. That said the music and the melodies are fantastic. They are not going to "save metal" like some articles I read have suggested, but they are good trashy fun.

Innocence & Decadence by Graveyard: If I was ranking the records by which I liked best, this would probably be number 3 or 4. This is what I call heavy blues rock. It's one of the records I felt my friend Tom would like (and his record collection taps out after 1985...hahaha!) so he got it for Christmas. It has the classic rock sound of the 70s that I think never goes out of style, especially when it is done well.

The Book of Souls by Iron Maiden: Iron Maiden is one of the two dinosaur-bands (the other being Rush) that still make records that are not only worth listening to, but worth coming back to. This would have been #1 on my list. A triple LP (or double CD) and it is a masterpiece, which is really hard to do when you are 40 years into your career and have records like Piece of Mind and The Number of the Beast in your catalogue. This isn't the same old thing; they challenge themselves with long songs, short songs, classic Maiden sounding songs, and boundary pushing prog songs. This is a band that is still at the top of their game. Gave this to my friend Michael for Christmas and he loves it.

Mondo Drag by Mondo Drag: A late fine in 2015 and what a find. If I had discovered it earlier it would have been given as a gift to Tom. More heavy blues with organ work at the front end. Very Deep Purple-ish and that's a compliment. Really excited for their new record in 2016.

Love, Fear and the Time Machine by Riverside: The most progressive of the records here. They remind me of Dream Theater but without the pretension and the show-offy-ness. Or what Pink Floyd would sound like if they gave into their prog side. They are from Poland so that's another reason to like them. How many bands come from Poland!?! It's a bit long but it's worth the commitment.

High Country by The Sword: Austin isn't really known for heavy rock but here is The Sword. Like Baroness these guys are building on their heavy rock base, adding synthesizers to positive effect, no matter what their core fans might say.

Crooked Doors by Royal Thunder: More heavy blues rock, this time with lady on vocals. I like that. We'll get another in a moment. Lots of bands these days have a heavy sound amplified with a female singer and it is a great dynamic. This would be in my top 2 if I was ranking them in more detailed. Maybe I should explain more about heavy-blues-rock: guitar riffs with a fat rhythm section. Not really metal, but definitely close to that.

The Night Creeper by Uncle Acid: Here's an album that was initially a bit of a disappointment but is still in my list. Trick is these guys are such a good band and have such a great sound. Their records sound muddy, though, and that's probably why it took me a while to appreciate this record. That and the packaging, which was supposed to be special edition, sucks: there are fancy pictures and whatnot, but no slip case for it. WTF, Rise Above Records? Anyway, if you miss what Black Sabbath used to sound like, these guys will take good care of you.

Grief's Infernal Flower by Windhand: Pure sludge-stoner-doom metal, heavy and slow and fierce. Another female singer and one of the best around (Dorthia Cottrel...and her acoustic solo record this year is also great). This is another record that took a while for me to appreciate.

Later this weekend I will go through my favorite non-heavy records. That will be more alt-country and power poppy kind of stuff.

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