2015 was an amazing year for music for me, and not just in the stuff that came out that year. No, I found a ton of new bands to listen to (most were albums not released in 2015), had a ton of my favorite bands release new music, got caught up on tons of music from 2014, and in general, rocked out something fierce. Sadly though, I didn’t get to every band or album I wanted to, and as a personal rule, I’m only rating albums I outright purchased. This means some great music won’t make this list. This happened last year too, because damn, there’s only so much time and money I can realistically allot to this.
I should also probably mention that the order of these albums is…strange. I’d like to prioritize quality first, but when it comes to music, I also want to have fun. Just keep that in mind as you go through this one.
Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to count down!
10 Halestorm – Into the Wild Life
Genre: Hard Rock
Lzzy Hale has one of the best voices in the whole damn business, if I do say so myself. I love her range, I love the personality, both on stage and in her music, and I love how she’s so down for variety. In the case of Into the Wild Life, variety is the theme of the album; no two songs sound alike. Halestorm take influences from every genre of rock out there, including punk and even some old-school heavy metal, producing what I believe is their best album yet.
Lyrically, the album is an old-school party affair with a giant dose of throwing social norms out the window. There’s a big sense of being yourself and shooting hard for your dreams, and I really like that.
09 Powerwolf – Blessed and Possessed
Genre: Power Metal
The wolves are back with more songs about werewolves! No, I’m being serious. If you’ve never heard of Powerwolf, all you need to know is in their name itself: They’re power metal, and they sing about werewolves. It’s cheesy as hell, takes itself perhaps a bit too seriously (what with all the religious overtones), but the package is somehow amazing.
Powerwolf are a band that have found a sound that works and have stuck to it for the past few albums, so Blessed and Possessed is really more of the same. That is, of course, a great thing if you like their sound–which I do.
However, they do change a few things up. The organ is more prominent than ever, lyrically we’ve got a song about vampires, there’s an entire song in Latin, and Blessed and Possessed has the strongest finisher of any of their albums (which normally don’t have great finishers).
“Army of the Night” is also their best song to date and so catchy it hurts. Seriously, don’t listen to this unless you want it to never leave your skull ever.
08 Five Finger Death Punch – Got Your Six
Genre: Groove Metal
Five Finger Death Punch are one of my favorite bands, generally hitting my number 2 slot if I’m doing a countdown. I love ‘em. I’ve seen them live three times (once this year!), and their newest album was something I anticipated with lots of…anticipation!
It’s good too!
This go around, they’ve really thrown away their want for slow, radio-friendly songs and just went with hard-hitting groove. The riffs are crazy and the vocals/lyrics are very in your face. That isn’t to say the album is without its variety though; in fact, there’s still plenty of ups and downs, it’s just they’re now within songs instead of by song. So instead of going two hard songs and a soft song, it’s three hard songs, but that third hard song has some dips in tempo/rage.
It’s really cool and makes Got Your Six stand out a bit when compared to Five Finger Death Punch’s other albums.
Standout tracks are “Ain’t My Last Dance,” “Question Everything,” and “Boots and Blood.”
07 Aranda – Not the Same
When it comes to rock music, I prioritize catchy vocal melodies over pretty much all else. Give me something I can sing to without shame—which takes some work since I’m a garbage singer and attempts almost always fill me with shame—and then give me something I can headbang to.
Not the Same does both, and damn spectacularly too!
What makes Aranda’s newest stand out above most others though isn’t just the catchy vocals, excellent singing, and memorable/rockin’ riffs though. No, this album has soul to it. Lyrically, it’s great, with a good amount of range to boot. There are some truly moving songs here about loss and second chances, about standing up for yourself, and about finding love.
For fans, it’s another departure from their other two albums, proving without a doubt that Aranda will not release the same album twice. I appreciate that (even if I so miss the sound from their self titled work).
06 Allen Stone – Radius
The odd-man out on this list, Allen Stone is the only, ONLY singer/songwriter that can get me to dance like the whitest man in the room while I’m still sober. His music just has this vibe to it that I find hard to put down into words, but I absolutely love it.
I actually don’t have all that much else to say about this album. It’s one of those, “I know it’s objectively better than most of the stuff on this list, but I’m putting it in the middle only because I don’t listen to it as often as I should.” It’s great music, and Mr. Stone himself has a wonderful voice and penchant for great lyrics, but as you can and will see, I’m more into rock/metal.
But when I do hit up Radius, damn do I dance! And not well.
05 Bobaflex – Anything that Moves
Bobaflex are another one of my favorite bands, and I’ve been lucky enough to see them five times in five years. They evidently love Wisconsin. They’re a band that I find unpredictable, even if their brand of metal is fairly accessible. Yet the ups and downs the songs take, and the lyrical content they’re usually about, are hard to map out. They can go from biting social commentary to BDSM at the drop of a friggen’ hat, and I know it’s all because Sean McCoy is a crazy person (and super cool. I’ve met him.)
It makes for fun listening.
Anything that Moves acts as a slight softening of their sound; however, it’s also a bit of a blend of my favorite parts about Bobaflex as a whole. There are some crazy in-your-face rockers, some just downright strange tunes, and that above-mentioned unpredictability that drew me to them five years ago.
This album also has, without a doubt, some of their best guitar work yet.
04 Shinedown – Threat to Survival
2015 was pretty much the year of my favorite bands releasing new music. God damn do I love Shinedown. Like, a lot. When it comes to rock music, I really think they do it the best, and for pretty much all of the reasons I listed above with Aranda. Wonderful vocal melodies, Brent’s voice itself is phenomenal, killer guitarwork, and deep and meaningful lyrics on every song they do.
This is not a trashy rock band.
Threat to Survival, like Bobaflex’s newest album, acts as a slight softening of sound; however, it’s not a bad thing. Shinedown are another band that refuse to release the same album twice, and what they’ve given us in 2015 is certainly different. Going from their hardest song to date in “Cut the Cord” to one of their slowest in “Thick as Thieves,” this album has a bit of everything, and it’s all so damn moving and wonderful.
03 Bullet for my Valentine – Venom
If you would have told me Bullet for my Valentine would be putting out one of my favorite albums in 2015 back in 2013,I’d have given you a funny look and shook my head. Not possible. But I was wrong, so thankfully, thankfully wrong!
Venom is a standout, featuring some crazy-awesome guitarwork and the band’s best lyrics to date. The album tackles some pretty heavy topics (like depression) while also diving headfirst into super dark territory with no parachute. It’s nonstop fun and only takes a break with its title track, “Venom,” allowing a brief breather before jumping back into the fray of growls and chugging guitar.
It also needs to be recognized for leaving some of its best songs as bonus tracks.
02 Disturbed – Immortalized
Genre: Hard Rock/Metal
Up until 2015, Disturbed had been on a five-year hiatus, which is a Goddamned long time to go without new music. We did get The Lost Children in 2011 (which is one of my favorites by them), but still, that’s four years!
Well, Disturbed made 2015 an event by coming back and better than ever.
If the first theme on this top-10 list is favorite bands releasing new music (and Disturbed are a favorite), the second theme is variety. Immortalized is a varied album, in both sound and lyrical content. There’s the goofy fun we expect from Disturbed along with the rough and gruff voice and chuggin’ guitar, but there’s also a softer, lighter side here that I haven’t seen before.
There’s also a quick dip into sheer sorrow that breaks my heart every time.
The whole thing adds up into my favorite Disturbed album to date. The variety, the execution, everything about this album is damned flawless.
01 Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Genre: Symphonic Metal
When it comes to music, I’d say Nightwish are the definition of breathtaking. They might also be the definition of phenomenal. I’ve never not been amazed by an album they’ve put out, and Endless Forms is obviously no exception to that. The entire album is a story about Earth, death, and everything that happens in between.
It’s so beautiful, so powerful, so impressive in its scope and execution that I probably don’t have to say anything more.
So I won’t.
Standout tracks are “Our Decades in the Sun,” “My Walden,” and “Alpenglow.”