And bring earplugs.
20_Overseer – “Wreckage” (2003)
Favorite Tracks: Slayed, Sparks, Velocity Shift
Why: This album is a classic in my mind. Great and powerful breakbeats, smart samples, glitchy, trip-hoppy fun. “Slayed” is energizing. “Sparks” features the delicious sounds of Kanute’s Rachael Gray. I return to the sweet sounds of “Wreckage” often. I only wish Rob Overseer was more active as a solo musician; I really dug his work, including his early, rarer pieces like “Never Trust An Old Punk” and “Chump Rock”.
19_Kanute – “Ursa Minor” (2014)
Favorite Tracks: Waking Up In California, Ursa Minor, Sunlight, Bodies
Why: Because Kanute is the perfect marriage of Rob Overseer + Rachael Gray, featured briefly in the song “Sparks” mentioned previously. But, instead of one brief trip hop dance, we get a whole album full of beautiful and inspiring music. The seraphic vocals of Rachael Gray are woefully underrated and underappreciated. I’m not sure how to classify the music of Kanute, other than classy, well-produced art. Give it a listen and discern for yourself.
18_Chimaira– “Crown of Phantoms” (2013)
Favorite Tracks: Crown of Phantoms, All That’s Left Is Blood, Kings of the Shadow World
Why: “Crown of Phantoms” is a powerful song, the jewel of a brutal crown. Stacked with horrific visions and sinister sounds, this album signaled a return to the throne for a great band. Any time I need to get macabre, I throw on this dark armament and rule the shadows.
17_The Bug – “Angels & Devils” (2014)
Favorite Tracks: Void, Fall, Mi Lost, The One
Why: The last couple of years may have signaled a strong return to my metal roots, but I still have a soft spot for dubstep. I came across “Angels & Devils” last year, but never gave it a thorough listen. Recently, I did, and found it mesmerizing.
16_Solitude Aeturnus – “Through the Darkest Hour” (1994)
Favorite Tracks: Falling, The 9th Day: Awakening, Pain, Shattered My Spirit
Why: “Shattered My Spirit” is one of my favorite songs. Dark, haunting, depressing. Not that I had a moody year, but sometimes, that song just hits me perfectly. The album as a whole features awesome vocals, doomful guitars and moody atmosphere. The album moves like a spectre, and wails like a sad banshee.
15_Winds of Plague – “Against the World” (2011)
Favorite Tracks: Refined in the Fire, Built for War, Against the World, California
Why: This album kicks brutal ass, start to finish, and even has the stones to get honorable with a Orient-inspired “Warriors Code”. While bands like Five Finger Death Punch rule the waves with safe adrenaline, Winds of Plague pave the rugged way of warrior metal.
14_Genuflect – “A Rose From the Dead” (2014)
Favorite Tracks: Riot on the Set, Gather in the Streets, Wither Within, Identity
Why: Drew Simollardes and Greg Sullivan, formerly vocalist and guitarist of the rap-rock band Reveille. They brought their rap/metal sound to their new band Genuflect, and the results have been awesome. While they haven’t had the visibility or critical acclaim, they have continued to create great metal with a rap edge. Their debut album, “The End of the World”, was one of my favorite albums of 2007. “A Rose From the Dead” would’ve made my Top 20 last year, had I known it was out.
13_Kraddy – “Anthems of the Hero” (2011)
Favorite Tracks: Black Box, The Holy Avenger, The Heart Anthem, Operation Prometheus
Why: A classic album from one of the kings of Glitch-hop, a founder of The Glitch Mob. “Anthems of the Hero” is an electronic breakbeat album with lots of great hooks and catchy tunes. If you’re new to glitch, here’s a safe sample. You’ll need it before you listen to my number one on this list, which is way more brutal. The album includes a slightly odd take on Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” — I’m all about remixes and remakes of Black Sabbath songs (as I’m not a fan of the original music), but this one is a stretch. But, I could see it get play at a pregame show at a Sports event. Soundtrack for a girlfight? Oh, wait, Kraddy already covered that…
12_Clutch – “The Regulator” (2004)
Favorite Tracks: Just the song. Only that song.
Why: I re-watched “The Walking Dead” series recently, and discovered this gem during Season 2. If you know the show, I’m sure you can recall the episode “Nebraska”, even the scene. I won’t elaborate. Nonetheless, while I am a big fan of Clutch, this song crept into my head and never left. Honestly, I haven’t listened to the full “Blast Tyrant” album yet. Regardless, this song haunted me. I love the stories and characters that Clutch are able to paint with their songs; “The Regulator” is one of their best.
11_Massive Attack – “100th Window” (2003)
Favorite Tracks: Antistar, What Your Soul Sings, Future Proof, Everywhen
Why: The album is massively mesmerizing, that’s why. Layered with Sinead O’Connor, Horace Andy and Damon Albarn vocals, this trip-hop masterpiece was an addiction of mine this year while painting. I could get lost in it for hours. I discovered Massive Attack way too late, and wish I would’ve known about their awesomeness earlier. Nevertheless, it led to some brilliant inspiration, and I cherish it greatly.
10_RA – “Critical Mass” (2013)
Favorite Tracks: The Voice Inside My Head, Awake, Brutiful, Suipermegadubstep
Why: I consider RA one of those once up-and-coming alternative metal bands that never really got the play they deserve. Their “Egyptian-influenced” rock hasn’t perfectly fit the cookie-cutter format of radio, and they’ve languished on the outskirts, a band with great potential but unable to take the next step. I spent a lot of time reconnecting with RA’s music this year– from “From One” to “Duality” to “Black Sun — and coincidentally rank “Critical Mass” as their best in their long history. It is a bit of a travesty that they haven’t reached their own “critical mass” as a band, but their creative trajectory is Skyward, and I have to believe that Sahaj Ticotin will continue to crank out great music as long as he is able.
9_Morcheeba – “Blood Like Lemonade” (2010)
Favorite Tracks: Blood Like Lemonade, Crimson, Even Though, Self-Made Man
Why: The intro song “Crimson” is a haunting and sorrowful tale of loss, and it is a tone that haunts the whole album. There are ruddy undertones to this trip-hop adventure in every song. The lyrics of “Blood Like Lemonade” speak of a man who has lost his faith and turned to murder. “Self-Made Man” is a brilliantly sarcastic statement against pride and arrogance. Skye Edward’s airy vocals work in ironic contrast to glitchy coagulation. This is simply an unforgettable album.
8_Conjure One – “Exilarch” (2010)
Favorite Tracks: I Dream in Colour, Run for Cover, The Distance, Like Ice
Why: Rhys Fulber has a brilliant formula with Conjure One. He conjures up a landscape of electronic awesomeness, and enlists some of the best vocalists from around the globe to play. Exilarch features the spectacular vocals of Leah Randi, Jaren Cerf, Free Rodriguez (Kidneythieves), and Azam Ali. “Exilarch” is transcendent, gorgeous, and blissfully mysterious.
7_IAMX – “The Unified Field” (2013)
Favorite Tracks: All
Why: Because I still love this album and listen to it constantly. The release of “Metanoia” only increased the amount of time I listen to the brilliant IAMX. Since I am writing about him so heavily in a future blog, I’ll keep this review brief. If you haven’t listened to IAMX yet, get with the program. He is one of the greatest living pop and music artists of this generation, and has two of my favorite albums of the last 3 years.
6_The Pretty Reckless – “Going to Hell” (2014)
Favorite Tracks: Heaven Knows, House on a Hill, Burn, Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party?
Why: The Pretty Reckless are better than I give them credit for — most specifically, Taylor Momsen. She does have a great voice, and “Going to Hell” has a lot of heart, a lot more than I gave it credit for at first review. Her vocals remind me of a Poe/Sheryl Crow mix, and I can’t complain about that — Poe is a favorite artist/vocalist of mine, and Sheryl Crow once was.
5_Sneaker Pimps – “Splinter” (1999)
Favorite Tracks: Destroying Angel, Lightning Field, Low Five, Ten to Twenty
Why: I’m a huge fan of Chris Corner; he is one of my creative idols. This was the first album of the Sneaker Pimps that featured Chris as the frontman (without Kelli Dayton on vocals) of the band he founded, and is a vastly underrated album. I’m still trying to work out the narrative of Chris Corner “Becoming X” (the first album by Sneaker Pimps in 1996) to him now functioning as the musician IAMX. Perhaps “Splinter” and “Bloodsport” are his path to and from X, a splinter toward who he is now. Either way, this “Splinter” was a musical departure from what the world had got to know as Sneaker Pimps — a techno-electronic-triphop outfit fronted by a light-voiced, doe-eyed model, rooted in the smash single “6 Underground”. This splinter is darker, grimmer and gutsier, the bravery of moving toward something unknown and different.
4_Beck – “Morning Phase” (2014)
Favorite Tracks: Morning, Wave, Waking Light, Unforgiven
Why: Another album I missed the boat on in 2014. I love the album “Sea Change”; it’s one of my all-time favorites. Thus, I must have been greatly distracted when its companion piece came out, won a bunch of awards and blew Beck back up. I remember Beck winning the Grammy for “Morning Phase”, and I cheered for him, even though I didn’t realize what I was missing. The beauty of the respun list: I get another chance to give appropriate props. While not near as good as “Sea Change”, it is an awesome rocktrip of an album.
3_Sanctuary – “The Year the Sun Died” (2014)
Favorite Tracks: All
Why: I gushed about this great album last year as my best album of 2014, and it continued to be one of my favorites in 2015. I could write a blog post alone about how much I love this album, how much it inspires me creatively, from the Travis Smith coverwork to the powerful vocals of Warrel Dane, and how I still have my jeans jacket from high school with a “Refuge Denied” t-shirt stitched to the back. Another underrated band and album.
2_Heaven & Hell – “The Devil You Know” (2009)
Favorite Tracks: Breaking Into Heaven, Bible Black, Follow the Tears, Double the Pain
Why: I feel like I didn’t know the Devil until this year; between Heaven & Hell and Blue Stahli, the man in red is getting a healthy new coat. And here’s another case of me having my head up my ass when it comes to music: I didn’t even give this awesome metal album a listen until this year. “The Devil You Know” is one of the greatest works of Dio and his former Black Sabbath mates. It is essentially “Dehumanizer II”, via Dante’s Inferno. If you don’t know Dio or Black Sabbath, I suggest you start here. “Dehumanizer” was one of my favorite albums in college, and I still love it to this day. I’m sad to think that I missed out on one of Dio’s last great creations until now.
1_Cyanotic – “Worst Case Scenario (Vol 1)” (2014)Favorite Tracks: AllWhy:
Cyanotic has the great distinction of being the first band in the history of my “Best of” lists to be at the top of the Respun list for the previous year, and in the top 5 for the second CD of a Volume the following year. Complicated, I know; basically, their “Worst Case Scenario” album could’ve been my #1 of 2014, and is my “Best Respun Album of 2015”
. I underestimated the greatness of “Worst Case Scenario (Vol 1)” in 2014, and it grew on me tremendously this year. Coupled with Vol. 2, it is an amazing industrial music experience of 32 deliciously glitchy tracks, and should be a staple of the industrial metalhead.Video: https://youtu.be/Tq3r2wpI0bo
Thanks for reading! Please share your respins for 2015 in the comments below.