Half-Way Through 2015 – The Best So Far – Part 1

So far, 2015 has been absolutely huge in terms of the sheer amount of great music that has been released. In fact, the first six months have been ridiculously strong. As such, it is very difficult to bring you my half-way round-up in the normal way – there’s just too much to fit in. And also, I have reviewed a fair number of the albums as well, so I didn’t want to repeat myself too much.

Therefore, I thought I’d celebrate by creating a more punchy couple of posts that offer a whistle-stop overview of my favourite music released between January and June 2015. In no particular order, here goes:

Audioplastik – ‘In The Head Of A Maniac’
Bad Elephant Music

00 audioplastik coverFrom the minds of members of Frost*, Threshold and Darkwater, this was never going to be anything other than brilliant and so it has proved. ‘In The Head Of A Maniac’ is best described, albeit loosely and simplistically as a combination of melodic progressive rock, metal and pop with rich cinematic overtones. If your tastes dictate that you enjoy music that is rich and varied, deep and thoughtful, beautiful and genuinely unique, look no further than ‘In The Mind Of A Maniac’ by AudioPlastik.

Read my full review here.

Keep Of Kalessin – ‘Epistemology’
Indie Recordings

Keep-of-Kalessin-EpistemologyThis is one of the albums that came out of nowhere and knocked me sideways. I had never been enamoured with Keep Of Kalessin and only gave ‘Epistemology’ a listen out of politeness and curiosity. Within a few hours, I was hooked by the really clever blend of extreme black metal, power metal and progressive undertones. The final product is an epic album of huge and majestic proportions; the combination of extremity, technicality and overblown grandiose melody and atmosphere is truly a thing of beauty and something special to behold.

Read my full review here.

The Gentle Storm ‘The Diary’
InsideOut Music

gs coverThe Gentle Storm is the moniker given to the collaboration between Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering). A double album, the compositions on ‘The Diary’ are repeated twice, with the first disc featuring the ‘calm’, folkier versions and disc two featuring more metallic interpretations of the songs. Both versions of the songs have their charms but the melodies scream out in both guises beautifully as do the thoroughly angelic vocals of Anneke. Another hugely ambitious undertaking involving Mr Lucassen has succeeded and with real style too.

Read my full review here.

Klone ‘Here Comes The Sun’
Pelagic Records

klone cover bigDark, gloomy and melancholy are just a few of the adjectives reserved for the ironivally-titled ‘Here Comes The Sun’ from French modern progressive rock/metal band Klone. There are similarities with bands like Katatonia within the Klone sound but nevertheless, they have their on distinct style and they’ve impressed me with their songwriting, unfaltering execution and a willingness to experiment both musically and lyrically. The result is a collection of diverse, challenging and evocative soundscapes for the modern world. And in ‘Nebulous’, they have a contender for song of the year.

Read my full review here.

Big Big Train ‘Wassail’
English Electric Recordings

bbt wassail cover‘Wassail’ may only be a four-track EP but when the quality of the music is this high, who’s going to argue? With this EP, Big Big Train prove once again that they are one of the very best progressive rock bands out there. Nobody recreates that quintessentially English pastoral prog rock sound quite like Big Big Train whilst being willing and able to experiment with folk and slightly harder-edged rock influences at the same time.

Read my full review here.

Leprous ‘The Congregation’
InsideOut Music

leprous con coverIn a six months that has been ridiculously strong for progressive music of all styles, Leprous are one of the stand-out bands, thanks to album number four, ‘The Congregation’. The sickeningly talented Norwegians have never released a substandard album but this is, without doubt, their finest work to date. It is arguably more immediate and accessible, but it remains wonderfully dark, quirky and complex. At the end of the day, no-one else sounds like Leprous and that’s what makes them such an important and intriguing band.

Moonspell ‘Extinct’
Napalm Records

moonspell coverCutting to the chase quickly, this is the best Moonspell album in my opinion since they released ‘Irreligious’ back in 1996. ‘Extinct’ contains everything that you’d want from a band like Moonspell. It is heavy, melodic and full of Gothic-influenced dark and foreboding atmosphere. Many of the compositions are monstrous anthems but there’s an immediacy and sense of playfulness about the material too. It all adds up to being a rather splendid and addictive album.

And that’s it for Part 1 – watch out for more instalments in the coming days…

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