Let's begin with The Biggest Disappointments Of 2015:
3. Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment
2. Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
Halestorm's previous album tied for album of the year, so I had high expectations for this one. This is a decent record, but it doesn't come anywhere close to their last one. Here, they opt to try to prove they're a big loud rock band, but that takes away the pop sheen that made their rock 'n' roll attitude go down so easy. Without those awesome hooks, they're a run of the mill band, and the songs just aren't that interesting. There are a couple of great ones, but there's too much that falls into the slog of being heavy for the sake of being heavy, and that's no fun.
1. Spock's Beard - The Oblivion Particle
I adored the band's last album, and this one is a complete departure. Whereas they had been making prog with heavy pop leanings, this is prog with heavy prog leanings. In other words, while it's still beautifully put together, it's missing all of the catchy elements that made the last album work on both the surface level, as well as deeper introspection. This one is so prog it can't be used as light listening.
And now, The Worst Albums Of 2015:
5. Blind Guardian - Beyond The Red Mirror
These guys might be legends of power metal, but they have moved on to bigger things, with less than massive results. They have three different orchestras on this record, and if that sounds like too much, that's because it is. The two longer tracks are both really good examples of how to write progressive, symphonic power metal. The problem is that there's another 50 minutes or so of mediocre material, and it's all wrapped up in a flimsy production that makes the whole thing sound wimpy. Their last album hinted at this direction, but that one was a whole lot better.
4. Slayer - Repentless
Let's be fair, this isn't Slayer's worst album, but it's an album that has no reason for being. With the band's best songwriter having passed away, there was no need for a new Slayer album, unless it was going to be a powerful parting statement to their fallen comrade. Instead, this is just another in the long line of albums where Slayer is Slayer. And if I can be honest, if these lyrics are the best Kerry King can come up with to pay tribute to his band mate, he deserves to be haunted from the great beyond. His writing is so, so bad.
3. The Darkness - Last Of Our Kind
The Darkness have always been a joke, but it's not funny anymore. They were always absurd, and “Permission To Land” is a ridiculous album, but it's also a ton of fun. With each passing album, they get less and less interesting, and the joke gets more worn out. By now, they sound exactly like what they used to be parodying, except that they think it's still clever. This is just an awful, horrible, tuneless batch of boring rock and roll. It would be sad, if it wasn't so expected.
2. Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction
To be fair, I only listened to this so I could rant about how much I hate this sort of 'music'. The whole point is that I'm not even sure it is music. It has a couple bits of song structure, but it's mostly pounding rhythms and grinding noise for its entire running time. There isn't a hint of a melody to be found, and that makes me wonder what the point is. I compared it to a kid banging on pots on the kitchen floor, and I'd like someone to point out how I'm wrong.
1. DSG - Still A Warrior
An offshoot band brought to you by the least known guitarist in Manowar's history, DSG actually managed to make two records that were better than anything Manowar has done in the last twenty years. This, however, is a steaming heap that doesn't deserve being talked about, unless you're ripping it to shreds. Everything about the album is a failure, from the horrible guitar tones and sub-bedroom recording quality, to the obsession with shredding that goes so far as to put two minutes of atonal screeching on the album, to the songwriting that might as well not have a singer for how boring he is. Dear lord, this is awful.