This year I've decided to switch the format up to a "top 5" system, and use honorable mentions for things that were very good, but didn't make the cut.
Finnish metal band Amorphis have charted a strange career, starting with a melodic death metal sound that peaked with the masterpiece album Tales from the Thousand Lakes, a quick stop over into traditional clean melodic metal for a few albums (the best being Am Universum), then finally landing on a hybrid sound that combines both parts of their history. Under the Red Cloud is their 12th studio album, and easily the best of their current lineup.
What can I say about Adele that hasn't already been said 100 times over? The long gap between the last album and this one (not to mention motherhood and vocal cord surgery) caused many to wonder whether she'd still be able to produce a relevant record. While the first single Hello is widely acclaimed, I'm a bigger fan of When We Were Young.
This was my first introduction to now 10-year-old Periphery, an American extreme metal band. This year they released two CDs: the soaring Juggernaut · Alpha and the dirging Juggernaut · Omega, a great juxtaposition that showcases a band with great vision and a long future. The albums demand to be listened to in long-play form, as there are no real singles (and barely song divisions).
Steven Wilson is the brains behind progressive rock standard-bearer Porcupine Tree, as well as several collaborations (including Blackfield and Storm Corrosion). His solo work has always been his most personal, and in some cases that made it challenging to listen to. This year's release, though, is an absolute masterwork. I was immediately hooked by the the drum & bass opening on 3 Years Older. My hands down favorite is the sadly haunting Routine.
The 3rd full length album from Swedish metal band Ghost is not only my favorite of the year, but probably by favorite of the decade so far (and given the lofty company, such as last year's phenomenal release by Opeth, that's truly saying something).
For those not in the know, Ghost is a satirical metal band which performs satanic metal songs. None of the actual human identies in the band are known (though several are suspected), as the singer goes by Papa Emeritus III, and the other 5 members are listed simply as Nameless Ghouls. (This is the third Papa Emeritus, one for each album, though most believe it's the same person, given his fairly unique vocal qualities).
Their music videos have historically cribbed the style of cheesy low-budget horror and sci-fi movies from the 70's and earlier. The two videos released in 2015 follow the pattern, with Cirice looking a lot like a Stephen King short story, and From the Pinacle to the Pit showing a strong homage to German filmmaker Fritz Lang. My personal favorite song is Zenith, which was only available on the very limited edition vinyl print of the album.
Sound and Color by Alabama Shakes
The Color Before the Sun by Coheed & Cambria
Duende by The Great Discord
The Incredible True Story by Logic
Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons
Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men
Battering Ram by Saxon
Dormant Heart by Sylosis
Polaris by TesseracT