We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms... And the impervious shelter beneath which it has prospered.
As I did with books, so I will do with albums that I listened to and purchased this year. In descending order, here are my 5 favourite albums that I listened to this year. Note that one of the albums listed below was actually released in 2013, not 2015; the rest, however, are quite current.
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that my favourite album of the year was one made by the greatest band of all time. This album is easily the best that the band has released for 25 years. It has everything- the fast and furious rock tracks, the epic proggy tracks, real experimentation with MAIDEN's hugely successful time-tested formula, incredible musicianship, terrific songwriting, and a monumental display of vocal pyrotechnics from Bruce Dickinson. The last track on this album, "Empire of the Clouds", is to my mind the finest song the band has ever composed. I cannot wait to hear them play songs from this magnum opus live in 2016.
This album doubles as the biggest surprise that I came across in 2015. The first time I tried to listen to it, I thought it was completely naff and gave up after the first two tracks. But then I gave it an honest listen, all the way through, and was stunned to discover that it is brilliant. Everything about it is extraordinary- the storytelling, the songwriting, the musicianship, the production values.
Without question the best album that HELLOWEEN has released since Keeper Pt. 3, waaaaaaaay back in 2004 or thereabouts. This album sticks to the formula of 7 Sinners and Straight Out of Hell, but adds tighter songwriting, better musicianship, and an age-defying sense of fun. This is the album that declares to the world that German power metal simply cannot be done better by anyone else.
BG have come a very long way since Battalions of Fear from way back in the 80s. Their signature sound, which involves many layers of overdubbing to make it sound as though you're listening to an entire army of guitarists and singers, has been updated to include orchestral stylings and choruses in the modern era. While this album is still nowhere near as brilliant as the legendary A Night at the Opera, it is still a fantastic piece of work with several truly great songs. The album never feels tired or bloated, and while the songwriting suffers a little toward the end of the album, it is still a work of undeniable and remarkable excellence.
A new HALO game must, by definition, come with a phenomenal soundtrack. The two concepts are so closely tied together that the lack of an epic and brilliant soundtrack will easily destroy a HALO game's reputation. Thus far, every HALO game ever released has lived up to that requirement. HALO 5: Guardians is no exception. I had feared that the loss of Neil Davidge as the primary composer of HALO music after H4 would be a serious blow for the quality of H5, but my fears were misplaced. Kazuma Junnouchi was clearly up to the task, and then some, of composing memorable, moving, and epic music that would perfectly blend both the classic HALO soundtracks of Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori and the newer, electronica-heavy direction of Neil Davidge. I did not expect this soundtrack to be as good and as forward-looking as it is, but I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.