The Headbangers Top Ten of 2015

If mainstream pop isn’t your thing, and it’s all about the noise, here’s a shopping list for those who like it loud and proud. 2015 was a great year for metal in the United States, with many bands getting commercial airplay for the first time. Look for big rock festivals starting at the end of the year, so bone up on the following ten CDs so you can headbang in tune with the best.

10: Prosevere, “Hurts Like Hell”. This sophomore effort from this Memphis band is surprising, grinding, and well produced. They spent part of the year opening with Shinedown, which was a great way to make an imprint in the visual metal scene. Give a special listen to “Can’t Let Go” and “Not Worth Saving.”

9: Papa Roach, “F.E.A.R.” Papa Roach are veterans of metal, but some of their more experimental CDs were overlooked in rock radio. They’ve come back strong in 2015, with their best work since “The Paramour Sessions.” Going into their fifteenth year as a band, F.E.A.R. brings back everything we’ve loved about Papa Roach, strong vocals, grinding metal and interesting lyrics. Best songs are the opening “Face Everything And Rise (F.E.A.R.)” and “Never Have to Say Goodbye” and “Gravity” and….well, the whole CD rocks.

8: Sevendust, “Kill the Flaw.” Sevendust is a long time veteran of the music scene, debuting first in 1994. “Kill the Flaw” shows just why they’ve been perennial favorites. Totally grinding, gritty vocals, and socially relevant lyrics make this CD one of their best. It’s hard to narrow down the quick listen to one or two, but those who aren’t quite familiar with this band should try “Letters” and “Silly Beast.”

7: Disturbed, “Immortalized.” Another band who has nearly two decades of experience, this CD still delivers classic grind, and the vocals are raging. They are touring with a couple of major festivals in 2016, so be sure to add this to your play list. Again, hard to choose just two songs, but listen to  “Immortalized”, “ Save Our Last Goodbye” and the remarkable “Sound of Silence.”

6: Five Finger Death Punch, “Got Your Six”. Into their tenth year, FFDP gained radio recognition with their remake of “Bad Company.” This band has the most explicit lyrics of any of the others on this last, so if you’re buying for a young headbanger, beware. “Jekyll and Hyde” has a resounding chorus using a word polite company finds extremely unpleasant. But listening to “Question Everything” proves this band has more to offer than grind and scream.

5: Iron Maiden, “The Book of Souls.” It’s Iron Maiden! Excellent! Perhaps the longest performing and recording band on this list, this being their sixteenth CD release. It runs a whopping 92 minutes on two CDs, but Maiden fans certainly won’t mind that. Bruce Dickinson’s voice is still strong, and the lyrics are the story/ballad that became a Maiden trademark. Particular favorites are “The Great Unknown” and the wrenching “Man of Sorrows.”

4: Breaking Benjamin, “Dark Before Dawn.” Breaking Benjamin has come a very long way from their single “I Hate Everything About You.” “Breaking the Silence” and “Never Again” are my two picks from a CD that is immeasurably replayable. Most are surprised to find that the band formed in the late 90’s and they’ve just gotten better with time. Currently on tour with Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin will be making new fans and pleasing the stalwart.

3: Pop Evil, “Up.” This is Pop Evil’s year, playing at live sporting events, being touted by the mayor of Grand Rapids and calling the release date of “Up” Pop Evil Day. Despite its origins in 1981, the band went through various member changes before gelling with their current lineup. I first heard “100 in a 55” a few years back and wondered why they weren’t super famous. On the new CD, “Footsteps” is an upbeat, arena rocker; “Seattle Rain” is a slow melancholy song that highlights the range Pop Evil has. They are also doing music festivals in early 2016, sharing a stage with Breaking Benjamin, Sevendust, and Shinedown, among others.

2: Halestorm, “Into the Wild Life.” Lzzy Hale is the queen of rock and roll. She kicks ass on every major level, often leaving her male counterparts astonished. It’s amazing to realize this is the band’s third studio album; they sound like seasoned pros after only six years. I tend to overplay this CD (and all of their others); I can’t get enough of their sound. I saw them at a music festival in 2009, and for some reason my family was chosen to meet the band. They were the nicest people, fresh and sincere, and they certainly made my daughter’s day. They tour almost nonstop, and they too will be playing large music festivals in 2016. I have too many favorites on this CD but if I had to suggest to a new listener, I’d suggest the intense pub anthem, “Amen” and as a mother, “Dear Daughter” knocks my socks off.

1: Shinedown, “Threat to Survival.” Okay, I’m biased, they are my favorite band and have been since the release of “Sound of Madness.” Again it’s hard to believe this is only their fifth studio album, because every single song has a great hook, and both an acoustic and arena sound (Brent Smith and Zach Myers are spending December doing small venues with their acoustic covers. Brent Smith’s voice is good enough to rival Chris Cornell, Zach’s a maniac on guitar, but it’s Barry on drums that nail listeners to the ground. There’s no filler on the CD at all, picking a favorite is tough – I love the three singles released already (“Cut the Cord,” “Black Cadillac” and “State of My Head”), but I think my favorites are “How Did You Love” and “Misfits.” They are also headlining some major rock festivals in 2016.

It’s been a fantastic year for metal, for which I’m greatly pleased, not only for the great music that’s been put out, but for the bands finally getting the recognition they deserve. I’m looking forward to 2016, because a few of those major rock festivals will be in Florida, and forget Christmas, that’s going to be all holidays rolled up into one (maybe two) days of incredible music and bands for this old headbanger.

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