Ok, I've had a really hard time figuring out which releases are on which place in my top 10.
But most of these releases shift from third place to seventh to fifth to tenth to third... etc...
So I'll do things differently this time.The standout albums for me are:
1. Neal Morse Band
- "The Grand Experiment"
You probably guessed it. This album is making me very happy! I might have said it before, but Neal is ticking all the boxes for me. For some reason his prog albums (and the bands that he's in) can't do wrong. "The Grand Experiment" actually IS a successful experiment. Two wonderful epics and three shorter songs and no real stinkers. (I actually also like Agenda
which is seen as the skip-song by many people.) In fact, the bonus songs on disc two are by no means of less quality. Man, this guy has so much energy and creativity! And I feel energised by listening to it.
- "The Unquiet Sky"
This is really a very good album! And of course we're still an Arena forum, so it's only logical to have this high on the list. But it's regarded high in the general prog community as well. "Return to form" they say. And to be honest, it feels a bit like that. I'm not making it a secret that "Seventh Degree..." was a bit of a disappointment for me. With concept albums it's always hard to tell what the best tracks are. Because you have to listen to them in order. They're all so good! This album is a wonderful listening experience.
3. Steven Wilson
- "Hand Cannot Erase"
Reviews say this is his best album ever (some even including Porcupine Tree's discography) and the absolute best album of 2015. So I was expecting to be blown away by it. It IS a good album indeed. But I think I liked "The Raven That Refused To Sing" a little bit better. He's straying more and more from his experimental album "Insurgentes", which I thought was the direction he wanted to go. But it seems he's coming back to Porcupine Tree territory. Even a bit poppier than that. But like I said it IS a really good album. It's fantastic and amazing and slightly overrated.
And it's in my top 3!Then there are the good albums (in no particular order):The Tangent
- "A Spark In The Aether"
The fantastic sequel to "The Music That Died Alone" and a concept-ish album about Progressive Rock. There's a lot of catchiness on this album again. Actually, that's something that I missed in the last three albums. I mean, these albums were interesting for sure, but somehow don't make me replay them much. This new album on the other hand is much fun! The rhythm section is very tight thanks to Morgan Ågren and Jonas Reingold who are bandmates in Kaipa since 2002. It has groove and is jazzy in a lot of places. Really like the (vintage) keyboards and the wind instruments on this one.Leprous
- "The Congregation"
After "Coal", which was my introduction to this band, I was looking forward to "The Congregation"! Initially a bit disappointed, but this album is a grower. It was not overwhelming like "Coal" was to me. I like the contrast of the heavy outbursts and the tension-filled quiet bits. And the singer is doing a great job. The guitar is low and heavy. I tried a lot of Djent bands, but was put off by either the vocalists or the lack of a certain thread in the music. Leprous is not really Djent, but has the staccato guitar in many places, which I like. And there's enough melody and at some times it even makes me happy. Symphony X
So much energy in this one! Absolutely love Russel Allen's voice here. The music is very heavy but still highly melodic. Somewhere halfway it starts to become a bit samey and I get bored. Perhaps I should try listen to it with the tracklist in reverse order. Or go all the way and listen to the whole thing backwards. Might even find some sublimal messages. Kamelot
This album surprised me. It's very melodic and the singing is super. The whole album is interesting to me. Many of the choruses on this album got stuck in my head easily. The songs are heavy, but are still easy to follow. They are real songs. No technical stuff (like with the Symphony X album), which can be a bit too much at times.Gazpacho
As always with Gazpacho, this album is a grower. They don't go for instant satisfaction. Everytime I start with a new album by this band I wonder if I will ever like it. But eventually, when the penny drops, it's beautiful to my ears.Magic Pie
- "King For A Day"
I came a bit late to the party with this one. I think it was early december when I got this. It's retro prog. Makes me think of A.C.T, Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Flower Kings etc. This is a really good album! And it's a grower. I think this could easily make it to higher parts in my top 10 if I listen more to it. So let's see what 2016 will do to this album.Spock's Beard
- "The Oblivion Particle"
This album starts strong already with Tides Of Time
. That song is a mix of old and new Spocks with some Collins-Genesis, catchy and proggy. Add quirkiness to the mix and that's Spock's Beard in a nutshell. Ted's vocals are an acquired taste. I must admit that I had some trouble first (with their previous album) but now I'm ok. The first half of the album is better than the second half.Riverside
- "Love, Fear And The Time Machine"
Secretly a Lunatic Soul album? Very mellow album. "Shrine Of New Generation Slaves" was such a good album, so it was only inevitable to be disappointed. Is this a bad album then? Absolutely not! Just don't expect Progressive Metal here. After some time I began to really like it. But it has not the same impact on me as S.O.N.G.S. did. There are again some very nice melodies. It's all very sweet and lovely.The 'not that good' albums (but not necessarily bad):The Gentle Storm
- "The Diary"Lonely Robot
- "Please Come Home"Sylvan
- "Endless Forms Most Beautiful"Glass Hammer
- "The Breaking Of The World"ELO
- "Alone In The Universe"Neal Morse
- "Morsefest! 2014"Spock's Beard
- "The First Twenty Years"Gavin Harrison
- "Cheating The Polygraph"Subsignal
- "The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime"Big Big Train
2016 is already promising to be a very good year. Dream Theater
surprised me with a really cool album. Neal Morse is writing again. Big Big Train will spoil us with a studio album, a live dvd and some sort of compilation album with reworkings of earlier songs. A.C.T will also release their first live dvd (looking forward to this very much). Frost* will release their (his?) third album which was a long wait. (I remember Jem saying he wanted to do five albums in five years (haha!)) Then there's Marillion, Haken, Blind Ego, Huis, Lonely Robot, probably forgetting some. And Anderson, Wakeman and Rabin. A lot to look forward to, and probably some future disappointments again, but that's part of the game.