Being charged with spotlighting 15 bands that I think matter in 2015 is daunting. I’m not Bill O’Reilly. I’m not trying to pawn off propagandized opinion as fact. In my best impression of an authoritative figure, this is a collection of musical acts, young and old, that I predict will make an impact this year. Periodically, I have these exploratory talks with my friends within the music industry (A&R people, agents, promoters, musicians, managers, DJ’s), and part of the goal is to try and figure out where heavy music is going. What is the next “big thing”? No one knows. I don’t know either, but I wanted to shine a light on those bands that are making artistic strides in a time when homogenization is rampant, and discovering beacons of hope through the digital white noise is becoming increasingly difficult.
Watch an interview with Bring Me The Horizon and find out why they’re one of the band’s you should be listening to this year in the following pages.
Toothgrinder came to my attention when I was bartending at a Clifton, New Jersey metal club called Dingbatz a couple years ago. I didn’t know who they were, but their stellar level of musicianship and professionalism perked my ears, and I got a copy of their 3 song EP. Needless to say, the band signed with Spinefarm Records not too long after, and is making noise touring the States as I type this. The Jersey boys don’t stray too far off the reservation as The Dillinger Escape Plan is in their DNA, but to call them a Dillinger clone would be shortsighted. All of their peers want to be Meshuggah, but these fellas are clearing a fresh path.
I have my buddy, ex-Devildriver drummer John Boecklin, to thank for exposing me to Painted Wives just in the last few weeks. This band is special. Imagine a more restrained Mastodon with William Duvall of Alice In Chains on lead vocals. Hard rock is a genre corrupted by an ocean of also-rans racing at light speed to the middle. Painted Wives give you the feeling, that in addition to being a great band, that they also have great taste. The music is refined and cultured. This is rare in young bands.
Faith No More
I had the pleasure of seeing Faith No More in Brooklyn on one of their reunion shows in 2010. It’s one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen, and I never thought it would happen. I certainly never thought they would make another album, so to call their first album in almost 20 years highly anticipated, would be an understatement by any measure. Their catalogue has aged like fine wine, and their legacy only grew in their absence. Hopefully the pre-released, serviceable single, “Motherfucker”, is just an appetizer.
In Search of Sun
In Search of Sun may be the best new metal band to come out in several years. They have all of the tools to take over the world. Singer, Adam Leader, has a world-class voice that is distinct, melodic, but with enough aggression to still feel like a metal band. The rest of the group is technically outstanding without showboating. Most importantly, this group can write a memorable song without pandering or aping any current trend. I’m not going to describe their sound by saying they sound like band A or B. Just check it out and enjoy.
Hacktivist is another band making waves out of the UK. The base of their sound stems from familiar Djent-y sonic territory with a low-tuned growl, steady half-time grooves, and ethereal overtones. Hacktivist set themselves apart by having a rapper, J. Hurley, as one of 2 lead vocalists. Thankfully, it is not misplaced or cringeworthy, and the fact that Hurley keeps his British accent in full tilt, makes the unit that much more charming. I also appreciate that these guys manage to reign in the tech parts to a minimum. More bands could take note of their restraint.
My acumen in the world of technical death metal has waned as the years have carried on, but I have always kept my ears open for something that’s innovative. Fallajuh came to my attention from my buddies at Metalsucks.net, whose fondness for the genre surpasses my own. The band’s degree of masterful precision is comparable to a band like The Faceless. But, where Fallujah truly stand out is their ability to construct smooth atmosphere that never clashes with the heaviness. It’s difficult to imagine beautiful death metal, but Fallujah have achieved it.
Hatebreed need no introduction to anyone who’s been involved with hardcore or metal in the last 15 years. I regard them as the Motorhead of hardcore in that they don’t stray too far from their initial formula, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Hatebreed is an institution. Singer, Jamey Jasta, has recently launched a prolific podcast, The Jasta Show. The show has given insight to Jasta’s critical place in cultivating cohesion across heavy music, and also an insider’s look to how Hatebreed has maintained a global career and continues to find new fans in an ever-changing landscape. 2015 anticipates Hatebreed’s 7th LP.
Unlocking The Truth
I don’t mean to retread ground, because I have written about Unlocking the Truth recently, but 2015 will be instrumental in their career, if not the most important year of their career. This is really where these young men have to put up or shut up. I really don’t mean to be harsh, and a single album’s release shouldn’t define anyone’s entire musical legacy, but Unlocking the Truth have gotten somewhat of a critical pass and received several high profile performing opportunities, without having released any music. I am pulling for them to succeed, but it’s paramount that we elevate musical acts of substance. I really want to hear what these talented young men have to offer.
Twelve Foot Ninja
Australia’s Twelve Foot Ninja just about do everything right. There is 0% “try hard” in them. By that, I mean they aren’t trying to be heavy or trying to write a radio hit. They just happen to create irresistibly catchy reggae infused nu metal that has no hint of cheese. They sound like the guys from S.C.I.E.N.C.E. era Incubus were frozen in time, and woke from hibernation really pissed off. Of all the newer bands mentioned in this article, I think they have the biggest potential to crossover to mainstream crowds. Like Volbeat before them, Twelve Foot Ninja’s enlightening genre fusion sets them apart while still projecting a magnetic aura.
I was not a big fan of Beartooth’s lead vocalist, Caleb Shomo’s former band, Attack Attack. So, it was a big surprise to hear that his new band was an aggressive hardcore outfit, and that they had signed with resourceful Red Bull records, home to AWOLNATION. When I dug into their music, Beartooth’s prosperity became much more clear. I can’t think of another band that was able to make authentic hardcore music sound so accessible without somehow watering down the overall product or feeling forced. I’m not in love with the “ this is for the kids” lyrical slant of single “Beaten In Lips”, but they hit every other mark seamlessly.
Despite being every inebriated heavy metaller’s favorite word to randomly chant at concerts, Slayer still have as much relevance in 2015 as they ever have. Heavy music fans love the idea of Slayer as much they like the band itself. Slayer’s brand is that of being the main ambassador for abrasive and anti-mainstream metal. Their forthcoming album is pivotal in several ways: It is the first recording without late guitarist, Jeff Hanneman, who was a key songwriter and to whom Slayer owes much of it’s identity. No one is better suited to replace Hannemen than Exodus’ Gary Holt. It is also the first album in over 10 years without original drummer, Dave Lombardo. I love Paul Bostpah, but Slayer without Lombardo lacks a certain a reckless, distinctive groove. Notably, the band recently signed with Nuclear Blast Records, which will mark Slayer’s first album in 30 years not released on a major label.
Bring Me The Horizon
Something about the current crop of scenester bands really bothers me. I want to tell most of these fucking fucks to “get off my lawn”. It may be generational mistranslation, but the unchecked similarity in the song formulas, production, auto-tuned vocals, boyband-with-neck-tattoo imagery, stage moves, and synth infused breakdowns make me want to curb stomp a millennial. On the other hand, Bring Me The Horizon are the biggest and best of the genre. They take risks, experiment, and craft anthems. They are the band all of the clones are ripping off. They also have a true star in Oli Sykes. We need groups like this to become the next headliners and gateway bands.
Are Trash Talk Hardcore? Are they Punk? I don’t think it matters. They aren’t breaking the mold with their noisy, power chord based music alone. People say there are no dangerous bands left, but this crew hearkens back to an era of California punk lifestyle where it was difficult to tell where the music started and the streets ended. For reasons difficult to pinpoint, Trash Talk’s influence has stretched beyond the heavy music culture, as they are signed with Hip Hop artist, Tyler the Creator’s Odd Future Records. Somehow, they ended up performing on The Eric Andre Show with electric collars, and Katt Williams and Suge Knight mysteriously showed up at one of their gigs. Trash Talk matter in 2015.
I could have easily put Djent pioneers, Periphery, in this spot. Periphery are a trendsetter and clearly at the head of their genre. For my money though, Monuments, are the next band to emerge as stars from this scene. Although, there are several parallels to draw between the bands including the fact that current singer of Monuments, Chris Barretto, is the ex-singer of Periphery, I believe the talent level in Monuments is staggering, and all they need to forge their own path is time and experience. I have always been a fan of Chris Barretto’s voice and command of the stage for a long time. Monuments is a band of the future.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Swedish Melodic Death Metal. I sowed my metallic oats as a young man on In Flames, At The Gates, Soilwork, and several other luminaries, but it’s easy think that the genre’s best days are behind it. Enter Scar Symmetry. They aren’t new by any stretch, releasing their first album in 2005, but have been consistently fantastic with every release. Exiting band founder, Jonas Kjellgren, just handed over the keys to the kingdom as lead songwriter and producer to lead guitarist, Per Nilsson. In 2014, they released The Singularity, Phase 1: Neohumanity, which is the first part of a trilogy, so we can expect more Scar Symmetry in the very near future.