As 2015 comes to a close, the internet is flooded with list counting down the best albums of the year. I shifted through everything new I heard this year, thinking which album deserved this title when I realized how many artists made great comebacks: Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Bullet For My Valentine, and Muse. I don’t mean they came back to music after a lengthy absence. What I’m talking about it a return to form and creating albums that proved better than their previous efforts.
With all the artists I mentioned, their previous LP’s didn’t so well: people hated MDNA, Temper Temper lacked brutality, The 2nd Law was a little too ambitious, and Manson’s last few releases made people lose faith in the rocker (not counting his 2012 effort). All these artists came back stronger and harder this year to show fans and critics the fire hadn’t burned out of them yet. They weren’t perfect and I wouldn’t call any of them album of the year, but they helped redeem each artist in a way.
Rebel Heart showed that so far into her career Madonna still has it going on. Rather than trying to follow trends as she did on MDNA, she followed her own path to create one of her strongest albums since 2007’s Confessions on a Dancefloor. There were still some problems with it, but it made people think twice about writing off the Queen of Pop. Muse’s Drones had a poor concept behind it, but when you just look at the songs it’s classic, hard hitting Muse all the way. They scaled back on the overblown nature of their last few releases and went back to their rock roots for an exciting LP. It featured everything fans felt was missing from The 2nd Law, including Bellamy’s sweet soaring vocals.
When reading interviews Bullet For My Valentine seemed immensely disappointed by the reception of Temper Temper. They kept promising fans the next effort would be heavier and return to their beloved brutality. They kept their word with the excellent Venom. Finally, here were the songs that punched you in the face and never stopped to apologize. They still kept some of the rock influences from their last album, but they mixed it with their older sound rather than abandoning it completely. Even Children of Bodom had a great comeback with I Worship Chaos, which was miles better than Halo of Blood.
But perhaps the biggest comeback belongs to Marilyn Manson. Ever since the mid-2000s his career has been suffering. Since Eat Me, Drink Me he’s spent years searching for a sound that was right for him. He tried to continue his angry at everything, shock rock shtick, but it was clear it wasn’t working anymore. Rather than sounding clever and intelligent, his songs became boring and sounded like a Goth trying to hard to be disturbing. He finally bounced back with 2012’s Born Villain, but the damage was done. No one paid attention to the album; they thought he was the sad rock star. With The Pale Emperor, he finally found his groove in slow burning songs influenced by the blues. Sure, maybe the tracks aren’t as intense or insane as his earlier work, but he’s in a different place now. Things have changed and he’s finally found his voice for where he’s at in his career and critics took notice. Rolling Stone even called the best metal album of 2015.
While I wouldn’t call any of these albums the best of the year, they’re still impressive. Each one showed an artist bouncing back from a misstep and hitting the music scene with even more force than before. They had to show critics and fans they could still make good music despite some setbacks. They met expectations and in some cases exceeded them with the music they made this year. It goes to show a bad album isn’t the end. In some cases, it’s only the beginning.