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Classic Rock's 25 albums of the year so far

25 albums that prove 2015 is shaping up to be a vintage year

We've reached the mid-point of 2015, so we asked Classic Rock's crack team of scribblers to name their favourite albums released so far this year. It's a right old mixed bag: bands who've been around for decades and bands releasing their first collections. Bands from Scandinavia and a solo act from South Africa. Bands who used to be other bands. Bands made up of musicians who are still in other bands. And bands who might just be filling those end-of-year polls come December. Confused? The only way to make sense of it is right here...

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
If you’re expecting more Southern-fried rock’n’soul, the subtle, jazzy textures of this album’s title track might surprise. Yet Gimme All Your Love’s slow-building anthemic roll immediately hits the spot, and the funky shards of guitar underpinning Future People, offset by gutsy stabs of rock riffing, suggest Brittany Howard’s mob are only beginning to tap into their true potential. (JS)

Ash - Kablammo!
Many successful bands seem embarrassed by the idea of reprising a winning musical formula. Not Ash, whose first new album in eight years bolts out of your speakers on a wave of buzzsaw guitars, power pop hooks, and the same slightly frantic, over-excited tempo that have made their best moments such a rush. Welcome back. (JS)

Blackberry Smoke - Holding All the Roses
The Southern rockers’ extended live jams are tightened up into five-minute parcels of punchy country-rock here, but it only sharpens their impact on Rock And Roll Again and the title track, while big choruses like Heard It All Before and Living In The Song are shot through with Nashvillean melodic charm. They’ve been heavier, but rarely so tuneful. (JS)

Black Star RidersThe Killer Instinct
Steeped in the past but very much happening right now, Black Star Riders are swiftly becoming a very serious proposition, not just a retirement plan for people who used to be in other bands. The Killer Instinct is dynamic, melodic, enormous fun, and packed with the kind of vagabond charm you-know-who used to specialise in. Phil Lynott is surely grinning in his grave. (FL)

The Darkness - Last Of Our Kind
Despite parting company with two, presumably exploded drummers either side of its release, Justin & Co’s fourth album is something of a triumph. Beneath the typically outré Viking theme and falsetto wail you’ll find some killer riffs and epic hooks in an ebullient, original set of songs that arguably outstrip anything they’ve managed since Permission To Land. (JS)

Dead SaraPleasure To Met You
Back in 2013, Dave Grohl said Dead Sara could be "the next biggest band in the world". Cut to next scene, they're dropped by Epic Records, and we're not sure why, because Pleasure To Meet You finds the band clambering steadily in precisely the opposite direction. This is LA hard rock-noir, Fleetwood Mac with a stack of Marshalls. (FL) 

EuropeWar Of Kings
The Dave Cobb (Rival Sons/California Breed)-produced War Of Kings completes a trilogy of releases that saw the quintet from Upplands Väsby put clear blue sky between the hair metal and spandex days of the 1980s and an ongoing reunion reinvention as a bona fide 1970-influenced classic rock group. (DL)

Faith No More - Sol Invictus
2015 was the year that Faith No More finally got their belated dues as one of the pivotal bands of the last 30 years, thanks in a large part to a comeback album that was as inventive, perverse and ornery as anything they’d recorded during their original run. They cited British post-punk linchpins Public Image Ltd and Siouxise And The Banshees as influences, but truly this sounded like only one band: Faith No More. It’s good to have them back. (DE)

FMHeroes And Villains
FM’s popularity has escalated since a reunion in 2007. Their ninth album, Heroes And Villains is versatile, filler-free and impressively fresh-sounding. From fist-in-the-air anthems such as Digging Up The Dirt to the über-ballad Incredible, a song that producers of the next Superman movie really should hear, it’s nigh on flawless. (DL)

HalestormInto The Wild Life 
Marking the precise point on the Venn diagram where fierce ambition and ability collide, Halestorm are heading in one direction, and that's up. Into The Wild Life combines all your favourite bands into a near-faultless collection of pop-rock singalongs that veer from enormous tenderness to breathtaking venom along the way. File under: tour de force. (FL)

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