I have to say, it's been a fantastic year for metal albums including a few fair impressive debuts...have probably bought more new albums this year than any other. Well without further ado, here's my top 15...
15. Watain - The Wild Hunt
14. Burzum - Sôl Austan, Mâní Vestan
13. The Meads of Asphodel - Sonderkommando
12. Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A.
11. Cultes Des Ghoules - Henbane
10. Feigd - The Dark Passenger
9. Lychgate - Lychgate
8. Falkenbach - Asa
7. Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu
6. Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle
5. Leprous - Coal
Having been impressed with their performance at Hellfest and being my first exposure to the band, I checked out their discography and have discovered they've just gone from strength to strength with each release. Heavily focused on melodic vocals and driven by captivating synths, i've been listening constantly to to this album over the last few months and find it hard to put down!
4. The Ruins of Beverast - Blood Vaults - The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer
The doom influence on TRoB's sound continues to grow on every release but the band carry on being trailblazers in the world of black metal. What we have here is an album themed on the Inquisition and executed perfectly by the genius that is Alexander von Meilenwald. It will take multiple listens to truly appreciate the many layers of this lengthy opus.
3. Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor
I would say that Das Tor demonstrates the greatest influence of side-project Darkspace of all of the bands demos - which works for me seeing how much I like them! It still retains a wintry edge but sounds like a chaotic blizzard blowing throughout.
2. Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn
We may have had to wait seven years for the follow up to their last album, but the band have definitely come back refreshed, with a more upbeat feel akin to Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame and plenty of other instruments in the mix. They still retain their epic/atmospheric trademark sound, especially to be heard on 'Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves', and of course their Tolkien-influenced lyrics are well-written throughout.
1. Nocte Obducta - Umbriel (Das Schweigen Zwischen Den Sternen)
Harking back to their musical stylings just before they went on hiatus seven years ago, this really is an innovative slice of avant-garde black metal, in parts serene and melancholic and simply beautiful music throughout - perfectly encapsulated in the track 'Leere'.
Sometimes I just like my metal to be plain and pure - the essence of what metal is generally all about. Hairy men playing guitars loudly, and shouting at you angrily. For me, Machine Head fill this void perfectly, and follow up their brilliant "The Blackening" album with another solid release.
A new experiment from the yorkshire masters of doom, and much more interesting than the disappointing "For Lies I Sire" - this 3-cd opus is stripped back, re-arranged orchestrations of recognisable MDB melodies, minus the guitars. Won't be for everyone, and not an easy listen in one sitting, but brilliant all the same. Closer to the likes of Dargaard and Dark Sanctuary than traditional MDB. One for the headphones with a glass of wine. And possibly a cry and a wank at the same time.
Despite initially not grabbing me, this has become a firm favourite of mine not only of the year but from all Dream Theater releases. It really does seem that the problem was Portnoy - and now we have DT returning with a stellar album. Disgruntled older fans should find something worth listening to here, especially considering the conspiracy theorists believe the entire thing is a reworked "Images and Words"!
Quite a surprise for me to include a band like the Foo's in my yearly favourites list - they've been churning out the same dull pop/rock bobbins for about the last 3 albums - then they go and make the album of their career, up there with "Colour and the Shape". Who'd a thunk it.
The sound of the end of the world. With death metal. And full orchestra. A very scary, mind-shattering 50-minute end of the world. Exhausting to listen to, but genius none the less. Dear Nightwish - THIS is how you make symphonic metal.
This sort of "kerrazy" and "all over the shop and out of tune" hipster shit normally annoys the jolly christ out of me. They even have one of those band names that makes you want to slap them all upside the head. But for some reason I love this band. And I can't tell you why, because anything else of this ilk makes the urge to kill rise. I guess for me they have just the right level of "bonkers", I love the vocalist, and their use of electronics in places. It's a shame I'll probably never see them live because I will probably want to murder all their fans.
The new singer Ruby (Witchbreed) absolutely nails it on this one, despite my initial reservations. A great album, and much better than their last effort, which was quite frankly a load of shite. Yet more brutal, epic death metal tinged with electronica.
THE CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR SECTION...
A few good albums that didn't quite make it to my yearly favorites list...
I had to take a good few listens to work out whether I just didn't "get" this album, or whether it just wasn't THAT interesting. Sadly, as retro-prog-deep-purple covers albums go, it's pretty uninspiring. I guess if the "death metal" isn't in them anymore, it's best not to force it, but I know they can do miles better than this - just look at Damnation. Oh well.
As much as I love Devin - he to me is such an inspiring person and musician - this is NOT my bag I'm afraid. If you went into one of those hippy shops that sells crystals and wicca books, where they play ambient "wellbeing" music, you wouldn't buy one of their tacky cd's now would you? You might even make fun of it while you were there. But somehow because Devin has done it, it's genius? Don't get it I'm afraid.
The release where the joke of being so extreme it's funny no longer became funny. Over the top for the sake of it but foresaking any kind of memorable songwriting. Such a shame as the last two albums have been killer.
I so desperately WANT to love this album. They guys that make it put so much effort and time into it, but no matter how much I try, I just can't get it to sink in. I just don't know what it is that is missing... Sorry chaps! :(
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
And here it is! Usually I can never decide on an outright album of the year, but for once the choice for me is totally obvious. My personal winner of 2011 is...
Coming completely out of nowhere for me, an old crust/punk band from a bit before even my time, reforms to make something completely fresh and relevant in the modern metal scene. I won't pretend to know much about their original material, but having checked it out since, there is no "trying to replicate former glories" here - just something new that has no right being as good as it is. Epic is a term thrown around too much, but it certainly fits here - and I don't just mean the usual "metal band tries to make a film score" rubbish. Soaring, heavy, crushing, beautiful - and just about pisses on everything else released this year from a great height. Trying to explain it doesn't do it justice, but it's like a strange marriage of Neurosis, Swans, Mastodon, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure.
Well it's that time of year again and what a great year it has been for metal! Perhaps not quite up to the highs of last year, with some big hitters early in the year not quite topping previous efforts, but there's been some real gems to uncover and i've stumbled across many this year. Thanks for all the recommendations throughout the year lastfm-ers! Moving swiftly on to my top ten....
After six years out, this was a most welcome return for Vratyas, one of the finest bands in the black/folk metal scene. Though not quite up there with his previous material, songs such as 'In Flames' are as memorable as anything he's recorded, such beatuiful acoustic parts...
Another band that made a reappearance this year, you simply know what to expect from Tsjuder - straight up, pummeling, sonic assault...you wouldn't want it any other way! Let's hope these black metal stalwarts stick around now for more of the same
Always a delight to discover a UK band releasing music of such a high calibre, Ildra had managed to slip under my radar until earlier this year. This sits up there with the likes of Winterfylleth and Wodensthrone but unlike those, their music never outstays it's welcome. A novel touch with all the lyrics in Anglo-Saxon, I look forward to more albums from the band.
Second year running now for Metatron making it into my top ten, and hugely deserved as well. Again, this release crept up on me, a side project from the vocalist of Meads of Asphodel, and one to make you feel proud to be British! Pagan metal at it's finest.
Managing to stay on the right side of the line of gimmicky which plagues the folk metal scene, Turisas are back again with another album full of big choruses, catchy hooks and fist-raising epic metal! Despite their popularity, I still hold them a creditable and sincere band, always putting everything into their shows and for their fans.
One of the most consistent black metal bands you'll find, again Primordial do not disappoint. Redemption at the Puritans Hand takes a while to grow on you, perhaps a bit slower and a more sombre mood than their last few albums and the guitars less intense, but you cannot fail to be swept away by the passionate vocals on 'The Mouth of Judas'. Seeing is believing for this band, check them out if you can!
I'll admit I'm late to the party when it comes to Absu but finally got round to checking them out this year. For all the praise that 'Tara' receives, I really thought that 'Abzu' sums up the band perfectly, such an intense and to the point performance, and their finest work yet. A wonderful black/thrashy blend that sticks around just long enough to appreciate all it's intricacies whilst blowing you away \m/ (and unique lyrical content as well)
A true successor to Two Hunters, and admittedly just what I was hoping for after not really taking to the change in direction on it's follow ups. Rich in atmosphere, enough buzzing black metal guitars to juxtapose against the serene build ups and interludes....what an absolute shame that they're splitting up now. If I had to choose, then 'Subterranean Initiation' would be my pick of the bunch. At least they get to go out on a high....but here's hoping this is a short lived hiatus...
A very late entry for me, having only listened to this band in the last month but boy am I hooked. Having liked their whole discography, I've come to the conclusion that they really are getting better with every album. Able to create a wintry, haunting atmosphere magnificently with synths, backed up by some classic 2nd wave black metal, I find this band so so underated (the awful bandname doesn't help...). One of those bands you get truely excited about when you first hear them...
Conversely, Negative Plane have held my top spot for the entire year with this January release. I was simply blown away on first hearing Stained Glass Revelations, a sound just so fresh. I could lazely label this as surfer rock meets black metal, but there is so much happening under all the hooks, a deep, brooding atmosphere with a hint of the occult. This really has breathed life into the genre, and I do wonder which direction the band will head in and how they will be able to maintain this level of innovation. Give 'Angels of Veiled Bone' a listen and be amazed!
Well here's to 2012 and hoping for another awsome year of metal music \m/
Well here's my top 10 albums of 2010, feel free to discuss below
1. A Forest of Stars - Opportunistic Thieves of Spring 2. The Meads of Asphodel - The Murder of Jesus the Jew 3. Throes of Dawn - Great Fleet of Echoes 4. Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini 5. Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time 6. Finntroll - Nifelvind 7. Primitive Graven Image - Celebrating Impending Chaos 8. Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere 9. Ghost - Opus Eponymous 10. 1349 - Demonoir
...and the disappointing albums this year would have to be the latest offerings of Keep of Kalessin, Dimmu Borgir and Limbonic Art
1986 was one of the biggest years for heavy metal with many major releases such as Metallica's Master of Puppets and Slayer's Reign in Blood. These are albums that are recognised by every metal fan in the world whether they like them or not. While Candlemass' debut album isn't as well known as the aforementioned albums, it is no doubt it made a contribution to heavy metal as great as them for being one of the major influences in doom metal.
Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is a doom metal album that's dark, depressive, powerful, dynamic, heavy and of course, epic! These descriptions together makes this one hell of an album. All six tracks on this album are fantastic. They all stick out equally well and there are absolutely no fillers in sight. This is a challenge for any artist writing an album but Candlemass knew how many songs this album needed and gave each one their own characteristics while keeping their style intact all the way through. Six may not be a lot but it doesn't feel like there's a song or two missing in this album at all.
This was the only album to feature Johan Längqvist on vocals and it's a shame he left so soon. He has a very powerful voice and it's loud and clear. He shows a lot of energy and emotions all the way through. It makes you wish his metal career didn't end right there. Despite that, Messiah Marcolin is still a fantastic singer and did even better for the band later on. However, he doesn't sing the songs on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus as well as Johan did as shown on the live bonus disc included with the remastered version.
The guitars are another strong point to this album. The riffs are very heavy, dark and give out a depressive feel to go with this album. Solitude and Under the Oak and the intro to Black Stone Wielder are some badass riffs and even have a Black Sabbath vibe to them which makes perfect sense considering they are one of the major influences on Candlemass. The solos are also worth noting, especially Crystal Ball and Black Stone Wielder where they show some great emotions and make a great deal of the songs they belong to.
The bass performance by Leif Edling is fantastic. It's audible throughout and stands out as its own character in the music as well which is a sign of a strong bassist. His best performance is in Demons Gate where he gets an excellent spotlight halfway through. Alongside with the guitars, it is undeniable that it adds a great factor to the heaviness of this album.
The drums also do good with the album for the excellent rhythm to bang your head to these awesome songs. There's even some spotlights for the drumming, especially in A Sorcerer's Pledge where it's given a great chance to show a good beat with a reasonable tempo and to prove its worthiness for the whole album.
Each song knows how to make a great introduction, especially the acoustic depressive piece at the start of Solitude and the crushing riffs in Black Stone Wielder. The only intro that doesn't do as well is Demons Gate, You hear a demonic voice who talks about entering the demons gate which sounds rather odd. It would have made more sense if the voice was welcoming you rather than saying "I went into the demons gate". That aside, it's still an interesting introduction to the song.
The endings are slightly less notable than the intros but that doesn't mean they're not amazing. A Sorcerer's Pledge ends it all off with the spine-shivering female choir that is not only a great closure to the song but also a brilliant closure to the whole album making you think "Wow, what an album I just heard."
The last thing that comes to mind is the lyrics. Although this is coming from someone who focuses on lyrics the least in music, Candlemass do a good job at writing the lyrics to make the songs even more depressing, especially Solitude as well as telling an dark and epic story in Crystal Ball and A Sorcerer's Pledge. It may be cliché here and there but overall, it works very well with the atmosphere of the entire album.
In conclusion, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is a masterpiece. Each and every song is epic, heavy and awesome and they're all equally recognisable to each other, thus making it a well balanced album. This is highly recommended to anyone who's a genuine metal fan whether your main interest is power, thrash, death or even traditional metal. If doom metal isn't really your cup of tea, it's still worth checking this album out. Who knows, this could spark your interest in doom metal because it's that good.
Instead of eating chocolates I got for Easter, I went down to London to see Opeth who are one of my favourite bands. This was for their 20th anniversary tour and luckily enough, one of the venues was at the Royal Albert Hall in London. This definitely wasn't a typical place to hold a concert for a metal band, especially one that involves death metal elements.
So I arrived there at the show at least 2 hours before it even started. We (i.e. My, my sister and her fiance) came well prepared and as a result, we were very close to the stage and only behind VIPs. A much better view than when we saw Iron Maiden where we had seated tickets (this will be the only time I'll make a comparison between the two shows). Just seeing the band just 3 or 4 metres away was absolutely satisfying. Of course, there were some tall people in front of us but we managed.
As soon as they started playing The Leper Affinity, I knew I was in for one hell of a show and the awesomeness didn't stop one bit throughout the album. The highlight of the first half was the outro to Blackwater Park. At the end, the whole crowd was going fucking insane and the vibration from the band was becoming more and more intense that I felt like they were going to tear the whole building apart.
For the second half of the show, Opeth played one song from each album they've made (besides Blackwater Park, obviously) which I thought would happen considering Dream Theater did the same thing on their Score live album and it only made sense for Opeth to do the same thing.
They started with Forest of October and that was a fine choice and they closed the show with The Lotus Eater which was the song I actually least expected to hear from Watershed considering it's one of the more played songs on that album. Did that make the show any less great, though? Well, there were some technical problems but besides that, definitely not! The Lotus Eater is my favourite song from Watershed along with Heir Apparent so I was more than happy to hear it live!
The highlight of the second half had to be them playing The Moor. From all the songs in Still Life , this was the one I wanted to hear the most and I got what I wanted. If you've seen my Top 10 Heavy Metal Intros, then you'll know that The Moor has one of my all-time favourite intros. Of course, the rest of the song was still a treat to hear. This song and the whole of Blackwater Park alone made my night!
The rest of the setlist was great, although I will admit that I'm not so big on Reverie/Harlequin Forest and neither is my sister. However, for a show that was to play rarely played tracks, I will accept this song as Ghost of Perdition, The Baying of the Hounds and The Grand Conjuration must have been played many times by now. Still, that didn't make the night any less great and neither did the disappointment of not hearing Black Rose Immortal. I can't blame the band for not playing that song as it's the longest one they've written. Despite that, I still loved hearing Advent.
Mikael Åkerfeldt was interacting with the audience a lot more than in the first half when the band just paid attention to playing the songs. He had a great sense of humour and the crowd even had amusements when he claimed he saw Bruce Dickinson that day.
The only other disappointment I had that night was not getting my first two choices for T-Shirts. When we found the merchandise shop, I had my eye on two T-Shirts but by the time I got in front of an extremely squashed up queue (surely London rush hour can't be this bad), those T-Shirts were sold out so I had to settle with my third and fourth choices. Still, I'm happy with the stuff I got from the shop but I will try and get a T-Shirt showing the Blackwater Park album cover.
Overall, I had one hell of a time seeing Opeth, especially since it's my first time seeing them live as well as playing one of my favourite albums of all time. It was a great 3 1/2 hour show and there's no way in hell will I ever forget this. I really want to see them again sometime in the future. However, we're only four months in for 2010, a year which is showing to be one of the finest years for heavy metal in YEARS and I could be going another band live later this year if everything goes ahead with whoever I'll be seeing next.
I want to link the Edinburgh Heavy Metal group to as many Edinburgh (or nearby) bands/labels of any proper style of metal, current or old. If you know of one that I've not connected to this group, leave me a link and I will do so, as long as they do not have a DJ or play ska or some shit.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band, Helloween decided to re-record 11 tracks which are apparently all their best songs. When hearing about an album to celebrate the band's milestone, a re-recording of their classics like what Gamma Ray did with Blast to the Past would have been fair but considering what actually happened here, just a generic compilation album with random songs thrown in would have been more appropriate.
What Helloween decided to do for their 25th anniversary as a "Thank you" to their fans is take away all the metal elements these songs had and make most of them all horribly acoustic and pop-ish that makes you wonder if The Jonas Brothers took over the band during the recording sessions. There's a few tracks which were more orchestral but not even they saved the album. However, The Keeper's Trilogy is actually decent.
Yes, the only track worth listening to from this garbage is The Keeper's Trilogy which despite hearing the preview was still something to hope that it would at least be decent. Instead of throwing parts of the three songs around, they actually divided the song into three sections for each song to have their own part. However, this song isn't without flaws as the most bothersome thing about this song is how one solo from Halloween comes out of nowhere during [track artist=Helloween]The King for a 1000 Years section. Still, it's an interesting mix of their three epics.
As for the rest of the tracks, while most argue that Andi Deris shouldn't be singing Kiske-era, that's not the main issue with this album, it's the use of acousticpop all over the place. These do not mix well with songs which were made for metal and these arrangements are awful. For other instruments used within the album, the orchestral elements are rather poor in A Tale That Wasn't Right. While I enjoy the original version of this, the orchestral version just has no feeling to the song and it's boring as hell.
The other use of other instruments are saxophones in Dr. Stein and that only makes you think "What the hell is this?" Although the song was already one of Helloween's goofy moments, the original version at least had a great riff along with it. That riff has now been bastardized by saxophones. Nothing against the instrument itself but again, this is the wrong way to treat a metal classic.
The guest vocalists within this album are horrible. The female singer in Eagle Fly Free doesn't do any justice to the song whatever but the worst of all is I Want Out with what sounds like Kidz Bop singing in the background. Before it was revealed that these are re-recordings of Helloween classics without the metal, it would have been assumed that Kai Hansen would sing for this song but he's not heard in sight. It's bad how they left the one who wrote the damn song out but on the other hand, at least he didn't contribute to this pile of crap.
Speaking of I Want Out, the solos are either left out or are horribly butchered. Eagle Fly Free has completely forgotten the awesome solo it had while Fallen To Pieces' acoustic solo is horrid. Infact, all the solos in this album are horribly played and re-ordered with the rest of the songs in a terrible fashion.
In conclusion, Helloween have had some odd moments in their career such as Chameleon and Metal Jukebox but Unarmed is where it goes too far. The majority are very poorly re-arranged and butchered by extreme pop and acoustic elements and seem like they were made for disney Channel to go along with their modern crap. Whatever the reason they had for this abomination, this is nothing more than a horrible prank set on one of your friends and laughing at the victim. It's a good thing this album hasn't affected their musical direction at all, otherwise I and many others would have completely given up with them.
Overall rating: 1/10. Just download The Keeper's Trilogy from iTunes or wherever and forget the rest and hopefully their next metal album will make up for this travesty.
I've had a long list of artists I need to listen to or need to listen to more of sometime for some time now and felt I should put it up on Last.fm incase anyone is willing to suggest me tracks or albums for the listed artists. Forgive me if any of the artist have been placed under the wrong genres. Most of these artist are there for me to refer to sometime in the future whenever I'm wanting to listen to more of a certain genre.
I've noticed a few awesome bands with only a tiny amount of listeners recently so I thought I'd attempt to promote some of them. There's quite a mix of styles here so I'm sure most people won't like all of them but still, have a look.
Weakling - Dead as Dreams Epic, proggy, black metal, band that only released one album before they broke up. The vocals are somewhat lacking (aparantly they had trouble finding a singer so the guitarist just did what he could), but the riffs and song structures more than make up for it.
Admiral AngryBuster Very dark sludge/doom, similar to eyehategod but without the southern influences and with some odd meshuggah-y rythms thrown in to keep things interesting.
Batillus - Batillus Instrumental stoner-y doom. The EP is avaliable for (legal) download on their last.fm page.
Flaming Tusk - Abigail I think this sums it up pretty well: "Astoria's Flaming Tusk wins the odd bird award here. I have no idea what to call this. You Fail Me-era Converge, but sludgier, proggier and with black metal rasps? It's messy, but melodic and strangely compelling. You can download it for free at the band's site. Try or die!" -Cosmo Lee, Decibel, April 2009 Also avaliable for free download on last.fm.
Ludicra - Hollow Psalms Another black metal band, Ludicra are fairly raw and intense at points but sometimes easing off into an amospheric section. They seem to take a fair amount of influence from crust punk as well as straight up black metal.
Pavor - Furioso Brutal, technical death metal. I've read that the band are doing their best to remain obscure as hell by not promoting anything.
Revocation - Existence Is Futile Definately the closest thing to typical mainstream metal here. They integrate a wide variety of styles into some extremely good technical thrash. Reminds me of lamb of god but I'm not sure why exactly. Their previous album isn't nearly as good.
The Safety Fire - Sections EP Another band rather lacking in the vocal area but intentionally, for some reason they wanted to sound exactly like this. I suppose it's unique... Anyway think meshuggah but less monotone and perhaps more chilled out.
Romeo Must Die - Defined By Enemies (not on last.fm for some reason) Fairly straightforward but well written metallic hardcore. Not at all emo as the name would seem to imply. Nicely angry and shoutable along too. Formed from ex-members of stampin' ground if that means anything anyone (it doesn't to me).
The Heartland - Frontier Weird as hell mixture of grindcore, mathcore, jazz and occasional bursts of pop punk. It all fits together suprisingly well though. The band unfortunately broke up before they could release this album but it found it's way online anyway thankfully.
If anyone actually reads this and looks up any of these bands please leave a comment and let me know what you think.