Coronavirus, quarantines, lockdowns… This seems to be the only thing we are reading all through social media around the world. Though a very serious and sad situation (stay home!), there are other ways to battle the probable lack of activity that you may be going through at home and, if you feel adventurous, you should press play to Kilter‘s Axiom (Alter-Nativ). The Brooklyn trio composed of Kenny Grohowski (Imperial Triumphant) on drums, Ed Rosenberg III on sax, and Laurent David on bass brings a very exciting, weird record that combines the heaviness of their obvious Metal roots with the strange soundscapes that Jazz can bring. Continue reading
Estonian folk metallers Metsatoll have been added to the upcoming 70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise, setting sail in less than a months time. As of now 46 of the 60 bands have been announced for the cruise, which is sold out but has a wait list that makes it possible to get a last-minute ticket. Continue reading
Mutiny Within will be releasing Origins on February 10th, and they’ve just uploaded a third song online for our listening pleasure. Continue reading
Long running Dutch Music festival Into The Grave has announced Slayer as their headliners for 2016. Joining them on the bill will be Airborne, Kreator, Carcass, Exodus, Amaranthe, The Black Dahlia Murder and more. Into The Grave will expand to two days and its typical sister festival City Rock Leeuwarden will not take place. Tickets are already on sale at this link:
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Our UK Editor Steve Tovey has been counting down his Top 25 albums of 2014 via Social Media, including via his Twitter account @steevXIII
If you haven’t been following, find his thoughts on his favourite 25 long players of the year here…
25, Scar Symmetry– The Singularity (Phase 1 – Neohumanity) (Nuclear Blast)
A bit of kitchen sink album, this one – prog, power, death, bits that sound like Extreme (the band), a concept that makes Demanufacture look like a children’s story (OK, it is hardly the most developed story anyway…) and part 1 of a trilogy I’m keen to see if it can keep up with the level of this first one.
24, Unearth – Watchers of Rule (eOne)
The album I wanted ‘At War With Reality’ to be, but with a metric tonne of breakdowns (or possibly beatdowns – I still get them confused) on top. Blistering with Gothenburg tinged spiky riffing, dual guitars flying, full on vocals and some good old fashioned metal aggression, Old Wave of Swedish Melodic Death Metal style. No remorse, no repent, no let up, no problem!
23, Ageless Oblivion – Penthos (SOAR/Century Media)
Relentless, progressive and technical death metal, and damn good at it, too.
22, Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
I have always had a very strong dislike of Opeth. Then they released an album that doesn’t sound like Opeth. Now loads who did like them, don’t, and loads who didn’t like them, do. Not normally a massive prog fan either, but this album is really good. AND somehow I’ve now started to get into the older stuff I’ve never liked before like Blackwater Park and Still Life. Weird, innit.
21, Overkill– White Devil Armory (Nuclear Blast/eOne)
Continuing their brilliant run of form that near matches their classic first 3 albums since signing for Nuclear Blast with another energetic, full-on, thrash classic. Really loving the vitality but above all the quality of the tunes. Always had a soft spot for Overkill and well chuffed they’re still flying the flag louder and harder than any other “old school” thrash band. Proud to review this one here.
20, Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville)
Set your HM-2 pedals to kill… Really enjoyable old school Death Metal romp. Plenty of Dismember, plenty of Entombed, bit of Morbid Angel in places, and just sounds like a bunch of guys who know what they’re doing having fun with metal they love. ‘sGot big riffs. And I like Nick Holmes vocals on it, too. More cookie monster than cookie cutter and add a distinctive edge.
19, Devin Townsend– Sky Blue (HevyDevy)
So, I split the two albums out and Dark Matters was in the ‘Not Quite…’ list. It took me a little while and a few listens to forgive Sky Blue for not being Epicloud. But seeing as Epicloud is probably my favourite album released in the last 10 years it was always going to be difficult. Sitting very much in the Addicted, Epicloud pop-metal end of the DTP arsenal, it can’t help but be a great, enjoyable listen. I just think he perfected it last time around, so this has a touch of diminishing returns. Still think it’s bloody good, like (hence it making the top 20).
18, Killer Be Killed– Killer Be Killed (Nuclear Blast)
‘im from Mastodon, ‘im from Dillinger, another ‘im from somewhere else (can’t be bothered to google it, sure someone will say below) and a Max Cavalera relegated to side-man all pulling off (tee hee) a bloody great album of riffs, grooves and big old tunes. Lovely stuff.
17, Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade)
The first track is possibly the greatest chest-beating Heavy Metal track of the year, resplendent (I’ve always liked that word) in its’ Bathory meets Manowar glory. After such an blinding start the album could only struggle to live up to expectations. It is bloody good though, and the last track is also amazing. Does what Primordial do, and does it well. One I reviewed, too, so you can check that out here if you like
16, Machine Head – Bloodstones & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
OK, still haven’t fully gotten grips with this one – it’s not long been out, there were other albums to cram in before end of year, reviews, life, all that, plus it’s a pretty long album and there’s a lot of music going on (contrary to popular belief, your average Machine Head track isn’t as bone head as many think these days), so sticking this one here. I know it’s good, I know I like it, just not lived with it enough to know how much.
Still, I know it brings the riffs, diversity, some intelligent song-writing, some really cool choral and non-metal touches, and I know I’ll like it more once I spend some time with it and the songs separate out.
15, Judas Priest– Redeemer of Souls (Epic/Columbia)
No, it’s not as heavy as Painkiller, but it does sound like a mix of everything they’ve done til now. Just lashings of good, solid, classic Priest with plenty of nods to their 70s and early 80s stuff (though no Turbo, unfortunately)
And, you know, songs and shit. Good job all round and damn fine album.
Another one I reviewed here.
14, Fen – Carrion Skies (Code666)
The one where they brought it all together, tying up all the threads that make up Fen and producing their best material to date with every track. A sound of a band with confidence and making a statement about who they are. More focused, more “metal” than the last and their definitive release to date.
13, In Flames– Siren Charms (Sony)
Note this is MY albums of the year… and by that I mean favourite not “best”. The perception that most people don’t give a monkeys about post-Colony In Flames is completely overridden by the fact that they’re loads more popular now than they were then (though popularity isn’t a measure of quality etc, I know…) It’s just the undergroundzz innit.
According to itunes, this was my most listened to album of 2014, and, yep, I dig it. It doesn’t do anything particularly different, amazing, new or unexpected, but is a step up on everything post-Come Clarity, for me.
Above all I just think it has a load of good songs. And I like good songs. Even more than I like spazzy-jazzy tech metal. Much more than I like spazzy-jazzy tech metal, to be honest… I dig it. Most of you on here will scoff. The band won’t care either way. And neither will I…
I reviewed here.
12, Bast – Spectres (Burning World)
Excellently crafted “serious” metal, with a great album dynamic that moves through and between post-Black Metal, UK Doom and post-metal, but doesn’t sound inconsistent or forced. I have Steve Patton of Sea Bastard to thank for bringing these to my attention. Really glad he did. I reviewed here.
11, Pyrrhon– The Mother Of Virtues (Relapse)
This album still intimidates me. I probably could (should?) have this higher in my list, but I very rarely want to listen to it cos it’s hard work. Rewarding, but horrible hard work to listen to. Probably the most extreme, all out clusterfuck of the modern-tech “jazz” Ulcerate/Gorguts/Deathspell Omega influenced death metal albums of them all. This was the highest mark I’ve given anything in a review since I gave Insomnium‘s demo 10 back in the late 90’s (and the only time I’ve had an online slagging for giving a band a great review!). Takes death metal almost to the point of not being music any more.
Just don’t call them free-form… (which I actually didn’t… You can read what I did say here)
10, Edguy– Space Police: Defenders of the Crown (Nuclear Blast)
I really like this. It’s dumb, cheesy fun, yes, but it’s well put together, catchy – I still have a fair few of the songs and riffs bouncing around in my head – good, enjoyable entertaining rocky power metal. Cheesier than the stuff that’ll be on the board that will come out with the port at my folks an hour after Christmas dinner, and I love it for that.
Also, it has the best song Van Halen have(n’t) written for 20 years. Reviewed this one here.
9, Schammasch – Contradiction (Prosthetic)
Came to this late in the year as was unsure about its mammoth length (fnarr etc). Atmospheric black/death cleverly sprawling over 85 minutes, it certainly doesn’t drag, filling every one of those minutes with quality.
8, Voices – London (Candlelight)
Was very impressed with these at Bloodstock, the discovery of the weekend for me, so couldn’t wait to check out the album particularly once you hear they’d chucked in a concept to it. Wasn’t disappointed, indeed they exceeded my expectations. Discordant and unsettling and well worth a checking if you haven’t already.
And for the record, I’ve never checked Akercocke beyond seeing them live at the LA2 as a support band 15+ years ago, so no fanboying from me.
7, Slipknot– .5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner)
Not much to say, other than a massive return with a massive batch of massive songs.
As I said in my review for Ghost Cult: “The Gray Chapter is a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best.
All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since Iowa. Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six. ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ is an album of some significance.”
You can read the rest of the review here.
6, Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight)
It’s a close run thing, but I think I love the classics of black metal more than those of death metal, yet, other than those 90’s gems, I have very little time for black metal – mainly because it tends to involve the aping of the same 5-10 albums again and again (ad infinitum). It’s not a hard and fast rule, there are bands / albums of BM nature I’ve picked up on and very much enjoyed over the last 15-20 years, and this year brought forth a couple of beasts. I’ve already mentioned Fen, but there was also this British classic that brought joy to my ears. Running a gamut (good word) of sentiments and feelings, being more human than a lot of black metal dares to be, ‘Divination…’ excels dynamically, melodically and emotionally. Distinctively Winterfylleth, this is their best yet.
5, Decapitated– Blood Mantra (Nuclear Blast)
The most hotly anticipated modern death metal riff-fest of the year did not disappoint in any way shape or form. Power, grooves, and, well, riffs. Riffs that came armed with big meathooks. Some cool Slipknot-y and industrial touches here and there, but this was all about great *heavy* metal. I like the overall sound on it, too, dragging them out of the “death metal” pack and making them sound more in a field of one. Which, I guess is where they now stand…
4, BEHEMOTH– The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
Another band I’d never been massively bowled over by in the past who impressed me this year. Something to do with the fact they actually have songs with hooks and interesting things going on in them. The album gets better as it goes on, peaking in a brilliant crescendo of ‘O Father! O Satan! O Sun!’.
Added to the music, aesthetically this album is great (cover, production, photos, the official vids as well) and can see why it’s wracked up a number of album of the year awards, including the Ghost Cult Magazine official writers AOTY.
Fair play and well done.
3, Revocation– Deathless (Metal Blade)
Paul Alan Ryan spun me a couple of Revocation tunes way back at the start of the year, and I was impressed, so had my eye out for this release. Once it hit, the mix of intelligent thrash, Death (Official) and definite lashings of Mastodon in the melodies and approach all wormed its way under the brain to become one of my go to albums in the second half of the year and one that I’ll keep going to into the new year. Really good modern, technical thrash with a touch of (when they were good ‘Rust In Peace’ era) Megadeth in there too. You’ll do me.
2, Mastodon– Once More Round The Sun (Reprise)
Was late to the Mastodon game, arriving some point around 2009 and ‘The Hunter’ was their first “new” album for me. Despite loving a bit of Leviathan and a bit of Crack The Skye (but not so much Blood Mountain), for me, their simpler, rockier stuff definitely suits them and they’ve really come into their own recently as OMRTS picks things up where Hunter left them off. Just tune after tune after tune after tune with swagger and hooks galore and distinctively ‘Don. Also, they have a song called ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ which does it for me in spades.
1, Sólstafir – Ótta (Season of Mist)
Two in a row for Sólstafir. Hats off! Svartir Sandar romped it for me in 2011, and by golly, Iceland’s finest have only gone and bloody gotten even better! Last time around it could be argued the album went on a touch too long and the vocals weren’t quite up to the level of the rest of wares on offer (though only by a smidge), well, those minor gripes have been consigned to the bin.
Now, post-rock isn’t exactly my bag of gravy, but Sólstafir delivers atmosphere, emotion and deep feelings, while the dynamic journeys of each track on Ótta pull you along for the ride.
A beautiful, magical album. As I say, it’s not my usual bag. Scroll through my ipod and there’s little similar on there, but Sólstafir have a way of speaking to me. Truly. Deeply.
This track’s a really cool video too.
Part of the charm of being in the heavy metal community is the fact that it is a real community, a group of diverse people from diverse backgrounds, beliefs and ethnic origins bound by a shared love and appreciation for all things heavy and metal. It gives a real sense of belonging, a shared understanding – a belief that the music that you love can open hearts and minds and generally make the world a better place.
If you’re getting the distinct sense that I’m filibustering and not actually getting to the actual review of the sixth album from Sweden’s Scar Symmetry, then you’d be right because if you like Scar Symmetry, my suggestion is that you look away now.
The Singularity, Phase One: Neohumanity (Nuclear Blast) is the first of a trilogy of records. The Singularity is a sci-fi (in the loosest sense of the word) concept album that revolves around the rise of “artilects (artificial intellects) with mental capacities far above the human level of thought” and that “by the year 2030, one of the world’s biggest industries will be ‘artificial brains,’ used to control artilects that will be genuinely intelligent and useful.” According to the band, the album focusses on the divide between “those who embrace the new technology and those who oppose it” due to the social issues caused by the rise of artificial intelligence and the emergence of trans-humanists adding artilect technology to their own bodies.” Of course.
Let’s not get too carried away with the ludicrousness of the story – what we have come here to praise, or not, is the music, isn’t it?
Well, as you probably know already, what you get is fundamentally a melodic death metal record that is exquisitely produced and efficiently and energetically performed by a band that appear to have gotten themselves something akin to a second wind. The problem is the entire enterprise leaves me utterly, utterly cold.
Granted, there’s a bit more on the melody and a soupcon of prog thrown in but that’s it really. You know when the choruses are going to kick in, know when the growly vocals are going to get really growly. It’s all just a bit, well, obvious. I thought the lyrics and subject matter in need of an editor and the overall effect of listening to this record was, I imagine, like being covered in a vat of cliché and self-regarding hubris. I’m sure there will be plenty of people that will praise this to the highest, revel in its supposed ambition and generally fawn around it like a sycophantic junior at an Elizabethan court: not me, though.
There’s two more where this came from, too.
You know, sometimes if it’s not doing it for you, then it’s not doing it for you. And The Singularity… is not doing it for me. At all. I can admire the effort here, the scope and the ambition, and I applaud the single-mindedness and the collective musicality. What I can’t do is pretend that I like any of it.
It seems like an eternity ago when Brit Prog-Metallers Aeon Zen first commanded attention as fast risers and one to watch. A couple of well received releases and a much coveted European trek supporting modern progfather Devin Townsend has certainly proven them to not be sitting on their laurels but there has been the feeling that something major is still to come of them. New album Ephemera (Independent/self-released) should be just that album.
In hindsight, all their previous works are merely pointers as to what Rich Hinks’ outfit are capable of. Ephemera pushes the band’s heavier side and its obvious prog rock influences to much further lengths than previous culminating in the bands most ferocious yet experimental album to date.
Real plaudits have to go to the vocal performances of both Hinks and frontman Andi Kravljaca who together display a huge dynamic range between the high, power metal like wails found opening ‘Soul Machine’ to harsh growls and even the quirky delivery on ‘Life?’
The vocal diversity sits well as the album veers from the huge pomp of tech metal tinged openers ‘The Entity’ and ‘Soul Machine’, the whimsy of ‘Life?’ and melodic death metal passages. In fact the plethora of ideas at play here is quite staggering. From the odd Gentle Giant reminiscent vocal play to the piano peppering in death metal orientated ‘Remembrance’; Ephemera is full of surprises and unexpected tangents which still remains a completely cohesive piece.
Since their inception to the world, Aeon Zen have always been threatening to be a formidable force in modern progressive metal and Ephemera is the perfect realization of this potential. Offering a combination of Scar Symmetry and The Mountain (InsideOut) period Haken, Ephemera offers enough for the tech metal crowd with and the most stubborn of Prog fans.