Monday, 29 December 2014

Thrash Metal list for 2014

It's been a really great year for thrash metal IMO. There has been so many releases that have thoroughly got my head banging. It's actually quite hard to separate many of them but since I've managed to find quite a large number of albums I enjoyed I will at least try and rank the top 25 in reverse order with the others unranked. However a link is provided for every single album ranked or not so plenty to wade through and a few words here and there.

Violent Omen - L.U.N.A.C.Y. - Technically a 2013 release but I never heard it until recently. Would have made last year's list with ease so it goes in this years.

Aggravator - Populace Destructor - simple aggressive thrash -

Axegressor - Last - Sharp and aggressive Finnish thrash -

Chronosphere - Embracing Oblivion - Speedy, helter skelter, outta control Greek thrashers.

Delirium Tremens - Read My Fist - Fast regular thrash for neck damagers the world over.

Executer - Helliday - Very slightly tech thrash with many great riffs.

From Beyond - No More Room In Hell (EP) - Speed speed and more speed for this raspy voiced a maelstrom of riffs.

GumoManiacs - Out Of Disorder - Cool German thrash but not that aggressive or fast.

Hirax - Immortal Legacy - The first Hirax album I have ever liked. Tons of cool riffs and Katon's vox less annoying than I remember.

Skeptor - United We Stand...Together We Fall - First I've heard of this band and it's pretty good slightly melodic thrash with high pitched vocals.

Space Eater - Passing Through The Fire To Molech - Serbian thrash with nice outta control riffs and vocals.

Suffocation Of Soul - The First Attack - SLightly raw Brazillian thrash with manic speed with a lot of high notes and some tech appeal for those that way inclined.

Suicide Watch - The Alienation Zone (EP) - Just a short ep but fun as hell and almost death metal riffing. An easy headbang sesh!

Tyranex - Unable To Tame - Quite melodic in the music with waspish acid drenched vocals.

Violblast - Permanent Hate - Love to hear a full album from these guys they kick ass. Chunky melodic thrash is what they peddle.

Helstar - The Wicked Nest - Not as good as the last album but still makes the list with ease.

Napalm Storm - Harmless Cruelty - A bit raw and vocals too deathly but music is reasonable thrash.

Algebra - Feed The Ego - swiss tech thrash with lots of bass and loads of cool riffage.

Reek - Necrogenesis - Pretty regular thrash with some cool technical riffs here and there.

Nekrost - The Dark Path - Heavy regular thrash with very decent riffs.

Contorsion - Planet Parasite - Slightly melodic thrash with decent simple riffs with shouted vox.

Demon Prayers - Evoke The Pain - Quality thrash from Greece with a shedload of riffs.

Prematory - Corrupting Influence - Fast and groovy thrash with gang vox.

Reactory - High On Radiation - German thrash with super aggressive speed and sound and awesome angry vox. Should be in the top 25 this!

Poligon - Time - Thick and groovy Russian thrash.

Scared To Death - Fatal Destroyer - Ripping thrash from germany. (vid not available here in the uk)

Pripjat - Sons of Tschernobyl - German thrashers with aggressively voiced acid drinking thrash metal.

Tankard - R.I.B - As if it needed saying. Tankard is a German inbstitution. Didn't like the last album but this is more fun.

Hatriot - Dawn Of The New Centurion. Yeah Exodus is missing from this list. Hatriot is better!

Formis - Mental Survival - Pretty technical jumpy thrash.

Mortal Strike - For the Loud and the Aggressive - Austrian aggressive commando thrash.

Deathblow - Prognosis Negative -Speedy roaring slick thrash.

Nuclear Warfare - Just Fucking Thrash - Raw crossover thrash with the typical stoopid thrash feel.

Fadom - Pantophobia. Slick groovy thrash.

Slam Assault - Purification Through Primitive Torture ep - Fun and simple neck wrecking.

Killer Be Killed - st - Fun supergroup with very catchy melodic tunes and not really a thrash album what the hell.

25. Testimony - The Beast That Prays [ep] - Very talented technical thrash with average howled vox. Awesome bass as well. They should make an album and tighten up the production.

24. Strikeback - Share Your Hate - Clinically produced slick melodic Spanish thrash with loads of venom.

23. Guilty As Charged - Leap Of Faith. Strongly aping 90s Metallica but better!

22. Game Over - Burst Into The Quiet - Raw, fast and aggressive quality Italian thrash.

21. Korzus - Legion - Full bodied aggressive and heavy as hell Brazillian band.

20. Tormenter - Prophetic Deceiver - Well executed melodic thrash fury with plenty of class.

19. Die No More - Elected Evil - UK Metallica fanciers with heavy midpaced tunes from circa Black album era.

18. Space Chaser - Watch the Skies - German bay area styled thrash with hyper fast riffs.

17. Face Down Hero - Product Of Injustice - Justice era Metallica styled pounding.

16. Lost Society - Terror Hungry - Return of youngsters from Finland with some raging stoopid thrash metal!

15. Gross Reality - Overthrow - Awesomely riffed up melodic thrash with classy songs.

14. The Hidden - Fearful Symmetry -  A recent discovery but love it. It's totally outta control and the singer is a mentalist yet clinical as well.

13. Dust Bolt - Awake The Riot - Much much better than their first album which bored me. The young Germans up the ante!

12. Nocturnal - Storming Evil - Blackened melodic thrash with tons of awesome riffs.

11. Alkoholizer - Free Beer...Surf's Up!!! - Typical drunkard crossover thrash but with countless amazing riffs.

10. Lethal Vice - Thrash Converters - Groovy and semi technical thrash with a bundle of awesome riffs.

09. Mekong Delta - In A Mirror Darkly - Not big into these original tech masters but this album has class dripping from every pore.

08. Fatal Mutiny - Existence In Extinction - Greek tech thrash with sharp sound and a huge of array riffs that make you wanna sweat blood!

07. Envenomed - Evil Unseen - Polished melodic thrash with groovy riffs and full on melodic vocals.

06. Revocation - Deathless - Is it death? Is it thrash? More thrash I say. Riffs slayed on this!

05. Arcania - Dreams Are Dead - Proggy melodic thrash with shouted slightly clean vox and a whole heap of cool ideas. Very interesting listen

04. Shrapnel - The Virus Conspires - One of the best new UK thrash bands with full rage and riffs to turn your ears to mush!

03. Alitor - Eternal Depression - Serbian tech thrash aping Death somewhat here and there but with wickedly cacthy riffs all over the shop.

02. Suicidal Angels - Divide and Conquer - My favourite thrash band in the world today. Greek Slayer fanciers are mercilessly awesome and this isn't even their best album.

01. Exmortus - Slave to the Sword - Not actually a full on thrash album but what I would call a neo-classical shredthrash hybrid with raspy vocals. This band blew me away at the start of the year and I've decided to call them my number one based on the number of plays alone. The production on this thing is bloody huge but the riffs, shredding and general mayhem is unsurpassed as well. Love to catch them live one day!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Best death metal albums of 2014

It's been an ok year in death metal in the end after a very slow start. I never thought I would like as many as I have in the end but releases slowly start to build up as the months pass by and the death metal albums list increases in the end. The first part is albums unranked so you can say they are about the same in my estimation though that probably isn't strictly true either but let's just say they are fairly equal. The final 25 I have ranked with youtube links as well. No big words or write ups for each album so let's let the music do the talking this time.

Allegaeon - Elements of the Infinite
Aronious - Truth In Perception
Beyond The Structure - Nauseating Truth
Brewed and Canned - Execute The Innocent
Buicide - Evaluation Machines
Cannabis Corpse - From Wisdom to Baked
Carnivored - No Truth Found
Circaic - False Prophetic Roads EP
Deadtide - Ephemeral EP
Decaying Purity - Malignant Resurrection Of The Fallen Souls
Desecravity - Orphic Signs
Divine Chaos - A New Dawn In The Age Of War
Embryonic Devourment - Reptilian Agenda
Empirine - Oculi (EP)
Ending Quest - The Summoning
Equilibrium - Erdentempel
Equilibrium Falls - In Absence Of A View [ep]
Hazardeur - Rational Gaze
Inhumano - Torturas De Almas Oscuras
NightCreepers - Hreidd
Parasitic Extirpation - Putrid Crown
Pestifer - Reaching The Void
Sectu - Nefarious
Seduced - The Proclamation
Serdce - Timelessness
Volturyon - Human Demolition [ep]
Voodoopriest - Mandu
Witheria - Devastating Return

25. Architect of Seth - The Persistence of Scars -
24. Words Of Farewell - The Black Wild Yonder -
23. Dark Flood - Inverno -
22. Bloodshot Dawn - Demons -
21. Human - Disgusting Greatness Of People -
20. Bloodtruth - Obedience -
19. Alterbeast - Immortal -
18. Beneath - The Barren Throne -
17. Desecration - Cemetary Sickness -
16. Fractal Entropy - Evolution -
15. Decease - Age Of The Covenant -
14. Deconversion - Incertitude Of Existence -
13. Fuck You And Die - Elements of Instability -
12. Id - Philosofia -
11. Irreversible Mechanism - Infinite Fields -
10. Inanimate Existence - A Never Ending Cycle of Atonement -
09. Mors Principium Est - Dawn Of The 5th Era -
08. Mass Infection - For I Am Genocide -
07. Vader - Tibi Et Igni -
06. Seprevation - Consumed -
05. Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase I - Neohumanity) -
04. Septycal Gorge - Scourge of The Formless Breed -
03. Omnihility - Deathscapes Of The Subconscious -
02. Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain -    
01. Soreption - Engineering the Void -      

Thursday, 25 December 2014

My top 50 melodic albums for 2014

It's list time again. As usual I will be doing three separate lists. The first and what I consider the most important list is my top 50 melodic albums for this year. The thrash and death lists will follow in due course. I might add the albums below the top 50 in time as I surely like a heck of a lot more but we need a top 50 for this post in any case.

50. Elvenking - The Pagan Manifesto.
The first Elvenking album I have ever liked. Good stuff if you like your power metal folky and earthy with robust epic melodies.

49. Lords Of Black - st
Heavy Italian power metal from outta nowhere. Cool tunes everywhere with nice powerful vocals.

48. Boguslaw Balcerak's Crylord - Gates Of Valhalla
Polish dude goes all Yngwie on us with good results helped no doubt by vocals from Mark Boals. Good, solid and melodic songwriting always helps too.

47. Twilight Force - Tales of Ancient Prophecies
Unknown Swedish melodic power metal with strong Helloween influence. Vocals traverse the stratosphere on occasion but the songwriting remains sporadically excellent.

46. Amberian Dawn - Magic Forest
New female singer and less symphonic AD but no less song writing skills thankfully and a wonderful production to boot.

45. Iced Earth - Plagues Of Babylon
Definitely not as immediate as Dystopia but I grew to love the power of the album. Definitely one of Schaffer's heaviest and angriest works. Maybe try to bring more melody next time?

44. Brother Firetribe - Diamond In The Firepit
I should have placed this higher but alas space was at a premium. Finnish AOR troops deliver the melodic goods as usual with much grace and pomp.

43. Gamma Ray - Empire Of The Undead
What can one say about Kai Hansen. The guy is a legend no doubt. Even if the GR album isn't something totally spectacular and amazing it is still a must for

any fan of the genre.

42. Winterstorm - Cathyron  
German unknowns deliver the goods on their second album. It's a shame they are not better known in Europe as they have a knack for brilliant symphonic power

metal with choirs galore.
41. Angels of Kings - Kings of Nowhere
Debut UK AOR band deliver the goods and then some. Coming across as mix between Harem Scarem and other UK stalwarts like Ten and Dare. The songwriting is top

notch as are the vocals. Hope they continue onwards and upwards.

40. Edgedown - Statues Fall
Yet another newcomer band from Germany with young members delivering classy melodic power metal with big vocals. Plus they bring the tunes so you can't go

too far wrong there.

39. Edguy - Space Police - Defenders Of The Crown
Edguy won me back with this release. Not saying their last few were that bad but they just didn't hit the melodic sweet spot so to speak but this one brings

me back to a little of the Theater of Salvation era. A definitely positive result from Toby and co.

38. Ancient Bards - A New Dawn Ending
Italian symphonic power metal band deliver a pretty spectacular album with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. If you enjoy the dramatic aspects of

power metal then this band is for you!

37. Freedom Call - Beyond
Another band who lost me but gained me back with this release. This maybe a bit controversial but this could be the best FC album ever! The melodies start to

worm their way into your brain soon enough and your sword is soon raised high!

36. Neonfly - Strangers in Paradise
UK melodic power metal come melodic rockers deliver a superb second record with a wonderful array of styles. Sometimes power and a little progressive and

sometimes AORish. An ambitious work indeed!

35. Crystal Eyes - Killer
I adored the first two albums from these guys and since then they've been good but not great and even the album with the great Daniel Heiman wasn't all that

but now the original singer is back and they've nailed it again. Their best album since the debut signed, sealed and delivered!

34. Galneryus - Vetelgyus
My fave Japanese power metal band ever deliver what I expected. A spectacularly produced melodic shred metal album. Basically they are Dragonforce Japanese

style. New singer Sho produces a superb performance behind the mic, my only wish is he had more confidence to sing completely in English and gain the band a

far wider audience.
33. Hammerfall - (r)Evolution
Hammerfall is back! They got over the dark period and returned to glory, letting the hammer fall mightily once again!

32. Salamandra - Imperatus.
A bloody Czech band in my top 50? Surely some mistake but by golly it's true. These guys delivered a super melodic power metal album with hymns galore in the Helloween style and a surprisingly great vocal performance from the Czech dude. Is he really a Czech dude I wonder?
31. Monument - Renegades
One of if not the best UK Maiden worship band deliver a really awesome throwback album. Take the energy and feel of the first 4 Maiden records and wrap them

up in modern crisp sound with air raid siren vocals on top and you have the perfect combo for classic metal. They deserve to be far bigger than they are

though I'm not sure they'll make it to be honest. Great try though!

30. State Of Salazar - All The Way
Another new AOR band deliver a superb debut album of light and fluffy tunes to please the ear for hours and hours. The singer especially is a real find. That guy can sing and sing and sing till the cows come home and I wouldn't get tired.

29. Overland - Epic
I love Steve Overland's epic soulful voice and his similarly titled solo album is much better than his day job in FM in my opinion. It's more melodic and the backing music is superbly colourful and a joyous ride on a lazy summer day.

28. Sonic Station - Next Stop.
The debut was good but very light but this is something altogether more special. The singer has a superb crystal clear voice and they've beefed up the production no end. Perfect music for those hot summer months to laze around and be happy to!
27. Grand Design - Thrill of the Night
The world's numero uno Def Leppard worship band. The thing is I like this band more than I ever liked Leppard! The production values on this thing are totally amazing. I'm sure they've used every studio knob and trick in the book to make the album sound this good and they're not a big band by any means. The
vocalist's high pitched wail might turn some people off but I've gotten used to him and I enjoy the songs immensely.

26. Bloodbound - Stormborn
Their last album was ok but it wasn't all that really. It was trying a bit too hard and it wasn't coming too natural but this time the metal cheese flows much easier and the band sounds in superb form from singer to drummer and all things in between. The songwriting has also got a strong whiff of Sabaton about it. This may irk many who shout copy but I could care less. If the songs are good I'm as happy as a pig in shit!

25. Savage Messiah - The Fateful Dark
Are they thrash or power. They definitely used to be very thrash but I think they've sort of moved on a little bit to a thrashy shredding power metal hybrid with majestic epic choruses to boot. Front man Dave Silver sounds much more confident in his melodic vocals. The guitars in this band will surely impress the hardest of critics that's for sure and their song writing is at a top level. Next album will no doubt be even more melodic than this one.

24. Audrey Horne - Pure Heavy
For some reason I never got into AH's last album. It was ok but the songs never really clicked with me but when I heard the lead single Out of the City from this album I was clean blown away. It was so melodic and catchy that I was desperate to hear the rest and I wasn't disappointed in the least. The other tunes still had wickedly catchy melodic choruses and wonderfully fluid Lizzyesque guitars. These guys deserve to be much bigger and they could be chart botherers if people gave rock music a chance but alas I know they won't.

23. Unisonic - Light Of Dawn
I liked the first Unisonic album a lot but this is an improvement in every dept. Much heavier and a crisper production with better and more epic songwriting. Maybe Kai saved the best tunes for Micki this time!

22. Noble Beast - st
This US band took me by real surprise when I first heard them on youtube. I love theatrical, epic vocals and by jove this dude had that and then some. The guy sings in a low baritone like he's the lead in a west end musical or something. To top it all off the band done a remarkable Falconer impression musically speaking. So much so that the real thing's album whilst good didn't make this list whilst the copy did!

21. Arion - Last Of Us
A bunch of Finnish youngsters with an impossibly good album for a debut. The sky is the limit from here as far as symphonic power metal goes. As it stands this debut showcases their phenomenal talent perfectly. The singer probably needs to be a touch more confident in his own abilities to take them to the next level of European power metal bands.

20. Voyager - V
Aussie melodic progsters deliver the kind of hooks that I need in my prog. In fact the less proggy it is the more I like it and Voyager definitely focus on melody first and foremost. The massive production also pleases the ears immensely.

19. Free Spirit - All The Shades Of Darkened Light
I loved the debut from this unheralded Finnish AOR band and the follow up is probably even a bit better. The songs are a little heavier and still very catchy and melodic. Any AOR fan will be happy with this album.

18. Ten - Albion
Since they came back they've released two very solid albums but I think Gary Hughes just surpassed himself this time. The production is also the best it has ever been. Gary is one of the best storytelling song writers the melodic rock field has ever known. The guy just knows how to spin a yarn and mix it up with epic melodic rock as backing.

17. Threshold - For The Journey
Like I said I need my prog with actual songs and Threshold is just about the best in the business when it comes to songwriting. Damian Wilson owns this disk as well with his majestic performance behind the mic. Amazing live act too.

16. Seven - 7
An unknown band that never made it the first time round returns to deliver one of the classiest slabs of AOR goodness available this year. The original songs have been hanging around for years but they've been recorded with today's technology and thankfully the album sounds like a million dollars. The songs are
very strong and feature awesome choruses in every single one more or less. If you are a fan of old Foreigner or classic AOR in general then you need Seven in your player.

15. Wolf - Devil Seed
Believe it or not it actually took me about 3-4 plays before I realised this fucking kicked ass. I don't know if I was in a bad mood or had my ears on back to front but I wasn't feeling the songs and melodies at first but then suddenly things started to kick into gear and then some. I loved Shark Attack from the get go but the other songs took a while to warm me up but once they did that was it. Nothing but Wolf for weeks!

14. Astral Doors - Notes From The Shadows
I have loved this band from the very beginning and I continue to love them. Maybe less than the early days when they used to pierce my top 10 regularly but I think this latest offering is about as good as one can expect from these guys after so many albums. They tried their best to make the songs as catchy as possible and in that they succeeded and with a singer like NPJ in your ranks you just cut him loose and let him belt out the hymns which he does with much grit and glory!

13. Night Mistress - Into The Madness
An unknown Polish band comes up out of the blue with a superbly slick melodic heavy metal album very much in the vein of Bruce Dickinson's solo works. The guitar style is quite similar as is the sense of melody that the singer has. His voice is close to Bruce but not completely similar either so that you can still distinguish between the two. The songwriting is above average throughout though there are stand out tracks as well. But for a Polish band with no name in the wider metal community, they have really outdone themselves and it bodes well for a follow up.

12. Primal Fear - Delivering the Black
The German stalwarts keep delivering the goods! I think these days with PF every one knows how the album is going to sound. It's going to sound big and bold. Some songs will pound, others will scream and the odd one will caress. It's all about how you like the songs and in Delivering the Black they definitely hit their stride to produce something to be proud of and one of their best and most melodic albums. Oh and Ralf is just the king of metal vocals these days!
11. Dragonforce - Maximum Overload
The band that most people love to hate but the fans love to love and continue to love and not give a fuck about what the haters think. OK so this is the second album with Marc Hudson and he's made me forget about ZP now. His vocals are a perfect fit for the band and he turns in his best performance yet. The production is also the heaviest and thickest it's ever been. The video gamey sound is really not that prevalent at all. Sure they still write quite fast and their mid pace is still probably most people's uptempo but they never forget about the actual song. The choruses on the new songs are some of their best ever and they have a large catalogue of brilliant ones so credit to them for making probably their best album ever.

10. Riot V - Unleash The Fire
Riot is a band I've pretty much let pass me by in the past. I've liked various songs and albums from the past. I remember liking the Mike DiMeo album of the past but I think the new Riot or Riot V album may be my fave Riot album ever. Probably sacrilege to most but older Riot never hit me as being something orgasmic or legendary but heck I enjoyed this new effort a great deal. Mainly thanks to the new singer's awesome voice. Is he new even? Anyway this guy is just a wicked high pitched yet melodic singer and I like the fact that they didn't forget to write memorable choruses as almost every single song has one. I hope this incarnation continues to deliver more albums of this magnitude.
09. Crosswind - Vicious Dominion
This band came from the proverbial blue to shatter my peace one fine day with their incendiary and heavy melodic take on power metal. The singer especially hit me like a ton of bricks with his melodic yet extremely sharp, soaring voice which effortlessly took centre stage above the clatter and blood spatter of the mayhem going on around him. The guy is probably the best power metal singer I've heard this year bar none. He could have been the new Lost Horizon singer, he's that good IMO. He holds the songs together with his powerful pipes and belts out some spectacularly invigorating choruses whilst his band mates create a whirlwind of power behind. One for the fans of heaviness in power metal!

08. Sabaton - Heroes
Ah my heroes. For they truly are heroes themselves. Sure they've been going to that well seven times now but the well hasn't run dry even yet. The Swedish war machine may not be every ones cuppa but their popularity grows and grows and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. Heroes maybe a very safe album for them but I don't think experimentation and Sabaton really go hand in hand. Maybe try a couple of more epic tunes next time guys just to spice it up a little and don't forget - heroes never die!
07. Within Temptation - Hydra
Is this the best Within Temptation album? I don't know but it's definitely the album that they needed to make. It's got more of everything that the band is known for but it's all been multiplied by a thousand or whatever number you like. Sharon's vocals are the best they have ever been. The rap song is a slight "...ehhh well whatever" moment but the actual song itself is not that bad. The rest of the album sees the band at their very best. This could be a bold statement but probably the biggest European female fronted metal band ahead of Nightwish now. Over to you Mr. H!

06. Stormwarrior - Thunder & Steele  
This was my number one album of this year for a very long time but I decided to drop it down a few places towards the end of the year as I felt other releases had gained preference over it. The album is still a corker of Teutonic German power metal ala Running WIld. There is no hint of a filler track on this album. The singer may not be a technically good singer but his voice is perfect for the band in the sense that Rock n Rolf is perfect for Running Wild. Sacred Blade is one of my favourite songs of the year but on another day it will be something else from this awesome album.
05. Iron Savior - Rise Of The Hero
The previous comeback album (The Landing) from Piet and co was good but Rise of the Hero blows it clean out of the water This is a wickedly catchy heavy metal record up with their best album which I consider to be Unification. The production is thick, loud and screaming and Piet's characteristic vocals are fully maximised to the fore. These are the kind of melodic anthems which I simply love when I'm listening to power metal and Iron Savior are a class apart when it comes to anthems!
04. Kobra And The Lotus - High Priestess
Kobra where have you been all my life and why have I ignored you all this time? OK I didn't ignore them or her completely but their previous album didn't really strike much of a chord with me. But Goddamn High Priestess has remedied this impasse and then some. I completely adore Kobra's voice now. I don't
quite know what it is about her I like so much. She's just got a beautiful way of singing and she enunciates so clearly. I really like to be able to understand lyrics and with many European power metal singers that's nigh on impossible but with singers like Kobra that's not a problem in the slightest. Her band mates have delivered her a classic heavy metal backing with which to weave her magic and every song on High Priestess is a gem make no mistake. The only slight quibble I have is that the production is a bit up and down and could have used a little more heavier guitars. If they sort that out next time and maintain the songwriting skills then that will be one spectacular heavy metal record. Mind you it's going to very difficult to top High Priestess as it is.            
03. Allen-Lande - The Great Divide
Wow the best Allen/Lande album by a country mile! Not that the others weren't good but this is beyond good. It's really something that these two legends of the mic both turn in amazing performances although I just feel Jorn wins this battle or maybe I just like his voice a little more than Russell's. Either way huge credit must go to much maligned Mr Tolkki for not fucking this up like he did his own solo album. We salute you sir for thankfully making this sound good and not shitty. To top it all off the songwriting is very good indeed. I think he wrote most of the songs with Jorn in mind more hence his songs sound just that little bit stronger than Mr. Allen's. Either way the fans win with this masterpiece, one of Tolkki's best recent projects by a long long way. I actually wouldn't mind if Tolkki worked with Jorn on his next solo cd after the Dracula thingy which is coming out soon in 2015.
02. Dynazty - Renatus
From glam metal and rock to modern shiny melodic power metal sheen! Quite a jump and a big leap of faith but wow was it worth it in the end. Sure they will lose a few fans along the way but damn they'll have gained a whole heap more. This really is a spectacular release that hits you like a ton of bricks from the get go. I actually liked both styles of the band so this style change whilst surprising only turned me on to the band even more. The songwriting approach changed with riffs being blistering and faster with a huge melodic edge still in tact. To go with that musical the singer also had to up his game and boy did he do that. The guy literally turns in a phenomenal performance. He doesn't have say the power of a Ralf or the Greek guy from Crosswind but he has an awesome melodic edge and tone to his voice that bring the songs to life. And what songs they are. Incredibly memorable, engaging and hummable long after the song has ended. I do wonder how the next album will turn out with these guys though. Will they pull a step back or will they forge ahead with this melodic modern metal path? We will see but for now Renatus is a fantastically awesome release in it's own right.
01. Work Of Art - Framework
Normally my number one album is likely to be a power metal or a heavy melodic rock album but this year my brain and ears where engulfed by the pure melodic joy that is Sweden's Work of Art. I must admit after the initial plays I thought the album was amazing but not better than In Progress their previous album. I would have probably placed it in the top 10-15 and loved it no less. However as time has gone by this album has been getting constant plays and I mean constant plays. Two or three times in a row in fact. I sometimes wonder what should I play next and I find myself thinking nah I won't play this or play that it's good but I'm bored of it. However with Framework this never happened at all. The urge to reach for it was constant and often. It's all mainly because of singer Lars Safsund. That guy makes me swoon. I still can't even believe his vocals are even real. I'd love to see WoA live one day and see if he can really song that clear and smooth in person. On record the guy is just like velvet candy being poured into your ears. The band is brought to life of course by the brilliant songwriting of Robert Sall. He works on a lot of Frontiers projects but it seems he always saves his best stuff for his own band the cheeky monkey! Not that I'm complaining as like I said this album is my album of the year by a country mile. There is not a single second of this that I find contrived or boring. Even the ballads will capture your heart. Of course it's not the ballads that I'm paying my money for, it's those uptempo swooning rockers and mid temp heart breakers that I'm on about. The best song on the album is the utterly mesmeric Shout Till You Wake Up. I don't know how they will ever top this release but I'm sure Lars and Robert will keep trying for their talent for mesmeric AOR is endless.

Stay tuned for more lists to come!            

Monday, 22 December 2014

GloryHammer - Final gig of the year

After the rocking gig from Four Wheel Drive I was off to the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park the very next day for a night of OTT cheesy power metal goodness courtesy of the Scottish warriors of GloryHammer. Actually I was quite looking forward to this as I've never been to this venue before and was intrigued to see what size it was etc. As I entered the place, I saw a large room basically with seating at one side and a bar opposite with the stage set at one side. It was quite a large room which would probably fill 300 or so before being full. The gig was probably attended by around 200 or so not too bad on the Saturday before Christmas. But power metal fans are a loyal bunch and the turnout was ok in my book.

We had a couple of support bands to get through. First up were Devil Inside. I think I heard these guys on youtube once. It's hard to describe their sound actually. They are sort of a modern melodic metal band with mostly clean vocals and some screams as well. They use the odd breakdown from the emo scene and the look is a bit emo too but they have a lot of keyboards and electronics and I do mean a lot. Their sound is drenched in spacy keys. The singer's voice is ok but nothing special. Their songwriting is fairly boring too. The keyboardist is a wiz on the ivories I give them that but I couldn't find much about them that I liked.

Next up were London based classic melodic metallers Neuronspoiler. Now these guys I like and have heard their previous album from 2013 and like it a lot. They have lots of awesome galloping riffs ala Maiden with high pitched vocals. Much more suitable indeed to the main band. They were very energetic live with the guitarist and bassist constantly switching sides. Special mention to the bass player for being very flashy and having an awesome sound mix so that his clean bass playing can be heard. I enjoyed their set although having not heard their album for a year or so I wasn't all that familiar with any of the tunes. They put on a very good show though with a fiery jumping bean guitarist to boot. I hope to see them again on a London stage and hopefully they'll release a new album soonish as well.

Finally at 9.30pm the GloryHammer team took to the stage complete with the usual stage garb, although with a Christmasy theme this time as the guitarist had a Santa hat and Xmas lights on his body! The party mood was in full effect as the band launched headlong into opener Unicorn Invasion of Dundee with full crowd singalong. Front man Angus McFife to use his band name was in fine voice although so were the crowd as everyone was singing along to every word. They actually played a new song which bodes well for the new album as it was very fast and melodic.

The in between shenanigans always raise a smirk or three from the crowd as it's so cheesy and laughable and yet we all play along like we are true warriors of London town ourselves! The songs continued thick and fast until the penultimate Angus McFife, their best song IMO, followed by the happy go lucky bonus song from the LP, Wizards and it was time to exit. The end was hilarious with the bearskin clad warrior bassist being crowned king with a traffic cone on his head as can be seen in the photos below. Time for a new GloryHammer album methinks! That raps up the gigs for 2014. I attended 25 shows in total which is much higher than the 10 I saw the previous year. Roll on 2015 and first up the mighty Sabaton!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Four Wheel Drive Live at the Underworld

I only heard about this gig about 10 days ago and I came mainly for Lawless the support act, but once I checked out headliners 4WD I realised they were a cool band in their own right. As it turns out this gig is a bit of a watershed for the band as the lead singer explained. For reasons unexplained they have to reboot the band in it's current format and return with a new name. I guess it's some kind of copyright issue with the band name. Any how tonight was a pre-xmas goodbye party for the band a final chance to give it all they've got as Four Wheel Drive before the enforced name change.

First up were Lawless who I've seen on this very stage supporting another band. I forget what gig it was now but I like their previous album and the new one is better still. These guys have a knack for writing cool melodic metal tunes with soaring vocals from the bald headed front man. They only had a 30 minute set and I would have liked to hear more new tunes from them but the awesome title track was at least played. This band remains pretty much unknown and that's a shame as they have talent and song writing skills in abundance to please and fan of melodic heavy metal.

At 8.30 or so the stage was finally ready for 4WD to lay waste and boy did they do that. Their AC/DC on a revved up acid trip had the fairly large Friday night crowd fully rocking out. The audience was quite a diverse bunch indeed from older rockers to some rather young girls. In general though they appeal to the older crowd but their good time heavy riffed boogie tunes went down a storm pretty much. Not being massively familiar with the tunes meant I couldn't get into the songs as much as some who were belting out every lyric but hell the energy coming off from the stage was electric. The hirsute guitarist was a ball of headbanging hair and ripped out riff after riff of molten heavy rock like his life depended on it. One of the most energetic live sets I've seen this year and well worth the £10 or so to get in. I'm glad I made it to the last ever 4WD gig and I look forward to the new version of the band in the coming months.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Morbid Angel Live at the Islington Academy

Two days later and here I am back at the Academy for the mighty Morbid Angel with support as it turns out from Benediction. So from melodic rock to full on death metal with two days and yet I love it all! I haven't actually seen the Morbid ones in quite a long time. I last saw them in 2005 actually so not far off ten years back and a lot has happened since then. David Vincent is back fronting the band which is cool as I feel his vocals best suit the band though they've changed quite a bit over the years. He doesn't sound so ghoulish any more and rasps more with a slightly higher pitch and a clearer pronunciation.

As I walked in Benediction were already just starting and sounded very heavy and it was hard to distinguish the guitars though the PA as the sound mix was quite bad. Slowly things improved and I enjoyed the songs from Transcend The Rubicon most of course. I don't really like too many of the others apart from Grind Bastard which they didn't play. A decent trip into old school death metal from these old stalwarts but I guess their style of songwriting explains why they remained a fairly small band when bands like MA, Death and Obituary or Cannibal Corpse were getting bigger back in the day.

After a fairly lengthy break the stage was finally dimmed and the Morbid ones took to the stage with a huge backdrop and smaller ones behind each guitarist with the imposing Vincent centre stage ready to strike like a poised Cobra. This tour is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album Covenant and to begin with they played the whole album through from beginning to end before playing odd songs from every album of theirs. Covenant whilst a very good album is not my fave MA but it still has some classics on it that totally sounded devillish live. The Friday night death metal crowd was a fever pitch for the Floridians as they launched into the awesome Rapture which has a beautiful slower riff. Trey was on my side of the stage though trying to get a picture of him proved pretty impossible as the moshing and pushing proved a touch too vigorous! I did manage to get a few videos although the sound was a bit too loud though crystal clear.

The band was on superb form and played like a streamlined, ancient death metal machine with metronomic precision. Trey is a guitarist that gives away very few facial expressions whilst shredding but underneath that shock of dark hair lays a very awesome guitarist with his own mesmeric riffing and solo style. I especially like it when he does these wicked spidery riffs where his fingers crawl along the fretboard like a deadly black widow or something! The band ripped through the whole of Covenant like a flash. It seems like they played the fast parts which is most of it hehe.. even faster. The most brilliant moments were Rapture, Lion's Den, Sworn to the Black and the best of the lot was Angel of Disease. I can't get over how awesome that song is with many many killer riffs and changes of speed. Very wicked stuff and the packed out crowd was loving it too. God of Emptiness was fantastic as well with it's very evil and eerie slow rumble.

Sometimes it's forgotten how popular these death metal legends really are and despite the miss step of the last album, the band's fans still treat every note from Trey's guitar like the unholy coming of Beelzebub himself. Existo Vulgore is still a great song from the new album and was played at warp speed. The wickedly sick Where the Slime Live was stupendous as it slithered out of the PA. The ahhha ahhhha parts from Vincent in Immortal Rites were classic and the whole crowd was doing them back at him in that awesome early MA classic. They played close to the allotted curfew time and left with horns high and the crowd baying for more but alas there was no time. I would say as a band Morbid Angel is super strong now and do not even come close to missing the Commando behind the drum kit. The new man Tony Yeung is a tremendous drummer himself and nailed everything down superbly. I was a bit surprised at how amazingly intense and tight the band sounds these. Let's hope this fires them up to make the next record classic Morbid Angel with no experimentations. This was a night to remember classic death metal played veteran masters of the dark arts. The Lava flowed as Trey would say!

HEAT Live at the Islington Academy

A hectic 2 gigs in 3 days as we approach the end of the year with first HEAT and then Morbid Angel two days later. A quick recap for the HEAT gig first followed by the darkly dealings from the legends aka Morbid Angel. This is my second time seeing HEAT this year after being pretty much blown away by them at the Garage earlier on this year. That was one hell of a gig so they had a lot to live up to in the slightly bigger hall that is the Islington Academy. Two supports were up first. Love Zombies who I don't know at all. They played pop light happy punk with a jumping energetic front gal bouncing here there and everywhere. Not really my cuppa but I guess I've heard worse opening bands. At least she was fun to look at and pretty cute too if nothing else.

Next up were muscular modern rock from fellow Swedes Sherlock Brothers. I've actually come across these guys on my travails on the cyberweb quite recently and what I heard was quite palatable but I sort of forgot about them. I didn't know they were the main support for tonight until I got in the venue tonight so I thought cool I get to check these guys live as well before I've heard their album. They were a much more muscular offering than the first band and went down well with the more filled out crowd than Love Zombies. The frontman has an earthy powerful voice and their tunes are built around heavy melodic grooves and big riffage. Vocally the front man has a decent set of pipes and sounds very manly indeed. So if you like your chest beating modern rock with a lot of melodic riffs and coolish choruses then Sherlock Brothers are worth a listen. They were a very suitable warm up act for HEAT as well it must be said.

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The venue had filled out well but I would say it was probably only a half to 2/3 full with plenty of space at the back but standing right in row 2 I could care less about that. I remember the Garage being pretty rammed but it is a smaller place. Anyway I was expecting a hugely entertaining show from the Swedish boys and once again they delivered big time. I don't mean no dis-service to the other guys in the band but it's all about Erik Gronwall as far as I'm concerned. The guys seriously owns the stage and is one of the best front men I've ever seen. And for such a young guy to be that confident in his own ability to sing his ass off and provide a spectacle for the fans takes some guts and deserves immense praise. Of course he still has to have the vocals and he has that in spades.

The guy is a bona fide rock star and then some. If you could bottle that much enthusiasm and energy and sell it the world would be a much happier place. The band of course concentrated on the two albums with Erik mostly which they did last time as well. The songs sound so tight and well played live that you really get into it more than you would playing the album at home. In fact Tearing Down The Walls which I consider inferior to Address The Nation comes into it's own when the songs from it are played live. There's just a bit more oomph and purpose to it all and the crowd feeds off of it big time. There wasn't a single moment in the set that felt wasted or pedestrian in anyway. The band plays with smiles on their faces throughout and with a front man like Erik you just cut him loose and the crowd is just putty in his hands. Two amazing gigs this year from HEAT a band you can never take your eyes off when it comes to live performance.