Tuesday, 30 December 2014

IF YOU MISSED IT: NEW! Marilyn Manson single Deep Six

Industrial/Goth pioneer Marilyn Manson is at it again, He has released his second single from his upcoming album The Pale Emperor. Ryan Sweeney gives us his opinion on the single Deep Six  

Those of you who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s have heard of this man, his lyrics, his stage presence and his image have garnered him both fame and infamy around the world. A poet, a monster, a rebel and a cult leader have all been used to describe him but what about the music? His best work occurred during the 1990s dropping influential records such as Portrait of an American Family and Antichrist Superstar, the influence of these records can still be felt today especially among goth culture which seemed to have gained a new icon in Manson. His work in the 2000s was very hit and miss but despite all that he's maintained many of his devoted follows and is still selling out arenas and festivals around the world. Is the new single an ill omen of things to come? Or is it a sign things are heading back in the right direction?

The song opens with opens with a hypnotic Nirvana-esque riff, and a rock beat so simple you can't help but nod your head along to it and Manson's distinctive vocal style whispering the opening verse to us before an explosion of shredding guitars heralded by Manson's distinctive yell. The riffing all over this song is sublime it really does carry the song itself, one of the things I've always appreciated about Manson is his ability to take what is essentially Pop music structure and apply it to a Rock/Metal environment, this is why a lot of his songs are catchy and so easily accessible for young people to get into, it's that methodical repetitive riff that is the reason this song will prick the ears of a lot of folk and it's a damn good riff at that. Under the riff we have this ploddingly methodical industrial drum and bass complimenting everything and creating those moments where you just start nodding your head before you even realize your doing it, it all has a slight fuzz to it as well, really showing that Manson can go back to his Industrial roots. The lyrics are good, again this is a promotional single designed to get onto radio and peak peoples attention I don't think lyrics were the focus, but they work and Manson's vocals are still as they always have been and that's a great thing he has his distinct tone and it rocks.

In short, do I like the single? Yes
I enjoyed my time with the single, it's a good solid promotional single, it works it shows us that Manson is taking this seriously and that the Antichrist of Rock 'n' Roll still has bite left in him and if its any indication of what the new album is anything like we're in for a cracker! On the other hand I don't feel like the single is anything more than a promo, is it going to be a song we hold up there with The Beautiful People or Personal Jesus, I don't think so, it doesn't have much to say for itself and it's not really the next big rock anthem, but we should take it as it is, a step in the right direction for one of Alt/Metal/Goth's most enduring figures.

Listen to the song here:

New Album available for pre order now
Marilyn Manson: The Pale Emperor

R. Sweeney (@Catiouscrip)

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Metal Albums of 2014: Part 3-The End.

Hurrah, we have done it! We have all become Bilbo (Or Frodo) we undertook an epic journey to save the world from the truama of bad music, specifically bad metal music and we finished it, we went there....and back to find the top 20 metal albums of 2014, you can find the first part of our journey here and the second part can be found right here, and here below these very letters is the final instalment, so hop to it and get'a reading!

 5. Anaal Nathrakh-Desideratum

Hailing from Birmingham, Anaal Nathrakh are a black metal band, though not the purist of black metal bands, fusing electronic sampled elements, and industrial-esc wall of noise, while picking up parts of grindcore and death metal. Anaal Nathrakh are not for the faint hearted. Their 8th Studio Album “Desideratum” released on Metal Blade Records in October is brutal to an extreme.
The album kicks off with “Acheronta Movebimus” an instrumental track, that uses electronic voices, glitchy samples, and over driven bass to set an eerie ominous tone that ramps up the tension before we’re treated to a drum breakdown and a chugging guitar riff that only serves to switch the eerie presence into a threatening one.

Finally the album switches into the next track, the aptly named “unleash” that snaps through the tension with uncompromising blast beats and sets the “in your face, all day” speed, that this album will now continuously punch you with. Anaal Nathrakh continue with their unrelenting pace throughout, though the album does offer a few standout tracks.

“Monstrum in Animo” is a sterling track, sneaking in on the track 3 spot, with a vocal sample “due to some violent content, parental discretion is advised” Then the riffing starts and this track just shreds before splitting open with a wall-to-wall distortion and glitching samples. For me this is THE track of the album, and perhaps the track that best shows Anaal Nathrakh’s fusion of black and industrial metal. Blast beats are in high order here, as are black-metal’s high pitched screams, and death metal growls- the guitar is a swirling tone of “high” black metal sound, the type most often found in melodic black metal. The simple but effective solo that kicks in around the 2:20 mark kicks the song back into its brutal blast beat fury, which brings the song to a close.

“Sub Speicie Aeterni (Of Maggots and Humanity)” builds on the same premise of the rest of the album, and does so fantastically. It starts with a filtered, break sample that might not sound too out of place in a drum and bass track, before kicking into gear “heavy metal.” The wailing guitars and chugging riffage found in this track would not seem out of place in a stoner, or groove metal track, but its accompanied by distortion and the devilish vocals that the rest of the album holds dear. The guitar work on this track is great, and the element of groove really helps to lift this track, and hold it above the others. The solo is just the icing on the black soulless cake.

Monstrum in Animo

4. Machine Head-Bloodstone and Diamonds
Bloodstone and Diamonds sees Machine Head continue to progress their sound that took root with “The Blackening” gone is the stripped back pure thrash Machine Head of “Burn My Eyes” and in its place and its place is a progressive death metal sound, complex rhythmical patterns, and almost conceptual lyrics.

The album was released on November 7th, through Nuclear Blast, and debuted at #21 on the Billboard Chart, becoming the bands highest ever charting album. This high charting was also met with critical acclaim much of which was attributed to the experimentation that took place on the album, but was not done so at the cost of its brute force, and stomp.

The album kicks off with one of its stand out tracks “Now We Die” the track builds up with a string section, before Rob Flynn shatters the silence by screaming “with this now we die!” before the kick drum begins to thump through the mix, and the groove laden riffs layer over the top. The chorus sees the string motif from the intro enter the composition again. The solo in the bridge is fantastic, showing musicianship, and song progression unlike many of their peers. It could be argued that the lyrical content of this track, especially the chorus is an “old to new” type message. This is a statement track, experimental song writing, orchestral motifs, a technical clinic and Rob Flynn spitting the lyrics with gusto, right from the start, there was no mistake in placing this first. Machine Head are here!

The next stand out track I’ve picked is “Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones.” I picked this one because I feel that the harmonic intro, and guitar sound is similar to that of “Davidan” from Burn My Eyes, along with the hauntingly spoken lyrics that are reminiscent to a lot of Flynns early work. This is a harkening to a Machine Head past, but wielded with maturity and experience that they have gained since those days and it bridges the gap perfectly.

The dirge like “Sail into the Black” is my favourite track on the album. The opening chant is a fantastic way to hook the listener in, and pulls it off with creepy expertise. The build-up bravely runs for around 4:10 layering a mixture of dirge chants, Rob Flynn’s spoken vocals and atmospheric harmony, this really would not be out of place as intro to a black metal album. Finally, the distortion begins to get turned up on the guitar, before the before drum hits begin to march through the beats (again building on the feeling of death/dead and funeral marches.) It might also be worth mentioning continues the “beneath the waves/oceanic” motifs that are sewn into the album. At last Rob Flynn screams through the tension and kicks the song off into what I can imagine will be a floor filler, seriously do not get caught in the pit for this one!

Finally there is “Beneath the Silt” I feel that this is the most aggressive, and groove constructed track on the album. The opening riff reminds me of one time Machine Head contemporises Pantera. From there, the song stomps on with its straight up aggression, it doesn’t do much special, but what it delivers it delivers with precession. The song also continues along the lines of the oceanic motifs. However, lines like “waves crashing inside my brain” suggest that this is a song about mental turmoil, perhaps feeling lost beneath the waves of depression, about feeling like you have lost it all “beneath the silt.” Either way, this is another strong track in a well written, and produced album a definite step in the right direction.   

3. Black Crown Initiate- Wreckage of the Stars

Black Crown Initiate, remember the name-these guys are a band with a huge dose of potential. They stormed on to the scene in 2013 with their EP release “Song of the Crippled Bull.” Now the eagerly awaited full-length album “The Wreckage of the Stars” has landed amidst the releases of 2014 and it is everything we hoped. Black Crown Initiate are another entry from the Death Metal camp, we find them in Pennsylvania. They appear to be a band that can do it all, offering up a mix of genres to create a sound similar to early Opeth, but different enough to be their own brand and if this album is any indication, it is a brand of Death Metal, we will be hearing for a long time.

The album is a melting pot of genres, and a bevy of solid tracks. Tracks like “The Malignant,” “Withering Waves” and “Purge” offer up that Opeth comparison fusing the harmonic, melodic instrumentation and clean sung vocals, with the visceral stomp of blackened death-metal. However, 
“To the Eye That Leads You” is a straight up black-metal track, searing inhaled growls, distortion and blast beats meets groove laden riffs to create an alarming track that might be the “sleeper” on this album punching through the more complex songs to deliver to deliver a mosh-pit classic.  

The title track, “Wreckage of the Stars” kicks off with a soft, almost acoustic melody, while a distorted harmonic riff whines in the background before a drum hits, and the riff now crushes its way through giving way to an off kilter, jazzy drum section. The atmosphere is continued to be built through a burbling melody as the drumming becomes more and more frantic before settling down to the same motif that hooked the intro. Eventually, and mercifully the song explodes after letting you sink into the melodies like the titanic into the ocean. Screamed vocals tear through the tension as if ripping through the seams of another realm, before being repeated again in hauntingly clean fashion.

I have said before, and I shall keep saying it until the sun turns black; this band, is a band to watch. This début album is very, very exciting.

2 Insomnium-Shadows of the Dying Sun

Melodic Finnish metalers Insomnium offer us there fifth studio album. Clocking in at just over an hour, it’s a fair assumption that Insomnium will have to work hard to keep the listener engaged. However, it is just as fair to suggest that they manage it. The music they write straddles the death metal, and melodic metal spectrums perfectly. Resulting in an emotional, and evocative mix of death metal aggression, and melodious music, or harmonic clean slung vocals. Sublime may appear a strong word, but it fits here-an album that will stand the test of time, and reward the listeners attention for years to come.

This a moody album with a flair for melody and hooks, the album kicks off with the atmospheric “The Primeval Dark” which is effectively a glorified intro track. But, the atmospheric tones help the listener sink into the experience that they are about to have, thus-it is an intro track that does its job astonishingly well.  This is then complimented by the very catchy “While We Sleep” which kicks off with its hook riff, which I find myself humming for days after listening. While some may point to the bright high end harmonic solo that finishes off “While We Sleep” as the high point here, I would disagree.  I also love the clean vocals here, which sound as though there is more than one vocalist singing in harmonic unison, not something you hear often in metal and it gives the track a spectral and unique power. The two tracks flow together very well, and begin a very tight and melodious album in exactly the manner you would expect.  

From here it begins to get very hard to pick out favourite tracks, especially since they are all of a high quality, although some could be accused of sounding similar. “Black Heart Rebellion” kicks off with some amazing drumming, and some solid sounding kicks, before drifting into the embrace of more high-end harmonics and an almost galloping riff accompanied by death metal vocals. “Lose to Night” is a touch similar to “While We Sleep” if a little more down tempo, another catchy hook and ghostly sounding vocals take you on a journey through melody. I particularly love the chorus, which is full of power and sounds like it should be the sound track to some epic high-fantasy moment.

“The River” continues in this vein and by now I am beginning to curse Insomnium for creating an album with so many catchy hooks that it is difficult to pick a favourite. However, “The River” is a fantastic track, taking the listener on a journey as they meander through various moods and styles, from the sweeping harmonies, to the crushing drums and choir-like layered vocals. If I had to pick a standout track this maybe it, a little bit of everything that the album offers.

The title track “Shadows of the Dying Sun” is a darker track, with a much more down tempo intro. There is still the brighter high end harmonic guitar that slices through, which is actually similar to the “80s” guitar sound that Opeth use a lot these days. Eventually brooding spoken vocals give way to growls, and eventually the spectral harmonic chorus is back. It’s another stunning track, but to be blunt offers no break from the song writing, which by this time has become rather formulaic, but no less accomplished. As I said above, this is an album that unravels more of itself with each listen, and will be a favourite in my collection for some time.

1 Electric Wizard-Time to Die

In my opinion, Electric Wizard have been the fathers of English doom metal, ever since Black Sabbeth became a stage show that Sharron Osbourne wheeled out to pay her next bill. Releasing their first album in 1995 and getting increasingly better since-with Dopethrone and Black Masses standing out from their previous work.

Time to Die is a return to that form, Electric Wizard have never been one to stray away from the stereotypes that often get thrust upon metal; “metal music is evil,” “metal music is the devils music” Electric Wizard take those stereotypes, and play to them perfectly, forcing them back down the throats of those who spout them.

Time to Die is a dark album that flexes its evil intentions expertly. For me, the “evil” here, feels more real and menacing than it does in the Black Metal offerings, which might have something to do with the distorted, riffy haze through which it is projected.

Songs like the opening Incense for the Damned which opens with a sample of news reports pertaining to “satanic activities” before crushing distortion and military-esc “march of the damned” style drums build up the tension. Finally Liz Buckingham cuts though it with a chugging Tony Iaomi-like riff, before vocalist Jus wails out, like the cursing of a damned soul “You say drugs are evil/But your world seems worse to me/I don't give a fuck about anyone/Or your society. It is outcast nihilism at its best, and kicks off the album beautifully. 

“I Am Nothing” takes all of that nihilism and lays it underneath an oscillating riff that, honestly destroys my consciousness, it is almost impossible to resist spacing the fuck out, while your brain is drenched with the sound of a melting ambulance, or at least one in terrible pain. Again Jus plays the part of the tortured puppeteer, as lyrics and vocals seem to be pulled from his fibres “they think themselves Gods/ Now are they free?/ Mindless slaves to their lusts and technology” stretches out from the void, damning modern life, and the cult of the byte. Musically, this track is just one thick tar pit of filth and distortion creating an impending sense of a damning apocalypse and by all that is unholy, it is beautiful!

“Lucifer’s slaves” is another rich stew of drugs, Satan, and that seductive narcotic that is nihilism. Another pus filled wound, dripping with sticky distortion, and another bout of brain soup. This is the last song Justin has to address his fans, since the actual album closer is instrumentation. As such I feel that it is quite touching that his final words for this album were “die…DIE…fuck…YOU!” Ahh Justin, we love you too!

Time to Die is an album that does what all good music, and great albums do. It is an album that transports me. How it does that, or where it takes me will depend upon my mood, sometimes it’s an album that helps me thrash everything out, other times it’s an album that I ponder to and on other occasions it’s an album I space-out to, forget everything and suddenly realise an hour has passed. This is Electric Wizard at their finest. 

Incense For The Damned

So there you have it folks! Now I get to look forward to lots of new music in the brand spanking new year! Love and peace!

Gary. L. (@thewheelbear)

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Monday, 29 December 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Florida punk outfit Against Me! were a breath of fresh air when they surfaced in the early 2000's. Their anarchic and rebellious lyrics were like a bomb in the heart of a music scene over saturated by dull Pop Punk and even duller Post-Grunge, with albums such as Crime, Reinventing Axl Rose, As The Eternal Cowboy and Searching For A Former Clarity, (the latter being the first of the bands albums to make the Billboard 200) were some of the more exciting, albeit very underground, records released at that time and I can't recommend them enough to anyone wanting to get into the Alternative or slightly more underground rock scenes, they are accessible to new listeners while still retaining the spirit and edge of the genre. I love these records.
However as the bands popularity rose they began to lose some of that edge I loved from the early records, they just felt like they had become another over produced rock band with records like New Wave and White Crosses. Don't get me wrong I think these records have some fantastic tracks Because of the Shame, I Was A Teenage Anarchist and Thrash Unreal come to mind, I just felt a lot of the edge I liked from the earlier stuff was missing and it was a little too clean around the edges. That said if you do wish to give these albums a listen may I recommend White Crosses/Black Crosses? It's White Crosses with acoustic versions of all the songs found on the album, I appreciated the album a lot more after hearing these, they felt more raw and took the songs to a new level.

Now onto the matter at hand Transgender Dysphoria Blues. I'm sure that many of you know that vocalist Laura Jane Grace (birth name Thomas Gabel) openly came out as transgender in 2012 (I'm not going to go into too much detail because this is an album review but we here at Musical Chairs support her decision and wish her all the best.) As the name suggests a main theme of the album is gender dysphoria and some of the difficulties associated with it, this is prevalent on the tracks Drinking With The Jocks, the title track and True Trans Soul Rebel. Listening to these tracks though it never felt preachy or all up in your face lyrically, they are well crafted and clever songs with some fantastic lyrics and some great instrumentation. Speaking of great lyrics one of the highlights of the album for me was the slower acoustic track Two Coffins, Laura's vocals on this track are absolutely mesmerizing especially with that slow strumming acoustic guitar over the top which is complimented with this ringing ride cymbal played underneath it all it's certainly a track that sticks with you. Lets not get too caught up with just the lyrics and vocals on this album, Laura Jane Grace and James Bowman's guitar work is a great example of riffing which at its heart is fundamental but serves the music perfectly, the same can be said about new drummer Atom Willard playing exactly what each song needs him to play, when the song requires soft ride work he provides it and when it requires big he produces big, and for you bass heads out there you'll be glad to hear Fat Mike (of NOFX fame) and his unmistakable tone on some of the tracks providing a pulsing low end where you can almost feel every note. If I only had one major gripe with the album it's that a few of the tracks seem to meld together and get brushed over by the major tracks on the album, you can tell which tracks were given the most attention which is a little disappointing but it can be overlooked due to how incredible most of this album is.

This is a definite return to form for Against Me! hopefully giving new life to this band and a waning Alt Rock scene, if you are a fan of the band you definitely need this record, if you're a fan of Alternative Rock give this album a go and if you are just getting into the scene or want something new to listen to I will wholeheartedly recommend this band and this album.     

Recommended Tracks:
  • True Trans Soul Rebel
  • Two Coffins 
  • Dead Friend
  • Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ
  • Black Me Out
Review by: R. Sweeney (@Cautiouscrip)

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Top Metal Albums of 2014 Part 2

Still hanging in there? Wondering what musical mystery spot we will be stopping at this time? Well hop on and lets take this ride, while we discover yet more albums of the year, as divined by me. Part one can be found here.

10. At the Gates-At War With Reality

Oh At The Gates! How the metal world has missed you. It has (had) been nearly 20 years since At The Gates Slaughter of The Soul was released. As such there was a vast amount of excitement and trepidation when the Swedish melodic death metal act released their promo video for their new album At War with Reality. I feel that they delivered what was expected, releasing a fine album that continues where they left off with Slaughter of The Soul it is a stripped down death metal album hitting all the “style” points of the genre, Tomas Lindberg keeps his screeching vocals here too. Due to the stripped out nature, and lack of progressive song writing, or musicianship, there is almost a thrashy quality to this album once again. Yet, despite their lack of crafty song writing, or progressive genre bending found in either The Red in The Sky is Ours, or Terminal Spirit Disease At The Gates prove why they are the band that led the way, a no thrills album, but no less thrilling.

9. Falloch-This Island, Our Funeral

Hailing from Scotland, Falloch are an interesting blend of sounds, which I am so happy I discovered this year. They take folkish elements, mining their Scottish roots, and mix that in with blackened metal, and melodic soundscapes. Together, this creates a beautiful haunting album that perfectly invokes rolling hills, and misty skies. A dreamy album to grab a hot beverage, and get lost in and providing something different in the genre. If I had to point out something it doesn’t do well, it’s simply intensity, but there are other bands that have that covered!

8. Arch Enemy-War Eternal

Swedish death metal act, Arch Enemy answered the question that hung over them emphatically. Just two weeks after the band announced their intention to release War Eternal the at the time singer Angela Gossow released a statement that she would be stepping down as vocalist, and welcomed her replacement Alissa White-Gluz, who had been personally head-hunted by Gossow. From this point on, questions would hang over the album. How would Gossow’s departure affect the band? Would White-Gluz be able to deliver what was needed on vocals?
The album was released by Century Media in June, while I admit I haven’t followed Arch Enemy that much-I am familiar enough with their work to happily say that they have not missed a step. White-Gluz does a fantastic job with the vocals, proving she can hang with some of the better death metal vocalists. The song writing provides some memorable hooks and riffs, and everything sits together as an album nicely, in places the guitar work almost threatens to burst into a power-metal-esc riff, but I guess that would always be a danger with more melodic play styles. The production is of similar quality, with everything being given its own place in the mix, but nothing really shines through. A fine and tightly crafted album which sees in the new era of Arch Enemy and White-Gluz rather handily. I for one cannot wait to see where this new look Arch Enemy goes now that they have Jeff Loomis drafted in on guitar.

7. Job for A Cowboy-Sun Eater

Sun Eater is another one of those no thrills, yet solid death metal albums. While it does enough to be considered here and maybe stand as one of the better albums the genre has offered recently; certainly deserving its place in a list albums that would show burgeoning musicians how to construct music for the genre, it does not redefine or break any moulds.
However, that is not a slur to the album, or the work of JFAC. This album shows a great progression, in fact this is the first time I have invested both time and money into this band and it is entirely because of this album. Initially I dismissed them and their earlier work because they were just “another deathcore band” in a genre that was already bloated with cookie-cutter music, so I dismissed them without even a care, or a listen. I am here to atone for that-in fact as I write this, their early work now plays in the background.
Although this new release steps away from the “deathcore” label, and moves more towards “technical death metal.” Riffs that wonder various musical virtues with an almost “progressive” mastery, groove laden bass underpins the whole album, with a production value that is blissful-in fact, in some songs, Nick Schendzielos’ bass playing really steals the show and guttural vocals punch through the mix. Yet, if this album has one quality in spades, it is that it is relentless. That is not to say that it is wall to wall blast beats, or double kick. It is more to do with the pacing of the album, the first few tracks do a good job of allowing the listener to digest what is going on, and become acquainted with what might come and as a whole, the album never seems to go off track, while it might not be filled with 5 star tracks, there is no single track that feels out of place, or bad.

6. Lantlos-Melting Sun

Lantlos are another band whom I only just discovered this year.  They are a blackgaze band, that is-a band that fuses black Metal and shoegaze. critcs tell me that their earlier work has many more “metal” highlights, though I have been too infatuated with this album to venture back through their previous work. Right off the bat, I want to say that I love this album, it manages to meld the dense song structures, and the aggressive entropy of black metal, with the abstract, trance inducing textures and soundscapes of shoegaze. The whole experience feels divine, and I don’t mean that in the superlative sense. The album simply adheres to the “anticipation” build up creating a series of trippy crescendos that ascend the listener to their triumphant euphoric place, guided there by the meandering vocals that add beautifully to the darkening melodious world they were crafted within. (The album art is also really pretty)

So there you have it, another set of 5! I want to wish you all a Happy Christmas and I shall see you not too long after once I have sobered up enough to deliver my final five. Part 3 can now be found here

Keep Rocking \m/
Gary (@thewheelbear)

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Top Metal Albums of 2014: Part 1

I realise it may well come off as a little self important to make the opening post here a "best of" post. But fuck it! It's that time of year, and everybody with a keyboard are posting their opinions on the internet to be gawked at by your very peppers! So without further ado, I give you my list of this years best 20 albums, starting from 20 and on to 1.

20. Gazpacho-Demon
Ok, Im gonna have to be honest here, and say that strictly speaking these guys aren't quite “metal” but more of a “prog rock/alt rock” bent. However, the album is great, in fact only scoring so low because…well this is a metal list. But, I loved it enough and reasoned that with other melodic releases being here, and the latest offering from Opeth, also not quite hitting the “metal” mark-they deserved to be listed.

So with that out of the way, what can we expect? Well like the name, Gazpacho take a host of sounds and styles, and mix them forming a veritable “soup” of prog rock, and moody notions, essentially, if 90s Radiohead, hooked up with a prog band, and sang about fantastical themes, with a depressive nature.....erm....Yeah, thats Demon. 

The album contains 4 tracks. Although, some of those are separated into parts, so numerically there are more. The album manages to make the complex musical themes and song structures seem easily accessible to the listener, every time I listen to this album, I find something new to marvel at.

19. Animals as Leaders-Joy of Motion

Progressive-death metalists and technical musician masters, released their third offering of jazz fused death metal, in March with Sumarian Records- The Joy of Motion. For those who don’t know, Animals As Leaders, are a 3 piece instrumental band. They operate as a tight trio, creating complex rhythmical music that transcends genres.
However, I will concede that you may have to “get” music, or be a little bit of an audiophile (music nerd) to fully appreciate the album and what is going on here. At times it does seem that songs may be missing hooks that would go a long way to make the album much more accessible to the casual listener. But, it still could be consdiered one of the better metal albums of the year and I would heartily recommend it to any fan of music, metal-head or not.

18.  Opeth-Pale Communion    
Opeth are a divisive band, who spark much debate these days, about who they are and what their music is. Personally, while they still play their more heavier back catalogue live, thus proving they are still capable metal musicians, they are still a metal band. But, there are those who would disagree, thus for sake argument and a lack of metal songs on the album, this release scores lower than it might.  

Essentially, Opeth are two bands; there is the black metal Opeth, with crushing black metal riffs, and technical death metal drumming, brutal death metal growls, and a pace that can verge from blistering blast beats to slow down trudging doom metal riffs that wallow on every note. Or, there is the other Opeth, a progressive Opeth, that would not go amiss in a golden-era record collection, evoking the early days of prog, with King Crimson, Yes, or Genesis. This melting pot of music is always pulled off with a jazzy flair, that has a lounge quality to it. Yes it is fair to say that Opeth are as diverse, as they are divisive, but you cannot dispute the musicianship that this band has within its midst, and so on the weight of that alone, it is perhaps no surprise that they find their way into this list.

17. Hail Spirit Noir –Oi Magoi

I only just discovered Hail Spirit Noir this year. Hailing from Greece, they have a very interesting take on the black metal. The band takes the usual expectation of frosty, desolate and dark black metal and instead delivers the message of Lord Satan in warm toasted buns, and classy on the rock spirits….laced with LSD.
Melting black metal with avant garde psychedelic -rock and jazzy/lounge styling’s creates an interesting enough mix. But, add into that the eclectic and off the wall vocal styling’s that differ from song to song and you have a sunny Satanic journey you just cannot help but enjoy. Don't worry, if you are still scratching your head and wondering if you should spend your hard cash on this album (and you should) then perhaps it would help if I gave a point of reference. To put it simply, this band sounds like the love-child of hey-day progressive, trippy Pink Floyd and Pop/Rock black metal theatrical studs Ghost.

16. Novembers Doom –Bled White

Doom metal merchants Novembers Doom (plus points for creative naming), offer up their latest album Bled White. I find this to be a fairly solid album, nothing too grand, nothing lacking. What I do like in this album, is the dramatic flair the melodic touches, the clean vocals and personalised lyrics that are dealt with. The album still  has touches, and moments that show the death metal side of this band. Though, the melodic side of the album does not compare to Insomnium, or Opeth, and the death metal side does not compare to Machine Head, or Job For A Cowboy it is the sense of drama that keeps this album alive and on the list,well worth the listen.

15. Speticflesh-Titan

Atmospheric Greek death metal act Speticflesh, give us Titan. Again I admit this is the first time I have come across this band, though I can happily say it will not be the last. This is death metal with all the zazzr of symphonic gothy broodiness, safe to say that some of the riffs here would not be out of place in a horror soundtrack. This album indeed lives up to its titanic name, with intricate orchestral arrangements, and a bone shattering drum pace, that is held throughout, the vocal delivery is truly dark and otherworldly, a solid addition to any Metal collection. Although, like The Satanist I feel this is a grower, I am a fan already. But, I look forward to being able to give this more time. 

14. Behemoth-The Satanist

Polish blackened death metal giants Behemoth got this year off to an evil start with their immense album The Satanist. The Satanist was released on February 3rd and has received much critical acclaim, universally being considered one their better albums in recent times. For me, this album was a grower, one I have come to appreciate more in the last half of the year, than I did in the beginning and it only seems to get better with every listen.

13. Decapitated-Blood Mantra

Another fine release from a band who have struggled with tragedy. I admit to never actually knowing the band in their “hey-day” only really latching on to them at the back of “The Carnival is Forever.” However, reviews, and critical opinion tells me (us) that these fine Polish folk were awash with potential and talent in their earlier times, before an auto-mobile accident that injured 2 members of the band, Drummer Witold "Vitek" Kiełtyka and vocalist Adrian "Covan" Kowanek. Vitek was tragically killed by his injuries, leaving many wondering where the band would go. The band came back triumphantly with the already mentioned, and perhaps aptly named “The Carnival is Forever” which has a "the show must go on" feel about it. Decapitated go from strength to strength now though, and have built on that with their latest offering Blood Mantra.

12. Eyehategod-Eyehategod

Quintessential NOLA sludge rockers are back with their first album in 14 years. Released in Europe in May through Century Media. The album keeps that typical punk-metal fusion, with all the swing groove of the blues and soul based music found in New Orleans, creating what frontman Mike Williams simply terms “heavy blues”
During the time between albums, the band has been hit with an astonishing amount of ill fortune. Battered and buried beneath hurricane Katrina, crippled by addiction, and made to serve jail time, then of course there was the passing of their drummer Joe LaCaze in 2013, LaCaze recorded the album, but has since been replaced by Aaron Hill. When you mix these elements together, it is perhaps no surprise that the album crafts its influences and styles into a spear point of raw emotion.

11. Trap Them-Blissfucker

I think if an album were to win a “crustiest/grimiest album of the year” it would be this one. Trap Them were apparently once a prolific band, though I admit to only stumbling across them this year. If I had to nut-shell their work, it would be that they are a sludge band with a grindcore bent. As such their work is wall-to-wall distortion, and has the aggression of crusty hardccore punk. Yet, do not let that fool you, this album still holds the mood, and off-kilter riffs one might expect from a solid sludge release. Great album.

So, there you have it, my hastily edited, booze soaked opinions. If you agree, hurrah, we can be friends (but no touching) if you don't please at least stick it out for the whole 20 before sending me death threats. Speaking of which, the next 5 will be following in a couple of days. 

Part 2 can now be found here and part 3 in this sexy spot
Keep rocking! 

Gary (@thewheelbear)

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