Author Archives: mk

mk’s 2014 Non-Metal Top 10

3. Wolfmother – New Crown

Who knows what Stockdale was up to with his ‘I’m going my own way’ solo announcement. Perhaps he realised the cash-cow he had under the Wolfmother name. In any case, it didn’t take long for a Wolfmother release. On that, lets be honest this is what you would expect from a Wolfmother release, although perhaps a little more 70’s laden guitar sound. His vox is quite similar. All up a good listen that shouldn’t disappoint fans.

2. Shihad – FVEY

A tough choice for 1st v 2nd. This could easily be number one. Am continually impressed at each record these guys put out. Very little in the way of a stock sound (but you can tell it’s Shihad if that makes sense). So then you need to make a different sound interesting still to the fans, and these guys keep doing it time after time.

1. Chevelle – La Gárgola

Thankfully a return to form – the abrasive, in your face sound telling you they aren’t happy with the world and they have something to say about it. Their ‘slower’ songs while I appreciate the need to calm things down every now and then, I don’t particular appreciate. Thankfully this record isn’t soaked with them, nor that very commercial sound they had on their last record.

Non-Metal – Honourable Mentions

Black Label Society – Catacombs Of The Black Vatican

I’ll start by saying I am disappointed this didn’t make my non-metal top10 list when each year I struggle to get 10 records together. In all honesty I think this is a step backwards on previous releases. So why is it in my Honourable Mentions? Because I can’t let go M’Kay!!!

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

I get very nervous when I read song titles that end in ‘Feat ’. This aligns with today’s pop stars that can’t write or sing a song on their own so they pay someone else to ‘Feat’ in their song. Like ‘Dr Dre feat Snoop Doggy position dog or whatever he is called these days’. In any case, I digress – the story behind this record is quite honourable of Grohl. He’s pulled in musicians from every location visited and used inspiration from these locations in writing the record. Question is – does it make a good record? I hate to say it, but like every record they have released over the past 10 years (4 of them), it’s not in the dishonourable bucket – it just is what I’d call safe music for the die-hard fans. It’s not ground breaking and it’s not catchy. It’s STOCK!!

Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars

I won’t be rude – this gets an honourable as it isn’t all that bad. Call this a victory to you Guitarzan – I finally have listed a JC record in my top10 list. It’s un-offensive, smart in his lyrics – a poet indeed.

mk’s 2014 Metal Top 10

10. In Flames – Siren Charms.

I feel like I’ll need to justify such an entry. I have not taken a great deal of interest in these guys until their previous ‘playground’ effort where they seemed to make a deliberate attempt to change their sound to a more ‘acceptable’ (no that doesn’t mean radio friendly by any means) level. In any case, this follows on from that catchy effort which for some reason appeals to me. Think a Deftones like sound.

9. Eyehategod – Eyehategod

Do you enjoy some nasty steel filings in your wheatbix and milk each morning? If not, go sit with your poser friends in a corner while they eat some ‘smashed’ avocado (seriously??). Listen up to this NOLA fans and tell me you don’t like what the EHG guys are slaughtering your ears with? The first track is my only criticism in terms of sound. After that they return to what I’d expect. A brilliant record.

8. Goatwhore – Constricting Rage of The Mercilesss

My innards always look forward to a good blackened death/thrash release. It has been a while between drinks on this front and thankfully Goatwhore have put their hand up to abuse my ears with their straight-up, no-messing-around release. I have to acknowledge the relief provided midway through where we encounter a slow-dirge, which while allowing you to take a breath for a brief moment, quickly pushes your head against a brick wall again to consume the remainder of the record (and a little bit of grit and cement between your teeth).

7. Bodycount – Manslaughter

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have these guys nudging the right bones in my body to stand up and listen to their work. Granted, we will never return to their debut effort, and I now accept that. This record sounds like a new band that has finally gelled after that terrible sophomore effort many moons ago. Ice-T is the same old with his vocals, and the music is tight, however this time, they haven’t tipped over to the cheesy with their lyrics for the most part. I can appreciate that’s a hard thing to understand when we go from songs like ‘Evil Dick’ on their debut to ‘99 problems and the bitch aint one’. In any case, it’s a thin tightrope to walk along. Thankfully they haven’t tripped over. “Bodycount’s (still) in Da Howse!!”

6. Khold – Til Enders

I’m a big Khold fan so not surprising that you will see this in my top10. It has that typical vocal sound, however I must acknowledge that it has a more fast-paced, upbeat sound to this record than what you may expect. Look no further than the title track. While previous efforts have had a lot of that black-metal tarnished slow dirge to it, this one has an up-tempo for the most part which does take a bit of getting used to. Hey, it’s been 6 years between drinks for them so I’m just glad that they are continuing on.

5. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

Yet again, the master that is Tom. G. Warrior, in all his leather jacket and beanie wearing glory continuing to show that there is life in this old dawg still. I was sad the day Celtic Frost ended, however the clouds parted with the announcement that the man wasn’t finished. Tryptikon is the outgoing fountain of moody, delicate yet brutal brilliance we have come to know him for. I have to note that I think the debut was a better effort, yet don’t let this distract your attention away from this release. It still carries that level of simplicity to a great extent with the sound, yet the delivery and production are crushingly brilliant all the same.

4. Cannibal Corpse – A skeletal Domain

FIRE UP THE CHAINSAW FUCKERS!! Corpsegrinder in the best form he has ever been in on the vox side. An intelligent, yet forever brutal musical assault and these guys are seriously close to their best form ever right now. THE standout Death Metal release by a long way (and there are plenty of them posing as a DM band these days).

3. Amputated – Dissect, Molest, Ingest

Listen to this splatter-fans and do your best to tell me you don’t like it. Be warned if you don’t like it, there will be the need to spill your entrails over a sewer pipe and allow a bevy of insects to feast upon them. Brilliant!!

2. Autopsy – Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves

Dear God – how are these guys managing to pummel my face into a meat grinder after all these years!?!?! A meaty slab of death metal you might assume, however this has much more to it than that. Sure it’s heavy, brutal and delivered at a frenetic pace that would see you crushing the likes of Usain Bolt over the finish line. But take a listen to the likes of ‘After the Cutting’. Your body hurts – you’re calling out to your mum and they oblige with an interlude of melody to give you time to catch your breath, and then it’s on again.

1. Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

Sometimes when a record ends up being your favourite record of the year, there can be very little to say about it. This is one case where I’m speechless to a great extent. I don’t need to tell you it’s is Mayhem at its best. I don’t need to tell you that Attila has produced his best recording ever. I don’t need to tell you that the Mayhem sound is everything you’d expect and more. I don’t need to tell you that a horse head will arrive at your door if you don’t agree. Finally, I don’t need to tell you to buy this record as anyone with an ounce of sense would have it in their collection already. Enough said (actually, that turned out to be more than I expected for having very little to say about the record).

Metal – Honourable Mentions

Austrian Death Machine – Triple Brutal

Let’s be honest at this point about this ‘concept’. While it is humorous to have the Arnie impersonations and commentary, for me there has always been a challenge to agree on the comedy and music mix. It’s easy to side with the former and call it a great record. In the end however this is a metalcore band mixing their music with a comic idea. Too deep for you that analysis? Yes, well you can drop dead. If ever I was to like this music, it needs some comedy and this brings it. Pity this will be the last effort for quite some time (that’s what happens when you get put in jail for murdering your wife). Mind you it isn’t as good as other records (the comedy, so gets an honourable mention only.

Crowbar – Symmetry In Black

I have to put these guys in my list somewhere. Unfortunately they don’t make my 10 this time around. Not to say it is a disappointing release. If you are a Crowbar fan you will be more than satisfied. It just doesn’t have anything standout on the record. Unlike NOLA brothers Eyehategod.

Fu Manchu – Gigantoid

I was about to say this is a typical release you’d expect from these veterans of the sludge/stoner type sound. However listening further the tempo is much more upbeat. The sound of the buzzing guitars is there front and centre still with Hill providing his unique vocal style. You could do much worse that give this record a good listen.

Slipknot – .5, The Gray Chapter

I did buy this unlistened as I thought it deserved it. Overall it doesn’t have that cutting edge across the board so doesn’t quite make my 10. I still can’t help but feel that the band has been a little ‘dumbed-down’ with each band members side-projects. It seems forced in places to be aggressive and that mostly comes down to Corey’s vox with some heavy hitting from Joey. Apart from that the samples stuff is mostly non-existent and the guitar work sounds like a aggressive Stonesour. I think in some ways their side projects have killed this band.

Metal – Dis-Honourable Mentions

Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium

Am I now listening to Napalm Death rip off? Seems a lot like it. After such a brilliant debut record, turning back the clock in some ways to the old Sep days, this record has the band chugging along at break-neck speed and Max doing his best Barney impersonation. Not happy Jan!!!

Opeth – Pale Communion

Hey Frederik – when you signed up to this band did you think that you would progress to pumping out licks on your guitar that your 10 year old could handle? Nah, thought not. So why the hell would you hang around? Martin and his bass are the same as they always have been – we just get to hear more of him. Ax has nothing else on since Witchery aren’t paying his bills. Don’t get me started on the self-important nut on the ivory – at least the other one had a cool moustache. Now, I think there is someone else in this band, umm I think he is from Sweden. Maybe it’s Bjorn or could be Benny. In any case I place this person solely responsible for two things. Firstly he is responsible for getting me interested with a passion again in heavy metal music through Blackwater Park in early 2000’s. For that I am forever grateful. He is now unfortunately responsible for turning the band I would die for previously into a pompous pile of wank. I’m all for following your dreams and I can’t deny him that want, however it’s just a major disappointment for me unfortunately. I need to go listen to some new Blink 182 or something – only that shit would make me cry more that I currently am.

mk’s 2013 Non-Metal Top 10

6. Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

You could arguably call this their ‘sophomore’ record after their debut ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’. This is AIC v2.0 to coin a trendy phrase. And there is no denying the difference in this incarnation. While Cantrell has always been the major influence musically, there is no denying that Layne put that special touch on the final result. Anyway to cut to the chase, Jerry has a major part in the vocal department. I can’t help but draw comparisons with his solo efforts and this record in particular being the next incarnation from Degradation Trip.
That aside, even if it is, it is a good listen. Sludgy, heavy, music with droning, and in places haunting lyrics. Can’t really find too many faults, apart from the fact it does die out a little toward the end.

5. Alter Bridge – Fortress

Oh boy, I’m on the edge of being harsh or kind here. I was going to say this is a typical AB release, however I believe musically the guys have matured and if anything increased the tempo a little. Not sure Myles is keeping up really. I like it for the most part, but if you listen carefully, Myles is singing in syllables I reckon as a way to make it look cool/acceptable……???

4. Stone Sour – House of Gold and Bones Pt2

I’ll add this into as it is actually quite a good listen and I think much less radio friendly than their more recent efforts. Not sure if that was the intention or not compared to Part 1. But in any case this gets many more re-listens from me, so I’ll add it in.

3. Airborne – Black Dog Barking

Oh boy. Firstly, don’t be fooled by the title of the first track and the name of their first EP back in 2004. In any case, am I listening to an Angels/ACDC clone here? I can’t help but like it to be honest despite its simplicity.

2. Motorhead – Aftershock

Wow – what an intro to an album (track 1). These newbies on the scene have a big future in front of them. Sorry, what’s that?? They have been around since the 70’s?? Seriously?? Of course I’m taking the pee as I’ll admit up till now, I’ve been less than interested in Lemmy and his crew. Still don’t know why Ace of Spades is their calling card to be honest. But who cares, this record goose-steps all over Ace of Spades. What a brilliant effort at this stage in their career.

1. Clutch – Earth Rocker

“Everybody get the message? Bluerraaagggghhhh!”
Best you do get the message. As these guys are worth investing time in. Mind you, you can take a pick of almost any record and almost any track and you’ll get the message pretty darn quick. Best however to skip to the latest record as they just continue to get better and better and delivering that slightly southern-rock tinged sound. Grab a beer, put your feet up and set to 11

Honourable Mention

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

I will always give Trent and his crew the time of day. Can’t really explain why. In any case his records have been hit and miss along the way for me thus the reason I do look forward to a new release but am equally hesitant. This one sits in the thumbs down list for me unfortunately. A little to on the electronic side despite another brilliant vocal effort from Trent. It just doesn’t glue with me. Why am I writing this up if I don’t like it? Well take a look at how thin my ‘like’ list is….

David Bowie – The Next Day

If anyone were to tell me I’d be listening to David Bowie all these years later I wouldn’t have believed you. Perhaps that is how desperate I am to add to my non-metal Top10 list. In any case, if this were mid-90’s, Bowie wouldn’t have had a look in on any of my listening time. Which would have been my loss. This is a great modern mish-mash of his work to date.

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

This has moments of glory such as ‘My God is the Sun’ but for some reason I get the sense they are sitting on their deck chairs in the middle of the Arizona desert to occupied on watching the sun go down in order to care about putting together an upbeat cranking QOTSA that we have all come to love. Let’s hope this doesn’t continue for future releases.

mk’s 2013 Metal Top 10

10. Zombie Inc. – Homo Gusticus

Of course, you’d expect me to make mention of this at some point. Another project from Martin S (Pungent Stench fame). He has a great DM vox and knows how to put together a great DM song. I can’t say that this would ever fit as a Ps record as it is a little more fast-paced and trad in the DM approach, rather than what he has achieved with PS. Still though this is again a great template for all those fucks out there that think they know how to write a DM song. Take a look over your shoulder for the old dudes who can still tear you a new one.

9. Gutfucked – Fucked to Death

I’m getting a little too predictable here aren’t I? Perhaps that is a reflection on the quality this year. In terms of quality, this is a smothering of inappropriate song titles, lyrics that are inaudible, frenetic but simplistic guitar/drum playing and the devouring of a sacrificial human being at the end. OK, I made that last one up.

8. Carcass – Surgical Steel

One thing in Carcass favour has always been the raspy vocals of Jeff. Much like Tardy from Obituary, the vocals just add to the brutal/angry sound put across. I do have one point to make however with the modern Carcass sound – the sound is much more a brutal in your face neck-breaking speed, rather than the melodic DM we listened to in the 90’s. Necroticism from 91 is still my favourite of theirs. Listen to that and you’ll see what I mean. Regardless, and perhaps sadly for the genre, a bunch of blokes in their late 40’s can still put together a pummelling effort better than many of the wannabe’s that cite these guys as influences. Hopefully we continue to hear more from them.

7. Korn – The Paradigm Shift

Cutting to the chase here – this is their best effort for a number of years. Do you credit Head’s return on this? I’m not sure – Davis is a strong person I thought, so one person’s influence on the sound can’t be that much that they turn from rap infused rubbish on their last record to the sound we hear on this record. It starts off with some powerful songs kind of in the Untouchables mode. You won’t get the dick lyrics and sound of the early stuff. The maturity is there again but this is also back to heavy modern sound that the majority of long-time fans would have come to accept and love.

6. Pestilence – Obsideo

I get tired of saying it and Zan agrees……why can’t the newbies in the DM scene match it with the old blokes? Trying too hard to be different, when really you just need to be you. That’s what a number of the old bands having a renesiance period so-to-speak these days are just killing it (that’s in a good way)!!!!!

5. Parasitic Ejaculation – Rationing The Sacred Human Remains

In some ways liking this shows how shallow I can be when it comes to liking some certain music. The Vox sounding like you are churning up some vile vomit from your stomach into the toilet is brilliant!! Match that with a sludgy, in parts up-beat, production sound and you get a tasty recipe of ‘Fuck knows what you are singing about but I love it to pieces (human pieces – arms, toes, ears…..)’ The odd outtake of stabbing some poor person for example is really the tasty coagulated blood you need on the top of your raw meat pizza. Bring it!!!!

4. Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

Darn it, they’ve gone all serious on me. No ‘Canadian Metal’, or ‘Dungeon Shaker’ anywhere here. However don’t mind in the slightest. I call it blackened thrash in today’s terms – others will disagree. In any case, who cares – I could listen to this all day long.

3. Hatebreed – The Divinity Of Purpose

Mock me as much as you will, but I was very close to putting this number one. They were one of the first bands in the mid-90’s providing that slightly up-beat sound to what Pantera were doing at the time. Call it metalcore I don’t really care. For me Jasta vox is the standout from all others releasing records with this similar sound. As soon as he sings, you better fucking stand to attention. Ignoring what he has to say brings consequences. “Fists up and head high” mother fuckers!!!!

2. Nocturnal Graves – …From The Bloodline Of Cain

Who would have thought we’d have a bunch of Aussies contributing to the book of masterful Blackened Thrash. This is as good as any efforts from European bands I have heard. Raspy vocals, relentless guitar and drum work with that edgy production that makes you think they ran this over a sharp razor blade before committing to digital sound.

1. Black Sabbath – 13

I must firstly point out what a privilege it is to finally hear a new Black Sabbath record on day one of its release. And DEAR GOD, they don’t disappoint. The blueprint for the intro to the first track is a little cliché for them, but who cares. This was going to always be a sink or swim exercise – they have proved without a doubt that even without the drugs (except for the ones they take for arthritis pain these days), they are one of the greatest institutions for which this record brings no shame to. I’m happy.

Honourable Mention

Cliteater – Cliteaten Back To Life

Worthy mention for keeping the ‘splatter-metal’ genre alive. Inappropriate song titles, full-force, in your face grind and a sprinkling of movie out-takes which have you questioning what these guys do with their spare time, is absolutely spot on for me and puts a smile on my face. Just keep this one hidden from your mum.

Blood Red Throne – Blood Red Throne

Good work guys. The paramedic said I was only unconscious for a few minutes rather than the full resuscitation activity required from listening to previous efforts. This is a good thing as not only is my life saved, but the record is much more palatable than previous pummelling efforts.

Devourment – Conceived In Sewage

I’m aware I am developing a pattern here in my Honourable Mention list – a bunch of Death Metal releases that were almost there. This one certainly fits that mould. Cudos to the guys for changing the tempo here enabling me to catch my breath. To save my poor, weary fingers, similar can be said of Embalmed – Regiment of Death.

Hatriot – Heroes Of Origin

It would be very easy to place this in the Top10 as I am an Exodus fan and even more so I am a Zetro fan. However it is that first bit that puts this record in the worth mentions space. It really is a little too close to that Exodus sound for me to say ‘Good job guys’. I’d have likes Zetro and his band of kids to come up with something along the same lines, but easily distinguishable as their own sound. There is nothing here that is their own sound. Not that is a bad thing, as mentioned. It just doesn’t make the 10.

New Keepers Of The Water Towers – Cosmic Child

I’m really not sure where to place this one to be honest. It actually requires you to listen closely but that means an investment in a few 10-min plus efforts. Partly for that reason it doesn’t make my final top10. Very close, but you need to prepare yourself for an uninterrupted listen to get the full value.

Six Feet Under – Unborn

I’ll put my hand up as a Barney fan, so have followed SFU with great interest. I’m torn however on this effort. This is very different from the ‘lets make it as brutal approach that Barney has always focussed on. Sure his vox is as you’d expect, but there are a number of songs that are very ‘light’ in the DM mould.

Autopsy – The Headless Ritual

What a diverse piece of music this is? Thrash/Death/Roll in plenty of places. I don’t know much about these guys apart from they have got back together in the past 5 or so years and are putting some music together as a bunch of 40-odd year olds that is new and fresh. Look no further than a song like ‘When Hammer Meets Bone’. It’s got a lot to offer and then some.

Satyricon – Satyricon

I’ll put it as honourable but tis very close to a dishonourable. The first track they released ‘Our World, it Rumbles tonight’ is great. Then we have to put up with some clean vocals from some fill-in a couple of tracks later. The tempo is pretty much dull (call it moody) with the occasional track showing that grit of anger they are known for, thus it scrapes in as a record I’ll lilkely listen to again (and try to forget its failings).

mk’s 2012 Non-Metal Top 10

5. Corrosion of Conformity – Corrosion of Conformity

First effort without Pepper on board so the vox takes a little more time to appreciate, but the music quality is still there, if maybe perhaps a bit more speed to it than the ‘sludge/groove’ we’ve come to expect. Track 2 is the standout and very classic CoC. For the rest you’ll find some new sounds and pace in parts, but overall still an enjoyable release.

4. Tremonti – All I Was

I’ve gotta ask why a guitarist part of a successful band feels the need to want their own band? Just about every guitarist from Pearl Jam has done so to some level of success, and we can’t ignore Zakk of course, so why would Tremonti not give it a go? A great guitarist no doubt, BUT who thought he could actually sing? In some ways it’s very paint-by-numbers and in the mould of your Nickelback-type bands, but as a debut, he’s yet to fall for the radio-friendly approach and has some killer guitar riffs all the way through. All up, certainly worth some attention and makes my list.

3. Kiss – Monster

For the past couple of decades these guys have been nothing but a small passing interest. Even when Sonic Boom was a return after an 11 year break, I still didn’t care for them much. Fast forward to 2012 circa Kiss and could we have a more appropriate album title than this?  A Monster indeed!!  It is full of some very modern sounding songs with catchy riffs but mixed in with some great 70’s sounding nostalgia like ‘Back to the Stone Age’ for example. Certainly made my ears prick-up and for that reason makes my list.

2. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth

I’ll put my hand up and admit that I have become a huge Hagar fan over the past few decades, so when David was coming back into the fold and with the way they treated Michael Anthony, I was as ready as ever to hate the heck out of this record. Turns out that me and humble pie had a short but necessary relationship to have – not only was I eating some of that, I was actually turning into a fan again!! Let’s just put Tattoo to the side everyone – it’s an easy song to hate. The rest though is a great listen. She’s the Woman and modern classic example of what these guys used to pump out many years ago. TMOC was going to be hard to beat into number one, but this effort isn’t very far behind!

1. The Mark Of Cain – Songs Of The Third And Fifth

Lets take a walk down memory lane for a bit here. When This is This came out, I was nervous – could they top Ill at Ease? Could it be that good? Turns out it wasn’t as good….BUT….it was a classic in its own right. A record that took some time to like, but was a winner once the investment was made.
Move forward (a long way forward) to the final news the crew were finally in the studio. We get Barkhammer as a tasty selection. My heart sunk on first listen, and the second and third. I was hoping this wasn’t the best of the lot. Thankfully it wasn’t. Not sure the reasoning behind that song being the first one they release to the starving fans, but its water under the bridge now. SOTTF has a wealth of songs to write home to your relatives about. I’m not sure where to start – the monotonous of Eastern Decline, the riffing in Milosevic, Kym doing his thing on 1000 Yards and then my fave Heart of Stone, which would fit right in I think on the Ill At Ease mantle. Just brilliant!! Guess I have to wait another 12 or so years for the next one. Forget me being old by then, these guys will be older!!

Honourable Mention

ZZ Top – La Futura

Well hello, 10 years since the last release and close to 20 years since their heyday. Sheesh, those beards must be a good tinge of grey by now.  Likewise the music has a tinge of grey to it also now. Much slower tempo and less catchy riffs from the two hairy folks. This is very much your southern rock/blues classic which they have always had as their foundation, so you can’t fault them on that. Is it memorable for me? No, not really. But I am impressed they continue playing and releasing music. Cudos.

Soundgarden – King Animal

I really want to like this, I really do.  Problem being is that from about track 4 onwards there is more bad than good.  The first few tracks are killer, however slower songs like Taree really show to me that the connection I had with them has shifted. In all honesty this record mostly fits in right after their last full-length. For me however I’d already started to lose interest in them with Down on the Upside. They get a mention in my list as I’m glad they are back together making music again and I can only hope for better days from here.

mk’s 2012 Metal Top 10

10. Bonded By Blood – The Aftermath

I’ll finally start to give these guys a little credit with their efforts in the new wave of thrash. Musically it is tight and certainly in that classic vein, however the vox is the one thing that I still can’t relate to – he’s no Joey, Tommy, Dave or James.

9. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage

I read that this is their best effort to date and with that I can’t argue. It was their 2005 effort (2 records ago) that bought me into their world of guitar laden, angry technical death metal is probably the best way I can describe it. That’s the uniqueness right there – this sound is quite unique and kudos to them. It has its dull moments in terms of repetitiveness particularly toward the end of the album but that squealing guitar complimented by a heavy bass line is attractive.

8. Cannibal Corpse – Torture

Hard to find good help these days – well a good DM release. Seriously there is no comparison when it comes to CC. I like the tempo mix they do very well these days and Corpsegrinder continues to nail it on vox. There is not much more to say really. You know these guys, you know what they are capable of and you know they NEVER disappoint!!

7. Aura Noir – Out To Die

Scrapes into the list partly on favouritism it must be said, the production is terrible. It sounds very distant and the more I think of it, this is more of a listen on your stereo rather than the headphones. Still, it’s not as raw edged and fast paces as the last few efforts, but much like bands such a Khold – they have their style which is very noticeable and they do it very well.

6. My Dying Bride – A Map Of All Our Failures

Seriously, that brooding, dredging guitar sound shortly followed by Stainthorpes infamous hollows in the first 20 seconds of track one sets the scene for yet another chapter of despair and hopelessness you’d expect from these guys. From here however there is a noticeable difference between more recent releases and this one. It seems to be more ‘mellow’ and less ‘anger’ in the lyrics and musical approach. For this reason alone, it’s not a winner in my book as much as recent efforts but still deserves some credit.

5. Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead

This is a band I will always put every effort into liking. The general theme of the music is not far removed from that dark, sluggish, drag-yourself-into-a-hole space, with a little more of the keyboard, but I can forgive them that. We are now 3 albums in with Rob Lowe fronting the vox and this is where I still have a little bit of contention – he doesn’t have the range of Messiah!! Interesting he left the band only a few weeks after this release. In any case, I just love the music, so can forgive that. Lets hope for a better music/vox match in the future.

4. Ufomammut – ORO, Opus Alter

It has been a few years since I’ve listened to a credible lyric-devoid, down-tuned and crunching release. Thinking ISIS, Neurosis type style with an extra tonne of cement entering your ears to fill up all those cavities. They released two records this year and I’ve chosen the one that finally had me sinking to the bottom of the harbour with the sound.

3. Enslaved – RIITIIR

This is possibly the best prog release I have heard for a few years. I’ve been concerned previously with listening to a full record given the keyboards etc they like to include. While they are still there, they don’t seem to be as noticeable. The vox is a perfect complement to the music in the right places if that makes sense. Definitely worthy of a top10 place.

2. King Parrot – Bite Your Head Off

Blast beats, buzzing guitars and frenetic desperation in the vocals, what more could you want? Definitely a mood required to listen to this one. As everyone will know I do like some variation in smashing my face against a brick wall. This one does the smashing with a level of respect (thankyou fellas) but also offers the opportunity to take a breath, wipe the blood off your face with a used yiros wrapper and then continue said beating. If you don’t like it, you’ve got shit on your liver folks!! \m/

1. Funeral Whore – Step Into Damnation

Brilliant slab of gritty death metal. Memories of old Carcass, Slayer and even Pungent Stench come flowing back to me with this one. Fast paced, but melodic also. A welcome surprise.

Honourable Mentions

Cattle Decapitation – Monolith Of Inhumanity

Ouch, that hurts. A wall of brutal sound that will stop you in your tracks and ask the question ‘are you prepared to have your ears bleed?’. Would love to see these guys live as heck knows how they would do it. There are a bunch of newish death metal bands looking to deliver the listener something new. While I am still set in my ways (such as the new CC release for example) there is no question over these guys’ chops and what they can add to the DM legacy.

Cryptopsy – Cryptopsy

A tricky one as they are pretty much at the top of their league in the death/grind scene, but unless you are a huge fan, it’s likely you’ll see this is a quality release but nothing new. That’s where I sit. Interesting comparison would be to Cannibal Corpse circa 2002. Cryptopsy have a similar wall of sound but much more modern and relentless, not stopping for that slower melody, which for me is equally brutal if you can hold that with a Corpsegrinder vox happening.

Napalm Death – Utilitarian

Well what can you say about these guys? No need to listen generally between records, however I’d suggest that you do listen to this one as it has some noticeable differences in style. Sure for the most part Embury and the crew are giving you a lesson (in case you needed it) on how to write a straight-up brutal DM release. However there are some points in the record where my ears pricked up in relation to some different sounds. I’d have to say I’m on the fence with this one, thus not an entry in the Top10 as you might expect.

Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine

No doubting the talent in this band and their interpretation of the BM sound. I really liked their Black Meddle efforts – it was the first time I had listened to their sound. This one now suffers the unfortunate circumstance of me comparing it to those records. For me it doesn’t quite match it. Less aggressive and actually more complex in the sound if you give it a few listens. Is that what I’d like from these guys? Still undecided.

Dis-honourable

Ihsahn – Eremita

So when you sing with a gravel voice as the legend has always done, I have no complaints. When you match it with music that Delta Goodrem could sing to, then I have a little bit of a problem with where the dude is heading. Seriously, its progressive with that growling verse/melodic chorus approach, but really are we hearing anything ground breaking here? Absolutely not. If anything the band provides the landscape of colour and our main-man simply provides the out-of-colour lipstick to what could be a far better effort given his pedigree.

mk’s 2010 Non-Metal Debarcle

Why so, you might ask? Read below – no drum roll required this year

4. Filter – The Trouble With Angels

To me, this is a bit of a step backwards. Probably needs some more listens, but I thought 2008’s Anthems… was catchier.

3. Godsmack – The Oracle

Yeah OK, do you get the picture now about Non-Metal in 2010? Ordinarily this might stretch to make the cut, but again, there are some catchy tunes in here, despite the fact Sully is a boob!!

2. Alter Bridge – III

Have given this a number of listens and have to say the first half trundles along quite nicely until we run into a couple of fillers in my opinion towards the end. Still musically this hits all the right spots and Myles Kennedy and his new-found fame have not done themselves a disservice here.

1. Deftones – Diamond Eyes

OK, might be a stretch placing this to non-metal but we all know they have toned down the angry guitar considerably these days. Regardless, I’ll stick my neck out and say this was a pleasant surprise. Haven’t taken much notice of these guys over previous releases, but for some reason this has hit the right spot for me – just enough catchiness in the chorus added with elements of those angry guitars works well. They’ve leapfrogged Katatonia for the time being in my opinion.

Honourables

Not a chance seeing I couldn’t even find 10 in the first place.

Dishonourables

Slash – Slash

Slash plays on this does he? No really, does he? I didn’t mind it, and what a ‘Supergroup Slash, Grohl and Mckagen would make, but apart from this one track don’t hear any fire breathing solos from Slash.

mk’s 2010 Metal Top 10

Alright a few suprises and a bit of variety in this years list. Make sure you take a look at dishonourables – they’re HUGE…..and sad unfortunately.

10. An Autumn for the Crippled Children – Lost

Wow, what a debut!!! This is indeed a atmospheric, sonic journey through the depths of deep, deep sea of doom-tinged black-metal. On repeated listens I just keep finding new layers, all handled by three guys.

9. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Am not entirely sure if it’s the fact this particular album has had promotion to the point you could but not pick it up for a few listens, or the actual fact that I might just like this album. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a huge Iron Maiden fan – I missed all the classic 80’s recordings at the time and thus the early 90’s period is the recordings I am most familiar with, but beside that, the past 4 or 5 albums haven’t interested me the slightest. The Final Frontier however is a different story. Probably more a case that the particular guitar riffs loaded up for this record have attracted my attention more than anything else. All else is generally stock, including Bruce’s vox of course. But messers Murray, Gers and Smith put some tasty treats on the table for this release.

8. Ozzy – Scream

After the debarcle that was the genre definition for Black Rain, I’m more than comfortable not putting Scream in the ‘Non-Metal’ category. Whether it’s Gus G himself or Ozzy, there is a more aggressive edge to this release than the last. Another brilliant collection of songs which still has me with an annoying itch behind my ear questioning just how much writing is going into these songs from Ozzy, but eh, I’ll ignore it as much as possible and just get down to continued enjoyment of this release.

7. Soulfly – Omen

This is 11 tracks of pure fucking relentlesness!! Rizzo and Max work their axes like I have never heard before on a Soulfly release. With Igor providing the cornerstone, lets just close our eyes for a moment and pretend Rizzo is wearing a Kisser mask (and who cares about Pablo – he was tuned down anyway according to Max). Truly Max has a confusing main course on the dinner table for us at the moment to consume – Cavalera Conspirecy touching on the rawness of early Sep, Soulfly doing a darn good impersonation underneath the carrots and then there is of course desert to come into the future – a Nailbomb ‘like’ collaboration……..I canna take any more captn’!! But I sure as hell can’t give up the addiction anytime soon.

6. Kingdom of Sorrow – Behind the Blackest Tears

Well this is clearly stating the obvious, but this is what you get when you join Hatebreed and Crowbar masterminds together in the same room. The opening track for example is entrenched with the Crowbar sludge formula with a hint of Hatebreed sharpness in places, and then Jasta singing in typical rage over the top, for me makes for a good mix. There are some tracks where Kurt sings only, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were actually listening to the new Crowbar album. Still this is a musical marriage I wouldn’t have expected, but I have given it plenty of spins. Crowbar newbie out in 2011 trendsetters!!!!

5. Black Label Society – Order of the Black

Ease up on the ivory Zacky and bring back that trademark ‘TWANG’!!! Something a little different going on here when compared to previous releases. The album certainly has that Zac sound to it, but just not raising the hair on the back of the neck as much as The Blessed Hellride for example. To be fair, there are three killer tracks to open the album before we peeter off into a ‘album-closer-type’ track. Two more killer tracks then keys. Another two tracks, then keys again. He can write a damn good ballad it must be said. I guess I just prefer less of this. Still I’m a Zac groupie and he can’t really do any wrong, so he’s in the Top10

4. Burzum – Belus

This has indeed been the most anticipated release for the past decade, now that Guns and Roses rubbish is out the way. The Counts’ two efforts while in jail can only be described as working with what you have – a keyboard and a computer. Nothing more to be said. Out of jail and with all the tools of the trade at hand, this was expected to be a monuments return. And indeed it has been!! The first track after the intro is a killer and quickly affirms him adding his stamp on the traditional black metal footprints. ……Nedstigning has a surprisingly upbeat chorus, but the guitar undertone holding the track together is just mean. The mostly instrumental Morgenroede is very repetitive but mesmerising at the same time. Only disappointment is after this we have another 9 minute instrumental, repetitive also. Would have preferred some vox. But regardless this is a brilliant return!! Oh and I can’t but not mention as is always the case – track titles being in Norwegian – makes it tough to remember them let alone pronounce them!

3. Cardiac Arrest – Haven for the Insane

Holy fuck this is fast and brutal!! I typically have something like this pulling the skin off my face each year and this year it’s Cardiac Arrest!!!! Short! Ultra Fast! and Brutal!! The intro to “Rage On…..Fuck Off” is truly unique (“One, Two. One Two Fuck You”)

2. Armored Saint – La Raza

Holy crap, I think I just saw a pig fly past. I clearly recall summing up my impression of Mr Bush’s intrusion into the Anthrax camp all those years ago as ‘pigs will fly before I’ll say he can sing as good as Joey!!’ Well water goes under bridges (and over in some places these days) and wounds collected while stubbing your toe heal. All is good in the world – John is out, Joey is back, which empowers me with the ability to judge this latest release from Armored Saint without bias.
The guy can sing and he and Joey, the Vera kind, make a damn good song-writing partnership. The catchy chorus’ and and simple but effective guitar licks ooze from the sides of this release like a toasted sandwich overloaded with cheese. Has been a hell of a long time between drinks for these guys – 10 years. Lets hope the gap is smaller for the next one.

1. Flotsam and Jetsam – The Cold

Whoa yeah, Eric AK is one angry dude on this one. Head straight to the title track for a prime example. This is by far the best performance from him in a while. Musically they have mixed up the tempo a little more than on their most recent release (2005’s Dreams of Death) and the two go together very well. After being a huge fan of their early stuff I thought they had lost their way mid 90’s onwards. Dreams was a stepping stone in their return to greatness and The Cold has just upped that a further notch. Here’s hoping lineup changes are over with and these guys continue to write good songs.

Honourables

Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones

The Celtic Frost rulebook hasn’t been thrown out the window just yet. The epic opener Goetia would sit more than comfortably among the Monotheist pack. I have to say though, after this initial excitement, the rest has taken a while to sink in. The first track is 15% of the album though (20% if we ignore the 20 min closer). Is that enough to warrant Top10 selection? As much as I want it to, I’m afraid the need to pose the above question is answer alone. 🙂 Alas I really had this at the top of my list at the sart of the year, so I guess I owe an explanation:
First two tracks are brilliant
Track 3 takes a good 4 mins to get going before I hear what I expect/want
No idea of the purpose of the 1:44 track 4 sound. Intermission perhaps
Track 5 sees the pace build up and I guess this is where I’m a little a-taken back. I love that drone he had through Monotheist that this is out of kilter. He also has a guest vocalist I suspect, but can’t find any proof – perhaps it’ him laying vox over himself?? Anyway, the vox is slightly annoying.
Track 6 – yes, expectations are restored somewhat
Track 7 – in addition to the first track a stand-out for sure.
Track 8 – hmmmmm
Track 9 – very moody and a worthy track to include. Possibly a good closer.

So all up possibly not the best argument – like a lot of releases there will be ups and downs. It may be a case of expectations here. I was expecting the most brilliant release from Tom and ended up with this, which is by no means a failure.

1349 – Demonoir

Strangely enough I seemed to have listened to this album the most out of all my Top10 entries. This is simply because 1349 are a band I’ve been trying to ‘get’ for a little while now. With there being strong links between 1349 and Tommy G, there must be something to like about their music. I was a fan of Hellfire from 2005, but their 2009 effort (Revelations of the Black Flame) put me offside. Demonoir seems to be a return to the Hellfire like sound. Fast-beats and crusty production. Some very cool instrumental bits through the songs. The ‘Tunnel of Set’ musical interludes I guess designed to allow the listener to catch their breath are my only real gripe here. Dare I say however, this rates higher than Triptykon for me? I probably need to give Triptykon the same attention I have given 1349. Time will tell. Oh the Morbid Angel and Exodus covers rock!!

Lair of the Minatour – Evil Power

Evil Power does a good job of fitting an hour of slab of abrasive metal into approx 30 mins!! If you can remember back to the days when the school-yard bully chocked your mouth full of sand and made you chew, then you’ll get a sense of the taste this release leaves in your mouth after a listen. It proves that 2008’s release was merely a hiccup after the killer release that was The Ultimate Destroyer in 2006. These guys are at the top of their mark on Evil Power.

Nachtmystium – Addicts Black Meddle Pt II

This is a very brave release in my opinion. There is some sounds on here that you wouldn’t normally associate with a Black Metal sound. Very modernised musically and quite varying through each track. It didn’t make my top 10 as it wasn’t what I was looking for after Part 1, but is worthy of a mention and certainly a band to keep an eye out for in the future.

Pensees Nocturnus – Grotesque

With all the hailing going on, there’s certainly something grotesque going on in the studio when Pensees Nocturnus knocked this one out. There are a few bands with the name Pensees included in their title and I’ve been quite disinterested in the avante guard-like soundscape rubbish. The first track had me heading towards the same feeling before opening up a coffin a bitteness, hopelessness and desperation that continues on for most of the remainder of the album. Quite a surprise really for me, it rates a special mention.

Immolation – Majesty and Decay

Looking back, a straight-up, in-your-face death metal release always nudges close or into my Top10. This year it appears Immolation get the tick. What sets this apart from other DM releases I’ve listened to this year? ‘Simple’ riff/timing changes into the mix.

Deathspell Omega – Paracletus

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but these guys are always around the mark for me with each release. It’s a guitar sound that weaves it’s way through each track is quite unique. Not to the point of repetitiveness, just well placed and a constant reminder of who you are listening to really. They’ve once again put 10 individual tracks together, however in a single listen give you the impression you are listening to a single track. There are a couple of times on this release that you notice the move from one track to the next, but it mostly flows really well. Hope we continue to hear more from these guys.

Dis-Honourables

Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons

This is a big decision for me to make. The guys so real it’s unreal have tipped the cheesiness over the edge I’m afraid. Things were travelling along OK until the title track. From this point onwards the decent is rapid, almost to the point of repetition. Perhaps it’s time to take ‘some’ time off from writing and recording – the one album per year has run it’s course sadly.

Korn – III Remember Who You Are

Insipid!!! Just completely uninspiring and dull. The cover says ‘Korn return to their blistering roots’. Now it could be said that this is an element of a mix of sounds – certainly not as structured as recent releases, but lets make one thing clear – this aint no Blind or Twist, that’s for sure. Extremely far from it. I’m really bummed by this and Darkthrone – two releases I was sure to have in my Top10 before the start of the year.

mk’s 2009 Metal Top 10

10. The Seven Gates – Angel of Suffering

This was a late entry into my list (OK, OK, I’m late in general with my list, but this was the last of the crop). Can’t really pin-point what it is about this one – it’s certainly nothing special but I think it’s just the guitar tuning and tempo of Angel that has me interested in every track – the direction and tempo wavers in parts through the songs, giving you something new to appreciate.  Certainly not in the 10 just because there was nothing else. It just hits the right spots for me – not bad for a debut release from these French guys.

9. The Burning – Reawakening

A late entry into my Top10, this release by a relative unknown. A Danish band with their second LP.  A take on modern DM sound, minus the brutality and frenetic pace. Again, just catchy enough to have me wanting to re-listen time again.  The sound is a little Static-X in parts but with a Millie from Kreator type Vox.

8. Austere – To lay Like Old Ashes

I’m in two minds right off the bat for this one. After a small intro, ‘To Fade With the Dusk’ swings the doors of your coffin open and begs you to enter. Depressingly brilliant!  The harrowing vocals work really well here. This continues for the next few tracks before we are treated to a 20-minute last track which is essentially an instrumental involving the same chords as heard in previous tracks, played on and on and on to a completely boring an annoying ending.  I would have almost preferred a 30-minute, 5-track album.

7. 16 – Bridges to Burn

Down-tuned guitars, a mid tempo pace and howling vocals all work together quite well.  Being a fan of such bands as Weedeater, this type of sound tickles the right spots for me. Catchy as FUCK!!

6. My Dying Bride – For Lies I Sire

I was really hoping for a suitable follow-up to the masterpiece ‘A Line Of Deathless Kings’ from 2006 (which made my number 1 in Metal).  News of a return of violin made me nervous, but I needn’t worry.  It’s insignificant and is far outweighed by the gut-wrenching guitar sound, pulling you limb by limb into their misery-ness. Stainthorp’s vocals are brilliantly vacant and moody. 

5. Heaps of Dead – Deceased, Dismembered, And Left To Decay

Damn this is great!!  Only clocking in around the 30 minute mark, it’s perfect for a DM album.  But those put off purely by DM don’t shy away – timing changes a-plenty  along with the odd thrash moments here and there.  The scream vocal has been used nicely and isn’t overbearing.  Last track isn’t necessary but you can forgive them that.

4. Ruins – Front The Final Foes

Have given this a stack of listens now and love it.  Took me a while though – while I instantly loved the first couple of tracks, I did find myself losing interest a little further on.  In contrast to when I saw them live and was instantly hooked on the set they played. Anyway buy it!!

3. Warbringer – Waking Into Nightmares

It can be a hard task separating the shit from the new wave of Thrash Metal shovel these days. But these guys are screaming to be rescued and I’m more than happy to give them a hand.  This is really well executed in my mind.  They’ve avoided the high end speed and ferocity of the likes of Municipal Waste and kept things pretty simple.  Mid paced with well executed solos thrown in. The vocals remind me of the now ex lead singer of Rumplestiltskin Grinder.  A pleasant surprise.

2. Mortification – The Evil Addiction Destroying Machine

Right from the title track for Track 1 I’m hooked.   The production is slightly neutered, the playing as tight as can be and the grhowling (cross be growl and howl) vocals spot on.  Was a fan of their return in 2004 (Brain Cleaner).  Sorry that I missed Erasing the Goblin, but glad they are continuing on their new direction and still releasing quality, dirt under the fingernails, Thrash!!

1. Heaven and Hell – Heaven and Hell

Ahh not getting my list together until much later in 2010 is in some way going to impact on my list.  Before we go too far here. I love this album – listened to it once and went straight out and bought it.  There is some absolutely classic Dio/Sabbath cuts in here – from the unnerving build up in Bible Black to the up-tempo Double the Pain – this album have just about got everything. And how about Ronnie’s voice?  You listen to the likes of Ozzy and Dickenson lurching into the microphone still in their 50’s/60’s and you can notably hear the deterioration.  Not so Dio – sounds as crisp and as clear as ‘Mob Rules’ effort t for example all those years ago.

So to the point at hand – Mortifications effort was/is a breath of fresh air in my much loved, slightly stale thrash cupboard, but Dio’s passing makes Heaven and Hell an extra special release now.  It takes the number 1 spot.

mk’s 2009 Non-Metal Top 10

OK, this year has been a lean year in the non-metal stakes. I couldn’t even muster 10 together. Good news is there are some controversial picks in my 10 which will create much debate I’m sure.

9. Firewind – Grand Union

Gee. Steer plays a mean guitar in Carcass, but with Firebird we get to hear his sweetening vocals, and damn their good for the sound. Oh and the guitar work is still smooth, albeit a completely different sound. He’s capably backed up by virtual nobodies (well, when compared to Steer anyway) in Smoczkiewicz (bass) and Witt (drums). There are mind you, a couple of odd balls in Worried Mind and the closing track Caledonia which seem to be a departure from the rest of the album. Had read a bit about this band’s work, but never been really interested.

8. Crucified Barbara – Till Death Do Us Party

This is actually better than I thought it would be. I know this will alienate others in the BigBlack Headquarters, but I’m thinking a Peste payback is warranted anyway. Despite some cheesy song titles and lyrics, the hard rock sound of the all female band rocks along at a nice pace. Nothing groundbreaking, not surprisingly – think The Donnas and you’ve pretty much found their clone……but better. Still, not one to dismiss without a listen or few

7. Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Hagar’s raspy vocals, so for me it has been way to long between drinks hearing him sing. Thank Keyryst he sold that Cabbo Wabbo tequila shite and realised he still should be singing. Anyway, that aside, this is surprisingly a great listen. I say surprisingly as despite the quality of all band members I did have questions as to whether they could put together a tasty piece of Rock. To me they have done that in loads. Satriani’s keeping things in check and hasn’t t done the Marty McFly at the high school dance – plenty of cool licks without going overboard. You can also easily hear Anthony at the bottom end and well, Chad is just Chad – nothing here extending his abilities but a solid effort indeed. Then there is Sammy of course. Lyrics could be considered a bit ‘old-hat’ – everyone has sung about their girlfriend before, so nothing new really, but musically they have kept their collective street creds well and truly intact.

6. O.S.I – Blood

If I didn’t know the background of OSI, I’d have probably guessed it. Look a large who’s who here but even without Steve Wilson appearing on Blood, there is still a close relationship in parts to the Porcupine Tree sound. For the cattle alone in this band and this release (Mikael is on it – what more excuse do you need), I think it worth some of your attention. Very chilled out.

5. The Devin Townsend Project – Ki

Wow!! Is my first reaction. I was expecting this to be different and a little nervous of whether I would like this or not. Maybe it’s my mood as I listen but Ki is a very soothing release. A complete departure from the ear insult of Dev’s back catalogue. Am really looking forward to the following 3 releases now.

4. Chevelle – Sci-Fi Crimes

My first impressions after a couple of listens was that it’s certainly not as aggressive as their previous release Verna Serna. Songs seem a little more structured and if you’re a fan of The Butterfly Effect, particularly Imago, then you will see big similarities here. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan, but much like Imago actually, this took a little longer to grow on me. Am glad I made the effort – these guys are brilliant songwriters! Can’t believe it took 4 long players in for us to discover them.

3. Bloodhorse – Horizoner

A 10minute instrumental of nothing really does distract, but if you hang in there you discover some interesting stoner/alt rock moments from Bloodhorse. Just when you comfortably cruising the highway of mellow the start of ‘Paranoiac’ smacks you in the face to make sure you are still maintaining an interest. Yeah, of course I am dude.

2. Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue

I can remember a earlier this year hearing the snippets on the net of some of the tracks (Check My Brain intro was one along with A Looking In View). They were full of dirty crunchy guitars. That sound I had been longing for since about 1993. Tie this to the surprise Soundwave performance in Feb 2009 (surprise as they were the last band I expected to see touring at that stage) and I’d have to say I had greater expectations of this release than I did for Death Magnetic. So temper your interest in my review with that in context. This baby had a huge responsibility to live up to. After supplementing my thirst for anything Alice related over the past decade with Jerry’s solo efforts, my first impressions with the majority of the vox being lead by him, is this is some floor scraps from Degradation Trip. The song writing credits certainly allude to this, so I have my suspicions. It’s not until Last Of My Kind that we have co-song writing duties with William. And funny enough we hear him singing solo for the first time. And let’s jump over this hurdle right now – No one, no one is going to replace Layne’s unique sound, so let’s not try for comparisons. This track shows his ability to put the moody lingerings on a couple of lines, but also give us something a little different in the abrupt delivery, which matches well with Jerry’s axe (or maybe his). But hey, we return to a Jerry song on track 4. I’ll admit that Layne didn’t contribute too much to the song-writing either, but I guess his absence, mixed with Jerry’s continuing contribution has me convincing myself that this is not the Alice in Chains of old. In actual fact it never could be. If I shut my eyes tight and compare it with 2003’s self-titled effort, I’d have to say this would probably rate better as a complete record. I could go on and on and probably haven’t given a direct impression of my thoughts. If I was to summarise – it hasn’t lived up to my expectations, but in reality my expectations were foolish. It’s a good effort, (although I would have loved to see the next Jerry solo effort if this didn’t come together) and I look forward to hearing the tracks mixed in amongst the likes of Would? and Rooster on their next trip to Oz. Oh, did I say I love the name of the album. Perfect!

1. The Devin Townsend Project – Addicted

I went into the first release of this series – Ki earlier this year – expecting anything and came out the other end quite appreciative of the sound, as far removed from the Heavy Dev we have come to know over the past few years. This one was expected to ramp up the heaviness. In fact it does, returning some of those families crushing riffs, but still tainted with the softness of Ki, in part due to the female vocals. Dev relates this record in similarity to some of his Ocean Machine work. I wasn’t really a fan of OM, but like this release.

Honourable Mentions

Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West

Their previous effort ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ was a winner for me. I’m certainly aligning better with their more bluesy sound of their past releases. However ‘Strange Cousins….’ doesn’t seem to have quite the same groove as ‘From Beale Street, but I’m a fan so it makes my Honourables!

Kong – What It Seems Is What You Get

Instrumental albums are a difficult thing to nail. In the current climate where I’m struggling with a lot of the screaming vox types, this is quite a nice change. Obviously the focus then moves to the music quality and whether it can capture your imagination and interest. The Industrial style comes from their early releases I believe as there is very little of that influence in ‘What It Seems Is What You Get’. The undertone of a nice crunchy guitar with plenty of additional layers over the top has me interested. My only criticism would be that it’s a lot to take in. The album I think should be listened to in entirety in one sitting and for me clocking in at just over an hour is a little long for an instrumental.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth

Ahh, the soothing comfort of a Saxon release. Like smelling your favourite meal out of the kitchen window on your walk home from school, the promise of a new Saxon album delivers that warm glow of expectation. Trying to convince yourself they are still producing the same killer licks as their early to mid period 80’s is futile, yet the legacy has not been disrespected. Biff, Paul and Co. continues to release some satisfying serves of power on their heavy metal menu.

Dishonourable Mentions

Maylene and the Sons of Disaster – III

The transformation from II to III is wider than the gap opened up by Moses in the Red Sea. Initially I wasn’t sure whether to side with the ‘they’ve sold out’ haters or embrace it as the next step in their humble journey towards stardom. That grit you get between your teeth when you munch on previous releases just doesn’t seem to be there for me. Having said that the song writing is intelligent and typical of the Maylene style but it’s the very formulated feel that has me heading back down the tunnel.

Pearl Jam – Backspacer

Tis about time I buried the hatchet and made a decent attempt to admire to some level the new Pearl Jam wave. After listening to Backspacer – yes I listened all the way through at least twice – it’s just insipid, self-indulgent tripe. I’d almost have to say the new Powderfinger wave is slightly more interesting than this. Thankfully I’ve saved my $$ on this and can get into the back catalogue PJ reissues (the first wave as I call it)!