Lamb Of God – Lamb Of God (Self-Titled) Album Review

I went into this album with sort of low expectations. I was a bit late to the Lamb Of God party, but when I did join, I fell hard. The first new album that came out after I was a fan was Wrath, which was utterly amazing, and the first time I saw them live it was basically the cure to a lengthy bummer after a bad break up. I am really fond of the band ever since.

That being said, their previous album, 2015’s VII: Strum Und Drang and the following EP The Duke howeverby comparison were relatively underwhelming (not bad, just not up to the usual standard), and the last time I saw them live, in between Anthrax and Slayer, it wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting. Add to that the fact that my favourite band member has always been drummer Chris Adler and this is their first album without him, well, I was a bit worried that the band might be on a downwards trend and basically wasn’t expecting anything more than just two or three good songs.

Luckily, going in with lowered expectations has lead me to being pleasantly surprised. This is a fine album, even Kirk Hammett & Scott Ian have taken to social media to say so. This is certainly no disappointment of an album. In fact it is the band very much righting the ship, getting back to the quality we’ve come to expect.

I think the success of this record is that it doesn’t mess about and it knows exactly what it wants to be; there are no intros, no experiments, no filler, just 10 medium length songs that sound like Lamb Of God, and crucially, do that well.

Perhaps they’ve been relatively re-energised by the injection of new blood. New drummer Art Cruz really fits the band well in a way you couldn’t expect if you’ve been loving Chris Adler all these years, he does the impossible by both replicating Adler’s style closely at times and also finding a style of his own the rest of the time. (Kind of like Jay Weinberg managed on the new Slipknot album).

The other talking point on this album is the guest appearances. Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta and Testament’s Chuck Billy both make an appearance on a track each. This is nothing new for the band, who have had appearances from the likes of Megadeth’s Chris Poland, Deftones’ Chino Moreno and Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin and multi-project artist Devin Townsend, among others over the years. The Chuck Billy performance works really well here, showcasing his more melodic voice to make a kind of hypnotic verse.

Highlights include opener ‘Memento Mori,’ mid-paced but catchy ‘New Colossal Hate’ and the surprisingly melodic and mainstream ‘Bloodshot Eyes.’

Overall; this is a strong album from Lamb Of God that sees the band getting back from ‘good’ and heading towards ‘very good’ and shows immense promise for the future. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was all the way back already and get your hopes up too high, its not quite as good as Palaces or Sacrament for example, but its definitely a strong effort.  

How to remove all duplicate files in iTunes for free, while keeping the originals, without having to buy extra software or learn code.

Introduction: The Problem.  

Over the years, you may accidentally create duplicate files by importing the same album multiple times. Especially if your library is old and has been transferred across different hard drives. I for example had simply too much music to fit on my current laptop’s hard drive, so had to buy an extra hard drive. I wanted to have my iTunes library on the extra hard drive, but iTunes kept adding any new material to the iTunes folder on my original hard drive, so the library became split across two drives. When I tried to fix it, through trial and error, I ended up with about five thousand duplicate tracks.  

As you can see iTunes is just full of the same song over and over again, which is cumbersome and impractical.

Worse still, as you can see below, the thousands of duplicates were also on the hard drive, taking up loads of space.

I tried following a bunch of websites and youtube videos with various solutions. Most didn’t work or were so time consuming as to be not worth it, or required the use of additional (usually paid for) software, or knowing how to code. I didn’t want any of that. I wanted to just use iTunes to solve the problem.

After much experimentation and trial and error, I have come up with what I believe to be the fastest solution you can do without using code, script (deduper) or downloading any extra programmes like Gemini. Maybe its faster to do it those ways if you understand script or are willing to pay for programmes, but as I said I want it to do it in the most basic laymans way possible.

There’s basically four (mostly*) quick phases to fixing this problem my way; Which I have jokingly dubbed The Metal-Nerd Method.

Phase one – Prepare iTunes for the new way. This is a 1-2 minute job.

In iTunes click edit > preferences > advanced then click change and chose the new hard-drive location you want your super iTunes library to live in.

Also make surge the tick-box for ‘keep iTunes media folder organised’ is ticked to ‘yes.’ (This will help prevent future duplicates and other shenanigans.

Next, back up your playlists. There’s hundreds of videos and sites online on how to do that, pick one and back them up. I didn’t think of doing it in time, and lost all my playlists, so do not skip this step!

Next, back up your whole iTunes library. Cloud, external hard drive, time machine…whatever your preference. Just back it all up in case you make a mistake and delete something permanently in error.

Ok. Once this preparation has been completed, you can move on to the solution.

Phase two – Identify duplicates. This is a 5 or 10 minute job (If everything goes smoothly*).

Now, you think you could just open iTunes, and click show duplicates. Unfortunately; As you can see, this will display all the duplicates, but beware, it doesn’t differentiate between things that aren’t true duplicates of the exact same file, and includes just songs with duplicate song titles (eg. Remixes, live versions and demos with the same song name are included too, so you could delete something you want to keep if you aren’t careful).

So instead, follow the below instructions to only delete exact copies of the exact same file.

First step is to open iTunes, click on songs, then hold alt+shift and click file>library> show exact duplicates. The ‘exact’ bit is important. Then click the ’same album’ tab (also important, don’t skip this), then sort by artist. That should finally give you a list of your true duplicates, and you can just quickly glance through and check for any mistakes that aren’t true duplicates, but it’s a lot less time consuming and a lot more obvious within this view.

So now you know what your duplicates are, you want to get rid of them.

A lot of videos just say select all then delete. DO NOT DO THIS! – that will delete both the duplicate AND the originals and leave you with nothing!

Some videos tell you that your only option is to ctrl+click every song you want to delete individually, which is all well and good if you only have six duplicates, but I had thousands upon thousands and ‘aint nobody got time to manually select over a thousand files one by one by one by one.

Instead, without exiting your view, create a new iTunes playlist called ‘duplicates,’ and add all the duplicate files from the aforementioned show all exact duplicates > same album view into that new playlist, without exiting your view.  Don’t click anything else in iTunes yet.

Then minimize iTunes and create a new folder on your desktop (or hard drive with the most space) called ‘duplicates’ or something similar.

Excuse the background image!

Then reopen iTunes, select all files in the duplicates playlist, and drag them over to the desktop folder you’ve just created for duplicates.

Ok, so now you have all the duplicates AND the originals (important to remember that!) on your desktop in one folder instead of thousands of different artist folders. Otherwise you’d have to go into every single folder one by one to delete the duplicates. Too time consuming. Then view the folder as thumbnails.

Then resize the folder until you have only two columns. So now, instead of having of individually select every file, you can drag and select which is much faster.

Before doing it though; quickly double check there’s no mistakes (iTunes duplicate finder is unfortunately not 100% accurate and your individual hard drive mess isn’t always even and logical throughout). You’re probably thinking ‘’I don’t have time to look through a thousand files’’ and luckily you can cheat by just quickly checking the first few columns, somewhere in the middle and the last few just to safely ensure that everything lines up nicely with originals on one side and duplicates on the other.  Eg. All the way down, you have ‘songtitle’ next to ‘singtitle 1.’ The one with the number on the end is the duplicate. If you scroll down and you have only one original and one duplicate this is perfect. You’re ready to delete the duplicates.

The whole process up to this point should only have been 5-10 minutes. Skip the following section in brackets if you have only one duplicate and one original all the way down the folder. Follow the next section in brackets if it doesn’t totally perfectly line up origionals with duplicates in two perfect columns all the way down to the end.

[*Optional Phase If Everything Didn’t Go Smoothly: This takes variable times depending on amount of the mess in your particular hard drive and library.

So if you weren’t lucky, and they don’t all line up perfectly, things have not gone smoothly. This is usually because you have some random files iTunes mistakenly thought were duplicates, or you have duplicated something more than once, and so you could then be taking up to an hour to fully fix it depending on how many extra duplicates you have; you’ll have to go through the folder while its set up in two columns, look at the artwork, and scroll until you see the albums stop matching, that’s how you’ll find your random third duplicates or weird exceptions, manually delete those, (in my case some Avenged Sevenfold, Death, and Death Angel albums had more than one duplicate of each song which messed up the flow, and it took me an extra 15-20 minutes to manually find and remove those exceptions, slow and annoying, but still faster than doing it for thousand and thousands in iTunes), and once the oddballs are gone carry on, you have two completely matching columns now]

Phase three – Remove duplicates. This should only take 2-3 minutes.

To delete the duplicates in the duplicate desktop folder, simply drag, scroll and select all the duplicates in the second column, and delete them.

Go back to iTunes, which should still be up and ready to go; still viewing all the identical duplicates in same album, as you only minimized iTunes, so you’re still in the duplicates viewer. Now click select all (that’s both the duplicates AND originals) and select delete all (even the originals) and IMPORTANTLY tick the box that says remove the files from the hard drive. Hooray, all the duplicates and originals are completely gone. However, you want the originals back now.

Phase Four – Restore Originals. This is a 1 minute job.

So finally in iTunes click file>add folder to library, then select the duplicate folder from your desktop, which as established now only contains originals.

Hey presto, iTunes now only has one copy of each file and no duplicates! Success.

Just quickly check you haven’t deleted something by mistake through user error. I deleted two Hirax albums somehow before I even started during my trial and error phase, but you shouldn’t have a trial and error phase if you are just following these instructions.

Ps. If you backed up your playlists (as you should have) then reinstate them. I didn’t think of backing them up, and lost them all, I’m still a little upset about that oversight.

Pps. If anyone can think of a faster way of doing this, or any way to eliminate steps from the process, please comment.

I have a dream of just pressing ctrl+a on the show all exact duplicates > same album view, but instead of it selecting all, it only selecting every-other file, and in that way you just select every other file then delete every other file and it is basically a 30 second job, but as far as I can tell after hours of searching no ctrl+ shortcut exists for ‘select every other file’ unfortunately.

Machine Head – Civil Unrest (And other recent singles) Review

Civil Unrest is the new single from veteran Bay Area Metal band Machine Head. It is the third non-album single made since the controversial Catharsis album and their very public split with long term band members Phil Demmel and Dave McClain.

Some comments sections on the internet are absolutely lighting up at the moment with people shocked and appalled that Machine Head have suddenly made a political song about race relations due to current events in the news. The thing is though; Machine Head writing about racism is nothing new. Machine Head writing about politics is nothing new. Machine Head writing about current events is nothing new either.

Their last album featured the track ‘Bastards’ about the current political climate in the US, prior to that the non-album single ‘Is There Anyone Out There?’ was about feeling disbelief about and disconnected from racist musicians in the news at the time. Even on their classic The Blackening album there’s a track called ‘Slanderous’ full of anti-racism lyrics. Before that, their fan favourite song ‘Imperium’ opens with the line ‘fuck your prejudice.’ Oh yeah, and all the way back to their 1994 debut album Burn My Eyes they’ve been talking about racism and current events, like Rodney King and the L.A. Riots. Heck, on the track ‘Old,’ which is basically the title track of that album, the first thee words are ‘‘1994. Corruption. Racism.’’ That’s the current, political and racism boxes all ticked in the first 30 seconds.

In short, you really shouldn’t be surprised about it!

Now that the educational portion of the review is over, we can discuss the actual music. The first track, ‘Stop The Bleeding’ features guest vocals from Killswitch Engage’s Jesse Leach. I figure Rob must have decided to do this because the guitar itself is very Killswitch sounding. The first 30 seconds of the track could almost be Killswitch if you didn’t know any better. It’s a nice, catchy up-tempo riff, with a sort of loud/quiet dynamic. Towards the end though, it sounds classically Machine Head, slow riffs, harmonics, groove that could fit on the first two albums if the tone weren’t so bright. In the way Zakk Wylde has a signature sound, so does Rob Flynn. New drummer Matt Alston also does his best job of attempting to stay true to the established Machine Head style. Definitely not a throwaway song.

The next track on here is ‘Bullet Proof’ which is a lot heavier, dirtier and nastier. Its got a similar stock market/wall street lyrical theme as ‘In Comes The Flood’ from Bloodstone & Diamonds and musically it mixes the heavier moments from Through The Ashes Of Empires (think the ”On Your Grave I Will Stand” section of ‘In The Presence Of My Enemies’), with the clean-but-not-clean moments in the style of The More Things Change, topped off with the nice guitar solo trade-offs in the style of all the albums since and including The Blackening. Its basically a career retrospective in one song. For my money, this is probably the best individual song the band have put out since Bloodstone & Diamonds.

Overall, Civil Unrest is just two short and angry songs released spontaneously in a strange year, but if it is any indication of the future, I think maybe Machine Head should be album to find their feet again after their midlife crisis of the past few years.

While I’m on the subject, I have never reviewed the other two songs the band put out since the line-up change; ‘Do or Die’ and ‘Set It Off.’

‘Do Or Die’ was a fast and very angry song, with slightly cringey lyrics (‘step into the terror dome’?!?), and a slightly ‘off’ production, but overall a decent song in the vein of the Blackening/Locust/Bloodstone formula. Its not quite there yet, but it is a step in the right direction. The song it reminds me most of is probably ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ – it’s a thrash influenced song about something on the internet that made Rob angry, and it has a prominent guitar solo.

‘Circle The Drain’ on the other hand is a more melodic, catchy radio single attempt like the aforementioned single ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ was. Rob really stretches his vocals here, with some cleans you haven’t heard before and some patterns you haven’t heard since the Nu Metal days. There’s some phrasing that wouldn’t have been out of place on Supercharger, there’s melody that wouldn’t be out of place on US rock radio, but then they save it by having a dirty main riff with trademark harmonics that again could have fit on The More Things Change if the tone wasn’t so bright.

If you imagine all four songs were one hypothetical EP, it is certainly a mixed bag both stylistically and in terms of quality. The one thing I think all of it has in common is that on first listen it may be either mildly disappointing to hardcore fans or downright off-putting to the less devoted out there, but that it really does grow the more you listen. I think Machine Head may have stumbled slightly in recent years (not the car crash the internet would have you believe, but certainly a stumble none the less), however I think if they’re able to adjust and grow from here, then the future is still very bright for them.

Acid Reign – Moshkinstein EP review

Moshkinstein is the debut EP/Mini-Album from British Thrash Metal band Acid Reign. It was released in 1988. If you want to pick up a copy nowadays, the band have helpfully reissued it, along with all their albums and almost every track they ever recorded on an anthology boxset.

The artwork and lyrics remind me of Anthrax with their nonsense Thrash can be fun too beliefs, but not into parody territory like Lawnmower Deth. The music however is competent, serious, well-meaning ‘80s Thrash, with quick drums, buzzy guitars, and ok solos. The songs mostly tend to run to the 5-6 minute mark and do mix up tempos. They have a strange mixture of a punk feel due to the poor production and a technical feel due to the choppy song structures. The vocals are reminiscent of D.R.I or the shorter novelty Nuclear Assault songs in their shouty almost Hardcore flavour (I’d recommend this band to fans of either of those artists).

Highlights include the pounding opener ‘Godess’ and the Norman Bates themed ‘Motherly Love.’

Compared to other British Thrash bands of the era, they aren’t as Venom-influenced as Onslaught, nor as Bay Area copyist as Xentrix. Acid Reign, while not being the most unique band in the world, do manage to carve out their own niche.

This isn’t a band you’ll just discover and love for any other reason, but if you are a massive Thrash fan, Acid Reign are a band worth investigating, and this mini-album is a good start.

Machine Head Albums Ranked:

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

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MACHINE HEAD:

01. Unto The Locust (2011): This album in my opinion is their finest hour, the best balance of aggressive and melodic, the best balance of fast and slow, the most tasteful lyrics and vocals of their career, one of the best production jobs in their career (that guitar tone is killer!).  This album is their most focused and succinct outing to date, seven songs and absolutely no filler, not even flab on indivdual songs (the only thing I would lose is the children’s choir in the intro of the album closer, but that’s just a couple of bars anyway).

‘Locust takes the formula set up over the past two albums and utterly perfects it. There is not one song on here I don’t want to see live. (When I have seen them live, songs from it have invariably been highlights of the whole night!). I’ve had a locust poster on my wall for most years since this albums release. I still have the keychain that came with it on my keys to this day. This may not be the one that gets all the magazine coverage and list features, but it is my personal favourite.

Best songs: ‘Locust,’ ‘Darkness Within’ & ‘Who We Are.’

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02. The Blackening (2007): A truly classic album and one of the best heavy metal albums of the decade.  This album has been called the Master Of Puppets of this generation. While that is a big statement and will likely shock and appal some people, it was absolutely beloved here in the UK and will be the highpoint against which all future records will be judged. There was such a swell of buzz and hype around this album cycle and the band were at their most respected and critically acclaimed since their debut. It also helped that they absolutely nailed the imagery, artwork and music videos. Everything just gelled.

The quality of the song writing is near peerless and it does feature some of the best guitar solos and most fired-up performances of their whole career. This album is the high water mark for the Demmel/Flynn guitar trade off.

There is really no denying the sheer energy and enthusiasm on display throughout the record. Everything just bursts out of the speakers. For example the level of musical, vocal and lyrical venom/anger in the Dimebag-honouring, troll-shaming anthem ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ is almost breathtaking.

I may prefer Locust more personally, but the majority of fans and critics will opt for this one, and the band have featured huge doses of it in every live set since its release. If you only buy one Machine Head album, it should probably be this one.

Best songs: ‘Clenching The Fists Of Dissent,’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ & ‘Wolves.’

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03. Burn My Eyes (1994): The original classic album. When this was new it was the fastest selling debut album Roadrunner Records ever had at that point. This is a definitive metal album of the 1990s. Its up there with Vulgar Display, Demanufacture & Chaos AD in the most important and influential metal albums of my youth (and to some extent the 1990s in general). Like The Blackening it is a cannonised stone cold classic album, widely respected and prominently featured in many list features and retrospectives.

This album is really the definition of Groove Metal for me. There were traces of this sort of music developing one riff at a time over the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in various Thrash Metal and Hardcore Punk albums, but it truly comes together into something new, fresh and exciting here. Up until they released The Blackening, it seemed as though they would never be able to follow up this iconic record. So many live favourites. Such a perfect gelling of art, videos, music, productino and performance. A real complete package.

If you are new to the band and didn’t grow up in the ’90s, its worth pointing out that this album is a lot rawer, harder and dirtier than their later work, with a lot less melody, but what it lacks in fineness it makes up for it attitude and sheer umph.

Best songs: ‘Davidian’ ‘The Rage To Overcome’ & ‘Blood For Blood.’

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04. Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014): I view the three album run of The Blackening through to this album as the pinnacle of the band’s career. This album would be higher if only their debut wasn’t so great. I really love this record, the strings and keys add an extra dimension of variety to the formula of the last two albums, it’s a bit more varied and there is a lot more light and shade than even before.

This was their first album without bassist Adam Duce, who was always one of the most important band members and the ying to frontman Rob Flynn’s yang (very much the David Ellefson of this band), so it was hard to imagine how they would sound without him. It is a real testament to the band that they carried on so strongly given the circumstances.

I caught the band live on this album cycle, and material from this record stood toe to toe with the very best of their back catalogue and was not found wanting.

Best songs: ‘Killers & Kings’ ‘Game Over’, ‘Eyes Of The Dead’ & ‘Night Of The Long Knives.’

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05. The More Things Change (1997): The first album with Sacred Reich drummer Dave McClain who really helped the band define their sound. This album had the unenviable task of having to follow up such an iconic debut, and as such it is often a bit overlooked when people think of definitive metal albums of the ‘90s, definitive Groove Metal albums or even the best Machine Head albums, but it is essential listening for any fan of the band.

In some ways it is a continuation of the style of Burn My Eyes, certainly on the first half, but the second half showcase the band being a bit darker, slower and creepier. It does most of the same things that made the debut so enjoyable and adds its own dimensions into the mix too.

I feel almost guilty not having this higher on the list. If you had it higher on your list I’d totally understand why.

Best songs: ‘Ten Ton Hammer’ ‘Take My Scars’ & ‘Struck A Nerve.’

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06. Through The Ashes Of Empires (2003): This record was something of a comeback. The band were an absolute punching bag in the media before this, they got dropped from their record label, people were starting to go off the band. This record was the path to redemption.

It wasn’t a rehash of the early days, or a continuation of the Nu Metal years, but its own new thing. There was still a bit of the distasteful lyrics, a bit of the string scratching and reverby noises and some of the vocal deliveries were still a bit rapped and rhythmic. However; The riffs were starting to be heavier. The songs were starting to be longer and broader. The band were starting to head in a new direction. I guess there’s just a little less technicality, a little less Thrash influence and the addition of guitarist Phil Demmel into the line up came too late to affect the song writing and recording.

This fit perfectly alongside the new bands gaining ground at the time such as Killswitch, Chimaira and Shadows Fall, bringing back guitar solos, traditional metal fashion but not just rehashing the past. It learned lessons of melody from the previous records but delivered it in a new way, covering more ground.

In hindsight it was sort of a stepping stone towards their real comeback The Blackening (kind of like how Aerosmith’s Done With Mirrors gave way to Pump).

However, that is not to detract from this album’s quality. The definitive track ‘Imperium’ will never not be in the Machine Head setlist ever again.

Best songs: ‘Imperium’ ‘All Falls Down’ & ‘Vim.’ (& ‘Seasons Wither’ if you buy the best edition).

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07. Catharsis (2018): This album got an absolute critical lambasting when it was released.

Between some people hating Rob Flynn’s politics on the anti-trump anthem ‘Bastards’ and some other people hating the swearing, sex-and-drug fuelled lyrics, and indeed some other people hating the band both allowing a little bit of Nu Metal to creep back into the sound while simultaneously following some fashionable modern trends like electronics and autotuners… it seemed like every fan, critic and casual bystander seemed to have something rub them up the wrong way about this record, and let the world know about it online.

In the age of the internet it got absolutely slaughtered up and down blogs, websites and comments sections in every relevent corner of the web. Phil Demmel and Dave McClain quitting soon after really didn’t help the album’s reputation either.

The thing that people tend to overlook however, is that the things people dislike about this record are a relatively small part of the album. Most of the album is the same groovy thrashy guitar tone as before, the same distinctive drum style as before, the same vocal style as before. Most of the best parts of the last four albums are still here.

People who don’t like the politics obviously never listened to ‘Slanderous’ on The Blackening, or ‘A Nation On Fire’ on the debut, or ‘In Comes The Flood’ on the previous album. The band have always been political.

People who don’t like the addition of modern touches are forgetting that from their very ’90s debut to their Nu Metal period to their guitar and metal focused renaisance period happening at the same time as the Thrash revival and melodic metalcore being popular, the band have always tried to stay modern and relevent.

People who don’t like the lyrics are overlooking lines like ”Fuck you you cocksucker, fuck you you whore” on Through The Ashes Of Empires.

If you see the millions of negative reviews out there, you may want to skip this album entirely. I’d advise you treat it with caution, but don’t just skip it altogether. This is not the train wreck it was made out to be. A little different, yes. A bit unpalatable, yes. Misguided. Certainly. But rubbish? Not even close.  

Best songs: ‘Volatile’ ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ & ‘Hope Begets Hope.’

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08. The Burning Red (1999): This album has a bit of a mixed legacy. Fans who were there in 1994 often cite this as a horrendous stain on the band’s legacy.

Ross Robinson’s production and the music videos for this do clearly show a band getting involved in the popular trends of the day and many people called this record a sell out. Fans who got into the album after Nu Metal broke but before Through The Ashes Of Empires however tend to have a really high opinion of it.

For me, I sit somewhere in the middle. As you can guess, given how low down this is on the list, this is not my favourite Machine Head record. That being said I can still appreciate the good moments, and I do have a soft spot for it. I guess it helps that I grew up in the Nu Metal era, and can forgive its trapping a lot more than someone who grew up in the Thrash Metal or NWOBHM eras usually can. The tracks from it are a lot better live, such as on the Hellalive album or Elegies DVD.   

Also, in hindsight, you can see how the melody, slow moments and variety on here would give way for future ideas on Through The Ashes Of Empires, which was in turn the begining of the band’s best run of albums, so this was an essential lesson the band needed to learn in order to have a long career instead of just burning out as a one trick pony and never taking risks.

Best songs: ‘Nothing Left’ ‘Exhale The Vile’ & ‘The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears.’

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09. Supercharger (2001): Its weird, but while this album features one of the best songs in their whole career (live favourite ‘Bulldozer’) most fans seem to utterly hate this record. While previous album The Burning Red has a mixed legacy, this album has pretty much always been viewed as the absolute nadir of the band’s career. I don’t think you’ll find anyone call this their favourite Machine Head album.

The production is a lot better than on The Burning Red but unfortunately the performance is a bit more mechanical and the lyrics are quite unpalatable. Most of all though, outside of a few notable exceptions listed below, the songs are either unmemorable (I can’t remember how ‘Nausea’ ‘Blank Generation’ or ‘Deafening Silence’ go off the top of my head, and I’ve listened to this album dozens and dozens of times) or conversely memorable for the wrong reasons (‘American High’ is the lyrical template for all the cringey bits on Catharsis, and also comes with an amusing David Draiman-meets-Tarzan style vocal intro that people love to make fun of).

Once again, songs from this album come across a lot better live. Lead single ‘Crashing Around You’ in particular is great on the Hellalive live album.

While I have always been a bit defensive about supercharger, and have at times called it underrated, there is no denying that the other albums in the list are better.

Best songs: ‘Bulldozer’ ‘Trephination’ & ‘Supercharger.’

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Coroner – Mental Vortex Review

Swiss Thrash Metal band Coroner are purveyors of top quality technical Thrash Metal; with proggy, jazzy, avante guard tinges, but without going off the deep end and loosing the ability to crush you with pummelling riffs and catchy beats. I’ve heard them called ‘’The Rush of Thrash Metal’’ and while they don’t actually sound anything like Canada’s greatest trio, there’s an elasticity and eclecticism here that makes me understand the comparison.     

This 1991 album; their fourth and penultimate studio effort, usually seems to be tied with the previous album 1989’s No More Color for fan’s and critic’s favourite and the one recommended to newcomers. Mental Vortex sets itself apart from the band’s ‘80s output by featuring an increase in groove… but without doing the ‘90s Thrash band mistake of going too slow and too groovy and loosing the real power and energy that fans loved in the first place.

This album features some of these former Celtic Frost roadie’s most popular tracks, and it is the kind of thing you’ll always find in lists of best Thrash albums. Songs here are typically varied, complex, impressive and also somehow feature catchy and memorable sections instead of just disappearing up its own backside. There’s so much to hold onto, so much to get stuck in your head. Headbangable riffs, rhythmic vocal patterns, intriguing instrumental sections. Remember when Dark Angel made an album with 246 riffs but somehow even with all that technicality, the actual songs weren’t always all that memorable? This is the opposite.

I do usually prefer my Thrash with cleaner vocals (Anthrax, Forbidden, Overkill, Annihilator) rather than the raspier harsher style Ron Royce uses here, and if you aren’t into bands like Sodom and Destruction this may seem a bit difficult on the ears, but its got a nice clean production and superb musicianship, and some creative and unique song writing, which should more than capture your attention.

What happens when you cross ‘YYZ’ by Rush, ‘Tribal Convictions’ by Voivod, ‘Into The Lungs Of Hell’ by Megadeth and ‘Domination’ by Pantera? The real answer is ‘’probably a mess!’’ Luckily however, Corner have made something better than a mess here. Something a lot, lot, lot better than a mess. (Misguided Beatles cover aside, but then most Thrash bands have at least one questionable cover song). That sentence was just my enduring memory of my first impression of this record. I may have been late to the party, but I’d go as far as to say discovering this was the best time I’ve had discovering a new Thrash band since my first 5 years of being a metal fan.

Annihilator – For The Demented Review

For The Demented is the Canadian Thrash Metal legends, Annihilator’s 16th studio album, and was released in 2017. After some utterly incredible albums in the late 80s/early 90s, the band with the jaw dropping number of personnel changes seemed to have a wilderness period and several reinventions throughout the years, and after a rebuilding period of five studio albums with the line-up stability of having singer and guitarist Dave Padden fronting the band, things would change yet again.

This is the second record with bandleader, lead guitarist and primary songwriter Jeff Waters back behind the mic, as he had been previously in the mid-90s on the superb and underrated King Of The Kill and Refresh The Demon albums, (and the misguided experiment of Remains). I almost worry why Jeff ever bothered to have a singer in the first place, as he is suitable for the band’s sound and could have held the Dave Mustaine position throughout their career instead of just on and off at different periods.

I’ve heard some people throw around words like ‘return to form’ and ‘comeback’ but there have been so many different Annihilator albums like that over the years that I don’t think there is any real consensus. You’d be hard pressed to find any album after 1994 that wasn’t both in receipt of a 5 star and a 1 star review simultaneously.

Stylistically; There is a bit more variety here than just rehashing the first two albums, but in another way it does feel like Jeff is leaning into traditional Thrash sounds a bit more and eschewing some of the more ‘modern’ touches and commercial choruses of the last few albums. It seems like quite a focused album, which is largely succinct and direct, with little in the way of ‘wacky’ moments and no cringey ballads.

For The Demented’s real success is that it doesn’t outstay its’ welcome, there is no filler. Its over and done in 48 minutes and none of the songs drag on.  There are some damn fine songs on here. The faster songs like the syncopated ‘Twisted Lobotomy’ and ‘Altering The Altar’ are entertaining and impressive and give me everything I want from an Annihilator album. There’s also a more fun Jeff likes Van-Halen type song, the type that have cropped up every so often since the third album, here in the form of ‘The Way.’ The only track that you could really skip is the brief instrumental ‘Dark’ which is basically just a brief palate cleanser before the final track.

The most memorable song however is the cannibalism themed ‘Pieces Of You’ which goes between some shimmering slow Never, Neverland-style guitar and into some chunky post Black Album groove, and features some rather daft lyrics. It seems weird to want to throw your fist in the air when someone sings ‘’Mayonnaise and some pepper, a bit of salt!’’ but that’s where we are.

In terms of quality, this album is rather strong. I personally like it a lot. In terms of where it fits in the band’s back catalogue it isn’t so crazily great that it would topple any of their first four albums from their top positions in my mental rankings, but it is better than many latter day albums from other Thrash Bands. To bring up yet another unnecessary Megadeth comparison, I feel like this album may be their United Abominations, where you can feel the pendulum has fully swung back into the upper half of the catalogue again, not quite up to the same perfection as their best work, but there is still a lot of potential for the future.  

Parkway Drive – Viva The Underdogs CD Review

Viva The Underdogs is the first live album from the Australian metalcore band, Parkway Drive. It was recorded at Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, 2019, while the band were supporting their superb sixth album Reverence. It is the soundtrack to their 2020 documentary film of the same name, which I haven’t seen yet so cannot comment on at this time.

I’ve seen the band live twice on this album cycle (once at a festival show like this, and once as a headliner in an arena) and utterly loved them both times, going so far as to say they were some of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life. As you can imagine, when I saw this live album was coming out, I snapped it up.

This is a damn fine live album, showcasing a significant performance in the career of one of the most important bands in the subgenre, while they are riding the crest of a wave of momentum and at the point of winning over a whole new demographic of potential fans.

The performance here is beyond energetic, singer Winston McCall seems to be having a whale of a time and is absolutely laying into the crowd, demanding movement, commanding attention. At one point he comments it’s the best show he’s played in his life and it doesn’t feel like a typical Rockstar line said in every city, you can tell he means it.

The guitar, bass and drum performances are even better than the vocals, treading the perfect line between precision and energetic, not afraid to hit harder or lean into it, but never risking sloppiness for the sake of showing off. The energy coming off the crowd is joyous and when you hear them sing along to tracks like ‘Wild Eyes’ you almost feel like you are there.

The track listing features a mixture of material from most of their albums, with only the debut not represented, and focuses most heavily on their newest two albums. It also chooses tracks from the previous albums with the most festival-friendly sing along parts or traditionally metal lead guitar moments. Some metal fans can be sceptical of anything with the word ‘core’ within a mile of it, so it seems a deliberately curated set to win over more traditional metal fans.

As this is a festival slot; it is slightly shorter than most live albums (11 tracks, only three of which are longer than 5 minutes), so they add three bonus tracks to compensate, re-recordings of recent songs in German, one of which features a guest rapper, which are ultimately inessential, but appreciated nonetheless as it does add some extra value for money.

Now, I am beyond biased as this is not only some new product from a band who released my album-of-the-decade, but is also in effect a time capsule close enough to my festival memories that I can use it to sort of relive them when I listen to it. However, I think I am rational and experienced enough that I can be objective too.

If you like the band already, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy, there’s not even a chance you’ll be disappointed. If you aren’t a fan, it’s a pretty good starting point, with an easily digestible and newcomer-friendly track list that covers at least one song from most of their albums. Its well recorded, well played, and its aforementioned well balanced career retrospective setlist is friendly enough that Machine Head, Pantera & Slipknot fans can be converted easily, and Priest and Maiden fans can be converted too if they’re in the right mood.

DevilDriver Albums Ranked

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

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DAY 7 – DEVILDRIVER:

01. Pray For Villains (2009) – When Devildriver first came on the scene, they were looked at with unparalleled scepticism due to singer Dez Fafara’s history in the Nu Metal band Coal Chamber. Over the years with relentless touring, incendiary live performances at major festivals and sheer word of mouth, they worked their way up bills, up end of year albums lists and up in the public’s estimation to become a really well regarded act. This album was arguably their peek both in terms of public perception of the band as a whole and also in actual quality of the individual album. This has some of their most distinct and catchy tunes, and leans heavier on the Groove Metal aspect of their sound than any previous or subsequent album. Its still very much Devildriver but with extra flavour, its got kind of a more Pantera, Machine Head and at times even White Zombie vibe than their usual formula.

Best songs: ‘Back With A Vengeance,’ ‘I’ve Been Sober’ & ‘Another Night In London.’

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02. The Last Kind Words (2007) – The best album in the typical Devildriver format, this is simply the best written collection of songs in their usual style, less generic and repetitive than the later albums and more fully-fleshed out than the early works, it is a damn fine record and if you called it your favourite I’d fully understand why. The vocals are memorable, the heavy parts are pounding, and the rare clean moments are shimmering and add good variety to the proceedings. I reckon this would be the best starting point for a new fan, even if the next album is my personal favourite, it’s a close race, and this one is more representative of the band.

Best songs: ‘Clouds Over California,’ ‘The Axe Shall Fall’ & ‘Monsters Of The Deep.’

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03. The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hands (2005) – This album features some of the band’s live favourite songs, there were tracks that got good rotation on music TV channels, one of the songs was in an episode of Scrubs. Basically, this album is when the momentum really started rolling, when the music festival crowds fell in love with the band and their big pits, and when the critics started finding it harder to keep up their scepticism. It was the first album with the classic line up, as Mike Spreitzer replaced Evan Pitts. Although it doesn’t have any one song as catchy as ‘I Could Care Less’ from the debut, it makes up for it by being more consistent and having more of a cohesive vision all the way through.  

Best songs: ‘The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand,’ ‘Sin & Sacrifice’ & ‘Hold Back The Day.’

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04. DevilDriver (2003) – I remember before this album came out, Metal Hammer magazine said Dez was in a heavy new band called Death Ride. Then when the album came out it was called Devildriver. Seemed like a silly variation on the driving theme, but it turns out Devildriver was actually an old Italian superstition to drive away demons and bad spirits that Dez’s grandmother believed in, a story oddly reminiscent of how Dio popularized the horns.

When the album came out it was a breath of fresh air. There were two short super aggressive songs with slightly Black Metal influenced screams, there was the mega catchy lead single (although that is not really representative of the overall sound of the band or the album) and for most of the album, a whole host of fat and groovy modern metal songs with Melodeath, Groove and Thrash influences that at the time sounded quite futuristic when blended together.

I got on board with this album from the get go, but always had a hard time convincing people in my peer group to give them a chance due to Dez’s past. I’m glad the band proved everyone wrong in the end. Over the next two album cycles most of my friends ended up even bigger fans than me!

Best songs: ‘I Could Care Less,’ ‘Cry For Me Sky’ & ‘Swinging The Dead.’

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05. Beast (2011) – The last album with the classic line up, Beast is a fine album, but in some ways, it was the beginning of the end. It may not be quite up to the same high standards as the previous four albums. Every song is good here, and this is another solid collection of typical Devildriver tunes in the classic formula. If you like the band, it’s a good addition to your collection. I wouldn’t make it your first album, but if you like them I wouldn’t skip it either. It is however, a bit of a worry when the best song on any album is a cover song.

Best songs: ‘Shitlist,’ ‘Bring The Fight (To The Floor)’ & ‘Black Soul Choir.’

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06. Winter Kills (2013) – Their first and only album with new bassist Chris Towning, and the last album with Jeff Kendrick & John Boecklin who were really key to making the band sound the way it did. I always liked them both on record, and they seemed like good guys on the band’s You May Recognise Us From The Stage documentary.

It has quite a good cover of that ‘Sail’ song by a band called Awolnation, although I admit, I was so out of the loop at the time I didn’t hear the original until after I’d heard this. I wouldn’t have known it was a cover for at least a year if I hadn’t read about it on the press for this album cycle.

The rest of the album is ok. Its basically a continuation of Beast, but the songs aren’t just as memorable. There’s nothing wrong with the album in the moment when you are listening to it, but its kind of a step down in quality and it’s the first record I would describe as skippable.

Best songs: ‘Tripping Over Tombstones,’ ‘Winter Kills’ & ‘Gutted.’

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07. Trust No One (2016) – This album sees a major line up change, with new guitarist, bassist and drummer. It’s a bit livelier and more aggressive than Winter Kills, but similarly skippable. Maybe the new line up just needed time to gel, maybe the Coal Chamber reunion that preceded it somehow diverted attention, maybe the band has just been heading down one particular direction for too long, I don’t know exactly what it is.

While there is nothing massively wrong here, I can barely remember anything about it after I’ve listened to it, and I’d certainly call this one for fans only. Hopefully the next album (which is apparently a double album) sees the band reverse their current slightly downward trajectory.

Best songs: ‘For What Its Worth,’ ‘This Deception’ & ‘Trust No One.’

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Avenged Sevenfold Albums Ranked

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

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DAY 6 – AVENGED SEVENFOLD:

Its strange, but Avenged Sevenfold are a band I feel kind of embarrassed to like. I don’t know why, but I would never wear an Avenged Sevenfold t-shirt or list them in a list of my favourite bands. I probably would give a non-committal answer and look at the floor if someone asked me if I was a fan. I have no idea why, other than I associate them with people I disliked in high school and an ex-girlfriend I’d rather forget. I mean, it can’t be because of how they look or act, because I will happily call myself a fan of Limp Bizkit or Twisted Sister or many others who don’t fit the exact metal sound or look respectively. That being said, after years of sticking my fingers in my ears and hoping they would go away, I eventually got into them through sheer force of recommendation from various friends, magazines and podcasts until I couldn’t justify ignoring them anymore. I slowly picked up all their albums, and I’ve seen them live twice, and they were excellent both times. I really have to work on whatever mental block makes me reticent to give in fully to being a fan.

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01. Avenged Sevenfold (2007) – It is kind of hard to imagine the same band recorded this album and the debut. I’ve heard people call this an experimental album, which I can kind of see as there’s an 8-minute comedy track about necrophilia with Danny Elfman sounding bits and a guest vocal from Randy Blythe. There’s a song with vocoder. There’s some political lyrics which you wouldn’t really expect from this band. It ends with an overly earnest country-tinged ballad.

 That being said, I would actually consider this one of their more normal albums. I mean, it’s a mess of different tempos, styles and tones, but then all of their albums are.

The real thing that elevates this album above the rest (except perhaps confidence) is simply good song writing. No prototypes of things to come. No good ideas lost amongst confusion. The songs here just work. The songs are memorable, the majority of the album is catchy and well balanced, it flows relatively well and doesn’t seem choppy.

Best songs: ‘Critical Acclaim,’ ‘Scream’ & ‘A Little Piece Of Heaven.’

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02. City Of Evil (2005) – This album is most fan’s favourite. Its definitely the most likely to make it into a Top 100 albums list. There’s a few things that rub me the wrong way, like the artwork and music videos, (and while we’re at it the bands pseudonyms have always seemed silly to me, but by this point they should have outgrown it) but after getting into the band I’d be crazy to have it any lower on the list than this.  

There’s a reason its popular with guitar fans. I feel like this was the record where Synyster Gates really stepped up and transcended the subgenre to become this generation’s guitar hero. Speaking of which, I feel like songs from this album are always popular in Guitar Hero video games.

What separates this album and the two which preceded it (apart from presumably budget) is a humongous influx of colour, fun and character. No one, not even massive skeptics could call this one samey. No one could call it boring. It’s a big hyperactive child running in four different directions wearing a propeller-hat showing off all the things it learned. I’ve never heard a song sound like a spring break beach party, a redneck sweaty metal show and a beard stroking prog metal track in one go before I heard this. I’ve never heard anyone combine Guns N’ Roses vocal patterns with Helloween lead guitar and NoFX drumming before. There is a basic framework of melodic metalcore, but they flip-flop through so many ideas it can be a bit dizzying. Its not always to my taste, but no one can deny the talent involved.

Best songs: ‘Beast & The Harlot,’ ‘Trashed & Scattered’ & ‘M.I.A.’

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03. Hail To The King (2013) – This album got a lot of grief in the press for so shamelessly ripping off riffs from Megadeth’s ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ and Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ – check out ‘Heretic’ and ‘This Means War’ if you missed all the internet fury. But there’s a lot more to this record that the questionable choice to pinch other band’s iconic music (ok, it does sound pretty bad when I say it like that).

Besides the above taking wearing your influences on your sleeves too far, this album is a damn fine stompy, simplified, arena ready version of the Avenged style. Its Avenged made for pyro and inflatable 20 foot skeletons and it does a superb job of it.

That’s not to say it is dumbed down or unentertaining. The stompier pace allows for even better guitar solos, the first two songs are so catchy they cancel out the bad taste of the thievery and the album gets interesting and bombastic towards the end, foreshadowing a bit of the sounds that they would go into on the next record. Overall, it’s a hell of a lot better than its given credit for if you can overlook the fact that its been ‘cancelled’ by the internet.

Best songs: ‘Shepherd Of Fire,’ ‘Planets’  & ‘Hail To The King.’

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04. Nightmare (2010) – This was my first Avenged album and as such, I have slightly more regard for it that some of the fanbase. I remember I was absolutely opposed to the idea of even listening to one of their songs all the way through, but a friend who was a drummer turned me on to it with his seal of approval and the news that Mike Portnoy played drums for them.

Some people don’t like this album, thinking it is either too dark or too sappy, and not fun enough (but hey, it was finished by a bereaved group who’d just lost their childhood friend). If I was being super critical I’d say it’s a bit uneven. Even though there aren’t, due to the way the record is sequenced and the way some of the songs are structured it feels like there’s way too many ballads.

It does however have two of their absolute best songs to date on it, the title track and the fan favourite ‘Buried Alive’ are absolute classics at this stage and I don’t want to hear any playlist or see any concert without them ever again. Even when I watch their live DVD filmed on the album cycle prior to this, I still feel like it could use those two songs. If anyone wanted to know if this band was for them, those are the two songs I’d give them to try out.

Best songs: ‘God Hates Us,’ ‘Save Me,’ ‘Nightmare’ & ‘Buried Alive.’

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05. The Stage (2016) – Their newest album. Surprise released. Third album in a row to have a different drummer. Loose existential/space/religious themes.

The music on here is a lot more progressive and expansive than anything they’ve done prior. They’ve always been eclectic and diverse, they’ve always had medium to long songs, and they clearly like Prog if Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater drummed on one of their albums, but this is another step further than they’ve ever taken before. I guess the previous album was making things more simple and straightforward, so when that wasn’t as critically acclaimed as usual, they went completely the other direction and made it bigger, grander and broader.

Its got a very thick satisfying production with superb sounding drums which is always a plus for me. The vocals are a bit more tasteful. There’s a slight Soundgarden influence to it at times that doesn’t get talked about enough. Quite a strong album, I’m quite fond of it. Maybe a bit long, and not what people where expecting at the time of release, but it’s a grower and I think it will be looked upon kindly by the history books.  

Best songs: ‘God Damn,’ ‘Creating God,’ ‘Sunny Disposition’ & ‘Fermi Paradox.’

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06. Waking The Fallen (2003) – Some people think of this as the definitive Avenged album. I like it ok, but just not quite so much as all the others. I almost feel bad not liking it more, like somehow I’m doing it wrong. Imagine listening to Killswitch but not liking Alive Or Just Breathing. Doesn’t sound acceptable somehow, even though enjoyment of music is subjective.

This album probably has their most Pantera-influenced material to date on it, and the least clean vocals. It sounds kind of silly to say about a band as famously eclectic and diverse as Avenged Sevenfold, but the album sounds a bit samey to my ears. There’s usually the In Flames & At The Gates influenced sections, there’s usually the hardcore influenced sections, there’s usually twin guitar, then there’s usually a big clean catchy bit, and the transitions are usually a bit jagged which makes it sound kind of technical, and several times they used a mixture of harmonised guitars and clean vocals to create a bit of a Tim Burton flavour here and there. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was formulaic, but compared to other Avenged albums its closer to formulaic than it should be.

I think any one or two songs off the album are good in isolation and am happy to hear any of them on shuffle or live, but sometimes listening to the whole record just makes my eyes glaze over a bit. Especially in the early days of owning it, before I got more familiar with it and put the time in. The thin sounding production doesn’t help either.

There’s loads of memorable bits, but I often find myself thinking ‘what song was that bit I like in?’ and I can’t really tell them apart too well apart from my favourites. Although for a while it was ‘’that one with the power metal verse’’ or ‘’the one with the Spanish guitar and Axl Rose voice’’ and ‘’that one with the Pantera ending.’’

I’m very much in the minority here though. People go nuts for this record.

Best songs: ‘Eternal Rest,’ ‘Chapter Four’ & ‘I Won’t See You Tonight Part 2.’

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07. Sounding The Seventh Trumpet (2001) – I know, I know, I’m boring. The least favourite album is once again the weird demo-ish debut album from before they got famous, which isn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t recommend as your starting point, yadda yadda yadda, it’s a recurring theme with me at this point. I definitely listen to this album the least of anything they’ve ever recorded. I even listen to the B-sides collection which came free with their live DVD more than this.

Best songs: ‘Streets,’ Warmness Of The Soul’ & ‘Turn The Other Way.’

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