Kingcrimsonprog Albums Of The Year List 2018 (AOTY)

Posted: December 27, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized

Readers who have known me for a while will have noticed a sharp decline in my frequency of posting this year, which a bit of behind the scenes information for you, which is due to a change in jobs and both not having the time, and now working with computers I don’t want to look at screens or use my wrists to type after work.

But nothing will stop the frequency of me listening to music. Its in my ears on every walk, every road trip, every commute, while I sleep, while I get ready, basically as much as I can get away with.

This year, I haven’t been focusing as much on getting new releases as I have been filling out gaps in old collections (like finally getting into ’80s Kiss and ’90s Saxon). However, that being said, here were my 10 favourite new release studio albums from 2018…

 

10.  Machine Head – Catharsis

Probably the most controversial album on the list, a lot of people were let down by the change in musical direction which added in a bit on modern pop music flourishes, by the lyrics which hearken back to the Supercharger days and by the very out of character folk punk trump bashing anthem ‘Bastards.’

I’ll admit, it is not as good as any album since Ashes’ and it took me a lot of listens to wrap my head around it, but I really, really enjoy this record. I loved seeing tunes from it live and I’ll happily include tracks from it in any future MH compilation or playlist.

It may not be for everyone, but it is for me.

Best song – ‘Volatile’

09. Architects – Holy Hell

An album with a very tragic backstory, but it is more than just a pity vote due to bereavement, this is a dam fine album easily among the top 3 of their entire career. Great melodies, great songwriting, superb lyrics and the heavy bits kick your teeth in.

Best song – ‘Modern Misery’ and ‘Doomsday’

08. Marmozets – Knowing What You Know Now

I was a bit late getting a copy of this, but when I did I fell in love.

Its a lot more polished and toned down than their debut, which I do prefer, but what it lacks in heaviness it makes up for in catchiness. This is one hell of a fun sing along record.

Best song – ‘Major System Error’

07. Judas Priest – Firepower

2018 and the Priest is back. I liked the last Priest album, but this one is just better for some reason. It took everything that worked last time but just delivered a better set of songs, a better production, a better flow and a much better performance.

I can see why they wanted to include the word ‘fire’ in the title, given how fired up the performance is. Its the kind of shot-in-the-arm enthusiasm boost Queensryche got when Todd joined the band. Maybe we can thank Andy Sneap?

Best song – ‘Rising From Ruins’

06. Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions

Definitely the most fun album on the list. Apart from the more ’90s throwback first three songs, this album is a rocket ride of wacky characters, strange situations and musical exploration. It has unforgettable choruses, riffs for days and variety out the ying yang.

Best song – ‘How To Shake Hands’

05. Tesseract – Sonder

Short, sweet, tasteful and understated. Tesseract’s Sonder is a quiet Masterpiece, it doesn’t need to get in your face about it, it just sits there, perfect, and if you put in the time to uncover its hidden gems, you really reap the rewards.

Best song – ‘King’

04. Ghost – Prequelle

Square Hammer was the warning shot, alerting the world that Ghost were going to make a run on the big time.

Prequelle takes that promise and delivers upon it, unquestionably. A foot stomping, toe tapping, dance along of that sounds like every band you loved from the past and yet somehow urgently and vitally ‘now.’

Best song – ‘Witch Image’

03. Saxon – Thunderbolt

Old reliable. What else can be said? Its a Saxon album. Of course it was going to be good.

That being said, I didn’t expect it to be this good. Like Accept and Priest, they’ve got a fire up their ass and they’re just flooring the competition.

Best song – ‘They Played Rock And Roll’ and ‘Roadie’s Song’

02. Corrosion Of Conformity – No Cross No Crown

My most anticipated album of any on the list. I couldn’t wait for a new album with Pepper in the band and they did not disappoint. They cover a good cross section of their previous styles from the Pepper years and follow up well. Older, wiser, but still kicking maximum ass.

Best song – ‘Wolf Named Crow’

01. Parkway Drive – Reverence

Was the best moment at Download Festival 2018 seeing Guns N’ Roses with Slash and Duff back in the band? Was it seeing Ozzy say good bye?

No. It was Parkway Drive blowing a fucking hole in the festival with material as explosive as their excessively pyro fueled stage show.

Like Ire before it, Reverence is Parkway stepping outside of the subgenre’s rules and regulations and truly blossoming into their own band.

The material is so good its difficult to describe. The band are just on absolute top form. You would never have heard a song like ‘Shadow Boxing’ on albums like Horizons and Killing With A Smile and yet it so perfectly encapsulates everything Parkway are about, and why they are so much better than so many of their peers.

This album is an absolute triumph. Its got the style and the substance. Its got the flash sure, but you can really sink your teeth in to it too, and I cannot listen to this without dancing and grooving my neck along in the heavy parts.

Best song – ‘Chronos’

Following on from yesterday, which showed my top 50 most listened to artists this year, here are the Top 50 albums, courtesy of Last FM.

The first box indicated highest to lowest, the second is album art, the third is artist name – album name (ignore the number before each album, that’s just how I make music players do everything chronological instead of alphabetical) and the final box is how many songs from that album I listened to this year.

What I’ve Been Listening To This Year:

Posted: December 26, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized

Courtesy of Last FM here’s my top 50 artists of the past 12 months:

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Volbeat – Let’s Boogie: Live At Telia Parken Blu Ray Review

Posted: December 26, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized

_20181026132315_154_500With their live album/film Let’s Boogie: Live At Telia Parken, the Danish band Volbeat have really decided to go big. Big sound, big songs, big stage show.

Its probably the biggest show of the career at the time of writing, showing them back on the native Danish soil in front of a gigantic audience, with impressive guest stars and a career spanning set-list in all manner of tempos and timbres, show casing their heavy metal, hard rock, and country tinges all together.

There are electric moments, acoustic moments, solo moments, group moments, originals and covers. The set-list is really great, with all the major hits and even some deep moments, not overlooking any era. They even play the heavy as balls groove metal stomper B-side ‘Slaytan,’ which although only two minutes long is one of the band’s best tunes and really welcome live.

There’s pyro, videos, lasers and a replica boxing ring prop. Never a dull moment. The visuals are superb quality with really great quality camera work and really high production values. Compared to their earliest DVDs its whole next-level stuff. The editing too is tasteful and well paced without excessive ADHD-cuting, or any distracting syncing issues. The sounds is decent, well mixed for such a large venue and the do a good job of making it feel live and rowdy rather than sterile and pristine.

The packaging and booklet are really well put together and the whole thing just looks and feels really substantial.

Highlights include Rob Cagginao (ex-Anthrax)’s guitar solo in the gigantic sounding ‘Lola Montez’ as well as Lars Ulrich getting on stage and both doing a Volbeat song with them then playing while they do a Metallica song. There’s even a crowd surfing competition where they tell the audience they can win a guitar for being the best crowd surfer and lock into a nice fat stoner rock jam while they do it.

Volbeat are one of the most entertaining modern bands going anyway, with their diverse material that can swing from sounding like Pantera to Social Distortion to Johnny Cash in one song, and just when you think you understand what they’re about, the next song is completely different again, or has an unexpected guest, like Thrash Metal legend Mille Petrozza from Kreator or Grindcore nice guy Barney Greenway.

Overall, this is an absolute gem of a release. It looks, sounds and feels great, with a heck of a lot going on too on top of that, all adding to the replay value. A phenomenal band, at the peak of their powers, delivering an absolute definitive statement. This would make a real excellent first step into the band as a new fan, being essentially the greatest hits but so much more, with lots of guest moments, and showing off all the different sides of the band from the heaviest to the catchiest to the moments most atypical of other bands. I just finished watching it and had a grin on my face the whole time. Highly, highly recommended.

Monster Magnet – Mindfucker

Posted: November 21, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Rock, Rock Studio
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375382aMindfucker is the tenth proper full-length studio album (if you aren’t counting redux albums and compilations). It was released on Napalm Records and released in 2018, 5 years after Last Patrol, which was the longest gap the band have had between albums to date, but the line-up stayed the same as last time.

To my mind, Monster Magnet have never made a bad album. Even their least popular album, 4-Way Diablo has my favourite ever Monster Magnet song (‘Wall Of Fire’) on it. But I do have to say that this album has been out for over half a year now and try as I might, I just can’t get into it.

Now there’s nothing majorly wrong with it per sae. It is well produced. The songs are pleasant. Nothing overstays its welcome. Nothing is bad or stupid. Nothing sounds wrong or doesn’t fit the band’s style. Everything is functional. But that’s it.

Usually, there are major moments to write home about. There are usually lyrics that make me want to tell my friends about. There are usually riffs that I want to air guitar to. There are usually inventive things the band haven’t done before. There’s usually more joy in the performance. Generally, there’s usually…more.

That’s not to say the album is worthless, ‘Brainwashed’ for example is very fun, and sounds like its tapping into the same jangly ’60s influence that ‘Dreaming Of You’ by The Coral is, only faster. ‘Want Some’ has some energy to it and would be your typical Monster Magnet rocker that they have pumping out since the fifth album. The opener and the title track are passable too.

The thing is though, its not enough. Its just an ok album. Perfectly fine. If it was your first Monster Magnet album you’d probably like it. But then when you get the other records, and you hear ‘Kiss Of The Scorpion,’ or ‘See You In Hell’ or ‘Black Balloon’ afterwards, then you’d probably shit a brick! ”Wow, how did that ok band release such amazing material!?” you would find yourself asking.

If you love the band and have to have everything they put out. Sure get it. If you just want to support the band and keep them on the road, get it. If you have limited funds and can only afford to buy the best, then maybe skip this particular entry in the history of the bull god. This band have released some of the best material in the genre ever, and you should start with their better material first.

 

Architects – Holy Hell review

Posted: November 18, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews

220px-Architectsalbum8coverThis was always going to a difficult album. After the passing of Tom, who was the main songwriter, it was never going to be easy to make another record.

Last year however they dropped the excellent single ‘Doomsday’ which was one of the best singles of their career to date, and made this one of the most anticipated comeback albums of recent memory.

Think of albums like Nightmare or The Gray Chapter; when a band looses a member, especially a main songwriter, it always leaves a big mark. Holy Hell has such a mark on it. You can really hear the change in songwriter for example. The music is a bit less technical and a bit more direct. The structures are a bit more straightforward and a bit less expansive. Lyrically, there’s a clear impact. I mean, the opening track is called ‘Death Is Not Defeat’ which tells you everything you need to know.

Its not as heavy as the old Nightmare and Hollow Crown days, nor is it as light as the underrated The Here And Now, but it does it sonically somewhere between Lost Forever // Lost Together and All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us.

Like the aforementioned previous two albums, there is a big focus on melody and floaty electronics and like each album since the beginning, there are plenty of rhythmic breakdowns and a few of Sam’s trademark ‘Bleurgh!’ exclamations. It sounds pretty terrific, not just musically but also with a crystal clear production too. Highlights include the singles ‘Royal Beggars’ and ‘Modern Misery’ as well as the title-track. The best track by far though, is ‘Doomsday’ in my opinion, its one of the band’s best songs period.

It is obviously always going to be an important milestone in their career due to the circumstances of its backstory, but luckily it holds up musically. I wouldn’t jump into a sea of hyperbole and say its the best thing they’ve ever released, but it is a fitting continuation of the legacy and a very welcome addition to the catalogue. It would be a good jumping on point for a new fan and any existing fan would do well to add it to their collection. Skippable it aint.

 

I went to go see Slayer, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Obituary live on Monday night in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. First off, let me just say what an excellent bill. Not only do you get Slayer on the final tour, but also the legendary Anthrax, the monstrous Lamb Of God before they take a long hiatus and as if that wasn’t enough, death metal veterans Obituary opening the bill. Its also only been two nights since I also caught Corrosion Of Conformity live in Cardiff. What a week for live music!

All weekend prior, I had been preparing myself for the gig by playing Live The Island Years, Killadephia and Decade Of Aggression over and over again to get in the mood.

Now; I’ve seen Slayer before, both with Dave Lombardo and with my drummer-crush Paul Bostaph. I’ve never seen them however with Exodus’ Gary Holt on guitar. I haven’t caught them since Jeff passed away basically. I saw them in Wolverhampton touring Christ Illusion (with the similarly excellent support card of Mastodon, Trivium and Amon Amarth – how good value for money is that!) and again back at the Irish Ozzfest circa God Hates Us All. As well as Slayer; I have also caught Obituary in my last year of living in Manchester with Prong and Exodus, before I became a fan, they converted me that night and I’ve bought a bunch of the albums since (that great Roadrunner years boxset). Lamb Of God I caught earlier in my time in Manchester, who cheered me right up after a shitty break up when they were touring Resolution.

I have however, never seen Anthrax. Anthrax have been one of my favourite bands for almost the whole time I’ve enjoyed music. I must have watched their Music Of Mass Destruction and Alive 2 DVDs over a hundred times each, and I can’t count on two hands the amount of times over the years they’ve been my number one favourite band. I almost got the chance to see them in Oxford, but they played the week I moved from there to Manchester and I couldn’t go. They were playing in Dublin when I was a teenager but unlike for Slipknot and Metallica, my friends didn’t all want to go and so did not band together to rent a coach for it like for those other bands. This was when I was still to young to drive and when public transport options weren’t as developed. They also played in Manchester on Valentines day around the time I got engaged and that was not an option either (If there is one thing in the world I do actually care about more than music, my excellent wife is it). Finally, finally I get to seem live now though. I’ve also been extra hyped up for them this year, more than usual due to reading both of Scott Ian’s books this summer (also, how is it that Funko have not made a Pop Vinyl toy of Scott Ian? – he has such an iconic image).

I had a very hectic and stressful day at work and I had to literally do a quick change out of my work clothes and into my street clothes in the carpark and pelt over to the arena. Luckily it was easy to find and I got there right on time, walking in just as Obituary started playing ‘Redneck Stomp’ which coincidentally is my favourite Obituary song.

The arena was pretty empty when I arrived and I got a decent spot about 30m from the stage. As Obituary wore on, more people moved to get beer, or found their friends and it was possible to get right up near the front by the end of their set without having to be rude and push anyone or get in anyone’s space. Considering the venue, their genre of music and their place on the bill, Obituary sounded very clear and good live. On their groovier tracks like the famous ‘I Don’t Care’ they came across really well and I’m sure they converted a lot of skeptics. The last time I saw them with Exodus, I didn’t know them and they certainly converted me as I said already. The lead guitar was fun. The show was minimalist, but they were the opener. Overall, I really liked them. I had already been converted, but they went up even further in my estimation tonight.

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It was a great start to the evening. No long boring waits. No crush of people. Good view. I had initially assumed that since it was an arena I would just stay at the back and just listen to them like I did for Guns N Roses at Download, without seeing much… but hey, this was pretty much as good a view as I get at a normal concert.

Next up was the band I was most excited for, East Coast Thrash legends Anthrax. When they arrived my face lit up like a Christmas tree. I felt such a wave of excitement it was like being a teenager again. They had more of a stage show than Obituary, with massive banners and backdrops that had a sort of mixture of the For All Kings with Among The Living Artwork and a For All Kings themed drumkit. Their energy levels were really good for a band of their age. Scott ran around in circles in that way he does, the guitarists switched sides, they were good hosts and interacted with the crowd well.

They got a good sing along going for ‘Be All End All’ and filled their short set with 99% big hits. I felt skeptical of using up valuable time on covers, but to be fair, you just can’t mess with ‘Antisocial’ and ‘Got The Time’ and really in my mind they are just Anthrax songs by this point. Their own hits like ‘I Am The Law’ and ‘Caught In A Mosh’ absolutely blew me away live (I was afraid I would be snobby and want deep cuts and that I would have heard these songs too many times, but when its one of your favourite ever artists for the first time, nope, it is so nice to hear the hits!) and more than any band of the evening, I literally sang every lyric to every single song. Well, except one. I only knew the chorus of ‘Evil Twin’ which was the sole track from the new album. Its a decent album, but not as good as Worship Music or the ’80s albums.

Their choice of songs was clever. Obviously, in a perfect world I would like to have seen a longer set with bangers like ‘One Man Stands,’ ‘Lone Justice’ and ‘Medusa’ in there too, but being realistic about times and the wider public’s expectations, they chose a pretty perfect set. I liked when they stopped the show in ‘Indians’ after that great ‘Wardaaaaaance’ breakdown because people weren’t going off enough, and raised everyone’s energy levels and then dropped it again. I also like when they played bits of ‘Cowboys From Hell’ even if Charlie played the wrong drumbeat.

Joey, for all the complaints on the internet about his voice not holding up, sounded pretty great live. Even better than on the Big Four In Sofia DVD. It was also interesting to see Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall in the band. I quite like Shadows Fall but haven’t seen them live since about 2004 or so. I would have obviously preferred Dan Spitz or Rob Cagiano for nostalgia (it was so cool to see Rob in Volbeat this summer, which is what started off my love afair with that band) but if there’s someone else in Anthrax, it is good to see someone I already like also.IMG_20181105_192424[1].jpg

Maybe I’ve been waiting to see Anthrax for so long I’m not being objective anymore, but I was starry-eyed in love with this concert. If it had have ended there, it would have been enough for me.

Luckily though, it wasn’t over there. Lamb Of God were next, after much AC/DC over the PA. I’ve seen Lamb Of God before, touring an album I like more than their current new album, and playing a full set. Obviously I was going to like the previous concert better. That being said I still really enjoyed it. I mean they are energetic and powerful live, and they dropped all the big hits like ‘Ruin,’ ‘Redneck’ and ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For.’ How can anyone fuck with that? Randy is a monster live, as to be expected and the musicianship was tight, except for once I noticed a drumstick go missing in the middle of a beat and Willie messed up a guitar solo. On a personal non =-subjective level, I really wish they had played anything off my two favourite albums Wrath and Resolution, but that’s just personal preference and everyone around me seemed really into tracks like ‘Engage The Fear Machine’ and ‘512.’ Its also interesting that, like I always said they should, they have finally replaced the traditional but less-catchy closer ‘Black Label’ with the clear and obvious choice, ‘Redneck.’ Speaking of which, ‘Redneck’ was terrific fun tonight, I think that is the most moving and shouting I did all evening. What a tune. Undeniable grooves.

Their sound and stage show was a bit better again than Anthrax. There was a definite upward trend in proportion to billing.

When Lamb Of God had finished leveling the place with ‘Redneck,’ a big black curtain fell down to obscure the stage so you couldn’t see them getting the place ready for Slayer‘s show. I saw a team of staff getting instructed on how to deal with the curtain for when it finally dropped and there seemed to be very detailed instructions.IMG_20181105_201049[1].jpg

After the first track from their newest (and presumably final) album Repentless playing over the speakers, they dropped the curtain which had been having pentagrams projected onto it whilst a wall of fire blazed over the backline, and launched into the title track from the aforementioned Repentless album – someone in the crowd yelled that it was meant to be ‘Unrepentant’ clearly missing the portmanteau with ‘Relentless.’ The crowd around me went wild and sang every word (again I only knew the chorus).

Man, they had a good stage show Slayer put on. Pyro out the ying yang. Giant backdrops that glowed in the dark and changed a few times to highlight different eras, with a final one of which was in tribute to the late guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Visually; the show was intense, in the chorus of arguably my favourite Slayer song, ‘Disciple,’ for example, every time he shouted ‘God hates us all’ a fireball would shoot up. There were different widths and directions and speeds of flames as the evening went on. Sometimes they even crossed streams to form a sort of fiery cross. There was also big metalwork slayer eagle logos, with fire burning behind the Slayer shield logo inside them. It wasn’t Rammstein but it wasn’t Pearl Jam either if you know what I mean.

Sonically; they were the best sounding band of the night, with beautiful sounding toms and kicks, and very clear audible guitar solos. Like Anthrax they made a point of moving around the stage and if you couldn’t see Kerry one song, he’d be there the next. It was really cool for me to see Gary Holt too as I like Exodus even more than I like Slayer. Also; The first two times I saw Slayer, I had been nowhere near the front, but this was the full on experience I needed for the final time I’ll ever get to see them.

Set-list wise, it was pretty much perfection. I mean, 19 songs long, not too much of the slower creepeir side (No ‘Spill The Blood’ for example) and most of the biggest most popular tracks represented, with all the major tunes from their peak Reign In Blood through to Seasons In The Abyss run, augmented with obvious mandatory setlist choices from outside that bracket like ‘Chemical Warfare,’ ‘Hell Awaits’ and ‘Dittohead’ (My second favourite Slayer song). I think the most surprising two tracks were ‘When The Stillness Comes’ and ‘Black Magic’ (which they didn’t play the other times I saw them).

I also got a real groove on to ‘Jihad’ and wasn’t actually aware of how much I liked that song previously. Maybe there was too much hype and controversy around it at the time, but it never seemed as interesting as the likes of the blistering ‘Flesh Storm’ or ‘Catalyst,’ or even the groovy single ‘Eyes Of The Insane.’ Similarly, I sang every word to ‘Hate Worldwide’ and never really thought of that as being in the upper echelons of their cannon before, but hey, it was damn good live.

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I think the highlight of the show for me though was a tie between ‘Post Mortem’ (3rd favourite Slayer song) and ‘Dead Skin Mask’ (which I always, upon hearing, get a flashback to when I was 12 and me and my friend Rooney went to a CD and Records fair in a local hotel and bought these terrible low quality Slayer bootlegs with florescent artwork, and loudly discussed the track listing to appear worldly to the salesman. I remember particularly going ‘Oh wow, Its got ‘Dead Skin Mask’ on it’ even though at the time I had only heard the song once on my brother’s copy of Decade Of Aggression and I didn’t know what I was talking about but just wanted to seem cool in that sad way all 12 year olds always do).IMG_20181105_222830[1].jpg

Speaking of 12 year olds, there was a really young kid in front of me the whole gig, but when Slayer came on and all the crowd surfing and shoving started going our way instead of just at the other side, his parents forced him to give up his front row spot for safety, and I got to seamlessly walk one step further, from three people back, to now only two people back, for about half of Slayer’s set. Not before he had caught a guitar pick from Lamb Of God though, now that is a good evening for a young kid! In my early gigs I was always miles away from the bands, and I never caught anything a band threw until I was about 28.

I really wanted to buy that tour t-shirt with all the four bands on it that I saw about on other fans, but when I went to the merch table they didn’t have it and the throng of people exiting made it difficult to find an alternative merch table, so I left empty handed…. but I had bought two C.O.C shirts on Saturday so I can live with it. Also, I’ll always have the memory: Close enough to Slayer that should I have tired hard enough I could probably have spit on Kerry’s large over-sized chains, and boy did I have a great time at my first ever Anthrax show. I really can’t wait to catch them on a headline tour some day.

But that’s it for gigs in 2018 unless something comes up. Next things I’ve got lined up are Architects and then Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage in the new year, my second time for each of those bands. Until next time…