2021 Listening Round-Up:

Here are my top-40 most listened-to bands of 2021:



(Ignore the crossed out one, its just children’s music).

Should’ve listened to King Diamond two more times for thematic resonance.

Nice mixture of basic and complex

Nice mixture of heavy and soft, silly and serious, modern and classic.

I guess the bands with the longer songs get less listens, because each listen is longer. I feel like I’ve spent way more time listening to Opeth than Hatebreed, but then some of Opeth’s songs are quite long and a lot of Hatebreed (especially the early stuff) is quite short. I also would have expected Van Halen to be a lot, lot higher. I would’ve expected them to be equal with Kiss. I felt like I alternated between Van Hagar and ’80s Kiss all summer. I guess all the usual non-80s Kiss listening boosted the new yorkers much higher than the LA guys. I guess I wasn’t listening to enough Roth era Van Halen this year. I blame it on listening to Sammy Hagar’s autobiography audiobook right before moving house. If Roth had a biography audiobook available on Audible, then it probably would have made me go more in that direction.

I knew Smashing Pumkins would be number one, I definitely felt like I listened to them the most, but I didn’t realise it would be by litteraly over double the nearest competitor. Afterall, my number one album of the year (discounting children’s music) was Gojira’s Fortitude, and the first Smashing Pumpkins album on my most-listened to albums list doesn’t appear until number ten! (But I guess Smashing Pumpkins have a hell of a lot more albums than Gojira).

I am a bit surprised to see To Ride Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth so high in the list when Entombed themselves don’t even crack the top 40 (they’re 43 in case you were wondering).

It was a strange year, but lets hope we are all healthy and safe enough to be here nerding out about music this time next year. See you then!

Kingcrimsonprog’s Metal Nerd Blog Albums Of The Year 2021:

Its been a strange old year, but there’s been a lot of good music.

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01. Gojira – Fortitude – The album that got me into Gojira at long last, the album I’ve listened to most out of anything this year, the album I knew would be my number one from the very first listen, and yet has still grown on me more with each listen. A straight up masterpiece in my eyes that will go down as an eternal classic album in my head-cannon. Beautifully melodic, deliciously groovy, and still some great heavy moments and masterful musicianship at times. I can’t recommend it enough.

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02. Helloween – Self Titled – Well, I was never not going to like this. I love Helloween with Kai, I love Helloween with Kiske, and I love Helloween with Deris. The idea of all three coming together on one super-group-esque album bringing all the eras together (sometimes even within one song) with artwork evoking the band’s peak, but song-writing not too far away from the band’s modern style and not just a rehash of the past but also acknowledging all the progress they’ve made over the years, with tasteful tribute paid to late drummer Ingo, self-referential lyrics and yet the whole thing feeling like a proper album and not just a gimmicky cash-grab. Excellent.  

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03. Trivium – In The Court Of The DragonTrivium have been on such a hot streak in the last half-decade, and this current line-up have released arguably their three best ever albums (or at a minimum, three of the best even if you disagree on the exact placement of the best) and ‘Dragon continues that fine formula of the last two albums while also leaning into the more expansive and technical direction of their Shogun record (one of their all time best records so a very good decision) and even reworking an old Shogun-era demo into an amazing album closer for this one. Great work.

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04. Volbeat – Servant Of The Mind – A deliberate course-correct from the slightly disappointing over-polished, overly-commercial previous album. This album leans back into the band’s heavier (in relative terms, its still catchy radio music, its not exactly Alter Of Plagues or something) side, with some deliberate Sabbath tribute, a sneaky death metal riff once hidden in there, a lot more up tempo moments and a lot less bland American-sounding radio rock. They also took some lessons in diversity and stole the best parts from the previous record, making it a sort of best-of-both-worlds situation.

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05. Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy – Probably his second or third best album to date, this record is fun, diverse, energised, eclectic, interesting and deeply memorable. They never lose the core sound, but there’s all sorts of fun diversion. Alright, there may be slightly too many interludes, but that’s always been a part of Rob Zombie, especially on the first two albums, and there’s still 11 real songs to sink your teeth into, from the catchy singles ‘King Freak & ‘Howling Man to the dance-able “Shake Your Ass, Smoke your Grass” and the unexpected country-tinged ‘Ghost Train.

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06. Powerwolf – Call Of The Wild – Speaking of fun, Powerful are back, and don’t disappoint. This album is such a big-smiles good time barrel of fun. Imagine Sabaton covering Helloween’s  Latin-language “Lavadete Dominum” & Type O Negative’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” at the same time and you’re somewhere in the ballpark. Now imagine they’re dressed up as monks and singing about Warewolves.

In terms of stacking up against the rest of their discography, the band are so fiercely consistent that this is as good as any album you care to name in the whole catalogue.

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07. Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering – Current Queensrÿche frontman (and sometimes drummer) releases a solo album with a childhood best friend on guitar, and the results are phenomenal. There’s a mixture of songs that could fit on recent ‘ryche albums, with branching out into more traditional metal territory, as well as branching out the other direction into heavier harsher realms. A brilliant debut from this act, and while I hope he never leaves, if ever Todd were to leave the ‘ryche I would dearly love him to continue releasing albums like this.

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08. Exodus – Persona Non Grata – A very strong album, I confess I may not have listened to this album enough to really honestly select the appropriate position on this list, but if its anything like the last three Exodus albums, the fine first impressions it has created in me will stay forever, and only grow more over time. Already the pre-released songs like “Clickbait” and “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” are constantly stuck in my head and raise a huge smile in me whenever they come on, and “Lunatic Liar Lord” is so good it could have been on Tempo Of The Dammed. Last month I called this album “as good as, if not better than” any measure of expectation, and I’m sticking by that!

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09. Angelus Apatrida – Self Titled – A new band to me, but this is actually the Spanish Thrash-revivalist’s 7th release. Bludgeoning, pummelling, furious… these are just some of the words to describe this beast of an album. There is also some serious groove on the album to break up the speed, but its thrash through and through. If you like bands like Evile, Dust Bolt or Power Trip, then you really need to get on board. Check out the opener “Indoctrinate” from this album for a Vulgar-Display’ album-cover style punch to the face (in musical form).

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10. Accept – Too Mean To Die – Much like Trivium, Accept are on a hot-streak right now (for about a decade this time, since their reformation and the introduction of Mark Tornillo on vocals… that’s Kreator-levels of hot streak!). They have a definite identifiable style and formula, which some people might feel is beginning to get a bit samey by now, but when the formula is this good, I can live with quite a few albums in that style. Alright, its not as good as my favourite, Stalingrad or its very strong follow-up Blind Rage, but I’ve listened to it a lot this year, and have enjoyed it every time.

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Honourable Mentions:

Salem – Salem II EP – Wasn’t included because it is an EP, not an album, but probably would have been number 2 or 3 on the list if it did count. Really great fun, super catchy, super memorable, and my go-to car record this year.

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Weezer – Van Weezer – I’ve only owned this a few days, so can’t objectively rate it against things I’ve had almost a whole year (eg. Todd La Torre and Accept), but I feel very positively towards it and just want to give it a little appreciative nod. Imagine if The Green Album had even better guitar solos and paid deliberate homage to some classic tracks like “Crazy Train,” “Girls Girls Girls” and “Panama.”

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And just in case you want it, here’s my list from last year. See you again next year!

Rammstein albums ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today, I’ll be discussing German Industrial Metal icons, Rammstein. I’ve been putting off reviewing their records on the blog for a while now, as I wanted to save it for that pre-concert peak excitement phase I get right before I see a band live. I got tickets to see them live for my birthday in 2019, but with the covid delays, the concert still hasn’t actuall happened yet! However, I am in the mood to blog about something today, and I’ve just got their Live In Amerkia blu ray for Christmas and its put me in the mood to talk about this band in particular. Sure, its not the pre-concert excitement peak due to covid, but oh well, at least I have the concert-film to simulate the live experience now. Better than being sick or dead.

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1. Reise Reise (2004) – I was a bit silly, and didn’t get this album when it was new. Like most of the UK, I got into Rammstein around the release of 2001’s Mutter and worked backwards to Sehnsuct, but after a few years, when I was getting out of things like Nu Metal and Industrial and getting into things like Thrash Metal and traditional heavy metal, I somehow just stopped listening to Rammstein, and was always surprised when I would hear about them doing large concerts, assuming they were just another flash in the pan band that came and went. Big mistake. Many years later at the insistence of a good friend, I gave the band a second chance and was gifted this record. What a record, where had it been all my life? Why on earth did I ignore Rammstein for like…a decade?
I think this is the band’s strongest work all the way through. The highlights are immense, but there is also little to no filler, and the album works as a single album all the way through, rather than a vessel for hits only. The production seems timeless, the tunes are memorable, the hooks are strong, the guitar tone is perfect.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “masterpiece” but if you ever dismiss Rammstein just because you hear someone treat them like a novelty band because of the rude music videos and sexual lyrics, or some dim-witted xenophobes who just make fun of them singing in German (I had an ex like that), or people who say the music is bad and they are only headliners because of the fireworks and pyro, then this is the album to check out to learn that Rammstein are a legitimate classic band who write genuinely great music that doesn’t need any kind of novelty or showmanship to cover up for. They could go on stage in jeans and t-shirts and play this album in full without moving on an empty stage with no lights or show, and it would still be the best concert you saw all year. Why? The music is brilliant.

Why is this one number one? Probably the fine line between consistency and diversity. It always sounds like Rammstein, but it tries a lot of different things, and hits the mark every time.

Best songs: “Keine Lust,” “Mein Teil” & “Moskau.”

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2. Mutter (2001) – My first Rammstein album, the public’s favourite Rammstein album, the one with the highest quantity of hits on it. Back in the day, you couldn’t move for the music videos from this album, you couldn’t switch on a rock or metal radio station in the UK without hearing the singles from this, it was an absolute smash hit. There’s a good reason for that, its catchy as all get-out. If you are new to the band and need to pick up a first album, then this should be the default go-to first album. Very much their Ace Of Spades moment.

After coming back into being a Rammstein fan, I want to slap myself for neglecting this record. I loved it when I got it, but I just sort of stopped listening to it after a year or two, too excited by trying new things (1980s things usually). Since revisiting the band though, I can’t stop listening to these tunes, and every time I listen to them, I like them more. It is a pretty instantaneous album to begin with, but it just keeps growing and growing on me.

It feels like an expensive album, the production values clearly higher than the albums that preceded it, but without slipping into the “over-produced” category. The album has such a strong opening with the big strings (the industrial metal equivalent of Kashmir?), ends with a smoky soft ballad, and has a bunch of utter bangers in a range of tempos in between. If you want an album that sounds like angry robots marching towards battle, and yet somehow has a lot of artistic depth, you’ve come to the right place.

Best songs: “Mein Hertz Brennt,” “Feuer Frei!” & “Links 2, 3, 4.”

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3. Rammstein (2019) – This might be a controversial placement, I don’t think this is exactly their most beloved album in fan estimation consensus, but what can I say… I just love it. This is their newest album at time of writing, it was released after a relatively long gap, it will probably be their final ever album, and long time fans feel it doesn’t live up to their expectations. Because I hadn’t been waiting with baited breath however, I don’t have the expectations, and I’ve just loved it from first listen. To me, this is one of their most accessible, memorable, fun, easily-digestible and instantaneous records to date.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t shallow, it doesn’t lack for dark and interesting lyrics (“Puppe” especially) and it isn’t overly simple, but it just washes over you like a nice warm bath and everything just feels right. It is probably actually their cleanest and least heavy album to date, which would usually be a problem for me, but it just works so well here and the songs are so strong that I actually don’t mind.  

Alright its not particularly transgressive, alright it doesn’t crunch as hard, alright its not the hands-down best thing they’ve ever done, but it sure goes down easy!

Best songs: “Puppe,” “Ausländer,” “Deutschland” & “Diamant.”

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4. Herzeleid (1995) – Arguably, this is may be objectively dated (some of the electronics sound very of-the-time) and it is also probably the most simplistic release in their cannon, but the core premise of the band is so strong that you don’t need to expand on it too much to make it work, it is a great formula in and of itself without needing to stray too far (ok, that may be a bit hypocritical given the positive comments I made about the first two albums on this list, but it makes sense to me in my own head context, I think it’s the charm-factor… it doesn’t need bells and whistles because it is so charming as it is).

This is the album I’ve picked up the most recently (got it this Summer) so there may be a bit of recency-bias going on here (had to stop myself placing it even higher already for that very reason) but I feel like this is one of my favourite things they’ve ever done.

Best songs: “Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen,” “Weisses Fleisch,” & “Du Riechst So Gut.”

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5. Sehnsucht (1998) – I know there are a large portion of fans who could pick this as their favourite, so I wouldn’t want to come across as too dismissive of it by having it in the bottom half of my list, but for me, this album isn’t as strong all the way through as the others above it in this list.

This is an album that I’d argue suffers with a bit of filler, that suffers with a slight lack of diversity (without the raw debut charm of Herzeleid to compensate for that), and one where the best songs are so good that the rest just feels a bit “lesser” in comparison.

The best songs here are magical, but since the first listen I’ve always felt the album was a bit up and down, with clear amazing standout tracks, but not as good a whole-album experience as Mutter (or now that I’m older, with more context, not as good a whole album experience as most of their albums).

Don’t let that put you off too much though, we’re splitting hairs on a pretty great discography, and the highlights are very high.

Best songs: “Du Hast,” “Bück Dich,” & “Spiel Mit Mir.”

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6. Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da (2009) – By no means a bad album despite its low placing here, its just that I prefer the others more. There’s some great use of melody here that wasn’t present in the early material and a more live human-approach to the performance compared to the robotic quality of the earlier albums.

However; A bit like Sensucht it doesn’t work as well as a whole-album journey for me. There are some forgettable moments (I honestly couldn’t tell you what “Mehr” or “Roter Sand” sound like now if you offered me a million pounds to do so) and its efforts to be fun are a mixed bag of qualified-success (“Haifisch”) and outright cringe (overrated single “Pussy” – yes it had a clever marketing campaign, but I just dislike the song).

However, A bit like Sensucht it has high highs. Some absolute career highlight bangers, and for a band best known for repetitive crunchy stompers, they constantly try new things and cover new ground.

Best songs: “Rammlied,” “Waidmanns Heil,” & “Frühling In Paris.”

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7. Rosenrot (2005) – Well something had to be last, and to no-one’s surprise, it is 2005’s Load-esque leftovers album, Rosenrot.

Now, this album is not a write-off, and actually has a few of my favourite Rammstein tracks, but there is no getting around the fact that this is the weak link in the band’s discography. Too many ballads, too much silliness, too much forgettable material, frontloaded and generally, just not quite as good as the band’s peak.

I wouldn’t say skip it entirely, but definitely pick it up last, after you’ve exhausted everything else. I heard this after a five year gap in listening to the band, and it made me take about another five year gap, so it is not enough to win over skeptics.

Best songs: “Mann Gegen Mann,” “Benzin,” & “Rosenrot.”

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(Ps. It doesn’t fit anywhere on this list, but the one-off new song from their greatest hits compliation, “Mein Land” is an absolute gem, and should be checked out too).

Volbeat – Servant Of The Mind Review

2021’s Servant Of The Mind is Danish Rock/Metal band Volbeat’s eight studio album, it was produced by Jacob Hansen (with Michael & Rob from the band) and follows up 2019’s Rewind, Replay, Rebound album.

I first got into the band after seeing them live on the cycle for Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie, and fell in love instantly, then devouring their back catalogue and becoming obsessed, listening to them more in one year than it takes me a decade to listen to most other bands, but when it finally came time for me to get in on the ground floor with a new release; 2019’s Rewind’ was a bit of a disappointment for me (especially at first, but to be fair it was a grower), as it initially felt like it was missing a lot of the charm, variety and quirkiness of their earlier work, and also was significantly less heavy or metallic than my favourite side of Volbeat’s many sided style. For me, Rewind’ leaned much too heavily on the band’s radio rock side. That’s always been a part of their sound – but not the whole sound, and to me Rewind’ just focused on it too deeply, too often.

Servant Of The Mind by contrast seems to be very conscious that the previous album was a bit too far away from their metal side, and is a pretty hard and deliberate course-correct towards heaviness. There is much more speed, power, groove, crunch, umph, tiny bits of Thrash-esque moments here and there, even one cheeky Death Metal riff hidden in there once.

Tracks like “Becoming,” feel built for fans who like the band’s heavier material (think “Slaytan”), while “The Devil Rages On,” “Step Into The Light” and “Say No More” more than make up for the previous album’s lighter touch. Heck, “The Sacred Stones” seems to be a deliberate tribute to Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell.” In addition to Metal though, they’ve also always had a bouncy punk tinge at times, and “The Passenger” covers that side of them as well.

While I may be banging on a bit too much about the metal; Volbeat have never been entirely all about heaviness – it is an important part of the puzzle, and it is nice to see it get enough focus again, but it is only part of the bigger picture. For those fans who like the bigger, catchier moments, the album does still have some nice radio rock moments, for example the single “Dagen Før” (featuring Alphabeat’s Stine Bramsen doing guest vocals) covers that kind of “Cape Of Our Heroes” or “Last Day Under The Sun” melodic vibe, and the choruses of even some of the heavier tracks lean into big American radio rock at times (its still there, its just blended better on this album).

Volbeat have also always had a fun side, and while I sort of make it sound like I didn’t like their previous album, it certainly had its great moments. This record takes some of those great moments and builds upon them. Single “Wait A Minute My Girl” has a jaunty saxophone solo, kind of like the fun “Die To Live” from the previous record, while “Step Into The Light” with its reverby twisted surf-rock guitar lead feels like a sequel to the previous album’s “Sorry Sack Of Bones.”  

Now, while I have spent most of the review describing the album’s stylistic decisions, being heavy, or melodic, or bouncy or fun is pretty pointless if the album isn’t actually good. Luckily, the material is really strong. There are riffs that will stick in your head for days, choruses you’ll be dying to sing along to, memorable fills and a very clear production job. More than three quarters of the album I want to see live, I’m spoiled for choice over which songs I’d include in a best-of compilation or playlist.

While I wouldn’t make an argument that it is their all time best album, it is certainly in the top half of their discography, pleasantly surprising, and I would whole heartedly recommend it.

Ps. If you can, try and get the edition with the bonus tracks, the extra cover songs are brilliant!

Black Label Society 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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1. 1919 Eternal (2002) – As an outsider you might think BLS would just be a giant excuse for guitar solos and all style over substance, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out they are a proper band who write proper songs, that just happen to feature amazing lead guitar, and write proper albums that just happen to include a few guitar solo tracks. This was the first BLS album I ever heard and even though I didn’t actually love it on first listen, it has wormed its way into my good graces over the last decade. I think this is a classic album not just for the band, not just for the subgenre, but for metal in general. If you only buy one BLS album, this is the one to get. I feel like this album gets the balance between hard rock, heavy metal, stoner, groove and acoustic moments just right (other albums tend to lean too heavily in one direction, whereas this is the perfect synthesis of all their various directions), and the song-writing is simply the best of the band’s career. If you want a catchy, memorable, balanced album where the metal songs have umph and the acoustic moments shimmer, look no further.

Highlights include: “Battering Ram,” “Genocide Junkies,” & “Life, Birth, Blood, Doom.”  

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2. The Blessed Hellride (2003) – Following hot on the heels of 1919 Eternal, ‘Hellride is another solid and memorable album with some of their career highlight songs on board. If the band had split up after this, I’m sure they would go down as an utter cult classic band. The production here is a bit less dated than the previous 3 albums, without becoming over-produced. You could make the argument that the lead guitar work here is even better than 1919 Eternal. It might be the first time in their career you could say “Hmm… perhaps one ballad too many” but again, not egregiously so. There is also a tiny bit of filler creeping in here compared to the previous record, but nowhere near as much as later in their career.

Highlights include: “Funeral Bell,” “Doomsday Jesus” & “Suffering Overdue.”  

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3. Order Of The Black (2010) – I debated having this album so high in the list, because there is quite a bit of filler on it and it is a bit too long, but the highlights are just too strong to have it any lower in the list. If you took just the best songs from this album and had them as an EP, it would be the best thing the band ever did. As it stands, it is still about the 3rd best BLS release to date. Some people tend to write the band off after the first 4 albums, but to do so is to miss out on this fine album.

Highlights include: “Parade Of The Dead,” “Godspeed Hellbound” & “Crazy Horse.”  

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4. Sonic Brew (1999) – A very strong debut from the band. If I was to offer one minor criticism, like Order Of The Black it is a bit too long. Other than that, everything you want from BLS is represented here. It may lean a bit more into the stoner side than the three albums which follow, but it is nicely balanced with an acoustic guitar solo and ballads for contrast. Its quite a chunky and satisfying album while it is on, and I’ve seen lots of people online and in print say it is the best BLS album, and very much one of the first albums you should buy if you are going to get more than one.  

Highlights include: “Bored To Tears,” “Born To Lose” & “Spoke In The Wheel.”

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5. Stronger Than Death (2000) – A worthy sequel to the debut. I would say this is probably the band’s most metallic and consistently heavy album to date, but the flip side of that is that it is a bit less diverse than the album before and after it. I do rate this quite highly in my mind, but the other albums above it in my rankings have higher highlights, and really notable singles, whereas this one is solid all the way through but maybe missing out on the flashiest moments.
Stylistically; If you are more of a rock than Metal fan, this might not be the best album for your introduction to the band, if you come to the band (not unreasonably) expecting something that sounds a bit like No Rest For The Wicked and No More Tears or indeed if you expected something doomier after you caught a Zakk Sabbath tribute show, then you may find this album a bit of a shock, because that isn’t really the sort of direction this album goes in. I would almost say this is more for fans of Pantera and Machine Head than ‘Sabbath or Ozzy. The production is also probably the harshest of any album in their discography.

Highlights include: “Aint Life Grand” “Superterroriser” & “13 Years Of Grief”

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6. Mafia (2005) – There are a segment of fans online who will either call this the beginning f the end, or else the straw that broke the camel’s back so I can understand if you are reticent to give the album a shot. However; I also know it has a ballad dedicated to the memory of late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell that causes  plenty of casual fans who only want that one song who artificially pump the reputation of this album higher than it maybe truly ought to be and so you might also see it called the best thing they’ve ever done (or only thing worth buying) which is too far the other way. The truth lays somewhere in the middle. A little bit of a step down after the excellent first four albums but still worth a go. It definitely feels a tiny bit too polished, a bit more watered down, a bit more lightweight and the ballad focus is upped slightly… however, it still works. It’s the start of a change, but it isn’t all the way down the slippery slope just yet.

Highlights include: “Say You Will,” “Electric Hellfire” & “Dirt On The Grave.”

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7. Hangover Music (2004) – This is the stripped back semi-acoustic album. I has a mixture of tempos, a mixture of acoustic guitar, piano, full band or solo type songs. It has some upbeat yet acoustic tunes, some southern-rock moments and some slow mournful ballads, there’s also a cover song. I can see the effort they put into making the album as diverse as possible, but its main drawback is still that it can feel like a gimmick album. You get the sense of “Its not a proper album, it’s the acoustic one” which while a bit harsh and unfair in some ways, does ring true in other ways. Its perhaps a bit too long for its own good, and even though there are some wonderful moments, as a whole it isn’t easy to sit through as a whole and listen to front to back. They might have been better saving the best songs from it as the diversity moments for the next few albums (the best songs here are probably better than the acoustic moments or ballads for the majority of the rest of their career). Objectively, it is very well made, but it will never be my favourite.

Highlights include: “Steppin’ Stone,” “House Of Doom” & “Crazy Or High.”

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8. Grimmest Hits (2018) – In contrast to Stronger Than Death, I would say this is probably the band’s most rock album, and the people who don’t want things getting too metallic can switch the places of those two albums in the rankings. If you like Skynyrd & Blackfoot’s quiet moments, but also want some Ozzy-era Sabbath rockers now and again, this tries to be the middle ground of those. I’ve seen a bit of retroactive rewriting of the history books recently, with people saying this is one of the band’s best moments and all the people pleasantly surprised by Doom Crew Inc are getting directed to check this one out too, but I think this is an OK album at best, and I remember the overall vibe at the time being “nothing wrong with it, but BLAS have settled into a formula now and this is for fans only.”
I did end up listening to this album quite a lot in the car, and it is definitely not a bad album by any stretch, but it isn’t really special, I couldn’t hand on heart call it a career highlight. For fans only seems pretty fair. Like a late career Hatebreed album or a mid-career Motorhead album, it gives you what you need but I feel like it wouldn’t really win over new people (although, obviously I am wrong about that given the aforementioned “also check out Grimmest Hits” tsunami online at the moment).   

Highlights include: “A Love Unreal,” “The Day That Heaven Went Away,” & “Room Of Nightmares.”

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9. Catacombs Of The Black Vatican (2014) – Like Grimmest Hits except with a bit of an Alice In Chains twinge, and less memorable, Catacombs’ is one of the weaker albums in the band’s career and I would go so far as to say “For Completionists Only.” Its not worthless or anything, and there is one or two songs I really like (the “Angel Of Mercy” guitar solo into post-solo-chorus-with-extra-emotion combo is spine tingling), but its more of an album I listen to in shuffle with other things than as a whole on its own. Perfectly inoffensive background music, but definitely shouldn’t be the first BLS album anyone goes for. It does get better the more you listen to it, but then again, so do the classics.    

Highlights include: “Angel Of Mercy,” “Heart Of Darkness” & “Believe.”

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10. Shot To Hell (2006) – Something had to be in last place, and I don’t think there would be too much public outrage if I chose this as the least best-album being discussed today. I don’t know if they were just running out of steam after so many albums in quick succession without a break in between, or if the move of record labels somehow impacted it, or if its just coincidence that they happen to have written better songs in other sessions, but whatever the reason, this is the BLS album that does the least for me, and which I would recommend the least. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it rubbish (not least for fear that gigantic frontman Zakk Wylde would break my face) but lets just say I am not shouting its praises from the rooftops on a daily basis. I can’t foresee this going down as a classic album.
Highlights include: “Devil’s Dime” & “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

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Ps. New album Doom Crew Inc (2021) hasn’t been out long enough to fairly place it, but on first impressions, its probably between Mafia and Hangover Music. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a few years, but it does seem like “one of the better ones” of the post-2003 albums so far.

2021 New(ish) Releases Roundup:

I haven’t been blogging with as much regularity as I previously would in previous years, but I have never stopped listening to music.


Here is an overview of my thoughts on some albums that I probably would have blogged about already in previous years (and may still do so in the future) but haven’t had time to go into much detail on yet, a sort of mixture between a blog-digest, a preview of future blogs and a deleted scenes all rolled into one:

1. Iron Maiden – Senjitsu – 2021 – I have tried with this album, but at the end of the day it is just pretty dull, boring and forgettable. I love ’80s Maiden as much as the next guy, and I am partial to Brave New World and half of Dance Of Death (some of their all time best songs are on it, the album as a whole just isn’t as good as the best songs) and a few tracks here and there off every album since. However, this one just bores me. I don’t know why, Bruce is still a good singer, all three guitarists still make pleasant, impressive solos, Nicko is still Nicko. Its just that its incredibly unmemorable. I find myself tuning out. I can barely listen to it in one go, and if a track from it comes on when I’m listening to things on shuffle, its not like I dislike that song, but I would never go out of my way to put it on of my own volition. A perfectly fine album technically, but it just doesn’t excite me in any way.

2. Exodus – Persona Non Grata – 2021- I am an absolute mark for Exodus, always have been. This album is as good as, if not better than the last few. Exodus can just do no wrong in my eyes. That is not to say this is actually crap and I just rep for them blindly, this is a damn good album, as good as if not better than the last few Testament, Death Angel, Kreator and Annihilator albums that I’ve been drooling over. One of the true kings of Thrash, and still as good now, if not better than any ’80s band can reasonobly be expected to be in the modern age. Very much the theme here: “as good as, if not better than” any measure of expectation.

3. Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks – 2021- Fun for the first listen, but no real staying power. I’d advise one or two nostalgia listens, but its not really worth much time otherwise.

4. Mastodon – Hushed & Grim – 2021- A double album from one of my all-time favourite bands? What could go wrong. I usually adore Mastodon (its probably harder to find a picture of me between 2006-2012 without a Mastodon t-shirt than with them) but this album has left me a bit cold. Its a bit repetitive, uninspiring and forgettable. My feelings are very much in line with my feelings on Senjitsu – take any song in isolation and there’s nothing explicitly wrong with it, but the album just doesn’t stir any true excitment in me.

5. Deftones – Ohms – 2020 – Brilliant, but I need to listen to it more to articulate why.

6. Architects – For Those Who Wish To Exist – 20201- Not as good as the last 3 albums, but still pretty good. If I had one criticism, its maybe a bit too long, but unlike Senjitsu or Hushed & Grim it is at least memorable and not too repetitive. Its also a bit emotionally easier to listen to than their previous 2-3 albums as it doesn’t have all the impending death and post bereavement lyrics, so its a bit more cheery (apart from you know, the impending climate disaster) but then also, a lot less affecting. If you are in the mood for a less-grim Architects this is a nice change of pace, even if their emotionally devastating previous albums are technically better art.

7. Powerwolf – Call Of The Wild – 2021- just plain good fun. Silly, easy-going, enjoyable, tounge-in-cheek good-times Power Metal. If you’re having a stressful day, its nice to forget your problems and just sing dopey melodic bombastic nonsense like “Undress To Confess” and “Dancing With The Dead”

8. Hatebreed – Weight Of The False Self – 2020 – Pretty good, but more or less exactly the same as the last two albums. I could see some fans tuning out as its all got a bit formulaic at this point, but what a formula!

9. Korn – The Nothing – 2019 – Born of bereavment, this is probably their most emotional and depressing album to date, and that’s saying something for a band made famous for litterally crying about actual childhood abuse on record. Its certainly a very interesting listen, even if it isn’t fun.

10. Harlott – Detritius Of The Final Age – 2020- an absolutely monsterous record. If you like modern day Kreator, this is essentially a straight up rip off of that sound (in the nicest possible way) but unlike some bands who steal other band’s homework, it isn’t just a pale immitation, this is genuinely great stuff.

Trivium – In The Court Of The Dragon Review

Florida based Metal band Trivium have been on a seriously good run of form over the past half-decade. Their career up until that point had been almost cursed with a boom and bust critical reception of incredible praise followed by critical trashing over and over. For the past two albums (The Sin And The Sentence from 2017 and What The Dead Men Say from 2020) they’ve been on an incredible high again critically and artistically, and now with 2021’s In The Court Of The Dragon they’ve pulled their third absolute classic out of the bag in a row. While I am partially to all of the band’s albums to different degrees, never before have they unleashed three absolute masterpieces straight in an unbroken row.  

Over the years the band had tried a few different directions, mid-00s Metalcore, Thrash, classic metal, commercial radio metal, and they’ve also hidden in tiny little snippets of death and black metal every now and again for a bit of extra flavour. For the most recent three albums now though, they’ve mixed all their various directions into one broad but cohesive whole and developed their own speedy, stompy, melodic, aggressive, technical, blunt mashup identity. Matt’s singing, screaming, growling and shouting voices have never sounded better and have never blended together so seamlessly. Matt and Corey’s guitar work has never been as memorable, and Paolo’s bouncy high-in-the-mix bass lines are always entertaining.

The real turning point for trivium however, was the astounding one-two punch of incredible new drummer Alex Bent joining the band, and producer Josh Wilbur finally figuring out how best to blend the band’s classic and modern sides together and make them sound like their own thing altogether. Now, some of the band’s previous productions were good, and most of the band’s previous drummers were very good (much like Sepultura in that regard) but this combination of drummer and producer has unleashed an x-factor that elevates ‘Sentence, Dead-men’ and ‘Dragon to a higher level than most of the rest of their discography.

With all that preamble out of the way, you wouldn’t be given a dunce cap to wear if you guessed that “if you liked the last two, you’ll love this one” and “this is one of the finest albums of the band’s career.” Stylistically, this is very much a continuation of the previous two (not a mere repetition of them mind you, it is still engaging, original and forward thinking).

Highlights include the groovy “Shadow Of The Abattoir” the catchy “Like A Sword Over Damocles” and the lengthy “The Phalanx” (which actually started life as an offcut from their Shogun album, and has a bit of a Shogun-esque flavour, but has clearly evolved a bit since that time).

Some people may still brush Trivium off as just ear-plugs, Overkill t-shirts and the too-commercial chorus to 2005’s “Dying In Your Arms” but to do so is folly, and just results in you missing out on one of Metal’s finest bands of the moment, and especially makes you miss out of three of Metal’s absolute best albums of the past 5 years. There is nothing even 1% “Emo” about ‘Dragon. If you like bands like Judas Priest, Death Angel, Fear Factory, Manowar or Metal Church but have never checked out Trivium because it just makes you think of eye-liner and youths, I strongly urge you to check out “No Way Back, Just Through.” Ignore this band at your own detriment!

Back From The Dead, On Halloween

I haven’t been blogging much in 2021. What with the pandemic, a new job, parenting a toddler, buying my first home and having another baby on the way, there’s not been much time for writing, only reading on my phone in between other tasks.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to in the past 6 months (and therefore, what I probably would have written about):

(Ignore the crossed out one, its just children’s music all grouped together under one fake artist name).

Salem, King Diamond, Cradle Of Filth & Helloween – pretty appropriate for halloween.

Never listened to Cinderella before this year, got into them when reading some LA Rock scene books this year.

Nice mix of new and old, heavy and soft, simple and proggy.
Could have sworn I listened to much more Gentle Giant than this, but there you go!

And here is a bit of a buyer’s roundup for what I’ve bought in the last few months. It mostly been digital, because when I moved house I had too many CDs/DVDs/Vinyl etc and in an effort to make room for my family to also live in my house alongside a mountain of plastic with music on it, I’ve been going mostly digital where possible (unless the price difference is crazy).

Some of em, like Skynyrd, Purple, Kreator, Korn and Kiss I have heard, streamed, or borrowed before but finally got around to getting my own copy. Keep Of Kalesin I bought for someone else a few years ago and accidentally deleted it, so its showing in this list when I riped the disc again when I noticed I’d deleted it.

The rest are either birthday gifts or self-purchased.

RIP Joey Jordinson

I don’t normally post RIP messages because I deal woth a lot of death and suffering at work and have a different response to it than a lot of people, but Slipknot were my generation’s Kiss or Metallica. The most beloved, talked about, read about, drawn, big deal band in my friend group way back in high school when they first entered the UK public knowledge around 1999-2000, and every album release since has been like a historic event or religious experience for me and a lot of people like me.

No other band had a bigger impact on my tastes, musical journey and even personality, friends and lifestyle choices.

One of their most defining and revered founding members, Joey Jordinson has died, still in his 40s.

I wouldn’t have learned to play drums without Joey, wouldn’t have joined bands without Joey, wouldn’t have become such an obsessive collector of music without Joey, wouldn’t have started a blog without Joey. Love of his band and even more specifically his drumming (and sometimes guitar, arrangements and lyrics) was absolutely fundamental to my tastes and how I spend most of my free time for the last 20 years.

Joey’s opinions on other bands, be it Biohazard, Fear Factory, Rob Zombie, Deicide or whoever, was also always a seal of approval that usually helped me discover new bands. He brightened up the music scene with his involvement in things like Roadrunner United, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 or Metallica that year at Download when Lars was unavailable.

He also seemed like a nice guy in interviews, and was a lot of fun in The Murderdolls.

I won’t pretend to being his absolute number one biggest fan ever, and havent checked out Scar The Martyr or Vimic yet, in the same way I didn’t check out Hellyeah even though I loved Vinnie Paul, but this is probably the celebrity death I have felt the most about to date.

First Dime & later Vinnie, then Niel Peart, now Joey. Sometimes even though you are so far removed, some of these celebrity deaths really hit you.

Gojira – Fortitude Review

I have been putting off reviewing this album for a while since I feel a little unqualified to talk about it. Sure, I bought their live DVD about 7 years ago and listened to it a few times, and I bought two of their studio albums as a gift for my brother about 5 years ago and have heard those in passing. I’ve always known I should get into Gojira, but never quite got around to it. Basically, I have been hearing a constant gushing stream of praise about this band since about 2005 in print, online, in podcasts, from word of mouth and just about every source imaginable, yet somehow never really properly tried the band enough, and had certainly never personally “got” them.

For a good few years I had heard that they had toned down the extreme metal sections and upped the amount of prog on their previous album, Magma, which I kept meaning to buy but didn’t get around to, but I heard one single from it at the time which I was thoroughly impressed by, and I had already always said to myself, “if they get a little bit less extreme, I’ll start listening to Gojira.” Cut to 2021, and the environmentally-themed French Prog—Metal released their seventh full-length studio album (on Roadrunner Records), and to my delight all the reviews and press beforehand had been talking about how it was less heavy and more proggy, with a huge chunk of groove metal added to their palate. I finally decided to take the plunge.

Review in short: Love. At. First. Listen.

I listened to it every single day, sometimes twice, for about a month after release day and still try to listen to at least some of it very regularly now. I’m going to be coming back to this for years. I don’t think it is unfair to say this album has had as big an impact on me as some game changing album that you heard back in high-school and bonded with forever. Wow, I wasn’t sure you could get that feeling again as an adult, but wow, this record really floored me.

Take all the best parts of the proggy but accessible Crack The Skye by Mastodon, mix it with the best parts of the groovy but experimental Against by Sepultura, add in the best sort of Architects’ thought provoking the-planet-is-doomed lyrics, blend them together with an utterly unique and singular musical voice (which is the Gojira signature sound, I later discovered when going back to all their previous albums after this), and out comes Fortitude, one of the most instantly loveable metal albums I have heard in years and years.  

From the teasing drum build-up of the disjointed and rhythmic opener “Born For One Thing” to the delicate acoustic fade out (following the otherwise brutal sonic bombardment) of “Grind” this album is sheer bloody perfection from start to finish, with not a wasted second. Everything is so perfectly balanced; each song is such an intriguing and hypnotic journey and they strike the perfect balance between expansive and catchy. It feels at times just about as cosmic and floaty as you can without disappearing up your own ass, but then by contrast still so instantaneous and crushingly metallic when it wants to, bouncing between the two at just the right moments so you never get sick of one style, and never staying at one pace long enough to get boring.

You know how some albums have to be listened to from start to finish in one go? This isn’t one of those. Its certainly benefits from that don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t reliant one it. The album has a brilliant flow, sequencing and journey, and travels across the sonic landscape with a clear beginning, middle and end, however, if you want, all the songs sound great without that context, and literally any single track from it sounds great away from the album if it comes up on shuffle. Basically, it has all the best features of a concept album without the drawbacks.

The production, by singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier is majestic, and Andy Wallace (who mixed Iowa and Toxicity) mixes everything to perfection. The actual sound of this record feels like it was made just to appeal to me. I can’t get enough. I just melts in the ear. Speaking of Duplantiers, drummer Joe Duplantier is one of the most instantly loveable drummers I have ever heard. What a drummer, such a unique drumming “voice.” Such a balance between virtuosity and restraint. Utter magnificence.

Possibly the best thing about the album though, is that I always wanted to like Gojira but was a bit intimidated, and this album finally “unlocked” them. I’ve since gone back and been blown away by all their other amazing albums (I’m damn partial to a bit of The Way Of All Flesh now, and can finally see for myself what everyone was telling me about From Mars To Sirus for years. I guess some fans who love the heavier early days could potentially be a bit disappointed by the band being a bit too accessible with this album, but on the other hand, if anyone else like me out there knows they could like Gojira but don’t yet, this album is the way in for sure. For a few years, one of the thing that stopped me fully going in on Gojira was that the vocals were just a bit too abrasive for me, and the music was a bit mysterious. However, like the leap between Mastodon’s Lifesblood EP and their Crack The Skye album, the vocals here are so advanced and impressive compared to the earlier Gojira records my friends all told me to love in college like The Link of the fan-beloved From Mars To Sirus that it is like night and day. Sure, the more brutal vocal stylings suited those albums because the music was more brutal itself, but here, you can actually say, these are objectively fantastic vocals. The mid-section vocals on “Hold On” send a shiver up my spine in the way Tool sometimes do when they’re being particularly majestic.

If I was to choose one song to suggest to newcomers to test the waters, I think I would recommend the groovy mid-paced “Sphinx.” It has a few heavier moments, it grooves, the lead guitar section is proggy and weird and overall I think it is probably the mid-point of everything on the album. That said, if you do like things heavier, the one to go for is definitely the energetic and punchy album closer “Grind” which despite the aforementioned outro, is the most punch-to-the-face pick-scraping stomper on the record, and the closest thing to their more famous albums. For the opposite end of the spectrum, the surprising stoner-rock left turn of “The Chant” has the cleanest vocals of any Gojira to date, so if you don’t like any extreme metal at all, that is the one to check out first, after which you can graduate to “The Trials” which reminds me a bit of a darker version of the Title Track to Coheed And Cambria’s The Afterman mixed with the haunting end of Roots Remain by Mastodon.

Never a dull moment, delicate, crushing diverse, intriguing, infinitely replayable, Fortitude is all these things and more. I don’t use this word often, and my opinion might not be worth much coming to the band so late, but to me this album is an utter masterpiece. Can’t recommend enough.