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.  

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.

Trivium – What The Dead Men Say Review

Florida’s Trivium have been on a bit of a career high recently, with their album-of-the-year worthy previous album The Sin & The Sentence introducing the best drummer of their career and being the best collection of songs since their breakthrough. Momentum was high, as were expectations for their ninth album, 2020’s What The Dead Men Say.

For me, The Sin & The Sentence is basically the best album the band have ever released, and not even by a slim margin. It was a highlight of the whole subgenre. This album, while maybe not just as vital, breath-taking and relentless as that was, is definitely a worthy follow-up. Like the previous album, it has an absolutely perfect production job from Josh Wilbur, tasteful minimalist artwork, jaw dropping drums from Alex Bent and a musical direction that combines all the various aspects of all the different things they’ve tried over the years and pushes it in new directions too.

Whatever era of Trivium you like, be it the melodic and classic metal sounding Silence In The Snow style, the commercial Crusade style, the catchy and simplified Vengeance Falls style, the heavy Ascendancy & In Waves style… there’s a bit of everything, with all the good points and none of the bad. Its smooth, flowing, tasteful, and punchy. Its not cheesy, disjointed or boring. Basically, it’s a continuation of the absolute rage and perfection of the Sin & The Sentence style (although maybe a bit more melodic, with a few less blast-beats). Its a bit less immediate, but it makes up for it by being a grower. Its also succinct, with no filler, and the songs have complexity without overstaying their welcome. I saw someone on social media call it Silence In The Sentence and I think that fits quite nicely.

There are some huge crunchy riffs, some excellent virtuoso solos and brilliant both harsh and clean vocals. Ever since Silence In The Snow, Matt Heafy’s vocals have been a whole other level, he’s as melodic and powerful as many of the best Traditional Metal heroes, and he can be emotive without being cheesy or sacharine. There are some damn memorable choruses here.

Highlights include the harsh ‘Amongst The Shadows & The Stones’ the more direct and catchy ‘The Defiant’ and best of all, ‘Sickness Unto You’ which no Trivium fan should be without.

In the past, the band had a lot of detractors for a range of different reasons, suspicious elitists who didn’t like the youthful band wearing Overkill t-shirts and playing Thrash riffs in with their Metalcore, young fans who didn’t understand the band growing and evolving with each album, fans of one era but not another. Its really nice that now the majority of people are stopping having to be defensive about liking Trivium. Judging by most of the reviews, this album seems to be pretty universally loved and the band are getting the respect and status they deserve. When the material is of this quality, you just can’t cross your arms and deny them anymore. This album is superb, and if you don’t check it out, you’re the one who is missing out.

Sepultura – Machine Messiah Review

Machine Messiah is an absolute rager of an album. In terms of quality, this is one of Sepultura’s best albums period. Of course you’ve got Chaos AD if your ears work, then there’s always either Arise or Roots depending on if you are a Thrash or Nu Metal fan and that’s more or less the way the Metal history books have kept it for years. Now however, this album and its follow up Quadra should rightly be considered absolutely essential Sepultura listening. (In fact, personal preference and sacrilegious though it may be, I would argue this and Quadra and joint second place behind only Chaos AD).

When you look at the cover image for this record, you could reasonably expect it to be some sort of modern version of Arise, like how some veteran bands tend to harken back to old covers when they are going back to their roots. However; stylistically, this album is a whole new kettle of fish.

There’s quite a bit of variety. The album opens with a slow and moody title track with clean vocals. Midway through there is a very proggy instrumental with melodic sweeping virtuoso guitar work. Towards the ends there are a few tracks with additional musicians, like violins and horns, creating a very cinematic and grand sound.

The core sound of the album though, is just really well written, modernised and exciting variations on the band’s signature Groove Metal style, but with much more twists and turns, syncopation, swing and outstanding levels of musicianship. The drums and lead guitars in particular are beyond impressive. Eloy Casagrande is arguably the best drummer they’ve ever had and Andreas Kisser hasn’t just stagnated as a guitarist, he has pushed himself to new heights. This is leagues above anything they were putting up in the first decade after Max left.

I’d usually like to list highlights at this point, but to be honest, there isn’t a wasted moment on the whole disc. ‘Phantom Self’ has the riffs, ‘Iceberg Dances’ and ‘Cyber God’ have the solos, ‘Vandals Nest’ and ‘Resistant Parasites’ have the drums, ‘I Am The Enemy’ and ‘Silent Violence’ have the vocal hooks, and ‘Machine Messiah’ and ‘Alethea’ just have the general cool factor. Its one of the best single collection of songs the band has ever produced.

Clocking in at a tidy 46 minutes without overstaying its welcome and featuring just 10 songs every single one of which is memorable, this is as close to a perfect album as you can get. The best thing is that it just gets better the more you listen to it. I thought it was good the first time I heard it, but the more I spin it, the more I discover. The more I discover the more I love. It just keeps on giving.

Overall, this is a superb album that I whole heartedly recommend without hesitation or caveat. In fact, if you like any other Sepultura album but don’t own this, I downright insist you check it out.

Ghost – Prequelle Review

Ghost are one of those bands, where you can say any of their albums is your favourite, and I would totally get it. The first one has the raw charm, the second one has the diversity, the third one has the heaviness and this fourth one has the fun factor.

2018’s Prequelle is probably my own personal favourite Ghost album to date. While it is very close between this and its heavier predecessor, Meliora, this one over time has just pipped it to the post.

It starts out, after the plague-themed intro, with the lead single ‘Rats’ which has the catchiness and driving power of Queensryche’s ‘Walk In The Shadows’ but with Ghost’s trademark camp, pomp and flair. There’s also ‘Faith’ which is one of the heavier tracks, a mid paced stomper, with verses that wouldn’t be too out of place on Metallica’s Black Album, but all of the keyboards, stop/start patterns and religious themes make it distinctly Ghost.

Along the way you’ll find numerous excellent tunes, with catchy choruses, succinct and memorable structures infused with the sounds of ‘70s prog, ‘80s pop and late ‘60s proto metal mashed up with Queen style showmanship. They wrap all of this up in a loose, ‘lets reflect on death’ theme, disguised as a Black Death era concept.

For me best song on the record, (and contender for a place in the top-5 Ghost songs ever), is ‘Pro Memoria.’ It is a jaunty, Songs From The Wood-through-to-Stormwatch-era Jethro Tull influenced, tempo shifting, joy of a song. The main lyric ‘Don’t you forget about dying, don’t you forget about your friend death, don’t you forget that you will die to’ pretty much summarizes the whole memento mori vibe of the entire record.

Other highlights include the superb instrumentals ‘Miasma’ & ‘Helvetesfonster’ which are injected with the sounds of Camel and Wind And Wuthering-era Genesis, the former of which also boasts a ridiculously catchy sax solo.

When I first heard of Ghost, it took me a long time to accept that although Papa Emeritus looked like a demonic zombie pope and all the lyrics and artwork were based on horror movies and religion, this wasn’t a black metal band. There was a mental disconnect and cognitive dissonance that took a while to get over. Once I got the band’s retro sounds converted into catchy perfectly formed pop rock formula however, I was totally in love.  

This album is another fine addition to the Ghost back catalogue and while not their heaviest effort, more than makes up for it with ear pleasing melodies, jaunty rhythms and heaps & heaps of good old-fashioned fun.