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.

Helloween – Helloween (2021) Album Review

Trumpets, Keys, Stars and Rings

Wow, what a dream come true. After the fan fantasy Pumpkins United tour, the astounding live-album United Alive and the killer one-off single “Pumpkins United” it is finally time for the long-awaited new full-length studio album from the German Power Metal icons Helloween.

Helloween are one of my all-time favourite bands, and I like all eras of the band. They started off in the early ‘80s on their early EPs and first album Walls Of Jericho as a heavier and thrashier proposition, fronted by Kai Hansen (who would later take a back seat but stay on guitar for the following two albums, before leaving and forming the equally excellent band Gamma Ray). After the early EPs and debut album, world-class singer Michael Kiske joined the band in the late ‘80s and helmed their two most beloved albums, the genre-defining Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2, which are utter indisputable classics of the Power Metal genre and form much of the band’s live setlist even to this day. Kiske also presided over the next two less-popular, increasingly commercial and increasingly un-metal albums before leaving the band. In the early-mid ‘90s after a period of turbulence, declining popularity and declining band morale, singer Andi Deris joined the band and has been with the band ever since as they rebuilt, endured and produced some of their finest work along the way.

Each singer has their own fans. Kai is the original and heaviest, Kiske is the most popular and best technical singer, and Andi is the longest-serving and best showman/performer. This new album, like the wicked live album that precedes it, features all three singers on it, sometimes alone or usually mixed together. They are cleverly blended on this record; without a proper analysis it feels broadly like about Andi probably doing 55%, Kiske doing about 30% and Hansen doing about 15% which seems appropriate given their relative longevity in the band, and their relative commercial appeal (and the fact that Kai had talked about singing less in Gamma Ray a few years ago). Interestingly too, as a tribute to the late Helloween drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, current drummer Daniel Löble actually recorded his drum parts using Ingo’s old drumkit. Nice touch!


Although there must have been some temptation to just dive back into a retro ‘80s sound musically and sonically now that Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske back in the fold and Ingo’s old kit is being used, the results are actually decidedly more modern. While there is clear influence from the ‘80s it is not a simple rehash or retreading of old ground. Shameless fan service is in low supply and they’ve made a concerted effort to blend modernity and nostalgia in a classy way. The production (courtesy of Charlie Bauerfeind & Dennis Ward) is slick and modern, feeling much more like the most recent Derris Era Helloween albums, My God Given Right and Straight Out Of Hell in terms of actual sonics. Even album art evokes simultaneously their classic Walls Of Jericho, Keeper Of The Seven Keys and Time Of The Oath album artworks all at once, which again feels like a clever blending of the three eras together.

The song-writing does sound like recent Helloween albums first and foremost, not too much like the ‘80s and not overly like Hansen’s work in Gamma Ray or Kiske’s work in Unisonic (there are bits here and there, but its not the main flavour). This record is not a rejection of all the progress the band have made over the years, and it isn’t just the Helloween of the ‘80s back in an anachronistic inappropriate revival cash-in.

That being said, the three singers meets numerous guitar players dynamic does help it stand apart from recent albums too though. It isn’t just business as usual with a cheap gimmick slapped on the top either. What this actually is, is a new hybrid-Helloween, bringing a best-of-both worlds approach, injected with extra energy and enthusiasm on top if that for good measure. It is a good record, in fact a very good record, and a brilliant payoff for fans who like more than one era of the band. I highly recommend it.

However; while it would be tempting to get carried away for the sake of the story and say that it is their best album to date, or even their best album since 1990 or whatever, that would be incredibly unfair to some of the amazing albums the band have been releasing all along. It is a good album, easily in the top half or even top third of their discography, but to say it tops everything since the Keepers’ would be an inaccurate nonsense. This album is good, but let’s not forget some of the other great work they’ve made for the sake of a good hyperbole-filled headline. I genuinely hope people who come back to the band because of the reunion vibe now go back and check out killer albums like 7 Sinners and especially Time Of The Oath and see how strong the band can be without Kai or Michael as well (if you’re interested, check out my ranking of all Helloween albums from best to worst).

Ok. Soapbox moment done. Album highlights include the 12-minute album closer “Skyfall,” (varied and triumphant), as well as the majestic 7-minute album opener “Out For The Glory” and the shorter/punchier “Cyanide” (both premium modern Power Metal) and the more Hard Rock number “Mass Pollution” which has some of the most memorable guitar moments.

Overall; 2021’s Helloween is a very noteworthy album that manages to live up to its potential, with killer songs, killer sounds and a killer premise. I’m pretty over the moon about this album and I hope you will be too.

PS. I’ve already got tickets to see them live, postponed due to the pandemic from before the album was out, and now I really hope they drop a few tunes from this album into the set too.