Friday, 16 December 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 3, 2 and 1

No.3-Skindred- Union Black

    With a breath-taking and legendary live show in their arsenal, Skindred should be big news. Thankfully, 2011 appeared to be their year; rapturously received festival appearances, booked for Hammerfest head-liner next year and a Golden God Award for best live act being just a couple of accolades they have gained this year. On top of all that, they just happened to release the best album of their career thus far by some huge margin in Union Black.

    Union Black is Skindred’s most experimental and diverse album to date; incorporating such a wide range of genres in to the mix. The first time the bands have recorded an album in the UK and it really shows; Union Black is such a great musical representation of the UK’s vibrant music scene across several genres. Of course the expected mix of Reggae, Metal and Punk are in there, but Skindred have really flexed their creative muscle and incorporated elements of dub-step, drum and bass and other forms of electronic in to the mix to an astounding result. This is a real evolution for the band and they have never sounded better.

    Musically the band is as impressive as ever, the hooks are the most memorable they have been before for them and these are the best songs the band has ever written. Benji Webb as well shows why he is quite possibly the greatest front man on the planet right now; with such a unique sounding range of growls and great clean singing. Every time I listen to this album I have a new favourite song, and each and every one of them would wreck rock and metal clubs like no one’s business. A perfect summary of the great music scene in the UK today.

Listen To: Warning, Cut Dem, Doom Riff


No.2- Times Of Grace- The Hymn Of A Broken Man

    To be perfectly honest any band masterminded by Killswitch Engage guitarist, visionary and nutcase Adam Dutkiewicz¸ and fronted by ex KsE vocalist Jesse Leach was always going to be a highlight of mine in the year, so my KsE love affair does make me a little bit biased. This is not to take away from the fact that Times Of Grace have put out an amazing album in The Hymn Of A Broken Man.

    This project had been on the cards since Adam’s emergency back surgery, where through fear and unknowing to whether he would be able to play guitar or even walk again, wrote all the music for this project. Written in such a turbid and dark time, the music is in places expectedly sombre, but also crushing and uplifting. Ultimately (like most of KsE’s output) THOABM is a positive record, encouraging one to fight on through the difficult hardships faced day to day; and it portrays this so beautifully.

    On a musical level this is familiar enough to KsE fans, it is melodic and has roar along choruses throughout; within one listen you should have them all memorised. But it is different enough to offer fans something new as well; there is an acoustic ballad for example, album highlight ‘The Forgotten One’, thrashier riffs in places such as album opener ‘Strength In Numbers’ and even a touching, sombre, funeral like instrumental track called ‘In The Arms Of Mercy’, a seriously gorgeous piece of music which cannot fail to tug at the heart strings.

    Jesse Leach as well gives an incredible vocal performance, being able to portray such a wide range of emotions perfectly, from furious rage, to melancholy, to hopefulness; this is without doubt one of my favourite vocal performances of the year. Adam also shows his skills as a vocalist on here as well, taking lead on a number of occasions to great effect, showing the feeling of sheer desperation but ultimate air of  uplifting oneself the whole album centres around. A touching and stunning piece of work, THOABM is fitting album to accompany through the hard times we face, and should offer the power to pick oneself up and fight on.

Listen To: Willing, In The Arms Of Mercy, The Forgotten One




And finally, the big one...

No.1- Mastodon- The Hunter

    First of all I would like to point out that 2011 has been an impressive year for music; this countdown of my top 20 was very difficult to narrow down, with several other albums quite easily being able to stake a claim for a spot, and of course there are some notable albums I have not got round to checking out which I know would be of my taste and probably real contenders. That being said picking my number 1 was relatively easy, one album that I have returned to on so many occasions since I first heard it and each time I have been staggered by its sheer quality. That album is Mastodon's The Hunter.

    The Hunter has received such critical acclaim, great reviews from so many publications and even gained them a performance slot on Later...With Jools Holland; a real event for fans of the heavy and the avant garde. It is easy to see as well why they have got this acclaim, The Hunter isn't just a great album, there is a genuine special feeling around it, it feels like it will become a landmark in metal music history, it sounds like it will become regarded as a timeless work in the future.

    Definitely the bands most accessible album, on first listen it does not appear to be as complex and challenging as their previous album the spellbinding Crack The Skye; songs such as 'Curl Of The Burl' and 'Black Tongue' are instantly anthemic and are quite simply some of the bands strongest to date. Dig a little deeper and there is so much to discover. Originally thought to not contain a concept like all previous albums, this has an earthy, nature theme and is also a tribute to guitarist Brent Hinds' brother who died hunting (the album and title track are named in his honour). There are also many, at first, subtle stories and tales within with such topics as goat murder and hunting, as well as some great expressions of the bands humour peering through (check out the first line of 'Curl Of The Burl'). Also songs like 'Blasteroid' are some of the heaviest the band has penned.

    At around the half way mark the tempo shifts and the bands proggier influences come to play once again, yet this transition does not feel disjointed in the slightest. Without question, everything here works. The Hunter is a collection of some of Mastodon's best and most catchy songs, tied with a non overpowering but yet important and brilliant concept. The Hunter manages to be simple, hooky and alluring, yet deep and complicated at the same time. A mesmerising display by one of the worlds strongest bands, and an album that will stand the test of time as one of the decades true greats. Mastodon are on their way to the elite of not just metal, but hard rock in general.

Listen To: Black Tongue, Curl Of The Burl, Stargasm



    

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 5-4


No.5-The Answer- Revival

    In the last couple of years classic rock has had a real resurgence in popularity, all of a sudden classic bands are being fully embraced by younger fans, and newer bands are showing their love for those of yore with an influx of classic sounding bands. Northern Ireland’s The Answer are at least very near the top of that pile (if not right up at the top). Both the bands previous albums, Rise and Everyday Demons were received very well; both had excellent, catchy, hooky songs which had you tapping and drinking away with glee. Revival stylistically is much of the same, it just seems to have targeted the word Classic, because that is what Revival is very close to being, a true vintage sounding rock gem.

    The time spent with previous touring buddies AC/DC seems to have taught these guys a few tricks because the jump in quality from the already impressive Everyday Demons to this is staggering. Other than a hint of AC/DC influence popping up here and there and a more obvious blues rock sound,  there is very little different about this album; it is simply just done at a much greater quality. The song writing has improved massively, each song has a unique identity and stands on its own out right as a possible highlight.

    Paul Mahon especially puts in a tremendous performance on guitar, jumping between the subtle and the showy but not OTT with ease and style, and front man Cormac Neeson once again shows his skill as a story-teller in the ilk of Phil Lynott, and equally as great a voice. Even with several months to go until the sun does come out once again, Revival will definitely be being played by me during the BBQ months with a cold pint or two in hand. If you don’t find yourself with a massive grin on your mug and singing at the top of your voice to this I would seriously get checked up. The one remotely unmemorable track ‘Destroy Me’ prevents this from being perfect, but Revival is still a joyous, simple but brilliant rock album. Can it be summer yet please?

Listen To: Nowhere Freeway, Vida (I Want You), Caught On The Riverbed


No.4- Machine Head- Unto The Locust

    Following the undeniable modern classic The Blackening was always going to take a staggering effort against the odds, and whatever came next was going to have THAT album hanging over it and Machine Head gave it the very best shot, sadly Unto The Locust does not top The Blackening. It comes very, VERY close to matching it however, and that is no small feat either.

    Unto The Locust is an album that you can instantly tell that the band have poured their heart and soul in to in order to make the best album they can. They could have easily just attempted to make The Blackening Mark II, but instead Machine Head have decided to try some new things out, and make Unto The Locust its own beast. There is such a lot going on in places, with new tricks that were maybe not expected from Machine Head, the use of child vocal chants and acoustic guitar licks being a couple of examples, yet these new experimentations seem entirely natural. There is a definite progressive element to this album, along with the long track running times of all the 5 minute mark, this is the most challenging of Machine Head releases and does take several listens to fully grasp, but once you have you will not be disappointed.

    Robb Flynn especially excels himself with some of his strongest, most reflective and relatable lyrics to date. Prime example of this is the half acoustic number ‘The Darkness Within’, which is a very reflective song about music and his relation to his art which is very touching (although the song itself for me is dependent on my mood). The typical Machine Head style anthems are plentiful here too, from ‘I Am Hell [Sonata in C#]’ through ‘Be Still And Know’ to ‘Pearls Before The Swine’, there is plenty here for the typical fan, but with enough extras to fully explore. Unto The Locust is a tremendous effort and one of the major releases of the year period.

Listen To: I Am Hell [Sonata in C#], Be Still And Know, Locust

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 7-6

Sorry I haven't updated this in a little while, apparently assignments really pick up in the third year of university! Who knew?? Anyway I hope you haven't been going mental with anticipation as to what this tit's favourite albums of the year are. You have? Oooh, well best continue then.

No.7- Anthrax- Worship Music

    Sometimes it is very easy to get swept away with the hype surrounding a major new release from a band with a legendary status. A prime example for me was back in 2008 with the arrival of the brand new Metallica album Death Magnetic. At the time of its release you could not move for positive reviews and excitement for the album, and when it finally arrived on my doorstep and into my CD player I loved it, but over time I began to realise it was not as great as expected. There was a worry that Anthrax would do something similar here; it has been nearly a decade since their last studio release, and after an apparent trap door policy on vocalists which EVENTUALLY resulted in original singer Joey Belladonna taking the helm, expectations were very high. But would Worship Music live up to the weight of expectation? Thankfully, Worship Music is a stormer.

    Admittedly the album sounds like it was intended for iconic front-man John Bush to be at the helm, with songs having a more commanding feel than the partly humorous and cartoon like (but undoubtedly classic) Spreading The Disease/Among The Living era; but Joey does an admirable job and gives perhaps his most furious performances. 'Earth On Hell' is a prime example of Joey showing his own character and yet filling the void left by Bush.

    Of course Joey is the biggest talking point of the album, but that's not to take away from the rest of the band, who have written some of their best songs in a long time. The likes of 'Fight 'Em Til You Can't', 'Earth On Hell' and 'The Devil You Know' should become staples for the band if there is any justice. Sounding less like a thrash album and showing more signs of a classic rock sound (perhaps a result of Ian and Caggiano's The Damned Things project?), this is still undeniably Anthrax and thankfully they sound stable once again. May it continue that way.

Listen To: Earth On Hell, Fight 'Em Til You Can't, In The End



No.6- Vintage Trouble- The Bomb Shelter Sessions

    First of all I do not claim to be an expert by any means in Soul and Blues music; as much as I enjoy artists of these genres, my critical knowledge of such acts is minuscule. That being said, since I first heard  Vintage Trouble and The Bomb Shelter Sessions I have barely stopped listening to it. It is such a fun, danceable and believable album and deserves any recognition it gets.

    Vintage Trouble are an LA based old school style Blues, Soul and Rock band, and despite this being their début they have gained quite a lot of new fans along the way, with appearances on Later...With Jools Holland and The Late Show With JoAnne Good, before some touring in the UK with the little known Brian May and Bon Jovi... not bad really.

    One listen to this album will tell you why these guys have got such attention. Each and every song on here will put a smile on your face and have you dancing away like a loon before you know it. A sound firmly rooted in the very early and vibrant Soul sound, The Bomb Shelter Sessions sounds vintage yet fresh simultaneously. Each song is almost instantly memorable throughout. Frontman Ty Taylor is an absolute star as well, the perfect package of a beautiful voice and instant, natural charisma; find any live video as proof and see how much of a pleasure this guy is simply to watch on stage. A rather unexpected highlight for me admittedly, but Vintage Trouble have put out one of the catchiest and straight up fun and danceable albums of the year. Check this out. Now!

Listen To: Nancy Lee, You Better Believe It, Total Strangers



Thursday, 1 December 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's- 9-8

No.9- All Shall Perish- This Is Where It Ends


    Since their previous 2008 release, Awaken The Dreamers, death/deathcore metallers All Shall Perish have had a couple of stumbling blocks to deal with. The departure of both a guitarist and a drummer is always a major blow, so the exits of guitarist Chris Storey and drummer Matt Kuykendall could have left these still young scamps in lumber. Instead the band brought in Francesco Artusato and Adam Pierce and deliver a tremendous effort, and easily their best. Easy really.


     Often tagged as a deathcore act, there is little here to warrant that categorization here; This Is Where It Ends is modern death metal at some of its most dangerous: it is heavy as a truck load of anvils, it is brutal, at times it shows signs of the melodic, and it is also mature and shows coming of age for All Shall Perish. There is masses of technicality on display here but there are even subtle signs of prog thought inside, as well as some quite obvious groove metal nuances thrown in. There are some signs of experimentation but not to the point of distraction.


    Not to mention the vocals! Hernan Hermida gives a monstrous display, almost literally, I am not 100% sure if he isn't a monster. A wide range of ferocious growls on display that make him more than a match for any of the great harsh vocalists out there right now. With good fortune, this album should see All Shall Perish become very big names in the death metal circles; This Is Where It Ends is one of the most crushing, neck snapping albums of the year.


Listen To: There Is Nothing Left, A Pure Evil, Royalty Into Exile




No.8- Ancient VVisdom- A Godlike Inferno


    Probably one of the most underrated releases of the year, but one that should not be missed, Ancient VVisdom (yes, it is spelt with two capital V's, because they can) deliver an unusual, challenging release to some, but a deeply rewarding one. Certainly the 'Sore thumb' of this countdown, but one of the finest releases of the year.


    Ancient VVisdom are a mostly acoustic band, with some folk sounding influences in their artillery, with subject matter based on the occult, the satanic and the pure evil, very similarly to the infamous Black Widow. Despite the purely acoustic guitar work, this still manages to have a unique heaviness than to what we may be accustomed to, using the power of mystery and eeriness rather than being ear splittingly loud.


    A Godlike Inferno is also incredibly memorable; you will be able to hum along to each and every song on here after one listen. Lyrically it also uses repetition to embed into your head almost becoming ritual like chanting, further adding to the albums air of mystery. These elements combine together to form a very strong collection of curious, chilling and mesmerising evil. Challenging, unique and yet strangely comforting and familiar, A Godlike Inferno is a true reward to anyone willing to delve in to the unknown.


Listen To: Alter Reality, The Opposition, Lost Civilization




     




Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 11-10

No.11- Rival Sons- Pressure And Time

    It hasn't been a bad year for LA upstarts Rival Sons, in the year of their label début these guys have, amongst other milestones, been one of the highlights at High Voltage Festival and been opening act on the UK tour of some little known metal band by the name of Judas Priest!! The heights that these guys have reached already are meteoric to say the least, and they have arguably become one of the biggest and best forces in the new Traditonal Metal revival with their blues fueled Led Zeppelin influenced brand of rock 'n' roll. Oh and their album Pressure And Time is an absolute corker.

    Arguably filling a void and curing an itch that Led Zep used to do, it isn't right to be comparing the two bands quite yet, with Led Zep's legacy almost unparalleled, but they are also the first name that comes to mind when looking at Rival Son's influences; singer Jay Buchanan also at times brings to mind Jack White and The White Stripes, but don't hold it against him. This is one of those rare trad revival albums that manages to sound fresh despite the well known influences, and also sounds immediately timeless.

    What it really has going for it is how many instantly great songs are on here, so many immediate anthems that will have you tapping your feet and nodding your head like a freak in seconds. Seriously listen to anything from 'All Over The Road' 'Pressure And Time' 'Gypsy Heart' 'Save Me' and 'Only One', if you don't have a smile on your face then I'd recommend you check you still have a pulse. Come summertime this record should be blaring from your speakers once again, it is such a fun album tailor made for the good times.

Listen To: All Over The Road, Pressure And Time, Only One


No.10- Letlive.-Fake History

    Arguably a controversial choice in the 2011 countdown as technically Fake History was released in 2010, but only got a UK release early 2011, so in my opinion still counts, so there, nurgh (very mature Chris, a career in the big publications obviously awaits). Besides this album is such a great album that it very much deserves to be recognised. With such an insane and unpredictable live show almost becoming legendary, Letlive have had quite a buzz surrounding them this year with the UK's first real opportunity to see what all the fuss is about these guys, their shows have been getting rave reviews, and with the addition of this collection of songs to their name, it's not a surprise.

    Letlive's brand of post hardcore seems particularly chaotic and confusing whilst at the same time very accessible. Some parts will challenge the untrained listener whilst others will latch on to their sporadic use of cleaner passages and catchy choruses such as on 'Casino Columbus'. Jason Butler's  vocal performance is show stealing, showing at full force the chaotic energy of this band, going from ferocious harsh shrieking growls to forceful clean singing. The music as well is full of hooks and unpredictability, often throwing a curve ball as to what is coming next, yet still maintaining the craft of song writing throughout.

    These guys have been on the lips of many people this year, through live shows that have almost gone into folklore for their chaotic nature, to even just how nice the band are to talk to, and of course Fake History  is an album very worthy of great stature.

Listen To: Renegade '86, Casino Columbus, Homeless Jazz


 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 13-12

No.13- Foo Fighters- Wasting Light

    It has taken quite a bit of time but finally this year, Foo Fighters released an album that proves them worthy of their status as the biggest modern day rock band. Previous albums have spewed out more anthemic hit singles than The X Factor has spewed anonymous half-wits who believe it is their divine right to be bigger than the love-child of Jesus and Justin Bieber; however their albums as of late have not lived up to this status.

    Wasting Light bucks this trend with ease, easily the best Foo Fighters album since 1997's There Is Nothing Left To Lose, arguably their best of all time. There are no definite stand out singles waiting to be released, no songs that are tailor made for your nan to enjoy on Radio 2, just pure and assured arena ready classic rock at some of the best it has been in years. Wasting Light has a more recognisable old school feel to it than much of their other work and, simply put, is brilliant.

    Pretty much every song on here is a potential highlight and will be embedded in your head and have you singing away right from the word go. 'White Limo' perhaps the most stand out track simply for it's constant use of harsh vocals that are the most vicious Dave Grohl has ever recorded. The likes of 'Dear Rosemary' 'These Days' and 'Matter Of Time' are also 100% suited for the massive sing-a-long at summer festivals or in massive arenas.


It isn't just Dave's performance that is striking here, as every single member of the band seems to be on terrific form, Taylor Hawkins especially gives a ferocious career best performance behind the kit. My only surprise about this album is that it has not completely ruled the airwaves much like Green Day's American Idiot album did years ago. Simply summarised, Foo Fighters have finally shown us just why they are perhaps the biggest band on the planet.


Listen To: Rope, Dear Rosemary, Walk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PkcfQtibmU




No.12-Decapitated- Carnival Is Forever


      After a brief period of disbandment for Decapitated after a car accident which tragically resulted in the death of drummer 'Vitek', guitarist and 'Vitek's brother 'Vogg' decided to resurrect the band with a new line up. This was an unbelievably brave decision, and thankfully the result is the Polish death-metallers' strongest album to date, Carnival Is Forever.

    Sporting, perhaps understandably under the circumstances, the bands creepiest and darkest album artwork to date, behind the cover is an equally dark, unforgiven and extremely heavy brand of furious death metal. There is seemingly less of a technical death metal sound on show here, Carnival...instead seems more inclined with straight up death metal with greater use of blast-beats, especially on album opener 'The Knife', but it still shows a wide range of style from the extreme metal palette. Also, apart from the inclusion of some eerie instrumental passages, and the serene final track, this is purely in your face and rarely lets you take a breather.

     Carnival Is Forever is an incredibly strong death metal work, especially for a band still relatively young; and with the inclusion of some riffs written by 'Vitek' is a great tribute to the late drummer as it picks up where they left off, trying to bludgeon your face repeatedly with crushing, punishing, extreme metal.

Listen To: United, View From A Hole, Pest
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-jehaUOAWo
 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 15 and 14

No 15- Anvil- Juggernaut Of Justice


    There cannot have been a single soul who saw Anvil: The Story Of Anvil and not have been touched by the inspirational story, struggle and ultimately the friendship of Anvil lead guitarist/singer Steve 'Lips' Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner. The success of the movie thrust the once cutting edge band back into the spotlight after years of obscurity and being overtaken by more successful bands in the field they created such as Anthrax and Metallica. Whilst it is great to see people talking about Anvil once again, the band needed to make a great, worthwhile album again, otherwise the hype once again surrounding them could mean nothing.

    Thankfully Anvil have delivered a great album and appear to be in their best form since their classic Metal On Metal days. Arguably Anvil are no longer the innovative band they once were when they arguably created thrash and speed metal; and also there are much stronger albums out this year, but Juggernaut Of Justice is still a major triumph for the band and is a much welcome return to form. It genuinely deserves recognition purely because it see's Anvil doing well once again. Some problems that plagued previous releases are almost forgotten; the production sounds great and clear, the full band themselves are the tightest they have been in a long time since reverting to a 3 piece, and the songs themselves are simply some of the best they have made in a long time; the likes of the title track, 'On Fire' and 'Fukenh!' are more than good enough to sit with anything on Metal On Metal.


    What is also striking about this album is that there is a great sense that the band members themselves are having a whale of a time. Their friendship and commitment to the band never questioned when watching the documentary, it genuinely sounds like they are having fun in the studio. You can almost see 'Lips' massive Cheshire Cat like grin during the epic title track, and that is an amazing thing to pick up on. With a renewed love amongst metal heads for Anvil, Juggernaut Of Justice is the ultimate compliment to pay the fans.

Listen To: Juggernaut Of Justic, On Fire, Turn It Up
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e11WmCG6Pwo


No 14- Hell- Human Remains

    Originally formed in 1982 during the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) era, a series of tragic events including the suicide of lead singer David G Halliday, Hell never managed to release a full début album, despite a few EP releases making quite an impact before they split in 1987. The remaining members however finally reunited in 2008 with the help of Sabbat members Martin Walkyier and Andy Sneap. A revised line-up finally released the first album Human Remains this year, and it is an absolute monster.

     Despite several members distancing themselves from the movement during interviews, this is undoubtedly NWOBHM esque of the likes of Angel Witch and early Iron Maiden, with very melodic guitar licks and high pitched wailing vocals. Human Remains sports some additional tricks to its book however.

    Firstly there are many references to the occult and satanic, completely evident in titles such as 'On Earth As It Is In Hell', 'Blasphemy And The Master' and 'The Devil's Deadly Weapon' alone; lyrical content seems to capture the essence of early modern periods of history (especially with reference to Shakespeare in 'Macbeth'). There is also a great sense of theatre here as well. It is a very grandiose piece of work; children singing nursery rhymes at the end of 'Plague And Fyre' and introductions of witches speeches at the start of 'Macbeth' being just a couple of examples. In fact for the most part it sounds like Hell's manager could have been Shakespeare himself; it also sometimes begins to venture into camp territories it has to be said, but rarely on the verge of silliness.

Listen To: On Earth As It Is In Hell, Plague And Fyre, Blasphemy And The Master
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpkuYxyYM2A
 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 17 and 16

No.17- Revocation- Chaos Of Forms


    As mentioned before with The Interbeing, it is always a welcoming sight to see younger bands making albums that can match those by heavy weights, even at times out wrestling them. Whilst this is not their début album, Revocation are still a relatively young force, but boy do they pack a hefty punch.

    Whilst it was very well received by critics, Revocation's 2009 effort Existence Is Futile did not grab music publication headlines and may have slipped under the radar for some. Chaos Of Forms again has not jumped from the front covers but there has definitely been a greater buzz about it, and with very good reason; it is a devastating record.

    Striking a near perfect balance between the melodic and the heavy and thrashy, Chaos Of Forms is a terrific example of how melodic death metal should sound in a time where there are far too many bands doing the same thing over and over and making the genre stale. This album shows Revocation as a strikingly talented bunch; the guitar work of David Davidson and new addition and second guitarist, Dan Gargiulo is mesmerising and should see them soon compared with the great melodic death metal shredders such as Children Of Bodom's Alex Lahlio. This is one of the most impressive and fresh sounding displays of melodic death metal I have heard in a long time; Revocation need to be on your radar from now on.

Listen to: Cretin, Cradle Robber, No Funeral
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3zB6di2yR4


No.16- Opeth- Heritage

 Sporting one of the years most eye catching, complicated, and rather fitting album covers of the year, Opeth's latest opus Heritage was certainly a polarizing record; some giving it full appraisal, others deriding their change in sound. Stripping away all their death metal nuances for a full on prog rock sound was arguably a brave, but natural, step for the band. Or if you prefer; Heritage is absolutely bonkers...but in a good way.

    Opeth have always had a large progressive element to their sound and have always cited the likes of Jethro Tull and Camel as major influences with the likes of Morbid Angel so it shouldn't have surprised many people. But even without the dark and heavy death metal elements and a full discarding of Mikael's hellish growls, this is still undeniably an Opeth album, and a fine one if that.

    The intricacies in the guitar work are obviously Opeth, building on from the acoustic passages that the band have been playing with for years before; and despite the lack of growls, Mikael's eerie wailing is a comforting sound and his clean vocals here are some of the strongest he has put to tape. As a prog rock album it is unsurprisingly complicated and there are elements that don't always reveal themselves immediately, and parts that are unexpected. At times it sounds like it is almost trying to transport you to a land of fantasy. Heritage is, as expected from Opeth, a quite challenging but rewarding listen, one which allows you to simply get lost in. Take the plunge into exploration, you won't be disappointed.

Listen To: The Devil's Orchard, I Feel The Dark, Nepenthe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxvN_GxgpF8

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- No's 19 and 18

No.19- The Interbeing- Edge Of The Obscure

    It is always exciting to see a brand new band come out of the woodwork and make an impact. Part of the burgeoning Djent scene/genre/style, which ever you prefer, Danes The Interbeing have, with their first album, instantly become ones to watch.

    It is complicated to decide whether or not Djent, which is pretty big news in today's scene, is its own stand alone genre or even just a technique, and I personal can't fully explain what it even represents or consists of other than Meshuggah influences in style of play and sound and progression, but it is a pretty recognisable sound and encompasses a wealth of talented bands, and The Interbeing seemingly came out of no where and climbed to near the top of the mountain.

    As a Djent act, Edge Of The Obscure has a great progressive element to it, but manages to do so and still be instantly catchy. It manages to be accessible yet very complicated. Whilst it shares many characteristics of it's peers with complicated riffs and time signatures, The Interbeing also know to not go overboard with the complexity and do write songs; there are plenty of clean passages to draw you in as well. There is even a subtle electronica element at work as well, which is subtle enough that it doesn't overpower at all such as in album highlight 'Face Deletion'.

Edge Of The Obscure is a fine album which is accessible enough at first to draw you in, but on repeated listens reveals new subtleties and tricks that keep it fresh. The Interbeing are definitely on the radar and their next moves will be exciting to see.

Listen to: Pulse Within The Paradox, Face Deletion, In The Transcendence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy3bteFz350


No.18- Saxon- Call To Arms


    Barnsley's finest sons Saxon are enjoying arguably their biggest surge of popularity of their entire careers. Always embraced by their old guard fans from back in the day, the NWOBHM legends have in recent years been embraced by younger generations, probably helped by the fact that they are still making some of the finest music of their careers.

    Call To Arms first and foremost, could not be a more British heavy metal record if it tried. The album artwork of the famous Lord Kitchener recruitment poster alone says it all, it couldn't be a greater visual representation of Great Britain's metal heritage if it also had a giant red, white and blue hammer with a cup of tea and biscuits. This is old school heavy metal album which has both nostalgia and relevence.

    There is no deviation from the classic Saxon sound, yet despite the fact that you have heard this all before it still sounds fresh and powerful and brilliant. Call To Arms will have you head banging, raising a beer and the horns and screaming a long. So many highlights to choose from which could all stand toe to toe with anything from classics like Wheels Of Steel, The Long Arm Of The Law, and Denim And Leather. One of Britain's great musical establishments show us why they are on top of their game and being embraced by a new generation.

Listen To: Back In '79, Surviving Against The Odds, When Doomsday Comes (Hybrid Theory)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJGFmoHwsPI

Muggin's Top 20 Of 2011- Intro And No. 20

    It's that time of year again, where Christmas adverts and songs begin to creep into our lives, us students draw nearer to deadlines with the realisation we have done sod all and need to pull our fingers out very quickly, whilst all the while the weather gets much colder and everyone gets a runny nose and a cough that sounds like they are dying. But it is also that time where people start thinking about their favourite albums of the year in magazines, webzines etc; and as it is that time of year once again and I have actually managed to listen to quite a few albums out this year (thank you Spotify) I thought why not do a top 20 myself, after all I bet you're all dying to hear my thoughts again.

    I would like to point out a couple of things first off. A lot of you are bound to disagree with my opinions, you may feel that I have overlooked an absolute classic, or given praise to a bigger turkey than the one that will be sat on your dining room table come Christmas day; of course we aren't going to agree 100%, so I apologize if you think I have it all wrong, but this is simply my opinion (and if you have read my blog before you may already know I am an idiot). Secondly, despite the use of Spotify there will still be many albums I have missed. With Metal Blade and Century Media record labels removing their back catalogues from Spotify's database as well there are certainly a few albums I have missed. Some notable examples that come to mind are Skeletonwitch, Vallenfyre and The Black Dahlia Murder; which perhaps makes this exercise redundant....but we will move on anyway.

    I will be doing a different number (or a couple of numbers per blog entry, I'm sure you'll work it out) and try and post regularly as possible (feel the tension in the air). So here we go *drum roll* Chris Tippell's top 20 albums of 2011. Obviously starting with number 20.

No.20- Toxic Holocaust- Conjure And Command

  First emerging during the mostly nostalgic Thrash revival a few years ago, Toxic Holocaust; whilst not sounding terrible by any means; never seemed to really impress. Conjure And Command quickly made up for this. Whilst previous Toxic Holocaust albums (certainly with their artwork) have had a somewhat cartoon like vibe to them, Conjure And Command is a much darker and aggressive work that doesn't so much grab your attention than lock your neck tightly in a vice and roar in your face.

    This is the first Toxic Holocaust album that see's a fully cohesive band rather than just main man Joel Grind performing full vocal and instrumental duties himself, and although it is uncertain how much to do with the writing process these extra members have had, it has to have helped Joel perfect his vision. As much inspired by blackened metal acts such as Bathory and Venom as by thrash, this has a darker edge which stands it out from most other 'Thrash Revival' acts into  Kreator territory (and they are surely a major influence).

    Each and every song on here is a highlight, no filler whatsoever, and at only 32 minutes it does not feel too drawn out in the slightest, in a time where too many people are making albums that are far too long to keep the listeners attention this is a massive welcome. Conjure And Command sadly doesn't seem to have grabbed the attention that I feel it has deserved because I was gripped upon the first listen and it only improves after every listen. This is a mighty album that easily sits with other thrash albums from classic and newer bands in the last couple of years.

Listen to: Agony Of The Damned, Nowhere To Run, Sound The Charge
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iSzL26B2HI

Thursday, 3 November 2011

N0t S0 Unluc5y Th1rt3en

     If you are a fan of Thrash titans Megadeth things have been looking very rosy as of late. After a short lived hiatus, main man Dave Mustaine brought them back to the fold and since which they have been on pretty fine form with The System Has Failed to United Abominations. This then led to 2009's excellent Endgame; an album which genuinely sits easily with the band's all time classics, and the finest albums of the 21st Century.

     Since the release of Endgame, original member David Ellefson returned to the fold, and the band have participated in the highly sought after and historical 'Big Four' shows across the globe, highlighting the band's impressive legacy, longevity and relevance. Megadeth are in one of the strongest positions of their careers, and with the release of a brand new album, the stage is set, are we about to have another classic?

    Th1rt3en (which rather cryptically, is the bands 13th studio album), unfortunately is not quite the triumph that Endgame was, but it is a great album none the less. Reverting back to the more mid pace efforts such as Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia (there are worse benchmarks to live up to) rather than the all out, in your face, 1.320mph shredding approach of earlier gems and Endgame, it is certainly more accessible than those efforts, but not quite as hard hitting as perhaps could have hoped. What is interesting about this album is how many of the featured tracks have either seen previous release or were recorded at differing periods of time: 'Millennium Of The Blind' for example was written in and recorded as a demo in 1991, 'Black Swan' was awarded to fans who pre-ordered United Abominations back in 2007 and 'New World Order' was written on the 1991 Clash Of The Titan's tour. This coupled with the fact that this is the band's final album in their Roadrunner Records contract and that the two parties, while not having a torrid time together have had previous disagreements; it is possible that this album was created in this way to finish the contract and to move on.

    Despite these negatives however, Th1rt3en is a very good album and is certainly worth checking out. It opens on a high with 'Sudden Death', a song initially recorded for inclusion on the latest Guitar Hero game, and contains the comforting opening of guitar shredding which we have come to expect from a Megadeth album, before moving into one of the album's true highlights and one of the albums faster songs. Otherwise much of the album (as mentioned before) has a more mild pace; following track 'Public Enemy No.1' a prime example. This is not necessarily a complaint at all however as this a collection of very stellar songs. The aforementioned two are very strong, 'Whose Life [Is It Anyway]' is an instant anthem to which many can relate, and 'Black Swan' is another song definitely worth checking out.

    What Th1rt3en also has going for it is that none of the songs are too long and taxing to endure. What has been too common as of late are albums that are far too long and needlessly long songs which do not grab your attention throughout. Th1rt3en on the other hand has only two songs above the 5 minute mark, whilst the rest sit around 4 minutes, and with only 13 (ho ho) tracks it definitely does not out stay it's welcome.

    After the grand release that was Endgame, and with big pluses happening for the band as of late, expectations were certainly high for another instant world beater, and while this is by no means a bad record, Megadeth have not quite delivered the true great we could have hoped for. Regardless, this is a great record  and very worthy of your time, and is much better than this years' output from a certain other 'Big Four' member.


[7/10]

Recommended: Sudden Death, Whose Life [Is It Anyway], Black Swan