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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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.


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