Thursday, 3 March 2016


Yep. Took me a while. Lets get right down to it:


Ghost - Meliora

Ghost have done the same thing Daft Punk did with Random Acess Memories - created an album that is both homage, an evolution of their own sound and, ultimately, an exercise in pure dedication to sound. You’ll behard-pressedd to find a better produced metal/rock album in recent memory, and the songwriting is stellar - little to no filler, catchy but not shallow. What more to say?

Chvrches - Every Open Eye

I wasn't quite sure what was wrong with the previous Chvrches record, The Bones of What You Beleive, but listening to this one made that clear - for a synthpop album it wasn't that catchy; a fatal flaw for the genre. Every Open Eye remedies that, and in the process, creates an immersive, complete and above all addictive experience that will have you bobbing your head if you're subtle, and 80’s dance montage/jumping and singing to an invisible mic if you’re not. I dare you to find a bad song. I double dare you.

Check out: Clearest Blue


Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful

By now all that needs to be said of Nightwish has already been said - the band is on their third vocalist, they've changed from a power metal gamechanger (Operatic vocals!) to something far more cinematic and, disputedly, bloated, featuring pop vocals. Whatever the case, and whatever album they put out, they have an uncanny ability to grow on me even if I didn’t originally find the album very interesting. This is the case with Endless Forms Most Beautiful;  theme, the music, the orchestration - it all grew on me. While it's not quite the best album of the year, it's certainly the most replayed (for me).

Check out: Edema Ruh

Soilwork - The Ride Majestic

Soliwork keeps churning out good-to-great albums at a regular basis, yet somehow I always lose them in the fray - not this time. Could be because I decided they finally deserve credit but this time they really mean business! Soilwork came out with an absolute zinger of an album;they'vee honed their art to create both crushing metal passages and slick, catchy choruses. And the production? Just listen to the dynamics of the piano-blast beat section at the end of Enemies in Fidelity. Sublime.

Check out: Enemies in Fidelity


KAMELOT came out with a new album - Haven - its hard to top the amazing comeback album that was Silverthorn, but here they’ve attempted to please both Silverthorn fans and also experiment with adding more heavy songs and different song structuring. Ok, the experiment failed, but it was worth the effort, and there is more than enough ‘flesh’ on this to be enjoyable. Plus, Fallen Star is their best opening track since Center of the Universe.

Check out: Fallen Star

MUSE came back into the game with DRONES - sure, I don’t think they will ever go back to the angst-riddenn, innovative and classic era of Origin of Symmetry, but this is a step in the right direction. Lots of filler and some awful, awful tracks are here too - but if we get a song like The Handler once in a while again, its worth it

Check out: The Handler.

BARONESS’s new album Purple is already littering the best-of lists - it sure is pretty great but,for some reason, I didn’t find it as compelling as my friends and colleagues. Still, it's a fusion of various Baroness sounds that is bound to please nigh every listener - I just don’t find myself coming back to it that often.

Check out: Shock me


Boy, there sure were some!!! Trivium continued their painful descent into generic forgettable-ness in the guise of ‘moar singing and totally better songwriting lawl!!” with Silence in the Snow. Symphony X put out an album that is so forgettable it's one distinguishing feature is ‘Yay, Rusell Alan is doing less of his growly-singy and more of his clean singy!’. Speaking of forgettable - Children of Bodom. Need I say more? Only slightly less forgettable was the new Blind Guardian - I fear they will never again scale the heights of Nightfall in Middle Earth. Apocalyptica have a singer now, finally completing their transition from cello metal cover band and innovative auteurs to just another band; before when you play Apocalyptica people would go ‘wow, what is that?’, now they just go ‘wait, there are cellos in this band? Didn’t know’’- sad. The Tesseract follow-up to Altered State was surprisingly bland, even with the charismatic and personable vox of newly returned Dan Tompkins.

By far my biggest disappointment was the new HURTS record -Surrender. Like I remarked in my review of their previous record, they stood on a precipice between club-dance-pop and their early 80’s influence, depeche mode sound - and they needed to pick a side...and pick a side they did, unfortunately the wrong one. They’ve now devolved from the refreshing retro synth ladden pop of their debut record to an uninteresting, unoriginal and dreadfully lackluster pop band churning out dance tracks for Ukranian clubs.  


Kay, so its not all about albums, some of the singles were...interesting. Hotline Bling because...well, do I even need to tell you why? Panic at The Disco came out with a cool video and a fun single that got lost in the cluttered mess that was the album. Finally, Marlyn Mansons new album is a snoozefest, but had a couple of noteworthy singles such as Third day of a seven day binge and Deep Six.


Oh yeah, about that - sorry. I never got to posting the list. I’ll just say the finest albums of the year were a brazen, bold and unapologetic power metal album and a prog metal underdog. There.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

THE BEST OF 2013...IN 2014.

I'm that much of a hipster (does the term still mean anything?) that I am posting my BEST OF 2013 list half way through 2014. Thanks to my twin Milena Glavonic for finally forcing me to do it…I think this will start a tradition: reviewing the year once half of the next one has passed has left me far more clearheaded. Enjoy.


I’ve chosen the best 3 albums of 2013. They are followed  by the other albums I’ve found really good (The Rest)– making a grand total of 15. The albums were chosen by weighing in the objective quality of the songs/songwriting with how much playtime the album has spent on my playlists. Albums that have less than 4 really good songs per album didn’t even qualify.

Click on any of these to expand the list: 

THE REST - other great albums of 2013

Some of these albums were great, but not good enough for the top 3. Some of them were just "ok" but good enough to re-listen sometimes. Some of them are guilty pleasures. Two of these albums have full reviews linked to them... Here goes nothing:

1. Hurts – Exile
A follow up to one of the most stellar debuts in recent pop memory, Hurts were always going to have a rough time. Though not as memorable as their previous outing, EXILE still manages to be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant music realm. Read the full review HERE.
Link me up: HURTS - Only You

2. HIM – Tears on Tape
HIM are back. While discussing how HIM is basically Billy Idol 2.0 meets Black Sabbath might be a topic for another time, it is a joy and pleasure to have these guys back kicking ass – though the new record is short and, at times, uninspired. Link to full review HERE.
Link me up:  HIM - w.l.s.t.d

3.  Ancient Vvisdom – Deathlike
Satanic, semi-acoustic rocknrol with a dark, almost goth twist? Their debut album was a un-burnished, undiscovered masterpiece and the sophomore one continues in the same vein. Not a lot of change, but perhaps it is for the best – the only thing hindering it is the singes sometimes feeble, uncontrolled vocals. On the other hand – maybe this is what they were gunning for.

4. Stone Sour - Houseof Gold and Bones pt.2
 The older they get, the more conscise, razor sharp their sound gets. I was surprised at how more coherent the second part of this double album felt. And off course its produced immaculately well. R

8. Arctic Monkeys – AM
This is the sound of a band maturing. Ear sex.

9. KING 810 - Midwest Murderers EP
A hardcore band recommended by Robb Flynn of MachineHead – it sounds like the mixture of hardcore with early era Slipknot, especially the visceral, anger ridden  and passionate vocals.
Link me up:  (note - this is not off the EP) KING810 - Fat around the heart
 This band exploded, and for good reason – its catchy, no-frills synth pop that you’d have to try really hard not to like. And you’d be wrong…
 Link me up: CHVRCHES - Recover

11. Falling In Reverse
 It’s a guilty pleasure – a post-emo band led by a charismatic, douchebag frontman. What is attractive about this album is that it is a frenzied, hit-and-miss mixture of genres, from pop rock, to rap-metal to Dragonforce-like speed metal, to emo-core. Not for everyone.
12. Trivium
Hiring Disturbed's singer as a producer, losing their identity by relegating their trademark growl vocals to second base and diluting and "rockifyiong" the songs - Its obvious Trivium have faltered...but even with this flawed album  they continue to be great songwriters and an overall killer consistent band. I will be writing a more detailed article on this, and a few other albums from this list.
Link me up:  Trivium - No way to heal
13. Amaranthe – Nexus
 More of the same – for good or for bad. The good part is that some songs are ABBA catchy, with that recognizable vocal trio and pounding sound. The bad is that the rest of the album feels like rinse, repeat.
Link me up:  Amaranthe - Stardust
14.  Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth
 No one does epic like Fleshgod, at least when it comes to death metal. The first two tracks literally give me ghoosebumps and make me do the Gladiator ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED stop and hand-spread. The rest? Good, but not great – and just a tad chaotic and messy with songwriting.
15. Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King
 The only reason this even made the list is because I’m such a fanboy. Sure, there are about 4 good songs on it, but it boils down to this – there is a difference between an homage (see Daft Punk) and a lame cover album with no covers on it, but what hurts most is the fact that Hail to the King has very few memorable songs – watch this space for more writing on what went wrong here.


It’s a bit strange when one of the best albums of the year comes out at the beginning of the year- but as soon as I heard the songs on Opposites I knew very few records would be able to compete for the top spot. Biffy Clyro have already crafted and solidified their sound on their previous record, and while I did harbor fears that they might have become too mainstream, my fears were strewn away by this double album masterpiece. Catchy but edgy, prog rock dashes and pop peaks – don’t miss it.


The good:  A band at their creative peak.
The bad: Maybe too long for some.
 Link me up: Biffy Clyro - Biblical

Yeah I went there. Yes, every other music critic picked this album for the top – and for good reason. Sure, the smash hit that spearheaded it got really old really fast (you must admit though, it did hold out quite long though) – but the album itself is a living example of how to make an homage to the sounds that created your own sound, yet still retain your own stamp on it. R.A.M is a labor of love, a heartfelt tribute to their influences, but above all – it is a masterwork clinic on production, mixing and songwriting. Feelgood album of the year? Try feelgood album of the decade.


The good:
An homage done right, an apex of album quality.
The Bad:  If you’re expecting “stock” Daft Punk you will be disappointed.
Link me up: Daft Punk - RAM full album

If you're into prog/death metal, you’re probably bemoaning the violent turn Opeth had towards melodic prog rock and away from death metal (or even metal in general).  Seemingly out of the blue, Dan Swano’s Witherscape burst on to the scene with a glorious example of how a genre can evolve without its formula changing too much. Its sublime progressive metal spiced up with death metal brutality, all the while wrapped in the soulful, bluesy vocal delivery of Mr.Swano. Think early Dream Theater, or even at times Symphony X, meets Opeth. If this last sentence  doesn’t get you going – I don’t know what will.

The good:  Fresh, new, yet familiar. Bang your head.
The bad: Whenever there are growl vocals, there are folks complaining. Can’t win them all.
Link me up: Witherscape - Dead for a day

HAPPINESS, EXILED - a review of the Hurts album, Exile

Following up on a stellar debut album is tricky business. Does the sophomore album contain more of the same? Or does the sound evolve and change, bringing with it potential risk? After their debut blasted them on the pop scene full force, the Hurts were faced with this uncomfortable choice – change or stick to a winning formula.  Their new album Exile seems to indicate that the Manchester based duo chose neither; or to be precise - both.

Hurts burst out, seemingly out of nowhere, with their instant-classic, tastefully retro 80’s pop album Happiness with pomp but not pretention. Though they looked and acted like new romantic dandies straight out of the 80’s Spandau Ballet school, their music backed them up in what was one of the finer pop debuts in recent times. As such, a follow-up was already a daunting task. Even if they chose to do more of the same, the level of quality was bound to drop. Singer and author Theo Hutchcraft even mentioned as such in an interview he gave between album cycles, astutely commenting on the fact that the first album was produced at a time of great personal and emotional sorrow. He remarked that their success made them far too happy and content to create their melancholy music, even joking they need something bad to happen so they could get inspired.

Listening to Exile, it seems their task is only half fulfilled.  The overall mood alternates from their trademark somber, introspective, heartbreak mood through to  dark and gritty, yet upbeat, club anthems. Hutchcraft again pointed out that while the first album is based around love and loss, Exile is based on sex and death.  This dichotomy is evident throughout the whole album – and this reluctance and hesitation do decide on a clear direction is its undoing.

Roughly half of Exile is playing it safe. Songs like Somebody to Die For, The Crow, Help and Guilt all posses the traits of a “typical” Hurts album – they could easily find their place on their debut Happiness. This part of the record is slightly sub-par to their previous work yet very similar and thus, highly enjoyable.

The other half, though, seems to be an experiment; an effort to change up their sound. Whether this is, ironically, a consequence of their newfound happiness, or a simple need to “change it up” – it becomes evident that the experiment has largely failed. The songs are made more fuzzy, gritty, heavy and danceable, with obvious aspiration to more recent Depeche Mode club hits.  Exile features an unnecessary attempt of modernizing the Hurts retro sound by adding modern electronica, distortion and even dubstep elements. Further experimentation led to the “arena rock” guitar additions and the bland, Coldplay-like sound of songs such as Miracle and the title track.  The hip hop backtrack of Sandman  is especially atrocious, along with the similarly inclined main riff of Bilind, pointlessly enhanced by a choir of children. This experimentation does sometimes yield great results, such as the instantly classic Only You And the head-banging Mercy.

Though  Hurts’  idea to create an album that will both please fans of their debut and inspire and cater to a new audience  might be noble in theory; in practice, Exile seems an awkward Frankenstein monster of a record, saved from disaster only by the duo’s sublime songwriting abilities and the knack to create a memorable, catchy and touching song – even if they are their own worst enemy in doing it. Because of this, Exile can, and should, be picked apart for the parts you do enjoy. We are left with the hope that Hurts will, in their future efforts, change completely or stay with a winning formula – decide on a direction and stick with it.