I used to post these on Mouths For War at the end of the year (wow, I’ve been using that phrase a lot lately). But, seeing as MFW is under a bit of a revamp, I figured I’d write about some of the awesome music that we’ve had this year!
Now, normally I’d pick my Top and Bottom 5 records of the year, culminating in a great balance between the lords of Rock Mountain and the cretins of Bollock Town (I sincerely hope that neither of those are real places). However, I realised that I was wasting time writing about stuff I didn’t like, and didn’t spend enough time focusing on the stuff that I enjoyed (if you’re still with me). So, here are my top 10 records of this year, with a couple of honourable mentions thrown in because why not?
#10 – “Blossom” by Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes
I’m a big fan of the first two Gallows records (the new self-indulgent crap says it’s Gallows, and that’s why it’s going to Hell for lying), so there was never really any doubt that I would enjoy Mr. Carter’s return to hardcore punk waters. What I didn’t realise was just how much I’d enjoy it. Tracks like “Juggernaut”, “Fangs” and “Paradise” unleash Carter’s signature fury, like Hulk Hogan on a tank crushing spree, whilst “Trouble” and “Primary Explosive” are heavily reminiscent of that signature Gallows groove. If someone’s scuffed your shoes, keyed your car, or stolen your newspaper, this is the perfect record to throw on and vent to. Welcome back Frank!
#9 – “Under the Red Cloud” by Amorphis
Amorphis have been metal’s unsung heroes for their last few records, with both “The Beginning of Times” (2011) and “Circle” (2013) highlighting the band’s monolithic walls of sound and their melodic death metal roots respectively. “Under the Red Cloud” combines these two elements seamlessly, to create a fusion between. Lead by half man/half beast frontman Tomi Joutsen, Amorphis’ finest moments are when they merge the unlikely duo of beautifully sung choruses with darkly tranquil growls, like a roaring giant taking a song break from daily destruction. Highlights include “Death of a King” and “Sacrifice.”
#8 “A Shade of Red” by Coat of Arms / “Theory of Mind” by Svengali
It’s been another banner year for Middle Eastern bands (Voice of the Soul and Alpha.Kenny.Buddy to name but a few). BUT no bands have made the same impact and resounding aftershock as technical metallers Coat of Arms and hardcore superstars Svengali. Our boys COA put out “A Shade of Red” in April of this year, and immediately struck a balance that would make Anakin Skywalker jealous. Heavy hitting songs like lead single “Silence the Sensor”, “Trade Lie Census” and “Mirrors” are contrasted brilliantly alongside more thoughtful moments on “Krypton” (disappointingly no references to Superman here…) and “Shelter.” Meanwhile, the beast known as Svengali took Hatebreed, Lamb of God and their own signature twist (and a dash of lemon) and spun it all round in a heavy metal blender until lemony fresh “Theory of Mind” popped out the other end. In short: It’s heavy. It’s very heavy. So heavy that I’m fairly certain tracks like “Deny”, “Floodgates” and “Skinless” could peel the bricks from walls if played at a high enough volume.
I once compared Coat of Arms and Svengali to Iron Man and The Hulk (respectively) and that comparison stands! Check ‘em out if you haven’t already.
#7 “Bad Magic” by Motörhead
Motörhead have had a pretty tumultuous year, with seemingly indestructible frontman Lemmy’s health taking a big ol’ u-turn (the man isn’t allowed Jack Daniels anymore…what sort of world are we living in?!). But, this hasn’t stopped them putting out one of the grittiest sounding rock ‘n’ roll records of the year. In a year where Keith Richards and the like have all calmed down a bit with their music, it’s refreshing to see that Motörhead are still consistently putting out records, and giving everyone a jolly good steel-toed boot up the arse while they’re doing it. “Thunder and Lightning”, “Electricity” and “Victory or Die” all maintain that same speed infused rock ‘n’ roll that Motörhead can pretty much lay claim to at this point, whilst “Till the End” and “Fire Storm Hotel” bring out a bit more of the bluesy flavour that’ll keep music nerds happy. Motörhead are the constant in an ever changing genre and long may they continue to be!
#6 “The Color Before The Sun” by Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria are normally known for taking their album concepts and stories to the same volume as Claudio Sanchez’s dead polar bear of a hairstyle. Latest offering “The Color Before The Sun” scales that back a little bit (after the ride that was 2013’s The Afterman I think we needed it). Their latest is a straight up rock record, and proves that Coheed and Cambria don’t need a concept record to display their musicality, with rockers “You Got Spirit Kid”, “Atlas” and “Eraser” coexisting peacefully with sing-a-long softies “From Here to Mars” and “Ghost.” Strong effort from Sanchez and co.!
#5 “VII: Sturm und Drang” by Lamb of God
Tough. Gritty. Raw. No, I’m not talking about the steak I had last night, these are all words to describe Lamb of God’s latest metal offering. With frontman Randy Blythe’s now back in fighting shape, Lamb of God stick true to their Pantera-esque brand of groove/thrash metal. Tracks like “Still Echoes”, “Embers” and “Footprints” are unmistakeably LOG branded ferocity, whilst “Overlord” features the first appearances of clean vocals on a Lamb of God record (I know, “clean vocals” is a dirty phrase in the metal world…ironic really) and embraces the grungier side of the band’s sound. A superb return to form by everyone’s favourite redneck metallers! Now…a hand with pronouncing the title please?
#4 – “Silence In The Snow” by Trivium
Trivium were a very pleasant surprise this year. Largely due to the fact that their last record, 2013’s Vengeance Falls, landed itself on my list of worst records of that year. My main problem with that record was that Trivium still hadn’t really found themselves yet. Keyword: “yet.” “Silence in the Snow” is the first time that Trivium have felt like themselves since 2004’s masterpiece “Ascendancy.” From the rhythmic chugs of “Silence in the Snow” and “Dead and Gone”, to the juicy thrashiness of “Blind Leading the Blind” and “The Thing That’s Killing Me”, to the melodic tornado of “Until the World Goes Cold” and “Rise Above the Tides”, Trivium have truly honed their sound. Frontman, Matt Heafy, has ditched his metal growl in favour of a superbly refined clean vocal tone, and personally, I think it suits him a lot more (at least the Hetfield and Draiman impersonations are gone now). Having basically grown up listening to Trivium, “Silence in the Snow” really does feel like they’ve come full circle, and are managing to shut down naysayers while they do it!
#3– “Ire” by Parkway Drive
Parkway Drive are a lot like the Tasmanian Devil of metal bands (the cartoon character, not the animal). They’re a giant sharp toothed, razord clawed, spinning Australian ball of metallic monstrosity. Their records have been pretty consistent to date, but “Ire” displays Parkway stepping up their game, bringing some much welcomed melody to their metalcore stamp. “Destroyer” and “Vice Grip” are permeated by a resounding guitar melody, whilst “Bottom Feeder”, “Dying to Believe” and my personal favourite “Crushed” launch the savagery and chugging wildness that Parkway are known for. The battle-march infused “Writings on the Wall” is the cherry on a very wild cake.
#2 – “Positive Songs For Negative People” by Frank Turner
I mostly listen to metal, which is why a folk record being my #2 for the year might surprise some people. Well, prepare to have your minds blown. Frank Turner’s latest offering picks up where breakup record, “Tape Deck Heart” left off, and almost turns that record on it’s head in the process. Full of positively charged tracks (like it’s in the title or something) ranging from the resilience of “The Next Storm”, the folky optimism of “The Opening Act of Spring”, the singalong refrain of “Josephine” or the slow-building inspirational tone of “Love Forty Down”, this is one album sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. It’ll certainly make you want to get up and walk a bit…just a bit. Kudos Mr. Turner, kudos.
#1 – “The Book of Souls” by Iron Maiden
Surprise surprise, my favourite band’s latest metal opus is my top record of the year (not that the cover photo gave it away or anything). I’m going to be honest, part of me doubted this album’s prowess prior to its release. I mean, sure, 2006’s “A Matter of Life and Death” and 2010’s “The Final Frontier” were great records but…there was something missing, and I was scared that Maiden would just push out another carbon copy. Boy was I wrong. Musically, this record holds its own against the band’s classics. “If Eternity Should Fail” brings all the pomp and flare of an Iron Maiden show opener, whilst “The Great Unknown” and “The Red and The Black” offer incredible vocals and almost magical instrumental sections. Even the theatrical numbers, ie: “The Book of Souls” bring some much needed variation, (as well as a very creative use of crash cymbals) and the near 20 minute epic album-closer “Empire of the Clouds” rounds off the already amazing album, taking listeners on an impressive journey beyond the conclusion of an already eventful record. Maiden are back, and thank fuck they are. Up The Irons!
Honourable Mentions/Parting Thoughts
Well, there we have it, my top 10 records of this year. Honourable mentions go to:
- “Crosseyed Heart” by Keith Richards – Because Blues
- “Got Your Six” by Five Finger Death Punch – Because Thrash
- “Long Live” by Atreyu – Because Atreyu
- “They Bleed Red” by Devil You Know – Because Howard Jones
- “Blessed and Possessed” by Powerwolf – Because Werewolves
Obviously, the majority of these albums are metal. Funnily enough that’s most of what I listen to! Why were no pop/hip-hop records on there? Whelp, personally, if I have to hear “Hotline Bling” or “Watch Me Whip” one more time, I’m pretty sure I’ll whip someone upside the head…and lets not even go near that dubstep infused crap-pile that Madonna released this year (see “Bitch I’m Madonna” if you’re interested but don’t say I didn’t warn you!) . What can I say? Metal was just on point this year.
Have a good Christmas ya’ll! See you in 2016 🙂