Tuesday, 29 November 2016

#19 - Top of 2011

Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street (Metal Blade Records)

In number 19 we have "17th Street" by Hammers of Misfortune.
This is the sixth release of the band and is on the same style as previous releases, blending modern metal riffing with mellotron and classic 70s prog. The album starts with "317" which acts as an intro to the album. "17 Street" is fast paced with a catchy refrain sung ethereally. "The Grain" is the second best song of the album and a  driving force for the inclusion of the band in this top list, with amazing twists and turns without loosing its pace. Simple yet impeccable "Staring (The 31st Floor)" is more slow-paced and veers toward a more doomy side of the band, while still being an excellent track.  "The Day the City Died" ups the speed again and has roots on 70s/80s songs, while adding more modern elements with some very soft guitar work, being the best moment of the album. "Romance Valley" is a more straight progressive metal piece,  "Summer Tears" is slower almost ballad-like rock anthem, "Grey Wednesday" starts doomy before turning into a guitar-driven 80s anthem, while "Going Somewhere" is the "obligatory" epic  with a powerful repetitive tune by which the album comes to a close. This is an excellent release, as almost all the albums by Hammers of Misfortune are, that despite not breaking new grounds, in terms of what the band has achieved so far, cements their place as one of the most trustworthy bands in their niche style , which can surprisingly appeal to fans of many different genres, from prog rockers to typical metalheads.


Below is the lyric video for "The Grain" and a live performance of "The Day the City Died".

Saturday, 26 November 2016

#20 - Top of 2011

 Brymir - Breathe Fire to the Sun (Spinefarm Records)

Breather Fire to the Sun is the first full length album of the Finnish melodic death band Brymir. The band might initially sound as a standard melodic death band but the use of symphonic and folk elements in their music gives them a more unique sound. The album is full with fast paced songs such as the "Burning Within" and blasting riffs in "Withering Past", without being afraid to experiment with longer and more epic songs like the "Breathe Fire To The Sun" and the "Unconquerable"! The songs "In Silence" and "Ragnarök" could be described as the most interesting songs of the record showing that, even though this is the first piece of work we have seen from Brymir (with the second album being released in 2016), we should keep an eye on them to allow them to show their full potential!


Below is the music video for the song "Retribution".

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

#21 - Top of 2011

Welcome to another top list! This will be the last list we will be doing in chronological order before coming to the present to review the top 31 albums of 2016!

Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand (Metal Blade)

Primordial are, in a sense a historical band. They came out of the second wave of black metal back in the mid nineties along with all bands all over Europe (Mayhem, Rotting Christ, Moonspell etc.) that changed the landscape of how modern metal sounds like. Each of these bands followed its own road and the sound of Primordial changed by incorporating folk and post elements, forging a unique and personal sound, built around the heartfelt vocals of A.A. Nemtheanga (Alan Averill). Their song are grim and yet powerful, channelling the Irish spirit. "Redemption at the Puritan's Hand" is the seventh album of the band and follows the same powerful recipe that its predecessor ("To the Nameless Dead ") did. The album's lyrical themes revolve around the issue of death and how humanity tries to cope with it. It kicks off with "No Grave Deep Enough", an aggressive opener eager to tear you down. "Lain With the Wolf", which  follows, is a passionate mid-tempo track, angry and bitter. "The Mouth of Judas" is a sorrowful ballad, which climaxes almost flawlessly with excellent guitarwork throughout. The title track moves slowly from slow  melodies into wild Celtic folk riffs , full of energy. Finally, "Bloodied yet Unbound" sounds like a terrfiying recitation of AA Neamthanga speaking on the behalf of the spirits, declaring his anger and determination, Bloodied Yet Unbound indeed!. Overall it is one of the finest moments of Primordial and a good album to listen if you are unfamiliar with the band and want to see if they are "doing it" for you.


Below is a live performance for "Bloodied Yet Unbound".

Saturday, 12 November 2016

#1 - Top of 2012

Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (Inside Out)

There are some  albums that are immaculate masterpieces that redefine their genre, and then there is Epicloud. This album is not revolutionary, rather it is the culmination of the first phase of DTP integrating what has been excellent about the four prior releases of DTP and mixing it to create the perfect Devin Townsend brew, destined to be adored by fans and newcomers and resulted in the awesome Retinal Circus show that took place in London in 2012.
The album starts with a chorus chanting:  "Everyone into forever, Everything a part of me, Dancing all into whenever, Effervescent quality". Once the chant stops we are treated to the opener, "True North", a very energetic song full of positive energy which acts as a catalyst to enter the world of Epicloud. Choral vocals and melodic lines are very groovy, smoothly leading to the "funny" song of the album, "Lucky Animals"; there is not much to say here, except to check the awesome music video made out of fan contributions and adds to the surreal comedy of it. The album continues with "Liberation", adding electronic elements, but conserving the essential Devin Townsend character and is an absolute party anthem. "Where we belong" starts as a more relaxing tune and continues as a relaxed soundscape, musically very close to the  "Ki" album, with additional backing vocals by Anneke. "Save our Now" is again a high energy feel good song starting with whispers of Devin and Anneke and exploding into the refrain. "Kingdom" was initially recorded in the album "Physicist",  and is re-released here as a more polished version with Anneke again contributing backing vocals and considerably changing the dynamic of the original, making it sound as a brand new song! In "Divine", Devin sounds really personal and soft, and is a very solemn moment, giving us reprieve from the storm that was "Kingdom" and preparing us for "Grace". It starts by Anneke singing, before the choir joins in, in an epic song that gives a very positive message while at the same time has an extremely dynamic attitude. "More!" which follows, is a high energy tune with more aggressive tendencies, "Hold On" is a pop tune that blends in flawlessly, again with heartfelt vocals by Devin and Anneke. "Angel" that concludes this colossal album, is an epic all-out song that culminates all the themes of the album and closes the record as it started: "Everyone into forever, Everything a part of me, Dancing all into whenever, Effervescent quality"


Below is the music video of "Lucky animals" created by fan contributions.

Friday, 11 November 2016

#2 - Top of 2012

Grand Magus - The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)

Grand Magus is a Swedish band that keeps re-inventing their music at each album without losing the Heavy Metal element! The band started with a doom sound in their initial releases and has been steadily moving towards more heavy riffs and infectious choruses creating anthemic songs while maintaining mentions to their Viking heritage! This influence is evident in songs such as "Valhalla Rising"and "Draksådd", as well as one of the best moments of the album "Son of the Last Breath", which highlights the amazing baritone voice of  vocalist/ guitarist JB Christoffersson!! Kicking off with "Starlight Slaughter", a hooky but heavy intro to the record that is representative of what Grand Magus are good at, creating powerful songs and Viking-themed albums that are bound to stick to your mind! JB plays a major part in Grand Magus' achievements as he is a gifted lead singer, guitarist and song writer! He is of course accompanied by the amazing bassist Fox Skinner (who has been in Grand Magus since the beginning) and drummer Ludwig Witt (from Spiritual Beggars, who joined the band for this album)! "The Hunt" is a solid album with no weak moment, making one of the top records of 2012!


Below is the lyric video for the title song of the album, "The Hunt"

Thursday, 10 November 2016

#3 - Top of 2012

Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead (Napalm)

As we slowly approach the top, in number 3, we have the third and final album of the band with Solitude Aeternus' lead singer Robert Lowe. As with the previous 2 albums with Lowe that had been excellent, Psalms for the Dead  is also an album of the highest possible doom metal quality. The album kicks off with "Prophet"
that starts off with a quick-fire riff and killer melodic lines throughout. It is an overall classic Candlemass piece that is very reminiscent of songs from "King of the Grey Islands", and finishes with  truly heavy outro. Next is "The Sound of Dying Demons", that starts with a Black Sabbath riff and thunder in the back. The song is slow and crawls out of doom metal's darkest dungeons. Rob Lowe's vocals are chilling and you can feel evil is lurking near. A hauntingly beautiful Candlemass opus. Third song of the album is "Dancing in the Temple", which offers a reprieve from the darkness, with keyboards and beautiful solos being on the forefront, before you plunge back into it with "Waterwitch", another incredible Doom song with very solemn passages full of the beautiful voice of Rob, framed by extra heavy riffing. Next up is "The Lights of Thebe " which is another excellent song with an Egyptian feel and a very catchy refrain. The title track "Psalms for the Dead" is next and it is engaging, drawing obviously influences both lyrically and musically from My Dying Bride and sounds from a 70s mellotron that combine to create an awesome modern doom metal song. "The Killing of the Sun" is another obviously Black Sabbath - inspired anthem that drags you into its rhythm and beckons you to bang your head to its riffing. " Siren Song " is one of the few songs here that is just good, without being special, although, once again, the mellotron steals the show, and in the final minute the song becomes almost an anthem . The final track of this album, "Black as Time" and the last ever with Rob Lowe, sounds truly epic, dark and chilly, almost like a farewell from the band. Bleak narration over a clock ticking gives its way to a riffing assault and a Doom finale worthy of an awesome album. TIME IS BLACK.


Below are the audio tracks for the spine-chilling "Black as Time" AND "Psalms of the Dead"

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

#4 - Top of 2012

Kaipa  - Vittjar (Inside Out)

In number 4, we have the 11th full length album by Swedish Prog Rock veterans Kaipa. Kaipa have been around for a long time, with their history very closely intertwined with Flower Kings. The album has 8 tracks, and starts off with the instrumental  "First Distraction" which serves as an intro to the majestic "Lightblue and Green" which is an exceptional track to open the album with. This is followed by "Our Ballroom Band" which is a very melodic and sentimental piece that intertwines the proggy vocals of Patrick Lundstrom with folk female vocals by Aleena Gibson. The song is 22 minutes long and is really a breathtaking songwriting achievement. The rest of the album flows just as easily with instrumental interludes interjecting between beautifully crafted songs that combine folk and progressive rock in a familiar and yet, fresh way. An absolute blast of an album that doesn't immediately impress upon you how good it is, but grows on you, getting better every time you hear it.


Below is a video from the band which eloquently serves as an introduction to the album

Monday, 7 November 2016

#5 - Top of 2012

Rival Sons - Head Down (Earache Records)

Moving on to the top 5, Head Down is the third and arguably the best studio album by 70's blues-rock band from California, Rival Sons. It starts strongly with the groovy "Keep on Swinging" that introduces the listener to the powerful and confident vocals by Jay Buchanan, catchy bluesy guitar riffs by Scott Holiday and great drums by Mike Miley. The songs "You Want To", "Jordan" and "Three Fingers" also showcase the range of Buchanan's vocals who is not afraid to show of, setting the vibe for the album and maintaining a balance without overpowering the other members."Wild Animal" sticks to the rock elements while "Until the Sun Comes" and "All the Way" add a more quirky note and "Nava" turn to a more peaceful tone. The record doesn't lack the bluesy vibe with songs like "Run from Revelation" as well as a more epic atmosphere in both parts of "Manifest Destiny"! Overall, this is an excellent album demonstrating the true heart of the Southern spirit!


Below is the music video for the groovy "Keep on Swinging".

Friday, 4 November 2016

#6 - Top of 2012

Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost In the New Real (Inside Out Records)

What has the unique Arjen Anthony Lucassen been doing when he is not splitting his busy schedule between Ayreon, Star One and Gentle Storm? The answer is creating his own solo album "Lost In The New Real", the 3rd one and first one in a while since 1996. The singer/ songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist narrates to the listener the story of Mr L, a 21st century modern-day man who is revived (from being cryogenically preserved at the point of his death) in a distant future where everything has changed and is trying to come in terms with the "new real" with the help of his psychological advisor Voight-Kampff (a tribute to the apparatus that is use in Philip K Dick's story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). The album discusses a number of issues that could also apply to contemporary situations, including separating music originality and piracy (noted in "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin"), concerns considering overpopulation (in "Parental Procreation Permit") and the environment (with theories about the "Yellowstone Memorial Day"), as well as drawing the line between reality and digital facade (seen in "Don't Switch Me Off"). It combines enjoyable positive songs and the more negative aspects of the realization of someone waking up to a dystopian future.
An interesting note is that, although the concept is not directly related to Ayreon, there are some connections with the project as the Dream Sequencer can be spotted in the cover art and the main character is Mr L who has previously appeared in the "01011001"  Ayreon album.!


Below is the music video for "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin"