Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The best of 2017 - THE WHOLE DAMN THING. ALL OF IT.

Table of Contents

Part I: Prologue and whining
Part II: A 20 albums of 2017 list. Probably some of the best albums of the year. But also probably not.
Part III: The TL;DR part of the post about some of the albums that made it on a list and some that did not
Part IV: Some EPs
Part V: Albums that I must listen to (and why) and albums I haven't bothered to listen to (and why)
Part VI: 2017 Addendum: Lost in Vegas and Beast in Black (wat)

Part VII: Epilogue - Looking forward to 2018 OR I just wanted 7 parts


You can guess by the title (and from the previous two posts on 2017) that this has been one frustrating little project. Busy up to HERE with real work. And will continue to be very busy for the foreseeable future. So, instead of letting my impressions rot in a notepad file until I somehow find some proper time, I decided to just fucking paste them raw. That way, the actual people asking me to write about X or Y album will get at least something in return for their much, much appreciated interest in my opinion. Or not. In any case, I will put every-fucking-thing here, including albums with thoughts attached to them and albums with no info whatsoever. I will include a list of albums that I did not listen to and why (which I believe is the peak self-absorbed part of the post but there is also another reason...read on!) and I will also include a couple of random thoughts that occured to me in 2017. That should partially cover almost everything. And perhaps some time in the future I will bother breaking the parts into manageable, readable posts but where is the madness in that, right?

Part II: A list

TL;DR: OK, ok, for those with ADD and/or OCD and/or plain impatience with silly amateurs who want to form a definitive opinion on music before , here is a list, pure and raw.

1. Condor - Unstoppable Power
2. Antichrist - sinful Birth
3. Vulture - The Guilottine
4. Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
5. Droid - Terrestrial Mutations
---- see The Dungeon Awards for Top Metal Performances of 2017 for more info
6. Blazon Stone - Down in the Dark
7. Cannabis Corpse - Left Hand Pass
8. Doomocracy - Visions and Creatures of Imagination
9. Hellripper - Coagulating Darkness
10. Power Trip - Nightmare Logic
----- see 5+1 more albums for more info
11. Witherfall - Nocturnes and Requiems (actually this should have been quite higher in the list but I did the "5 more" post alphabetically...)
12. The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom
13. Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence
14. Sorcerer - The Crowning of the Fire King
15. Necrytis - Countersigns
16. Tankard - One Foot in the Grave
17. Mastodon - Emperor of Sand (this should have been higher - not MUCH higher mind you - but I love how it looks there below Tankard.
18. Dead Head - Swine Plague
19. Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor
20. Satan's Hallow - s/t
----------- The albums that are not in the top 10. I think. AKA the totally unstable part of the list (as far as ranking or even presence goes)


I will periodically enrich this post with links and images. The info is there anyway. Once more, let me remind you of the instructions to these lists: these are good albums worth checking out, these are albums that had me interested. And maybe I'll add the list of albums that I touched upon but did not listen to thoroughly, you know, first impressions kind of thing, mark those as "huh, could be interesting!".

Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence

I am very fond of Evil Invaders, the Belgian speed metal band that was at the forefront of the "mustache and 80s speed!" or neo-speed revival the past few years, along such darlings as Ranger, both of which have rightfully found a place in past best-of-the-year lists. You've read about Vulture above. Well, this one might actually be more diverse and show signs of progress - which basically means expanding beyond the subgenre's old-school orthodoxy and "musts". I've caught atmospheric passages and lovely solos among the delicious riffs and I am pretty sure they will get in the final list this time as well, when I give the album the spins it deserves. Ah, yes, the vocals retain their charm with the high pitched syllables among the thrashy delivery of the lyrics. METAL.

Mastodon - Emperor of the Sand

TL;DR: I am not the man to ask about Mastodon dude. But this is a good Mastodon album and I listened to it a lot, more than Once Round the Sun and less than The Hunter, which is my fave *shrugs*

As a newbie in the Mastodon world (only 7 years! has a decade really almost passed? wtf Time?) and one that loves one of their least favorite albums above all else (really started paying attention with Crack the Skye and fell in love with an album of theirs with The Hunter, which is entirely unortodox for their fanbase), my opinion of this album surely does not mean a lot, since I am fairly certain haters will continue to hate and Mastodon fans are a weird breed of many races that I cannot seem to agree with on most things Mastodon. But who gives a shit, I really enjoyed this album, in fact I think I played this the most after The Hunter and Crack the Skye. I should note however that apart from The Hunter, listening to a Mastodon album usually means skipping a track or two or three (or even four! See what I mean?)

Anyway, they are much friendlier here to the mainstream ear, something they started to do since Once More Round the Sun or any mastodon album if you ask their fanbase... yeah, one of those cases. I keep referring to the diversity of their fanbase because I actually think it's a mark of their specialness.

I just fall into the middle here. I do not think they are God's gift to music or metal but holy shit when they hit my spot, they ARE god's gift to music.

One thing is certain though: They have become much better at singing. Oh, and they always have lovely, original videoclips. I haven't seen them live yet and to be honest I really don't care if I do, which is the exact opposite of Gojira for example.

This album also gave me the first feeling that they are becoming predictable musically. Maybe predictable is the wrong word here but what I mean is that if someone used the decription "typical Mastodon of the last years" that would be only slightly inaccurate. The same can be said for the EP.

Necrytis - Countersigns

Toby Knapp does not rest. Among his many projects, where he usually handles most instruments, in 2017 his work with Necrytis stood out to me, as a quality US Metal release that gets it right on all levels. Good songwriting, warm sound, good vocals with a total old school underground vibe that lends a lot of charm to the compositions. Shane Wacaster who handles the vox also reminds me a lot of James Rivera, perhaps in a less spectacular fashion. An album that came late to my attention but one that I enjoyed spinning quite a bit. If you remember Toby from his work with Onward (that time when New Eden, Onward or Destiny's End have hope to many of us that our kind of metal was not actually dead) should definitely check this out.

Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor

This is a portuguese band that I came across one of those days when I felt like experimenting on youtube and was good enough not only to capture my attention but also to get repeats. There is a slight element of modernity that's not exactly my favorite flavor but they also have enough stuff coming from left field that makes their music exciting and interesting, so much so that they stood out at the end of the day and in the list they go.

Sorcerer - The Crowning of the Fire King

Epic doom metal is a scene that basically stands on the foundations of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus and has lately seen a revitalization, much in the same vein as the thrash/speed metal scene I was raving about earlier (see Doomocracy or Crypt Sermon). Sorcerer is a special case: originally formed in the late 80s they left behind them the legacy of two demos, brought to the attention of most doom metal fans in 1995, through John Perez's Brainticket label, who released the "Sorcerer" compilation, essentially making it their unofficial debut album. The real debut however appeared 20 years later, when the band reformed and released In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. A very good album that picked up exactly where the band left off. This is true of this year's (er, last year's that is) The Crowning of the Fire King: excellent epic doom metal. Power/Doom metal. Heavy Metal really. If you're fan of the genre then this and Doomocracy are the best choices of the year.

The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom

Leif Edling meets Niklas Stålvind meets Marcus Jidell and the result is damn enjoyable album that bears that elusive stamp of character and authenticity, inescapable with the people involved. If you like Candlemass or Wolf or Sabbath or Avatarium and plain good old doomy heavy metal, this is an obvious choice.

Tankard - One Foot in the Grave

I love Tankard. Dude, I LOVE Tankard. I am a Tankard fanboy. Everytime they release something better than a 6 it will see my list because I am a sucker for Gerre's voice, their chorus hooks, their style and approach to metal and generally, I always get a warm fuzzy feeling in my being listening to them. I ALWAYS find 3-4 songs per album that REALLY do the trick for me and I always like their more melodic moments (power metal in german terms!). I realize that people who don't harbour the same special feelings for the Germans will frown their noses but Tankard don't give a shit bro. "Ι'm sorry that I'm ugly, I'm sorry that I stink! I'm so sorry!" as the lyric goes...

Satan's Hallow - Satan's Hallow

This is the "retro" heavy metal album that tickled my fancy this year. I was drawn to the simple, meat and potatoes yet very effective and satisfying songwriting and the vocals, which reminds me of a younger Doro without the accent! Very charming delivery. The fact that it caused some hype among mediums that I thoroughly despise was a negative factor but I managed to overcome my teenage true metal sensibilities (such maturity!) Highly recommended.

Albums that could just as well be on a list on another day OR albums you should listen to because I think they are good, mkay?

Honest subtitle: pasting from notepad, content of parentheses is the notes written at the time I listened to whatever I was writing about)

Ne Obliviscaris - Urn

This will probably not make my final list but I must say I surprised myself when I came back to it more than once. I am not fond of the style they play normally, especially the vocals do nothing for me. But I have to admit they have something special. No idea where this stands in their discography though and in a sense this is a shit entry because I am a total outsider just enjoying this reluctantly. But what the hell. Yeah...

Original notes in Greek: (αυτοί είναι πολύ καλοί, οι εντελώς αδιάφορες βοθρίλες στην φωνή με ξενερώνουν αλλά είναι πολύ καλή δουλειά, τόσο πολύ που πού και πού το βάζω να παίξει, λίστα μου δεν βλέπει, λίστα άλλων θα έπρεπε όμως)

Steamroller Assault - Dead Man's Hand
(Λέων λατρείας, πολύ καλό, κυλάει νερό, even better than the demo)
Speedrush - Endless War
(Nir's band, it's fucking good speed/thrash, plenty 80s metal, a grower)
Exarsis - New War Order (GOOD thrash)
Lich King - Omniclasm (same ol' Lich King but damn, they really upped the quality of their riffs)
Madrost - The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh (good technical death/thrash - ordinary, underwhelming vocals but great riffs and good songwriting that is growing)
Midnight - Sweet Ecstasy (good but not as good as before)
Tau Cross - Pillar of Fire
Terrifier - Weapons of Thrash Destruction
Threshold - Legends of the Shire (good, did not grab me for repeats, others really loved it. Definitely not as good as March for Progress thoug)
Warbringer - Woe to the Vanquished (Warbringer is good, Warbringer still hasn't been exceptionally good or maybe they are but it's too soon for me to get it)
Godless Crusade (Ger) - World In Flames - drum machine but one of the catchier thrash albums of the year. Some great riffs and vocals that suit the music.
Ancient Empire - The Tower (power metal, heavy metal - not bad. Not bad at all, that Princess of the Dawn "tribute" is awesome)
Code Orange - Forever (Gojira, Mastodon, Tool, Meshuggah, Converge type of band, the new RR darlings. It's quite good actually)
Murder Angels - Murder Angels (great old school greek speed/heavy metal, Fire and Axe the video is awesome)
Nemesis - Atrocity Unleashed (fast thrash from the US, very good)

Part IV: Some EPs

Toxik - Breaking Class

Toxik is fucking back! Amidst countless delays for various reasons, including lineup (singer especially) problems, at least we got the first taste of Josh Christian's returning genius. If you haven't heard the two classic Toxik albums and you like glorious late 80s tech/speed metal with INSANELY awesome guitar work, drop everything (er, that is minimize fucking everything) and load youtube now. The EP is perhaps not as mindblowing as the albums were since a lot has happened in the music world since then but it's still great speed/tech thrash with insane guitar solos and lyrics that reflect Josh Christian's political concerns, which are quite relevant today. Favorite track is Psyop.Looking forward to a full album, one that will also include the two previously released demos, which I already love.

Encyrcle - Burning Child

Encyrcle's debut made my top list of 2015 and this EP two years later is also very good. Not AS good and chiefly I am afraid I miss their original vocalist. But I do recommend the EP to those few who loved the debut as well.

Blasteroid - Universal Knowledge

Released at the end of November, just like their patron saint band did its first two albums. I am talking about Vektor, which is very clearly the band they are modelling their music from... almost to the point of calling them clones- but that would seriously underestimate the amount of work and passion found here. The music screams Vektor very often but if anything that fact alone should cause some wonder considering the scope of influences found in Vektor.

And that is a very ambitious and dangerous thing to do but they pull it off quite remarkably! They have the chops and most importantly they have the riffs and their sense of songwriting is very promising. The main difference is the vocals (nobody sings like DiSanto and I don't see that changing ever), which are more standard death metal vocals if anything, which is also why I see them being labelled as progressive/technical death metal but also because they do lean towards the technical death metal bands of our times more than Vektor. I would say that if you appreciate Vektor but hate the vocals, give this a shot. Fans of Revocation or Obscura and the like pay attention.

4 times I mentioned Vektor and 1 mention of DiSanto in this small text is the obvious elephant in the room and the one thing that keeps me from being overly enthusiastic. Then again, this is the first effort and an EP at that, a band that is now finding its place in the metal world. Starting from a Vektorian place is a bloody good start and one I can appreciate and enjoy a lot. I would expect them to explore their musical relationship as a band further until they hone in on their own musical vision.

PS: I really forget who recommended this to me or if I just stumbled upon this on a forum (most probably m-a). Whoever you were, thank you.

Mastodon - Cold Dark Place (see Emperor of Sand, pretty much same impression, only slightly better I think)

Sorcerer (Arg) - Incantation (Fucking awesome EP, big surprise, total Sanctuary worship on the first song's riffage, which is GREAT)

Part V: TO LISTEN TO. AKA: Haven't really decided yet. First impressions or no impressions. AKA: too much music, too little time. AKA: I'm fucking lazy. And busy with work. Which is not a contradiction.

The albums I plan to listen to more (who knows?), albums I've only heard one song via youtube or at a friend's house and was impressed enough to remember the name and add it to my text file. Here follows the long ass list that reminds me what a relief it is to be the owner of an amateur blog that has no expectations, no deadlines and no fucks given. There is definitely some awesome music here and probably some terribly boring music as well. Maybe you can help me sort it out by commenting. I would actually very much appreciate that. Note that a couple have long descriptions and reasons. Now laugh at the idea that originally I wanted to do that for every single entry here. LOL. Anyway, here we go:

Attic - Sanctimonious

This goes first in the list, not just for alphabetical reasons but because this is one of the bands that started appearing in late 00s - eraly 10s that worshipped or aped King Diamond/Mercyful Fate (Portrait, Trial, In Solitude, etc). And like all of those bands they failed to meet the impossible standards of King's bands. However, I have to admit that while Hound of Heaven did not do much for me, I really liked the song Sanctimonius. It invokes that KD magic with the vocal lines and the voice itself, which is the closest anyone ever came to the Master. Musically, it's not really MF/KD apart from the vocals but it had an undeniable charm and one that gripped me enough to make this an album that eventually WILL get my full attention.

Ayreon - The Source

I went through an Ayreon phase when Universal Migrator was released, after being told repeatedly by a certain Belgian friend that I HAD to check them out (since Into the Electric Castle, so that's 2 years before another friend surprised me with Chaos and Dawn of a Million Souls that sold me immediately. After that, I certainly appreciated albums like The Human Equation (especially) and 01011001 but did not buy them, which means, no booklet - no immersion. Ayreon deserves full attention listening and this album is no exception. I guess I add them by default in the list and wait for that special night where I feel like diving into a huge Lucassen project. This one comes highly recommended by Dimitris K. of Sacral Rage as well, whose taste I respect and nod my head approvingly, so double the recommendation factor.

Portrait - Burn the World

The other KD clones. I did enjoy 2011's Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae quite a bit but it was also very obvious that while they had the best of intentions (you will not get objections to clone bands from me, especially if original band does not release new stuff) they did not have the caliber of a KD band. Of course, that's a tall order for any band and any musician but my overall impression was "not good enough". Since then, I keep hearing that with every release they are getting better, with Burn the World winning the hearts of a lot of my friends. So many that makes me want to give them a chance again.

Obituary - Obituary
Why: It's fucking Obituary. They have always been decent and true to their original sound. And some say they kill it here.
Why not: The key word being "decent". The video clip was great fun but the song was forgettable. We'll see.

Sepultura - Machine Messiah
Why: It's probably the best thing I've heard from Sepultura since Max left. It's also probably the only post-Max Sepultura I want to listen to again. Also: Casagrande.
Why not: This is not Sepultura. Sorry Andreas, you awesome guitarist you. But apart from that because all the previous Sepultura have left me extremely indifferent (at best). YMMV.

Immolation - Atonement
Why: Because Immolation. Guaranteed.
Why not: Just time and mood.

Kreator - God of Violence
Why: Because Kreator and Mille and Ventor and Sami (top soloist). Because it cannot be bad.
Why not: Because I've had my fill of their Violent Revolution approach since Hordes of Chaos and although that was fine, it's too much of the same thing from a band that was notorious for not releasing the same album twice. Granted, if Endorama is the price of experimentation, I'll take Violent Revolution part V please! Anyway, a lot of people seem to truly enjoy this and I'm sure it's more than decent. But I am not in a hurry.

Body Count - Bloodlust
Why: Because this is going to rule. I know it.
Why not: Time and mood. Nothing else.

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel
Why: Because Overkill and because Overkill have proved that after Ironbound they are on a roll.
Why not: Because the first two singles didn't do shit for me and because we are now approaching the Kreator problem.

Iron Reagan - Crossover Ministry
Blood Feast - The Future State of Wicked
Grave Digger - Healed by Metal

Striker - Striker
Chainsaw - Filthy Blasphemy
Havok - Conformicide
Cryptic Shift - Cosmic Dreams
(single, Vektor-style, I think I have now reached two digits counting bands that are very obviously influenced by Vektor)
Argus - From Fields of Fire
Leprous - Malina
Harlott - Extinction
Accept - The Rise of Chaos
Stalker - Shadow of the Sword
(very good speed metal on first listen, hope it holds up on repeats)
Caligula's Horse - In Contact (καλό αλλά φλωριά, άστο να βρίσκεται, πού ξέρεις)
Paradise Lost - Medusa (back to the gothic/shades era. Not bad, not really my thing either) Stallion - From the Dead (speed metal)
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs
Marty Friedman - Wall of Sound
Pyramaze - Contingent
Cannibal Corpse - Red Before Black
Night Demon - Darkness Remains

Monolith Cult - Gospel of Despair (UK doom metal with an excellent cover and an opener that reminded me of Mastodon, 80s thrash imagery and lyrics, which is fucking weird. S/t track is very very good. Pousios recommendation)
Cloven Altar - Enter the Night (band of Ced from Blazon Stone/Rocka Rollas)
Torture Squad - Far Beyond Existence
Hell Fire - Free Again (US old school heavy metal) Debut Metal Masses (2016) is quite good so they earned my attention.
Vendetta - The 5th (the classic German band's third attempt at a comeback, one remaining member, the bassist)
Urn - The Burning (Black thrash, good shit)
Persefone - Aathma (prog death, Masvidal guest on Living Waves, kind of like Ne Obliviscaris meets Obscura and Leprous. Don't like the vocals but that Masvidal song was pretty awesome, VERY promising - Jack Luminous recommendation).

Part VI: 2017 Addendum

Lost In Vegas

Not for the album list but definitely on the highlights of the year. Two people into hip hop decide to react to music outside their knowledge and comfort zone and end up creating the best reaction videos since that idea became a thing.

Two things make them utterly enjoyable:
1. Seeing them getting enthusiastic over music you love and through them reliving that first moment when Metallica or Maiden or Gojira or whoever hit you in times long passed. PRICELESS

Watch how Ryan reacts to Alice in Chains or AC/DC: if you don't smile YOU HAVE NO SOUL.

2. Getting another validation that music is universal and that a good tune is a good tune is a good tune. Music unites, music is the language of the soul and all that. When Ryan goes "Oh! That's hot! That's hot right there!" listening to Master of Puppets or George jumping from his chair when Heaviest Matter of the Universe kicks in the main riff yelling "wooooo!!", you feel a warm fuzzy feeling in the stomach. Yes! Yes!

Love them. Hopefully they will learn how to choose good songs to react to because some videos have really been wasted! (Testament, Anthrax and now Nevermore come to mind)

Beast in Black - The Beast is Back

Confession time. This is my guilty pleasure of 2017. Initially shocked from the video of Blind and Frozen (where you can see the flags waving amidst a dancing sea of viewers in a Eurovision contest) and my true metal sensibilities tingling with disgust, I only checked out this song as the album was getting ridicilously good reviews, even from people whose opinion I appreciated.

This song is extremely user friendly, just like the rest of the album. It is designed down to the most minute detail to be catchy, enjoyable and all hooks follow every rulebook in existence. It's pop power/speed metal. Fucking catchy pop power metal, as much as I hate to admit it.

And as much as I like to pride myself as someone who takes my metal music very seriously and cannot abide mainstream gimmicks, well, I found myself putting this almost daily for a long time. I did not do that publically, not with the horde of roast-friendly contacts!

This would have been insanely awesome as the soundtrack of a cool cartoon when I was 11 or 12. This is coming from someone headbanging to Ultimate Warrior's entrance to the ring or air guitarring to the Thundercats theme song. If you can identify with any of the two, then tell me this wouldn't rule, I can hear this on top of Korgoth for example.

And there I guess is the heart of the matter. This is Cartoon Metal, just like Dragonforce is Cartoon Metal (Guitar Hero 3?) and I am guessing your attitude towards this song should match your attitude when you come across a Masters of the Universe episode. Or something.

That or my brain goes at terrible lengths to justify a guilty pleasure.

To be honest, I tried the rest of the album but did not find any other cool soundtrack to toons, for my taste at least. I would still recommend the album to fans of the pop side of metal (you know, Nightwish, Battle Beast, Sabaton etc.) Not my thing, but hey... I love Volbeat, I am not judging!

Epilogue: Looking forward to in 2018

Let's start with Rapture - Paroxysm of Hatred because it's already been released and it's great, manic deathrash that warms my heart so go ahead and listen to it. I was looking forward to it so it technically counts.

Wolf: Haven't heard a title yet but I will jump the gun and say that this is going to make my top 3 of the year because Wolf IS the best heavy metal band of the past many years with a fucking beautiful and very consistent discography and because in Niklas (and Simon and Anders and Richard) I trust.

Sacral Rage: Their debut album made my top Greek metal release ever list and I am pretty sure they still haven't peaked. I very much trust these guys to deliver top notch metal that is totally old school in the heart but will never be confined to any retro-trends or blind imitation or scene rules. I know for a fact they hate that and I also know for a fact that there is a long, mighty epic song coming this way that has me salivating at the description.

Speaking of Sacral Rage, Coroner is expected to record a new album. Now I do not know if this will be released or even finished in 2018 because they are taking it slow (which I can appreciate, fuck deadlines, esp. when it comes to art) but it might be released 2018, so it goes without saying that this album is a HUGE fucking deal for me. Hell, for METAL.

Others that MIGHT release something this year and that is a wonderful thing: Trallery, Nekromantheon, Dark Angel, Psychotic Waltz.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Best of 2017, Part II: 5+1 albums more.

Following part I, my top 5 albums for 2017 post (spoiler: Condor, Antichrist, Vulture, Sons of Apollo and Droid), here are some albums that really rocked my socks off in the past year and they are definite candidates for the final best of 2017 list that will be coming anytime in the next decade, when I will (probably) have made up my mind for good. Since I have not made up my mind for good, I will list these in alphabetical order cause any hierarchical placement would change each day and well, fuck that.

Blazon Stone - Down in the Dark

(Stormspell Records)

Blazon Stone is the child of Cederick Forsberg, a very talented individual and multi-instrumentalist (also behind Rocka Rollas and Cloven Altar and more). Ced LOVES Running Wild so Ced formed Blazon Stone trying to capture some of that Rolf magic that the Captain himself seems to have lost.

And to be honest, Ced's work feels much more alive than Rolf's last 4-6 albums. I always thought that in the debut (Return to Port Royal, he wasn't being subtle about his intentions :)) everything was fine except for the inspiration in the songwriting. Album by album Ced seemed to get closer to the holy grail of conjuring up that special stuff and last year, he has come the closest. The fact that Erik (who could be Ced's brother...they share the same surname and facial features!) sounds like a younger, cleaner version of Rolf helps a lot.

Not only there are some very nice, memorable melodies to be found here but the overall album is oozing energy, helped by the hyperspeed approach on guitars, which is that element that helps a lot to give it a character of its own. Blazon Stone is definitely a Running Wild clone band but this clone here has taken a life of its own! More importantly, this album provides what Running Wild lacks: passion and love for the music (and way better album covers for that matter). While Rolf seems to be phoning it in or at least not treating his music with the amount of attention and respect it deserves, this young man here really puts his heart into it - and it shows.

I think Cederick never meant to take this band so far but only planned for this to be a fun project for him. Since then, a lot of people have embraced Blazon Stone and demanded more.

Bottom line: This is a great heavy and speed/power album that does Running Wild's legacy justice with the added twist - or bonus if you will! - of more speed and youthful energy. Europower metal fans should also give this a listen. In the list it goes! Perhaps Rolf should give Cederick a call...

Cannabis Corpse - Left Hand Pass

(Season of Mist)

Cannabis Corpse is another band I am very fond of. For one thing, I always appreciate bands that don't take themselves too seriously in regards to their image. When these bands also write good music then they immediately go into my "very fond of" list. So, Cannabis Corpse writes good music. If you haven't given them a chance you will actually be surprised at how good they actually are. Their biggest problem is that people just don't take them seriously because "weed and death metal title puns, how serious can they be?" but holy shit people: Cannabis Corpse delivers a-ma-zing old school death metal (my kind of death metal).

Forget blasts and brutality for the sake of brutality, forget the same song played ten times in the album. Here be riffs, here be breaks, here be inspiration. And fuck it, some hilarious titles (Left Hand Pass? The 420th Crusade?), lyrics and album covers. Quite frankly, I think the combination is awesome. And just like in 2014, when Cannibal Corpse had also released an album in the same year, I enjoyed Cannabis Corpse more. Well, haven't really listened to Cannibal Corpse yet, so I could be off in that respect. In any case, you listen to this one and if you haven't got a clue about the band, you must listen to Tubes of the Resinated as well, which is my fave from them.

Doomocracy - Visions and Creatures of Imagination

(Steel Gallery Records)

My favorite Greek release of the year for sure and one of the best overall. If you remember from a few years earlier, the Doomocracy debut got into my list on merit of its great songwriting that might have harkened a bit too much to the masters it worshipped but did so beautifully. This time around they really stepped up their game on every level and outidid themselves. You can still understand that Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass are very dear and important to them but they have certainly started shaping their own sound and style, one that brings together not just the epic doom element of the aforementioned gods but also elements of US Power, prog/power and all through a magnificent sound production, courtesy of the legendary mr. Morris of Morrissound Studios fame.

Hellripper - Coagulating Darkness

(Barbarian Wrath)

There is a comment on the youtube above that wraps it up nicely: "Mc Bain's stealing here, he's stealing there... But the hand is quicker than the ear (and charming like hell). I'm totally enthused. One listening and it's on my list of the top-10 of '17. "

James McBain is the man behind this project, a Scottish fellow with a keen ear for what makes ultra enjoyable speed metal with black and motorhead rock n roll flourishes. The Hit the Lights variation opener immediately had me sold. Tribute, theft, who gives a shit really? I just wanted to play that again and again. This is not the most original album. It is DEFINITELY one of the most enjoyable albums and the fact I spun the fuck out of it in the single month it got under my radar says it all.

Don't think too much about it, enjoy!

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

(Southern Lord)

This year's metal sweetheart of the mainstream press. To be honest that works against them because fuck the mainstream press, you know? But Power Trip is the real deal. They had already made their mark in the underground with their debut Manifest Decimation (2013), which should be a required listen if you liked Nightmare Logic.

I am guessing Southern Lord or whoever, invested in Power Trip hence the heavy promotion of their sophomore effort and frankly I am OK with that, since I would rather see Power Trip and their kick ass album in 2017 lists than pretentious shit like Liturgica or gimmicky shit like Batushka that also had mainstream ignoramuses singing their praises.

Anyway, on this album they are a bit tamer than their their debut and this includes the production and the vocals but they still deliver the punch magnificently. And their strong point is they are fucking fun without sacrificing the "crossover thrash flirting with death metal overtones" cred. Basically, I think expectations will determine your listening experience: If you expect this album to dwarf every other modern thrash release of the past years you will be very disappointed because it really isn't THAT special. If you expect a jolly good thrash album with attitude, you're in for a treat.

Weird brainfart shit: I see Kory Clarke's face in my head when I hear the Executioner's Tax verse. Not complaining.

Bonus thoughts:

Since I promised in last week's post that I would namedrop Sanctuary and Mastodon, here are some thoughts about 2017:

This was a poor year for mainstream metal. My most listened to releases were all from the underground. Mastodon (there, name dropped) is the only high-profile name in the list (the sloppy list you haven't seen yet), I did not enjoy Kreator or Overkill (not that it was bad, I just hit my threshold for the same album after 4 releases, same thing happened with Kreator on Phantom Antichrist), Sepultura was much better than anything I've heard before from the Max-less years but I still preferred Cavalera Conspiracy, which I thought was much better than what most people thought *shrug*. Arch Enemy make my teeth rot with all their sugary choruses amidst those riffs and vocals. Really, shame about the riffs, some of them were pretty sweet only to be shat upon by some lame europower chorus or some growling whisper telling you to believe in yourself and the universe will reward you or some shit.

Most damning thing of all though is that Inception, the remixed version of the 1986 Sanctuary demo (the one that got Dave Mustaine to produce their debut) is by far the best thing I've heard this year in terms of how much it got my blood boiling with metal frenziness. A bittersweet reminder that the glorious, the REALLY glorious metal era is gone. Don't get me wrong, I love what Gojira is doing for example and there is still plenty of good metal out there - but the bottom 25 of the top 50 of 1987 would easily make the best of 2017 list. We are now in that phase, where mediocre to good stuff is dominating the landscape and the rare truly exceptional albums are extremely difficult to locate.

A sad point but I am fairly certain that like every year, I will actually discover the good albums (i.e., the ones I will like a lot) in the years to come. Will let you know of course.

We're not done with 2017, not by a longshot! Keep an eye for the next post, coming soon-ish as well! More hot names such as Evil Invaders, Witherfall, Necrytis and DeadHead!("who?")

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Volbeat - (V for Vic, Nov. 2013)

Μέχρι πολύ πρόσφατα είχα μαύρα μεσάνυχτα για τους Volbeat. Δεν ήξερα ότι είναι Δανοί και δεν ήξερα ότι είναι από τις πιο επιτυχημένες εμπορικά μπάντες αυτή τη στιγμή, με την άνεση να παίζουν headliners στα μεγαλύτερα φεστιβάλ της Ευρώπης με λαοθάλασσες από κάτω. Για μένα ήταν μια από αυτές τις Wacken μπάντες που ακούνε μόνο οι Γερμανοί, αν με εννοείτε. Αγνώστων λοιπών στοιχείων. Φέτος όμως έπεσα πάνω στο Room 24 από το νέο τους δίσκο και έκανα την καλή γιατί συμμετείχε ο Ένας, ο Βασιλεύς, που είχε να ηχογραφήσει από το 2007. Και προς μεγάλη μου έκπληξη άκουσα ένα ωραιότατο μέταλ άσμα, με τον King Diamond φυσικά να το ανεβάζει συγκινητικά αλλά και με έναν τύπο στα φωνητικά που μου έκανε πολύ θετική εντύπωση. Λατρεία σε Hetfield, στην φάση του Matt Barlow (“on this special winter day-AH!”). Ενθουσιάστηκα, οπότε είπα να δούμε τι λένε και αυτοί οι Volbeat γενικώς.

Κατέβασα παράνομα λοιπόν το φετινό “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” με το ωραίο εξώφυλλο και έδωσα προσοχή. Αυτό που άκουσα είχε δύο όψεις. Η μία από αυτές με ενθουσίασε σε βαθμό βλακείας, 5 κομματάρες καραπιασάρικου metal. Η άλλη όψη όμως είχε κάτι που με ξένισε εδώ κι εκεί. Όταν ανέφερα σε μια online θρασοπαρέα το τελευταίο μου κόλλημα (άπειρα spins, όχι αστεία) ένα φιλαράκι μου πόσταρε την εικόνα με τον Fry του Futurama (“not sure if serious or trolling”) μαζί με το σχόλιο «μα αυτοί είναι οι Nickelback της Ευρώπης!» (δεν είναι btw). Καταραμένο όνομα, ξενερώνει και τον πιο καλοπροαίρετο, πιο αντικούκου πεθαίνεις. Μην συνεχίσω, Nickelback ρε παιδί μου. Και αυτοί οι Volbeat έχουν και heavy pop/rock Nickelback κομμάτια ανάμεσα στα καραμέταλ. To ένα μάλιστα το έκαναν και videoclip, έτσι, για να πιάσουν το #6 στην Αμερική και να τους σιχαθείς εσύ.

Αδύνατο να πάρεις μυρωδιά ότι η ίδια μπάντα, στο ίδιο δίσκο ακούγεται υπερcool στο Doc Holiday ή το Hangman’s Bodycount. Ούτε το rockabilly παίρνεις χαμπάρι, ούτε τα punk overtones, όπως στο Black Bart. «Σιγά μωρέ, άκου Social Distortion του ’92 να δεις ποιοι τα έπαιζαν αυτά και ποιους έχουν ξεσηκώσει»,είπε ο ψαγμένος πάνκης φίλος. Άκουσα. Εύστοχο ήταν απόλυτα το σχόλιο παρότι ανεπαρκές να περιγράψει πλήρως τους Volbeat. Πολύ americana, Johnny Cash, Elvis σαν αρώματα σε όλο το songwriting. Western θεματολογία και noir σκηνικά και metal καταστάσεις, όλα μαζί. Αχταρμάς καθόλου όμως, γιατί ο ήχος τους, οι κιθάρες τους και ειδικά η φωνή του ηγέτη Michael Poulsen (φωνή/κιθάρα/συνθέσεις/στίχοι) είναι χαρακτηριστικότα. Και για πολύ κόσμο (και δεν μιλάμε για pop κοινό), εθιστικότατα. Hetfield μέχρι παρεξηγήσεως είπαμε αλλά τον μπολιάζει με έναν Elvis αλλά και Danzig τρόπο, με τις εκφορές των “yeah!” και τις καταλήξεις “-ah!” να σε κάνουν να τον λατρέψεις ή να τον αντιπαθήσεις ανάλογα πώς την βλέπει ο καθένας. Εγώ προφανώς γουστάρω με τα χίλια αλλά στις κουβέντες εδώ κι εκεί, όσοι δεν γουστάρανε μου ανέφεραν ότι τους εκνεύριζε πολύ «το στυλάκι του». Πάσο.

Το θέμα είναι ότι η λογική λέει ότι θα έπρεπε να είναι και στην Ελλάδα τεράστιοι,όπως και έξω. Το κοινό που δεν μασάει από mainstream φιλικότητα (δεν είναι φλώροι τα παιδιά – απλώς ακίνδυνοι) φυσικά υπάρχει. Εν πάση περιπτώσει, εγώ τους τελευταίους μήνες ακούω μανιωδώς Volbeat, έχω πάρει σβάρνα ανάποδα την δισκογραφία (είμαι στον τρίτο!) και έχω πέσει πάνω σε άφθονες κομματάρες καθώς και σε άπειρα ονόματα που κάνουν περασά από τους δίσκους ή στην σκηνή: Mille Petrozza, Hank Sherman και Michael Denner (οι axemen των Mercyful Fate), ο KING, ο Barney των Napalm Death γαβγίζει στο Evelyn. Δεν είναι τυχαίο. Σκαλίζοντας το παρελθόν του Poulsen ανακάλυψα τους ντεθάδες Dominus και τις extreme metal αφετηρίες του.

Πολλά μπορούν να γραφτούν ακόμα για τους Volbeat και απορώ ειλικρινά που δεν έχουν γραφτεί τόσα χρόνια αλλά ίσως τελικά η συνύπαρξη ποπ κατεύθυνσης να αποτελεί ξενερωτική τροχοπέδη. Εγώ πάλι γκαρίζω στο αμάξι «wake up baby-AH!”, οπότε όλα γίνονται. Μπορώ να πω με σιγουριά όμως ότι αποτελούν θαυμάσιο δούρειο ίππο για να μπάσετε κόσμο στο σύμπαν του metal. Δίπλα στην καραμέλα του Maybellenne i Hofteholder θα γλιστρίσεις και την μπριζολίτσα του 7 Shots (έπος). Εν τέλει, παίρνοντας θάρρος από τον Γιοβανίτη που βάζει στα top της χρονιάς του Evanescence – και όντας σε πλεονεκτικότερη θέση (ο King δεν συμμετέχει όπου να’ναι, αυτό καρφώστε το) – αυτό για την ώρα κοιτάει σεβαστικά μόνο τους Suicidal Tendencies φέτος.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Dungeon Awards for Best Metal Performance of 2017

Sub-heading: 5 albums that I really liked and used a pompous title to get your attention. No awards to be found here. Still better than the Grammies though.

Best of lists have become a real pain in the ass. I've adopted every approach imaginable: Give a list of 20 albums and say nothing else about them. Give a list of 20 albums and talk a lot about them. Talk a little about them. Give a huge fucking list and say nothing. This year I wanted to do the huge fucking list AND say something. About every item on the list.

But then, after contemplating the idiocy of posting a gigantic thing that nobody will read (10 pages and it's still halfway done...), I decided to break things up and do a series of posts about 2017 and music that I liked.

A definite best of 2017 list is not coming. It's too soon. TOO SOON. I am still digesting things from the past EIGHT years for fuck's sake. I spent more time listening to Warfect than Power Trip this year, understand? So, staying true to my futile insistence that it really should be around March of the following year that we talk about the best of the year, I'll now present the 5 albums that have had the honour and privilege to entertain me the most out of any other album released in 2017. You can think of these as the candidates for the Dungeon Awards for best metal performance. Or something.

(link in the title of the album)

Condor - Unstoppable Power

(High Roller Records)

Condor from Norway are part of the Kolbotn Thrashers Union, a circle of bands that includes Nekromantheon and Obliteration but even more telling, they belong in the company of such artistic connoisseurs as Deathhammer, Infernö and Toxik Death, the spawns of Aura Noir and Fenriz's Darkthrone. Thrash/death/speed metal bands, from young peeps who seem to have missed the 90s and 00s and just channel 80s extreme metal through the Fenriz filter of acceptable traits. Not sure if there is an actual place they meet and hang around or anything like that but I always imagine young metalheads hanging by the words of Fenriz and swearing loyalty to the axioms of true metal (death to triggered drums and digital productions and all that). In any case, Condor might just be the youngest of the bunch, formed in 2009, from a couple of 15 year old school kids. Now, aged 26 (I believe), they have matured (meaning they can now grow a true 80s mustache) and honed their vision and have quite possibly released my favorite album of 2017.

If you are aware of the Norwegian names mentioned above (and you should) then you are already aware of what kind of thrash to expect: dirty, fast, rabid, outrageously sung thrash metal that plants both feet firmly in the 80s and has a special fondness for early Destruction, Possessed and the like! Condor gets it and they produce music that doesn't just hit the right nostalgia buttons, they write excellent songs with fantastic riffs and choruses to kill people to. I've spun the shit out of Unstoppable Power and grated my vocal chords trying to emulate Christoffer's addictive way of screaming "YOU ARE EMBRACED BY THE E-VUHL!" (note it's not "evil", it's "evuhl", you may refer to Evil Dead by Death for the proper pronounciation) Props for the absolutely appropriate production. Now, I think it's high time Nekromantheon came forward for 2018...

Antichrist - Sinful Birth

(I Hate)

Fans of Nekromantheon, Deathhammer, Condor and generally, fans of whatever I am praising on the album above (Condor that is) should also pay Antichrist's Sinful Birth a visit. This was up until the last minute the most serious opponent of Condor for the title of album of the year. I guess, when I actually write the actual list we'll all find out together which one it is. But I digress. 

Antichrist came to my attention in 2011 when they released Forbidden World. At the time, there were still few bands doing the dirty heavy/thrash thing with rabid vocals, so the album not only stood out, it quickly became an underground classic. So, it was only reasonable that the expectations were quite high for Sinful Birth and the fact it took them 6 years to release their sophomore effort only added to the anticipation. Let me put it plainly: This album is awesome. Seriously awesome. The mix of rabid thrash, Celtic Frost and Bathory vibes with epic heavy metal (think D666 - Wildfire) is addictive, showcased in great songwriting, great riffs and solos with many unexpected turns. The beginning is kinda monolithic but during the course of the album, after Under the Cross and especially with The Black Pharaoh (one of my favorite songs this year), the surprising twists and turns are more abundant. Think Celtic Frost giving their way to epic heavy metal melodic solos, seamlessly combined as if that is the most natural thing. Again, vocals are one of the highlights of the band and I'll confess Mr. Steken is one of the reasons the band scores high in the cult-o-meter. Outrageously good.

Vulture - The Guilottine

(High Roller Records)

TL;DR: METAL, blah blah, true 80s speed blah blah: Fuck all that: a good tune is a good tune is a good tune. These bastards write fantastic riffs and songs. Not songs that will stick to your brain upon first listen but songs that will slowly make you crave for more and more and more. Fans of 80s heavy metal, speed metal or thrash metal, pay attention.

Vulture gets it. Vulture loves the good metal. And I love Vulture. They have extremely fantastic vocals for my tastes, ie. vocals that SCREAM METAL. Imagine Mille (Pleasure to Kill) and Paul Baloff incorporating Cyriis-type of banshee-cries. I don't know about you but that description alone makes my mouth water. If you follow me, you know that I consider indifferent vocals the plague of modern metal and especially of modern thrash bands, so I always have an ear for the extraordinary. If that extraordinary delivers THE METAL, then I'm sold!

The other great aspect of the band is of course the music and riffs. They combine seamlessly heavy, speed and thrash metal, in equal measures, the key word here being seamlessly. Exodus (BONDED BY BLOOD EXODUS - understand?) and Kreator (up to Terrible Certainty) are the main foundations for their thrashing but it's the heavy and speed elements they throw in the mix (and those vocals) that really make the recipe work.  I love everything about the video as well. It is skating on the edge of the razor between true 80s cringe-worthiness and naivette and "true 80s FUCK YOU - METAL IS ALL" with exemplary comfort and self-sarcasm to the point of falling in love with them. I fell in love with them. I think I fell in love with them the moment they did the choreographed guitar pointing, exactly like Flotsam and Jetsam from that 1985 TV gig (a masterpiece, see 1:20)

Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony

(InsideOut Music)

And now for something completely different:
TL;DR: If you love Dream Theater of the Awake/Falling Into Infinity/Scenes from a Memory era - and you miss them and have not burnt yourself out in the "prog metal" scene of the past 20 years, by all means fucking go for it. This is THE SHIT - and Bumblefoot OWNS YOU (and Petrucci with incredible ease). Most exciting Portnoy release since LTE 2.

LONG RANT I wrote on my facebook:
Long rant follows because I've seen very mixed reactions and I've seen very dismissive reactions, particularly from prog rock/metal fans and mediums.

I have no idea what the problem is. They cite "indifferent songwriting" or "cheesy AOR/hard rock disguised as prog" but, with respect, what.the.fuck.

Scratch that. I am a guy who fell in love with Dream Theater in 1994, became a fanboy for a few years and broke it off in disgust around the Six Degrees album (liked that one but have had my fill years ago) and I was always one of those people who loved them DESPITE their vocals. I never got into the whole prog metal scene that worshipped on their feet (Psychotic Waltz being the only other progressive metal band I could die for). I love the LTE albums. I love Symphony X, Ayreon (had a phase with both of them, nothing excessive though) and the odd album here and there.

What I loved in Dream Theater was that in their peak (which is OBVIOUSLY Awake to me) they had the unique combination of skills, fantasy, passion for playing and "controlled jamming" (I just invented that shit term), a band that you would put the headphones on and know that you count on them to have a music trip with equal admiration for the skill and finesse and the songwriting. Exciting stuff.

I have missed that feeling and urge for almost two decades. Dream Theater and all their clones sounded uninspired (with some exceptions naturally), the cheese became too much (the cheese and The Cheese himself) and Jordan Rudess BORED THE FUCK OUT OF ME. The only thing that really fulfilled my desire for what I speak of in the above paragraph is watching Steve Vai concerts. Seriously.

Enter Portnoy's departure and his gazillion projects. Some good, some boring, never something as exciting as Acid Rain or The Mirror. Still, the man is one of my favorite peeps in the music world cause he is just... interesting when he speaks about music. I think I identify with his knack for writing TL;DR shit. (see?)

And then this project. First time in SO MANY YEARS that I got excited for an upcoming album. Why? Because this time RON FUCKING BUMBLEFOOT THAL would be involved.

I am a HUGE Bumblefoot fan, I am talking his solo albums, not "he knows how to shred and he was cool in GnR". I mean spinning the shit out of 9.11 or Uncool or Normal. The man is seriously one brilliant musician/guitarist/singer and YES ASSHOLES, songwriter! And now he would get to work FINALLY in a band with musicians of his caliber.

So, couple those two cats with Billy Sheehan and his monster tone, enter Derek Sherinian (100 times more exciting than Jordan Rudess) with his A-MA-ZING, vibrant sound and ideas (main composer along with Mike) and put Jeff Scott Soto on top, you get a supergroup that WORKS. ALL the bad reviews dismiss this as "another supergroup that failed the expectations". Well, my expectations were all met and then some. Brilliant songs, brilliant musicianship, brilliant sound production.

So, is there anything wrong here? Why yes! The name of the band. Cheesiest shit ever. Oh, and if you don't like catchy choruses with hooks that belong in hard rock groups like Talisman or perhaps Adrenaline Mob but really, anyone who has spent time listening to James LaBrie has no excuses whatsoever. Dream Theater fanboys who praised albums like the past two DT albums have even less excuses (that's right, they have a negative amount of excuses).

Final word: you can ignore all the above shit and just play God of the Sun and Labyrinth and decide for yourself.

Personally, I played and still play the fuck out of this. And Bumblefoot is THE MAN.

Droid - Terrestrial Mutations

(Nightbreaker Productions)

Droid are Canadians and in my mind they are the true Voivod children, as opposed to Vektor who are very wrongfully dubbed a Voivod clone band. Droid are definitely not Voivod clones either. You will hear a lot of Coroner here and Vektor must have played a part in the overall sound too, or maybe I am too much of a fanboy and hear them everywhere (naah...) but this is just the beginning. Droid are labelled as progressive thrash/speed metal on the Metal Archives but seriously, this does not even begin to cover it. Consider that they cover a lot of ground that Voivod has covered, which if you know Voivod means a LOT. I am not talking just Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross here (which is no small feat in itself), they also have definite 90s references (dare I say grungey?) and a surprisingly catchy way of writing, which makes them intensely interesting.

The 80s, 90s and the 10s somehow meet here in an album that has proven itself over and over the past months. You will hear influences from various other sources of the 90s and a refreshingly open mind for the genre they are serving (again, take that label with a grain of salt). Most of all you will hear catchy songs that I can't shake the thought that they should appeal to both tech-thrashers and fans of late 80s, early 90s alternative bands, while at the same time remaining old school in a warm and fuzzy way. Feels like this is a band that could have been the next hip thing, only thankfully they haven't (yet?).

Kudos to the production values of the album too, organic sounds that serve the music vision well. Looking very much forward to hearing more from this band in the future.

Some thoughts...

This was a very good year for the underground, old-school, speed/heavy/thrash/deathrash metal scene, the one that flourishes around Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden leading the pack). There has been an explosion of releases from that genre and all of them sound at least decent, which is a two-edged sword: on one hand it is nice to see a scene being so alive, on the other hand along with quantity comes the drop in quality (this is an axiom of life) - we are on the verge of hitting that point where even the description of the band's music will bring on the feeling of total indifference. Happened with thrash back in 1990-91, happened with power metal and prog metal around '99 (earlier for some) and has happened again for thrash metal in the 00s before Vektor slapped everyone around and told them to shape up or else. It's certain to happen again with every scene, retro or new and my beloved speed/thrash (dirty or not) scene will be no exception. Not before giving us some real gems though (like every other scene mentioned).

I am glad to present at least 3 releases that not only got the feeling, the vibe of the time, the sheer rabid metal frenziness right (that alone scores a lot of points for me when I hit play), not only that but, and this is the reason to be glad, they also wrote great songs AND have vocals that makes them stand out.

So, congratulations Condor, Antichrist and Vulture, you get my top 3 spots just for that. Hellripper and Evil Invaders are also sure to make my final list, just not sure in what spot exactly. An added bonus to picking the 3 bands for the top spot is that I've had enough of diatribes and long-winded analyses of "the state of metal" by people who love talking about metal more than actually listening to it. I've grown VERY tired of that and honestly wish they would just shut the fuck up already. I think they are on the same level with mainstream publications like pitchfork or Rolling Stone, in the sense of how much stock I put in their opinion. That is, precisely zero. Perfectly sure my top 3 spots will do nothing for them and that is quite the relief. So, if you are looking for the next Gojira in the above list or any other list coming soon, I can tell you right away that this is not the list you are looking for, move along. But you should check out Code Orange (they are in my to-listen-to pile) which made hipster media wet and the one clip I sampled reminded me of Gojira meets Nails meets Pig Destroyer or something like that, so if those names float your boat (and they should, no irony here) check Forever out.

So, as I realize that I sound more and more like a close-minded, bitter, old metalhead, I will close this post here. In the next episode, more name-dropping (Mastodon! Sanctuary! Cannabis Corpse!) and album suggestions. Watch this space. Or don't, I am shit at keeping consistent deadlines. Er, happy new year?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tales from the Blind Guardian World

Κατά το ήμισυ κατάγομαι από το νομό Χανίων. Συγκεκριμένα από το χωριό Τοπόλια στο Καστέλι Κισσάμου. Το άλλο ήμισυ, φορ δε ρέκορντ, είναι το Χρισσό, δίπλα στους Δελφούς (“στα Σάλωνα σφάζουνε αρνιά και στο Χρισσό κριάρια…”, να γιατί αγαπώ το κρέας, είναι κληρονομικό!). Για πολλά χρόνια, κάθε καλοκαίρι πηγαίναμε στα Τοπόλια για διακοπές οικογενειακώς και ήταν πάντα άψογα: σε μισή ώρα βρισκόμασταν στο Ελαφονήσι (τύφλα να ‘χει η παραλία του Boyle) ή στα Φαλάσαρνα να κάνουμε τις επικές μπανάρες μας. Τα Χανιά γενικώς να ξέρετε είναι πανέμορφα, καταπράσινα (βρέχει πολύ, πολύ συχνότερα εκεί από ότι στην υπόλοιπη Κρήτη) και με τοποθεσίες γύρω-γύρω εξωπραγματικές, όπως όλη η Κρήτη βέβαια αλλά μάλλον το βραβείο το παίρνει η δυτική μεριά του νησιού γενικά.

Τώρα όμως, εκτός από τους δεσμούς αίματος και την ροζ άμμο στο Ελαφονήσι, με καλεί ΤΟ ΜΕΤΑΛ. Το Chania Rock Festival αισίως κλείνει 11 χρόνια ζωής φέτος και έχει ήδη γίνει απαραίτητος και στάνταρ προόρισμος κάθε χρόνο. Βασικά έχει γίνει το δικό μας Rockwave και να σας πω την αλήθεια, τα τελευταία χρόνια πιο πολύ με ψήνει το Chania Rock Festival. Εκεί είδα επιτέλους τους Flotsam and Jetsam (στα γόνατα), εκεί είδα τους Kreator (πω…), εκεί είδα τον Warrel Dane (πιο πολύ χάρηκα που τον είδα παρά που τον άκουσα αλλά ήταν ωραία), εκεί είδα τους Soulfly και τον όγκο του Max Cavalera, γενικώς εκεί είδα πολλά και ωραία (παιδιά, οι Tyketto είναι μπαντάρα). Και αυτά που δεν μου φάνηκαν ωραία δεν με νοιάξανε, είχα την Πόπη μου, τους φίλους από το Ηράκλειο και την Αθήνα για χαβαλέ και μεταλλοκουβέντες, είχα αυτό που όλοι ξέρουμε σαν μια κλασσική φεστιβαλική εμπειρία. Μόνο που τώρα την έχω δίπλα στο σπίτι μου και όπως φαίνεται κάθε χρόνο θα κλείνει τρύπες στα συναυλιακά μου απωθημένα.

Οι Blind Guardian δεν είναι ακριβώς απωθημένο μου. Τους είδαμε με την Πόπη πρώτη φορά το 2003 στο Silo στον Πειραιά και ήταν και με τον Τόμεν, τον τυμπανιστή που του έχω ιδιαίτερη αδυναμία σαν οργασμικό τούπα-τούπα άνιμαλ που είναι. Σετλιστάρα φυσικά είχαν και τότε, γενικώς όπως ξέρουμε, σετλιστάρες έχουν πάντα που θα σου κάτσουν έπη επών που δεν περίμενες, αν εξαιρέσεις το σαρδελικό πάστωμα, παράπονο κανένα δεν έχω. Μάλιστα, μετά την ηχητική τους στροφή σε πιο συμφωνικά και πομπώδη μονοπάτια, με την εξαίρεση του καλού At the Edge of Time, σε γενικές γραμμές, το εξωφρενικό φανμποϊλίκι μου έχει ηρεμήσει πολύ. Αλλά σίγουρα δεν έχει πεθάνει, άλλωστε ήμουν χρόνια τελειωμένος οπαδός τους, ειδικά την περίοδο 95-02 (περίπου), βρίσκονταν στην κορυφή μαζί με τα άλλα ιερά και όσια.

Σπίτι μου έχω 18 μπλουζάκια Blind Guardian, προφανώς έχω την δισκογραφία τους και όλα (σχεδόν!) τα σινγκλάκια, τι να κάνουμε, είναι και περίπτωση που ό,τι και να έφτιαχνε ο τεράστιος Andreas Marschall για πάρτη τους έβγαινε αριστούργημα και ήθελα να τους δώσω τα λεφτά μου. Αλλά όπως είπα, στην πορεία κάπου χαλάρωσα, παρόλο που μέχρι να πεθάνω θα είναι πάντοτε ΜΕΓΑΛΗ μου αδυναμία, στην τελική δεν νομίζω ότι χρειάζεται καν να απολογηθώ σε κάτι κουλ τυπάκια που γελάνε με τους δράκους, το σερί που έχουν κάνει οι Guardian είναι ένα από τα ποιοτικότερα και, λαϊκά μιλώντας, γαμηστερότερα, στην ιστορία του μέταλ . Ειδικά η περίοδος μεταξύ Tales from the Twilight World και Nightfall in Middle-Earth είναι επιπέδου Maiden, Metallica, King Diamond κλπ τεραστιοτήτων.

Και να που τώρα, στα Χανιά, στο φεστιβάλ που όπως λέω σχεδιάστηκε να κλείνει τρύπες στα απωθημένα μου, έρχονται οι Blind Guardian και μάλιστα σκοπεύοντας να παίξουν ολόκληρο το Imaginations from the Other Side. Δηλαδή τον μάλλον αρτιότερο δίσκο τους που κατά γενική ομολογία αρέσει ακόμα και στους εξωσχολικούς, δηλαδή αυτούς που δεν ασχολούνται με την λογοτεχνία του φανταστικού, τον Tolkien ιδιαιτέρως, το power metal ή το speed metal και είναι συνήθως too cool για δράκους. Καλύτερος δίσκος Blind Guardian δεν υπάρχει βέβαια, μόνο αγαπημένος. Ε, κάθε άλλο φεγγάρι το Imaginations… είναι ο αγαπημένος μου δίσκος Guardian και όταν παίζουν έπη σαν το Script for My Requiem ή το Mordred’s Song ή το And the Story Ends ή… (you get the idea) με τον Hansi Kursch να ΟΥΡΛΙΑΖΕΙ ΕΠΙΚΑ (στο τοπ 10 αγαπημένων τραγουδιστών έβερ) αισθάνομαι και πολύ καλά με την επιλογή μου.

1995: Vic + IFTOS = LFE

Το Imaginations from the Other Side ήταν ο δίσκος των Blind Guardian που αγόρασα πρώτο χωρίς να τον έχω ακούσει. Ο καλός φίλος Μανώλης με είχε μπάσει στο σύμπαν τους με το Follow the Blind («παίζει ο Kai Hansen εδώ και τραγουδάει!» “SAY NO MORE!”), το οποίο και έλιωσα σε αντεγραμμένη κασσέτα. Όταν βρέθηκα στην Αθήνα κάποια στιγμή, πήγα όπως πάντα στο Rock City για εφόδια και έχοντας στο μυαλό να καβατζώσω και το Follow the Blind σε CD. Πράγματι, το βρήκα το Follow the Blind και το πήρα στα χέρια μου αλλά πίσω του είχε το ολοκαίνουργιο τότε Imaginations… Το πήρα και αυτό στα χέρια μου και έπαθα μια ελαφριά σκατόπλακα με το εξώφυλλό του. Έτσι, πέρασα 5 λεπτά κοιτώντας το ένα CD και το άλλο, ρίαλ φάκιν ντιλέμα, ποιο να πάρω; Αυτή την εξωφυλλάρα ΤΗΝ ΘΕΛΩ αλλά αν βγει μάπα ο δίσκος; Δεν μας παίρνει για λάθη, μία ευκαιρία έχεις, μήπως να πάρεις αυτό που ξέρεις ότι γαμεί; Ναι αλλά δες τώρα αυτή την κιθάρα στην μέση με τους τρεις δράκους, πω ρε φίλε, τι έκανε πάλι η ατομάρα ο Μάρσαλ; Και το οπισθόφυλλο ακόμα χειρότερα τα πράγματα, τι οπισθοφυλλάρα ήταν αυτή στο Imaginations; Ε, τέλος, είμαι ένας πόζερος εστέτ, θα πάρω το καινούργιο.

Έτσι, μαζί με χιλιάδες άλλους Έλληνες, τσίμπησα τον δίσκο και μαζί με άλλους χιλιάδες Έλληνες κόλλησα και μέσα σε 2 μήνες είχα πλήρη δισκογραφία και βαθύτατο προβληματισμό για το ποιος είναι ο αγαπημένος μου δίσκος Blind Guardian. Μετά από χρόνια κατέληξα ότι θα παίζει αιώνιο ροτέησον στην πρώτη θέση μεταξύ του Somewhere Far Beyond, του Imaginations from the Other Side και του Nightfall in Middle-Earth. Από εκεί και πέρα, εκτός από το να πρήζω ΟΛΟΥΣ τους φίλους μου για το θέμα, κατάφερα και έχασα τους Blind Guardian 7-8 φορές μέχρι να καταφέρω να τους δω στο Silo που έλεγα πιο πάνω. Το 95-96 ο συνδυασμός “φράγκα για Αθήνα ανύπαρκτα” και “προετοιμασία για μετακόμιση στην Αγγλία”, σήμαινε ότι “όλοι θα τους δουν εκτός από μένα ” (τότε έχασα και τους Slayer που το έφερα ΠΟΛΥ ΒΑΡΙΑ). Ο καλός μου φίλος Αλέξης εντωμεταξύ πήγε, τους είδε, τους γνώρισε, μου είπε ότι είναι παιδιά να τους αγαπήσεις παράφορα (όπως και έκανε), ότι o Χάνσι του έλεγε ευχαριστώ που ήρθες από την Κρήτη να μας δεις με γουρλωμένα μάτια από την έκπληξη. Ο Andre του χάρισε στο Rock of Gods μπλουζάκι Forgotten Tales με tour dates από πίσω (μίσος και φθόνος, τελικά το βρήκα αρκετά χρόνια μετά, σε συγχωρώ Αλέξη!) από ευγνωμοσύνη που ΞΑΝΑήρθε να τους δει από την Κρήτη (άκου ρε κάτι πράγματα!). Όλοι βλέπανε Guardian, τι θα γίνει με ΜΕΝΑ;!

Meeting (some of) Blind Guardian

Και μετά τους γνώρισα. Αρχικά μέσω του ίντερνετ που είχε κάνει τον κόσμο σουρεαλιστικό και από την μια στιγμή στην άλλη βρίσκεσαι σε ένα κανάλι mIRC (#tavern των Guardian) να μιλάς με τον @Corum, ο οποίος είναι ο Marcus Siepen και μαλώνετε φιλικά για το αν το Awaken the Guardian είναι power ή power/prog αλλά συμφωνόντας ότι πρόκειται περί μεγίστου έπους! Το 1998 θα έρχονταν για μια συναυλία στην Αθήνα. Πλέον, οι Έλληνες ταβερνιάρηδες ήταν πολύ οργανωμένοι, με κονέ στα υψηλότατα κλιμάκια και έτσι όταν οι Andre και Thomen βγήκαν στο Χωρίς Ανάσα την προηγούμενη της συναυλίας, κάνανε παρεάκι με εμάς. Δεν ξέρω πως να σας περιγράψω την φάση να κάνω τράκα τσιγάρο από τον Τόμεν, την στιγμή που το έκανα ένιωθα το σουρεάλ πολύ έντονα ή την πόρωση να βλέπω τον Andre να κοπανιέται χαλαρά στο Peace Sells που έπαιζε, πάντως ήταν επική βραδιά. Γλυκόπικρη όμως. Γιατί εγώ στην συναυλία δεν μπορούσα να πάω. Πρώτον, την ώρα της συναυλίας παντρευόταν μια ξαδέρφη μου στα Πευκάκια και δεύτερον η συναυλία ήταν sold out, όπως είναι συνήθως δηλαδή οι συναυλίες Blind Guardian. Ένιωθα όμως ότι κάπως ρέφαρα με την παρέα στην Ανάσα. Όταν ήταν να αποχωρήσω αποκαμωμένος από την κλαμπάρα, πήγα φυσικά να αποχαιρετήσω το (κολλητάρι μου πια) Andre, ο οποίος με χαιρέτησε με την φράση “see you tomorrow at the show!”, οπότε και βρήκα ευκαιρία να κλαφτώ στο είδωλο και να του πω ότι, όχι, δεν θα με δεις γιατί είναι sold out, αφήνοντας να υποννοηθεί ότι εγώ ήρθα για σας και έφαγα ήττα με το sold out, παραλείποντας βεβαίως το θέμα του γάμου. Και τότε βίωσα και εγώ εκείνη την ψυχάρα για την οποία μου διηγόταν ο Αλέξης, καθώς αμέσως γυρνάει στον Pedro, τον webmaster και του λέει “να προσθέσουμε άλλο ένα άτομο στην guest list σου”. Τσακ, είσαι καλεσμένος του Andre των Blind Guardian να μπεις στην συναυλία. Έφυγα με αισθήματα λατρείας για τους BG και το αίσθημα ότι είμαι πολύ ξεχωριστός, μπράβο μου.

Την επομένη το σχέδιό μου ήταν απλό. Θα πάω στον γάμο, στο μυστήριο δηλαδή που είναι και όλη η ουσία, θα γειώσω το γλέντι, θα βάλω αθλητικά παπούτσια και θα πάω σαν πουκαμισομεταλάς μεν αλλά μεταλάς δε στην συναυλία. Τρέχοντας. Από τα Πευκάκια, Μάρνης στο Ρόδον. Και αυτό έκανα. Έτρεχα για το μέταλ και τους Guardian, χωρίς να ξέρω πότε θα φτάσω, πόσο θα έχω χάσει αλλά αδιαφορώντας πλήρως, τώρα ήταν η φάση. Έφτασα λαχανιασμένος και ιδρωμένος του κερατά έξω από το Ρόδον βλέποντας ένα πλήθος εκεί, κοντά στην είσοδο. “Ακόμα μπαίνουν;” σκέφτηκα, νωρίς ήρθα τελικά! Τελικά από μέσα ακούγονταν οι Guardian, έβλεπες κόσμο να κολλάει το αυτί του στον τοίχο για να πιάσει τζούρες και τότε κατάλαβα ότι όλοι αυτοί είναι οι άτυχοι σαν και μένα (παλιά!) που τους έφαγε το sold out. Καμαρωτός-καμαρωτός κατευθύνθηκα στο ταμείο του Ρόδον, όπου ήταν η γνωστή ταμίας. Με κοίταξε εμφανώς εκνευρισμένη:

“Τι θέλεις;”
“Εε, γεια σας, εεε, πρέπει να υπάρχει μια προσκληση στο όνομά μου”
“Δεν υπάρχει καμία πρόσκληση!”, απάντησε χωρίς να το σκεφτεί.
“Μα, πρέπει να είμαι στην λίστα του συγκροτήματος, στην guest list του τάδε, κοιτάξτε παρακαλώ” και είπα το όνομα του Πορτογάλου webmaster.
Η κυρία εκνευριζόταν πιο πολύ που ένα μαλακισμένο την έπρηζε ενώ δεν ήθελε να την πρήζω προφανώς. “Πώς σε λένε;” μου πετάει. Της λέω το όνομά μου. Σηκώνει κάτι χαρτιά κάτω από το πληκτρολόγιο που είχε μπροστά της, κάτι κοιτάει…
“Όχι, δεν υπάρχει καμία πρόσκληση!” μου λέει πάντοτε εκνευρισμένη με ύφος “και πολύ μας τα έπρηξες μικρέ μαλάκα” και με κεραυνοβολεί η ήττα στο δόξα πατρί.

Το πρώτο πράγμα που σκέφτομαι είναι ότι αυτή είναι μια κακή κυρία και να πάει να χεστεί η μαλάκω, δηλαδή, γιατί δεν μου δίνει την πρόσκλησή μου; Το δεύτερο πράγμα που σκέφτομαι και με κάνει να νιώθω ακόμα χειρότερα είναι ότι προφανώς ο Andre και τα παιδιά ξεχάσανε να με βάλουν στην guest list γιατί μετά τα ποτά και τα ξενύχτια ποιος θα θυμόταν την επόμενη μέρα να προσθέσει το έξτρα άτομο στην guest list. Έτσι απομακρύνθηκα από το ταμείο, στάθηκα κάπου σε μια κολώνα και συνέχισα να ακούω πνιχτά το Imaginations from the Other Side που έπαιζε μέσα. “Πωωωωω, το Imaginations… παίζουν ρε φίλε!” έλεγε ένας με κολλημένο το αυτί του στην πόρτα, κολλάγανε και άλλοι το αυτί τους, εγώ δεν καταδεχόμουν, ήμουν απασχολημένος να σουρώνω στην σάλτσα της αυτολύπησης. Τελικά, κάποια στιγμή τελειώνει το γλέντι, ανοίγουν οι πόρτες και ξεχύνονται οι ευτυχισμένες ορδές των οπαδών με χαμογελάρες μέχρι τα αυτιά. Φυσικά εντοπίζω τους tavern συντρόφους, οι οποίοι έρχονται ενθουσιασμένοι και με ρωτάνε “ΓΑΜΗΣΑΝ;Ε; Ε;”.
“Δεν ξέρω, δεν τους είδα”, απάντησα με προκλητικό ύφος “ρώτα με γιατί δεν τους είδα”
“Γιατί δεν τους είδες;”
“Γιατί δεν υπήρχε πρόσκληση στο όνομά μου”, απάντησα με παραπονεμένο ύφος, συγκρατημένος όμως, μην παίξει κανά τρεμάμενο χείλος και γίνουμε ρόμπα τώρα.
“Α, ΤΗΝ ΚΑΡΙΟΛΑ!” αρχίσανε τα επιφωνήματα από την ταβέρνα. Και μου εξήγησαν ότι αυτοί είχαν έρθει το μεσημέρι για να παρακολουθήσουν το soundcheck και ότι η ίδια ταμίας δεν τους άφηνε να μπούνε μέσα και χρειάστηκε να βγει ο Andre έξω ΠΟΥ ΤΟΥΣ ΕΨΑΧΝΕ. Φυσικά έκανε αυστηρή παρατήρηση στην κυρία, η οποία δεν το χάρηκε καθόλου που της την έλεγαν και μάλιστα μπροστά στα πιτσιρίκια. Ο Andre, και το γράφω και συγκινούμαι ακόμη, γύρισε μάλιστα και της είπε “πρόσεξε, θα έρθει άλλο ένα παιδί, μην κάνεις το ίδιο πράγμα”. Ασχέτως της ιστορίας, δεν μπορώ να φανταστώ πολλούς μουσικούς τέτοιου λέβελ να θυμούνται και να ασχολούνται τόσο με έναν τυχάρπαστο οπαδό τους. Βεβαίως η κυρία πρέπει να μπρίζωσε πολύ άσχημα με την όλη ιστορία και πήρε το αίμα της πίσω ρίχνοντάς μου άκυρο αλλά η αλήθεια είναι ότι παρηγορήθηκα τόσο πολύ με την εξήγηση (ήμουν πεπεισμένος ότι απλώς με είχαν ξεχάσει) που μου ανέβηκε η διάθεση. Θυμήθηκα τώρα και τον Ηρακλή, πολύ καλός φίλος από το Ηράκλειο, ΑΡΡΩΣΤΟΣ με τους Guardian, να έρχεται με τις μπλούζες (πληθυντικός, τις φορούσε αλά Τζόι στο Friends, όλες μαζί) να στάζουν όλες ιδρώτα. Δεν είμαι σίγουρος για το σκεπτικό, φόρεσε όλες τις Guardian του να τις ευλογήσει στο λάιβ μάλλον. Θεάρας.

Τελικά, το απωθημένο του λάιβ όπως είπα το ξεπέρασα το 2003. Και ήταν υ-πέ-ρο-χα. Κοπανήθηκα σαν να μην υπάρχει αύριο, φυσικά και κουτούλησα δυο-τρεις φορές την Πόπη που έσφιγγα μπροστά μου στο κεφάλι, ακούσαμε ύμνους ύμνων, τα κομμάτια του A Night at the Opera μου ακούστηκαν πολύ πιο γαμάτα γιατί δεν έπαιζαν εκατό Χάνσις και χορωδίες και πομπώδη layers, οι κιθάρες πιο ζωντανές, γενικώς λέβελ απ. Αλλά η αλήθεια είναι ότι ΔΕΝ ΧΟΡΤΑΣΑ. Ξαναέκαναν κάτι διπλά λάιβ στο Gagarin με σετλιστ ονείρωξη, πάλι ζήλεψα, πού λεφτά για ταξίδια κλπ. Από την άλλη, έλεγα, ε, μωρέ, τι το ψάχνεις, αφού θα παίζουν τόσα καινούργια που δεν σου λένε και πολλά, σαν τους Queensryche θα είναι (κωδικός για το λάιβ στον Λυκαβηττό, όπου η μισή συναυλία ήταν αρκετά γαμώ, όταν παίζανε παλιά δηλαδή και η άλλη μισή σκέτη απαλεψιά). Παρηγοριά στον άρρωστο δηλαδή.

Μετά βλέπεις το εξώφυλλο του Metal Hammer...

...διαβάζεις αυτό...

Metal Hammer: Στις 30 Ιουνίου θα επισκεφτείτε για πολλοστή φορά την Ελλάδα, αλλά για πρώτη φορά το μεγαλύτερο ελληνικό νησί, την Κρήτη. Τι να περιμένουμε εκεί;

Hansi: Όπως πιθανότατα γνωρίζεις, παίζουμε ολόκληρο το "Imaginations...", κάτι που μου πρότεινε ο Andre και ο Marcus και αναπάντεχα, αφού δεν είμαι οπαδός των concept albums σε live! Ίσως φταίει και το λιγοστό αλκοόλ που είχα πιει νωρίτερα, αλλά ή ιδέα μας φάνηκε απίστευτη, για το δεύτερο σκέλος της βορειοαμερικάνικης περιοδείας. Αργότερα αποφασίσαμε να κάνουμε το ίδιο για κάποιες special περιπτώσεις. Γνωρίζω ότι υπάρχουν πολλοί σκληροπυρηνικοί Έλληνες οπαδοί αυτού του δίσκου! Από εκεί κι έπειτα, υπάρχει ο πυρήνας των κλασικών Guardian τραγουδιών, που δεν θα αφήσει κανέναν δυσαρεστημένο"

...και χωρίς να το καταλάβεις από 40 χρονώ γαϊδούρι, γίνεσαι πάλι 18, είσαι στο Rock City και κρατάς στο ένα χέρι το Follow the Blind και στο άλλο το Imaginations.

θα φτύσω τις φωνητικές μου χορδές.

30 Ιουνίου, στα γενέθλια της Πόπης, αυτά είναι δώρα!

ADDENDUM: The Bard's Song - The Beer

Γραμμένο το 1998 (νομίζω) σαν χαβαλεδιάρικο ποστ σε μια mailing list(!) για τους Blind Guardian. Ήμουν 21 οπότε δείχνουμε την ανάλογη κατανόηση και επιείκεια. Πάντως άρεσε, οπότε έγιναν και γραφικά για την φάση, με μπουκάλι μπύρας και ετικέτα κομπλέ. Υποτίθεται σε κάτι συνάξεις τραγουδήθηκε κιόλας αλλά αυτό δεν το ξέρω σίγουρα.

The Bard's Song - The Beer
(Music: Andre Olbrich/Hansi Kursch Lyrics: Vic)

Now you all know the bards and their beers
when glasses have gone dry
I'll close my eyes
In a pub far away we may drink again
but now drink this beer, we're just starting the night
drink Beer of Twilight

Tomorrow will bring me a beer
fat and strong, this beer can never make you puke
but you bet you will want more
Tomorrow the beer will be home
and your stomach have grown
so dont be a dick and drink the beer
cause it is the Twilight Beer

there's only one beer, left in my hands
The lust of a drunkman who needs some more beer
but the beer is now over and i think I will die
No one shall ask you for the name of the beer
Cause we all know it....
(imagine the name Twilight Beer flashing all over the place!)

Tomorrow will bring me a beer
fat and strong, this beer can never make you puke
but you bet you will want more
Tomorrow the beer will be gone
and you'll be alone
but don't be afraid of thirst to the bone
cause the beer will remaaaaaaaaaain-
The tankards will remain!
This beer is golden, pure and cool
and Bards come drink it all
you can love it too...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Best of 2016 - The sloppiest list on the web

Best of 2016: The normal, thoughtful, insightful and informative blog post is not coming any time soon. Sorry about that!

Don't have the time to make the final selection. I know that Vektor's Terminal Redux is the album of the year. OK? There you go! Best metal of 2016, now you know!

I also know that I liked a lot more albums this year than last year. So 2016 > 2015.

I know the 80s veterans did GOOD, really good in fact and this includes the 3 releases from the Big 4 (winner among them: Anthrax, oh yes sir), Death Angel (best work since Act III and among their best overall), Suicidal Tendencies (GREAT, Lombardo rules - but I liked 13 even more) and you probably know my opinion on Metallica and Megadeth (best work in years by both of them).

I know I liked some newcomers (Ripper from Chile and Armory got the most spins so far) and I know there is a ton of good shit I haven't explored in depth. And I know I am not in any position to draw up a list that satisfies my OCD and sense of duty (lol) and nobody is on my case with deadlines (aahhhhhhh, feels so gooooood!), so no list at this point I'm afraid dear reader.

However, for the benefit of those few people who asked me kindly to give them a list, as a thank you for the compliment of trusting my tastes, I will give you something, until I have made up my mind or decide to organise the Dungeon Metal Awards of 2016 (in a Kodak theater near you) to put all other metal award shows to shame (and how difficult would that be, right?).

This most scientific of lists is my 2016.txt in notepad, where I try to keep track of what the hell is going on. Marked with a * are the albums that would have probably made the list if I had any reason whatsoever to make one on time. I have an opinion on the albums on that list but I am just not in that place, where I have the urge to put it into words. Words will be added in due course (sometime before the new decade arrives)

Labelled "TO CHECK" are albums that I have sampled (a song, a video, a careless listening session of the album, something...) and I liked what I heard and want to listen to in full but haven't come round to do it. Albums I have no solid opinion on. But worth exploring.

Why post such a sloppy list? Apart from the people asking, it's because I think it's a good starting point for anyone wishing to explore some good metal or heavy music (or not so heavy...) from 2016 and thus perhaps someone might discover something that went under his radar.

Tip for the computerally challenged: Highlight the album you're interested in, right-click and google it. There, listen to the youtube. Easy.

Happy new year folks!

1. Vektor - Terminal Redux*
Anthrax - For All Kings*
Suicidal Tendencies - World Gone Mad*
Gojira - Magma*
Flotsam and Jetsam - Flotsam and Jetsam*
Death Angel - The Evil Divide*
Destroyer 666 - Wildfire*
Armory - World Peace...Cosmic War*
Black Viper - Stroming with Vengeance demo*
Watchtower - Concepts of Math - Book One*
Metallica - Hardwired...to Self-Destruct*
Megadeth - Dystopia*
Ghoul - Dungeon Bastards*
Warfect - Scavengers
Ripper - Experiment of Existence*
Teleport - Ascendance EP
Trallery - Spiritless
Testament - Brotherhood of the Snake
Sodom - Decision Day
Helstar - Vampiro
Metal Church - XI
Revocation - Great is Our Sin
Volbeat - Seal the Deal
Vicious Rumors - Concussion Protocol
DRI - But Wait...There's More! EP
Eternity's End - The Fire Within
Exmortus - Ride Forth
Eternal Champion - The Armor of Ire
Theocracy - Ghost Ship
Ranger - Speed and Violence
Mortillery - Shapeshifter
Terror-caust - What is Reality (EP) Destruction - Under Attack
kai Hansen - XXX - Three Decades in Metal
Brujeria - Pocho Aztlan
Nails - You Will Never Be One of Us
Asphyx - Incoming Death
Demon Bitch - Hellfriends
The Doomsday Kingdom - Never Machine Demo EP and single
Sumerlands - Sumerlands
Prong X - No Absolutes
Beyond Creation - Earthborn Evolution
Denner - Shermann - Masters of Evil
Paradox - Pangea*
Running Wild - Rapid Foray
Convixion - Days of Rage, Nights of Wrath
Rapture - Total Madness Reigns EP
Suicidal Angels - Division of Blood
Artillery - Penalty by Perception
Baphomet's Blood - In Satan We Trust Wormrot - Voices
Conflagration - Cursed Earth EP
InnerWish - InnerWish
Wardrum - Awakening
Agatus - The Eternalist
Ghost - Popestar EP
Them - Sweet Hollow (not with lyrics)*?
Obscura - Acroasis (needs more spins)

------TO CHECK

Fates Warning - Theories of Flight (good, I don't hear the masterpiece though and I really prefer the Arch/Matheos version of the band...)
Evil Invaders - In for the Kill EP
Speedrush - Endless War
Mosh-Pit Justice - Stop Believing Lies*?
Dilliger Escape Plan - Dissociation
Ulcerate - Shrines of Paralysis
Protector - Cursed and Coronated
Blazon Stone - War of the Roses (Rolf needs to hire these guys and write songs for them, win-win)
Meshuggah - The Violent Sleep of Reason (not bad)
Striker - Stand in the Fire
Serious Black - Mirrorworld
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra - Broken Lines
Korn - The Serenity of Suffering
Deftones - gore
Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage (one clip sounded better than anything from their past)
Myrath - Legacy
Hammers of Misfortune - Dead Revolution (not great but has one awesome song, The Precipice)
Hellbringer - Awakened From the Abyss
National Suicide - Anotheround
Ravencult - Force of Profanation
Glenn Hughes - Resonate ("Heavy" is awesome)
Mithras - On Strange Loops (tech death metal)
Brain Tentacles - Brain Tentacles (avant-garde, jazzy metal)*?
Khemmis - Hunted (doom metal)
Mentor - Guts, Graves and Blasphemy (black thrash/punk)
Stormdeath - Time to Destroy (thrash, feat. Armory guitarist on bass)
High Spirits - Motivator (hard rock/hm thin lizzy style?)
Pretty Maids - Kingmaker
Spellcaster - Night Hides the World (Heavy Metal)
Seven Sisters - Seven Sisters
Hobbs' Angel of Death - Heaven Bled
Sacred Steel - Heavy Metal Sacrifice
Demontage - Fire of Iniquity (black/heavy)
Euphoria - Operation: Genesis (thrash)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Πρώτες εντυπώσεις: Metallica - Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Το Hardwired...to Self-Destruct κυκλοφορεί επισήμως σε λίγες μέρες, η πραγματική πρεμιέρα του όμως ήταν χθες, καθώς "λήκαρε" στο ίντερνετ και προφανώς χιλιάδες χιλιάδων δεν έκατσαν να περιμένουν την φυσική κόπια τους, συνεπώς, η 12η Νοεμβρίου είναι η ημερομηνία που ο δίσκος συστήθηκε στον πλανήτη. Φυσικά, ανάμεσά τους και εγώ, που με το που ήρθε στα χέρια μου (χάρη στον φίλο Κώστα! Ευχαριστώ! - δεν βάζω επώνυμο για ευνόητους λόγους!), έπραξα τα δέοντα. Κανονίστηκε άμεσα listening session με τα σωστά άτομα (χρόνια είχαμε να ακούσουμε νέο δίσκο έτσι - εμ, Metallica... όχι κάποιος τυχάρπαστος...). Η βραδιά κύλησε πολύ καλά. Πολύ καλύτερα από ότι περίμενα εγώ τουλάχιστον. Συγκινητικά καλύτερα θα έλεγα.

Χωρίς άλλο μπλα-μπλα, μετά από 5-6 ακροάσεις, οι πρώτες μου εντυπώσεις, ξεκινώντας άμεσα από το ρεζουμέ:

Ο δίσκος, σαν πρώτη αίσθηση είναι ένα πραγματικό 8άρι. Στα καλύτερα της χρονιάς άνετα. Για τον οπαδό που υπερασπίζεται σθεναρά το Death Magnetic και παραλείπει τα προβληματάκια που ακολουθούν (και που υπήρχαν σε πολύ μεγαλύτερο ποσοστό στο DM), πάει και οπαδικό 9άρι, γιατί ε, Μετάλλικα. Με λίγα λόγια, η φάση ΠΕΤΥΧΕ. Και μιλάμε για φάση Metallica.

Τα προβληματάκια: τα κομμάτια θέλουν (σχεδόν όλα, και τα καλά) το έντιτ τους, οικονομία και λιγότερη φλυαρία σε κάτι γέφυρες. Δεν χρειάζεται πάλι να έχουν κομμάτια των 6-6:30 λεπτών. Αλλά ήθελε και γενναιότητα να βγάλουν ένα δίσκο 8-9 κομματιών, να τσιμπήσει μασίφ 9, του ενθουσιασμού. Η ιδέα του διπλού δίσκου δεν μου αρέσει. Καμία σχέση με άλλα θεοβάρετα διπλά άλμπουμ αλλά η κούραση κάπου στο δεύτερο CD, αδικεί τα κομμάτια εκεί. Για αυτό πάντως ακούγονται αξιοξέχαστα, όπως λένε και κάποιες κριτικές, και δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι είναι τα κομμάτια στο 2ο CD σε όλες τις κριτικές που έχω διαβάσει, όταν πλέον έχει κουραστεί το αυτί. Το ξυπνάνε σοφά πάντως στο τελευταίο κομμάτι του δίσκου, το οποίο είναι μάλλον και η κορυφή του. Ε, όπως και να το κάνουμε, όταν σπιντάρουν με έμπνευση οι Metallica, δεν γίνεται να μην συγκινηθείς... Το Spit Out the Bone είναι το κομμάτι που του αξίζουν πραγματικά τα ενθουσιώδη σχόλια που γράφτηκαν για το ομώνυμο τρίλεπτο κομμάτι και που δεν νομίζω να τα αξίζει.

Για μένα τα 2 πρώτα, που τα ξέραμε (ομώνυμο, Atlas, Rise), είναι και τα μετριότερα του δίσκου. Ίσως και το Murder One (το tribute στον Lemmy) κινείται εκεί, αν και μου αρέσει το ριφ του, μου αρέσει το feeling του, απλά αυτό το κομμάτι ειδικά δεν χρειαζόταν να είναι κοντά 6 λεπτά, έπρεπε να είναι 3. Τα υπόλοιπα μπορεί ενδεχομένως να πάσχουν λίγο σε φλυαρία (θα δείξει και το repeat) αλλά έχουν πραγματικά πολύ καλό υλικό και μου αρέσουν. Να πω ότι το ManUnkind που έχει σταμπαριστεί στα πιο μέτρια, το βρίσκω καλό.

Moth Into Flame: μακράν το καλύτερο από τα τρία που δόθηκαν στην δημοσιότητα πριν την κυκλοφορία του δίσκου και ένα από τα καλύτερα του δίσκου - αλλά σίγουρα όχι το καλύτερο.

Πάντως, μπράβο τους, είναι δίσκος με πολύ ψωμί, θέλει ακροάσεις, έχουν επιτέλους αφομοιώσει οργανικά το παρελθόν με το Load (πολύ Load/Reload!) και βασικά θα έλεγα ότι (ειδικά ο πρώτος δίσκος) χαρακτηρίζεται κυρίως από την φόρμουλα Kill Em All - Load με δομές Justice (αυτό το τελευταίο δεν πέτυχε πολύ καλά πάντα...), με πρέζες Black Album, ελάχιστα Puppets, Ride (το λιγότερο από όλα), πιο πολύ κάτι σημεία που φέρνουν στο νου άμεσα συγκεκριμένα σημεία από τα προαναφερθέντα 2.

Βασικά θα έλεγα ότι είναι ένα Μέταλ Load πιο πολύ από οτιδήποτε, με αυτό που δεν πέτυχε στο Death Magnetic, η οργανική αφομοίωση των κλασσικών στοιχείων τους να ισορροπεί και να πετυχαίνει εδώ. Α, και το No Leaf Clover άκουσα στο Confusion, που το λέω για απολύτως θετικό.

Ο Χάμετ δεν είναι τόσο ανύπαρκτος όσο στα κομμάτια που είχαν κυκλοφορήσει και έχει και πραγματικά καλές στιγμές, παραμένει όμως ο παίχτης που θα ήθελα παραπάνω πράγματα. Ο Lars είναι επαρκέστατος και έχει δέσει πολύ ωραία με τον Trujillo. Δεν βάζει φωτιά στο δρόμο αλλά πραγματικά δεν με απασχόλησε στην ακρόαση του δίσκου.

Χέτφιλντ τεράστιος, τεράστιος όμως, κουβαλάει τα πάντα και τα ριφ και η φωνή είναι μακράν το καλύτερο πράγμα στο δίσκο. Το κούλνες των Load-ικών ριφ γιγαντώνεται από το αποτύπωμα της μπάντας και του Τζέιμζ...

Η παραγωγή είναι καλή, καλύτερη σαφέστατα του Death Magnetic και του Lords of Summer και βασικά πέραν του ότι δεν είναι συγκλονιστική δεν έχω να της προσάψω απολύτως τίποτα (ίσως σε κάποια σόλο του Χάμετ τα ήθελα πιο bright).

Το βρίσκω το καλύτερο από εποχής Loads (στα οποία έβαζα 8 στο best-of τους κατόπιν πολλών ετών που τους κράταγα μούτρα) και νομίζω ότι θα το ακούσω περισσότερο από αυτά συνολικά. Άρα παίζει για μένα να είναι το καλύτερο όντως από το 1991, ασχέτως αν δεν έχει την επιρροή που αναμφισβήτητα είχαν τα Loads.

Το πιο ωραία πράγμα ήταν οι εκπλήξεις που δεν περίμενες πια από τους Metallica (ειδικά μετά το DM ή το Lords of Summer), δηλαδή το εντελώς Alice in Chains Dream No More ή το Halo on Fire, το οποίο πραγματικά είναι θαυμάσιο κομμάτι- κάτι λέγαμε για US Metal και Dio όταν έπαιζε στο σέσσιον! - και μαζί με το καταιγιστικό Spit out the Bone που προαναφέρθηκε, τα καλύτερα κομμάτια του δίσκου για μένα.

Το άλμπουμ δεν είναι τέλειο και δεν είναι στα επίπεδα των μυθικών Metallica, στα οποία προσωπικά δεν κατατάσσω τα Loads και του λείπει το σοκαριστικά τεράστιο κομμάτι και έχει τα ψεγάδια του ως προς την κατάχρηση του χρόνου - και ακόμα δεν πείθομαι ότι χρειαζόταν διπλός δίσκος, ακόμα και αν μου αρέσουν τα περισσότερα κομμάτια. Είναι όμως ένας δίσκος πραγματικά καλός, χωρίς να σου βγάζει αυτό το κακό safe φήλινγκ που μου έβγαζε το DM ενώ η πονηράδα/κούλνες του Load αναδεικνύονται πολύ όμορφα στη συνολική αισθητική που παρουσιάζουν οι Metallica του 2016.

Βασικά μιλάμε για έναν πραγματικά καλό δίσκο Metallica με πολύ πράμα να ανακαλύψεις σε διαδοχικές ακροάσεις (μην κάνετε σκιπ κομμάτια που δεν σας τρέλαναν με την μία...) και ενώ περίμενα κάτι καλύτερο από τα 2 προηγούμενα, ειλικρινά, δεν το περίμενα τόσο καλό. Περίμενα 2-3-4 καλά κομμάτια τύπου Moth Into Flame, πήρα σαφώς πολύ παραπάνω από αυτό. Για όσο κόσμο οι Metallica δεν πέθαναν το 1991 ή το 1996, ο δίσκος θα αρέσει, πιθανότατα και να ενθουσιάσει την οπαδάρα. Από την άλλη σε όσο κόσμο δεν άρεσε η 90ς κατεύθυνσή τους (και μιλάω μόνο μουσικά - όχι όλο το υπόλοιπο πανηγύρι) και ΔΕΝ συμφιλιώθηκαν μαζί τους στο Death Magnetic, δύσκολα θα αλλάξουν γνώμη εδώ, πέραν 2-3 κομματιών - αλλά αν αναρωτιούνται, ο δίσκος είναι πολύ καλύτερος του Magnetic και ίσως αξίζει τον κόπο μια επίσκεψις.

Οι Metallica ακούγονται πιο focused, πιο σίγουροι για τον εαυτό τους και κατάφεραν να συνδυάσουν το παρελθόν τους με το ύφος και την κατεύθυνση των 90ς (σχεδόν, όχι πάντοτε) αβίαστα και σίγουρα επιτυχημένα, χωρίς να ακούγεται ετερόκλητο ή σαν να μπήκαν στο μπλέντερ (DM...) πιθανόν για πρώτη φορά. Στην τελική, όπως και να το κάνουμε, ο Hetfield είναι λατρείας. Και εδώ λάμπει. Τελικά, αυτό είναι που με τούμπαρε εμένα.