Thursday, 31 May 2012

Review: The Hives - Lex Hives

 I'd like to think that Swedish rockers The Hives were probably the prime reason as to why the garage rock revival movement of the early 2000s was such an explosive and exciting movement that allowed going back to basics and blasting them out loud to be a source of great rock power. I now now that lots of people will disagree with my belief and say that The Strokes and The White Stripes would have something to say about that. I think all three bands are important and will have a place in the history of modern rock.

 But that chapter has long since finished and as many of these band s now return with more powerful garage anthem, they're being mt to a cynical response that doubts their relevance in today's musical scene where rock music isn't even being dominated by the second generation of poppier indie rock bands that followed.
 So, as they return with their fifth album Lex Hives, their first release in five years, does it sound dated? Well, there's no real sense of progression since 2007's The Black and White Album, although garage rock as a genre has progressed and been taken into more atmospheric and gripping territory by the likes of Band of Skulls and Blood Red Shoes. As the album starts with Come On, a minute long belter in which the band proclaim... "Come on!" and nothing else, you get the feeling that the return to riff-led party anthems is a bit of a regression. At the same time, you really don't care all the same. As soon as Chris Dangerous' infectious drumbeat, staggeringly reminiscent of the drumming of Marky Ramone kicks in, The Hives once again grab you by the throat and plunge you back into their world of energetic, blasting rock and roll fun.
 And from there, we're pretty much treated once again to a feast of rough rollicking garage rock, with Go Right Ahead, so song with a riff so similar to Electric Light Orchestra's Don't Bring Me Down that Jeff Lynne is actually credited as one of the main contributors to the album, is packed with stomping rhythms, while 1000 Answers and Patrolling build up an extra massive sound with gigantic chant vocals from Pelle Almqvist. With elements like these and an overall production that gives their garage rock that extra beefed up crunch, gives the band a mightier sound all around than ever heard before.
 Once the album reaches an end however, the lack of variation does start to wear off the overall factors of fun that were maybe celebrated before, with closer Midnight Shifter officially being the time to remark "Okay we're all bored now. Come back in another five years and try and impress us then." after what is for the most part a fairly pulsing musical run. The moments in which different things are tried are extremely rare and feature Almqvist's attempts to adopt a haunting blues tone in his voice in a Dr. John style for the opening of My Time is Coming which is laughable at best.
 So, despite their long time away and despite being the leaders of a genre which has a questionable future, The Hives remain as loud, energetic, tongue in cheek, smug and boastful as ever. Without much adaption, their only choice is to bring back their trademark garage rock with a more relentless force that ever. And overall, the result has a ecstatic pulse. So to question if The Hives are still relevant today, basically if simple laid back rock music that celebrates nothing but being loud is still relevant, then there's no possible way that Lex Hives couldn't be.

 The Hives' Lex Hives is out now via Disque Hives. The band will play at Reading and Leeds Festival from 24th-25th August and will tour the UK in December.

Review: Melvins Lite - Freak Puke

 Is this a Melvins album? It's hard to tell. The case of Freak Puke would be one of those cases where many will dispute against it with it not being a full lineup. This album sees the seminal grunge and stoner act play as a three piece incarnation, which they've been referring to as "Melvins Lite" which for the first time since 2004, doesn't contain the bands current lineup, with all music on the album performed by longstanding frontman Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne on vocals and guitars, Dale Crover on drums and Tomahawk bassist Trevor Dunn, who has had his time in the band in the past, yet the current lineup of Buzzo, Crover, Jared Warren on bass and second drummer Coady Willis remains intact. Yeah, it's a weird situation. At the same time, a similar predicament that occurred within Corrosion of Conformity seemed to go unhitched, so why shouldn't it work for the Melvins? More to the point is Freak Puke a good enough album to be remembered as a genuine Melvins effort?

 Certainly, there is that traditional Melvins sound, which generally means there's nothing "Lite" about it. King Buzzo stills pack a fully-fledged heaviness in his riffage when he needs to and gives Baby You Won't Weird Me Out and A Growing Disgust and  that extra spark of skull smashing heaviness, as well as drowning various riffs in high levels of distortion and melodic droning to create the perfect atmosphere of utter bleakness. Surely the only atmosphere that can make listening to Melvins a truly satisfying event.
 Even in the smaller incarnation there's still a party going on. Melvins always have that ability to fill their music with doom and despair, which is also seen by the heavy use of cellos in Inner Ear Rupture and Holy Barbarians and as we all know, cellos are the ultimate instruments of despair. But they have also had the ability to balance things out and use their stony grunge riffs in a much more upbeat and adrenaline packed style which gives Leon vs. The Revolution and the album's title track an indestructible kind of epic glory and effortless badassery. It's a word now. In fact, the title track is definitely the best driving song of the year so far. And I can't even drive. There should probably be awards for "Best Driving Song of the Year." Probably should be awarded at the Grammys.
 Even the truly bizarre moments of the album remain gripping. The monolithic cover of Wings' Let Me Roll It strikes up a cradling curiosity of in how true it stays to the original despite the mass increase of distortion, while closer Tommy Goes Beserk plays out at first like a twisted version of David Bowie's Space Oddity before launching into rapid fire space rock madness and landing again into truly unsafe territory.
 Melvins Lite have definitely managed to make something of their own with Freak Puke. It doesn't stand up to Houdini or Stoner Witch but it definitely serves as it's own creation which serves as the proper sound of the Melvins that everyone loves taken into the droning and action packed territories that has truly built up their later work. Maybe it's not Melvins in band, but Freak Puke is still Melvins in sound.

 Melvins Lite's Freak Puke is out now via Ipecac.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Review: Garbage - Not Your Kind of People

 It seems surprising to consider just how low-key the gradual reunion of Wisconsin alt rock master Garbage has been in the lead up to the release of their fifth album Not Your Kind of People. Maybe I'm just surprised since I think they're a brilliant band who have gained impressive credentials to justify their position as an amazing band, having written the theme a James Bond film and performed in Edinburgh to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament Building, which the band's Conservative voting fans may not view as such a major credential. But such a low-key spell of working together has clearly sparked a low-key reaction. However, no matter how low key any of this is, the band prove that in 2012, they're still making as big a sound as ever.

 Not Your Kind of People sees the group return to their instantly recognizable brand of alt rock, which sees them mix the more subtle, tender elements of electronica with the hard hitting grunge riffs of the type that drummer Butch Vig made popular at the start of the 1990s. And the band execute this style in a way that makes it remain relevant and not dated, belonging in the mid-90s. As Automatic Systematic Habit pounces into action equally heavy on riffs and sweeping synth backdrops, there's a feeling of the sound being classic Garbage which still has a genuine sense of emotion in it's icy performance.
 There's something of a wide emotional impact throughout the album, carried in the strident and instantly gripping vocals of surely iconic frontwoman Shirley Manson, one of the many musicians to help Scottish musicians become a more credible force internationally. I have no idea what I'm talking about. Just thought I'd try and be patriotic. Whether it's her twisted bitterness that becomes the driving force of the massive hooked Blood for Poppies and the the soothing alt-rock anthem that is the album's title track or the more damaged performance in I Hate Love and the pulsing Battle in Me, you can feel the high tones of woe and cynicism packed into her performance serving as an immense force behind the majority of the album.
 The entire band effort is really a commendable force on the album. As stated, Battle in Me contains a subtly electronic packed backdrop, the kind where something new and dynamic can be found with each listen, which also features an array of slamming grunge riffs to keep things awesome. Such slamming can be seen effortlessly in Man On a Wire and Big Bright World all songs with alt rock anthem labelled over them.
 So, if the 1990s alt rock scene was an attractive scene for you, then you're definitely in for a treat on Not Your Kind of People. The same alt rock ethics that the band brought into fashion are seen to once more, but  upholds a strong relevance and subtle snarl and what's more, it's done with a greater level of heart than previously heard in their work. This is Garbage doing what they do best, better than ever.

Garbage's Not Your Kind of People is out now via Stunvolume. The band will tour the UK in June with The Jezabels.

Review: Demon Hunter - True Defiance

 Seattle's Demon Hunter have always been the kind of band to put on a constantly solid and brutal metal performance, the kind that the New Wave of American Heavy Metal was always looking for in the late 90s and early 2000s when nu metal was entering it's phase in which it had to become more ridiculous and over-the-top to obtain any kind of relevance. And with their pulsing form of melodic metalcore that frontman Ryan Clark claims is influenced every bit as much by Coldplay, Radiohead and Elbow as it is by Metallica, Pantera and Prong. On their latest offering True Defiance, the solidity is upheld... for a bit.

 As a fan of spending time in moshpits during metallic breakdowns, the album's packed with golden moments for such breathtaking tomfoolery. The frantic buildup on opener Crucifix into the rapid display of jagged hardcore riffing from new axeman Jeremiah Scott, that packs with it a furious roughness and energetic pulse. This crunching metalcore serves as the highlights of the album, with juddering breakdowns of God Forsaken, Someone to Hate and We Don't Care maintaining such a breathtaking excitement and with a greater focus on melody than their various metalcore peers in Hatebreed and Throwdown meaning the massive choruses of God Forsaken and Wake also manage to have a gripping unity and internal power, as the group show they're worth more than just headbanging mindlessly to.
 This style is definitely a strength of Demon Hunter and across the album, they definitely don't play to it. Loading up the album with ballads like Tomorrow Never Comes, Dead Flowers and I Am a Stone, the band like to see that they balance out their pulsing metalcore performance with weak, tired performances, crafted in an utterly lifeless generic style which makes the ballad composition skills of Five Finger Death Punch look like those of Simon & Garfunkel.
 The other problem that I and probably many others have is the also weakened production of the album, making the entire performance feel watered down. Mainly, the sound is overall quieter, which may not seem that bad, but it really prevents the band from reaching their full potential, even on the best tracks on the album. This is why Hatebreed and Throwdown are ultimately better bands. They have their full extremity recorded.
 So, a bit of a hit and miss of an album is to be found on True Defiance. Sure the ability to create moshpit fillers is at a tee and attending a live show of theirs would still be a thrilling proposition, but perhaps it's best if they play to their strengths a bit more. Honestly, does the world of metalcore need generic ballads? That's what we have big stadium shows for middle aged woman to attend for.

 Demon Hunter's True Defiance is out now via Solid State Records.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Review: Fun. - Some Nights

 Consider this a rarity in every sense. This is the first and most likely the last time that an album will be reviewed on good old ROARF that contains a song which has climbed to the top of the UK singles chart and the US Chart for pop, rock and alternative songs. It's also rare in the sense that for the first time in what seems like to a tiresome number of dreary ages, said song that topped the charts was actually deserving of such a position. I am of course talking about the infectious indie pop anthem that is We Are Young by New York charmers Fun., a song that while it doesn't have that once-thought-to-be-precious position of number 1 in the charts but is still totally unavoidable. So I must do this review now, before the song gets totally overplayed and ruined my rare credentials for enjoying something that's been in the charts.

 So, right now all that's on my mind and the minds of everyone listening is that one single. Are Fun. able to keep up that level of anthemic quality throughout their entire second album Some Nights? I suppose if you're looking for a collection of pop rock anthems that for the most part play out in the same way and suggest an influence from no other band by Queen, then yes. Yes they do.
 Seriously, right from the album's intro track the group are trying to make their own Bohemian Rhapsody. From it's haunting piano opening and bitter vocal performance of frontman Nate Ruess, there's just a bizarre buildup into total operatic madness. And this melodramatic tone is prominent throughout the album. It's seen in the melancholic performances of Carry On and All Alright which all go on to build up into a more flourishing full-on performance exploding with crashes of drum beats and pulsing synthesizers and even the odd guitar solo, packed with Brian May influences of course.
 The album's packed with several moments like this that while the Queen influence is cool, ultimately comes off as Queen lite. Sounds like when Queen planned to play at Sonisphere with Adam Lambert. One of the reasons the festival was cancelled.
 To be fair there is more than this and Fun. manage to delve into many poppier influences and ultimately if you're position as a fan that enjoys your music always riff-driven, just look away now. The trio's ability to create massive poppy hooks is a massive credential that gives them success on this album. The massive sing-along, clap-along performance of We Are Young is packed with all kinds of stadium rock cliches. The chant-along chorus, the pounding melodies, even a big "Na-Na-Na" section so all the drunk audience members can mindlessly sing along. (They're at T in the Park so there's every chance I'll find myself in this position, while probably missing Band of Skulls or something)
 The pop influence is massive everywhere else. The synth-pop backdrops of All Alone and One Foot mixed with Ruess' immense energy put into his vocals give the song a freshness that is lacking in most mainstream pop music, while simultaneously sounding like most mainstream pop music. Surprisingly, this is quite tolerable for someone with a music taste like mine. The only real downside to these poppy moments in in Ruess' continuous use of auto-tuning and vocoder effects throughout the album. The album's closer Stars is actually quite epic but is ruined by these digitized vocals which seem to last forever and become excruciatingly painful to have to put up with.
 Well, if this is what the world of chart music is accepting as a rock band, I suppose it serves as further evidence to the favourite argument of all the music enthusiasts I know that mainstream music is becoming to sugared up and watered down to reach wider audiences who have no real danger in their music taste. While the performances are energetic and there is a lot of quite dynamic moments. There's little outside of We Are Young to truly keep listeners constantly engaged and one of the truly notable factors is the use of autotuned vocals, which I do for the most part despise. No, the world of chart music can keep Fun. and I can go on and look like I hate pop music just because it's popular. Great.

 Fun.'s Some Nights is out now via Fueled By Ramen. The band will play at T in the Park 2012 at Balado Airfield, Kinross on 8th July and will tour the UK in October with Walk the Moon.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Review: 2:54 - 2:54

 I've been excited about getting to check out new London rock n' rollers 2:54 for some time now. Started by sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow and named after the moment that a music-taste-defining drum roll appears in the Melvins' A History of Bad Men, the group have specialized in creating the most pulsing lo-fi garage rock which takes influences from some of the greatest names in grunge and stoner rock with them as well as allowing  influences from shoegaze and post rock to surround their music. If that doesn't sound enticing to you... we can't be friends.

 And so, as listeners are lured into their self-titled debut by the serene siren-esque wails of Colette Thurlow, reminiscent of PJ Harvey at the beginning of opener Revolving we are taken to a musical atmosphere that carries the spirit of punk and rock and roll, even if it delivered in a much smoother mannerism. The dual guitars between Colette and Hannah allow for a greater buildup of sound as one guitar weeps with a beautiful awe-inspiring shrill while the other is left to shred in the background driving the songs to a higher level of indestructibility.
 This texturing of atmospheric guitars akin to My Bloody Valentine and Godspeed You! Black Emperor mixed with the delicate and emotion draining vocal performance of Colette with the rest of the band's more harder rock based performance leads to some truly breathtaking results. You're Early with it's mixture of gentle post rock riffs and drum arrangement from Alex Robbins reminiscent of Kyuss' Demon Cleaner make the performance completely hard hitting despite it being extremely gentle. And it's this element of subtlety across the album that illustrates how rock and roll there performance can be even if you may think that the band's delivery is too soft and smooth for such a description.
 And as the album concludes, one is left realising just how exciting and bursting with potential 2:54 actually are in their musical nature. They present a chilled charming element to their light garage rock that brings in beautiful texturing from otherworldly soundscapes and the striking vocals of Colette Thurlow, yet there is a passionate fire burning beneath this post rock performance in every distorted riff from Hannah Thurlow, every distorted bassline from Joel Porter and gripping drum pattern from Alex Robins. With it's chilling melodies and hidden heaviness, it's hard to think of another band that can do so much to satisfy those who like their rock music do have a deep subtext and genuine sense of passion and desire to create a work of art. If you care about rock and roll and want proof that alternative music can still have a dynamic flare burning within them, make the time to listen to this band. Maybe a time close to five to three or something! That didn't work.

 2:54's 2:54 is out now via Polydor.

Review: POLAR. - Iron Lungs

 Making a name for themselves with their scorching brand of aggressive hardcore, Guildford hellraisers POLAR., who already show the sign of an angry band with their usage of all capitals and full stops to really finalise their rage I guess, have finally made their mark on the hardcore scene with their debut release Iron Lungs, which is destined to impress the fan of Gallows, Converge and Comeback Kid that you may have in your life. It hits all the right spots of hardcore perfection while also maintaining a wisecracking spirit of punk. We may be onto a winner here.

 From the tingles of anticipation felt during the buildup if dripping feedback and wiry noise at the beginning of opener K.C.M. listeners can tell that they're about to be treated to an exhilarating rush of hardcore fury at it's most uncontrollable and beautifully wild. This kind of of nature is the general consensus throughout the album as the frantic punk riffs of Sick Old Buzzard and Eighteen are played out with the kind of relentless and encircling heaviness that one can do nothing but lose themselves within.
 But within getting lost in the range of delirious buzzsaw riffs and jaw smashing chugging, there's lots to make your journey into distortion abyss a lasting and worthwhile experience. While boasting a very real display of chaotic hardcore, there's a fun sense of swing to be found in Lifeboats and pulsing sing-along gang vocals spread across In Country, so it's not filled with the kind of blacked doom that Jacob Bannon dwells upon so frequently.
 But even then despair does exist. The rich guitar tones on the post rock inspired instrumental Iron Lungs bleed with a feeling of loss, and desperate sorrow as do the miserable calls of frontman Adam Woodford on Broken Bones. Performing with a shrieking roar throughout the album Woodford's vocals convey a wide range of emotions, but when in a melancholic state they are by far at their most convincing.
 So from the roughened charge of Converge to the breakdown filled assaults of Your Demise serving as warriors of modern hardcore before them, POLAR. have a lot of influences to take for their debut outing. And on Iron Lung, I'd say they make use of all of them to a certain extent as well as adding their own flare of devastating brutality. They've certainly been gaining a name for themselves in the hardcore scene and now, we can get up, get smashed in the moshpits and understand why. Hardcore remains immortal.

 POLAR.'s Iron Lungs is out now via A Wolf at Your Door. The band will play at the Crash Doubt Festival at The Showroom in Lincoln in June, Ghostfest 2012 on 1st July and at Guilfest 2012 on 23rd July

Review: Architects - Daybreaker

 After broadening their typically mind-blowingly heavy metalcore sound into more melodic territory on last years The Here and Now, Brighton's Architects, a band that until then had often been simply overlooked behind their Sheffield friends in Bring Me the Horizon, found themselves achieving a much wider fanbase and gaining a new examination in the mainstream eye. But at what expense did it come at? There were ballads to be found, the members added influences from the likes of Coldplay and Kings of Leon to their influences from the likes of Botch, Decapitated and Deftones and began to see a slit within their loyal fanbase towards the album. All of this made the album's release and promotion a less enjoyable experience for the band. It's clearly time they rediscover the heavy once more.

 And on their fifth album Daybreaker, they've achieved just that. As The Bitter End opens with a range of orchestral backdrops to set listeners at unease before transcending into a triumphant explosion of monolithic metallic breakdowns, it's obvious that they've returned with brutality as their main priority and by the time frontman Sam Carter furiously screams "You say we'll burn in  Hell/ Spiteful preacher, I know you well" on Alpha Omega, it's clear that the Architects that made 2009's Hollow Crown a must-have in modern metal are back on staggering form.
 Of course, there is still a large amount of more melodic moments on the album as there ever has been with Architects and in these melodic moments, filled with lush ambient and orchestral backdrops heard in Behind the Throne,which in it's verses is like a digital Alcest and the atmospheric arrangement of tear-jerking closer Unbeliever, they have been improved upon as well. But for Daybreaker, it's the heaviness that's the focus is put on. The earthly bass of Alex Dean that pilots guitar work from Tom Searle and Tim Hillier-Brook, whose Architects album this will be the last for, into the ground with thudding density. It makes the crushing displays of solid riffage on Daybreak, featuring some stellar lead guitar  and These Colours Don't Run highlights of the album. In fact the breakdown of These Colours may be one of the musical highlights of 2012. These relentless assaults of charged up metallic adrenaline fueled by pure spite and and fury, as Carter tackles subjects regarding religion, greed and our admittedly disgraceful state of society. It's heavy as hell undeniably. Performances on the likes of Outsider Heart and Devil's Island give Meshuggah a run for their money. Don't hurt me pure metalheads.
 So solid are the pounding performance of Tom and Dan Searle, Brook, Dean and the impenetrable vocals of Carter, not even the guest appearances from their Sheffield pal Oli Sykes on Even If You Win, You're Still a Rat can make it a highlight, which I was looking forward to the most. As much as I love Sykes, his lending of his loose growling pales in comparison to Architects' storming performance. Don't worry I still love Bring Me the Horizon. Oli's just sounding a little weakened here. Should say, Sykes has a thing for returning favours. Having collaborated with You Me at Six and now Architects after both their frontman appeared on BMTH albums, he's cool with re-appearing on their material. I eagerly await his appearance on the next Lights album. The appearance of Drew York of Stray From the Path on Outsider Heart is much more gripping as his tones of desperation make the song a more pulsing, alive experience.
 So, if Architects wanted to come back heavier, they've certainly achieved it on Daybreaker. The intense performance across the album is filled with blistering heaviness with forceful breakdowns made of stone. But even the more melodic moments are perfected to a tee and the striking contrast between the lush atmospheric and roughened riffs is an even more enticing prospect. Whether this album will bring back their original fanbase or not remains to be seen, but I seriously imagine that on a personal level Architects can hold their heads up high with this one.

 Architects' Daybreaker is out now via Century Media. The band will play at the London Garage on the 6th  June with Heights and Last Witness and at the Vans Warped Tour on the 10th November.

Review: The Enemy - Streets in the Sky

 Being one of the final rock bands to have singles appear within the top ten region of the UK single chart with Away From Here and Had Enough, Coventry's The Enemy have been one of the many bands to experience their brand of hook-filled powered up indie rock fall out of the public eye. And yet, I've never seen any indie rockers with previous chart success turn bitter when such success disappears. These days I am frequently ashamed with what the Charts have on offer. The fact that The Enemy are still seen with high regard is they've also moved on graciously and are now more respected in circles of rock music. I mean, looking at the performance on their third album Streets in the Sky, how could they not be?

 Of course, with this tangent about their rock credibility boosting, Streets in the Sky still carries a large pop-based mentality. Across the album, an exciting method of song arrangement exists where big hooks always come out of nowhere and cause some kind of fist-pumping, head-banging reaction from listeners.
 It's achieved best on the likes of Saturday and Like a Dancer, both filled with massive choruses and poppy hooks played out on hyper-active buzzsaw riffs and the rousing sing-along vocals of energetic frontman Tom Clarke. Both manage to serve as bright life-affirming indie anthems with lots of heart, the kind of music that with the UK finally being found by the sun in 2012 are the sound of a rock n' roll summer.
 The whole summer attachment to this album is fairly crucial, for all we know the band could well have had this album ready for ages but just waited until the weather changed for the brighter to unleash their sunny anthems. It's clever marketing or an entirely coincidental advantage for the band. Chirpy indie rock is the exact kind of music you'd want for this kind of weather. Have you ever heard anyone talk about how great a time they had sunbathing while listening to Paradise Lost? Of course not. So, yes the summer attachment is important here.
 The band's sheer levels of energy on this album does make it more than a simple sunbathing album though, and while. While at no point do the band reinvent the wheel of alternative rock, the range of scuzzy riffs, driving basslines and pouncing drums makes the album a constant excitement of upbeat melodies and rhythmic vibrancy, and with song commands like Get Up and Dance, it would have to be.
 So, their name might not be big in the spheres of pop music anymore, The Enemy certainly play as though they still are, as Streets in the Sky boasts some of their biggest hooks and most pulsing performances. Whether they reach the hard rock scales in terms of how full-on they play or become much more intimate and delicate, theirs always a breathtaking level of excitement and freshness to be found. It might not be summer just yet, but with Streets in the Sky, fuck it. Every day is a summer day!

 The Enemy's Streets in the Sky is out now via Cooking Vinyl. The band will play at Whitehaven Festival on 3rd of June, T int he Park on 8th of July and V Festival from 17-19th August.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Review: Skip the Foreplay - Nightlife

 Sometimes, you have guilty pleasures. And then sometimes there are just those kinds of bands that with their very nature, principles and style of music, you should despise without question. And then like them. Welcome to my world, where I present myself as someone who is in to very pure rock n' roll and the most brutal type of metal and have managed to get into Nightlife, the debut album from the band with the worst name in the world. Let's look at Skip the Foreplay.

 Obviously, I've grown towards the efforts from a lot of recent bands that have mixed post hardcore, metalcore and mainstream dance and pop music together, but Skip the Foreplay manage to stand out from the rest of the crowd, as much more emphasis is put on the poppier elements here than the likes of Adestria and Hands Like Houses, which are both great bands. It means that overall, there are much more surprising moments to be found on the album. The brief intro track ST4P actually serves as one of the few moments in recent music that prove that dubstep bass and metallic riffs can actually co-exist as one rather than the supposed genuine effort from many artists that just incorporate scream vocals over a dubstep track. It would be more enjoyable if the song was over a minute long and the band didn't just use it to announce "We are Skip the Foreplay!" We get it guys. You have a terrible name.
 There are other moments that are so out of the ordinary that it just makes them very enjoyable. DJ is the prime song that displays the bands lasting dynamic between the moments of club-friendly and moshpit-friendly music. It can be seen best during the song's centerpiece where the smooth synth-led moments are put parallel to pulsing post-hardcore breakdowns from guitarists Mathieu Maltais and Chuck Pilon and the frantic screams of frontman Marc-Andre Fillion effortlessly shows the group's passion for metal and pop music coming to life in a style that is so breathtaking.
 To make this combination even more solid, the actual metallic performance is pretty solid. While Attack Attack! often have poppy choruses played out on heavy riffs to justify their metal credentials, Skip the Foreplay create a more genuine performance with the likes of Hangover and (sighs) Date Rape Predator displaying a strong influence from Bring Me the Horizon in the relentless metalcore assaults heavy on bass from bassist Juilen-Guy Beland, giving the overall heaviness that they create vary genuine in overall scales of how justified they are as a metal band.
 However, as genuine and dynamic as they manage to be, often, their overall efforts cannot be kept up across the entire album. Songs like DTK and Dom Perigon fizzle out too quickly, even when the songs actually happen to be at a particular high moment. And because songs like Hawaiian Killer and This City (We're Taking Over) show their pop music credibility is just as high as their metal credibility, listeners are left with pop radio fodder which has spawned countless similar songs that you could find in the dreaded Top 40 Chart list.
 I've come to the conclusion about the whole metalcore/electronica sub-genre that has emerged in recent years that it is in fact a music style that has developed a specialist audience and admittedly large cult following, due to it's inability to be attractive to pure pop fans or pure metal fans. The music displayed on Nightlife is truly the centerpiece in this style as the balance between both styles is at it's most extreme. Some songs on truly manage to pull the combination up to a tee, while other songs are less capable of achieving such a target. I think it's a shame that the band have gone the entire direction of giving themselves a dreadful name and filling their album with cheap jokes and mindless lyrics, because the music is very genuine and one of the more mainstream introductions of a style of musical combination exploding underground, (Check out Fail Emotions) and ultimately present themselves as a band that should be seen as a guilty pleasure and a band that one should despise every little thing about. But, this album is a good start for the group, if nothing else.

 Skip the Foreplay's Nightlife is out now via Epitaph. 

Review: Tenacious D - Rize of the Fenix

 You could safely say that it's far too late for me to review this album and be relevant for doing so. Nope, don't care. I've been waiting for ages to listen to this album in full for ages, I almost considered spending a whole day without studying to do it. Basically, everyone I have known in my life has shown love for Tenacious D. Even the people I know that have little appreciation for rock and metal music have sung along to the tunes that have made Jack Black and Kyle Gass superstars in the world of not only comedy rock but respectable rock as well. Sometimes bringing together comedy and undisputed talent is a winning goal.

 The last few weeks have seen the pair make their surprising and glorious return as a band to unleash their third album Rize of the Fenix, their first album since 2006s bombing The Pick of Destiny. In between that time, much has happened with the duo and by "the duo" I do only mean Jack Black. And with much of his successes coming from his continuing role as an actor, appearing in such family friendly films as Kung-Fu Panda and Gulliver's Travels, it's perhaps questionable as to just how full on a return to being a respectable foul-mouthed rockstar who exclaims the word "Fuck" every few seconds can be. The group have clearly showed initiative to make a return to their full explicit selves that the world fell in love with ten years ago on this album before it even begins with the controversial album cover which I've not been afraid to show on this very review.
 Musically, they certainly keep their potty-mouths in place. The opening title track shows this as Jack Black claims that the D will "fuckin' rise" like the "fuckin' phoenix", as they remain sure that they can still be "the shit." and Jack isn't afraid to scream at Kyle that he is a "Goddamn motherfuckin' stupid piece of shit."
 While the lyrics of the D are as foul as ever, the song matters of Rize of the Fenix are broad and thought provoking. Seriously. They spread engaging ideas such as constructing a death star to party on in Deth Starr, the hardships of being a roadie on tour on The Roadie as Black explains "When a beautiful girl come to me, she say, hey can I sucka your dick/ An I'll say yes I'm in love/ And then she quickly says I sucked your dick/ Now give me backstage pass, I do not want you roadie/ I want KG's chode." It's subtle and delivered as tenderly as a brick on fire. But it highlights the song's message that roadie life is not difficult.
 More gripping is the mini rock opera that is The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage, a song that fairly accurately describes the ascent that Black had in life as an actor while Gass made little moves. As Jack sings "So Hollywood Jack lived up high in a bubble, while Rage Kage lived low in the valley below" and "He'd screen Kage's calls and snort coke off the ass of a whore", you listen and realise there's probably an element of truth in all that is being said and realise there's more of an emotional serious tone across this album. The pair really do speak the truth in their songs no matter how funny they manage to be in doing so. Even the closer 39, a love ballad about a middle aged couple and the most rancid love ballad ever written is touching in  some way. I'm probably the only one that thinks this way, while everyone else thinks it's just funny.
 Musically, the performance on Rize of the Fenix is a step up and will definitely impress fans of the D's more metallic credentials. Red hot riffs can be heard across the likes of Low Hangin' Fruit and They Fucked Our Asses which display a thrashier side to the groups music than ever heard, while the Spanish tinged performance of Señorita is as gripping as the kind of performances that many more serious contemporaries in hard rock would have on offer.
 So, with Tenacious D at long last making their return and a return to form to the world with Rize of the Fenix, do they still have the ability to shake the world as they did before? Does this album feature songs that all my friends at school would gladly sing along to? Probably not. But what they do posses is the power to play rock and metal music with a greater passion  and velocity. Have years of being trapped in Hollywood and doing nothing to radical sparked this desire to chase their rock and roll dreams once more. Who knows? But Rize of the Fenix shows the power of the D is still rooted deep into the ground of modern rock and they can still make their listeners think about their messages, laugh along with them and ultimately worship them once again like it was 2002 and they had just so happened to play the best song in the world. Long live the D!

 Tenacious D's Rize of the Fenix is out now via Columbia. The band will tour the UK in June and will perform at Download Festival on the 9th of June.

Review: Black Moth - The Killing Jar

 Something seems to be happening in Leeds right now. Some sort of spirit of harsh grimness is haunting through the city streets and affecting all the happy little bands to come from the area and spreading the power of rock and roll at the same time. Some of the latest bands to emerge from the city manage have managed to amalgamate the best elements of rock and metal music and deliver it in a performance that is destructively brutal. There's Pulled Apart By Horses, Hawk Eyes and now there is the latest addition to turn Leeds into a bleaker Seattle, Black Moth. And on their debut The Killing Jar, the brutal rock and roll comes crashing back.

 The group clearly display their perfection in the art of finding the balance between heavy and being melodic in this album while bringing in their influences from various aspects of heavy music, with opener The Articulate Dead having the punk rush of Black Flag and the subsequent track and lead single Blackbirds Fall hitting listeners hard with slabs of crunching stoner riffage reminiscent to Sasquatch's Dragonfly. In essence, with their influences from hardcore and stoner rock music, there's never any kind of serenity or beauty to be found.
 The performance from all involved is rooted in murkiness as the grim tones of guitar found on Spit Out Your Teeth and Plastic Blaze shows little sense of comfort or joy in their performance as delirious riffs from Jim Swainston and Nico Carew carry a spirit of the ethics of punk to raise hell and blaze with glory, which are complimented by the dirty vocal hooks of frontwoman Harriet Bevan, whose performance is every bit as swaggering in it's tone as it is haunting and once, again, her ability to find a balance between these two tones makes the perfect voice of stoner rock.
 Greater still is the recurring manner in which the band can constantly use this array of feedback drenched riffs and melodies in an ever creative and dynamic style. The merge in style between the frantic and doomy can be seen in the likes of Blind Faith and epic closer Honey Lung, songs that could well give Corrosion of Conformity a run for their money in the constant punk and stoner rock dynamic. Surprisingly, even throughout the sheer scale of chaos and doom this album creates, the group does find time to make some catchy hooks and the swing of Banished But Blameless and Land of the Sky is every bit as fun as it is devastating.
 And with all these factors considered, it can be seen that while the overriding theme of The Killing Jar is rooted in chaos, destruction and overall doom, it is a rock album for everyone. It can be a total thrill for punk fans and it can be a display of monolithic glory for stoner rock fans and if you just enjoy simple dusty rock and roll that has a violent swing with crunching melodies, you should enjoy it as well. And with that, Black Moth become a further reason as to why Leeds should probably be visited by all rock and roll enthusiasts sometime soon.

 Black Moth's The Killing Jar is out now via New Heavy Sounds.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Review: Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

 A musical collaboration between Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson is the kind of collaboration that everyone should have seen coming from miles off but didn't. Both figures happen to be frontman of major modern progressive rock groups and have shared much history in making music together with Wilson producing three Opeth albums, and yet the pair managed to be relatively quiet about it. Of course, in terms of how major both figures are, Åkerfeldt has become much more widely recognised than Wilson, due to Opeth's high regard in the world of modern mainstream metal, which has been very prominent until recent times, after last year's Heritage dropped the death metal element of Opeth's music leaving many pure metalheads asking "What's the point?" And as a way to divert himself from the metalheads even more,  Åkerfeldt and Wilson have now released their six track collection of collaborative efforts, which with their immense creativity and atmospheric nature, show that both figures look to be moving away from the positions in  the metal scene to a greater extent than ever.

 And so, as the pair join together under the moniker of Storm Corrosion, they release a collection of music that doesn't celebrate their positions in the world of metal, or even in the world of prog rock. Their self-titled release presents listeners to a much softer, more delicate array of music, resembling a fraction of their regular work. But it is a fraction that has evolved, matured and under it's display of delicacy, lie hidden claws through their delivery.
 With it's tense orchestral opening, Drag Ropes effectively sets the overall tone of the album, as Åkerfeldt's smooth purr of a vocal delivery put alongside the billowing display of intense backdrops, sets listeners into a state of uncertainty, where no sense of assurance and idea of what could happen next can be maintained. And as  Åkerfeldt croons on, he proves that he doesn't have to use death growls to shock listeners.
 Whether the atmospheric backdrops provided by Wilson across the album have the orchestral grandeur of Drag Ropes, the ambient serenity of Hag or the rich textured tones of Lock Howl, they always have an overall characteristic that manages to be dark and eerie, which is guaranteed listeners to be on the edge of their seat listening, without any sort of idea of what's going to happen next.
 Of course it's being eerie which is the main priority with Storm Corrosion, while Heritage saw Opeth begin to open up on warmer, more positive territory in their music, the music of Storm Corrosion sees Åkerfeldt and Wilson being plunged straight back into the darkness. And the album manages to be one of those albums where it's often minor details that manage to really stand out and be remembered as so haunting. Moments like the chilling harmonies displayed by the pair on Happy, the guitar picking of the album's title track, where even with the simplest of strumming,  Åkerfeldt makes his guitar scream like a banshee. Even the parts of Hag where full-on power through playing hard riffs do persist are weighed down by an atmospheric force, with the doom-laden intensity that emerges through Mikael's distorted solos. The exception to this does come in the unleashed beauty of the album's closer Ljudet Innan.
 Though it's a fairly brief musical affair between Åkerfeldt and Wilson on Storm Corrosion, it's one that leaves a massive impact. Through their ability to place grace and darkness parallel to each other through the arrangement of rich acoustic and orchestral performances into chilling and bleak soundscapes is one that hits listeners effortlessly hard in spite of the frequent gentleness. But, with the pair's desire to create something that was both mellow and disturbing, on this debut and for all we know, only collaborative album, they've achieved it in such away that Åkerfeldt may never return to making metal music ever again. One listen to Storm Corrosion and listeners are immersed within a beautiful abyss.

 Storm Corrosion's Storm Corrosion is out now via Roadrunner.

Review: Anathema - Weather Systems

 Generally, whenever a metal band moves away from their core sound when recording new material, the fans will be absolutely unforgiving towards them if the change is too radical and the album becomes a flop. There's always the classic case of Metallica releasing St. Anger, there's the recent case of death metal legends Morbid Angel going industrial on Illud Divinum Insanus, there's the fury that was aimed towards Celtic Frost after they switched their highly respectable black metal sound on Cold Lake so that they could become Mötley Crüe, and as good as last year's Heritage was, Opeth's decision to drop the element of death metal from their new music was not one that was met with much warmth. However, Anathema are none of these bands.

 When the Liverpudlian quintet released We're Here Because We're Here in 2010, it marked a change in the band's overall style, introducing an extra shade of light onto their previously doom-laden progressive metal. However, We're Here Because We're Here proved itself to be an exception amongst the general rule of metal fans' reactions to bands changing their style, as the reaction was as positive as the tone of music they were presenting. The album even received the title of "Prog Album of the Year" by Classic Rock magazine, who referred to it as "a flawless life-affirming comeback and a gold-plated contender for album of the year." Clearly, Anathema have the ability to shine even out of the darkness.
 So, once more on their ninth album Weather Systems, the group have continued to move their sound from sounding like My Dying Bride to Pink Floyd. It's not an album for listeners to headbang and throw up their devil horns to, although it's debatable as to wether Anathema were ever that kind of band or not. Either way, this is an album in which listeners are absorbed into the sweeping world of firm melodies to gripping prog rock epics, supported by grand orchestral soundscapes, which combines with the stellar vocal and guitar performances from Vincent and Daniel Cavanagh to make tracks like The Gathering of the Clouds and Sunlight so beautiful and goosebump-inducing.
 From the opening moments of atmospheric wonder on Untouchable, Part 1 to the epic closing of Internal Landscape, a song which without going into totally soppy religious mode is most likely to be the best musical representation of heaven, the album plays with a delicacy that is also indestructible and while the performances on the likes of The Beginning and the End are the kind where listeners are immersed within the emotional power of the creative soundscapes, moments in the likes of Lightning Song and The Storm Before the Calm also have the sheer musical strength to give the album an extra touch of metallic intensity, creating something of a perfect balance.
 So, I suppose as I gradually turn into a mellower and more emotional person, I've been getting more immersed by bands that add an extra artful sophistication and grace to their metallic crunch, since this year I've already fallen in love with offerings from Alcest and Les Discrets. Anathema, being a more established act in the world of artful metal are still finding the ability to turn heads with their listeners with their newfound sense of light. Weather Systems is definitely an album which will shock, delight and immerse fans of their recent display of progressive metal with a more dappled dreamy edge to no end. It's a good thing that Anathema have managed to keep onto their fanbase with their change of style in a genre of music where other bands will find themselves losing fans for that very same reason. It means that all fans are sticking around for something special.

 Anathema's Weather Systems is out now via Kscope.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Review: DZ Deathrays - Bloodstreams

 I've been needing to look at what bands have been getting recent  buzz to be the next big thing. Some of the bands have impressed, others have not. But thank goodness one of those bands has been Brisbane duo DZ Deathrays. I have discovered them through the buzz they've been getting, so I can't consider myself an original fan of such. But on the sheer strength on their debut album Bloodstreams, I get the feeling it would have been great to have been an original fan. Instead I will just have to watch their rise to mainstream. The rise to the mainstream from my favourite new band.

 See, the garage rock revival scene that started in the early 2000s has always been viewed as being effortlessly cool, but the kind of performance and attitude displayed from Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley on this album takes things to a whole new level. Making the claim that their career as DZ Deathrays "started at a house party", various tunes are of the variety that you want to mindlessly headbang to with a can of Fosters in hand. The hedonistic party-boy attitude of Teenage Kickstarts and No Sleep carry a delirious sense of charm about them, as explosive riffs, drowned in sickeningly sweet distortion are triggered out of nowhere. They serve as a massive rush of ecstasy that makes a rock n' roll party the perfect setting for such songs to be blasted out at top volume. They're every bit as exciting as they are energetic.
 But there's more on Bloodstreams than simple party tunes. DZ Deathrays also have the skill of being able to produce an emotional response from listeners, weird as that sounds given their self-labeling as a "party-thrash" band would suggest otherwise. However, with the use of dynamic synthesizer backdrops and gripping melodies, there's a very real sense of emotional substance to be found on the album's playing. The uplifting nature of tracks like Play Dead and Trans AM are perfect examples of this aspect of the album but also shows that even in it's softest moments, Bloodstreams still has an indestructible outer-shell. It's in the way that despite the basslines and guitar work having a warm tone but still a roughened texture, which makes it subtly badass. Of course, this shows that even in their most tender moments, DZ Deathrays still have the power of AC/DC within them.
 So, even if the whole garage rock revival isn't your thing, there's still much to like about DZ Deathrays. They step out of the boundaries that came with the genre labeling while also making effective use of the main elements of garage rock. And really, when considering the way in which they manage to create a sound which is incredibly noisy, riotous and exciting and manage to trigger an emotional response at the same time, isn't that the sign of a rock and roll masterpiece?

DZ Deathrays' Bloodstreams is out now via Distort Inc. 

Review: Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators - Apocalyptic Love

 While it wasn't the best album of 2010, the self-titled solo debut from former Guns N' Roses axeman, total guitar hero and general figure of influence on most hard rock bands around today Slash was definitely one of the coolest. With it's wide range of big names in rock and metal doing guest vocals, from Lemmy, to Ozzy Osbourne, to M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold, even to Black Eyed Peas star Fergie, and stellar guitar work from the man in the big top hat himself which showed the spark that fueled GNR's finest work was still burning inside of him, the album was a massive rock n' roll party. A rock album for good times.

 This time around, Slash has kept up his solo career but with a search for something more serious and impacting. And so this time all vocals are performed by Myles Kennedy, the voice of Alter Bridge and arguably one of the finest voices in rock music today, who happens to also be taking on guitar duties. Slash has made claims that he knew little of Kennedy before he recorded the songs Back From Cali and Starlight for his debut solo album. The fact that he then took Kennedy out on tour with him and has him as the sole vocalist on this album says a lot about his ability to take on a role as a frontman and belt out a strong rock song. And on Slash's new offering Apocalyptic Love the talent and skill of both Slash and Kennedy is raised dramatically, to the extent that the quality of the album surpasses even some of Guns N' Roses finest moments.
 A big part of this esteemed quality can be found through the extreme chemistry that Slash and Kennedy share throughout the album in both their performances. In the moments of Apocalyptic Love where songs take on a wilder, more off-the-handle attitude, seen in the adrenaline packed One Last Thrill or the explosive Shots Fired, the fast and furious driving riffs from Slash are greatly complimented by Kennedy's relentless wailing. Meanwhile, Kennedy's delicate bluesy tones combine effortlessly with Slash's smoother moments of strumming on the album, found in the likes of We Will Roam and the touching ballad Far and Away.
 The real winning moments on this album are when the elements of blues and elements of classic heavy metal fuse together in a more subtle manner to effectively create hard rock perfection. Hellraisers like You're a Lie, No More Heroes and Anastasia all contain some of the album's most powerful melodies, than contain a lasting touch of dusty rock and roll elegance, while also managing to pack extra punch to listeners with pounding metallic hooks. Anastasia sees these elements come together to the greatest extent on this album. With an clearly classical influence in mind, this song displays the finest guitar work from both Slash and Kennedy, revealing their ability to compliment each other once more.
 Though Apocalyptic Love is primarily a Slash album, the duty of frontman between him and Kennedy does seem to be shared. It helps that Kennedy sounds throughout the album as though he's having the time of his life and, without any disrespect to Alter Bridge who I always have lots of time for, makes Apocalyptic Love sound like his fun night out away from his Alter Bridge day job, while displaying the kind of passion to make it a serious affair at the same time.
 The performance from fellow bandmates The Conspirators - Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz is also undeniably solid, with Kerns basslines providing a perfect groove to drive tracks like Standing in the Sun and Kerns' swinging drumbeats acting as the main catalyst to trigger off Bad Rain. The entire band effort here across the album is nailed down so the entire party has a chance to shine.
 So, following a new wave of questioning and controversies that came with the chances of a Guns N' Roses reunion being smashed to pieces, Slash proves with Apocalyptic Love that it will be a while before he ever needs to do anything with Axl Rose before losing his mojo. His guitar work is sounding stellar and showing signs of progression alongside the spirit of Appetite for Destruction that pulses within his performance. Working with Myles Kennedy has also seen this musical strength return in full force. It's hard to think of a musician that has complimented his guitar work more graciously by performance since Axl. Overall, this album is a sign of a musical icon rising to new levels of quality and glory. This is another reason as to why Slash is guitar hero number one.

 Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators' Apocalyptic Love is out now via Roadrunner. The band will play at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo on 6th June with Halestorm and Minny Pops and will play at Download Festival at Donnington Park on 8th June.

Exams! - They're all done now, which is cool.

 Today's a very special today for myself. Having returned from my Advanced Higher History exam, an exam that to my thankful surprise went much better than I thought, especially due to the fact that one of the big questions was one that I had already written a dissertation on, my tenure of 6th year exams is over. It's all over. I have applied everything that my teachers told me throughout this year of school into the crucial end-of-year exams. Basically, what I'm trying to say is this:

 Ah, if only it were true. As much as I'd hate to disagree with Mr. Furnier, actually I still have to return to those big stony pillars in Dundee and all it's surrounding buildings because apparently the heads of staff can't bare to see us all leave before everyone else in the school, so have devised some activities to keep us all in place. And they're all fairly awful. My plans to sit and do nothing but listen to new albums and perhaps get up to visit a gig are at jeopardy.
 So, I guess there's no time like the present, so I'd better start publishing some new reviews. Let's start with the incredible new album from guitar hero Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, Apocalyptic Love.
 Ready kids? Education's out the way. Let's rock n, roll!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Exams! - Two down, one to go!

 I return once more unharmed from the treacherous world of school exams. Once again, I've missed out on some incredible music news, whither it's the sad passing away of the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, the official announcement that Bill Ward is rejecting the Black Sabbath reunion shows or Tenacious D hitting Number 1 in the album charts with Rize of the Fenix. Instead, I've been studying for today's juggernaut Advanced Higher English exam. And right now, I'm incredibly positive. Maybe you're in a similar position to me. Maybe you've taken Advanced Higher English this year and studied the work of Evelyn Waugh. Hopefully you'll agree with me then, when I say, writing about the importance of Brenda and Julia was a piece of piss.

 Something pretty exciting happened this week. I won't lie. MY T IN THE PARK TICKET ARRIVED!!! Pretty sweet huh? I have all kinds of plans for the festival. It turns out my friends don't like Twin Atlantic which is a little off-putting. It seems like the spot that Mastodon tragically pulled out of has now been filled in by none other than Merthyr Tydfil's finest The Blackout, which is actually a pretty exciting prospect. Not Mastodon exciting, but cool nonetheless. I look forward to chanting along to S.T.F.Uppercut. While drunk.

Other than that, once again, I've spent my time away listening to too many good albums which I will tell you all about some time next week once this has all blown over. In the meantime, I have been making some kind of contribution to the world of rock and metal music promotion. By voting in both the Kerrang! Awards and The Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards 2012! Me and tonnes of other people across the country will have voted in these, I can only hope.

So, while I'll probably do a reaction post to these awards when announced. Did the Golden Gods Awards already get announced? So confusing. Anyway, both magazines are still to have their award shows, so voting is still going on. And I have cast my votes for both. So I'll tell you now what I voted for in both awards. As if you actually care:

The Kerrang! Awards 2012 Fuelled by Relentless Energy Drink

Best British Newcomer: Hawk Eyes - There's no other band it could possibly be. Ever since Leeds mob Chickenhawk changed their name to Hawk Eyes, the sheer fiery aggression with which they've been associated seems only to have doubled. Their debut album Ideas is an album that displays the ethics of rock and roll in it's purest form, bringing together the relentlessly heavy melodies of Queens of the Stone Age, schizophrenic punk belters and moments of music that are just far out in their atmospheric and simultaneously brutal wonder. They're a band that have brought together elements of rock, punk and metal perfectly. Of course they get my vote for Best British Newcomer.

Best International Newcomer: Motionless in White - It took a while for me to warm to the sound of this Scranton sextet. My first listening to Immaculate Misconception certainly left me pining for some Eighteen Visions but after a few more plays and listens to other songs, there actually is more to Motionless In White than first thought. They're soon to release their second album, which frontman Chris Motionless promises will blow their already awesome debut album Creatures to the ground. I'm eagerly awaiting this release, so until then, you guys can get my vote for Best International Newcomer.

Best Single: You Me at Six feat. Oli Sykes - Bite My Tongue - Are my metalhead friends looking? No? Good. There's no denying that last years Sinners Never Sleep was by far the most ambitious, bold and ultimately satisfying album from Reading's You Me at Six. It saw them take the glossy pop rock that they had become so loved for and take it in new directions giving it a darker, more atmospheric, more emotionally hard hitting and most importantly a grittier twist. And Bite My Tongue is without a doubt the grittiest song on offer. Written about Josh Franceschi's growing tensions towards his bandmates and featuring such consolatory words from Bring Me the Horizon's Oli Sykes as "I can't bear the sight of you anymore" and "Fuck you", this is clearly evidence that You Me at Six are no longer that pop rock band for all the teen girls to drool over. Yes, this gets my vote.

Best Video: Mastodon - Curl of the Burl - The music video for Mastodon's Curl of the Burl, the best song of 2011 is without any question of a doubt the greatest thing that has ever been filmed in the history of the world. Watch it. Watch it. Watch it right now if you haven't already.

Best Album: Mastodon - The Hunter - Yes, to continue my theme of Mastodon doing the greatest of things, their fifth album The Hunter gets my vote for the best album, in the same way that I decided it was my top album of 2011. It's musical sound is that which propels listeners into a dramatic, enthralling universe of brooding and mercilessly heavy metal with a fair lashing of doom. While bringing together stoner elements that one could lose themselves in and thrashier elements which pack a serious punch, Mastodon made a metal masterpiece. God help Kerrang! if this award goes to You Me at Six or Black Veil Brides. And that's coming from someone who likes You Me at Six and Black Veil Brides.

Best Live Band: Bit of a problem here - I've not seen any of these bands live yet. Had Trivium been on the list then we'd have no problem, but no. You're no help to me. I was very close to going to see Enter Shikari, it must be said, but all the people I invited decided it would be a good idea to not reply to my invites. So I really have nothing to go on here. Think I'll go with Shikari anyway.

Best British Band: Iron Maiden - Seemed a bit odd throwing in a band as well known and as established among the likes of You Me At Six and Asking Alexandria. It just made Maiden stand out more. Can you blame me for voting for them? They're still touring and making music together after 30 years, they've released some of the greatest metal anthems of all time. My favourite song by them basically changes bi-weekly. One moment, it's Aces High, the next it's The Evil That Men Do, the next it's Out of the Silent Planet. No competition really.

Best International Band: My Chemical Romance - I was really swaying between My Chemical Romance and A Day to Remember for this one. But ultimately, My Chemical Romance are a band that has had a more significant impact on my life as a rock fan as a whole. That seems weird, but it's hard to tell if any of the taste I have today would exist if I hadn't listened to I'm Not Okay in my youth. Yes, being a band that have always played with an electric energy and immense passion, I couldn't not vote for My Chemical Romance when the chance comes up. I feel like I should really like letlive.. But I don't. I just can't get into them at all and I've tried several times now. Maybe they're too above my intelligence or something.

After this, came the topics of Best TV Show, Best Video Game, Best Film and Best Comedian, which is a bit of a problem because I'm a bit of a sad kid and don't watch much TV, movies or stand up comedy or play many video games. So this voting was a collaborative effort and my good friend Mark (Cant - I know too many Marks) came up with what I would vote for, meaning Best TV Show goes to Game of Thrones, Best Video Game goes to Skyrim, Best Film goes to The Hunger Games and Best Comedian goes to Russell Howard. Make what you will of that.

Tweeter of the Year: Sean Smith, The Blackout - Actually I don't really care all that much for this award, but Sean has made me titter on Twitter every now and then, while the likes of Mark Hoppus and Hayley Williams have caused me to emit a groan a few times. Actually a more interesting Twitter story just happened not that long ago. Basically, charming emo rockers Framing Hanley in a snap Q&A session informed me personally that their favourite collective album was probably Wasting Light by Foo Fighters. An awesome choice Nixon and co. Awesome indeed.

Hottest Female: Lzzy Hale, Halestorm - Not really wanting to elaborate on this for fear of sounding like a leary pervert but damn, Lzzy Hale is hot. Such a striking face. Her levels of prettiness are actually intense, I'd take her any day. Yeah... anyways...

Hottest Male: Well kids, there's a bit of a problem here in that I don't really find any of these fine gentlemen to be really attractive at all. Now if Robb Flynn of Machine Head had been one of the choices, there would have been a different response. That beard. The commanding demeanor - it's quite something. You just can't see that kind of thing in Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low. Sorry - can't cast a vote here.

Villain of the Year: Lou Reed - Lou Reed, I love your solo work and The Velvet Underground released The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat which are both incredible albums. They're probably my two favorite albums of the 1960s. But your creation of Lulu with Metallica last year was unforgivable. That album left me mentally scarred. You win villain of the year. (Bursts into tears from flashback of listening to Little Dog.)

Hero of the Year: Rou Reynolds, Enter Shikari - If you've heard Enter Shikari's A Flash Flood of Colour yet, you'll know that 2012 has seen Rou Reynolds' political and social ideas taking a higher flight than ever before. "Fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries/ Fuck all flags and fuck nationalities/ You've gotta give us a chance before we reach our/ System meltdown" he calls out on ...Meltdown. His demands for the people to come together and create a sense of unity through music is pretty commendable and managing to do it and be so effortlessly funny and entertaining at the same time makes him a pretty classy guy. Definitely the hero of rock in recent times.

Best Festival: Um... T in the Park??? Okay, I know that wouldn't apply, so I have to go with Download. It's lineup is undeniably stellar. Here's 10 reasons: 1. Kyuss Lives! 2. Kyuss Lives! 3. Kyuss Lives! 4. Kyuss Lives! 5. Kyuss Lives! 6. Kyuss Lives! 7. Kyuss Lives 8. Kyuss Lives! 9. Kyuss Lives! 10. BLACK FUCKIN' SABBATH - Nah there are other reasons. Kyuss and Sabbath would just be my main reasons for going. But I'm not. And the friends I have that are going are probably unlikely to care for both bands.

Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards 2012

Best New Band: Heights - I had some time trying to choose between Welwyn Garden City's Heights and London's The Defiled, but ultimately, there's something about Heights that just makes their effort so much more real that really pushes at the boundaries of current metalcore. Perhaps it's in the overall tone of the music, that's it's so much more earthly - who knows. They're epic. They can happily receive the award of Best New Band

Best Breakthrough Artist: Cancer Bats - I'm not sure if one would describe Cancer Bats as having only broken through now, but they're certainly the finest band on offer here. With their roughest release Dead Set On Living just out and filled with an array of emotionally charged hardcore bruisers, there's no denying that right now, the Bats are on top of their game and winning new fans everywhere they go, whither it was on their six-venues in one day Pentagram tour of London or on pretty much every UK festival coming up. I may try and go to the Scottish leg of the Slam Dunk Tour just to see them.

Best Underground Band: Black Breath - Black Breath are probably the best band that have mixed elements of black metal, death metal and thrash metal since Skeletonwitch, if not better as heard on their latest effort Sentenced to Life. But surprisingly, this amalgamation of styles has not seen them get all that much mainstream coverage, so they've held quite a prominent underground title. Some bands were just made for  the underground metal scene I guess. Black Breath have just that sound.

Best British Band: Black Spiders - Sons of the North was just one of the greatest sound of British hard rock with an extra metallic crunch added for good measure. Yes, Black Spiders are undoubtedly one of the best bands in recent years that have come from Britain for the purpose just to shred. And as they deliver music with the kind of hook filled hard rock that AC/DC would look on proudly and the spaced out stoner rock that would have members of Greenleaf looking on impressed, it's obvious that we have a band that know how to do one thing: Rock!

Best International Band: Lamb of God - I've had a long-time love for Lamb of God, probably as any well meaning metalhead would. Though I wouldn't be shocked if more people went and voted for Meshuggah in this category, I will have to stay with the Virginia bruisers. See, after the release of 2009s Wrath Lamb of God basically proved themselves to be legends in the realms of modern metal. And the fact that they actually managed to better themselves on January's Resolution is a mark of major significance. Y'see Lamb of God may just be the greatest band I've ever heard. So, I'm voting for them. If only I could vote for Randy Blythe as President of the USA.

Best Event: The Big 4 shows - This category really confused me at first because if you go on the website The Big 4 Shows option is just represented by a picture of Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, which at first caused me to think "Is Dave Mustaine's comment that African women should 'put a plug in it' up for best event?" But no, it is of course in reference to the Big 4 shows which have seen Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax touring together and always ending the shows by performing onstage together. It's pretty legendary stuff you have to admit. Seeing Dave Mustaine playing the tracks he played on when he was in Metallica for the first time in many fans lifetimes was something quite extraordinary.

Best Live Band: Ha ha ha... once again here's the tragic problem. I've never seen these bands live. Which is really sad indeed. I guess I'll just have to take my metalheads friends advice for this one. They were pretty much in the front row of the crowd when Metallica played Sonisphere last year and they had the time of their lives. It's worth believing them.

Dimebag Darrell Shredder: Wow, I had a difficult time picking this one. With the choice of Killswitch Engage's Adam Dutkiewicz, Devin Townsend, Fear Factory's Dino Cazares, Evile's Ol Drake and Steel Panther's Satchel, there were all kinds of things to consider. Maybe to a lesser extent with Steel Panther although they are damn good. But if you've ever taken the time to listen to the works of Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Project, you'll know just how insane the Canadian loon can be with six strings. Hevy Devy can have this award.

Metal as Fuck: Anthrax - You have to admit that while they've always been at the lowest int he pecking order of the Big 4, there's always some spirit of Anthrax which has never been able to let the world of metal down. Through all the constant changes in lead singers and the controversies outside of the metal world, they've always been triumphant delivering some of the classiest thrash riffs ever which have always been able venture to step into their more hardcore roots. Yes, with music always abrasive but never any sign of big-headed-ness or ideas to collaborate with Avant-Garde musicians, Anthrax are here to shred away. They are Metal as Fuck.

 All the other votes are decided by the professionals at Metal Hammer leaving me clueless of what they could do. But these are my votes in The 2012 Kerrang! Awards and Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards. Hey voting for these things and taking the time to talk about them is a pretty good way of diverting me from studying and we all need a break from time to time.

 Well soon enough, I'll be back again, blogging to the fullest as possible. Until then, I have to study for Advanced Higher History and I'll admit, I'm pretty terrified. After that - FREEDOM FROM EDUCATION!! It's pretty sweet. Did you know that on the day I finish my last exam, Guns N' Roses are performing in Glasgow? I didn't, so I missed out there...