Saturday, 30 June 2012

Review: The Offspring - Days Go By

 Pop punk enthusiasts will undoubtedly make the argument that The Offspring had a vital role in shaping the genre as we know it today and sparking a much needed excitement and mainstream urgency into punk rock in the 80's and 90's alongside the likes of Bad Religion and Green Day. And of course, the argument that they are often overlooked comes as well. Smash and Americana are both vital pop punk albums and yet, they're only really known for good old Pretty Fly (For a White Guy). And I'm not even confident that the lesser musically knowledgeable fools with whom I must reside (Love ya really!) would know who actually performs that song. So, as these albums remain classic works of pop punk, what's questionable now is there power, songwriting talent and overall relevance in this modern day and age when pop punk isn't so hot in the public eye anymore. Nor is a lot of rock music. And when looking at their ninth album Days Go By, it's clear that they've moved in the same direction as Bad Religion and definitely not Green Day and have upped their sound more.

 It's only natural that anyone that heard lead single Cruising California (Bumpin' in My Trunk) before stepping into this album as a whole had a right to be cynical of what The Offspring had become, but we'll get to that. For the most part, Days Go By features all the kinds of big choruses and infectious hooks that serve as the essence of pop punk, but there's a spikier edge across the album. The kind of spike that only listening to some of the more genuine names in punk and hardcore could have shaped. Fans of punk's more modern contemporaries have already been taking note of the exact similarities to Rise Against songs. There's actually some truth in this. The Future is Now and Turning Into You feel at times like clones of the Chicago quartet's Savior and Ready to Fall but that doesn't mean they don't have the sound of classic Offspring at the same time, with these songs along with Secrets of the Underground and Dividing By Zero bearing a reminiscence to the material of Smash and Ignition that will appeal to those that know those albums inside out. With infectious hooks and messages of genuine emotion that shows their further influences from the likes of Social Distortion and Fugazi, there's little doubt that the band are only sharpening their punk roots.

 However, along these more heartfelt moments of melodic hardcore punk, the more fun and poppier moments come out. While in the past this has resulted in classics like Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) and Original Prankster the offerings here are less tolerable. While musically OC Guns has a nice ska influence and is clearly The Offspring's answer to The Clash's Guns of Brixton, the whole jokey Spanish singing and impression get's a little annoying. And indeed Cruising California is another song in this category. In many ways, it's more enjoyable to hear the song as part of the album rather than on it's own, since it then becomes more aware that it's intended as a parody of all the kinds of repetitive pop songs on MTV, or whatever section of MTV it is that actually shows videos now, that are simply about partying and sex. It's at that point when you realise they're trying to go all out on pop song cliches, with auto-tuned backing vocals, melodic rap vocals and even the return of the "Uh-huh" sound that we've all come to know and love from Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), but it's really not enjoyable for that reason. I think it purely serves as a troll song. Think of it as Days Go By's answer to Splinter's When You're in Prison.

 Naturally, the band is still capable of making pop punk belters and the infectious hooks of the more chilled out ballad All I Have Left is You, I Wanna Secret Family (With You) and Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell are wonderful pieces of pop punk with upbeat energy. Along with them, the rerecording of Ignition's Dirty Magic is given a grittier makeover, albeit, the original with it's simplicity and extra roughness is better, really.

 Overall, Days Go By is an album that serves as a hit and miss album. When the band do proper punk songs with a genuine effort, it has the sound of some of the strongest material yet that really establishes them as one of the main deliverers of punk. However, there's other moments that suggests there attempts to have fun are falling short of previous releases. But if this is a sign of The Offspring's more genuine punk ethic taking the forefront, this can only be a good thing. The Offspring may be overlooked in the scale of original pop punk bands, but for those who still check them out, you're going to be in for a treat.

The Offspring's Days Go By is out now via Columbia. 

Review: Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage

 Can you think of any band that's made as massive an impact on modern metal as Gojira? You probably can think of loads of modern bands that have brought metal to the masses with a more polished mainstream sound, but when you consider the richness, sophistication and simultaneous fusing of wondrous soundscaping created purely from crushingly heavy riffage and steel plated basslines that the Bayonne quartet have delivered in this modern era, well, all the others frankly pale in comparison. And while there will be a time again where I will speak well of other modern metal bands, after listening to their fifth release, the highly anticipated L'Enfant Sauvage, well, all the other bands should probably give up now.

 Already, metal fans across the globe have pointed their thoughts on what 2012's heaviest album may be towards Swedish tech-metal overlords Meshuggah, a band that Gojira have always been in the shadow of, for their astonishing Koloss, but honestly, L'Enfant Sauvage is a notably more triumphant listen with a much greater density that will blow any listener away. To use the kind of phrase that my soon-to-be sixth year friends from the school I no longer attend would use, as soon as the band kick into monstrous action on Explosia, "you will jizz."

 But seriously, with the album's range of steel plated riffs, whether they be presented through the earth-shattering complexity that Joe Duplainter and Christian Andreu have perfected in so skillfully to set themselves apart from any other name in metal on the storming title track or Planned Obsolescence or whether it's in the rich melodies that fit seamlessly with all the juddering complexity,as seen handled so well in the strength of Liquid Fire and the subtle yet surprising swagger of Mouth of Kala. The constant richness displayed in the six-string pounding leaves listeners totally immersed as well as crushing their skulls with the frighteningly intense performance and total thickness.

 The performance of Liquid Fire and Mouth of Kala is also an esteemed opportunity for listeners to marvel the roaring bass of Jean-Michel Labadie and delirious drumming skills of Mario Duplainter. Certainly if you try headbanging to Duplainter's outro on the latter song... you will die.

 While it's easy to just marvel at the technical ability of Gojira's playing the entire emotional spectrum that pours out of every note on this album is also truly remarkable. As The Axe sails gallantly into deep seas of victory, the performance of The Gift of Guilt and the calmer closer The Fall are anchored in doom, which really causes you to become captivated by Joe's tones of desperation and despair in his vocal performances on these songs while still keeping your head banging.

 I don't believe that such a thing exists as a Gojira album that cannot be a classic and they certainly prove that fact on L'Enfant Sauvage. The heaviness of this album is difficult to comprehend but it's done with such weight and pure dirt that nothing can be done to bring listeners out of the world of absolute wonder they've now become immersed in. It's almost difficult to come up with a final summation of how to describe how incredible this album is other than state that in terms of pure metal albums, this is 2012's finest.

Gojira's L'Enfant Sauvage is out now via Roadrunner.  

Friday, 29 June 2012

Review: Linkin Park - LIVING THINGS

 Well, that's one hell of a week I've come staggering out of. This is the first piece of writing I've done for ROARF in which I am no longer under the control and suspicion of the High School of Dundee. This week saw the final four days as our lives as school kids which has taken up the past thirteen years of my life, ten of which where spent in Dundee. I leave behind a million memories and experiences and some of the greatest people I've ever meant. Apart from the part where I see them all again, just like I will next weekend for T in the Park. YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! Anyway, I'm now leaving school life behind with a warm heart and as I enter the rest of my life, well, Ramblings of a Rock Fan is coming with me. So, let's get up and running again by looking at the angrily-titled LIVING THINGS, the latest offering by Linkin Park, a band that was loved by... so... many people... from... school. (Cries)

 It's been impossible for Linkin Park to avoid criticism of some kind throughout their career. While their first two albums, the platinum-selling Hybrid Theory and further multi-platinum selling Meteora where panned by high brow critics and later on the band themselves for consisting only of structurally repetitive songs fueled only by teenage angst, their synth-heavy venture into the unknown that was displayed on 2010's A Thousand Suns represented a serious progression from the band but was slammed by fans that desired a further collection of angry alt-metal songs (Maybe they should seek anger management.) who made dramatic claims that Linkin Park was no longer the same band that they had fallen in love with on Hybrid Theory. It's these claims that have allowed the band to fall in love with their riff-led element that they banished in 2010 and so, to go back to making hook filled rock songs while also expanding upon the progression that A Hundred Suns displayed, LIVING THINGS is quite possibly Linkin Park's biggest challenge yet.

 With the basic intention for LIVING THINGS from the point of view of Linkin Park to be to bring together the best elements of all their albums and bring them together, success on their part can be seen right from opener LOST IN THE ECHO. Bringing together immersive synthesized backdrops that reveal co-frontman Mike Shinoda's later influences and love for synth-heavy alt rock acts in the vain of LCD Soundsystem and Metronomy effortlessly while also bringing in the pouncing hooks that and crunching riffs that made Hybrid Theory the biggest selling debut album the biggest selling debut album of the 21st Century.

 With the constant appearance of absorbing synth backdrop which contain either a immersive smoothness with crystalline production from the ever-dynamic Rick Rubin as seen in the likes of lead single BURN IT DOWN, the chillingly dramatic ROADS UNTRAVELED and CASTLE OF GLASS, which reveals the band's Meteora influence by sounding like Numb revisited with a greater level of subtlety and sophistication.

 It also allows for extra levels of a hard-hitting crunch to go along with the returning attack of Brad Delson's shredding, as the crispy backdrops give an extra sense of furious velocity and indestructibility to the highly awesome LIES GREED MISERY which fans of Sleigh Bells (who don't seem to be easy to come across) should fall for as well as giving VICTIMIZED the kind of backdrop that finally makes Shinoda's rapping feel pretty badass, while the song's riff led counterparts make the screaming of Chester Bennington sound as enraged as ever.

 So, indeed, Linkin park achieve bringing together elements from all the stages of their musical career into one album. The metallic pounce of Hybrid Theory and Meteora are there, the tender hard rock melodies of Minutes to Midnight are there and the lush alt rock soundscaping of A Thousand Suns is present, but does it actually work? A Thousand Suns was practically created to serve as the opposite of the first two albums that became pivotal works of the now long dead nu metal genre, so can such a dichotomy in musical styles co-exist within the one frame of work? Sometimes you may find yourself less convinced. Hearing the ethereal grace of IN MY REMAINS being led by the vocalist who is best known for screaming "SHUT UP WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU!" feels a little weird at times and makes the performance feel out of place and I suppose that such a work of music from a band that when they started off, created a musical style that served as the opposite of all things graceful and subtle is at times hard to get your head around.

 In many ways, this album can have a cynical view. Maybe while Linkin Park had lost the amount of fans that they did after A Thousand Suns, they needed to do something that would bring them back while still managing to remain progressive. Perhaps the guitars and return of structure is made to be a crowd pleaser. Perhaps this is so they can still be the biggest band in the world and also be sophisticated.

 And if all this is the case,  well, it's certainly pleased me. Linkin Park have always been a band capable of creating hooks, but the fact that they are still able to now in a manner that sounds more crisp, more sharp and fresher than ever heard makes LIVING THINGS a force of total astonishment. There's an equal amount of heavy riffing and big choruses as there is of dynamic backdrop and immersive production. There are many who will disagree and many who still believe that Linkin Park is no longer the band that they fell in love with but as I take this happy little blog into the big bad real world and out of school with me, I leave with a band that was loved by lots of people I knew from school with their strongest work to date.

Linkin Park's LIVING THINGS is out now via Warner Bros.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Review: Make Do and Mend - Everything You Ever Loved

 It's refreshing to see in a time where record labels cast a sense of tyranny over the world of rock music that puts bands out of their comfort zone and causes them to lose hope (Apart from in the case of Roadrunner, which is just sad) that so many bands, particularly of the punk variety are taking the matters of promotion and the like into their own hands. Following the release of 2010's End Measured Mile, Hartford quartet Make Do and Mend were viewed as the possible heroes of the new generation of DIY-punk rock bands.

 The group's latest offering Everything You Ever Loved sees a change in terms of overall style and ethics. There will be the people that dislike the fact that the band have lost their jagged venom and more hardcore influenced edge and will cast a shadow of bitter cynicism over the bands efforts and brand them as sell-outs. One can only hope that others will note their change to a more wholesome and soulful brand of punk music that the likes of The Menzingers and Hot Water Music have already carried so gracefully this year sees the band music still being as intense a listen as ever only this time they effortlessly release an inner intensity that creeps into the skin of listeners with a sweet life affirming quality.

 So with their love of hardcore groups put to the side and an influence from such power pop titans as Jimmy Eat World and Taking Back Sunday playing the greater role on Everything You Ever Loved there is a much greater level of heart in the band's performance. From the melancholic buildup that takes place on opener Blur the vocal performance of James Carroll reveals the opening to an album that his band has clearly put everything into.

 This stems down to the fact that a mass level of positivity exists in all the songwriting styles achieved across the set of eleven songs as everything can be heard with the highest possible quality. When the band want to upbeat, maximum levels of energy and unrelenting ecstasy is put into the likes of Count and  Lucky, which both display hooks of mass power that can only light up the crowds at gigs. And when the band want to be more mellow, the levels of grace heard on Drown On It the intimate performance of Hide Away reach a maximum level, releasing an overwhelming level of power in the subtlest of manners.

 The overall impact of Everything You Ever Loved effortlessly reveals the amount of passion and depth the band have put into their songwriting as subtle textures in guitars reveals a hidden intimacy of their music that allows for new listening experiences with each return to each song and the roughened production means Make Do and Mend obtain their battered soundscape while the overall levels of passion and detailed songwriting reveals a new kind of shine. 

 It is then, with a new approach to writing songs and a difference in overall songwriting influence that Make Do and Mend return with a higher level of brimming strength and melodic grace than ever with Everything You Ever Loved. The band's powerful sense of urgency and concern throughout the album clearly reveals the levels of care and meaning they have with their songs. And with a greater emphasis on making songs with immersive hooks and detailed soundscapes, they effectively separate themselves from the rest of "The Wave" of similar sounding DIY punk bands. Perhaps it's with this independence in how to craft songs and drive to make songs with true beauty and soul that makes them kings of this scene adn the kind of band most worthy of major recognition.

Make Do and Mend's Everything You Ever Loved is out now via Rise.

Review: Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense

Once getting fully immersed into the musical world of Future of the Left, it's difficult to think of any recent music that is so rooted in scathing bitterness and grim wit as that which has been unleashed into the world of alternative rock by frontman and former frontman of seminal Welsh rockers Mclusky Andrew Falkous. Since the release of their second album Travels With Myself and Another, lineup changes that have introduced former members of Oceansize and Million Dead to join their ranks have bulked up the sound of their ever-stomping power, as seen on last year's Polymers Are Forever EP. Wether the promise of extra strength is really delivered on their third album The Plot Against Common Sense is a factor more questionable.

 Where there is strength found throughout the album isn't necessarily the music. Falkous has become a cult icon in modern music through his lyrical rants that are based either on bitterness, sarcasm, celebrity anecdotes and the occasional bit of total nonsense and once again, The Plot Against Common Sense sees him dive back in making scathing remarks about all kinds of topics negatively biting at our society be it regarding consumerism (Sheena is a T-Shirt Salesman) environmental problems (Polymers Are Forever) the state of art through the state of movies through Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop, a song that talks of eight year old kids' desire to see explosions in all their films and refers to Billy Corgan appearing as the nemesis of the Harry Potter film series, which is pretty sweet.

 Musically, there is a lot of interesting moments to be found. While music of the album displays the band's ability to perform their alt rock music with a serious bite as riffs of a lo-fi crunch scale across deep-digging grungy basslines, the sort of grim atmosphere and sense of evil that rode upon the songwriting that made the music of Travels With Myself and Another a fun experience is removed and instead we simply ride upon hooks to achieve the main sense of musical pounce, as heard in Camp Cappuccino and I Am the Least of Your Problems.

 With the use of synthesizer backdrops making a drastic increase, with Cosmo's Ladder and Polymers Are Forever featuring backdrops akin to 8-bit video game soundtracks, there's less of an influence from grunge and classic rock acts and more of an influence leaning from the world of indie rock and 90s britpop, which is fine but one would prefer the closer leaning towards the scuzz filled riffs. Simply, there is a problem where the songs do stop to have truly standout moments.

 So, amongst all the statements from other reviewers that The Plot Against Common Sense is Future of the Left's strongest album so far, there is some debate. There is much strength attached to it. Falkous' lyrics reach a new level of awesome bitterness and you could listen to them all day and picture him making some kind of appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival sharing his thoughts to crowds through acoustic sets or in a Henry Rollins spoken word sort of way but musically, stronger performances have been heard.

Future of the Left's The Plot Against Common Sense is out now via Xtra Mile. The band will play at 2000trees Festival at Upcote Farm, Cheltenham in from 12-14 July, Truck Festival at Hill Farm, Steventon from 20-21st July, Tramlines Festival at Sheffield City Centre from 20-21st July, Off the Cuff Festival at The Flapper, Brimingham on 29th and Y Not Festival at aT Matlock on 5th August.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Review: Cold Summer - Wake EP

 Hailing from the wonderful Wakefield, post-hardcore quartet Cold Summer have been wasting no time in making a name for themselves with relentless touring, the writing, rehearsing and recording of several songs and searching for a website to help promote their latest EP Wake. I suppose they made the right choice in looking to myself to do such a thing, which was totally humbling and made me realise that I'm quite powerful. Especially since I'm trusted with music that is so restlessly breathtaking.

The set of songs on the EP are filled to the brim with the levels of energy and oomph-inducing impact that the new generation of British rock bands thriving on influences from post-hardcore and punk bands thrive upon but there's a bit more to what the band are capable of in their songwriting abilities.

 As the feedback drenched intro of Waiting bursts into the colourful wall of punk flavoured shredding from guitarist Chris Harrison, they prove themselves to play with the fiery post-hardcore passion of Hundred Reasons and early Biffy Clyro with frontman Dan Feast's frenzied scream vocals bearing a resemblance to those of Simon Neil. To some extent, they take things a step further on the scale of heaviness, with A is for Arson stirring up roaring metalcore riffage that wouldn't sound out of place on Bullet for My Valentine's The Poison.

 But at the same time, there is a balance between the hardcore based fury and the graceful alt rock influences. And within these ripping melodies and roughened guitar thrashing there is an influence from the likes of Thrice and Thursday (Farewell, both bands) as the energetic performance of Car Crash (In Progress) displays the group's ability to pen an expansive chorus that swells with emotion which also suggests much attention has been paid to the rise of the likes of Young Guns and Lower Than Atlantis as the mixture of enormous hook and off-kilter time signatures adds an extra depth and vibrancy to the scorching display of hardcore anthems that amongst anything just sound so real and all-the-more gripping. Before the tender closing of Mistakes takes things to a softer level and the piano-led emo anthem reveals a layer of fragility and vulnerability to the message seeing them play out on a wide range of msuical ground.

 So, with this being one of their first releases upon to a world of British rock music as the wide range of post-hardcore bands that also love their good old fashioned rock and roll has pretty much exploded and can hopefully remain more than a passing fad, Cold Summer come rolling in with the potential to lead themselves to the top of this collection of bands that are paving the shape of British rock to come. With such soul, such passion and such realism they bring into their sound it will be hard not to fall in love with them.

 And yeah, hopefully more bands will send me their EPs and albums to review. That would be awesome.

Cold Summer's Wake is out now. The band will tour the UK in August with Lemuria and Hearts & Souls.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: Ihsahn - Eremita

 Being faced with a new release from Norwegian metal master Vegard Sverre Tveitan, known better to the world of metal as Ihsahn is as daunting a prospect as it is exciting and mind-blowing. Having gone through a great deal of progression since his most iconic work in fronting black metal pioneers Emperor, his solo works allow him to unleash an entire spectrum of musical influences, be it black metal, solid death metal riffing or even the occasional jazz interlude. And on his fourth release Eremita, an album that looks into themes of solitude, things are taken further and grounds are broken harder.

 Following 2010's After, to end his "A" trilogy, one would have questioned Ihsahn's ability to triumph over previous efforts with a whole new trilogy of albums in store. But as Arrival lures listeners into this new musical world through a series of bass driven grooves, winding guitars and a glowing organ led backdrop that scales with shimmering grandeur, you get the sense that his ability to open up new possibilities with genius songwriting craft and atmospheric sophistication has allowed him to create something truly worthy of our total solitude and focus.

 And that's all before any riffs begin. And when they charge into action in full force, such as to be found in the screaming black metal velocity of The Paranoid and Something Out There which along with displaying powerful guitar work with stone-carved heaviness, effectively display's the ability to add sophisticated symphonic backdrops without any risk of the song moving into tackier territory. Of course the intense shredding of The Eagle and the Snake provided by ex-Nevermore axeman and all around metal guitar legend Jeff Loomis is an undeniable display of riffage at it's most immersive pounce.

 While Ihsahn's black metal past lives on in a more melodic and more-mannered form, there is also moment where different ideas are traced upon and the progressive influences come out at full force. Wether it's in the sludgy Introspection which features the soothing and captivating guest vocals from the always-wonderful Devin Townsend or the crushing bleakness of The Grave heavy of doom-laden riffs with a blackened edge, Ihsahn's ability to craft well-structured and less-in-your face songs that still keep listeners on the edge of their seat is a real power. And of course the prominent contribution from Shining frontman Jorgen Munkeby across the album gives an extra depth to the grim backdrops of the likes of Catharsis. Indeed, playing the saxophone has never sounded so metal!

 Always known for being a musician that doesn't like to settle on the same solid sound for a long period of time, Ihsahn continues to prove with Eremita that his songwriting has progressed to the stage that we will never hear a song like I Am the Black Wizards from him anymore. While many will pine for the release of a new Emperor album, it's more than obvious that Ihsahn is in a good place musically right now, where his bringing all his different musical influences and past styles to light in a combination that is breathtaking. Already an influential name in metal, Ihsahn's ability to break new grounds and maintain a higher respectability is commendable.

Ihsahn's Eremita is out now via Candlelight.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: Hawthorne Heights - Hope

 The second part in a trilogy of EPs conveying basic human emotions I s'pose, Ohio screamo champs Hawthorne Heights come charging back with Hope a more optimistic prospect than August's Hate. And in the eight months that have lasted since the release of Hate it seems like there has been some changes all around. For one, since then I've realised that "screamo" is a legitimate term to describe a style of music and not just a term used by ignorant types that believe all metallic music is music with scream vocals that could be used for self-harm.

 The other dramatic change that has taken place between EP's is the massive shift in emotional tone the band has to offer. While Hate was filled with songs of a kind of aggression that let the EP live up to it's name effortlessly, Hope sees the band tread upon more positive ground for the most part, which often has differing results.

 While the typical notion of combining influences from pop punk and hardcore bands and influences from alt rock in the vein of that which Thrice have perfected remains in Hawthorne Heights sound but the main delivery differs across the set of eight songs which has the ability to strengthen and weaken the band's performance.

 It's ironic in many ways that the strongest moments of the EP are the less positive moments, as the tone of desperation and emotional despair from frontman JT Woodruff on New Winter and the mellow swing of Nowhere Fast show the greatest levels of well-thought songwriting and remain the most gripping.

 On the flip-side, the more positive moments pale in comparison. Whilst the hardcore breakdowns on Running In (Niki Am) and Vandemonium have a infectious level of excitement riding across them, they just don't reach the kind of intensity and overwhelming impact that an EP titled after a positive emotion ought to and ultimately end up sounding more like a watered-down Taking Back Sunday.

 Overall, Hope is a solid effort from Hawthorne Heights once again and serves as an effective follow-up to Hate to reveal a more positive outlook, therefore showing the band's ability to cover a wide emotional spectrum in all that they do. But in can get a bit lackluster in places and with all honest attempts to bring their own touch to their musical sound, Hawthorne Heights do have an EP filled with screamo standards. Yep, that's right. The musical term that I refused to accept as a legitimate genre a year ago has a blueprint sound.

Hawthorne Heights' Hope is out now via Cardboard Empire. The band will tour the UK from September-October with Kyoto Drive, Maker, Burn the Fleet and Lower Lands

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review: The Ghost Inside - Get What You Give

 As the avid supporter of modern metalcore and breakdowns in all sorts of shapes and sizes, first of all I separate myself from the more common sophisticated music reviewer but I also come to realise that so many bands have a thing for relentless chugging and desire to just create moshpits that the amount of similar bands does get a little tiresome. And moshing should not be about being tired, right? However, LA quintet The Ghost Inside have become favourite amongst the metalcore community for putting metalcore into their own creative hands. Third album Get What You Give sees the band release another solid collection of songs, albeit ones that are more likely to win the hearts of mainly moshpit merchants.

 With A Day to Remember frontman Jeremy McKinnon behind the production desk for this album, there are various moments across the album that you may look at before examining Get What You Give as the natural and more brutal follow-up ADTR's 2010 effort What Separates Me From You. This mainly spawn from the sheer amount of infectious melodies that the band also work within their selection of mosh-inducing metalcore tunes. The sheer size of the choruses in songs like Engine 45 and The Great Unknown are the kind that could only spawn from musicians that know the ways of both metal and pop punk music.

 But unlike the ADTR album that several original fans of the band haven't looked upon favourably, The Ghost Inside put much more focus on the metalcore elements that will make them big names amongst moshpit punters. Some of the thrashy guitar riffs and breakdowns from Aaron Brooks and Zach Johnston are delirious in their razor sharp shredding on Slipping Away and Thirty Three or the epic boost in bass during breakdowns in Outlive and Deceiver. Coated with a extra level of richness in the depth of these metallic based moments, a greater emotional output is emphasised giving the songs a higher scale of grandness and extremity.

 On the other hand, the increase of breakdowns and the higher amount of polish that McKinnon delivers on production serves as a sign of the band simply looking to expand on an audience at the risk of decreasing their unique creativity. A few more breakdowns and critics would be panning these bands as another one of the metalcore bunch that all make similar songs and have no uniqueness.

 But my love of headbanging means of course that I've developed a soft spot for breakdowns so in that respect, I'm not put off by this. Get What You Give is by all means a solid performance with scorching brutality and soaring melodies, but it's not going to give them the kind of celebration for originality that Architects, Bring Me the Horizon or Parkway Drive (or... maybe an American band) possess. But if you like metalcore filled with pounding breakdowns and big choruses, this is a must have. Now mosh.

The Ghost Inside's Get What You Give is out now via Epitaph.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

 When you set such a high standard at first, it can often be hard to move yourself from the shadow of that achievement or have constant comparisons to that when regarding further achievements. Surely, no one knows this better than Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, who since the release of classic albums like 1993's Siamese Dream and 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness has never been able to have fans and critics look past those albums as a standard. It means that Corgan's more recent attempts to try more different musical efforts with a totally re-vamped lineup has left him with less positive feedback regarding his latest work. But with Corgan's absolute defiance to return to re-creating Siamese Dream and the effort on new album Oceania, perhaps even the most stubborn of 90's alt rock fans ought to start paying attention again.

 With a spacey opening into the album on Quasar, Corgan effectively proves that his desire to do more than just screechy riff-based rock songs is as prominent as ever. Yes many may weep at the prospect but with the sheer level of grandeur set up as warm grungy riffs and flourishing synthesizers melt together to create a strong range of melodies, it should be beyond you and you should be entranced by the fresh sound of atmospheric grace.

 The band bring out their ever-wide range of musical influences across the album and there is a lot of progressive influence to be found as shades of Rush can be seen in the captivating Panopticon which proves itself to be a song that welcomes listeners to blissfully float into it's centre with open arms. This influence can also be found in the more dramatic performance of The Celestials which grabs you by the throat with it's strings-led delicacy.

 Even the darker more sinister moments of the album carry this soothing progressive style, with the stern demeanor of the album's title track is filled with spacey musical layerings that one can lose themselves in a Blue Oyster Cult sort of way. The contrast of the nine-minute epic comes with the further influence from more classical performers as the acoustic led sections can only bring up memories of The Rolling Stones, while One Diamond, One Heart sees this textured progressive element become infused with the kind of flourishing synthpop that reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys.

 Indeed, the band do reach out to lesser-experienced territory on Oceania however they remain very much capable of rocking out. The anthemic buzz of life-affirming power punk melodies on Pinwheels and The Chimera prove that the Smashing Pumpkins can still write a big rock song with big riffs and an even bigger impact on listeners in their life-affirming beauty. Plus, with the unpolished shoegaze influence on Glissandra shows that distorted production lives on within the Pumpkins.

 So, indeed, as everyone is most likely to agree, this album probably won't touch the glories of Siamese Dream but it's realistically time we stop the constant comparison between these albums. Billy Corgan has moved on to making a new style of spacey immersive alternative rock and if he's previously had trouble in trying to introduce it upon listeners, Oceania is now the perfect opportunity for Corgan and the new Smashing Pumpkins to really show the world what they're made of.

Smashing Pumpkins' Oceania is out now via EMI.

Know the Score

 Hey readers. If you're a regular reader of my writing, who knows, you may exist, you may realise that I've been trying with every stage to present my reviews in a more sophisticated professional manner but there's always been something missing. I've been trying to avoid it for ages mainly for fear that I would mess up while using it and get my thoughts wrong but, well, it's been a year now and I'd like to think that in that time, I've come on a bit as a music reviewer to the extent that I can introduce this with reasonable confidence. I am of course, referring to a Rating System.

 I've been taking the time to think of how I could present my ratings. I don't think there's anything I could do to re-invent the wheel in my approach. I could do the classic 1-5 stars rating of an album. It's pretty simple and pretty effective, especially if I then go into using half stars as well. Let's look at some examples in a fairly faulty manner because Blogger is weird:

Lostprophets - Weapons                                                                                                                

Mastodon - The Hunter           

Nickelback - Here and Now

 It's a good enough way of scoring, simple and well-meaning. Alternatively, I could do a score out of ten for albums, which would give a more detailed examination and would be easier to put out since there's little need for keeping any kind of icons. Let's see how that would go...

Dry the River - Shallow Bed: 6/10

Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead850/10

Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu: -614,430,639,264/10

It's certainly full of potential. Of course, I could also shamefully rip off Kerrang! Magazine's "K" rating system and give albums an amount of "ROARF"'s based on how good they were. I mean, couldn't you just see it:


 But, I have a cool idea to top all of these. I like the stars idea the most and I have a cool idea to make it my own. I needed an imagery to muster up images of dusty dirty rock and roll, that brings up images of distorted riffs and blazing through the desert. And then I thought of card games. Playing card games can either be for boring old men. It can be for hyperactive children, the kind that we were at the start of 6th year at my school or it can be pretty rock and roll. "If you like to gamble, I tell ya I'm your man!" Lemmy proudly boasted in a fairly well-known rock song and he's a pretty rock and roll guy right? 

 So, I figured, what would be cool would be to give an album a number of Spades to mark it's rating because Spades are the coolest of the card faces, once again "The only card I need is the Ace of Spades!" Lemmy triumphantly stated in that same hit. And all we need are Spades on Ramblings of a Rock Fan.

 So, let's meet the ratings family and see what we have on offer and what it will represent for future albumsI review:

Terrible. I complete wreckage of an album with no merit whatsoever. Brokencyde beware.

Again, a complete waste of an album with little talent but it might be laughably bad. Think old Attack Attack! releases.

Still fairly unimpressive but there may be enough hooks to avoid the total thing being a piece of crap.

Again, uninspired but may show ability to pen a song to keep everyone going, but it may not stretch across an entire album.

An impressive listen. Showing signs of a previously bad band stepping up, the unstable introduction of a new musical style or a good album that doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel or bring anything new to the game.

 A solid album that stands on it's own two feet while not being fully original but displaying an exceptional talent for what the musicians do and showing a ton of potential.

An incredible display of brilliantly crafted music, showing signs of creativity, excitement and passion in what they band is doing and the ability of the album to achieve all it's goals.

A mind blowing album that proves itself to be the band's best effort to date. Filled with memorable songs and future anthems.

The Ace of Spades. A modern classic. One of the best pieces of music you'll hear played to the standard that you hope the band splits up so that they don't release anything again that may be worse or better.

 Hope this is satisfying. if I want to become a more credible music reviewer these have to be introduced and be used well. Let's do this.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Review: Sleepy Sun - Spine Hits

 My discovery of San Francisco rockers Sleepy Sun came as a result of my aimless trailing about through Edinburgh yesterday, as I hit several indie record stores and looked for some new stuff as well as buying classic albums that I really should have owned by now. Anyway, going in and out of indie record shops, telling the shopkeepers about the kind of music you like and asking for recommendations is an amazing thing which you all really need to do before you die. And my attempt at doing it has presented me with Sleepy Sun, whose powerful garage rock outing on their third album Spine Hits proves that underground rock and roll bubbles away with a hidden force.

 Of course, this is my first proper experience of Sleepy Sun but it would be stupid for me to go on without noting that this album marks for the band the first album since the departure of singer Rachel Fannan who took her soulful grace away from the band with her and left them without much to stand on. It has left the more knowledgeable critics assured that the band can in no way create an album with the same kind of soul and creativity that was found on the band's previous releases Embrace and Fever.

 However, the level of ambition on Spine Hits to create the perfect selection of chilled out riff based rock and roll songs with an unpolished shine can clearly be identified. Wether it's the outer principles of recording the album in the Desert at Joshua Tree, California, the birthplace of 21st Century rock and roll, also known as Josh Homme, or the production from Dave Catching who manages to focus on the delicate performance on sparkling guitar strumming from Evan Reiss and Matt Holliman while also being to build up absorbing levels of distortion. There's definitely a desire to build up a collection of songs that all take their inspiration from 1960's rock and roll, classic blues musicians and the coolest of names in indie rock.

 The band's ability to write a solid song complete with swing, hooks and just a major swagger is undeniable. The swing of Creature and V.O.G proves the band to be fully capable of still making a song with a White Stripes swagger that with the delicate vocal touch of Bret Constantino gives it an extra laid back smoothness and layer of total bliss and immersion. This comes into better effect with the tender 1960s influenced balladry of Siouxsie Blaqq and the musical encapsulation of Still Breathing.

But, as the knowledgeable critics agree, the loss of Fannan has taken away much from what the band has on offer. As hard as the band try, there's little in various songs that manage to leave a true impact and the overall performance on the likes of She Rex and Boat Trip to be a bit lifeless, plus with little mixture of the 1960s Americana influence and 1970s space rock influence in the same songs, there's little of the unique fusion that really gave their first two albums their wings.

 So, Spine Hits does prove my record shop visiting to be far from in vain but it does show that maybe I would have had a better time in going for some earlier material. In their current incarnation, the band are still widely capable of making a range of solid enjoyable rock songs that manage to have hooks, swing and swagger while being atmospheric and beautifully produced, but there's a lesser spark of wonderful dynamism and creativity that we my have relied on before. Guess my band hunting must continue.

 Sleepy Sun's Spine Hits is out now via ATP.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Review: Mnemic - Mnemesis

 If you were to create a audible portrait that really explained the exact means and definitive sounds of modern metal as a whole, the resulting sound would probably be akin to that of Danish metallers Mnemic, whose fourteen years of touring and five albums have seen them bring together the breakdown infused metalcore of Caliban and Chimaira, the tight and intricate grooves of Machine Head and Fear Factory and the spacey industrial and progressive backdrops of Between the Buried and Me and Cynic. Yes, there's much influences that has built Mnemic into a fairly accomplished name in the world of metal, being name-checked as a favourite of Metallica and developing a large following. It's the kind of following that will appeal to their fifth release Mnemesis with ease.

 The world of groove metal and it's bands are often subject to switches in lineup and Mnemic are no exception. The change this time round has proved itself to be fairly radical with longtime guitarist and drummer Rune Stigart and Brian Rasmussen departing along with bassist Thomas Koefod. Such a radical departure would make some bands more wary of jumping straight into new material, but Mnemic prove to be fearless enough to deliver an album that sounds just as bold and unrelenting as their desire to keep charging on.

 The array of gleaming riffs and breakdowns delivered with a rapid intensity from guitarists Mircea Eftemie and Victor Ronander on the likes of Valves and Pattern Platform truly emphasise the high levels of energy the band have to output, while also allowing listeners to absorb themselves in the layerings of synth led backdrops, raising the standards of the song to a new level of richness and quality, which is aided throughout the album by the ever immersive vocal performance of frontman Guillaume Bideau whose dynamic between the stony growling of Transcend and Junkies On the Storm and melodic vocals that sound like the missing link between Jonathan Davis and Anders Fridén ensure an even higher polished metallic shine and obvious element from modern movers of metal.

 While the band have all the perfect ingredients for an amazing metal album, the ability to write songs that pack a serious punch is lacking in some places and by the latter half of the album songs are melding into one another without even resulting in the building of some progressive soundscape to lose ones self in. This allows for less of a lasting impact that many listeners may desire.

 On the whole, Mnemesis is an effort from Mnemic that stands on it's own. It's not really on par with the all-killing force of Mechanical Spin Phenomena or The Audio Injected Soul, which stand triumphantly over this release but there's definitely a lot of highlights to be found nonetheless. Their ability to create earth-shattering grooves and breakdowns prove that they are still very much a shining beacon of what modern metal is all about and still have the ability to make many of their elders quake in their boots.

 Mnemic's Mnemesis is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Review: Bouncing Souls - Comet

 There are almost hundreds of bands that pop punk enthusiasts could look at and claim that it was they who had a considerable impact and influence on the genre that still upholds to this day as it did in the late 80s, but there are few bands that have managed to unleash the dizzying rush of cheer that New Brunswick punks Bouncing Souls have managed since 1987. With a continuous string of hook filled happiness throughout their nine album career, the latest addition  Comet proves that after relentless touring and years of being an influential yet widely unknown band has had no effect in bringing them down.

 Of course, there's always a threat for bands making simple punk songs that put heart and melodies over technical glory and complexity to start sounding stale if the same musical principles are kept to and with the rise of newer bands that deal in a similar musical manner like The Menzingers and Our Time Down Here, (whose Midnight Mass album appears to have received little coverage. That should change.) there's questioning that goes towards just how much the Bouncing Souls still have on offer in this realm of homegrown punk, when they could very easily try making a glossier pop punk album.

 But with words like "heart" and "soul" being required to describe the sound in which Bouncing Souls specialize, a more romantic outset must be flowing through the listener to get with their music as Comet crackles delicately over a tender fire of melodies and warm punk exuberance. Opener Baptized with it's charged up assault of hook filled riffage and classic poppy songwriting proves this with ease along with the winding basslines and rapid-fire rampages of Fast Times and We Love Fun, the latter of which plays out with a cheeky grin and intentionally lame lyrics that you have no choice but to feel the fun of.

 As well as setting phasers on fun for songs like these in such a way that out-matches many names in pop punk, there's also an existing grace of classic blue-collar homeland punk writhing across Comet and the purely earthly tones that emerge from Coin Toss Girl proves the classic influence can be found easily. It's also because the choruses main riff is strikingly similar to that of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run but we'll leave that aside.

 As good as Bouncing Souls are at making anthems for good time, it wouldn't be a full album without the band stepping out of the circle of total joy and the much more heartfelt and gripping moments come from the gut wrenching tones of concern from frontman Greg Attonito on Static and the impassioned band effort on mixing hard hitting hooks with more tender melodies on the blissful title track.

 Indeed, the making of homeland punk with a battered twinkle and ability to produce poppy hooks that will forever be viewed as being one of the many catalysts towards the pop punk movement has not been lost been lost by the Bouncing Souls. Sure nothing is done to reinvent the sound of punk music but if punk albums like this can continue, it's going to be a long time before punk as we know and love it grows stale in any way.

 Bouncing Soul's Comet is out now via Rise. The band will play at the Reading and Leeds Festival from 24-25 August.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Review: Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead

 My mission to delve into the deeper more underground realms of metal has never been a truly easy one and sometimes it's been hard to work out which bands can truly be known as underground and which ones are more mainstream but with a wide cult following and a massive underground influence. But when I found out that Swedish doom metal legends Candlemass' eleventh album Psalms for the Dead is said to be their last piece of recorded music, it signified that an era in doom metal be it known to major degree or remain an underground wonder had come to an end.

 And with this considered, it's obvious that the effort on this album is an effort that soars above average levels of doom metal triumph and epic-ness to present and effective and immersive retrospective of the band's twenty eight year career, which has seen the creation of such works as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall all of which have had a wide influence on many doom metal bands today. And the effort of Psalms for the Dead is performed with the kind of will to create a piece of work as accomplished and memorable to a much greater extent of any of the band's most recent material brought out since the band's ever revolving lineup brought former Solitude Aeturnus frontman Robert Lowe into their ranks.

 Candlemass have never had any problems with their ability to create big sounds, they wouldn't be in the position of high influence that they live in today without it, but they like to remind listeners of that, and the way that we are launched into the monstrous crunches created by Lars Johansson and Mats Björkman on opener Prophet reminds us of this as the band thunders into their wondrous array of metal that carries the sound of absolute misery and total indestructibility.
 Musically, a lot of moments stand out on Psalms for the Dead for being uncharacteristically upbeat and focusing on a more triumphant melodic take on doom metal mixing it with traditional metal. Dancing in the Temple (Of the Mad Queen Bee) has something of a swing in it's rhythmic pounding that shows off the band's influences from bands as traditional as Rainbow or Dio's solo material, while the groove riding Killing of the Sun feels like a journey into a beckoning light of major metallic grandeur. So, indeed, Candlemass have created several songs that feel like something of a party. A party in which your soul will get crushed, but a party nonetheless.

 But of course, the band are on board to keep things on a fairly bleak outset and the monstrous droning of The Sound of Dying Demons, Waterwitch and the album's title track will drag all doom metal traditionalists down a steely path and grim slow paced brutality that will put a frown on anyone's face. Plus, they even manage to uphold a sense of beauty with the awe-inspiring backdrops of Siren Song and then of course, the dazzling band performance on closer  Black as Time that follows the most uncomfortable spoken monologue that should hopefully not encourage suicide because if it does, the listener will miss some of the most incredible displays of riffs from Johansson and Björkman, the kind that make you glad that they've chose the song to end their wonderful career in recording music on.

 And with the album complete, you realise that the performance of Candlemass on Psalms for the Dead is a sign of the band upping their game so that they can end things on a high note. With every immersive guitar solo from Johansson and every heartfelt performance from Lowe, listeners are dragged further into a display of absolute awe and doom-laden glory that there is no escape on and you realise that even in the face of constant change, especially in regards to issues of lineup within the band, Candlemass have always managed to remain a tight and genuine lineup who have been able to impress no matter who has been in their ranks for however long. And while they promise to remain a touring band, the fact that they're to stop recording is still truly resembling of the fact that an incredible force of doom metal has closed up. It's hard to think of any better way that they could go out.

Candlemass' Psalms for the Dead is out now via Napalm.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards 2012 - My Reaction

 Monday night saw the announcement of the winners of this year's Golden Gods Awards decided by faithful deliverers of all thing metal Metal Hammer magazine. So, still freshly hungover from Download as are my friends that actually did see Black Sabbath and Kyuss Lives! to my surprise and partial relief, many bands went down to the IndigO2 in London's O2 Arena for the tenth annual event. No broadcast has been found of the Ceremony by my hopeless self yet, but the winners have been announced and since I spent time writing down who I had cast my vote for, it's worth my time to see who actually won big on the night and see if it matches my hopes and expectations.

Best New Band: The Defiled - On the whole, The Defiled taking the Best New Band award home with them is pretty satisfying. With intense breakdowns, transitions between the delirious screams and sweeping melodic vocals of frontman Stitch D and dabbling in grim and intense industrial backdrops their debut Grave Times is a metal debut like no other. While it's truly awesome to see them achieve this goal, my vote did go to Welwyn hardcore titans Heights for the much more real, earthly tones presented on their debut Dead Ends. Now given the fact that I liked Heights for their realism but am glad The Defiled won despite their cartoonish ghoulish image and use of extra synthesizers, there's something quite contradictory about these two bands. Oh good lord! I love both of theeeeeeemmmmmm...

Best Breakthrough Artist: Ghost - The major rising of occult metallers Ghost over the past year and even past few months has really taken the world of metal by surprise. I mean, when you see the shocking appearance of frontman Papa Emeritus in his Satanic cardinal uniform and his company of "Nameless Ghouls" that perform all instruments without any identity of whom they may be, you have no choice but to see what they're about do you.? My first experience of their music and real presence besides seeing them appear in magazines was in seeing them live when they supported Trivium on the Metal Hammer Defenders of the Faith III Tour and their crushing performances of truly Satanic doom metal was ground shaking-ly heavy and was a simply incredible experience. This may be an awesome result, but I would have preferred to have seen Cancer Bats take this. Dead Set on Living is definitely one of their more triumphant releases which sees them back on their game.

Best Underground Band: Watain - Gotta say, I didn't realise that Watain were still being viewed as an underground band. Certainly they're part of the scene of black metal, a genre rooted in underground and are making a hell of a work out of it on the monolithic performances on the  likes of Casus Luciferi and Lawless Darkness and on their commendable live shows, so with such high regard they've received over the years, it seems that now they've finally started to achieve some mainstream attention and being awarded for being the Best Underground Band should help them in conquering the dark throne of black metal. (That pun was totally kvlt.) For similar reasons and because of a greater influence from traditional death metal, my vote in this case went to Black Breath, whose grim metal sounds is truly the sound of the metal underground. Either way, both bands are making a sound that can only be described in metallic circles as being trve.

Best British Band: Saxon - Yeah, it's pretty cool to a a band like Saxon, a band that has been an extremely accomplished and influential group, with Metallica and Megadeth both citing them as major influences but always pretty overlooked in the grand scale of things receiving such a grand award. Because Biff Byford and co have written some enormous metal songs over the past thirty years with a certain amount being of a standard to give Iron Maiden a run for their money. And with last year's Call to Arms proving they still had they ferocity and songwriting ability to prove that their time o fade away is long to come, this award effectively proves that winning the hearts of British heavy metal fans is something they most definitely can do.

Best International Band: Lamb of God - I have to say how surprised I am Meshuggah never won because their latest effort Koloss was so monstrously heavy, I thought that against the majority of all Hammer readers, no other band could stand a chance. But man, I am proud to see Lamb of God win this award. My love for Lamb of God has always been prominent and while their most recent effort Resolution isn't even my favourite album of 2012, there's something so undeniably special about it. Have you ever listened to an album in which the final song in the collection is the kind of song that actually makes you want the band to split up so that they have no chance of having a track that might be too underwhelming and you feel that that last song would just be the perfect song to end their career on? Resolution might not be the best album of 2012 but so far, King Me is definitely the best individual song. I'd like to hear the song that can beat it.

Best Event: Iron Maiden's UK Tour - When Maiden brought their epic tour of their magnificent 2010 release The Final Frontier to the UK last summer, they did so by performing in front of a sold out O2 Arena with a killer set of songs, their biggest Eddie to jam onstage with them and some of the most passionate performances recorded. But, my vote was cast for the coming together of The Big 4 in the UK last year that saw Dave Mustaine play onstage with Metallica live for the first time in many UK fans lifetimes.If that isn't truly inspiring in circles of metal, I don't know what is.

Best Live Band: Rammstein - You have to think about seeing a Rammstein show these days. Highly commended for the range of high-budget pyrotechnics and crunching heaviness, the range of stunts performed, be it frontman Till Lindermann being engulfed head to toe in flames, flaming arrows being shot into the crowd or simulated sodomy have made little change over the past few years, nor has the range of songs played, with a greatest hits collection recently released suggesting little plans for major amounts of new material being introduced. But even if it is a show that has been performed almost a million times, you would still definitely go to see it. I hadn't seen any of the bands on offer this time around so me voting was a little pointless.

 Dimebag Darrell Shredder: Devin Townsend - The competition for the award for best guitarist names in honor of late Pantera legend "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was certainly tough this year but it's presentation to one of modern metal's most creative, skilled and frantic minds. Devin Townsend, the twisted seven-string shredder behind the creative, off-the-wall in terms of humour and ideas and blistering performances heard on Strapping Young Lad and his towering amount of solo material as well as the Devin Townsend Project, a musical project as charged up on metallic fury as it is filled with lush atmospheric soundscapes is truly deserving of an award that honours work of such genius and creativity to be created by guitar. It's work that is a treat for metal fans everywhere.

Best Drummer: Vinnie Paul, Hellyeah: Man, I don't talk about drummers enough. And if the efforts any drummer should be seriously considered it's that of current Hellyeah sticksman Vinnie Paul. Vinnie will always be best known for being one of the tight comrades that made up Pantera besides his other musical ventures and it's a pretty fair position to be remembered for. Helping to adapt a new kind of beat that fused the groovy rhythms of hip-hop with the pouncing assaults of hardcore and metal, Paul will forever be known for creating the heart-pouncing rhythms of Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display of Power amongst others and for inspiring the birth of a new level of enthusiasm for metal which (once passing through the nu metal phase) influenced some of the greatest metal bands of our age. Truly, one of the best drummers of our age.

Best Album: Mastodon - The Hunter: Yes yes yes yes!!!! It's so awesome to see the way that Mastodon's incredible fifth album The Hunter continues to earn a place as the best album of the past 12 months, especially since I included it in such a position at the end of last year. But y'know, I've talked it up to death now. There's nothing new I can really say about it now, just, thank you for existing.

Best Video: Trivium - In Waves - IIIIIIINNNN WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVESSS!!!! Yeah, I kind of had to do that. Trivium's In Waves is a pretty interesting video I suppose. Seeing the band take a break from invading house parties and hanging out in bomb shelters to play their metal anthems and instead spend some time in an unspecified jungle land getting chased by freaky looking tribespeople without an instrument in site was certainly a surprise. Plus, with such cinematic grandeur epic camera shots and the facial displays of each band member conveying a pure emotional state to match the tone of the song with... wait, I dropped drama because of this shit. Give me Curl of the Burl and let's watch a drugged up lumberjack throw a tree at the sun.

Metal as Fuck: Anthrax - The band that have always been at the lowest scale of the entire Big 4 of thrash metal have always been the band that's been more committed and more devoted to making pure metal than any of the others. That's a really controversial remark. But as Metallica fell into disarray with their fated Lulu album and attention towards Megadeth being pointed towards Dave Mustaine's big mouth while off of the stage, Scott Ian and friends in Anthrax have been shredding away with no bullshit. Throughout lineup changes, the band have always kept some solidity and with their triumphant displayed on last year's Worship Music the thing that was obvious about the NY thrasher's metal credentials was that they existed and they still do exist. They exist like fuck.

Spirit of Hammer Award: Bill Bailey - When everyone's favourite stadium-filling musician stand up Bill Bailey walked away from his beloved by the public role as a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks his claim that spending time with unknown indie musicians that have never boosted themselves to higher positions in the world of music had brought him down. His resurgence last year truly revealed his proper musical inclinations when he played at last year's Sonisphere festival and started the world's first "comedy-mosh-pit". Bailey has truly proved himself to be at one with the metalheads and his constant obsession with Opeth, Mastodon and various other names in prog and thrash metal proves it effortlessly.

Metal Hammer Inspiration Award: Roadrunner Records - It was a distressing discovery to metal fans everywhere when it was revealed that Warner Music Records would be shutting down all the UK an Canadian offices for Roadrunner Records. The label has done so much for metal over the past 20+ years, be it bestowing upon us the talents of Sepultura, Machine Head and Slipknot or injecting new life into the likes of Megadeth and Korn, it can't be denied that the label has done some amazing things for metal. One can only hope things can be done to keep it firmly standing as a label as a whole. Long live Roadrunner.

Metal Hammer Icon: Fear Factory - A band with a truly unique sound, there's no denying the sheer levels of influence and excellence that Fear Factory have introduced onto the world of metal. Their crushing display of intricate metallic grooves with the kind of tightness that only pushes the levels of heaviness and technical mastery to new boundaries mixed with darkly creative and immersive industrial backdrops has fueled such classics as Demanufacture and modern classics as Mechanize and this month's The Industrialist. Icons to the world of metal doesn't even begin to describe.

Metal Hammer Riff Lord: Robb Flynn & Phil Demmel, Machine Head: As Imperium crashed into action on my first experience of listening to Machine Head, it was clear that the guitar work displayed was truly a special kind that truly intertwined smoothly with one another and complimented each player's work of forceful strumming. And throughout the time that Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel have played together in Machine Head, the ability to construct well structured and melodic and simultaneously brutal and skull-crushingly heavy. Whether it's in Davidian, Aesthetics of Hate or the epic scale riffage that opened up last year's magnificent Unto the Locust on I Am Hell (Sonata in C#) the joint axe skills of Flynn and Demmel are the kind that proves that heavy metal still lives and breathes with total purity.

The Golden God: Joey DiMaio, Manowar - HAIL, GODS OF WAR! Well, I've been working on this blog post long enough and have had enough beer to agree with this statement without any kind of questioning. The world of battle-charging, viking-tongued, warmongering battle metal would be nothing without the music of Manowar. And with Joey DiMaio at the helm of the band, there's nothing that could tear them apart. The entire mystical image of metal we've all loved to envisage of slaying dragons, charging in mighty sword battles and other such factors that a Warhammer session would be nothing about is all cast down from the vision that DiMaio, Eric Adams, Ross the Boss and many others have crafted in Manowar. All hail Kings of Metal!

 That took ages to write. I just know I'd have had an easier time just going to the show itself but that requires invites and suitable travel to London and several other measures. But it's great to see that Metal Hammer are keeping sensible and awarding some of the most deserving. I suppose the nominees awarded have been for the most part of an epic sized quality from the less-subtle of the new bands The Defiled, Ghost and Watain getting awarded to established metal legends like Saxon, Iron Maiden and Joey DiMaio getting awarded. And with modern giants like Machine Head and Lamb of God seeing themselves awarded, it can only be noted that things seem to be falling into pieces with metal right now. And Metal Hammer is going to make the next twelve months bolder, brasher and more mind-blowing than you've heard before.