Agent Steel – Skeptic’s Apocalypse Review

Call it Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, US Power Metal or just plain old Heavy Metal; Agent Steel’s 1985 combat records debut album Skeptic’s Apocalypse is a frentic, buzzsaw of an album that pounds along with an almighty force.

This album is the pure flawless distillation on Metal at the time. No wonder it caused a stir back then. It rocks all the way through, from the (excluding a brief intro) meaty opening track; “Agents Of Steel,” which sounds like if someone took an early Venom song, produced it well, and then inserted insane falsetto shrieks and impressive virtuoso lead guitar work, to the catchy album closer “Back To Reign” – that mixes Iron Maiden’s gallop with some of that Show No Mercy-era Slayer tinny bounce and Feel The Fire-era Overkill vocal power,

Singer John Cryiis is incredibly diverse; sounding by turns like Katon W. De Pena of Hirax, Bobby Blitz Ellsworth of Overkill, Geoff Tate of Queensryche and strangely Philly Byrne of Gama Bomb (check out “Evil Eye/Evil Minds”). His ultra-high moments even give King Diamond a run for his money at times.

In terms of the instrumentalists; Guitarists Juan Garcia (also of Evildead) and Kurt Kilfelt are both an absolute master of the instrument, coming up with lots of memorable lead lines and solos. Drummer Chuck Profus puts in a really solid performance behind the drum kit. The production really leans into the ride cymbal and toms (almost as if the fills were recorded separately afterwards) and makes the drumming really stand out. The bass guitar, courtesy of George Robb can unfortunately be a little inaudible on some songs (or conversely almost too audible in other songs, for example the Queen Of The Reich copyist “Guilty As Charged” has quite loud bass).  

Highlights include the speedy/thrashy “Bleed For The Gods” and the more dynamic and versatile “Children Of The Sun” which has a sort of Warning-Era Queensryche feel meets the vibe of Metal Church’s debut (a Seattle-sound if you will – but not in the flannel shirt meaning of that phrase!) and the slightly darker “144,000 Gone” which sounds like a mixture of Anvil and Iron Maiden but more depressing.  

If you like Iron Saviour or Gamma Ray’s sci-fi lyrics with Judas Priest influences this is worth checking out, or if you like the production, music and vocals on debut albums by Anthrax, Exciter or Armoured Saint this is really worth checking out. If you want something Thrashy but clean, familiar but distinct, well-produced for the time but still charming and unmistakably 80s, then this is the perfect meeting point. It also helps that its just 30 minutes with absolutely no filler, so it doesn’t get old or outstay its welcome. Don’t overlook it for too long, I can’t believe I never tried this when I was younger.

Sacred Reich – The American Way Review (2)

(I wrote this review several years ago, but noticed it was missing from the reviews menu, and it was quicker to post it again here than scroll through years of post to find the origional to fix the menu)

Sacred Reich are a brilliant thrash metal band from Phoenix, Arizona. They play groove centered breakdowns mixed with chunky speed metal segments and have an awesome singer called Phil Rind, who belongs more to the Phil Anselmo School of singing than to the Death Metal or Iron Maiden-copycat styles that were common among many non-Bay Area Thrash bands.

The American Way, is a bona fide metal classic, containing many of the band’s greatest songs, for example ‘Who’s to Blame,’ and the famous Title Track (which you may remember from the early 90’s Brendan Frasier Cave man Movie ‘California Man.’)

The American Way is possibly Sacred Reich’s career highlight; capitalizing on the success of their previous EP and signature tune ‘Surf Nicaragua,’ the band further mix Hardcore Punk and a little taste of Groove Metal into their classic Thrash sound to create the perhaps ultimate Sacred Reich album. Don’t get me wrong, its still classic Thrash, but with enough variety to make every song distinct, memorable and catchy.

This album contains everything you want from a metal album; complex drumming, speedy riffs, groovy breakdowns, flashy guitar solos and interesting lyrics. The lyrics are socially conscious and political like many of their peers, but less ham-fisted than some of the worse thrash lyricists of the time were. Topics of discussion include everything from backwards messages and politics to metal elitism.

The production is punchy and chunky, with a clarity between the instruments and overall it is generally one of the better produced albums of the era.

The remastered edition comes in a beautiful digipak, and contains raw demos of 6 of the album’s songs along with the music video for ‘The American Way.’

In summary; This is a highly recommended album to any fan of thrash metal. If you like Nuclear Assault or Anthrax in particular then you’re going to love ‘The American Way.

Sacred Reich – Still Ignorant Live 1987-1997 Review (2)

(I wrote this review several years ago, but noticed it was missing from the reviews menu, and it was quicker to post it again here than scroll through years of post to find the origional to fix the menu)

Sacred Reich deliver the goods on this live effort, with a career spanning track listing, energetic performance and a great sound. The live album, recorded before the group disbanded sounds awesome, with a really chunky guitar sound and a good mix altogether.

Vocalist Phil Rind can really perform live, and doesn’t fall short live like some other singers. Highlights include a storming rendition of ‘Who’s To Blame,’ a surprisingly bouncy version of ‘Independent,’ as well as all the classics like ‘Surf Nicaragua,’ and ‘Death Squad.’

The Crowd are mix low enough to still be heard but not ruin the sound, and the whole sound gives off a really good concert vibe, it seems like it would’ve been amazing to have been there like all the best live albums do.

The concert mixes in a few numbers from the band’s underrated final album ‘Heal,’ and the songs sound amazing and are welcome next to the classic material.

Good grooves, melodic solos, chunky riffs and a solid production. What more could you ask for ? If you like Sacred Reich you really owe it to yourself to buy this, if you’re new to the band this is a great place to start.

Sacred Reich – Heal Review

The 1990s were not kind to a lot of Thrash Metal bands. Some broke up. Some went soft or tried new styles. Some went too progressive or too extreme. Some just ran out of good ideas.

There are of course, always exceptions to every trend. Heal by Sacred Reich is one such exception. This album is an underrated gem. Now; They may have moved into a Pantera-influenced Groove Metal style for half the album, which could be off-putting to die hard Thrashers, but half the record is still aggressive speedy Thrash and the songs that aren’t are way better than you’d expect from anything in 1996 anyway.

Part of what makes it work so well is Phil Rind’s vocals are perhaps the best of his career. He really developed over the years since Ignorance. Another thing that makes it work so well are that the songs are just so damn catchy and memorable. Finally; The slower moments really help the band’s trademark political and socially aware lyrical content easier to get across. When its not constantly all 1,000mph then you get to take it on board a bit more.

As described above, its an album of two halves. Highlights from the faster stuff includes “Break Through” and “Don’t” which are punchy and energetic, and perhaps best of all the furious album closer “The Power Of The Written Word” which is perhaps the band’s most pissed off song since their debut. (Talk about going out with a bang).

Highlights from the slower stuff include the Sabbathy grooving Title Track, the memorable anti-racist “Blue Suit, Brown Shirt” and the very fun “I Don’t Care.”

Even the Oingo Boingo cover works. The only thing that doesn’t quite do it for me is “Low” which is a bit too Alice In Chains for even my tastes. People who thought that tracks like “A Question” from the previous EP or “Crawling” from the last album weren’t Thrashy enough may want to avoid that one track in particular. (Don’t let it put you off trying the whole record though).

After this album, drummer Dave McClain would go on to join Machine Head for around two decades and Sacred Reich would break up and only play intermittently over the years. (Although things have come full circle now, with the band back full steam ahead with their superb new album, Awakening, and guess who’s behind the kit?).

Although their comeback record is superb, for the last two decades this was a fine ending to the Sacred Reich story. It may not be all fast, all the time, but it is all entertaining, all the time.

Toxik – World Circus Review

Toxik’s 1987 Roadrunner Records debut, World Circus is a lot less technical or progressive than their sophomore album, Think This, and much more in keeping with a traditional Thrash sound. That being said they are rather adventurous, dynamic and technically proficient a that sound.  

Some bands sound raw, rough and nasty, but this is utter professionalism, precise and dynamic from start to finish. More for fans of Heathen than Hirax if you know what I mean. The production is clean and the playing is flashy in an effortless sounding way. I also has one of my all time favourite Thrash tunes on it. There’s some nice melodic falsetto (almost Power Metal) vocals, some very impressive virtuosic lead guitar wizardry with all sorts of fancy sweeping and trickery, and of course, oodles and oodles of speed.

Why isn’t it a bigger album then? If I had  to guess, the two biggest flaws with the album, are firstly that some of the material can be a bit forgettable after the record has stopped playing, and secondly that the opening track, “Heart Attack” is an absolutely brilliant, catchy, unbelievably fun gem and nothing on the rest of the album can live up to that level or entertainment. If someone asked me “what is Thrash Metal?” its one of the first songs I would play them. Its just a shame the rest of the record doesn’t live up to that unfairly high standard.

That being said, it is not a one hit wonder situation. Anti-drug track “Pain And Misery” has a memorable staccato opening and is one of the most rhythmic Thrash songs released before the 90s. I guess the album is probably most famous for the Title Track having a Thrash recreation of the circus theme tune (do-do, doodoo do do, doo doo) but make no mistake, this is not gimmick band. They are deadly serious, with excellent musicianship and thoughtful lyrics (Eg. “Count Your Blessings” covers the topic of homelessness and not taking what you have for granted).

I love the Ed Repka cover art too. Soooooo Thrash. This is the kinds of thing modern bands like Haydes, Municipal Waste and Havok worship.

Overall; Not the most even record in the world, but definitely worth a look for Thrash fans.

Hirax – Raging Violence Review

Half an hour of straight-ahead ass kicking, Hirax’s debut Raging Violence is certainly appropriately named. The Californian speedsters’ 1985 album is an underrated gem.

After opening with a silly Monty Python-esque spoken word intro (called ‘Demons’), the album speeds ahead with 14 slabs of snarling, rabid, nasty Thrash. Brevity is the order of the day, with most of the songs under 2 minutes and absolutely none longer than 3 and a half.

There’s a really intriguing mixture of NWOBHM sounding moments, colliding with crossover sounding moments, and a sort of intermittent red-hot streak that clearly influenced Napalm Death (who would later go on to cover the band on their Leader’s Not Followers 2 album).

Its full of brief messy shrieking guitar solos, blunt aggressive drumming and singer Katon W. De Pena’s trademark vocals, that sound a bit like Overkill’s Bobby Blitz Ellsworth being squeezed too hard.

Sometimes they sound a bit like Pleasure To Kill-era Kreator, such as on the furious “Bombs Of Death,” sometimes they have a bit of Holy Terror’s runaway train barely-in-time charm, such as on  “Warlord’s Command,” sometimes, such as on the one minute long “Destroy” they would channel Nuclear Assault. Sometimes they would even foreshadow where Dark Angel would go (only without all the changes and technicality).

The production job is a bit low-budget sounding; but considering this was still only 1985, it was still in the opening days of the Thrash movement, before bands were making real money and getting the big name producers. Not that it needs a bigger production; this isn’t a sweeping progressive epic, it’s a punky blast of naked aggression designed to blow the cobwebs off the listener.

Some minor points of interest: The band’s logo was designed by Celtic Frost’s Tom G. Warior. Future Metallica Merch Maestro Pushhead designed the odd psychedelic humpty dumpty artwork. It was released on Metal Blade.

In summary; its raw, is rough, its over in a flash but it’ll kick your teeth out. This is a record worth checking out.  Their next album was half as long and twice as fast again.

Acid Reign – Obnoxious Review

UK thrashers Acid Reign aren’t the biggest band or the most cult-classic band in their scene. But after you get past Onlaught, Xentrix and Sabbat they are one of the first names that come to mind. They perhaps best known for their initial EP and debut album Moshkinstein and The Fear. Their initial run also featured some singles and compilations, but the most substantial thing for Thrash fans to check out after the two aforementioned releases would be their 1990 sophomore studio album, Obnoxious.

This pink-covered record is very much a continuation and refinement of the style established on the debut. It is no radical departure, bold evolution, or ‘90s Groove experiment. The songs are mostly on the longer side; but not necessarily progressive, like a lot of 1988-1992 Thrash had become (bar one or two songs). This is just heads down, straight ahead, no-nonsense Thrash through and through.

Well, I say no-nonsense, more like almost-no nonsense. The final track; the ironically titled “This Is Serious,” is a joke track, which is actual nonsense (but on purpose).

This isn’t the sort of album to pick up if you are brand new to Metal or even Thrash, but if you just can’t get enough and want to explore more. The bass tone on the album reminds me of Anthrax, the vocals remind me a bit of D.R.I and the guitar reminds me a tiny bit like a slower version of Hirax. It’s a nice combination. The song writing isn’t breath-taking and won’t knock the likes of Forbidden Evil or Fabulous Disaster from the top stops in my favourite Thrash albums, but it is solid and professional.

Highlights include “Thoughtful Sleep” which has a nice acoustic guitar intro with electric lead, as well as the more direct “My Open Mind” and the dynamic opener “Creative Restraint.”

Overall; not earth-shattering but it’s a solidly produced and performed effort of decent material that is well worth your time if you’re into this sort of thing.

Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror EP Review

Bring Me The Horizon have had an interesting career. They started off as a very uncommercial, noisy, sloppy Deathcore band with screams, screeches and murderous lyrics. People covering that sort of music at the time basically laughed them out of the room though. It wasn’t pretty.

Then they evolved into one of the best British Metalcore bands in the scene for several years, releasing well crafted and memorable albums like Suicide Season, There Is A Hell’ and Sempiternal. Their audiences got bigger and bigger, but so did the backlash, the internet and magazines were awash with anti-BMTH sentiment. All the negativity, critical bashing and internet comment-section abuse eventually alienated the band from the Metal community, and they seemed to decided if they’re going to be called sell-outs or “not metal” anyway, they may as well go with it and seek a more mainstream radio audience.

Their next two albums, That’s The Spirit and Amo were much more commercial, pop-music-infused, modern, melodic, and autotuned. It definitely turned off some of their early audience, but it gained them a whole new audience and mainstream approval, allowing them to go on TV shows Metal fans scoff at, play festivals Metal fans scoff at, get play on radio stations Metal bands can only dream of and get covered in magazines Metal fans scoff at (or in reality allow them not to have to speak to Metal Journalists who rudely dismiss them and focus on more mainstream publications. Some fans call this selling-out too, but if I got that much abuse from the Metal community, I’d do the same thing!).  

Even if the music slowly moved away from what I liked about the band on their 2nd and 3rd albums, they always put out great sounding and interesting albums that were objectively quite good and I’ve enjoyed their musical evolution.

Their last release, last year’s Music To Listen To‘ EP was their bigest departure yet; an experimental, chill out affair and not really what I’d consider a canonical release. Now in late 2020, they’ve released another EP, but this time of proper Rock/Metal songs. Its 9 tracks and about half an hour long, but it does feel like a canonical release and you can imagine these songs being included in future live sets and best-ofs unlike material from the previous EP.

Some of the tracks have been released already, such as ‘Parasite Eve’ and ‘Ludens’ on various soundtracks, and ‘Obey’ (featuring a colab with the singer Yungblud) was dropped as a single earlier this year, with a music video reminiscent of ‘Intergalactic’ by The Beastie Boys. All these (at the time) non-album singles were fairly well received and got people’s hopes up that the band were “going heavy again” as there was a lot more guitar and bigger grooves than the last two albums, and got several lapsed fans excited for the next effort.   

Post Human: Surival Horror opens strongly with the heaviest song in years. It would have been a good bridge between Sempiternal and That’s The Spirit. That’s not to say the whole EP is a return to old formulas. There’s still a lot of the pop/electronic focus of the last few albums, there’s vocal lines that would’ve never fit on older albums, but it does have a crunch and bounce that was in short supply on Amo. In fact that had a song called “Heavy Metal” basically calling out Metal fans for all the comment-section hate.

On the other side of the coin; the collaboration with Babymetal ‘Kingslayer’ is a colourful neon explosion that sounds exactly like what you’d imagine when you hear “BMTH collaboration with Babymetal 2020.” That’s also preceded by one and a half minute intro of the same nature. New single (is it the lead single when they released the other 3 singles separately before the EP was even announced?) ‘Teardrops’ is a nice melodic modern radio-rock single and the natural evolution of what they’ve been doing on the last two albums.

There’s also 1×1 which is a very faithful recreation of the style of Linkin Park’s first two albums. The band have never made any secret of their appreciation for Nu Metal’s biggest selling band, but this is their most influence-on-sleeve track to date.  The EP closes with the annoyingly titled “One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death” which is a slow electronic half-ballad, with a guest appearance from Evanescence’s Amy Lee, that will suit fans of material like “And The Snakes Start To Sing” or “Memorial” from previous efforts.

Overall, stylistically this EP is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s no easy tag. Its not the band going heavy again. Its not their poppiest album to date. It is a mish mash of their past 3 records, plus new ideas, and multiple collaborations as usual. You’ll probably never find an objective review of this highly controversial and much discussed band, but throwing my biased two cents in, I think this is a worthwhile EP and fans of the band who haven’t jumped ship yet have nothing to fear, fans of the band who’ve only been here a short time have nothing to fear, save maybe the opener. All in all, I think they’re going for a best-of-both-world’s thing here and they’ve almost nailed it. If they ever release a new full-length album (which is uncertain as they’ve talked about giving up on that format in today’s modern Spotify world) then I imagine further practice at this compromise will yield even better results and hopefully their most well rounded album in years.

Metal Church – S/T Review

The year is 1984, the place is Seattle, the producer is Terry Date and the label is Ground Zero (later reissued on Elektra at Metallica frontman James Hetfield’s insistence). Five young intrepid musicians make a unique and distinctive spin on the various Heavy Metal styles of the time.

Not quite the Thrashiest album, not quite the proto-prog developing with the likes of fellow Seattle band Queensryche at the time, not quite US-Power Metal either – this is one heavy metal album that defies categorisation, and is all the better for it.

Compared to some of the band’s following albums; the sound is a bit primitive and direct, not their most musically accomplished or adventurous work, but all the key ingredients are in place – the speed, the power, the melody, the mood, the atmosphere. The record doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it leaves a very good impression. Sure, the production is a bit reverby and the lyrics aren’t as clever as later releases, but its full of charm and that counts for a lot. The iconic artwork completes the package perfectly.

The late David Wayne isn’t my personal favourite Metal Church singer to date, but he’s got the attitude and suits the material.  

There are some great balls out speed metal moments, like “Hitman” and the Cold War-themed “Battalions.” There are some stompy, attitude-filled gems like “Beyond The Black” and the title-track. There’s also a brief instrumental in “Merciless Onslaught” and even a decent Deep Purple cover (“Highway Star”).

Metal Church is a fine debut from a fine band. Highly recommended to anyone who likes 1980’s Heavy Metal of any variety.

2020 Buying / Gift / Life Round Up:

I am a bit sad I missed out on the Helloween, WASP & Rammstein concerts I had booked, but I’ll live. Its still been a good year for music. I don’t have much to add to the internet noise about this year in terms of news/health/politics. Work has obviously gone crazy this year and free time is limited due to the bundle of joy, so there hasn’t been as much blogging as usual this year. I’ve just spent most of it head down working and parenting, with a killer soundtrack. I’ve decided today while I have some downtime to condense all the blogging I probably WOULD HAVE done into one digest. The following is a round up of what I’ve been buying/gifted/generally listening to since last Xmas:

Def LeppardPyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, Retro-active, Slang, Euphoria. – I’ve had the band’s heavier first two albums for years, and got Pyromania and Hysteria for Christmas 2019. I’ve been really getting into the since then, getting Adrenalize for my birthday and expanding to the other albums slowly since then. I have to say I’ve enjoyed them all so far. Maybe too many ballads, but the same can be said of lots of bands I love, like Helloween.

SepulturaQuadra, Machine Messiah & A-Lex.  – You only need to check out my reviews to know how much I’ve been gushing about the band’s recent output. I was really taken aback by how much the band have improved, evolved and hit-it-out-of-the-park in recent years. Its surprising they’ve taken such a proggy turn in recent years, but its great they haven’t forgotten to Thrash out and groove when needed.

Death AngelHumanicide, The Dream Calls For Blood – Well after that amazing Covid infested concert back at the start of the year, I couldn’t NOT buy more Death Angel, could I?

TestamentRitual, Low, Demonic, The Gathering, Titans Of Creation – Headliners of aforementioned concert; their first 4 albums have been staples of my listening since I was old enough to need to shave, and I’ve been lapping up new releases since I was old enough to vote, but I’d been sleeping on the intervening period and it was time to fill in the gaps. I already knew ritual back to front from borrowing, but its nice to finally own my own copy thanks to a gift from my brother, and I then looked into the less popular post-grunge years which I’d not given a chance before, turns out there’s a lot of good material there too! …and of course I had to pick up the new album when it dropped. (Which slays as usual, they haven’t made a bad one since I’ve been a fan)

Exodus Force Of Habit. – The best band at aforementioned concert, I already owned basically all their output so there wasn’t much left to get. I bought myself Force Of Habit one day this Summer and was surprised that it was a lot better than its reputation.

Power TripNightmare Logic. – Speaking of Thrash albums not from the 80s…  I had been planning to buy this album for ages as my favourite podcast gives it such warm praise on a very regular basis, and they were going to be supporting Kreator when they toured near me, but when their singer passed away I figured its time to pull my thumb out and stop waiting. I figure you’ve probably read enough praise of it already recently that I won’t add my voice to the echo chamber, except to say, if like me you were looking forward to that Kreator tour, then pick yourself up a copy of this if you haven’t already.

RiversideOut Of Myself, Love Fear & The Time Machine, Eye Of The Soundscape, Wasteland. – I’ve had these Polish progster’s 2nd-5th albums (and several EPs) for years, and decided recently it was time to fill out the missing albums in my collection. Turns out they have never made a bad record. Utterly fantastic band.

Haken – Visions, Affinity, L1ve. – My bestie set me up with the British equivalent of Riverside’s Live DVD for my birthday and I then expanded to some studio albums off the back of that. They’re a lot more eclectic than some prog bands, coming across as a mixture between Anathema, Distorted Harmony and Dream Thetater but with strange diversions into 80s pop and Gentle Giant worship. I’ll need to listen a lot more until I full absorb it, but I’m positive on it so far.

OpethHeritage, Pale Communion, Sorceress, In Cauda Veennum. – I’ve been trying on and off for about a decade to get into this band. You may remember some of my posts from years ago about it. I’ve definitely gone full tilt on them in the last year and a half.  I can’t remember exactly when I started buying them up and if it counts for 2020, but I’ll include half the albums I bought in here just in case.

Hammer FallCrimson Thunder, Threshold. – Another example of fleshing out an existing collection. You know I like Hammerfall if you read my reviews. These are some key albums I was missing. Surprising really, I didn’t own the one with “Hearts On Fire” on it? Well, mistake rectified now.  

Iced EarthBurnt Offerings, Plague Of Babylon, Incorruptible. – I was looking at my patch jacket one day, and was wondering if all the bands featured on there were still worthy of inclusion, and I noticed that I hadn’t been keeping up enough with Iced Earth in recent years, and hadn’t gone back enough. My collection started with a gift of their seminal Something Wicked album many years ago, but I never had their first album with the classic line up, and hadn’t been picking up the new releases since then. Time to expand my collection.

Cannibal CorpseThe Bleeding. – Speaking of patch jacket guilt purchases, I have had most of Cannibal Corpses output for a while yet, I stopped collecting the newest albums after a few years, but I still like the band and feel fondly of them. I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to first-four albums by Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary & Death and I felt weird that I had never got a copy of Cannibal Corpse’s fourth album. Now when doing a first four DM playlist, The Bleeding isn’t missing.

Orange Fucking Goblin BabyRough Read Live & Loud, The Wolf Bites Back, Back From The Abyss, A Eulogy For The Damned, Healing Through Fire, Thieving From The House Of God, Coup De Grace. –  I saw them live with Down once many years ago and was lukewarm on them, but I caught them live with Corrosion Of Conformity about 1.5-2 years ago and was totally captivated and converted. I’ve been working my way back through there catalogue at each Birthday/Christmas since. Not discovered a bad record yet. They’re like 90s Clutch without the humour, mixed with a sweaty Motorhead vibe.

Ozzy OsbourneOrdinary Man, Live & Loud. – Ozzy’s new album does not live up to the hype, but is better than you would expect too (if that makes sense). I also figured that only owning the Randy Rhodes era live album wasn’t enough for me and wanted to try out one with material from No More Tears & No Rest For The Wicked on it, and hey, if its got a live version of the songs “Bark At The Moon” and “Shot In The Dark” on it, well all the better for me to relive that surprisingly good performance at Download Festival 2018 that reminded me why I like Ozzy so much. I also like how differently Zakk plays the older songs from Randy, making it worth owning two different albums. I mean Randy is obviously better, I’m not an animal, but its nice to hear his tunes reinterpreted rather than just badly imitated.

Motorhead Aftershock, Motorizer, Overnight Sensation, No Sleep At All – Speaking of Lemmy and the boys. Well, you can never have too much motorhead, can you? One day I’ll have it all. Just slowly building up my collection, having time to absorb it. I was looking through my old concert tickets, and I’m still gutted that Motorhead concert I was going to see in Manchester got cancelled, and then they never came back before Lemmy passed. I did luckily get to see Phil Campbell and Fast Eddie Clarke play motorhead songs live at solo gigs, but never the real deal.

Type O NegativeThe Roadrunner Years Boxset. – I’ve also spent a lot of this weird depressing unpredictable year listening to Pete Steel and co’s weird, depressing, unpredictable music. The band can go from 70s Black Sabbath doom, to 80’s New Wave romanticism, to 60s Psychedelia and snotty late 80s hardcore punk irreverence and back within the same album (and sometimes the same song!). A truly unique band. I don’t love everything they do, but when they do line up with my tastes, its truly magical. When you have a bad day, its quite fun to just turn up “Life Is Killing Me” and pretend to be driving a garbage truck around New York with a dead pet as your co-pilot, letting the misery wash over you. Your day can’t be that bad if the music is this good and you haven’t lost your marbles like Pete.

Danzig – 1-4 and the Thrall EP. – Speaking of unique bands, I don’t know why I had never heard Danzig before, I remember reading about them in Marilyn Manson’s biography, and seeing their logo and artwork a lot, but I had never heard a second of their music until last year. Once I got that debut as a gift, I knew I needed more. Some kind of bizarre, Elvis/Jim Morrison crooning with punky ethos, and stoner rock-esque 70s-worship with 90s production. “Tired Of Being Alive” sounds like Heart’s “Sing Child” through a Kyuss filter, then add in the one and only Glenn Danzig’s incomparable vocal style and you have a pretty interesting rock album. The only problem I’ve encountered so far is that the song “Sadistikill” on the fourth album is intolerably boring (and that’s coming from a prog fan) but the majority of what I’ve heard to far has been great.

The MisfitsThe Static Age, Walk Among Us, Earth AD/Wolfsblood. – After reading a metallica biography, getting into Danzig, and checking out HMO’s reviews, I thought I’d dip my toe in the Misfit’s waters too. They have some real killer songs, it’s a shame I knew so many already from covers from the likes of Metallica, Volbeat, Orange Goblin, Cradle Of Filth and more, as I like the cover’s better for most of them. Its awesome when you find one that hasn’t been covered that you like and can just revel in the glory without prior knowledge. “All Hell Breaks Loose” and “Texas Is The Reason” are highlights so far. I have a lot of 80s Hardcore Punk and borderline/debatable Hardcore Punk albums, and rarely are any such bands as catchy as the Misfits.

Man, I didn’t realise how much music I’d been consuming this year until I started this blog. I don’t have all day here! In terms of 80s thrash: I’ve picked up several missing pieces from my collection. More output from Sodom, Destruction, Xentrix, Atrophy, Sacred Reich & DRI.  I’ve also gotten into Hirax, Coroner, Exhumer, Whiplash & Acid Reign. Not quite thrash, but I’ve expanded my Armored Saint collection too. They can deliver.

In terms of new releases: I’ve also picked up Parkway Drive’s live album, Trivium’s newest album, Lamb Of God’s newest album, Protest The Hero’s newest album & Five Finger Death Punch’s new album. I also got King Diamond’s latest live dvd.  But of course I’ve reviewed them in detail recently already. You can see what I think of those by clicking on the links or scrolling down.

Most surprising of all though, is Creeper’s new album, which has gone from absolute hatred/disappointment to one of my most listened-to albums of the year. I put that think on almost every work day lunch, and I listened to it every single day in the first month and a half after its release. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but damn did I end up entertained by it.  Luckily for me, their singer has been busy recently, and made a side-project called Salem basically putting out what I did expect from Creeper. The first single ‘Destroy Me’ is a catchy, energetic blast of pop-punky fun and the debut EP is just about to drop in a few days. I’m looking forward to more of the same hopefully.

On a personal level its been a weird year. If anyone knows me personally, I work in a job I can’t talk about because of various social media policies, but suffice to say I spent most of the last decade sticking tablets, tube and needles in various sick people’s mouths, veins and other body cavities. If this epidemic had happened a bit earlier it would’ve been me on the frontline. Recently, to accommodate for having a child I’ve moved to a cushy computer based job. Now I’m basically caught in a vortex of survivor’s guilt and parental protectiveness and don’t know whether to stick or twist career wise. Its come at the same time as an expensive relocation, which makes it even more difficult to know what to do. Wasn’t it great in February when all you had to worry about was whether you could get enough time off work to see Sepultura live so close to the other concerts you had booked?

Due to the planned house move, I’ve made some very non-me decisions regarding music. I’ve first of all sold off a lot of my collection. Secondly, of the things I’m keeping, I have been recycling the boxes and just keeping the booklets and discs in storage boxes, and the same with concert DVDs into DVD wallets. My music collection once took up a whole man cave, but could soon fit into the corner of a home office. Not something I would have contemplated as a teenager, but times change. I’ve also decided to mainly buy digital from now on, unless it isn’t available digitally (Why does no one sell mp3s of Motorhead’s Bastards album? Its got “Born To Raise Hell” on it for goodness sake!). I’ve been a staunch cd dinosaur and defender for years, but its getting to the point I could build a house out of them, and with the move, the baby and the pandemic, I finally have the mental window of opportunity to let go (or partially let go, as the case may be). I’ve also been using Spotify a lot more this year. I’ve adopted a bit of a try-before-you-buy approach to albums I’m 50/50 on getting. I wouldn’t go full streaming as the artists don’t get paid enough and there’s no sense of curatorship and collection, but using it as a research tool is a new development for me.

That’s a lot of new music this year. I’ve also had to make a lot of time to listen to some of my favourite bands, like C.O.C, Slipknot, Queensryche, Helloween, Pantera, Machine Head and I’ve also been taking out time to listen to ’70s prog bands in the morning with breakfast. Its important not to forget the stuff you already like.

What’s planned next music wise? Probably mop up more albums by bands like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and ZZ Top that I’ve been concentrating on last year, and collect more missing prog and thrash albums that I haven’t gotten around to. Often I just get the first 4-5 albums (or failing that specific eras; like in the case of Black Sabbath – I only have Ozzy, Dio and Gillian albums, but none with other singers), but I may round out some of the smaller collections a bit more going forward.

As well as music, I’ve also been getting my way through lots of band / musician’s audiobook biographies and good old fashion paperbacks. Rick Wakeman’s is quite funny. Rob Halford’s is illuminating due to the LGBT rights angles. KK Downing’s is great for your basic band story. A few fictional books too. See, I can do some things that aren’t music (not very many, but it does happen from time to time). I have a bit of a book backlogue, but I’ll soon be coming up to Rock And Roll Children, by WordPress’s own 80s Metal Man, very much looking forward to that as well.

That’s my mind dump for the moment. Have a good weekend, readers!