Metal-Nerd Blog 2020 Round UP and AOTY list, part 2:

I know, I know, it is probably two weeks too early, but I’m in the middle of moving home and working 65 hours a week on top of that, so may as well get it in while I have the chance. It’s the tenth year of this blog, and I’d hate to miss out on what is now a yearly tradition.

Last week in part 1, I wrote a round-up of what I’d been buying and listening to this year, and links to reviews of the concerts I had been to prior to lockdown.

Next up;

Here are my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months according to LastFM:

Quite a mix there; Classic Metal, Classic Rock, Metalcore, Thrash, Prog, Hair, Power, Groove, Death, even a bit of indie. Old favourites, new discoveries. Nicely balanced, didn’t even mean to.

And finally; since it is December now, here is the Metal-Nerd Blog Album Of The Year List, 2020:

Honourable Mention: Salem – S/T EP. – Creeper went from being a fun pop-punk band with some Halloweeny lyrics to a ‘90s Britrock band tapping into older American sounds. Afterwards, their singer has a side project basically making a fun pop-punk band with Halloweeny lyrics. Highly recommended to fans of early Creeper (or Alkaline Trio).

10. BMTH – Post Human Survival Horror – Review here.

09. Five Finger Death Punch – F8 – Review here.

08. Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic – Review here.

07. Creeper – Sex, Death & The Infinite Void – Review here.

06. Haken – Virus  – (Rhymes with Bacon, not Kraken) British prog metal wizards release a captivating sequel to their previous album and continue to escape comparisons to other bands and forge their own identity. Might have even been higher, but I came to it late and haven’t even fully unpacked all its hidden glories yet.

05. Lamb Of God – S/T – Review here.

04. Testament – Titans Of Creation – Review here.

03. Protest The Hero – Palimpsest – Review here.

02. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say – Review here.

01. Sepultura – Quadra – Review here.

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!

Lamb Of God – Lamb Of God (Self-Titled) Album Review

I went into this album with sort of low expectations. I was a bit late to the Lamb Of God party, but when I did join, I fell hard. The first new album that came out after I was a fan was Wrath, which was utterly amazing, and the first time I saw them live it was basically the cure to a lengthy bummer after a bad break up. I am really fond of the band ever since.

That being said, their previous album, 2015’s VII: Strum Und Drang and the following EP The Duke howeverby comparison were relatively underwhelming (not bad, just not up to the usual standard), and the last time I saw them live, in between Anthrax and Slayer, it wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting. Add to that the fact that my favourite band member has always been drummer Chris Adler and this is their first album without him, well, I was a bit worried that the band might be on a downwards trend and basically wasn’t expecting anything more than just two or three good songs.

Luckily, going in with lowered expectations has lead me to being pleasantly surprised. This is a fine album, even Kirk Hammett & Scott Ian have taken to social media to say so. This is certainly no disappointment of an album. In fact it is the band very much righting the ship, getting back to the quality we’ve come to expect.

I think the success of this record is that it doesn’t mess about and it knows exactly what it wants to be; there are no intros, no experiments, no filler, just 10 medium length songs that sound like Lamb Of God, and crucially, do that well.

Perhaps they’ve been relatively re-energised by the injection of new blood. New drummer Art Cruz really fits the band well in a way you couldn’t expect if you’ve been loving Chris Adler all these years, he does the impossible by both replicating Adler’s style closely at times and also finding a style of his own the rest of the time. (Kind of like Jay Weinberg managed on the new Slipknot album).

The other talking point on this album is the guest appearances. Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta and Testament’s Chuck Billy both make an appearance on a track each. This is nothing new for the band, who have had appearances from the likes of Megadeth’s Chris Poland, Deftones’ Chino Moreno and Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin and multi-project artist Devin Townsend, among others over the years. The Chuck Billy performance works really well here, showcasing his more melodic voice to make a kind of hypnotic verse.

Highlights include opener ‘Memento Mori,’ mid-paced but catchy ‘New Colossal Hate’ and the surprisingly melodic and mainstream ‘Bloodshot Eyes.’

Overall; this is a strong album from Lamb Of God that sees the band getting back from ‘good’ and heading towards ‘very good’ and shows immense promise for the future. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was all the way back already and get your hopes up too high, its not quite as good as Palaces or Sacrament for example, but its definitely a strong effort.