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.

Sepultura – Quadra Review

I have been meaning to review this album for weeks now. However, I feel rather unqualified to write about it. Sometimes I feel kind of unqualified to listen to it. My good friend said of it, that it was intimidatingly good. I completely agree.

Now, Sepultura are such a weird band in Metal’s history, and mine. Their earliest material was influential to the development of Death Metal, what followed that was some very beloved Thrash Metal that you’ll find in any good list of best Thrash albums. Personally; I initially didn’t know about any of that (‘Old School Seps’) stuff though, for a few years at least, as although I knew about the Brazilian band and occasionally heard music from Sepultura in the background from before I even became a metal fan*, I always associate the band with Groove Metal albums with Max Cavelera… specifically Chaos AD and Roots. About 2-3 years into being a metal fan, it was a surprise when I found out about their faster, heavier, rawer past.

(*My cousin was a huge fan in the early ‘90s and my older brother rented a cassette tape of Roots in the mid-‘90s and kept it so long we eventually had to pay huge late fees as it was kept for nearly a year, when I was just a preteen. I knew the name Sepultura before I knew the name Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, just due to family coincidence).

Then of course, the band lost their frontman, in a horrible bitter situation best read about in the ex-singer’s My Bloody Roots biography (I got it for Christmas this year, well worth a read!), and hired replacement singer Derick Green. Ever since, legions of fans have been turning up their noses at new Sepultura albums with a verve normally saved for Bailey-era Maiden or Ripper-era Priest, but with a duration equivalent only to Derris-era Helloween.

Every so often, I’d see someone who really liked a Green-era Sepultura album, or an album like Dante XXI get a positive review in a magazine, but on the whole, the vast majority of the public seem to have decided that the band was over when Max left. Me included until about 3-4 years ago, when I bought their Live In Sao Paulo DVD on a friend’s recommendation and slowly started collecting the studio albums with Derick (I’m only missing two now, which I would have got recently if not for the coronavirus situation at time of writing).

When I started collecting Green-era albums, I felt almost like a bit of a weirdo collecting them though, as despite my one good friend’s fandom, I almost fear I am wasting my money on albums so ignored and dismissed by the public. 90% of the time if I read something about Sepultura it was about how great the olden days were, or about how unloved the latter days are.

Then something interesting happened.  In 2017, Sepultura released Machine Messiah, and it seemed like every review, blog, facebook comment and stray discussion was positive. Not just ‘good for a modern Sepultura album’ but full on, unqualified praise. Good, period. Sepultura, the band who could do no right in the public’s eye, had released an album everyone if not liked, then at least agreed was good. Maybe it was the Dream Theater influenced ‘Iceberg Dances’ that swung the pendulum of public credibility? Who knows. The bottom line was Sepultura were praised again (rightly so, that album is a banger, come back for a review of it too in the future).

I don’t know if aforementioned praise has revitalised their confidence, or they just landed upon the perfect line-up and got better with each album featuring that line-up, or indeed if its just inexplicable lightning in a bottle no one could predict… but 2020’s Quadra is a masterpiece. Its not ‘good for a modern Sepultura album’ its more like ‘possibly the best Sepultura album.’ This is undeniable album-of-the-year material, but more than that. You know when you hear an album, and you just know its special. Crack The Skye? The Blackening? Endgame? Sometimes you just get that ‘I’m hearing something special’ feeling, you know it’s a classic even before time has passed.

Its damn tempting to say the secret to this album’s success is drummer Eloy Casagrande. The man is quite possibly the best drummer in the genre right now. He throws in latin and world music beats sure, it is Sepultura after all; but he can also Thrash like Dave Lombardo, prog out like Thomas Pridgen and bounce like John Otto. Just listen to drum-centric ‘Raging Void’ and then all out Thrasher ‘Isolation’ one after the other to see what I mean. The man is amazing.  

Another thing that its tempting to attribute the albums startling quality to, is the bells and whistles. Its almost like a Fleshgod Apocalypse album at times with the God-Of-War style hell-choirs and apocalyptic sounds, guest female vocals and dynamic production job. The album sounds gigantic. It sounds like an actual giant. Just listen to album closer ‘Fear, Pain, Chaos Suffering’ to see what I mean. It sounds like a videogame boss-fight where the player faces off against a giant/titan/colossus/take your pick of huge thing.

For a while, I also thought the secret to this album was the lead guitar. OK, I like Andreas Kisser, and for the past few years I particularly liked his rhythm work on tracks like ‘Choke’ and ‘Sepulnation’ …but I’d never consider him an amazing guitarist.  Over the years however, he has clearly been listening to a lot of prog metal and become a crazily good lead player. Some of the guitar solos and leads on this record are fantastic. So unique, so interesting, so invigorating. Just check out the instrumental ‘The Pentagram’ or the track which follows it ‘Auetem’ for solid guitar gold.

All those factors certainly contribute to what elevate this album to that ‘special’ place, but I guess the main factor is simply the song-writing and the flow. Every song is needed. Every song contributes something new, but works well against the previous material. There’s no filler, but there’s no repetition either. It strikes a hell of a balance.

Furthermore; Where some other Sepultura albums like Nation or Kairos are jumbled and too varied for their own good, and others like Roots and Against are bloated and in need of an editor, this album just feels like one perfect, consistent, cohesive, singular journey. Wikipedia states it is structured in four parts, to represent the four classical arts, but it really flows like one story from beginning to end. It starts out fast and mean as hell, turns groovy, gets varied then turns prog. Sort of a summary of their career over the course of one record.

Overall; this is one hell of an album. A monster against which all their future efforts will be judged. An amazing sequel to the lauded Machine Messiah and a new standard for quality for aging bands in general. If you had told me in 2005 that Sepultura would release an album this brilliant this late in the game, then I’d have been very sceptical, but I’ll be damned it seems they’ve only gone and released arguably one of the best albums in their whole career

(Ps. For context; as above, this is coming from someone who spent the better part of the last 20 years thinking this band essentially began and ended with Chaos AD and the first half of Roots, so you can trust this is not just blind fanboy devotion).

Kingcrimsonprog’s Albums Of The Year 2015

I’ve said it a lot this year, but its been a very good year for music to my tastes!

1. Parkway Drive – Ire

What an album! Crushing beatdowns, catchy fun memorable sing-alongs, twin guitar widdly joy, it’s a surprising and bold move from a band who already perfected their formula, but now seem somehow even better. I didn’t even fully expect it to be my AOTY but it just grew on me and grew on me and grew on me. Monumental!

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘Tell me motherfucker how the hell do you sleep at night’ as well as ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and ‘…and we all go to heaven in a little row boat.’

2. Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit

Chocked full of catchy and memorable moments that I’ll remember for years, this album sees the band further distance themselves from the past but in an organic and logical way. This thing just sticks in your head. Its masterful.
Its surprising how well Ollie can sing nowadays. Also, I don’t care if they’re childish, the lyrics to ‘Throne’ are awesome.

Highlight moments: The whole of the songs ‘Doomed’ and ‘Throne.’

3. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

“Oh… I hope Clutch stay focused after Earth Rocker” I found myself thinking…. ‘av some of that Psychic Warfare replied as it slapped me in the chops with exactly what I wanted. Razor sharp, not a wasted second, just as good as always but never-been-tighter focused, Psychic Warfare is the right move at the right time and I hope it pays off for the band like the last one did.

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘It goes against my catholic upbringing, I admit it…’

 

4. Fear Factory – Genexus

Their best, most exciting release in years. The very opposite of bland; Genexus just gets everything right and perfectly blends everything the band do, creating a real career highlight, possibly their second or third best ever!

Highlight moments: The first few seconds of ‘Soul Hacker’ smashing you in the face.

 

5. Tesseract – Polaris
I was always going to be harsh on this because I loved their previous singer Ashe O’Harra so much, and because Altered State is a genuine masterpiece and in my eyes one of the best albums of the last decade. Even with the weight of those unreasonable expectations Tesseract still managed to make an album this good. That’s talent!

Highlight moment: The chorus to ‘Hexes.’

 

6. Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

Is it just me or is the guitar to the verse in ‘Island’ straight off of Permission To Land? What’s all that about? Anyway…dropping the sci-fi doesn’t seem to have harmed the band one bit… As usual, if Coheed release an album its one of the best albums anyone released that year.

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘Where’s My Life-saver When I’m Screaming Danger’ and the drums to ‘The Audience’ as well as the lyric ‘And if there’s one good thing that comes from my away it’s that you won’t be anything like me, and so better for it you will be’ and the music to the intro of ‘You’ve Got Spirit, Kid.’

7. Queensryche – Condition Human

Was Toddryche’s debut a fluke? Was it fuck!

Highlight moment: ‘The Arrow Of Time’ in its entirety, the guitar solo In ‘Bulletproof’ and the ending to the title-track.

 

 

8. Baroness – Purple

Maybe not as earth-shattering and game changing as its predecessor Yellow&Green (and how could it be, reasonably?), but Baroness’ attempt to create a better version of Mastodon’s Once More Round The Sun is a damn strong album, those Lizzy-esque guitars make me weak at the knees!

Its maybe a bit unfairly placed seeing as how recent it was, so I’ve not listened to it anywhere near as much as the others on the list, but I was always disappointed that Mudvayne’s self titled album missed many AOTY lists due to its late-in-the-year release, so I won’t let that happen here.

Highlight moment: The entire song ‘If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?)’ in every way.

 

9. Helloween – My God Given Right

Its arguably just another Helloween album… so in my eyes that means its an absolute gem! All Hail the pumpkins, as they say in Germany (I assume).

This makes up for their previous album missing out on my AOTY list when I got it too late.

Highlight moment: Deris’ vocal performance on ‘If God Loves Rock N Roll’

 


10. Periphery – Juggernaut Alpha

I still don’t feel like I’ve fully gotten into this album, plummed all its depths, or really had it click with me yet, but the fact that its still here shows you how good it is. I haven’t researched the concept behind it, or seen songs live and both of those things always make me like an album more so you definitely haven’t heard the last from me on this! This, this weird jazzy, proggy, deathy, emoey, unpredictable melting pot. What, me wearing a Periphery t-shirt to work regularly… never! (shifty eyes).

Highlight moments: The music and vocal delivery of the parts ‘As the water beats upon the window turn the sad song up on the radio” and “Fuck me I am dying for sleep!”

I couldn’t fit some interesting records like F5DP and Lamb Of God’s newest efforts (or Periphery’s other album from this year, two-album-releasing blaggards!), and I haven’t even heard some pretty important ones like Maiden, Saxon and Faith No More’s latest so its not maybe what the average listener’s Top 10 may be… but this is my blog and I’m me, so you didn’t come here to ask what I thought other people’s top 10 might be (presumably).

Also, I thought my number 1 would be Rishloo’s latest but they changed the official release date to its early pre-release date of December 2014 so it didn’t technically come out this year. I was torn over whether to include it anyway or not. So, I’ll retroactively name it my number 1 of last year, because …that sort of thing totally matters to anyone, obviously.

What surprised me was that The Libertines and The Fratellis both had new albums and neither made my Top 10. The Libertines are one of my favourite ever bands and I was an absolute obsessive at one point on all the forums and fansites listening to every single demo, scratch track and live bootleg ever, I’ve been a member of bands that cover their songs, I’ve had a poster of theirs on my wall for years (until this year when I finally moved into my I’m-an-adult apartment with my partner, as a matter of fact) but yeah, this new album didn’t make the top… guess the rest of the years releases were just too good. You’re ok, Anthems Of The Doomed Youth, but you aint no Psychic Warfare! …The Fratellis is trickier, as I think I’ve listened to it more than most of my Top 10, and I think really it might have a good claim to edge Periphery out but the choruses of its two best songs are soooo good they elevate the album as a whole crazily high. Still… ‘(Imposters) Little By Little’ is a song that I’ll never grow tired of. Such a difficult choice.

Top 10s of the year are just top 10s of new releases though….and I didn’t just spend the year listening to new releases…. My actual yearly top 10 would have Stairway To Fairyland, Shout At The Devil, Out Of The Cellar & Detonator, Smash, and several other non-2015 releases in it. I mean, I spent almost the entire spring and summer listening to Slipknot’s newest album almost every day on the way to work.

Hey but at least I’m not broke and can afford some new releases, last year I was so broke I only bought about four new releases and couldn’t make a top 10 list. Anyway, for further reading see my previous year end articles:

2014
2013
2012
2011