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.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 34 – More Little Thoughts

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?