Five Finger Death Punch – F8 Review

Five Flavour Fruit Punch, Five Finger Butt Plug, Nickleback For Juggalos; call them what you want, but I am an absolute mark for Las Vegas’ biggest Metal band, Five Finger Death Punch, and their Melodic chorus/Pantera-verses/Blunt-ignorance formula. It just always hits the spot somehow.

That being said; two out of their last three albums have been weaker than their usual standard, and a lot of high profile intoxication, protracted label legal issues, loss of a key member and an on-stage meltdown plastered all over the media have somewhat tainted the band’s rising-star vibe.

Its nice to say however; that their latest album, their eighth studio album, 2020’s F8 (Fate), sees the band clear-headed, sober and once again delivering the goods. You can hear singer Ivan Moody venting all that aforementioned baggage on the excellent tune “Bottom Of The Top” which is one of the highlights musically and lyrically. The quality of song-writing here is a lot stronger than their …And Justice For None record, and the performance is a little less robotic. That album had the air of disharmony about it, whereas F8 sounds like a band really gelling and coming together. For those who like the band at their faster and heavier, “This Is War” & “Scar Tissue” are the standout moments. If you prefer the band doing ballads and poppier moments, it’s the acoustic with electro-drums “A Little Bit Off” that you need to check out.  

This is their first album without their key drummer Jeremy Spencer, who was such a big part of their sound, its hard to imagine the band without him. (I recently read his autobiography, and it’s a bit of a depressing tale of addiction, infidelity and recurrent erectile dysfunction that gives a good insight into the inter-band relationships, but definitely signposted that he wasn’t going to stay in the band forever!). Charlie Engen takes the drum throne this time around, and is a capable replacement, but maybe lacking a bit in personality on this particular record. I think much like Slipknot’s Jay Weinberg, it will take until the next album until we really see his potential. I don’t reckon you’d want to make too many waves on your first appearance.

I saw the band live just before this album was released, and it was absolutely glorious. I had been following them since their sophomore record had just been out and they were only starting to get noticed, and have been a day one purchaser on most of their albums to date, and it was amazing to see them not only playing arenas, but utterly captivating them. They dropped some new material from this record and it fit in perfectly with a hits-laden set. ‘Inside Out’ in particular feels like it will stay in their live set from now until retirement.

Its not hard to imagine that in the future, F8 will be looked back upon as one of the band’s better albums. Its not a Dr. Feelgood style new beginning, but it is a focusing and strengthening of the existing formula with simply better songs. (Does that mean its their Razor’s Edge? I don’t know…)

Parkway Drive – Viva The Underdogs CD Review

Viva The Underdogs is the first live album from the Australian metalcore band, Parkway Drive. It was recorded at Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, 2019, while the band were supporting their superb sixth album Reverence. It is the soundtrack to their 2020 documentary film of the same name, which I haven’t seen yet so cannot comment on at this time.

I’ve seen the band live twice on this album cycle (once at a festival show like this, and once as a headliner in an arena) and utterly loved them both times, going so far as to say they were some of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life. As you can imagine, when I saw this live album was coming out, I snapped it up.

This is a damn fine live album, showcasing a significant performance in the career of one of the most important bands in the subgenre, while they are riding the crest of a wave of momentum and at the point of winning over a whole new demographic of potential fans.

The performance here is beyond energetic, singer Winston McCall seems to be having a whale of a time and is absolutely laying into the crowd, demanding movement, commanding attention. At one point he comments it’s the best show he’s played in his life and it doesn’t feel like a typical Rockstar line said in every city, you can tell he means it.

The guitar, bass and drum performances are even better than the vocals, treading the perfect line between precision and energetic, not afraid to hit harder or lean into it, but never risking sloppiness for the sake of showing off. The energy coming off the crowd is joyous and when you hear them sing along to tracks like ‘Wild Eyes’ you almost feel like you are there.

The track listing features a mixture of material from most of their albums, with only the debut not represented, and focuses most heavily on their newest two albums. It also chooses tracks from the previous albums with the most festival-friendly sing along parts or traditionally metal lead guitar moments. Some metal fans can be sceptical of anything with the word ‘core’ within a mile of it, so it seems a deliberately curated set to win over more traditional metal fans.

As this is a festival slot; it is slightly shorter than most live albums (11 tracks, only three of which are longer than 5 minutes), so they add three bonus tracks to compensate, re-recordings of recent songs in German, one of which features a guest rapper, which are ultimately inessential, but appreciated nonetheless as it does add some extra value for money.

Now, I am beyond biased as this is not only some new product from a band who released my album-of-the-decade, but is also in effect a time capsule close enough to my festival memories that I can use it to sort of relive them when I listen to it. However, I think I am rational and experienced enough that I can be objective too.

If you like the band already, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy, there’s not even a chance you’ll be disappointed. If you aren’t a fan, it’s a pretty good starting point, with an easily digestible and newcomer-friendly track list that covers at least one song from most of their albums. Its well recorded, well played, and its aforementioned well balanced career retrospective setlist is friendly enough that Machine Head, Pantera & Slipknot fans can be converted easily, and Priest and Maiden fans can be converted too if they’re in the right mood.

Avenged Sevenfold Albums Ranked

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

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DAY 6 – AVENGED SEVENFOLD:

Its strange, but Avenged Sevenfold are a band I feel kind of embarrassed to like. I don’t know why, but I would never wear an Avenged Sevenfold t-shirt or list them in a list of my favourite bands. I probably would give a non-committal answer and look at the floor if someone asked me if I was a fan. I have no idea why, other than I associate them with people I disliked in high school and an ex-girlfriend I’d rather forget. I mean, it can’t be because of how they look or act, because I will happily call myself a fan of Limp Bizkit or Twisted Sister or many others who don’t fit the exact metal sound or look respectively. That being said, after years of sticking my fingers in my ears and hoping they would go away, I eventually got into them through sheer force of recommendation from various friends, magazines and podcasts until I couldn’t justify ignoring them anymore. I slowly picked up all their albums, and I’ve seen them live twice, and they were excellent both times. I really have to work on whatever mental block makes me reticent to give in fully to being a fan.

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01. Avenged Sevenfold (2007) – It is kind of hard to imagine the same band recorded this album and the debut. I’ve heard people call this an experimental album, which I can kind of see as there’s an 8-minute comedy track about necrophilia with Danny Elfman sounding bits and a guest vocal from Randy Blythe. There’s a song with vocoder. There’s some political lyrics which you wouldn’t really expect from this band. It ends with an overly earnest country-tinged ballad.

 That being said, I would actually consider this one of their more normal albums. I mean, it’s a mess of different tempos, styles and tones, but then all of their albums are.

The real thing that elevates this album above the rest (except perhaps confidence) is simply good song writing. No prototypes of things to come. No good ideas lost amongst confusion. The songs here just work. The songs are memorable, the majority of the album is catchy and well balanced, it flows relatively well and doesn’t seem choppy.

Best songs: ‘Critical Acclaim,’ ‘Scream’ & ‘A Little Piece Of Heaven.’

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02. City Of Evil (2005) – This album is most fan’s favourite. Its definitely the most likely to make it into a Top 100 albums list. There’s a few things that rub me the wrong way, like the artwork and music videos, (and while we’re at it the bands pseudonyms have always seemed silly to me, but by this point they should have outgrown it) but after getting into the band I’d be crazy to have it any lower on the list than this.  

There’s a reason its popular with guitar fans. I feel like this was the record where Synyster Gates really stepped up and transcended the subgenre to become this generation’s guitar hero. Speaking of which, I feel like songs from this album are always popular in Guitar Hero video games.

What separates this album and the two which preceded it (apart from presumably budget) is a humongous influx of colour, fun and character. No one, not even massive skeptics could call this one samey. No one could call it boring. It’s a big hyperactive child running in four different directions wearing a propeller-hat showing off all the things it learned. I’ve never heard a song sound like a spring break beach party, a redneck sweaty metal show and a beard stroking prog metal track in one go before I heard this. I’ve never heard anyone combine Guns N’ Roses vocal patterns with Helloween lead guitar and NoFX drumming before. There is a basic framework of melodic metalcore, but they flip-flop through so many ideas it can be a bit dizzying. Its not always to my taste, but no one can deny the talent involved.

Best songs: ‘Beast & The Harlot,’ ‘Trashed & Scattered’ & ‘M.I.A.’

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03. Hail To The King (2013) – This album got a lot of grief in the press for so shamelessly ripping off riffs from Megadeth’s ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ and Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ – check out ‘Heretic’ and ‘This Means War’ if you missed all the internet fury. But there’s a lot more to this record that the questionable choice to pinch other band’s iconic music (ok, it does sound pretty bad when I say it like that).

Besides the above taking wearing your influences on your sleeves too far, this album is a damn fine stompy, simplified, arena ready version of the Avenged style. Its Avenged made for pyro and inflatable 20 foot skeletons and it does a superb job of it.

That’s not to say it is dumbed down or unentertaining. The stompier pace allows for even better guitar solos, the first two songs are so catchy they cancel out the bad taste of the thievery and the album gets interesting and bombastic towards the end, foreshadowing a bit of the sounds that they would go into on the next record. Overall, it’s a hell of a lot better than its given credit for if you can overlook the fact that its been ‘cancelled’ by the internet.

Best songs: ‘Shepherd Of Fire,’ ‘Planets’  & ‘Hail To The King.’

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04. Nightmare (2010) – This was my first Avenged album and as such, I have slightly more regard for it that some of the fanbase. I remember I was absolutely opposed to the idea of even listening to one of their songs all the way through, but a friend who was a drummer turned me on to it with his seal of approval and the news that Mike Portnoy played drums for them.

Some people don’t like this album, thinking it is either too dark or too sappy, and not fun enough (but hey, it was finished by a bereaved group who’d just lost their childhood friend). If I was being super critical I’d say it’s a bit uneven. Even though there aren’t, due to the way the record is sequenced and the way some of the songs are structured it feels like there’s way too many ballads.

It does however have two of their absolute best songs to date on it, the title track and the fan favourite ‘Buried Alive’ are absolute classics at this stage and I don’t want to hear any playlist or see any concert without them ever again. Even when I watch their live DVD filmed on the album cycle prior to this, I still feel like it could use those two songs. If anyone wanted to know if this band was for them, those are the two songs I’d give them to try out.

Best songs: ‘God Hates Us,’ ‘Save Me,’ ‘Nightmare’ & ‘Buried Alive.’

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05. The Stage (2016) – Their newest album. Surprise released. Third album in a row to have a different drummer. Loose existential/space/religious themes.

The music on here is a lot more progressive and expansive than anything they’ve done prior. They’ve always been eclectic and diverse, they’ve always had medium to long songs, and they clearly like Prog if Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater drummed on one of their albums, but this is another step further than they’ve ever taken before. I guess the previous album was making things more simple and straightforward, so when that wasn’t as critically acclaimed as usual, they went completely the other direction and made it bigger, grander and broader.

Its got a very thick satisfying production with superb sounding drums which is always a plus for me. The vocals are a bit more tasteful. There’s a slight Soundgarden influence to it at times that doesn’t get talked about enough. Quite a strong album, I’m quite fond of it. Maybe a bit long, and not what people where expecting at the time of release, but it’s a grower and I think it will be looked upon kindly by the history books.  

Best songs: ‘God Damn,’ ‘Creating God,’ ‘Sunny Disposition’ & ‘Fermi Paradox.’

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06. Waking The Fallen (2003) – Some people think of this as the definitive Avenged album. I like it ok, but just not quite so much as all the others. I almost feel bad not liking it more, like somehow I’m doing it wrong. Imagine listening to Killswitch but not liking Alive Or Just Breathing. Doesn’t sound acceptable somehow, even though enjoyment of music is subjective.

This album probably has their most Pantera-influenced material to date on it, and the least clean vocals. It sounds kind of silly to say about a band as famously eclectic and diverse as Avenged Sevenfold, but the album sounds a bit samey to my ears. There’s usually the In Flames & At The Gates influenced sections, there’s usually the hardcore influenced sections, there’s usually twin guitar, then there’s usually a big clean catchy bit, and the transitions are usually a bit jagged which makes it sound kind of technical, and several times they used a mixture of harmonised guitars and clean vocals to create a bit of a Tim Burton flavour here and there. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was formulaic, but compared to other Avenged albums its closer to formulaic than it should be.

I think any one or two songs off the album are good in isolation and am happy to hear any of them on shuffle or live, but sometimes listening to the whole record just makes my eyes glaze over a bit. Especially in the early days of owning it, before I got more familiar with it and put the time in. The thin sounding production doesn’t help either.

There’s loads of memorable bits, but I often find myself thinking ‘what song was that bit I like in?’ and I can’t really tell them apart too well apart from my favourites. Although for a while it was ‘’that one with the power metal verse’’ or ‘’the one with the Spanish guitar and Axl Rose voice’’ and ‘’that one with the Pantera ending.’’

I’m very much in the minority here though. People go nuts for this record.

Best songs: ‘Eternal Rest,’ ‘Chapter Four’ & ‘I Won’t See You Tonight Part 2.’

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07. Sounding The Seventh Trumpet (2001) – I know, I know, I’m boring. The least favourite album is once again the weird demo-ish debut album from before they got famous, which isn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t recommend as your starting point, yadda yadda yadda, it’s a recurring theme with me at this point. I definitely listen to this album the least of anything they’ve ever recorded. I even listen to the B-sides collection which came free with their live DVD more than this.

Best songs: ‘Streets,’ Warmness Of The Soul’ & ‘Turn The Other Way.’

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Parkway Drive Albums Ranked

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

DAY 3 – PARKWAY DRIVE:

01. Ire (2015) – If you recall my albums of the decade list, then I think you could have guessed already, but there is no chance this album would not make it to the top spot. This is not only my favourite album by the band, but also my favourite album of the subgenre, and my favourite album of the decade it was released. Not bad going for an album I wasn’t sure about on first listen! This is a big stylistic change from the band’s early direction. They’ve injected so much personality, variety and ‘’umph’’ into their sound, and took the ballsy decision to make a grab at the big time (and seemingly succeed, based on the venues and how high up festival bills they’ve been ever since!).  

The Maiden/Priest leads have always been there, but never so well, they absolutely slay it on this record. The clean vocals were only hinted at previously and the big influx of Slipknot & Machine Head influences are new, and they nail it first time. If any criticism could be levelled at their early albums, it may be that the songs were not always distinct enough from each-other, and this album fixes that so completely, never a dull moment, no two songs alike, every second memorable. In my mind this is a stone cold masterpiece.   

Best songs: ‘Dedicated,’ ‘Crushed,’ ‘Vice Grip’ & ‘Destroyer.’

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02. Reverence (2018) – Proving that Ire was not just a one off, PWD followed up my album of the decade with an album nearly as good. They made it even more melodic, more varied and more polished. While it is a bit shorter, and it loses the wow factor for first album in this new style, it is still a terrific album in its own right and a superb sequel.

I caught the band live twice on this album cycle. They were the best band live at Download Festival 2018 even though Guns N’ Roses played after them with Slash and Duff back in the band.  Their headline concert in Cardiff early the next year was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

I feel like this may be the band’s most dramatic and expansive record to date. If you came from the Hardcore scene and have a Killing With A Smile tattoo you may be sat there with a confused expression wondering what the hell happened, but if are happy to go with them on their cinematic catchy new journey, then this is a must have.

Best songs: ‘Cronos,’ ‘Absolute Power’ & ‘Prey.’

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03. Deep Blue (2010) – This was my first Parkway Drive album, for a long time it was my favourite, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I have very fond memories of this record. This is the band perfecting their early sound and is the pinnacle of phase one of their career. It is a must have for any fan of this subgenre.

At first glance it may not seem that original, not have that much of a unique selling point, but while they may not have been in all the magazines from day one, they simply wrote some of the best songs, better than most of their competitors and peers.

The album works best as a journey I feel. Maybe because it’s a concept album, but its best to put it on with no distractions and sink (not pun intended) into the glorious underwater world the band create. Even the shimmering clean guitar lines sound like water half the time. I almost went to see them live on this album cycle, but I skipped it to go on a date that was cancelled with a girl who was very soon an ex. Quite the mistake.

Best songs ‘Sleepwalker,’ ‘Deadweight,’ ‘Karma’ & ‘Leviathan I.’

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04. Atlas (2012) – This album was a bit of a let down when it first came out, but I feel time has been kind to it. Horizons and Deep Blue were so well received and really covered all the ground in this particular furrow, that at the time it kind of felt at the time that Parkway had said all they had to say already. Its strange because the press at the time was kind of about how Parkway had run out of ideas, but in hindsight this was quite a change for the band already. (Not as big a change as Ire was mind you, but a change none-the-less). There were strings, a ballad, a darker vibe, environmental lyrical themes, and even surprisingly some DJ scratches at one point. It wouldn’t be my instant recommendation for first Parkway Drive album, but its not one I’d tell you to skip either.

Best songs: ‘’Old Ghosts/New Regrets’ ‘Wild Eyes’ & ‘Dark Days.’

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05. Horizons (2007) – This is a lot of people’s favourite Parkway Drive album and was a lot of people’s first. It has a very good reputation and songs from it seem to go down a storm live. For some reason, personal choice, who knows, but it is never the album I reach for when I am in the mood for some PWD.

If I was being hyper critical I may say that it is a wee bit samey and it doesn’t have as much personality as later albums, but on the whole I don’t really have anything bad to say about it, and the only reason it isn’t higher on the list is that the albums which followed it were better.

Best songs: ‘Carrion,’ ‘Idols & Anchors’ and ‘Five Months.’  

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06. Killing With A Smile (2006) – For some reason, I never got this album until 2020, every time I went into a shop to buy it (which I have planned to on numerous occasions) it was always 7 or 8 quid more expensive than other albums I saw and always walked out without it. Import costs perhaps? And up until recently, every time I looked for it online I was only finding second hand copies and then the band wouldn’t make anything off it, so I always chose to wait. I finally pulled the trigger on it in the hype building up to their new live album (check back for a review here soon).

I’ve been listening to it pretty consistently since then. Its definitely a little rawer, more rough and ready, less metallic with less guitar hero moments. That being said, all the essential PWD elements are on display here; crunchy riffs, dynamic transitions, dirty beatdowns, memorable guitar lines and savage screams. They didn’t really have the lyrics down yet, but I guess they would have been quite young at the time.

Best songs: ‘Smoke Em If You Got Em,’ ‘Romance Is Dead’ & ‘Anasasis (Xenophontis)’

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07. Don’t Close Your Eyes (2007 reissue compilation / 2004 original) – Like Ember To Inferno, or Killswitch’s self titled debut album, this very early independent album is a solid prototype for what the band would go on to do later, but in the modern day is pretty much ‘’for fans only’’ and the last thing you should pick up when you’ve exhausted all other avenues but still crave a little more. You can see the potential, but the best was yet to come.

Best songs: ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ & ‘Hollow Man.’ (And ‘Smoke Em If You Got Em’ too, but they rerecorded that for Killing With A Smile as above)

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Killswitch Engage Albums Ranked.

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series. Here I’ll be doing a run down, buyer’s guide, what’s hot and what’s not, best to worst, whatever kind of way you want to call it… I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (aka. My subjective favourite) to Worst/Least Good (subjectively, in my opinion)… and then pretending it is a factual list of truth and wisdom. Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number, well, I think you’ve seen enough of these types of articles over the years to gather where this is going…

I’ll chose one band per day.

DAY 2 – KILLSWITCH ENGAGE:

01. Disarm The Descent (2013) – When this was first announced I was a bit skeptical, I was always a big fan of Howard Jones and was sad to see him go. From day one of actually hearing it however, I was utterly convinced, and it has only grown on me since then. Individually, it has some of the absolute best songs the band have ever released.  As a whole, it flows well and makes a good journey. The production is great. Jesse’s vocals are better than the early days and the lyrics are pretty great too. Inspirational even. I know that the history books are probably already written and that ‘Heartache and ‘Just Breathing are the ones that will make all the Top 100 Lists, but in my mind this should be right up there with them. Its my favourite for sure.

Best songs: ‘In Due Time,’ ‘The Turning Point,’ ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ & ‘A Tribute To The Fallen.’

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02. The End Of Heartache (2004) – I may personally prefer Disarm’ more, but if you need to choose a first Killswitch album, this is probably the one you should choose. Its consistent, strong, confident, perfectly paced and it has utter classic songs on it that will never not be in the live set, will never not be on a compilation and will never not be on playlists. Definitive all time Killswitch anthems. Even the on the nose artwork is iconic. It is probably the ultimate example of the band, and one of the ultimate examples of the whole subgenre. Its one of those top 100 list classic albums that every Metal fan should own.

Best songs: ‘A Bid Farewell,’ ‘When Darkness Falls’ & ‘The End Of Heartache.’

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03. Alive Or Just Breathing (2002) – The breakthrough album and the one where a lot of people first heard of the band. When ‘My Last Serenade’ first came on music tv in the midst of the Nu Metal era it was unlike anything else on the air at the time. The band seemed so futuristic at the time. Although Jesse’s vocals have improved considerably over time, they are still pretty great here. Although the band have become more diverse and also become more polished over time, this album represents the rawer, heart on sleeve, idealistic recipe for what the band what the band would go on to perfect with the next album. (Without being too unrefined, like the one that preceded it). If you like your hardcore, you’ll probably in fact prefer this one over ‘Heartache. Most of all it has monster tunes.  

Best songs: ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ ‘Temple From The Within’ ‘Self Revolution’ and the aforementioned ‘My Last Serenade.’

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04. Atonement (2019) – Their newest album sees the band focusing on choruses. It feels a bit more streamlined, its high on melody and catchy as hell. Its also one of the most even and least frontloaded of their career. Add to that a guest vocal appearance from Testament’s Chuck Billy and ex-singer Howard Jones and you’ve got a damn strong album. I’ve heard a few reviewers not liking this one, but I don’t get that at all, with songs this good and choruses this memorable, its an absolute winner to me.

Best Songs: ‘I Can’t Be The Only One,’ ‘The Crownless King,’ ‘The Signal Fire’ & ‘Know Your Enemy.’

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05. Incarnate (2016) – Following up the masterpiece that was Disarm’ can’t have been easy, and on top of that, being just another album and not having a hook like ‘’the first album with Jesse back’’ or ‘’the first one with Howard’’ also puts it at a bit of a disadvantage in the reasons to recommend it stakes, but this album shouldn’t be overlooked. I think I like this record more than the average fan. It may not be their best album ever, may be a bit uneven, and may be their most frontloaded album to date, but it is still absolutely worth your time. It’s a really worthy sequel to Disarm’ and while it may not reach quite the same heady heights, it isn’t the disappointment some people make it out to be. Its also nice to see them trying new things, one of the songs* sounds like Megadeth at points and one of them sounds almost Djenty.

Best songs: ‘Hate Be Design,’ ‘Alone I Stand,’ ‘Until The Day*’ & ‘Strength Of The Mind**’  

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06.  As Daylight Dies (2006) – Sort of the Incarnate of the Jones-era, it follows up a classic so has to live in its shadow a bit, it has some utter bangers and a very strong lead single, but although its still good it’s a little bit more uneven and not quite as good as the previous record. If all the songs were as good as the best songs, you’d have a contender for the number one stop, but as it stands now, unfortunately its just a good Killswitch album but not an all-time great. Still totally worth owning, but maybe not one you’ll be listening to in full over and over for years and years to come. I can’t foresee them playing the whole album live in full, even if it does feature one of their biggest hits*.  If you can, try and get the version with a cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ on it.

Best songs ‘My Curse*,’ ‘The Arms Of Sorrow,’ ‘This Is Absolution’ & ‘Still Beats Your Name.’

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07. 2nd S/T (2009) – This one got a bit of a critical panning at the time due to its lighter production job and the public’s patience for metalcore wearing thin after so many years. History hasn’t really done much to change that opinion. I’ve always been a staunch defender of this album (in and of itself) but there’s no arguing that the albums above it on this list are better than this one. That being said, it does have three of my top ten ever Killswitch songs. It’s a real shame that this album tanked, as I’ve seen the band live three times since its touring cycle and they didn’t played a single song from it live at any of them. Baby with the bathwater scenario if ever there was one. I truly believe if the best 3 songs on this record were on a different album, they’d have a completely different reputation.

Best songs ‘Never Again’ ‘The Forgotten’ & ‘This Is Goodbye.’

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08. Early S/T (2000) – This album is their pre-fame debut album on a smaller label, but you can sort of look at it more as a demo, many of the tracks from it have been re-recorded over the years. Its their shortest album, its their most abrasive sounding album and its got the rawest production of their career. Its not really my thing though. Everything it does right, is done better elsewhere. The best songs have been recreated better elsewhere. The songs which haven’t been remade aren’t all that amazing. Its got the weakest drumming and vocals of any Killswitch album. Its worth a look for curiosity, but it isn’t a must-have.

Best songs: ‘Temple From The Within,’ ‘Vida Infra’ & ‘Irreversal.’

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Bring Me The Horizon – Amo Review

Bring Me The Horizon are a very weird band. They have early albums with blast beats and death growls and their latest album is basically a pop music album with barely any guitars. That’s a pretty diverse discography, and if you bought and liked one and then picked up the other without any prior knowledge, you would be understandably confused, and possibly distressed. There was a very natural evolution over time, with different fans getting on and getting off the train at different points, but still.There’s a song on this album called ‘Heavy Metal’ which cleverly calls this out, and the chorus is basically variations on ‘’this shit aint heavy metal …and that’s alright.’’ – This very much sums up my feelings.

Now; my favourite BMTH album is probably the heavy, exciting and savage sophomore album, Suicide Season. The sound of that record is much closer to death metal and metalcore than pop music. However, with each new album the band have broadened their horizons and changed their focus so much that when they dropped the controversial Amo in January 2019, it made sense.

There are a few nuggets of the band’s older energy, such as the lead singles ‘’Wonderful Life’’ and ‘’Mantra’’ (the former of which has a guest vocal from Dani Filth!) as well as ‘Sugar, Honey, Ice & Tea’. However, where the album really shines is when they go full on radio pop.

My favourite song on the album for example is ‘Medicine’ which feels like something you’d hear in a clothes shop nowadays, and other highlights include ‘Nihilist Blues’ which sounds like something they’d play in a nightclub scene in a sci-fi videogame and ‘Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down?’ which sounds like an advertisement for some trendy car-chase movie. It gives me a peak into musical worlds I normally have no exposure to or interest in and as such, is nice for the unique place it has in my music collection.

I don’t think I would have gotten into this band at all if this was the sort of music they’d always played. If I heard almost any song off this record and it was a new band, I don’t think I would explore any further, but since I’ve been following the band for years and years, it was nice to unexpectedly end up here. I don’t own any other music that sounds like ‘Fresh Bruises’ outside some electronic tinged remix bonus tracks from singles and digipaks in the Nu Metal era.

I guess it may sound a bit bizarre next to tracks from Count Your Blessings or Suicide Season in a playlist, but there’s no denying it is catchy. Maybe watching too much Teen Mum UK with my wife has exposed me to too much contemporary pop music, but ‘Mother Tongue’ is one of the catchiest new releases from any band I like in 2019.

As I, and I’m sure many other reviewers as cliched as me will have already said, (it really is low hanging fruit), Amo ‘aint heavy metal, but that’s alright.

I went to go see Architects at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night (Friday 18th January 2019) with support from BearTooth.

I went to go see Architects at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night (Friday 18th January 2019) with support from BearTooth.

I had to work so didn’t get there in time for the opening act, Polaris. I’ve never been into Polaris though, so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment (even if that sounds a bit rude). I had heard of BearTooth before, and had checked out a few of their songs on Spotify/Amazon Music over the years due to a podcast I like talking about them a few times, but wasn’t really familiar with them overall.

I decided, due to late arrival and back ache, not to bother getting right up to the front, and stood as close to the back as was possible. No moshing and crowd surfing for me. I had loads of space and wasn’t bustled around too much. It was nice being right up near the front for Slayer and Anthrax, but I wasn’t in the mood to be smashed around tonight and just wan’t to look at and listen to the live band.

BearTooth sounded a lot more raw and natural live than of what I vaugley remember about their recorded output, from what I sort of remember they were a bit wet and overproduced and a bit electronic. Live it was less wet and more natural, but still generic melodic metalcore. I feel they’re a little late for me to really fall in love with them.

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All the metalcore slots in my brain are taken up by the likes of Shadows Fall and Chimaira and Killswitch Engage and don’t really feel like there’s that much more I can get into. When I saw a few more modern melodic metalcore bands at Download Festival, like the forgettable Black Veil Brides and  Asking Alexandria or even the quite good Bury Tomorrow, I felt like I’ve had my fill already. Beartooth similarly offer nothing new, and didn’t win me over enough to go buy any of their albums, but where pleasant enough while they were on.

Their singer was very enthusiastic and called out specific riffs to pay attention to and seemed to be enjoying it. The sound for them wasn’t so good though, and you couldn’t really make out the vocals.

Then after a brief interlude with bands like Limp Bizkit and Rammstein played over the sound system, the main event, Architects took to the stage.

I’d seen them live before, back when I lived in Manchester, on the Lost Forever // Lost Together cycle. I really wanted to see them on the All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us cycle too but it was sold out when I got to the counter to buy tickets (should’ve bloody done it online in hindsight!).

I got into Architects when Hollow Crown was their newest album, but I feel like they’ve been getting better over time, and I’d take albums like Daybreaker, All Our Gods’ and even the controversial The Hear And Now over earlier albums like Ruin or Hollow Crown. Lucky for me, the set-list last night was almost entirely off their new album Holy Hell, and the previous two albums Lost’ and Gods’ (as well as one single track off of Daybreaker), which made it quite a different set-list than the last time I saw them, with 12 songs tonight I didn’t see last time (I quite like it when bands do that).

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Last night’s setlist was:

  1. Death Is Not Defeat

  2. Modern Misery

  3. Nihilist

  4. Broken Cross

  5. Holy Hell

  6. Royal Beggars

  7. Gravedigger

  8. Mortal After All

  9. Downfall

  10. Naysayer

  11. These Colours Don’t Run

  12. A Match Made In Heaven

  13. Hereafter

  14. A Wasted Hymn

  15. Memento Mori

  16. Gone With The Wind

  17. Doomsday

I really, really enjoyed ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘Downfall’ and ‘Doomsday’ especially, they worked so well live. If you haven’t heard of the band before and you wanted to check them out, they would be good tracks to try out.

Some people online have said the sound wasn’t good, but from where I stood last night, it sounded pretty good to me. A lot better than BearTooth. You could hear everything, each cymbal, all the vocals, every riff was clear (Except in the really heavy parts, like the start of ‘Nay Sayer’).

Sam was very grateful in the stage banter, repeatedly thanking the crowd and pointing out how they used to be in smaller venues and how cool it was to get to play somewhere this big. (He thanked the crowd so much, he ironically called himself a broken record numerous times, so that shows you how much it was!).

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Performance wise, they were top notch. Flawless. Can’t say enough good things about them. Sam’s clean vocals are almost record-perfect live which is impressive as hell and something his peers aren’t half as good at.

The production was really good too. Fire balls. Steam cannons. Confetti Cannons. Confetti from the roof. Lights. Lazers. Video footage of trippy wolves and falling bodies and mountain-scapes. A lot of variety and really well sequenced and well timed. There were lazers coming out above the crowd as well as strobes on stage and interestingly laid out lights and beams on stage. Sometimes all of it was going off at the same time, Very entertaining. It was halfway between the time I saw Tool in Dublin and the time I saw Killswitch in Manchester.

 

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There was also a bit where they had a bit paying tribute to late guitarist Tom Searle, and had a nice speech about how his brother, drummer Dan Searle got the band back together when they were all bereaved. It was really nice, and the had a ‘T // S’ in a heart up on the screen.

It was a very good evening, which is good, because I almost didn’t go. I had a difficult day at work, had a massive headache, had just got new glasses and hadn’t got used to driving in them yet, and a bunch of other lame-o excuses, but the gist of it is I wasn’t in the mood. I was very tempted to just skip it, but I remember how good Architects were last time, and I’d heard they had a really good production this time around, and I really like their newer three albums. Getting in and out of Cardiff was nice and easy too, even though it was a Friday night, the streets were quiet and the roads were pretty empty and it was no hassal with the travel.

Good night. Next up for me concert-wise; is also an evening of Metalcore: Killswtich Engage and Parkway Drive at the venue is February, and that’s going to be madness, if tonight’s production was good, I can’t wait to see the upside down flaming drum-kit like at Download Festival, but at their own show, in a more controlled environment than a festival. Can’t wait.

I went to see Killswitch Engage and Bullet For My Valentine live tonight on Sunday 4th December at Manchester Academy.

I went to see Killswitch Engage and Bullet For My Valentine live tonight on Sunday 4th December, 2016, at Manchester Academy. They were supported by Nu Metal revivalists Cane Hill. Usually for gigs at the Manchester Academy I show up roughly at the time of doors opening and get in almost instantly with minimal queuing, but this time was different. One of the biggest ques I have ever seen there, all the way to the Manchester Museum entrance met me upon arrival; the only longer que I ever saw there was for a Bring Me The Horizon show (which I’d swear I’ve reviewed but can’t find it anywhere… long story short stuff off Sempiternal sounded good, anything older sounded awful due to the mix, and the crowd were unbearable jerks. I was looking forward to ‘Chelsea Smile’ so much but it sounded so flat and lifeless due to the soundjob.) I guess once when I went to see Megadeth there was a lot of queuing too, but that was really because doors opened late more than anything. Interestingly, this time, rather than rip tickets they scanned em with little lazer machines. Scanners. Lazer machines makes it sound more advanced than it was. The only other time I’ve ever seen scanner machines was with Saxon at the Ritz. Is this the future?

Anyway, when I got in tonight, Cane Hill were already on stage. I’ve never checked them out before but I know from the excellent That’s Not Metal Podcast (who sent me a free T shirt today, for which I’m grateful) that they are a modern band who play in the style of late-’90s Nu Metal. I definitely heard a looooot of Korn in their songwriting, vocal style and extra guitar noises (as in not the riffs themselves but the noises, mid verse). A wee bit of early Deftones and a pinch of Coal Chamber was also audible in their general style. It wasn’t a total ’90s flashback though, there was still some hardcore and metalcore sneaking in there too. And the very occasional Slipknot, Pantera or Black Label Society moment. They were decent, they roused the crowd fairly well (got a ‘fuck Trump’ chant going at one point, and it didn’t feel too pandering, which was nice), and I have nothing bad to say about ’em. Don’t think I’m a converted fan or anything but I wouldn’t swear off them for life either. Their bassdrum said ‘smoke weed’ and ‘drop acid’ which I’ve no time for, and once during a more violent song they encouraged the crowd to hit each-other in the face and literally beat each-other up, exact words, which I’ve also no time for, but musically it was an ok opener. I would’ve preferred Trivium though…damn their new album has grown on me, and last time I saw Killswitch it was with Trivum. They go well together.

So, next up, after a random selection of rock and metal tunes over the PA including Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ which elicited a particularly big smile from me, the reason I bought the ticket took to the stage. I’ve saw Killswitch once before, and by god, it was a damn memorable show. It was flaberghastingly good and I have such clear memories of it to this day. My second Killswitch show did not disappoint. There wasn’t as fancy a lightshow or backdrop since they weren’t the headliner, and maybe the set was ten to thirty minutes shorter, but otherwise, it was every bit as jaw dropping, life affirming and all out excellent as I’d hoped.

The crowd, singing things like ‘My Last Serenade’ ‘My Curse,’ my favourite Killswitch song, ‘In Due Time’ or especially ‘The End Of Heartache’ was absolutely overwhelming. You were engulfed in the loudest, most passionate sing backs you could ever imagine. You felt like you were in some fabled Live At Donnington moment like Maiden doing Fear Of The Dark or Slipknot doing Duality or one of those ones you read about as legend. The crowd doing ‘The End Of Heartache’ was deathbed-memorable. Seriously. Holy fuck.

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From Sorrow To Serenity – The Truth Is Absolution!

Anyway; the band. So good live. All the great little details you’ll know from the DVDs, like playing eachother’s guitars, or having all the extra picksqueals and competitive silliness, or amazing extra fills were all there. Adam D is still such an entertaining character and it doesn’t get old. Jesse live is an astoundingly good frontman. Aforementioned podcast called Killswitch the best live band in metal judging by recent years, and its damn hard to disagree after a show like that. When they go heavy-heavy at the end of songs you feel like you are seeing Machine Head or Pantera at their heaviest. When they do melody and harmony you feel like you’re in a classic Maiden or Priest live album and when they do their clean sing-alongs…there is no comparison, Killswitch fucking OWN that! No-one does or ever did that better.

The setlist was pretty decent. All the hits. ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ and ‘Vide Infra’ from the debut. A good four or five tunes from the new album. No messing about. The only thing I’d query is that their was nothing off the self titled album. Not even ‘Never Again’ or ‘Reckoning’ …but hey, you can’t fit it all. Previous shows had ‘A Bid Farewell’ and ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ instead of the new songs, which I personally would’ve preferred, but that’s a familiarity issue, not a quality issue. (Although those two in particular do rank rather damn high in my favourite Killswitch songs).

The show was strong, the performance was immense, the setlist was decent, and the atmosphere was pretty great. Time to go home then, satisfied as I was.

Well, not exactly, because there was still the headliners. Welsh Metalcore band Bullet For My Valentine. The biggest and most successful British Heavy Metal band since Iron Maiden. A band who, for some reason, about a decade ago without hearing any music, I decided I probably wouldn’t like and then completely ignored until their latest album Venom was released, before finally giving them a fair chance after much propaganda from my friend Brad over the years, and being taken aback. They have this reputation as being wimpy or girly or overly commercial or beginner’s stuff, or whatever. They were a cool band to hate. If you were wearing an Exodus t-shirt, then probably someone told you they sucked. …I was told they sucked and never give them a fair chance. When I finally did, I ended up buying all their albums (and their debut EP as well) within weeks. I’ve listened to them near daily ever since. Such a catchy, catchy band. Ironically underrated for someone famous enough to play arenas. Sometimes they are heavy as balls. The title track to ‘Scream Aim Fire’ sounds like Testament at times. Some of the mid album stuff on The Poison is as heavy as Trivium or Killswitch at their heaviest. Some of the song endings are almost Machine Head-esque… yet for some bizarre reason they are warned off to potential Metalhead fans because someone tells us they are wimpy or something. They’re heavier than Megadeth, than Priest. Than Motorhead. Than a lot of really beloved and respected bands. They have a few semi-ballads and a lot of clean singing parts, but hey, so do Priest and Maiden and Megadeth and Anthrax and Manowar and Fear Factory and even early Pantera. Not every band can be Nasum and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Whatever the reason for Bullet being on True-Metal’s blacklsit, its a spurrious and stupid reason, and it is leaving people to miss out on some seriously great music.

Well, let them miss out. Or better yet, let them learn the error of their ways like I did last year. I’ve had a great year listening to ‘wimpy’ Bullet nonstop and loving it. It didn’t stop me liking Napalm Death or Tygers Of Pan Tang or Deep Purple. It didn’t suddenly make me know or care less about Metal’s history, beloved albums, or heavier moments. I’ll just keep jamming ‘Army Of Noise’ or ‘Fever’ or ‘Cries In Vain’ and let a bunch of people in either Tokyo Blade or Morbid Angel t-shirts scowl. Its their loss.

Anyway. This show was a special show. They played their debut album The Poison in its entirety. They had producer Colin Richardson in the audience as a special guest. They seemed to record it as well judging by all the mics pointed out into the crowd. Oh, and Matt took to the mic and stated plainly and not as hyperbole that this was arguably the most significant gig of their career to date.

Visually, it was great. They had big specially made BMFV banners. They had fancy lighting. They had lazers. They were all dressed in matching suits like hollywood stars. It felt like an event. Not just any old gig.

Sonically, it was bad ass. The soundjob was so much heavier and livelier and more energetic/aggressive than on record and it all felt really organic and crushing. The drummer was really pushing himself doing so much extra, having such a big happy face on whilst doing it, and the backing vocals were really brutal. Maybe, I guess, someone could hear them and say its too commercial and too processed on record… but live, oh no no no, this was seriously good. Waaaay heavier than you’d expect. Slick and professional as hell but with that live feel too. Hard to have both. Bullet succeeded.

The crowd lapped it up. Circle pits. Boundless enthusiasm. The sing alongs were even wilder and more memorable than for Killswitch ‘best live band in the world right now’ Engage if you can believe it. The crowd sang like, every single little word from deep tracks’ third verses. It was bonkers. They sang the riffs, the solos. It was like when you see South American Megadeth or Maiden shows on DVDs. Such enthusiasm!

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Your cries are all in vain!

There were a few random sound drop outs and mistakes by the soundman, particularly distracting during the heavy-ass opening of their new single ‘Dont Need You,’ which almost stole its momentum but otherwise this was a flawless show.

With sound, visuals and an atmosphere like that it was truly something to behold. That the band were performing at the top of their game, confident and starlike as hell, playing the fuck out of the heavy bits, brilliantly singing the clean bits and shredding out the solos with fun and panache, it all just came together into this perfect better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts supergig!

It was genuinely one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, and it felt the the culmination of massive fandom for some reason. Hey, I didn’t even know or like this band two years ago, and now they’ve blown me away with literally, unarguably one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. I don’t say that often. I din’t say that for Down or Mosnter Magnet or Megadeth. Not for System Of A Down or Metallica or Amon Amarth. This was a seriously astounding show.

If they do release this on DVD or anything, get yourself a copy. Even if you don’t like the band. Seeing ‘Four Words To Choke Upon’ live, extra raw and heavy would make anyone a fan! For people who like the softer side of Metal, then ‘Ten Years Today’ or ‘The End’ or their signature semi-ballad ‘Tears Dont Fall’ would surely win you over, live, with that sound, performance and fan feedback there’s just something undeniable about them. Biggest British band since Maiden. I can well believe it.

Oh, you know what else was nice. I caught a drum stick! I go to gigs all the time, and I never manage to catch picks or sticks or setlists, but I actually caught one tonight! And not in that nasty fight-for-it selfish way, it literally just landed in my hands! Nice one! A very welcome souvenir, especially since I play the drums myself!

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That was a great concert. If ever you get a change to see Killswitch or Bullet, take it. That is entertainment worth seeing!