Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014: songs

As usual, this year has brought us a fair share of great metal music, making it hard for me to cut down 100+ songs to 50 for this list. But it is done, and I am now ready to show you what songs from 2014 are most listening worthy. Enjoy.

50. When I Remake The World (A Key Flaw) - Steel Prophet
49. Waldschrein - Equilibrium
48. End of Days - Aenimus
47. Essence (feat. Whitfield Crane) - Sight of Emptiness
46. Midnight Meditation - The Vintage Caravan
45. End of Days - Engel
44. Flesh For Flies - Rigor Mortis
43. Is It So Hard To Be You? - Besserbitch
42. Crescent - Animals As Leaders
41. Dying Breed - Accept
40. River - Opeth
39. Wo Es Dich Gibt - Die Apokalyptischen Reiter
38. Something Different - Godsmack
37. Hell Funeral - Grave Digger
36. Beyond - Freedom Call
35. The Fire - Evergrey
34. One Night In December - Primal Fear
33. Infection - Lacuna Coil
32. The Devil In I - Slipknot
31. Sing To Me - Delain
30. Hector's Hymn - HammerFall
29. A Mind Insane - Devil You Know
28. The Box - Threshold
27. Tower of Lies - Axel Rudi Pell
26. Dreamlike Perceptions - Júlio Stotz
25. InSect - Persuader
So what if Jens Carlsson sounds a lot like Blind Guardian singer Hansi Kürsch? He still kicks ass, and so does the rest of Persuader in the song "InSect". A powerful attack where their ammunition is speed, strong singing and frenetic drumming. Nice work Blind Gua... I mean Persuader.

24. Dangerous (feat. Howard Jones) - Within Temptation
Dangerous is not quite as good as "Paradise (What About Us?)", but that song was in last year's list. Anyway, it is still a kick ass song that will get you pumped up with its speed and catchy chorus. Former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones does a nice guest appearance.

23. Megitsune - BABYMETAL
I know what you are thinking. Why the hell is this song in the top 25? The simple answer is that I just can't get enough of the groove in this song. I have no idea what they are singing about and I know the whole image is not so metal, but it is catchy as hell and the death metal break down is just marvelous. So kawaii.

22. Bruce Campbell - Psychostick
Bruce Campbell may not be the biggest actor in the world, but he does have the coolest chin of them all. And now, he has the coolest tribute song of them all. Psychostick's love for Bruce really comes out in this amazing little piece. And yes, I would love to live in Bruce Campbellville with 8000 Bruce Campbells.

21. To Kill A Man - Crucified Barbara
This song contains the best lyrics of the year, singing about the urge to kill after seeing your sister being abused by men. And since the song is sung by an all female band, the message comes out even stronger. Still get the shivers from the strength of Mia Coldheart's vocals.

20. Trend Killer - The Haunted
Seeing The Haunted in good old thrash form is fantastic. "Exit Wounds" was a much better album than I anticipated and the track "Trend Killer" was the icing on the cake. It is a fantastic steam roller that takes you back to the time where The Haunted was the kings of the death thrash metal scene, a place they might take back if they continue down this road.

19. Mask Machine - Flying Colors
Mike Portnoy have been quite busy since he left Dream Theater, but this is the only project in which he has been involved in that has succeeded somewhat. "Mask Machine" is a groovy rock tune where Muse meets Dream Theater in a surprisingly cool combo. And yes, Mike himself is playing some sweet beats in this one.

18. The Second Stone - Epica
I was unsure of where Epica stood, if they ever would get back to the fantastic quality they had some time ago. One listen to "The Second Stone", and all those doubts were gone. The song structure is fantastic without being overly catchy and Simone Simons sings beautifully as usual.

17. O Father O Satan O Sun! - Behemoth
The Polish death metal legends Behemoth came back in full force with "The Satanist", and the track "O Father O Satan O Sun!" was the ultimate testimony of that. With a rock steady tempo and a fully focused determination, the band delivers a punch of demonic proportions. This song would even make the devil scared and excited at the same time.

16. Halls of Valhalla - Judas Priest
The men that make Judas Priest are pretty old, something that is showing in "Redeemer of Souls". Fortunately, there is one song that show off what they once were. "Halls of Valhalla" is that nice mix of "Painkiller" and "Defenders of The Faith" that makes you shiver from excitement. A ball buster that has the power of Mjölnir and the experience of Odin. Amazing solo.

15. The Road of Bones - IQ
The mood in this song is fragile, beautiful and neck hair rising, and the delicate musicianship makes the song even better. IQ have really hit the head on the nail with the title track from "The Road of Bones". And that ending... THAT ending is just so good that it is ridiculous. Amazing track, despite being slightly too long.

14. In Kingdoms of Rain - Words of Farewell
This is one of those songs that seem to go on half the speed, not because it have to, but because it want to, and tries to show off some amazing musicality instead of just laying down the most technical beats the band can handle. A soothing piece that everyone can enjoy in serenity. God, I wish there were more songs like "In Kingdoms of Rain".

13. Godmaker - Vanden Plas
Feels weird to pick a Vanden Plas song that is not very progressive, but I cannot overlook the awesomeness this song brings. "Godmaker" has one of the best riffs made this year and the singer Andy Kuntz does a fantastic job in bringing this song to life.

12. A Triptych Journey - Rise of Avernus
Being one of the more interesting newcomers this year, Rise of Avernus came and impressed me with its smooth progressive goth sound. "A Triptych Journey" is... well, a journey that you can look back at and relive with a smile. I am expecting great things from this Australian band in the future.

11. Black Rainbow - The Oath
Great old school metal that mixes sweet riffs and all female power. The gloomy, almost scary mood goes perfect with the production that is just as dirty as it should be with this type of music. It is a big shame that the band has already called it quits after only one full length release.

10. Reaching For The Stars - Allen/Lande
Timo Tolkki has not had a fun time since he left Stratovarius, but he did some killer song writing for Russell Allen and Jorn Lande in their project Allen/Lande. "Reaching For The Stars" is just a typical, epic mid tempo power metal song that reaches its destination thanks to Allen's fantastic voice. And the solo from Tolkki is nice as well.

9. Steal Away The Light - Triosphere
Triosphere deliver so much power in "Steal Away The Light" that it is overflowing your mind. The drive and force they come at you is really impressive, but they also impress with some fine technicality in both riffs and solos. Probably one of the more underrated performances this year.

8. World On Fire - Slash
Slash has just been spitting out songs left and right since he started his solo band, but the quantity does contain some quality. The fast and catchy "World On Fire" mixes excellent singing from Myles Kennedy with frenetic Slash riffing. This bromance is indeed one of the nicer once in the rock world.

7. The Motherload - Mastodon
Yes, this is probably the most commercial song the band has ever released, but that comes as no surprise since it is so catchy that even the most grumpy metal lovers can't stop singing to it. And with those typical Brann Dailor drum beats and the psychedelic Mastodon sound mixed into it, it just cannot go wrong, even with that mindfuck of a music video.

6. Howl From The Coffin - Vampire
This kind of music never gets outdated, and Vampire is showing that in impeccable style. The darkness, speed and riffing in "Howl From The Coffin" is insane, making the band look like they have been in the business for over 20 years. Old school metal will always rule, no matter what year it is.

5a. Fallout - Devin Townsend Project
5b. Ziltoid Goes Home - Devin Townsend Project
I could not decide which one of these two fantastic songs from "Z²" were the superior one. Coming from each part of the double album, "Fallout" and "Ziltoid Goes Home" works as the perfect polar opposites, showing the wide range of Devin. One being a fast, catchy pop metal tune while the other being a angry, heavy metal song with an epic chorus. Gotta love that diversity.

4. Thales - Mechina
Mechina opened up 2014 with an amazing industrial death metal assault that has the strength of an asteroid barrage, and the biggest one of the bunch is "Thales". With super fast blast beats and an apocalyptic choir, "Thales" impresses the listener with its ultra heavy impact. I now know what I will be playing when judgement day strikes upon us.

3. The Divulgence Act - Teramaze
This was one of the bigger surprises this year since I had no idea who Teramaze were before listening to "Esoteric Symbolism". "The Divulgence Act" is just how a want a heavy progressive tune to sound like. Epic, melodic and extremely well crafted. The Australians are really showing off some progressive goodness that no one should miss out on.

2. The Grand Circle - Novembers Doom
This doom piece is so dark and so beautiful at the same time, making one scratch your head, wondering how that even can make sense. But when you listen to "The Grand Circle", everything just clicks. The gloomy singing, the simple guitar riffs, and the double bass beat that just seems like it can continue on forever more. Just a nice master piece of doom metal.

1. Never Like This (A Dream) - Anubis Gate
I have had this song stuck in my head ever since I first heard it this summer. Such an amazing track with awesome musicianship, a ultra catchy chorus, and a structure that is simple, but oh so effective. Just one of many proofs that the progressive metal scene has had a great year. Also, do not forget to listen to the track "A Dream Within A Dream" from the same album, a longer, more progressive continuation of this song. Good job lads!

Honorable mentions: The Realms of Baba Yaga - Edguy, Black Hole Halo - Sonic Syndicate, Magic Knight's Destiny - Lord Symphony, Echo - Outtrigger, Sign of The Warrior - Skull fist

Only one list left, doubtful if I will get it done before 2015 settles in, but I will try. Also, let me know your thoughts over this list and tell me about your favourite songs of 2014 in the comment section below or tell me on Twitter (@FATGreviews).

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best of 2014: special awards

Another year has come to an end, and it seems like the time just keeps on going faster and faster. Seriously, I do not know how it can be the end of December already. Anyway, it is once again time for me to summarize the year that has gone, and as usual, we start with the special awards. Enjoy.

Best newcomer

Listening to Vampire is a blast... from the past. The speed and intensity that the Swedes bring is impressive, and it makes you think back to the good old days, where the speed death metal music was new and scary.

Worst album

There is a reason to why Emmure rimes with manure. Dear god, "Eternal Enemies" just stinks badly with its awful mix of death core and edginess. Pure ear cancer.

Biggest disappointment

In Flames is not the biggest disappointment of the year because they still stays away from their death metal roots, but for making something they should not be anywhere close to be doing. "Siren Charms" is just awful, sounding like a boring indie record. Let us hope that this was a one time thing and that they get back on track with some real metal.

Biggest surprise

AC/DC... nah, I am just kidding. I was surprised over the sudden shift of regime in Arch Enemy that came suddenly. But I am even more surprised over that it worked this well. Alissa White-Gluz did a good, strong start with the band and the new album "War Eternal" is the best album the band has done in a long time.

Best genre

The progressive metal scene has had quite a year. Fine releases from Opeth, IQ, Threshold, Vanden Plas and many, many more.

Best album cover

There is so much going on in the Mastodon album "Once More 'round The Sun" that I still find new things almost every time I look at it. A great, psychedelic masterpiece that is worthy of fronting this amazing album.

Worst Album cover 1

What super hero is that on the cover of Van Canto's "Dawn of The Brave"? Metal dude? A Capella Man? Ben Affleck as Batman? I don't know, all I know is that he does not scare any super villains.

Worst album cover 2

The swag on this cover is too much for me. The Prophecy²³ tries to act cool and funny, when in reality they are just stupid. And just like the cover, the music on "Untrue Like A Boss" is bad.

Best instrumental album

Not only is the self titled debut album of Conquering Dystopia a great instrumental record, it is the first of its kind, bringing death metal elements to the scene. There is no doubt that there were experienced professionals who worked on this album.

Best comeback

After 19 long years, Swedish death metal legends At The Gates released new material, and it was some good shit they brought us with "At War With Reality". Who would have thought that they would follow up their legendary album "Slaughter of The Soul" with such an amazing effort.

Mindfuck of the year 1

I still cannot comprehend BABYMETAL. All that brutality mixed with small, sugar sweet, Japanese girls in doll dresses that dances on stage. Japan, not even once.

Mindfuck of the year 2

The video to the Mastodon song "The Motherload" (taken from "Once More 'round The Sun") looks more like a Nicki Minaj video. I still cannot believe that the band is performing in the background while some big assed chicks battle it out in the ultimate twerk-off. It is both horrific and mesmerizing at the same time.

That is it for this year's special awards, next up is the best songs of 2014

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Megadeth - So Far, So Good... So What! (1988)

Between the all time classics "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" and "Rust In Peace" lies the close to forgotten album "So Far, So Good... So What!". It is not easily over looked because it is bad, but because it is squeezed between two albums that are much, much better. Still, this album helped the band continue their journey from being a underground band to one of the biggest bands in the business.

The reasons to why this album does not quite reach the same heights as its predecessors are many. First off, there were two new band members since last album, Chuck Behler on the drums and guitarist Jeff Young, two guys that were not long lived in Megadeth, leaving the band before the end of 1988. Then the production is far from perfect since there were some struggles within when it comes to the mixing. The third reason is the quality of the music. While not being bad per se, the overall quality of the song writing in the album is not in the same standard as the music in the two previous Megadeth album.

However, the biggest reason to why this album failed to reach the same level of greatness is the obligatory cover. This time, the band covered the classic The Sex  Pistols song "Anarchy In The UK". A great punk song that was literally slaughtered by Megadeth. There is almost no speed what so ever in it, and the overall mood is way closer to being hippie happy than anarchy angry. This is by far the worst cover so far by the band and it drags the album so far into the dirt.

But I have bitched enough for today, The fact of the matter is that "So Far, So Good... So What!" is a pretty good album that is easily overshadowed because of its slower and darker sound. It is a slightly more mature album with more variety, but less of the best parts, which is the riffs and the speed. So it is just natural to initially get disappointed over this record, but the more you listen to it, the more you will enjoy it.

The clear star of the show is "In My Darkest Hour", one of the best songs in the entire Megadeth discography. It is not only a beautiful song about loneliness and death wishes, but also contains a second half that just thrashes the shit out of you. The solo in this song is just amazing and Dave does some of his best vocal performances in this track. A must hear for every metal head. "Mary Jane" uses similar techniques as "In My Darkest Hour", but without the thrashy speed in the end. It is still a good listen, just like the groovy "Hook In Mouth".

So what if this album is not as good as "Peace Sells"? It is still a good album that gives the listener some fine quality thrash music. It may contain a shitty cover and a lackluster production, but the band gives it their all and performs like the professionals they are. I can definitely see why some people could forget... what's the name of this album again? Oh yes, "So Far, So Good... So What!". Anyway, check out this album, it is a good little gem that will surely put a smile on your face.

Songs worthy of recognition: In My Darkest Hour, Mary Jane, Hook In Mouth

Rating: 7/10 Liars

Thursday, December 11, 2014

AC/DC - Rock Or Bust (2014)

Hmmm... *strokes imaginative viking beard*

Yep, it is an AC/DC album

Songs worthy of recognition: Dogs of War, Play Ball, Baptism By Fire

Rating: 5,5/10 Sweet Candies

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Megadeth - Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? (1986)

The year 1986 is one of the finest years in metal, especially when it comes to the sub genre thrash metal. It was in this year both Slayer released "Reign In Blood" and Metallica released "Master of Puppets", two of the greatest metal albums of all time. Besides them, we also have the Dark Angel release "Darkness Descends", Kreator's "Pleasure To Kill" and the Flotsam & Jetsam release "Doomsday For The Deciever". It was also on this year Megadeth got their big true breakthrough with the album "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?".

The title has an interesting story behind it. Apparently, Mustaine came up with it while searching for food at a place he had crashed on (should be noted that he and the rest of the band was homeless and broke at the time), and he stumbled upon a Readers Digest magazine that discussed over peace, saying that it is good and all, but nobody wanted to buy the concept of it. The album itself has a lot of both social and political awareness in its lyrics, which is also reflective in the album cover where we see the band's mascot Vic Rattlehead as a realtor, trying to sell a UN building that lies in ruins. It is a side of Mustaine that is both good and bad.

When it comes to the music, it is a continuation on what the band did on "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!", times 3. The riffs are faster and tougher, the speed is insane and the cover (this time the Willie Dixon song "I Ain't Superstitious") is once again filled with alternated lyrics that would enrage all fans of the original artist. Dave and co. thrashes like there is no tomorrow, but does it with such precision that would make surgeons jealous.

All of the songs have a red string going through them, all starting off pretty slowly, but is steadily accelerating in speed further into the song. You would think that it would make the album monotonous, but there is no lack of variety thanks to the instrumentation in the songs. That would not have mattered very much anyway, because Dave have written 7 killer songs that are all magnificent in their own way. From the catchy title track and groovy "Devils Island" to the seemingly never ending "Good Mourning/Black Friday", "Peace Sells" is over filled with great thrash tunes, making the album an instant classic.

Unlike Peace, this album both sells and is bought by others. It is really no coincidence why this album lunched the career of Megadeth. "Peace Sells" is an amazing masterpiece that still holds up very good, 28 years after its release. If it was not for that questionable cover and the short play time, I would rate this album as one of the all time best, all categories. 1986 was indeed the finest year for thrash metal, and this album is just another proof for that fact.

Songs worthy of recognition: Good Mourning/Black Friday, Wake Up Dead, Peace Sells, Devils Island, My Last Words

Rating: 9,5/10 Bad Omens

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Engel - Raven Kings (2014)

Since In Flames flopped royally with their latest release, I was hoping that the guitarist Niclas Engelin would do a better job with his other band, the industrial metal band Engel. This band has gone step by step up the ladder of success with their heavy, and accessible style. There have been some slight turbulence in the band since they have gone through two member changes since the last album, so I was not fully convinced that "Raven Kings" would keep the progress going.

So how are the new guys stacking up? The new singer, Mikael Sehlin, does have a tougher voice than what Magnus Klavborn have, but he does not add anything new to  the band. He just does most of the work that Klavborn did, which includes both growling and clean vocals, and the band is fine with it. And the new drummer, Oscar Nilsson, does a fine job with the beats. The main factor with the music is still the guitars were Engelin and Sunesson attacks with both melodic and energetic riffs, bringing a lot of dynamics to the music.

However, most of this dynamic impact is lost throughout the album since the band puts out around the same kind of force in almost every song in "Raven Kings". I do like it that the band has this grand, powerful sound, but they are over doing it in this album, creating a blob of an album where the only real stand out is the spiritual "I Am The Answer".

Another strength with Engel is that the band knows how to write a good chorus. And together with some great musicianship, the band can really create some highly memorable tunes. In "Raven Kings", one should check out "Broken Pieces" that impresses with its pain and heaviness. One should also listen to the epic "End of Days" where Sehlin does a great job with his voice. Other notable tracks are the fast paced "Fading Light" and the well constructed "My Dark Path".

"Raven Kings" is definitely a fine metal album where Engel show off their muscles, but we have already seen them, and they are not getting any better with age. Compared to its predecessors, "Raven Kings" could probably be considered as the weakest Engel album up to date thanks to its monotonous sound, but also thanks to the fact that the rest of the Engel catalog holds a high standard. If you are a fan of the band, I am sure you will enjoy the hell out of the album, but will not be surprised at all over what the record offers.

Songs worthy of recognition: End of Days, My Dark Path, Broken Pieces

Rating: 6,5/10 Sanctuaries

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Megadeth - Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! (1985)

What do you do if you get kicked out of a band, just before they get their breakthrough and releases a groundbreaking record? Dave Mustaine probably asked himself the exact same question when he got sacked by the rest of Metallica, and he came up with a genius answer. He started a new band, just to get even with his former band mates, and challenged them to a ultimate match between two of the first and biggest thrash metal bands in existence.

And his first strike with this new band was the 1985 album "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!", which Dave created together with bassist David Ellefson, guitarist Christopher Poland, and drummer Gar Samuelson. The goal for the album was to make it faster and heavier than whatever Metallica was doing. Did Dave succeed with his plan? I would say yes and no. This album is indeed faster than both "Kill 'em All" and "Ride The Lightning", but it is not really as heavy as them. You can however not deny that it is a strong punch that Dave delivers towards his former band mates.

The thing that really drives "Killing Is My Business..." forward is the excellent guitar work. The riffs and solos are bone crushing and the album is overfilled with them. Megadeth just crams them down through your ears one by one, and you do not want them to stop, you just want more of the same, great thing. One thing that is not so great though is Dave's singing voice. I will say that his voice fits the music, but it is far from the finest voice in metal. Apparently, Dave spent six months in searching for a singer before he decided to take the job himself. I can only help but wonder if nobody could meet Dave's high standards or if it was that nobody could handle Dave's personality that forced the decision.

The main problem with this album is production. Sure, it is raw and some people might even enjoy the lack of production value, but I feel like the music would have been even better with a professional production. This album has some sweet thrash gems in it, like the title track, "Rattlehead", "Last Rites/Loved To Deth", "Mechanix" and "The Skull Beneath The Skin", so the album itself is fantastic, but it is dragged down thanks to the production.

We also have the Nancy Sinatra cover "These Boots", which has some altered lyrics, something the original writer of the song, Lee Hazlewood, was not very fond of. He even threatened the band to get rid of the cover since he felt the lyrics was wild and offensive. That is why the song in the re-released version from 2002 have those lyrics bleeped, making the song sound dirtier than what it really is. Otherwise it is an interesting cover with an amazing bass line, and the new lyrics are quite humorous.

For a debut album, "Killing Is My Business.." is far from a bad one. The speed and riffing in the album is pure thrash candy for your ears and a good display on how good of a guitarist both Mustaine and Poland is. But there are still some things the band needs to work on to make their product perfect, like the production. None the less, this statement from Dave Mustaine is a strong one, and a good showing on what a fantastic career he would accomplish with this band. So take a listen to this album, and rattle your god damn head.

Songs worthy of recognition: Rattlehead, Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!, The Skull Beneath The Skin

Rating: 8/10 Chosen Ones