Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best of 2015: Albums

Another year officially over, and what a quick one it has been. Time just flies by when you are having fun, or as for me, being crazy busy all the time. My personal life has been hectic, which has left me with less time to listen to music, which in its turn means that I have missed out on several titles that I wanted to listen to. I tried to go through as many albums as possible here in December, and I think I got most of them. My new year's resolution will be divided into three parts. 1. Listen to more music, 2. be more efficient when listening to music, and 3. reviewing more unknown bands.

Unfortunately, the year ended in the worst possible way. After a couple of years with illness, and recently diagnosed with cancer, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister passed away on the 28th. Not only is he the founder and frontman of Motörhead, one of the greatest bands of all time, but he was one of the coolest profiles in metal all together, doing his own thing until his death. No matter if it was about Jeans shorts, gambling, or collecting Nazi memorabilia, Lemmy lived his life in full, and did so while doing what he loved, to play music for the masses, no matter if it was a gigantic festival stage or a dark little bar in some unknown town, he performed with passion and a hell of a lot of volume. I am so happy that I got a chance to see him and the band live before he started to feel ill.

Finally Killed By Death, rest in peace you loud, magnificent bastard.

But enough talk about that, it is all in the past, let us instead focus on what albums made 2015 special. Sadly, another year without a perfect score, although 2 particular albums got very, very close. Overall, the quality has been pretty good, but the tops could have been both higher and more in numbers. Without further ado, here is the best 20 albums from 2015.

Honorable Mentions: Finsterforst - Mach Dich Frei, Kamelot - Haven, Mechina - Acheron, Teramaze - Her Halo, Tribulation - The Children of The Night

20. TesseracT - Polaris
TesseracT keeps on building a very respectable discography, where every album is as good as its last. However, "Polaris" is a different story from its brethren, it is brighter and more direct, and it also consists of only male vocals this time. Blend in some classic TesseracT djent riffs in it, and you got yourself a fantastic album.

19. Queensrÿche - Condition Hüman
Another grand slam for a band that once again has the license to unleash its true self among the public, "Condition Hüman" is just another proof that Queensrÿche is back in business. Todd La Torre's singing is fantastic, the band feels passionate again, and the songs have that classic feel, while still being up to date. Feels good to have you back, old friend.

18. Gama Bomb - Untouchable Glory
No one is frowning when Gama Bomb is around, and no one is sitting still either. "Untouchable Glory" is just another stellar cross over thrash piece with a lot of speed, comedy, and insanity. It definitely holds the same class as 2013's "The Terror Tapes", but this time, we have ninjas!

17. Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The acquisition of Floor Jansen has really been a lift for the Finns, whom unraveled a marvelous fantasy album that will stand as one of the greatest in their discography. Even if Floor gives the band a new edge, it is still recognizable Nightwish music from top to bottom, a album that should please, and win back, fans from around the globe.

16. Symphony X - Underworld
After tons of crazy adventures that were of mixed quality, Russell Allen finally found home again with Symphony X and delivered a great record with the rest of the band. "Underworld" keeps the momentum that "Iconoclast" created, and does a magnificent job in establishing a strong sound picture. Love the overall theme of the album as well.

15. Killing Joke - Pylon
I had not even heard of Killing Joke before this year, but it seems like they have had quite a great career, being one of the most influential industrial metal bands for the last 30 years. "Pylon" struck me with its melancholic flow that felt so natural, so fluent that all one could do is to sit there and enjoy it with all your senses. If this is a representation of the music the band has made, then I am sold.

14. Judicator - At The Expense of Humanity
I just love the feeling that I get when I start listening to a album by a totally unknown band, and it turns out that it is a hidden gem. "At The Expense of Humanity" is one of the finest power metal records this year, but not only for the power, but also the emotional nerve that Judicator keeps on hitting with their performance and their lyrics.

13. Enshine - Singularity
They are still fairly new to the scene, but Enshine has already established themselves as one of the strongest forces in atmospheric doom metal. The space like atmosphere that is created in the sophomore effort "Singularity" is extra ordinary and uplifting. If this is what Nirvana feels like, then I would love to reach it some day.

12. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within
The masters of doom never disappoints, and "The Plague Within" is no exception. Paradise Lost digs deep into the roots of their career and unravels a melancholic, bone chilling album that feels so right on so many levels. It is amazing to see that Paradise Lost can succeed even when they make a complete u-turn in their sound in just a couple of years.

11. Atlas Losing Grip - Currents
I for one assumed that the skate punk genre was practically dead, but the Swedes in Atlas Losing Grip performed some CPR and transformed it into something more than just teenage music. This album is really diverse, bringing in a more progressive element to the classic speed that defines the genre. Certainly the biggest surprise of 2015.

10. Amorphis - Under The Red Cloud
Amorphis has always been a "like, but never love" band for me, but perhaps everything changes now after the release of "Under The Red Cloud". With an even and strong song line-up, the band has created their strongest offering since "Skyforger", which of course is quite the compliment.

9. Ghost - Meliora
Put all of the mystery and satanism aside, and you will find out that Ghost is more than a couple of ghouls and papas. With every new album, Ghost pushes the boundaries in their music so that they can evolve into something that is larger than the afterlife. I still like "Infestisumam" better than "Meliora", mostly because of the song quality, but this album is still a strong fortress that strengthen the band's grip of the masses.

8. Between The Buried And Me - Coma Ecliptic
Clearly inspired by the likes of Queen and Pink Floyd, Between The Buried And Me has really created a marvelous progressive rock opera about a man in a coma that relives his previous lives. The band may not make anything ground breaking to their music, but why fix something that ain't broke. Just another fantastic concept album to put in the collection called the BTBAM discography.

7. Moonspell - Extinct
With oriental influences and a groovy flow that is hard to match, Moonspell played their way straight into my heart with a catchy and amazing effort in "Extinct". These Portuguese men have created a incredible line-up of songs. From the epic "Breathe (Until We Are No More)" to the fast paced "Medusalem", Moonspell puts a mesmerizing spell on us that wears for a long time.

6. Enslaved - In Times
It is easily accessible, and catchy as hell, but do not think for a second that Enslaved has sold out and become mainstream. "In Times" is just another proof that the Norwegians never stop evolving, creating stunning music that is new and refreshing. What you get here is six amazing songs that shows extreme diversity, but is still rooted into the band's black metal roots. Enslaved keeps changing its sound, but not its approach, and we love them for it.

5. Gloryhammer - Space 1992: Rise of The Chaos Wizards
How could this happen? A album about knights, wizards, and goblins in space breaching the top 5? What year is it, 1992? It is crazy when you think about it, but the cheesy assault that Gloryhammer delivers is one of the freshest breaths of air in power metal history, mocking, and honoring, the things that once laid the ground for the genre. The concept is insane, the music is fun as hell, and the musicians responsible for it are nuts. Without a doubt, the most fun you can have while listening to music.

4. Vanden Plas - Chronicles of The Immortals: Netherworld II
I am not surprised at all that Vanden Plas managed to create a equally strong effort as last year's first part. Part II feels a little stronger, not only in the album cover, but mostly because the song quality is better and more even. Otherwise, it is the classic Vanden Plas sound that we all know and love, and with the help from author Wolfgang Hohlbein, they have created a marvelous double concept album series that stands as a highlight in the band's career.

3. Cain's Offering - Stormcrow
Take one former founder of Sonata Arctica, and add two current members of Stratovarius, and you get Finnish power metal glory. "Stormcrow" is not ground breaking what so ever, but it is just awesome, classic power metal from first to last second. Liimatainen has pulled out all his tricks to make his project's sophomore effort a good one. I bet there are some Sonata Arctica fans out there now that would beg to have him back.

2. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
I was not worried at all that Iron Maiden would release a bad album, they simply don't, but I did not expect "The Book of Souls" to be such a meaty double album, even less that it would have such quality to it. This album is the best the band  has put out in the 21st century, the diversity and strength is through the roof. It is just as progressive as "The Final Frontier", but it has more of the classic Maiden traits in it. Can't wait to see them live!

1. Fear Factory - Genexus
There is no album this year that has felt so thought out, so well constructed, and so extremely solid all the way through as the 9th offering from Fear Factory. "Genexus" is industrial candy from start to finish, showing off all of the band's strengths. There is not a single weak track to be found here, and the production is as clean and shining as chrome. The guys may be from America, but knowing how good this album is, one would think it was hand crafted by German engineers. A much deserved winner of the best album of 2015.

That marks the end of 2015, a happy new year to you all, and cheers for hoping that 2016 will be even greater

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Friday, December 25, 2015

Best of 2015: songs

Another year, another difficult task to cut down 100+ songs into 50. Man, as usual, there has been a good amount of songs that has struck me hard and left a big impression on me. Some being heavy, others being beautiful, and some just insanely catchy and fun. Yep, the metal world keeps delivering great stuff that makes me loose my mind when I am forcing myself to do these lists. So without further ado, here is my top 50 best songs of 2015.

Honorable mentions: Pyramaze - Hope Springs Eternal, Graveyard - From A Hole In The Wall, Standing Ovation - Hellbillies, Killing Joke - Euphoria
The competition to make it to the top 50 is incredibly stiff, and I did not have the heart this year to just leave these three songs without a special mentioning. All three are great in their own, special ways, so make sure you do not miss out on them.

50. Backyard Babies - Th1rt3en Or Nothing
The veterans shows some youthful spirit in a power packed ball buster that certainly makes a statement. Seems like their brake paid off (well, if you ignore the rest of "Four By Four").

49. Rise To Fall - End Vs. Beginning
The opening riff alone makes this song really interesting, and it also helps that the chorus is good as well. A must hear for fans of Engel.

48. Periphery - Priestess
I am still having a hard time to love Periphery, but "Priestess" is a beautiful little piece from the Omega part of the "Juggernaut" double album.Hopefully, they will win me over in the next album.

47. Motörhead - Thunder & Lightning
There are few things that beats good old Motörhead shredding. Yes, it is just another "Overkill" copy, but I really don't care, I will still bang my head to it.

46. Sirenia - Elixir
The grand, symphonic sound is what makes this track, and Sirenia in general, so special. A fairly simple track with some harsh vocals thrown in it, but the riffing and the doom mood is simply astounding.

45. Bring Me The Horizon - Throne
The evolution of Bring Me The Horizon has really been a exciting journey, growing for every new release. "Throne" is a perfect example of it, showing both catchy mainstream qualities and smart structure building.

44. Soilwork - Death In General
Feels so good that Soilwork has found their way back to form, which certainly shows in "Death In General". While not being the hardest of tracks from "The Ride Majestic", it does bring a fantastic chorus, and a finesse that is irresistible.

43. Deadly Circus Fire - House of Plagues
Oh god, the guitar on "House of Plague" is so freaking magical. Deadly Circus Fire hits all the right notes in a track that displays a lot of pain, but still sounds so refreshing. Do not miss out on this up and coming band.

42. Tribulation - Melancholia
Despite its gloomy title, "Melancholia" is actually a groovy black metal song, in which the Swedes flexes their musical muscles to the max, and deliverers a power thrust that shakes the genre to its core.

41. Joe Satriani - On Peregrine Wings
Guitar wizard Joe Satriani never fails to amaze me, showing time and time again why he is the best instrumentalist right now. A beautiful and memorable track well fitting for an angel.

40. Dr. Living Dead - Civilized To Death
There are so few bands in this day and age that has the same power and intensity as the Swedish Doctors, and "Civilized To Death" is classic crossover thrash candy that simply cannot be ignored. Not one bit civilized, and I love it.

39. Amorphis - Dark Path
With the consistency that the band has, I could almost pick any song from "Under The Red Cloud" and it would reach about the same spot. Still, "Dark Path" has this mood and musicality that brings out the best that the band has to offer. It does not surprise, but it confirms the high status that Amorphis currently has.

38. Intronaut - The Pleasant Surprise
If I did not know better, I would have mistaken Intronaut for Mastodon on this groovy and high speeding track. The drum work of Danny Walker is very similar to the one of Brann Dailor, not too bad if you ask me.

37. The Gentle Storm - Heart of Amsterdam (Storm Version)
Arjen Lucassen keeps on making great music, and with the help of former The Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen he got the ability to create some really beautiful music. Not too much differing the gentle and storm versions apart, but I like it heavier, so storm version is the way to go.

36. Children of Bodom - Prayer For The Afflicted
When listening to "I Worship Chaos", I did not expect the best song to be a slow, almost ballad like song. Children of Bodom delivered a mediocre performance in the album, but "Prayer For The Afflicted" is something new, and surprisingly well fitting acquisition to the CoB catalog.

35. Faith No More - Separation Anxiety
The 18 year wait was long, but definitely worth it. The band has not lost their touch nor their unique style, and delivers here a heavy track with a irresistible groove and a small, scary truth hidden beneath it. These old dogs don't need new tricks, the old ones works just as well today as in the 90's.

34. Civil War - Gods And Generals
Sabaton 2.0 may be the typical, almost predictable self as always, but "Gods And Generals" does deliver a great assault. A classic power metal tune that is infectious, kind of cheesy, but oh so good. A grand strike that leads the band one step closer to winning the war.

33. Stratovarius - My Eternal Dream
I feel like I was one of few that felt like "Eternal" was kind of a let down (it is still a great record though), but as the full blood professionals as they are, Stratovarius does produce at least one amazing track per album. "My Eternal Dream" is classic Stratovarius all the way through, just how we like it.

32. Teramaze - Delusions of Grandeur
Teramaze is getting closer and closer to becoming one of my absolute favourite bands, mostly thanks to the fact that they keep releasing great albums and songs. "Delusions of Grandeur" is beautiful, technical, and epic all at the same time. A wonderful experience that I can enjoy all day long.

31. Agnostic Front - Old New York
Punk is more of my dad's style, but I have a good eye for the genre from time to time, and Agnostic Front delivered a nice track in classic punk spirit. It is short, anarchistic, and has some humour and truth in it. Those were the days.

30. Queensrÿche - Hellfire
It feels so good that the band is back to basics, back to the things we want them to play. "Hellfire" is so incredibly epic, and it raises the suspense for every second it runs.

29. Between The Buried And Me - Memory Palace
The guys in BTBAM never ceases to amaze me. "The Coma Ecliptic" was one of the best concept albums this year, and while it is hard to pick one certain track to define the album, "Memory Palace" is the one that sums it up the best. BTBAM magic from start to finish.

28. Black Space Riders - Run To The Plains
There is something with Black Space Riders and their music that is simply stunning, making them one of the most interesting progressive stoner metal bands right now. Absolutely love the groovy bass and the build up in this fantastic 10 minute track.

27. Gloryhammer - Universe On Fire
So many power metal songs on this list this year, but I am not surprised at all. Because just like almost every other band in the genre, Gloryhammer delivers a great assault that just makes everyone bang their heads, scream their lungs out, and get ready to beat up a chaos wizard or two. For the kingdom of Fife!

26. Moonspell - Breathe (Until We Are No More)
This opening track from "Extinct" is one of the strongest openings this year, and no wonder that, because Moonspell sets the bar high with a beautiful, heavy, oriental track that explodes into a chorus that is larger than life. A wonderful start to a wonderful album.

25. Lamb of God - Footprints
It is classic Lamb of God to the core, but somehow, it feels rejuvenated. This track crushes the opposition while also maintaining a cool melody to it. The riffing here is just so well thought of, and the lyrics are as interesting as it gets (just like in the rest of "VII: Sturm Und Drang"). Seems like Randy's time in prison got him some great inspiration.

24. Leprous - The Flood
I could not fully comprehend the latest Leprous offering, but I did take a great liking to "The Flood" fairly early. It may be slow and steady, but it shows how unique and special this band really is. The mood and instrumentation is stunning, and the vocal performance is just magnificent. "The Congregation" was a let down, but "The Flood" made up for it a little.

23. Halestorm - I Am The Fire
What's this? A Halestorm song here? You might be surprised, and I agree that the band in its whole is mostly mediocre mainstream hard rock. However, thanks to Lzzy Hale, the band does shine from time to time. "I Am The Fire" is a strong ballad that shows off just how good Lzzy is. She is seriously one of the coolest chicks in metal right now.

22. Mustasch - Down To Earth
"Testosterone" may have been a different Mustasch experience, but the highlight "Down To Earth" is a future classic for the band. Great speed, roaring vocals, and a ultra catchy chorus that matches up with some of the band's best songs. Does not get any manlier than this.

21. Cain's Offering - The Best of Times
Being the only super group that actually delivered a fantastic effort, Cain's Offering impressed me a lot with its happy and catchy power. I find it interesting that Jani Liimatainen, former founder of Sonata Arctica, made a song that would fit right in to any Stratovarius album, and be one of the highlights (could be that Kotipelto strengthen that feeling, but could not really care less).

20. Fear Factory - Regenerate
It is so difficult to just chose one song from the amazing "Genexus", but "Regenerate" has stuck with me the most since the release. The crushing riffs, the epic chorus, and the grim lyrics. All of these things makes "Regenerate" a really memorable tune that should not be missed.

19. Finsterforst - Zeit Für Hass
Every year, I find several bands I have never heard of that catches my attention with stunning music. Finsterforst was one of those bands, and just listening to "Zeit Für Hass" is all the evidence I need to convince any other to listen to them. Beautiful folk/death metal song that impress with strength, brute force, and epic choir chanting.

18. Kiske/Somerville - City of Heroes
Remembering how disappointing the debut was, I had little to no expectations of Kiske/Somerville's second album. One listen to the title tracks, and all the doubts I had before was washed away. It is not original, but the power and passion in it is overwhelming, showing the true potential of both Michael and Amanda.

17. Paradise Lost - Return To The Sun
It has a length of 5 minutes and 43 seconds, but the slow, melancholic mood makes it feel like "Return To The Sun" goes on forever, and that is certainly not a bad thing. The band is back at their doom roots, and delivers a awesome experience that sounds so simple, but oh so genius.

16. Kamelot - Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)
The symphonic power that is showed on this track is just incredible. Kamelot pulls out all their tricks in the vocal department, and serves us a grand spectacle worthy of the band's reputation. This is no lie, this song is great.

15. Blind Guardian - The Holy Grail
There is no band like Blind Guardian that can create such heavy power that is also as infectious as a deadly virus. "The Holy Grail" may has the same base recipe as "A Voice In The Dark", but why change a strategy that is not broken. It is catchy, fast, and has a great story to it. Oh, and let us not forget a Hansi Kürsch that has never been better.

14. Lightning Bolt - Dream Genie
Despite having vocals that are extremely muddled out, "Dream Genie" is all about the twitching groove that is complete insanity. There are good reasons to why this song made it all the way to Rock Band 4. Still feel sorry for the poor drums that had to be obliterated in the making of this track.

13. Jorn Lande & Trond Holter - Walking On Water
Does anybody have a more powerful voice than Jorn Lande? No matter what, he displays his full power from this epic track taken from his collaboration with Trond Holter about Dracula. No glitter as far as the eye can see.

12. Ensiferum - One Man Army
Whenever Ensiferum releases a new album, it is either a success or a failure. The title track is certainly a great one, a classic power folk metal song that packs a lot of warrior power in it. Very fitting title.

11. 6:33 - Ego Fandango
The strangely named band 6:33 has truly made a mark in 2015 with the heavy, groovy, and quirky song "Ego Fandango". It is a song that makes you get up on your feet, dance, and scream ba-da-bada baaaa-da-bada-bada-bada. Cannot get any more sillier than this.

10. Vanden Plas - The Last Fight
Just like it should be when a fantasy movie ends, the double concept album about the Netherworld ends in a grand, epic fight, and the song that displays this fight is just as grand and epic as it should be. A worthy ending to a fantastic concept.

9. TesseracT - Survival
TesseracT has been one of the leaders for progressive djent for some time now, but in "Polaris", they make things simpler, and it works surprisingly well, especially in the beautiful and addictive "Survival" that cleanses your mind with its heavy, but smooth riffs.

8. Ghost - From The Pinnacle To The Pit
"Meliora" may not be as demonic as the band's two previous album, but the bass line in this track is more evil than Beelzebub. The groove can easily summon your inner demons, while the soaring chorus turns them into angels. Really love the performances from A Nameless Ghoul, A Nameless Ghoul, and especially A Nameless Ghoul.

7. Slayer - Repentless
How many of you guys thought that Slayer would create kick ass thrash again after Hanneman died? Yeah, me neither, that is why "Repentless" was such a wonderful surprise. It has the aggression and speed that the band's early material has, but with tons of experience added to back it up. The Holt-King synergy is not perfect, but good enough for one to live fast, on high.

6. Iron Maiden - The Red And The Black
Narrowly beating "Empire of The Clouds", "The Red And The Black" has all the ingredients to be a modern "Fear of The Dark". It has the build up, the endless solos and a hooky riff that will make entire arenas sing their lungs out. I expect this to be on the set list when the band goes out on the tour this coming year.

5. Angra - Perfect Symmetry
As I have previously stated, power metal had quite a year in 2015, and so did Angra. "Perfect Symmetry" is overflowing with adrenaline, all thanks to the blasting drums, and mesmerizing riffing from the new Megadeth member Kiko Loureiro. Add a catchy chorus that you can sing along to, and you got yourself the ultimate power metal song.

4. Mechina - On The Wings of Nefeli
Mechina keeps evolving, even if they are producing new music in an inhuman pace. "On The Wings of Nefeli" is just another proof of this, mixing beautiful female vocals, carefully placed riffs, and infectious drum rhythms. A fantastic musical paradise in which you can easily get lost in its wondrous trance.

3. Judicator - How Long Can You Live Forever
It may be a slow starter, but once Judicator gets enough momentum in "How Long Can You Live Forever", it becomes a complete juggernaut of a song. Telling about the down side of immortality, Judicator makes an amazing job in capturing the listener both lyrically and musically. Do not miss out on this band.

2. Enslaved - One Thousand Years of Rain
It seems that Enslaved can succeed in the most unthinkable ways, like in this 8 minute beauty. Starting with a thrashy acoustic riff, it later transform into a magnificent progressive track with tons of layers and depth. "One Thousand Years of Rain" takes almost the entire Enslaved discography, and bakes it into one, meaty track. Simply amazing.

1. Atlas Losing Grip - Ithaka
It is hard to imagine a skate punk band to create a 11 minute saga about ancient Greece, but Atlas Losing Grip did just that to close out their fantastic album "Currents". "Ithaka" is a amazing piece with perfect execution. The band sets the moods and speeds perfectly, and manages to make this mastodon of a song versatile and fun. That acoustic guitar is just incredibly beautiful. A surprising, but most deserving, winner of this category.

As you see, a lot of great music this year, but I bet you have other favourites. Let me know about them, either here or on Twitter (@FATGreviews). Next up is the best albums lists, should be up soon enough.

Stay Metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Best of 2015: 2015 in review

My best of 2015 week starts with a segment that actually is not in a best of segment. I have decided to scrap my special awards since I find that segment to be dumb. First off, I am having trouble to come up with new awards every year, and second, most of these awards were insignificant things. So instead, I chose to just look in the rear view mirror and reflect on 2015, it is more or less the same thing as the special awards, but it feels a little classier. So then, let's get talking!

It has been a fun year

Metal used to be kind of stale and over the top serious, but maybe we are seeing a kind of global warming on that part. 2015 has seen a good number of releases that are out right fun, both musically and spiritually. Just take Gloryhammer for example. Who would have thought that one of the best albums in 2015 would be a concept album about chaos wizards in space from 1992. That is complete bonkers.

Gloryhammer are not alone in bringing the fun. Bands like Angra, 6:33, Standing Ovation, Gama Bomb and Clutch also helps out in making this year incredibly fun. My mouth is sore from smiling so much.

What a year for power metal

I have already mentioned Gloryhammer and Angra, but they were not the only power metal bands that released great albums this year. The whole genre has had a stellar year, seeing nice releases from Stratovarius, Blind Guardian, Cain's Offering, and Nightwish. Actually, the only ones that I can think of that really dropped the ball this year was Battle Beast and Helloween, both released quite boring albums that are no where near their best outings. Despite those duds, it goes to show that power metal is once again relevant in the metal business.

The beauty of metal

Another thing that has impressed me this year is that the amount of beautiful album covers is through the roof. We all know that the sound of an album is the most important part, but there is no feeling like the one of looking at a great and striking album cover. Several bands have come through with some amazing artwork, like Children of Bodom, Ghost, Saxon, Teramaze, Queensrÿche and Enslaved. But the cake is taken by Magic Kingdom. God damn, if someone needed a step by step guide to make a power metal cover art, you just have to look at this one as inspiration and let the power metal flow through your veins. After that, you just go full Bob Ross mode, and make happy little accidents.

Just some of the amazing art pieces from 2015


The beginning of the end

Okay, this beginning of the end of the classic metal bands have already started, but it has not been until this year that this has been obvious. Lemmy has had back to back medical issues, and now that Phil Campbell also has checked into the hospital, we know that the days of Motörhead are counting down. At the same time, Mötley Crüe is doing their last ever tour, and we know that they will not pull a Rolling Stones on us since they declared themselves dead with tomb stones. The definite sign of this though is the announcement of Black Sabbath's last ever world tour. It is not at all surprising (the guys are seniors after all), but it is still a little sad.

We all knew that they would not be here forever, so let us now enjoy these last moments while we still can. I know I will by going to the upcoming shows of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath this summer.

The plague called "Super" groups

I do not know about you guys, but I have felt that the metal community saw a big increase in bands that consists of members that are or used to be in a big, established band, aka super groups. I get that musicians want to broaden their horizons and try to spice up their career, but this is getting ridiculous. And it is not like we are happy over this.

Most of these groups flat out blows, not because they fail to create music that lives up to their names (no super group has, and will never be able to reach that goal), but because they just put out mediocre shit. Here is a list of all the super groups I have heard new material from this year.

Act of Defiance, Cain's Offering, Civil War, Devil You Know, Firespawn, Level 10, Lindemann, Metal Allegiance, Operation: Mindcrime, The Night Flight Orchestra, Tremonti, and if you would add them to this category as well (I am not sure they fit in here), Kiske/Somerville and Magnus Karlsson's Freefall. I am also sure that I have missed several other ones out there.

Some of these have actually put out some good music (Cain's Offering's "Stormcrow" got a 9/10), but the reputation is there for a reason. For the love of god, stay away from Metal Allegiance's self titled album and Level 10's "Chapter 1", both are just god awful. These albums may be made by fantastic musicians such as Mike Portnoy, Russell Allen, and David Ellefson, but that does not mean that they just get an automatic stamp of approval.

Speaking of bad music...

Where's the Black Tide I know and love?

As I wrote in my review of "Chasing Shadows", Black Tide quickly became one of my favourites when they released their debut album "Light From Above". If their latest album would have been the first one I heard from the band, I would have not bothered in hearing "Light From Above", which means I would have missed several amazing tracks such as "Shockwave", "Black Abyss", and "Warriors of Time".

I can understand that people change, and that their music evolves into something different than what made them famous. Just look at all the established artist today, the only ones that plays more or less the same thing they did when they emerged are AC/DC and Motörhead. However, the path that Black Tide has taken is more of a devolution into something that is bland and unimaginative. That is exactly why I have lost faith in them, and why "Chasing Shadows" is without any competition my pick for worst album of the year.

The world is seriously f****d up

There is no denying that this world is on the brink of witnessing a third world war. ISIS is roaming wild and crazy, blowing up and shooting everything within the eye's sight, and all of the world's leaders can do is argue over how to take action (at least they got a climate agreement now, so they are at least slowly getting somewhere). I have always believed that religion is okay, you sometimes do need some higher power to believe in, but the members of ISIS takes that belief to the extreme. What kind of god would allow this madness?

And at the same time, we others are not much better, destroying our only planet by destroying nature, causing global warming, and arguing over the littlest things just for the sake of arguing. I wish I could meet those who argued over the red coffee cups at Starbucks and give them a grand Ziltoid slap in their faces. Just do what I do, if I see something that mildly annoys me, I shut up and move on.

My personal 2015

Time to get personal. My year has been a busy one, not only did I have to deal with my first full time job, but I have had other personal issues that I will not go further into. Why am I talking about this? Because it has effected my time with the blog and my ability to listen to new music. I would have loved to do more reviews, but I just have not managed my time all to well. That is why my new year's resolution will be to improve my time management to optimize my writing.

One thing I am more proud of is that I have managed to increase my CD collection quite a bit this year. I do not have the exact number of how many albums I have purchased this year, but I did reach the 100 album milestone this year at least. I have mostly focused on two things. 1. getting all albums from Dream Theater and Iron Maiden (only have "Falling Into Infinity" left with DT), and 2. acquiring as many classics as possible, some that I got this year was Rainbow "Rising", Guns N' Roses "Appetite for Destruction", Slayer "Reign In Blood" and Opeth "Blackwater Park" + "Ghost Reveries". Does this mean I ignore the newer releases? No, some newer albums that I have gotten are Blind Guardian "Beyond The Red Mirror", Iron Maiden "The Book of Souls", Moonspell "Extinct", Cain's Offering "Stormcrow" and Ghost "Meliora". I may not be rich, but I have spent a lot of cash on music, and I feel good about it. Really feel like my collection is coming along nicely.

A look into 2016

In conclusion, 2015 was a fairly good year for metal, but not so much for the overall well being of the world. No matter what, I am really looking forward to 2016. Not only do I get the chance to visit some great shows, but looking at the list of albums that are going to be released in the beginning of next year, it promises to be a great start. Or what do we say about new releases from Mechina, Cloudscape, Rhapsody of Fire, Witchcraft, Steven Wilson, Megadeth, Avantasia, Primal Fear, Lost Society, Omnium Gatherum, Holy Grail, Entombed A. D. and Anvil? Oh, and let us not forget Dream Theater, whom is releasing a double album concept that has a total of 34 (!) tracks. I AM SO HYPED!!!

I really hoped you enjoyed this article (even if it turned out to be long as hell), and that you all appreciate what 2015 has given us. Let me know what you think of 2015, has it been a good or a bad year? Let me know on the commentary section below, or on Twitter (@FATGreviews).

Be sure to be on the look out for the next part of my best of 2015 series, which is my top 50 songs of 2015.

Stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Standing Ovation - Gravity Beats Nuclear (2015)

The Finnish band Standing Ovation is a interesting bunch of guys, to say the least. Formed in 2006, the band has created a unique mix of progressive metal and, according to themselves, a flurry of addictive details, or as I would call it, fun and insane quirkiness. Judging from the cover, the band seems pretty serious, but it is not until you see their band photos that you realize that they might have a screw or two loose, in a good kind of way. These goofballs have now released their sophomore album, entitled "Gravity Beats Nuclear".

I first got my eyes of the band when they released the music video for the song "Hellbillies", a heavy and wacky song about cannibalism. Yes, this is a song about some drunk chef from Texas that loves to cook human flesh and eat it, it is just as heavy and insane as it sounds. It is without a doubt the most fun song in the entire record, and the instrumentation is impressive as well, especially in the keyboard and guitar solos. As for the music video itself, it is probably my favourite one that was released this year, and it is probably mostly thanks to the singer Jouni Partanen and his pitch black teeth. Check it out for yourself.



The band does mix tons of different styles in their music, without sounding too shattered in their own personality. Most of the music is really melodic and progressive, like the 18 minute mastodon "Lifeline", but it does have its fair share of heavy stuff in it, making the album cover a wide spectrum of the musical landscape. An impressive feat in itself.

The album has several great tracks in it, but none of them really sticks to you as "Hellbillies" does, which is kind of a shame, not because "Hellbillies" is a bad song, but because every other song deserves some more credit. "Permafrost" and "Killer, Iron" has some of the sweetest choruses I have heard all year, "Lifeline" is a fantastic journey from start to finish, and "Run Little Mouse Run" that has a fun groove that is reminiscent of Devin Townsend. Just take your time, and let the songs sink in, then you will understand that his album is more than meets the ear.

I do have some criticism before we round out this review. The ending of the album is a little weak, and while the overall song quality is good, I still feel like the band has some way to go before they can reach the next level. With that said, I still enjoyed the album a lot, and if the band happens to watch this review, just keep doing what you are doing, and you will be fine. You got something cool going on, and I do not want you to hold anything back.

The band certainly aims for the stars in "Gravity Beats Nuclear", and they do succeed to some degree. While the whole picture could have been a little sharper, the experience in itself is interesting enough to be a part of. With a mix of humour, technicality, and finesse, Standing Ovation presents us with a album that is excellent in many ways. Seeing that this is only their second album, I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the future.

Songs worthy of recognition: Hellbillies, "Killer, Iron", Lifeline

Rating: 7,5/10 Permafrosts

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Katana - The Greatest victory (2015)

Even if it was only three years since last they released an album, I had almost forgotten about the Swedish heavy metal band Katana. They emerged to the scene in 2011 with the release of their debut album "Heads Will Roll", and continued the next year with the release of the fantastic "Storms of War", a album that made it into my top 20 that year. But since then, it has been dead silent about this band, so I did take a big sigh of relief when I found out that their third album was done and out.

"The Greatest Victory" is more or less what you would expect from the Swedes, it is metal that is highly influenced from the NWoBHM movement, but the lyrical themes are all about Japan and its culture. The Japanese theme is the main reason to why I love this band, because there is no other band out there that sings about it. Sure, Trivium has touched it in the album "Shogun" and there are Japanese metal bands out there, but Katana is the only one that has really succeeded in making compelling music about this culture.

"Shaman Queen" opens the album in classic Katana fashion. It is fast, the vocals delivered by Johan Bernspång are big and epic, and the solo is sweet as hell. A splendid start. "Yakuza" follows there after, a song that was released over a year ago, and I remember that my first initial reaction was disappointment. This song was a let down to me because there was not much power to it, and my mind on that has not changed since then, but I appreciate the song more now because it is a classic old school tune that works as a first single. Not my favourite song on the record, but it is not the worst either.

The band doesn't really pick up the quality again until the 5th song "Kingdom Never Come". It almost appears as if the first songs were only there as a warm up, so the listener would be ready for the onslaught on the second half, because it is here most of the best material exists. "Within An Inch of Your Life" keeps you on the edge, "Mark of The Beast" tells a grand story, and while "In The Shadows" sounds a lot like Scorpions' "No One Like You" in some parts, it is still a great, moody song that ends the album really well.

While the overall quality is a little all over the place, the band cannot be blamed for their performance, because it is close to flawless. Bernspång has a great and unique voice that fits so well in this genre, while Patrik Essén's guitar work has a nice mix of both old and new sounds. But the most important part is still the Japanese theme, and it is as present as always. Frankly, that is all I could ever ask for from this band.

"The Greatest Victory" is by all means not a bad album, but somehow, I am still a little disappointed over it. With how good "Storms of War" was, I was hoping that the band would continue their evolution. Instead, they take a step backwards to a safer route. I still enjoy this album, and my affection for Katana is unchanged, but I am not really sure if it was worth the three year wait. Oh well, I am sure they will bounce back and make a kick ass album next time, striking like a ninja when we least expect it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Shaman Queen, Kingdom Never Come, In The Shadows

Rating: 6,5/10 Shoguns

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Live Blu-ray review: Ziltoid Live At The Royal Albert Hall

First off, I would like to declare myself as a poopy head, for bringing you this review waaaaaaay later than I expected. By mistake, I ordered the Blu-Ray version instead of the DVD version, and since I do not have a Blu-Ray player, everything went down the crapper, and I had to search for somebody who could borrow their player, or possibly a PS3. Now that I have found someone who was willing to do just that, let me bring you this review. Enjoy!

In my mind, there are only two good reasons to record a live show. Either it has to be a band's last ever show, or it has to be a show that is with all certainty never going to happen again in a million years. Devin Townsend's "Ziltoid Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is one such show. Devin and his companions in the DTP put together a grand spectacle in London this previous spring, a 2 part show were the band did the entire "Dark Matters" record from "Z²" and a "By Request" set. Even if I think this was a cool idea, I was pissed that London got the glory for this type of show from the Canadian mastermind for the second time in 2 years (He performed "The Retinal Circus" there in 2014). But my love for Devin (and Ziltoid) did overtake the disappointment, and I could only wait for the show to be released on video.

As expected from the Jim Carrey of metal, Devin delivers a fun, goofy, and energetic show in the first half. Not only is the band playing the whole "Dark Matters" album from start to finish, but they are doing so while there is a full theater act going on among the band members. We get to witness a full choir with Ziltoid capes, a massive Poozer, and of course, the main characters of the story, Ziltoid, the War Princess (played by Dominique Lenore Persi), and Captai... wait,  where's Captain Spectacular? Turns out, Chris Jerricho could not be on the show, which means we only get pre recorded video shorts from his role. Frankly, I could not care less. Jerricho is a mediocre entertainer, and his over the top acting on those shorts were atrocious.

The best thing about this set list though is the videos that are played in the back ground, giving another dimension to the visualization of the album. Devin has always been keen on giving the audience a full experience, both for ears and eyes, and he certainly does that. Whether you feel like you are flying in warp speed in "Ziltoid Goes Home" or getting crushed by walking machines in "March of The Poozers", you do get engulfed in the show, even if you sit on the sofa. Man, I can only imagine how it would feel like to be a part of the audience.

Speaking of the audience, they do bring yet another dimension to this spectacle, not only with their cheers, applauds, and their collective Karaoke power in "Dimension Z", but in ways that you will probably only encounter in a Devin Townsend show. I cannot count how many people held their Ziltoid puppets up in the air during this set, and then there are those who are as goofy as Devin. For example, there are two people at the front of the pack wearing Stitch and Pikachu Onepiece's. Complete insanity.

On to set 2, which is a set filled with songs that was requested by the fans. Looking at this 13 song set list, I am super pleased with a lot of these choices, especially the duo "Bastard" and "The Death of Music" from the amazing "Ocean Machine: Biomech". Those two tracks are some of my favourite songs ever by Devin, and to finally see them being performed live makes me grin from ear to ear. Other fine choices includes "Namaste", "Earth Day", and "Kingdom".

However, while I think the "By Request" set is overall really good, there are some songs that makes me scratch my head. First off, "Lucky Animals"... really? You get to choose over 20 years of music and you pick this? Oh well, it is goofy, so I can dig it. Second, I dislike the fact that "Deconstruction" is completely left out here. I would have loved to see them perform "The Mighty Masturbator" (with a short guest appearance from Ziltoid of course). Third, I do not know if this was intentional, but I find it hard to believe that none of the original Ziltoid songs were not among the top. I guess Devin filled his Ziltoid quota in the first set. But it is just like Devin says himself, the two sets are just like "Z²", two sides of the same coin. We have the goofy, fun, theatrical side, and the more professional (but still sort of goofy) side of DTP.

Since I am pretty unfamiliar with Blu-ray, I cannot really compare this disc with others, but I will say this, the quality is crisp, and the sound is freaking awesome. This is definitely a release in which you should experience with a surround sound, blasting at 11. Besides from the show itself, we got some extras as well, such as all three Ziltoid TV episodes, the music video for "March of The Poozers", a time lapse of the stage build in Royal Albert Hall, and a documentary in which Devin explains the world of Ziltoid. Well, actually it is more Devin talking about his career, touring and the Royal Albert Hall show... oh, and Ziltoid of course. There is something with Devin's speaking voice and his choice of words that is hypnotizing and intriguing. I could seriously listen to him talk for hours (but just like everyone else, I would rather hear him sing :) ).

Even if it is not much, the extra material does keep you entertained for another half hour, and it also gives the viewer a chance to wind down after a show that had everything and more. Devin is a man who knows how to create a spectacle that is unique, crazy, and corny, and he keeps finding ways to get the fans involved in his works, showing that he really loves his fans. There are only small things that I can complain on, but as a fan of Devin, and as a fan of Ziltoid, I am as happy as a Ziltoidian child in a Starbucks. A must own for all fans of fun music.

Best: "Bastard" and "The Death of Music"

Worst: Next time, make Sweden the location

Rating: 9,5/10 Ultimate coffee beans

Set 1 - Dark Matters
1. Z²
2. From Sleep Awake
3. Ziltoidian Empire
4. War Princess
5. Deathray
6. March of The Poozers
7. Wandering Eye
8. Earth
9. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through The Wormhole
11. Dimension Z

Set 2 - By Request
1. Namaste
2. Night
3. Deadhead
4. Earth Day
5. Christeen
6. Supercrush!
7. Kingdom
8. Lucky Animals
9. Heatwave
10. Funeral
11. Bastard
12. The Death of Music
13. Universal Flame

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saxon - Battering Ram (2015)

Being one of those bands that seem to not stop until death tells otherwise, Saxon keeps on trucking and releases a new album every other year. Say what you want about them, but you cannot deny that these guys are very productive, releasing 21 albums in 39 years. A impressive rate for sure.

Fortunately, this almost mass production of new albums has not at all affected the quality of the craft. "Battering Ram" may not be all to original, but it is far from bad. On the contrary, it is actually one the more solid albums I have heard from them in recent years (and the same can be said about that gorgeous album cover). It is not that the band has created a couple of songs that will go in history as instant classics, instead they have created 11 songs that all hold a good, high standard that every fan should have no trouble in banging their heads to.

Just like any other Saxon album, there are no big surprises in store. They start off by pulling their most powerful (and possibly the strongest) punch with the title track. Worthy of its name, it punches through your door with loud drums, sweet riffing, and Biff Byford's stand out vocals. Certainly a start that makes an impact. The strong starts continues with the groovy "The Devil's Footprint" (that more or less steals the intro to Iron Maiden's "The Number of The Beast" and just puts other words in it) and a slow, chugging Alice In Wonderland tribute in "Queen of Hearts".

The album does sink a little after that, but it never really submerges fully below the surface. All songs are steady as a rock, succeeding with its only mission, to entertain the listener with good music. Songs like "Stand Your Ground", "Top of The World" and "Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)" does stand out among its brethren, but are these songs that will blow you away? No. Do they have to blow you away? Absolutely not, you will still enjoy them.

For us metal fans, this is just another Saxon release among the other 20. It is not a album that will baffle and it will have a hard time to make any best of lists this year, but it does what it was intended for, it entertains. "Battering Ram" lives up to the name, even if the bang is not too big. It is a good, strong album that does not disappoint anyone. It is simply Saxon, and we would not have it any other way.

Songs worthy of recognition: Battering Ram, The Devil's Footprint, Top of The World

Rating: 7,5/10 Queen of Hearts

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

Dubbed as one of the most important albums of all time, the 1976 release "Sad Wings of Destiny" was the first album that showed signs of what would eventually make Judas Priest what they are today. Unlike its predecessor "Rocka Rolla", it is more diverse in its execution, and the band had more freedom in expressing themselves musically. Just by judging the fantastic album cover, you would instantly know that the band would come up with a sophomore effort that exceeds the expectations.

One should still remember that during the making of this album, the band was living pretty tight. Several members worked part time jobs and the overall budget for the album was a measly 2000£, which certainly is reflected in the production, even if it is far better than the one in "Rocka Rolla". Jeffery Calvert and Max West did a great job together with the band in the production department.

But it is not the production that makes "Sad Wings of Destiny" such a magnificent record. It is that sweet mix of riff driven rock and progressive melodies that makes this album a stunning one. It has a goal, a purpose, and most importantly, a passion that is spewing out from every note and beat coming out of those speakers. The band must have really enjoyed themselves despite the circumstances.

The biggest difference on this album has to be Rob Halford. If "Rocka Rolla" was his warm up record, then he is all fired up here, mixing slow, delicate, and moody vocals with screams that will give you the chills. His range on this record is spectacular to say the least, he dominates every track with his god like vocals. It is easy to see why he became The Metal God with all metal heads out there.

Then we have the set list, probably not the most famous songs that the band has ever made, but still a great bunch of tracks that ties the album together well. The two opening tracks, "Victim of Changes" and "The Ripper", is unmistakeably the most famous tracks, and it is not hard to see why. "Victim of Changes" is a 8 minute giant where the band shows their whole register, the riffs, the moods, and of course, a couple of awesome solos. "The Ripper" is more of a direct hit, a simple, but super effective song about the notorious London killer Jack The Ripper.

The remaining 7 tracks gets a little over shadowed by the opening 2, but they are still a worthy listen, even if they do variate in terms of quality. The due "Dreamer Deceiver" and "Deceiver" works well together and finishes the A side in a terrific way, while the whole B side are mixed with groovy head movers ("Island of Domination"), ZZ Top rocking melodies ("Genocide"), speedy guitars ("Tyrant"), and a Queen like ballad without guitars ("Epitaph"). A interesting bunch of songs that unfortunately does give the impression that the band had no clear direction they wanted to take with the second half of the record.

So does "Sad Wings of Destiny" deserve the praise that it has gotten over the years? Absolutely, this is a magnificent album in which Judas Priest shows its true self for the first time, and does so by firing on all cylinders. The A side may be more even and impressive in its performance, but the B side should not be forgotten, it shows the massive range that the band possesses. A impressive piece of art that has no reason at all to be sad over its destiny.

Songs worthy of recognition: Victim of Changes, The Ripper, Dreamer Deceiver, Island of Domination

Rating: 8,5/10 Tyrants