Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Let's talk about Ghost - aka Stop the Madness

These are some thoughts put down on record, mainly to preserve my sanity and to refer anyone asking me about my opinion, here. I'm really tired of the whole thing...

TL;DR: Ghost is becoming better and better, their relationship to metal is irrelevant since the promotional frenzy of the debut and the useless Mercyful Fate/King Diamond comparisons, they are now pretty great (I find) but people still cling on to the original black or white idea: Genius or Hacks, "they are not metal", "best thing that happened to metal". Can we please judge them on their own merits without all the genre baggage? Apparently not.

In the beginning

I was negatively impressed with all the hype that followed Ghost's debut. Particularly it was the "these are the true heirs to Mercyful Fate, the band that continues their dark path but also the future of metal". Best thing that happened in metal for ages! (my Vektor shirt says fuck off!) I had no problems if you liked Ghost, just don't fucking tell me they were similar to Mercyful Fate. They had half a chorus (Ritual / Return of the Vampire) and one riff/groove (Elizabeth / Gypsy, my god, the comparison kills Elizabeth for me) that had any real resemblance to Mercyful Fate's music (well, Ritual's riff is also Symphony of Destruction). Not coincidentally, those are the two songs I like from the debut. But that's pretty much it.

Musically, it was way more 70s not-so-heavy rock, maybe Blue Oyster Cult with a pop finish but definitely very little to do with Mercyful Fate. Mercyful Fate was bleeding heavy metal from the get go. If more than 30 years later their offspring sounds so much softer and poppier then what the fuck was the whole international press talking about? That's what REALLY, REALLY bothered me. The comparison to King Diamond. So, all it really takes folks is some face paint, some satanism and an incenser, there you go, King Diamond. Right? Well, fuck no! Not right! (incidentally, a few years later, I saw that the King himself pretty much agrees with me). In short, my point was more about Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and the press rather than Ghost themselves. To be fair, the constant promotion and praising rubbed off me the wrong way ("free with the magazine, a paper Ghost Pope hat", really?)

Then I saw them live, along with Hell and Candlemass. And they were even poppier than I thought. A friend who today claims they are super-brilliant was amazed at their poppiness and called them "softer than *some greek pop artist*." They were actually quite entertaining, esp. the intro to the gig with Masked Ball (unfortunately, the peak of the show but it was cool) and I mean musically entertaining too, for a pop/rock band, although I thought that Papa's voice was really too soft and flat. More to the point, Hell was a pure metal band that truly captured the spirit of theatrical metal in a way a lot of bands that tried before utterly failed miserably, owing a lot to David Bower, their charismatic singer. Yet almost everyone who raved about Ghost's MF heritage failed to acknowledge Hell and they were playing just a few minutes before Ghost. They had the show (shakespearean performances and all), the songs, the metal, the voice - but they lacked Anselmo and Hetfield wearing their shirts. Score for the promotion team!

So, that was my beef really: the blatant display of ignorance regarding Mercyful Fate/King Diamond's music and drawing direct comparisons between that and Ghost. I wrote in an article then something like: Either people have no idea what Mercyful Fate and King Diamond's music is (my main thesis to be honest - and as a KD worshipper I have a problem with that) or they just like the 70s more than they know. Either way, don't tell me this "heavy" (stretching the term) "vintage" thing is the future of metal.


Then they released the second one, Infestissumam, which really saw Ghost taking their rather simplistic thing to a higher level. Their pop streak became way more prominent, music-wise and production wise and now the guitars actually worked nicely with the songs, songs that could work well in a club for example. I also found the songwriting waaaaaay more interesting (Year Zero in particular I thought was the best thing they had done up to that point). The ABBA thing made sense and suited their Rosemary's Baby vibe fine. Also, most people stopped calling them the future of metal music, which helped a lot - it would have been rather moronic to continue with that line of promoting. See, Ghost were obviously aiming for a much, much larger pie than the metal world and they never really hid the fact. They had to start from the metal world, since that's where *they* came from and was the only audience they had some kind of connection, including the business connection (Lee Dorian for one who was not happy to see them leave his company...).

Now, they were free to pursue their vision and personally, I had absolutely no problems with that and said so as well. To my dismay, the problem was now the other way around. People denouncing Ghost for being a gimmick band that has no place in metal. Sure, they were promoted to the point of disgust but as always, if there is no real substance and value behind the entertainment, all the promotion in the world will do SHIT for you, you are bound to disappear after the ads, the trend and the hype go away. That's a universal law. Ghost, on the other hand, were obviously gaining ground and still do with every release. Think about that a bit my dear fellow metalhead.
They sure took the theatrical side of things and the Papa story to a new level, as they were supposed to. Read some of their interviews, you will see they were not trying to fool anyone and you can tell the vision was there already.


Then came Meliora. I know this is the album that tipped the scales in their favour for a lot of people and rightfully so. This was even better than Infestissumam. The production values were gold. The songwriting now covered a lot of ground, incorporating cinematic elements (proggy?), pop as always, 70s and metal elements. In fact the metal elements on this one sounded more metal than ever before, thanks to the production. Listen to the great Mummy Dust for example. Even Papa has started to sound more interesting instead of that weak flat thing he did (...another comparison to Mercyful Fate...NOT!). Still sounds like a sweetheart though! (Lost in Vegas <3). And having seen the vinyl version, I have to give it to them, they offered the complete package.

But here's the krux of the matter. At this point, Ghost have a definite character, their stage shows are becoming all the more elaborate and theatrical, their music grander and more ambitious, while still remaining catchy. And people STILL fight among themselves debating whether the band is metal or not or if the people who have this debate are retarded or not. The argument is not about the music. It's about protecting our identity and persona as music (metal or anti-metal) listeners. Out of all the arguments out there you will very rarely find actual, pure musical discussions. On one hand you have all the focus on their gimmicks or how their audience are slaves to marketing and on the other hand you have their fans writing off everyone who doesn't like Ghost as a neanderthal. To be honest, the second group has more points on their side. I was one of the first to object to all the "future of metal" bullshit spewed by their promo team and the fever that seemed to plague the entire metal press but fucking give it a rest already. Judge them on their own merits, not based on their genre. Not the finest representation of the metal community, which is quite divided I observe regarding Ghost. I should note however that a lot of the Ghost fans can really get on your nerves quick, as if liking Ghost somehow scores you IQ points. It's the same deal as Tool fans, prog fans, jazz fans or metal elitists. As usual, it all boils down to how you communicate with others. Are you a smug asshole? For or Against Ghost, you are still an asshole dude.

I can of course accept the people who say "their music does shit for me", it's not like their music is the epitome of inspiration and I think they never made an entire album filled to the brim with awesomeness, although I would argue that this Tobias dude has developed quite the knack for writing hooks, which is really not an easy talent to come by. You don't like them, that's absolutely fine and don't let any hipster tell you otherwise. On the other hand, if you don't like them doesn't mean they aren't fucking talented and unique because they really, really are.

Now, Prequelle

I decided to put this train of thought in words because we are in the promotion period of their upcoming album Prequelle, with two new songs being officially released (Rats, found it great - and Dance Macabre, which I found too poppy and indifferent for my tastes) and history repeats itself: "best thing ever!", "worst shit ever", "geniuses", "hacks", "most unique band of the past years", "a gimmick circus for the masses" and so on and so forth. I've lost count of the discussions spawned which have an uncanny resemblace to the dicussions of two, three, six years ago. Fucking hell. The only thing that seems to have changed is the smugness level on both sides of the argument.

The truth they say is always around the middle. Well, as someone who is not really a Ghost fan (I like 'em) I say the truth this time is closer to those who claim that Ghost is great. They are catchy and fun, I don't think they are music's gift to mankind like some of my friends do but saying they are hacks is really coming off as a true metal crusade against the false. And this is coming from someone who takes metal way too seriously and wrote the article about "fuck off with Ghost as the future of metal". Ghost is not the problem people. Really.

Of course, I have no illusions that this post will make a difference to the chaos that will continue before, during and after Prequelle but hopefully, a lot of people I've had frustrating talks with can see where I am coming from. I am fed up with the whole discussion. I like Ghost, I like some of their songs a lot at least and I can really appreciate their dedication to their vision (I feel I am stretching the use of plural here though, it's really just Tobias/Papa/Cardinal at this point, is it not?).

A good rock band with a great show. That's wonderful. SPARE ME ALL THE REST. PLEASE.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Vic's log: Πώς πέρασα την δεύτερη μέρα στο Chania Rock Festival 2017

H πρώτη μέρα πήγε θαυμάσια αλλά μουσικά ένιωσα πραγματικά το βράδυ. Σήμερα έχω το προαίσθημα ότι θα νιώσω πολύ περισσότερο. Στο βανάκι η επιλογή στα ηχεία έπεσε σε κάποιον που κρατούσε το Brave New World. Θα μπορούσαμε και καλύτερα αλλά και πολύ χειρότερα. To Wickerman πάντως παραμένει μετριότατο και θα μου θυμίζει πάντα τη φορά που έβαλα το single που μου είχαν κάνει δώρο τότε στο Bristol, που παραμένει μια αρκετά πικρή ανάμνηση. Ο υπόλοιπος δίσκος είναι πραγματικά αξιοπρεπέστατος αλλά ακόμα απορώ με όλο αυτόν τον κόσμο που τον βάζει στο επίπεδο των πρώτων 7. Δηλαδή δεν απορώ και τόσο, μάλλον μνημείο στο πόσο δισκάρες ήταν αυτά με τον Bayley είναι η αποθέωση στο BNW αλλά ας αλλάξουμε θέμα.

Φτάνοντας στα Χανιά σκοπεύουμε να τηρήσουμε το ίδιο πρόγραμμα με χθες γιατί InnerWish θέλω να δω οπωσδήποτε. Τους Hemingways δεν τους προλαβαίνουμε καν. Πάμε για μάσα. Ο Μανώλης λέει να κάνουμε γρήγορα γιατί και οι Eversin είναι ενδιαφέροντες, τεχνικό thrash λέει. Δυστυχώς επιστρέφουμε την ώρα που κατέβαιναν, μη μας κάτσει και το χάμπουργκερ καλοκαιριάτικα. Ρωτάω φίλους που τους είδαν και μου λένε καλά λόγια “αλλά δεν έχασες και τίποτα συγκλονιστικό”. Ελπίζω πως όχι, να χάσω καλούς θρασάδες θα μου χτυπήσει άσχημα. Κάνω την περασά αργότερα από τον καναπέ, not bad at all, στην σκηνή ίσως ζωντανεύει και αυτή η παραγωγή...

Μέσα στον Προμαχώνα ανταλλάζω χαρωπές κουβέντες με γνωστούς και φίλους, αρκετούς που συναντώ για πρώτη φορά (α, το ίντερνετ!). Οι InnerWish είναι πολύ καλοί. Φωνητικά ο Εικοσιπεντάκης τα πάει περίφημα και ο Τσίγκος (με βερμουδίτσα και καπελάκι για τον ήλιο μούρλια) παραμένει εγγύηση ενός hard n’ heavy metal axeman, με ουσία, δυναμικές και ένταση, όπως πρέπει. Όλη η μπάντα ξεχειλίζει εμπειρία και παρά το καμίνι δεν έχει πρόβλημα να κερδίσει τους παρευρισκόμενους. Πολύ συγκινητική υπήρξε η στιγμή που αφιέρωσαν ένα κομμάτι (νομίζω το εξαιρετικό Rain of a Thousand Tears αλλά δεν παίρνω και όρκο) στον Μιχάλη Σαβοϊδάκη. Αυτή τη φορά ο Αντώνης (αν θυμάμαι καλά), όπως ο Μανώλης πέρυσι με τους Rock n’ Roll Children στο Ηράκλειο, έσπασε στην μέση της αφιέρωσης. Κατανοητό. Ο Μιχάλης, ήταν ορκισμένος φίλος των InnerWish από τις πρώτες μέρες, τους φιλοξενούσε σπίτι του, ήταν αδελφικός τους φίλος, ένα ευγενέστατο παιδί (παροιμιωδώς), με χιλιοβασανισμένη ζωή αλλά και ήρεμη δύναμη που πάντοτε έλεγε απερίφραστα, απλά και ακομπλεξάριστα ότι αντλούσε την δύναμή του από το heavy metal. Accept, Saxon και Running Wild οι βασικότερες πηγές του. Παιδί που ξέρουν οι περισσότερες ελληνικές μπάντες μιας και φρόντιζε θρησκευτικά να τις υποστηρίζει.

Επίλογος με Ready for Attack και οι InnerWish ολοκλήρωσαν μια μεστή εμφάνιση και κατέβηκαν για να δώσουν την σκυτάλη στο δεύτερο μεγάλο όνομα της ημέρας. Τους Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, τη μπάντα του μακροβιότερου κιθαρίστα των Motorhead και συνθέτη πολλών εκ των καυλωτικώτερων riff τους (KILLED BY DEATH!). Μαζί με 3 γιους του και τον τραγουδιστή Neil Starr γυρνάει τον κόσμο ανοίγοντας σε λαοθάλασσες (εμάς ερχόταν από την περιοδεία με τους Guns n’ Roses), θέτοντας ως όρο να μην μπει πουθενά το logo των Motorhead. Ναι μεν το μισό σετ είναι τραγούδια των Motorhead και φυσικά δικαιούται (να μην πω υποχρεούται) να δίνει στον κόσμο την ευκαιρία να τα απολαμβάνει ζωντανά αλλά παπάτζες τύπου Dio hologram tour δεν έχει καμία όρεξη να πουλήσει. Νομίζω θα τον τσάντιζε κάτι τέτοιο. Lemmy είναι μόνο ένας και ο Neil δεν προσπαθεί να τον μιμηθεί στη χροιά και το στυλ παρά μόνο στο πάθος και τον τσαμπουκά. Πριν βγουν τους έβλεπα με καλό μάτι χωρίς να έχω ακούσει νότα του EP τους.

Στην σκηνή με κέρδισαν με τη δεύτερη, το No Turning Back που έκανα σημείωση να τσιμπήσω μετά το EP (με υπογραφές το έδιναν, δεν με χάλασε!), μιας και γίνεται ολοφάνερο ότι ο Phil είχε μεγάλο μερίδιο στον ήχο των Motorhead και προφανώς δεν το έχει χάσει το χάρισμα. Όταν έπαιξαν το πρώτο Motorhead της βραδιάς είχαν ήδη κερδίσει τον κόσμο, τώρα τον ζούρλαναν. Τα πλήθη άρχισαν να κουνιούνται πολύ και ο συνδυασμός της ώρας που ευλογημένα δύει ο ήλιος, δροσίζει και φτιάχνει ατμόσφαιρα απογείωσε τα vibes. Οι Bastards έχουν attitude, παρουσία που γεμίζει την σκηνή, αέρα εμπειρίας από τον Phil, θράσος του Neil που μπριζώνει το κοινό και το μπινελικώνει (“fuck you!”) με τρόπο που δεν προσβάλλει! Αντιθέτως… Απλά τα παιδιά χαιρετιούνται με κωλοδάχτυλα. Χαιρετήσαμε και μεις κατόπιν προτροπής πατέρα και αδελφών τον ένα εκ των υιών και καυλώσαμε με πολλές επιλογές (Eat the Rich!).

Ξέραμε ότι δεν υπάρχουν πια Motorhead αλλά και ότι οι Motorhead δεν θα πεθάνουν ποτέ. Πολύ ευχάριστη έκπληξη η διασκευή στο Children of the Grave, προσωπική αδυναμία του Phil (και δική μου!), αφιερωμένη στους Lemmy και Philthy. Κλείσιμο με Killed by Death και η βραδιά πάει τρένο. Χτυπάμε και μπυρίτσες και τώρα που έχει σουρουπώσει και αρχίζει το αεράκι με ξαναγεμίζει η αίσθηση ευτυχίας. Απλά περνάω φανταστικά. Ώρα για τα μεγάλα όπλα.

Για την επικείμενη εμφάνιση των Warlord έχω κτηνώδη ανυπομονησία. Λατρεύω την κλασική εποχή τους και τα Deliver Us, Aliens, Black Mass ανήκουν στο πάνθεον του heavy metal. Ο τελευταίος δίσκος μου αρέσει αρκετά αν και θεωρώ ότι ο Rick δεν έκανε και σπουδαία δουλειά στα φωνητικά. Το 2012 είχα μπριζωθεί τρομερά να τους δω αλλά δεν τα κατάφερα και μου έμεινε μια πολύ γλυκόπικρη γεύση. Γλυκύτατη γιατί οι Warlord ήρθαν, συγκίνησαν, αγαπήθηκαν και ο Tsamis γεύτηκε όντως αληθινό μέλι (όχι virtual). Πικρότατη γιατί ατυχείς δηλώσεις έγιναν αφορμή για τόνους χολής, προσωπικής και μεταλλοπατερίστικης χολής, αμφότερες από τις μεγαλύτερες αποστροφές μου. Εκείνη την ημέρα σε διάφορα πηγαδάκια ξανάκουσα τις ίδιες κατηγορίες και μέχρι σήμερα τις βρίσκω το ίδιο τσάμπα αυστηρές, με βολική εστίαση σε κάθε τι αρνητικό, αγνοώντας την πλήρη εικόνα και τα δεδομένα μιας πολύ, πολύ δύσκολης ζωής, που προσωπικά μου απαγορεύει την οποιαδήποτε διάθεση κατάκρισης. Εσύ θα ήσουν ενήμερος για τη μέταλ πραγματικότητα των 00s και θα χοροπήδαγες σαν κατσίκι στην σκηνή στα 55 σου έχοντας περάσει ό,τι έχεις περάσει με θέματα υγείας; Τέλος πάντων, άφησα τις κατηγορίες αυτές για τους Στέφανους Χίους όπου ανήκουν, και πήραμε θέση με το Ποπάκι για τους Warlord.

Lucifer’s Hammer. Ήχος πολύ καλός. Φωνητικά καλά, προφανώς μιλάμε για μεγάλο τραγουδιστή αλλά μου φαίνονται μπροστά και ξερά στην μίξη, εκθέτουν λίγο τον Λεπτό που ίσως κουράζεται λίγο λόγω της ζέστης. Σιγά-σιγά στρώνει στην τελειότητα ο ήχος και αναδεικνύονται όλες οι αρετές των Warlord. Πρώτα-πρώτα ο Zonder. Ντράμερ ογκόλιθος στο metal σύμπαν, τον βλέπω πρώτη φορά στη ζωή μου (είχα δει τους Fates Warning με τον Virgilio). Και είναι μέγιστος παράγων στην μοναδικότητα της μουσικής των Warlord. Μακράν το καλύτερο χτύπημα του φεστιβάλ, ανεβάζει το λέβελ της μπάντας σε μέγιστο βαθμό. The band is as good as the drummer λέει ένα αξίωμα (που ενστερνίζομαι θερμώς - τη εξαιρέσει που επιβεβαιώνει τον κανόνα Lars Ulrich post-93) και εδώ η μπάντα δεν έχει ταβάνι. Πόσο μάλλον όταν το rhythm section συμπληρώνει ο τεράστιος Philip Bynoe, τον οποίο είχα δει το 1997 στη μπάντα του Steve Vai, στους G3 στο Λονδίνο. Τότε έπαιζε με τον Mangini (εξωγήινα πράγματα, ούτε το 1/3 δεν πιάνει στους Theater), σήμερα τον έβλεπα με άλλο φρούτο αλλά παρόμοιας κλάσης παίχτη. Ήταν απλά παγκόσμιας κλάσης, τέλειοι. Και μόνοι τους να έπαιζαν, πάλι θα ψάρωναν. Σε αυτό το υπερπαρφέ σασί κούμπωναν οι κιθάρες του Tsamis και του Paolo Viani. Μαγεία. Ακόμη και οι πιο απλοϊκές από τις μεταγενέστερες συνθέσεις απογειώνονταν σε σημεία ανατριχίλας και στα έπη (ορίτζιναλ και ύστερα) η κατάσταση οδηγούσε σε κόμπους στο λαιμό από την συγκίνηση. Δεν έκλαψα αλλά αν έβλεπα ανθρώπους να κλαίνε (δεν είδα) θα ήταν η φυσιολογικότερη εικόνα του κόσμου.

Ο Νικόλας Λεπτός μου φαίνεται πιο σίγουρος πάνω στην σκηνή απο τα βιντεάκια που έχω δει και έστρωσε πολύ σε κάποια από τα κομμάτια που δεν απαιτούσαν φωνητικές ακροβασίες. Αυτές τις έβγαλε όπου υπήρχαν αλλά όχι πάντοτε καρφωτά, όμως το ζουμί δεν είναι η απόδοσή του που είναι τουλάχιστον επαρκής και είμαι σίγουρος σε πιο καλές συνθήκες θα σκοτώνει. Είναι το ύφος του που διαφέρει αισθητά από το ύφος των δίσκων που μου κάνει εντύπωση. Τα φωνητικά των Warlord στην δισκογραφία τους χαρακτηρίζονται περισσότερο από την σχεδόν φλατ ήρεμη γλυκύτητά τους και πολύ λιγότερο από το μέταλ πάθος. Ο Λεπτός προσφέρει μια πιο δυναμική ερμηνεία. Σε κάποιους άρεσε η διαφορά, σε άλλους ξένισε. Τίποτα όμως δεν χάλαγε το σύνολο που ήταν εξαίσια μουσική παιγμένη με αφόρητη φινέτσα και κλάση. Δεν μπορώ να μην κολλήσω πάλι στον Zonder, ο άνθρωπος γκρούβαρε και χτύπαγε ανελέητα με jazz grip και τρελή δουλειά στα πιατίνια.

Οι δισολίες είναι σχεδόν ορατή κρέμα στα αυτιά, ενώ τα πλήκτρα ντύνουν το αποτέλεσμα ιδανικά. O Βαφειάδης παρεμπιπτόντως ήταν γεμάτη φυσιογνωμία στο σανίδι, εμφανώς δοσμένος εξ ολοκλήρου στην μουσική και στο κοινό. Ο Tsamis ήταν σταθερός και ακίνητος, μάτια και πνεύμα στην κιθάρα, εξαιρετικός παίχτης και ιδιαίτερη, σεβάσμια φιγούρα στην σκηνή, τουλάχιστον έτσι τον αισθανόμουν. Ο Μανώλης αργότερα θα συμφωνήσει εμφατικά για την τεραστιότητα του Zonder (καλά, μόνο κουφοί ή εμπαθείς δεν πρέπει να πήραν χαμπάρι τι είδαν) και η μπάντα και ο ήχος «για το Μέγαρο» (όχι για το κοινό του Μεγάρου) ή για το Ηρώδειο που πουλάει και πιο πολύ τελευταία. Ο Προμαχώνας πάντως, δύο στα δύο χλατσωτά τρίποντα σαν χώρος για τους headliners. H εμφάνιση κλείνει θριαμβευτικά με το Child of the Damned, όπου κάνει και μια περασά σε μια στροφή ο Giles Lavery (τον έχετε δει στις πρώτες εμφανίσεις των Warlord στην Ελλάδα και τον ακούμε και στο Kill Zone από το Holy Empire) και είναι καλοδεχούμενος. ΠΑΡΦΕ εμφάνιση, αντάξια της φήμης των Warlord.

Ο Λαός σιγά-σιγά κινείται προς την έξοδο, συνωστισμός ακριβώς απέξω στο σαντουϊτσάδικο, έχει πιάσει πολλούς μια μετα-φεστιβαλική λιγούρα, παρέες ξαναβρίσκονται και συντονίζονται (για Avalon ή για Ηράκλειο…), απόψεις, χαμόγελα, γέλια ανταλλάσσονται και κλείνονται ραντεβού για το Ηράκλειο και το Over the Wall και κάπως έτσι πάμε στο, φίσκα πια, βανάκι της επιστροφής.

Σκουλήκια από την κούραση που αρχίζει και κατακλύει το σώμα με το που καθόμαστε στην γαλαρία, ο δρόμος της επιστροφής είναι ζόρικος (my kingdom for a bed and a foot massage) και εν μέσω ανήσυχων, άβολων πεντάλεπτων ύπνων, με σφήνες κομμάτια από ένα κινητό ή τα ηχεία ή και τα δυο μαζί (…) φτάνουμε στο Ηράκλειο. Τελευταίο σπριντ για το σπίτι με το αμάξι, τσεκάρισμα απογόνων (ζουν ακόμη, ΟΚ) βγάλσιμο παπουτσιών (ΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑααααααααα…), βραχιολακίων που θα πάνε στο κουτάκι με τα ΜΕΤΑΛ σουβενίρ και ύπνος άμεσος χωρίς πρόλογο. Φεστιβαλάρα και φέτος. Νομίζω βασικά το καλύτερο CRF που έχω δει ως τώρα. Για του χρόνου εύχομαι λιγότερη ζέστη, λίγη σκιά, ονοματάρες και να διανυκτερεύσουμε στα Χανιά. Να δω περισσότερη Αθήνα, Θεσ/νίκη, Πάτρα, Ηράκλειο και γιατί όχι Τρίκαλα και Αγρίνιο πχ, να ροκάρουμε παρέα με τους Δανούς, Σουηδούς, Άγγλους, Χιλιανούς και Ιταλούς.

Χαλάλι τους Gojira που χάσαμε (έπαιζαν στην Αθήνα – είδε όλη η Ελλάδα υπερντράμερ εκείνη την ημέρα...). Μπορεί όταν παίρνουμε τα παιδιά μου στο μέλλον (αν θέλουν…) να έρθουν Κρήτη και αυτοί! Μεγαλώνει το πράμα!

Οι φωτογραφίες εκλάπησαν για άλλη μια φορά από το facebook του φεστιβάλ.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Vic's log: Πώς πέρασα στο Chania Rock Festival 2017, Hμέρα πρώτη

Tα τελευταία χρόνια το Chania Rock Festival είναι δεδομένος προορισμός το καλοκαίρι. Πάντα έχει σοβαρά ονόματα και πάντα περνάμε γαμάτα και επιπλέον είναι δίπλα μου, δυο ωρίτσες με το αμάξι σε σχέση με την Αθήνα που θέλεις μια μέρα με το καράβι... Επίσης, όπως έλεγα πριν λίγο καιρό κλείνει τρύπες στην λίστα μπαντών που θέλω να δω λάιβ. Και για να σφραγιστεί το έθιμο, αυτή τη χρονιά συνέπεσε με τα γενέθλια της Πόπης, οπότε ολόκληρη η φάση απέκτησε εορταστικό χαρακτήρα ("μπέμπε, για φέτος σου κάνω δώρο roadtrip Χανιά και ένα λάιβ Blind Guardian" (τεράστιος)).

Φέτος (σσ: 2017) η φεστιβαλάρα μου έκλεισε την τρύπα / απωθημένο των Warlord που κρατάει από το 2012 ("Να δούμε Warlord” ΜΗ-12/2012 - δεν είδαμε) και για κερασάκι μου φούντωσε το αίσθημα για τους Blind Guardian βλέποντας αυτό το Hammer εξώφυλλο. Πέρσι είδα τους Kreator και ήταν συγκινητικά καλά αλλά πήγα και προετοιμασμένος με προσαρμοσμένες προσδοκίες. Μου αρέσουν οι μετα-Violent Revolution Kreator αλλά ξέρω ότι δεν θα έβλεπα την μπάντα που είδε ο Γκοντζίλα (ο μεγάλος ξάδερφος, βλ. Kai Hansen) το ’89. Και δούλεψε τέλεια και ξαφνιάστηκα με το πόσο έπος είναι το Hordes of Chaos λάιβ. Στην περίπτωση των Blind Guardian τώρα έπρεπε να προσαρμόσω τις προσδοκίες μου σε δύο μέτωπα συγκεκριμένα:

1. Νο Thomen the Omen. Δισκογραφικά μου λείπει όπως μου λείπει ο Mikkey Dee από το Spider’s Lullabye ή το The Graveyard και αρκετά περισσότερο από όσο μου λείπει ο Lombardo στο Repentless (ας μην πιάσουμε τον Jeff). Θέμα μέγιστο λοιπόν. Δισκογραφικά όμως. Live δεν ξέρω τι πουλιά πιάνει ο Fredrik, ας του δώσω λοιπόν το benefit of the doubt, ε;
2. Hansi: Ο Hansi Kursch της χρυσής περιόδου των Guardian είναι φωνή στην λίστα λιστών έβερ. Όταν ουρλιάζει επικά ο Χάνσι το γαμηστερόμετρο σκάει και ξεχύνεται μέταλ καύλα, έχω θέμα. Τα τελευταία πολλά χρόνια όμως αντί επικών ουρλιαχτών έχουμε χιλιάδες Χανσάκια ούμπα-λούμπα να τραγουδάνε εν χορώ κάθε στροφή και ρεφρέν και γέφυρα. Βάλε και το ψηφιακά πομπώδες της ύστερης δισκογραφίας (Φλέμινγκ ρε, πού πας χωρίς Φλέμινγκ;), προτιμώ να μην μιλάω για τους BG γιατί πονάει και παίρνουν θάρρος και κάτι σύλλογοι και παρατηρητήρια χατζημεταλλάδων και δεν μπορώ να πω και τίποτα. Αλλά τώρα θα μου παίξουν όλο το Imaginations from the Other Side και μερικά άλλα καρακλασίκ έπη. Μπορείς Φρέντρικ; Μπορείς Χάνσι; Δεν είναι πια θέμα benefit of the doubt, έρχομαι με τα σάλια να αφήνουν ίχνη πίσω μου, μη με απογοητεύσετε καθάρματα!

Όλα αυτά υπήρχαν σαν σκέψεις στο κεφάλι μου και σε κάθε κουβέντα που τύχαινε να κάνω με αδέρφια-καμμένους για το ΜΕΤΑΛ. Αυτά έλεγα και με τον Μανώλη στο βανάκι καθ’οδόν για Χανιά. Οικογενειακή / Route 66 υπόθεση, το βασικότερο ζήτημα ήταν τι θα παίξει στα ηχεία. Μεταλλοκουβέντα για δίωρο λοιπόν, σχολιασμός των επιλογών της μουσικής, monitoring αντιδράσεων από την γαλαρία και ατάκες Statler and Waldorf:

“Δυο μόνο χτυπιούνται στον King Diamond! Eκεί φτάσαμε!”, “Μπράβο στο παληκάρι, χτυπιέται και με Skyclad!”, “δες σουξέ το Knights of the Cross!” Στο Alexander the Great βέβαια όλοι έδιναν συγχαρητήρια στην επιλογή (μπράβο στο παιδί που έφερε το cd... :) )

Τελικά φτάσαμε στα Χανιά. Μόλις βγήκαμε από το βανάκι μας βάρεσε η ζέστη, την οποία είχαμε ξεχάσει χάρις στο air condition. Μια σαραντάρα βαθμοί και πλήρης άπνοια ήταν σίγουρα ο μεγαλύτερος εχθρός της σημερινής μας φάσης. Προχωρήσαμε προς τον όμορφο και επιβλητικό Προμαχώνα και φτάσαμε στην είσοδο. Φοράμε το βραχιολάκι και ανταλλάσσω λίγες κουβέντες με τον Γιάννη της διοργάνωσης. Βρίσκεται στο τρίτο μπλουζάκι (ιδρώτας…) αλλά είναι ευδιάθετος και χαμογελαστός, στην τελική καλύτερα άπνοια, παρά διαολεμένος άνεμος που πήγε να τα γκρεμίσει όλα πέρυσι. Εμείς βέβαια είμαστε προετοιμασμένοι, καθώς είμεθα και βετεράνοι του καύσωνα (Αθήνα 1987 γατάκια) και έχουμε τα νερά μας και προσεκτικά επιλεγμένη γκαρνταρόμπα με άσπρο μπλουζάκι για την ζέστη. Τι μπλουζάκι δηλαδή, μπλουζάρα, Blind Guardian περιοδείας 1992 με έπος backprint, στο τοπ 5 της συλλογής μου άνετα. Και τώρα έτοιμο να λειτουργηθεί στο σωστό λάιβ.

Την σκηνή έχουν μόλις εγκαταλείψει οι Upon Revival τους οποίους άκουσα για λίγο καθώς περπατούσαμε προς την είσοδο. Σαν Evanescence κάτι πήρε το αυτί μου, το κομμάτι που έπαιξαν πάντως στο τέλος Erase the Fears (σκονάκι από το rock overdose, είμαι τρισάθλιος στο ριπόρτ, έτσι; μπράβο μου), δεν είναι κακό, βλέπω την παραγωγή την έχει κάνει ο πληκτράς των Warlord. “Πέτσινο παντελόνι στον καύσωνα”, δεν θυμάμαι κάτι άλλο να σκέφτομαι εκείνη την μέρα για αυτή την μπάντα. Δυστυχώς για αυτούς η ώρα και το καμίνι ήταν too much και έτσι δεν έχω να προσθέσω κάτι παραπάνω (ελπίζω να μην το διαβάζουν αυτό)

Όσο η σκηνή ετοιμάζεται να υποδεχτεί τους SL Theory τσεκάρω για άλλη μια χρονιά τον χώρο. Πάγκοι περιφερειακά (μπύρες, νερά, ρούχα και merch και στο βάθος CD και δίσκοι!), στο μέσον του φρουρίου ορθώνεται ο πύργος της κονσόλας με την ζηλευτή του τέντα και κόσμο κολλητά γύρω του για λίγη σκιά και ολόγυρα μεταλλάδες. Σταμπάρω και τους 2 Δανούς που είχα γνωρίσει πρόπερσι στο Avalon πριν το φεστιβάλ εκείνης της χρονιάς. Ορκίζονταν στους D.A.D. “Ξέρεις κανά κομμάτι τους;” “Εεεε... το Sleeping my Day Away, δεν έχω ασχοληθεί”. “Ω, μα έχουν τόσα περισσότερα από αυτό! Είναι μεγάλη μπάντα, trust me!” Και είχαν απόλυτο δίκιο παρεμπιπτόντως. Νάτοι πάλι εδώ, προφανώς έχουν βάλει το CRF σαν μόνιμο προορισμό κάθε χρόνο. Τελικά δεν έτυχε να τρακάρουμε να τα πούμε, κάνω σημείωση οπωσδήποτε να χαιρετήσω του χρόνου.

Μεταλλάδες και φιλομεταλλάδες σχηματίζουν πηγαδάκια όπου το βασικό θέμα είναι η μάσα. Πάμε στο κέντρο (δίπλα) να θρέψουμε το κορμάκι μας για να αντέξουμε και την ορθοστασία; 40άρης πλέον, πείθω την παρέα ότι είμαι πολύ γέρος και χρειάζομαι χάμπουργκερ sustenance. Περιμένω ωστόσο τους SL Theory που έρχονται με πολύ καλές συστάσεις και υποσχέσεις για ένα εντυπωσιακό live, με 7 μουσικούς στη σκηνή να αποδίδουν prog. Στη σκηνή τελικά βγαίνουν 4, που τα πάνε περίφημα αλλά η απόφαση έχει παρθεί και αποχωρούμε για φαί. Γιατί 4 και όχι 7; Αργότερα μαθαίνω ότι η πτήση από Αθήνα δεν έφυγε γιατί ο πιλότος ανακοίνωσε στην πύλη τελευταία στιγμή ότι δεν πετάει (δεν έμαθα γιατί) και μείνανε σύξυλοι μπάντες, crew, διοργανωτές και ένα σωρό άλλοι άνθρωποι.
Στην επιστροφή βρήκαμε τους Sailing to Nowhere πάνω στη σκηνή και η εικόνα είναι ενδιαφέρουσα με το europower που αποδίδουν μεν καλά, λίγο σκασίλα μας όμως εμάς δε, η παρέα μας δεν ψοφάει για τέτοια. Μπροστά όμως έχουν αρκετούς που γουστάρουν και ανταποκρίνονται στα καλέσματα του Marco και της Helena.

Τι δίδυμο! Η ενδιαφέρουσα εικόνα είναι το stage show / καράβι και οι δυο τραγουδιστές που ο μεν έχει ντυθεί πολύ μέταλ και πολύ ζεστά και πρέπει να έχει σκάσει, δεν παίζει και η δε Helena που έχει κάνει την καλύτερη δουλειά ντυμένη για τη μέγιστη δροσιά στα οπίσθια. Μέρος του κοινού εμφανώς επικροτεί αυτήν την πρακτική σκέψη και φρονιμάδα εκ μέρους της και έτσι, eurovisionpower ή όχι, ο κόσμος περνάει καλά. Οι συμπαθούντες τον ήχο ευχαριστιούνται μουσική, ιδιαίτερα δε αρκετοί Ιταλοί που έχουν πεταχτεί από την γείτονα χώρα και όπως φαίνεται και του χρόνου θα έχει δεκάδες από κει μεριά. Οι αντιπαθούντες το αμέταλλο του μέταλ των StN ίσως είναι και πιο εύθυμοι, ανταλλάσοντας τρανές ατάκες γέρων muppets show, μαζί και τα γέλια.

Κάπου εδώ κάνω contact / reunion με παιδιά του tavern που έχω να δω από κοντά 15ετία και βάλε. Ειλικρινής χαρά και νοσταλγία και επίκληση nicknames που εύχεστε να είναι εδώ και φυσικά ανταλλαγή σημιώσεων για το τι έχουμε δει από Guardian πόσο καλά τα πηγαίνουν στα 2 μέτωπα που παλεύουμε και ξαναείπαμε μαζί. Μην περιμένεις 95, ούτε 98, ίσως και ούτε '03. ο ένας τους είχε δει στο διήμερο με το συγκινητικό setlist και ήταν σίγουρα ικανοποιημένος και προσαρμοσμένος. Φωνητικά ο “Κollhmenos” ήταν κάθετος. Δεν. Ξέχνα το! Χμ.

Έχει αρχίσει να σουρουπώνει, να κόβει το καμίνι, να ομορφαίνει επικίνδυνα, με τον ήλιο και τη θάλασσα και το ενετικό φρούριο να μας χαρίζουν τις πρώτες δυνατές, συγκινητικές στιγμές. Πάντα θα με συγκινεί η επίγνωση ότι ζω στην Κρήτη τέτοια σκηνικά, αυτά που μου έχουν λείψει τόσο πολύ από τότε που έκανα οικογένεια (ΜΕΤΑΛ ΣΥΝΑΥΛΙΑΡΕΣ). Δεν παραπονιέμαι καθόλου (λίγο μωρέ, να τα λέω να ξαλαφρώνω!), καλύτερο “πράγμα” από την οικογένειά μου δεν έχω. Να που τώρα I can have my cake and eat it too!

H εορτάζουσα αναμένοντας τους BG (αξεπτικές (ΜΕΤΑΛ) καρδούλες) <3

Αθηναϊκά πηγαδάκια, η φουσκωτή flying V είναι πάλι εδώ και στη σκηνή βγαίνουν οι Septic Flesh. Αρκετά πιο αργά από ότι ήταν προγραμματισμένα. Η πτήση από Αθήνα που λέγαμε... Ναι, αλλά 11:30 το live πρέπει να τελειώσει, κάποιος θα την πληρώσει και δύσκολο να την πληρώσουν οι Guardian. Εδώ που τα λέμε το πλήθος είχε έρθει για τους Blind Guardian και όταν το ρώτησαν εμμέσως αργότερα, εμμέσως με την βουβαμάρα του απάντησε ότι προτιμά 5 κομμάτια Septic Flesh και full set των BG! Σε αυτά τα 5 κομμάτια πάντως η μπάντα απέδωσε άψογα το υλικό της, με τον νέο ντράμερ να αποδεικνύεται σπουδαίος παίχτης. Ο Seth με πλήρη περιβολή (και λυπόμουν τον Ιταλό!) φαινόταν ότι στενοχωρήθηκε για την κομμένη διάρκεια αλλά και πολλοί άλλοι θα ήθελαν να δουν το πλήρες σετ και αρκετοί σχολίασαν το γεγονός με λύπη. Όταν κατέβηκαν από την σκηνή όμως ο κόσμος δίψαγε για BG και δεν σκεφτόταν κάτι άλλο. Ο κόσμος ήταν πλέον πολύς, σίγουρα πρώτη φορά έβλεπα τόσο λαό στον Προμαχώνα και πράγματι, αργότερα έμαθα ότι οι BG έχουν κάνει άλλο ένα sold out στην Ελλάδα και το πρώτο αν δεν κάνω λάθος του CRF.

Blind Guardian

My bοdy was ready, έκατσα σε καλή θέση με την Πόπη και με - διάθεση να ξαναδώ τους φίλους μου ("and I say that with no shame either") και να περάσουμε καλά, whatever! Βγήκαν με το Ninth Wave... Eμ. Χμ. Ναι. Είναι ξενερωτικό να ανοίγετε με νέο κομμάτι όταν δεν μου αρέσει ο δίσκος παιδιά. Αλλά αυτό έχει γαμάτο κουπλέ τελικά, κοίτα να δεις τι ωραία που ακούγεται ζωντανά χωρίς όλο το ψηφιακό πέπλο! Ωραίο είναι!
Τα τύμπανα..; τα τύμπανα ακούγονται processed, ψηφιακά. Ακόμα και live. Τέλος πάντων, δε βαριέσαι. Κιθάρες και Hansi! Χλιαρή αρχή αλλά ντάξει, μετά θα πέσει πόνος... μπαίνει το Ρεφρέν. Χλιαρή είπα; Αν η αίσθηση να σε λούζουν γλυκερό σορόπι λέγεται "χλιαρή" τότε το ρεφρέν με χλιάρωσε πολύ ζόρικα. Καθόλου δεν μου άρεσε η αίσθηση και παρακαλούσα να τελειώνουμε να ξεκινήσει το live. Welcome to dying. Τώρα μιλάμε. Η διαφορά του vibe είναι γιγαντιαία, αν και προσπαθώ ακόμα να συνέλθω από την ξενέρα. Εκεί θυμήθηκα τον Τhomen αλλά και ήρθα αντιμέτωπος με την πραγματικότητα του Hansi 2017: θα το πάμε συντηρητικά, δεν θα πιάσουμε όλες τις νότες στην κανονική τους οκτάβα, πρέπει να βγει και το live.

Τέλος πάντων. Στην τελική είμαι μειοψηφία, ο πολύς λαός αποθεώνει, ζωντανεύει και μόνο με το άκουσμα των τίτλων και τρώει από το χέρι του Hansi που ομολογουμένως είναι φιλότιμος και εξαιρετικά φιλικός με το κοινό που το νιώθει γνήσια δικό του παλιό γνώριμο. Συνέχεια με το Τhe Fly για να μου την σπάσουν, είναι ξεκάθαρο, δηλαδή από όλη την δισκογραφία σου χωράει κομμάτι από το The Twist in the Myth; Ας το υπομείνουμε και αυτό αλλά η συναυλία δεν μου πάει και τόσο καλά γαμώτο.

Ευτυχώς από κει και πέρα μου πήγε. Πάμε στο συγκλονιστικό Nightfall και ο Hansi με τουμπάρει γιατί όταν η περίσταση/σημείο το απαιτεί, το μαρσάρει το λαρύγγι και fuck me, είναι όλο εκεί ακόμα, το γρέζι, το επικό ουρλιαχτό. Αλλά δεν το κάνει πάντα, γιατί αν το κάνει, στη μέση της συναυλίας θα φτάσει στο point of no return: ζόρι για να βγει η φωνή με αυξανόμενη ζημιά στις χορδές και άντε γεια περιοδεία. Οπότε σαν φρόνιμος στρατιώτης δίνει όσο τον παίρνει. Και παραπάνω βασικά, όπως υποσχέθηκε και όπως με διαβεβαίωσε και ο Πασχάλης (τάβερν ριγιούνιον είπαμε). Αλλά η αλήθεια παραμένει ότι αρκετά σημεία έχασαν πολύ. Το "out of the dark... back to the light" αν δεν το ουρλιάζει εκεί πάνω ο Hansi αλλά το λέει απλά μια οκτάβα κάτω, είναι άλλο, τρομακτικά υποδεέστερο ρεφρέν. Εκεί ανακάλυψα ότι μπορώ κάλλιστα να αναπληρώσω εγώ το κενό, σκίζοντας τις δικές μου φωνητικές χορδές, όπως υποσχέθηκα άλλωστε, εγώ δεν έχω περιοδεία. Συγγνώμη στους γύρω μου που με υπέμειναν a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do! Και δούλεψε θαυμάσια και για το υπόλοιπο live γούσταρα την ζωή μου και αγάπησα πάλι τους BG όπως το '95 και συντονίστηκα που λέμε. Ε, ήρθε και το "silence all AROUND" στο Mordred's song που ακούστηκε *έτσι* και σήκωσε την τρίχα κάγκελο. Στο “…Script for my requiem”, που ήταν highlight του φεστιβάλ οι Marcus και Andre ζωγράφισαν στις κιθάρες, speed metal πανδαισία που έκοβε φέτες.

Ήδη από το 3ο κομμάτι η φάση είχε πάρει φωτιά και τα 2 μέτωπα είχαν υποχωρήσει χάριν της BG κάβλας. “Αυτός είναι ο πιο ταιριαστός χώρος που έχουμε παίξει ποτέ”, λέει ο Hansi και όλοι χαιρόμαστε γιατί είμαστε εκεί και το ζούμε (duh), γιατί είναι κάτι που σκεφτήκαμε όλοι και επιβεβαιωθήκαμε και γιατί κάθε κοινό ψοφάει να κολακεύεται. Ε, τι καλύτερο κοινό, τι καλύτερο μέρος, μετράει! Γουω-ω-ω βγαλμένο από τα 90ς στο And the Story Ends (έ-πος) και μπαίνουμε στο μέρος του show που θα παιχτούν τα σιγουράκια να ξεχάσουμε τα παντα. Valhalla (πολλά, όχι τα περισσότερα, αλλά πολλά), Mirror Mirror και τελείωμα σε αποθέωση. ΓΕΝΕΘΛΙΑΡΕΣ ΜΠΕΪΜΠΕ!

Παίρνουμε τα ευτυχισμένα κομμάτια και επιστρέφουμε στο βανάκι, το μισό άδειο μιας και αρκετοί θα κάνουν το αυτονόητο και θα διανυκτερεύσουν στα Χανιά. Αυτοί θα πάνε στο Avalon για μπύρες και παρεάκι με τον εξωφρενικά συμπαθή Andre. Δεν θα έχω την ευκαιρία να του πω την ιστορία μου, να με θυμηθεί και να μου κάνει ένα δώρο, κάτι σπέσιαλ σίγουρα. Δύσκολη η επιστροφή και μεταξύ ύπνου σχολιάζουμε τα δρώμενα με τoν Μανώλη. Συμφωνούμε ότι οι κιθάρες, σόλο κλπ ήταν ά-ψο-γα. Διαφωνούμε για τον Χάνσι (ο Μανώλης είναι αυστηρός) και ψιλο-συμφωνούμε ότι ο Fredrik δεν είναι Thomen.

Φτάνοντας στο Ηράκλειο και το παρκαρισμένο μου αμάξι, η μπαταρία είναι ψόφια και είναι 1:40. Αλάρμ ξεχασμένα, στις 10:30 νταν παρέδωσε πνεύμα. Αναμονή για μπαταρία, οδήγηση σπίτι, τσεκάρισμα γιαγιάς και παιδιών (ζουν), αλοιφή στο κρεβάτι.

Αύριο έχει Warlord, Phil Campbell και Inner Wish.

Όλες οι φωτογραφίες (πλην της εορταζούσης) εκλάπησαν από το facebook του Chania Rock Festival και των Blind Guardian.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The best of 2017 - THE WHOLE DAMN THING. ALL OF IT.

Table of Contents

Part I: Prologue and whining
Part II: A 20 albums of 2017 list. Probably some of the best albums of the year. But also probably not.
Part III: The TL;DR part of the post about some of the albums that made it on a list and some that did not
Part IV: Some EPs
Part V: Albums that I must listen to (and why) and albums I haven't bothered to listen to (and why)
Part VI: 2017 Addendum: Lost in Vegas and Beast in Black (wat)

Part VII: Epilogue - Looking forward to 2018 OR I just wanted 7 parts


You can guess by the title (and from the previous two posts on 2017) that this has been one frustrating little project. Busy up to HERE with real work. And will continue to be very busy for the foreseeable future. So, instead of letting my impressions rot in a notepad file until I somehow find some proper time, I decided to just fucking paste them raw. That way, the actual people asking me to write about X or Y album will get at least something in return for their much, much appreciated interest in my opinion. Or not. In any case, I will put every-fucking-thing here, including albums with thoughts attached to them and albums with no info whatsoever. I will include a list of albums that I did not listen to and why (which I believe is the peak self-absorbed part of the post but there is also another on!) and I will also include a couple of random thoughts that occured to me in 2017. That should partially cover almost everything. And perhaps some time in the future I will bother breaking the parts into manageable, readable posts but where is the madness in that, right?

Part II: A list

TL;DR: OK, ok, for those with ADD and/or OCD and/or plain impatience with silly amateurs who want to form a definitive opinion on music before , here is a list, pure and raw.

1. Condor - Unstoppable Power
2. Antichrist - sinful Birth
3. Vulture - The Guilottine
4. Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
5. Droid - Terrestrial Mutations
---- see The Dungeon Awards for Top Metal Performances of 2017 for more info
6. Blazon Stone - Down in the Dark
7. Cannabis Corpse - Left Hand Pass
8. Doomocracy - Visions and Creatures of Imagination
9. Hellripper - Coagulating Darkness
10. Power Trip - Nightmare Logic
----- see 5+1 more albums for more info
11. Witherfall - Nocturnes and Requiems (actually this should have been quite higher in the list but I did the "5 more" post alphabetically...)
12. The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom
13. Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence
14. Sorcerer - The Crowning of the Fire King
15. Necrytis - Countersigns
16. Tankard - One Foot in the Grave
17. Mastodon - Emperor of Sand (this should have been higher - not MUCH higher mind you - but I love how it looks there below Tankard.
18. Dead Head - Swine Plague
19. Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor
20. Satan's Hallow - s/t
----------- The albums that are not in the top 10. I think. AKA the totally unstable part of the list (as far as ranking or even presence goes)


I will periodically enrich this post with links and images. The info is there anyway. Once more, let me remind you of the instructions to these lists: these are good albums worth checking out, these are albums that had me interested. And maybe I'll add the list of albums that I touched upon but did not listen to thoroughly, you know, first impressions kind of thing, mark those as "huh, could be interesting!".

Released Anger - Revenge

Wait, this isn't on the list! Shame on me. This most definitely would make the list had I understood that it is a December 2017 release and not one of my most anticipated releases of 2018. Anyway, who gives a shit about my list, the point is the album and this band. Now, let me tell you, Released Anger was around before the big revival. They were toiling in the Athenian underground before there was a horde of kids with tight jeans, white hi-tops at every corner (which is a good thing by the way, don't get me wrong!). And they also GOT IT perfectly right. Old school thrash in the purest form, with the very appropriate vocals (80s Mille would be proud) and utterly vicious riffs. Live shows to kill people and basically, the band goes the whole nine yards. It is a real shame that they missed the thrash revival train because of lineup problems and other hiccups because by all rights they should have been as big as Suicidal Angels at least. Anyway, enough sentimentality and whining, the band is back, their intentions clear: with their best work to date and one of the best metal albums of 2017 for sure.

Evil Invaders - Feed Me Violence

I am very fond of Evil Invaders, the Belgian speed metal band that was at the forefront of the "mustache and 80s speed!" or neo-speed revival the past few years, along such darlings as Ranger, both of which have rightfully found a place in past best-of-the-year lists. You've read about Vulture above. Well, this one might actually be more diverse and show signs of progress - which basically means expanding beyond the subgenre's old-school orthodoxy and "musts". I've caught atmospheric passages and lovely solos among the delicious riffs and I am pretty sure they will get in the final list this time as well, when I give the album the spins it deserves. Ah, yes, the vocals retain their charm with the high pitched syllables among the thrashy delivery of the lyrics. METAL.

Mastodon - Emperor of the Sand

TL;DR: I am not the man to ask about Mastodon dude. But this is a good Mastodon album and I listened to it a lot, more than Once Round the Sun and less than The Hunter, which is my fave *shrugs*

As a newbie in the Mastodon world (only 7 years! has a decade really almost passed? wtf Time?) and one that loves one of their least favorite albums above all else (really started paying attention with Crack the Skye and fell in love with an album of theirs with The Hunter, which is entirely unortodox for their fanbase), my opinion of this album surely does not mean a lot, since I am fairly certain haters will continue to hate and Mastodon fans are a weird breed of many races that I cannot seem to agree with on most things Mastodon. But who gives a shit, I really enjoyed this album, in fact I think I played this the most after The Hunter and Crack the Skye. I should note however that apart from The Hunter, listening to a Mastodon album usually means skipping a track or two or three (or even four! See what I mean?)

Anyway, they are much friendlier here to the mainstream ear, something they started to do since Once More Round the Sun or any mastodon album if you ask their fanbase... yeah, one of those cases. I keep referring to the diversity of their fanbase because I actually think it's a mark of their specialness.

I just fall into the middle here. I do not think they are God's gift to music or metal but holy shit when they hit my spot, they ARE god's gift to music.

One thing is certain though: They have become much better at singing. Oh, and they always have lovely, original videoclips. I haven't seen them live yet and to be honest I really don't care if I do, which is the exact opposite of Gojira for example.

This album also gave me the first feeling that they are becoming predictable musically. Maybe predictable is the wrong word here but what I mean is that if someone used the decription "typical Mastodon of the last years" that would be only slightly inaccurate. The same can be said for the EP.

Necrytis - Countersigns

Toby Knapp does not rest. Among his many projects, where he usually handles most instruments, in 2017 his work with Necrytis stood out to me, as a quality US Metal release that gets it right on all levels. Good songwriting, warm sound, good vocals with a total old school underground vibe that lends a lot of charm to the compositions. Shane Wacaster who handles the vox also reminds me a lot of James Rivera, perhaps in a less spectacular fashion. An album that came late to my attention but one that I enjoyed spinning quite a bit. If you remember Toby from his work with Onward (that time when New Eden, Onward or Destiny's End have hope to many of us that our kind of metal was not actually dead) should definitely check this out.

Primal Attack - Heartless Oppressor

This is a portuguese band that I came across one of those days when I felt like experimenting on youtube and was good enough not only to capture my attention but also to get repeats. There is a slight element of modernity that's not exactly my favorite flavor but they also have enough stuff coming from left field that makes their music exciting and interesting, so much so that they stood out at the end of the day and in the list they go.

Sorcerer - The Crowning of the Fire King

Epic doom metal is a scene that basically stands on the foundations of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus and has lately seen a revitalization, much in the same vein as the thrash/speed metal scene I was raving about earlier (see Doomocracy or Crypt Sermon). Sorcerer is a special case: originally formed in the late 80s they left behind them the legacy of two demos, brought to the attention of most doom metal fans in 1995, through John Perez's Brainticket label, who released the "Sorcerer" compilation, essentially making it their unofficial debut album. The real debut however appeared 20 years later, when the band reformed and released In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. A very good album that picked up exactly where the band left off. This is true of this year's (er, last year's that is) The Crowning of the Fire King: excellent epic doom metal. Power/Doom metal. Heavy Metal really. If you're fan of the genre then this and Doomocracy are the best choices of the year.

The Doomsday Kingdom - The Doomsday Kingdom

Leif Edling meets Niklas Stålvind meets Marcus Jidell and the result is damn enjoyable album that bears that elusive stamp of character and authenticity, inescapable with the people involved. The notable thing is that is different from Candlemass/Krux (Niklas' input helps a lot) and a strong old school heavy metal vibe is hanging all over the album. Watch Leif Edling's video and enjoy his presentation of some classic vinyl, you'll get a better idea. If you like Candlemass or Wolf or Sabbath or Avatarium and plain good old doomy heavy metal, this is an obvious choice.

Tankard - One Foot in the Grave

I love Tankard. Dude, I LOVE Tankard. I am a Tankard fanboy. Everytime they release something better than a 6 it will see my list because I am a sucker for Gerre's voice, their chorus hooks, their style and approach to metal and generally, I always get a warm fuzzy feeling in my being listening to them. I ALWAYS find 3-4 songs per album that REALLY do the trick for me and I always like their more melodic moments (power metal in german terms!). I realize that people who don't harbour the same special feelings for the Germans will frown their noses but Tankard don't give a shit bro. "Ι'm sorry that I'm ugly, I'm sorry that I stink! I'm so sorry!" as the lyric goes...

Satan's Hallow - Satan's Hallow

This is the "retro" heavy metal album that tickled my fancy this year. I was drawn to the simple, meat and potatoes yet very effective and satisfying songwriting and the vocals, which reminds me of a younger Doro without the accent! Very charming delivery. The fact that it caused some hype among mediums that I thoroughly despise was a negative factor but I managed to overcome my teenage true metal sensibilities (such maturity!) Highly recommended.

Albums that could just as well be on a list on another day OR albums you should listen to because I think they are good, mkay?

Honest subtitle: pasting from notepad, content of parentheses is the notes written at the time I listened to whatever I was writing about)

Ne Obliviscaris - Urn

This will probably not make my final list but I must say I surprised myself when I came back to it more than once. I am not fond of the style they play normally, especially the vocals do nothing for me. But I have to admit they have something special. No idea where this stands in their discography though and in a sense this is a shit entry because I am a total outsider just enjoying this reluctantly. But what the hell. Yeah...

Original notes in Greek: (αυτοί είναι πολύ καλοί, οι εντελώς αδιάφορες βοθρίλες στην φωνή με ξενερώνουν αλλά είναι πολύ καλή δουλειά, τόσο πολύ που πού και πού το βάζω να παίξει, λίστα μου δεν βλέπει, λίστα άλλων θα έπρεπε όμως)

Steamroller Assault - Dead Man's Hand
(Λέων λατρείας, πολύ καλό, κυλάει νερό, even better than the demo)
Speedrush - Endless War
(Nir's band, it's fucking good speed/thrash, plenty 80s metal, a grower)
Exarsis - New War Order (GOOD thrash)
Lich King - Omniclasm (same ol' Lich King but damn, they really upped the quality of their riffs)
Madrost - The Essence of Time Matches No Fleshh (good technical death/thrash - ordinary, underwhelming vocals but great riffs and good songwriting that is growing)
Midnight - Sweet Death and Ecstasy (good but not as good as before)
Tau Cross - Pillar of FireThis is a weird animal, featuring Away from Voivod and Amebix frontman Rob Miller. It's good weird. Covers a lot of ground. I think I like it very much but I would need more spins before putting it in the list. Maybe in the final version.
Terrifier - Weapons of Thrash DestructionOne of the gems I came across my usual search in the vast sea of new wave of thrash releases. The name and title certainly did not give me the highest expectations. I was wrong. This was tremendously enjoyable.
Threshold - Legends of the Shire (good, did not grab me for repeats, others really loved it. It's certainly worth the effort and quality stuff but definitely not as good as March for Progress)
Warbringer - Woe to the Vanquished(Warbringer is good, Warbringer still hasn't been mind-blowingly good or maybe they are but it's too soon for me to get it)
Godless Crusade (Ger) - World In Flames - drum machine but one of the catchier thrash albums of the year. Some great riffs and vocals (esp. the vocals) that suit the music.
Ancient Empire - The Tower (power metal, heavy metal - not bad. Not bad at all, that Princess of the Dawn "tribute" (Endless Curse)is awesome)
Code Orange - Forever (Gojira, Mastodon, Tool, Meshuggah, Converge type of band, the new RR darlings. It's quite good actually)
Murder Angels - Murder Angels (great old school greek speed/heavy metal, Fire and Axe the video is awesome)- Note:Actually, this is a 2016 release but what the hell, it's cool, it's Greek and the video rules, so it stays!
Nemesis - Atrocity Unleashed (fast thrash from the US, very good)

Part IV: Some EPs

Toxik - Breaking Class

Toxik is fucking back! Amidst countless delays for various reasons, including lineup (singer especially) problems, at least we got the first taste of Josh Christian's returning genius. If you haven't heard the two classic Toxik albums and you like glorious late 80s tech/speed metal with INSANELY awesome guitar work, drop everything (er, that is minimize fucking everything) and load youtube now. The EP is perhaps not as mindblowing as the albums were since a lot has happened in the music world since then but it's still great speed/tech thrash with insane guitar solos and lyrics that reflect Josh Christian's political concerns, which are quite relevant today. Favorite track is Psyop.Looking forward to a full album, one that will also include the two previously released demos, which I already love.

Encyrcle - Burning Child

Encyrcle's debut made my top list of 2015 and this EP two years later is also very good. Not AS good and chiefly I am afraid I miss their original vocalist. But I do recommend the EP to those few who loved the debut as well.

Blasteroid - Universal Knowledge


Released at the end of November, just like their patron saint band did its first two albums. I am talking about Vektor, which is very clearly the band they are modelling their music from... almost to the point of calling them clones- but that would seriously underestimate the amount of work and passion found here. The music screams Vektor very often but if anything that fact alone should cause some wonder considering the scope of influences found in Vektor.

And that is a very ambitious and dangerous thing to do but they pull it off quite remarkably! They have the chops and most importantly they have the riffs and their sense of songwriting is very promising. The main difference is the vocals (nobody sings like DiSanto and I don't see that changing ever), which are more standard death metal vocals if anything, which is also why I see them being labelled as progressive/technical death metal but also because they do lean towards the technical death metal bands of our times more than Vektor. I would say that if you appreciate Vektor but hate the vocals, give this a shot. Fans of Revocation or Obscura and the like pay attention.

4 times I mentioned Vektor and 1 mention of DiSanto in this small text is the obvious elephant in the room and the one thing that keeps me from being overly enthusiastic. Then again, this is the first effort and an EP at that, a band that is now finding its place in the metal world. Starting from a Vektorian place is a bloody good start and one I can appreciate and enjoy a lot. I would expect them to explore their musical relationship as a band further until they hone in on their own musical vision.

PS: I really forget who recommended this to me or if I just stumbled upon this on a forum (most probably m-a). Whoever you were, thank you.

Mastodon - Cold Dark Place

(see Emperor of Sand, pretty much same impression, only slightly better I think)

Sorcerer (Arg) - Incantation

Fucking awesome EP, big surprise, total Sanctuary worship on the first song's riffage, which is GREAT.

Part V: TO LISTEN TO. AKA: Haven't really decided yet. First impressions or no impressions. AKA: too much music, too little time. AKA: I'm fucking lazy. And busy with work. Which is not a contradiction.

The albums I plan to listen to more (who knows?), albums I've only heard one song via youtube or at a friend's house and was impressed enough to remember the name and add it to my text file. Here follows the long ass list that reminds me what a relief it is to be the owner of an amateur blog that has no expectations, no deadlines and no fucks given. There is definitely some awesome music here and probably some terribly boring music as well. Maybe you can help me sort it out by commenting. I would actually very much appreciate that. Note that a couple have long descriptions and reasons. Now laugh at the idea that originally I wanted to do that for every single entry here. LOL. Anyway, here we go:

Attic - Sanctimonious

This goes first in the list, not just for alphabetical reasons but because this is one of the bands that started appearing in late 00s - eraly 10s that worshipped or aped King Diamond/Mercyful Fate (Portrait, Trial, In Solitude, etc). And like all of those bands they failed to meet the impossible standards of King's bands. However, I have to admit that while Hound of Heaven did not do much for me, I really liked the song Sanctimonius. It invokes that KD magic with the vocal lines and the voice itself, which is the closest anyone ever came to the Master. Musically, it's not really MF/KD apart from the vocals but it had an undeniable charm and one that gripped me enough to make this an album that eventually WILL get my full attention.

Ayreon - The Source

I went through an Ayreon phase when Universal Migrator was released, after being told repeatedly by a certain Belgian friend that I HAD to check them out (since Into the Electric Castle, so that's 2 years before another friend surprised me with Chaos and Dawn of a Million Souls that sold me immediately. After that, I certainly appreciated albums like The Human Equation (especially) and 01011001 but did not buy them, which means, no booklet - no immersion. Ayreon deserves full attention listening and this album is no exception. I guess I add them by default in the list and wait for that special night where I feel like diving into a huge Lucassen project. This one comes highly recommended by Dimitris K. of Sacral Rage as well, whose taste I respect and nod my head approvingly, so double the recommendation factor.

Portrait - Burn the World

The other KD clones. I did enjoy 2011's Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae quite a bit but it was also very obvious that while they had the best of intentions (you will not get objections to clone bands from me, especially if original band does not release new stuff) they did not have the caliber of a KD band. Of course, that's a tall order for any band and any musician but my overall impression was "not good enough". Since then, I keep hearing that with every release they are getting better, with Burn the World winning the hearts of a lot of my friends. So many that makes me want to give them a chance again.

Obituary - Obituary
Why: It's fucking Obituary. They have always been decent and true to their original sound. And some say they kill it here.
Why not: The key word being "decent". The video clip was great fun but the song was forgettable. We'll see.

Sepultura - Machine Messiah
Why: It's probably the best thing I've heard from Sepultura since Max left. It's also probably the only post-Max Sepultura I want to listen to again. Also: Casagrande.
Why not: This is not Sepultura. Sorry Andreas, you awesome guitarist you. But apart from that because all the previous Sepultura have left me extremely indifferent (at best). YMMV.

Immolation - Atonement
Why: Because Immolation. Guaranteed.
Why not: Just time and mood.

Kreator - God of Violence
Why: Because Kreator and Mille and Ventor and Sami (top soloist). Because it cannot be bad.
Why not: Because I've had my fill of their Violent Revolution approach since Hordes of Chaos and although that was fine, it's too much of the same thing from a band that was notorious for not releasing the same album twice. Granted, if Endorama is the price of experimentation, I'll take Violent Revolution part V please! Anyway, a lot of people seem to truly enjoy this and I'm sure it's more than decent. But I am not in a hurry.

Body Count - Bloodlust
Why: Because this is going to rule. I know it. Also, THE VIDEOCLIPS.
Why not: Time and mood. Nothing else.

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel
Why: Because Overkill and because Overkill have proved that after Ironbound they are on a roll.
Why not: Because the first two singles didn't do shit for me and because we are now approaching the Kreator problem.

Iron Reagan - Crossover Ministry
Blood Feast - The Future State of Wicked
Grave Digger - Healed by Metal

Striker - Striker
Chainsaw - Filthy Blasphemy
Havok - Conformicide
Cryptic Shift - Cosmic Dreams
(single, Vektor-style, I think I have now reached two digits counting bands that are very obviously influenced by Vektor)
Argus - From Fields of Fire
Leprous - Malina
Harlott - Extinction
Accept - The Rise of Chaos
Stalker - Shadow of the Sword
(very good speed metal on first listen, hope it holds up on repeats)
Caligula's Horse - In Contact (καλό αλλά φλωριά, άστο να βρίσκεται, πού ξέρεις)
Paradise Lost - Medusa (back to the gothic/shades era. Not bad, not really my thing either) Stallion - From the Dead (speed metal)
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs
Marty Friedman - Wall of Sound
Pyramaze - Contingent
Cannibal Corpse - Red Before Black
Night Demon - Darkness Remains

Monolith Cult - Gospel of Despair (UK doom metal with an excellent cover and an opener that reminded me of Mastodon, 80s thrash imagery and lyrics, which is fucking weird. S/t track is very very good. Pousios recommendation)
Cloven Altar - Enter the Night (band of Ced from Blazon Stone/Rocka Rollas)
Torture Squad - Far Beyond Existence
Hell Fire - Free Again (US old school heavy metal) Debut Metal Masses (2016) is quite good so they earned my attention.
Vendetta - The 5th (the classic German band's third attempt at a comeback, one remaining member, the bassist)
Urn - The Burning (Black thrash, good shit)
Persefone - Aathma (prog death, Masvidal guest on Living Waves, kind of like Ne Obliviscaris meets Obscura and Leprous. Don't like the vocals but that Masvidal song was pretty awesome, VERY promising - Jack Luminous recommendation).

Part VI: 2017 Addendum

Lost In Vegas

Not for the album list but definitely on the highlights of the year. Two people into hip hop decide to react to music outside their knowledge and comfort zone and end up creating the best reaction videos since that idea became a thing.

Two things make them utterly enjoyable:
1. Seeing them getting enthusiastic over music you love and through them reliving that first moment when Metallica or Maiden or Gojira or whoever hit you in times long passed. PRICELESS

Watch how Ryan reacts to Alice in Chains or AC/DC: if you don't smile YOU HAVE NO SOUL.

2. Getting another validation that music is universal and that a good tune is a good tune is a good tune. Music unites, music is the language of the soul and all that. When Ryan goes "Oh! That's hot! That's hot right there!" listening to Master of Puppets or George jumping from his chair when Heaviest Matter of the Universe kicks in the main riff yelling "wooooo!!", you feel a warm fuzzy feeling in the stomach. Yes! Yes!

Love them. Hopefully they will learn how to choose good songs to react to because some videos have really been wasted! (Testament, Anthrax and now Nevermore come to mind)

Beast in Black - The Beast is Back

Confession time. This is my guilty pleasure of 2017. Initially shocked from the video of Blind and Frozen (where you can see the flags waving amidst a dancing sea of viewers in a Eurovision contest) and my true metal sensibilities tingling with disgust, I only checked out this song as the album was getting ridicilously good reviews, even from people whose opinion I appreciated.

This song is extremely user friendly, just like the rest of the album. It is designed down to the most minute detail to be catchy, enjoyable and all hooks follow every rulebook in existence. It's pop power/speed metal. Fucking catchy pop power metal, as much as I hate to admit it.

And as much as I like to pride myself as someone who takes my metal music very seriously and cannot abide mainstream gimmicks, well, I found myself putting this almost daily for a long time. I did not do that publically, not with the horde of roast-friendly contacts!

This would have been insanely awesome as the soundtrack of a cool cartoon when I was 11 or 12. This is coming from someone headbanging to Ultimate Warrior's entrance to the ring or air guitarring to the Thundercats theme song. If you can identify with any of the two, then tell me this wouldn't rule, I can hear this on top of Korgoth for example.

And there I guess is the heart of the matter. This is Cartoon Metal, just like Dragonforce is Cartoon Metal (Guitar Hero 3?) and I am guessing your attitude towards this song should match your attitude when you come across a Masters of the Universe episode. Or something.

That or my brain goes at terrible lengths to justify a guilty pleasure.

To be honest, I tried the rest of the album but did not find any other cool soundtrack to toons, for my taste at least. I would still recommend the album to fans of the pop side of metal (you know, Nightwish, Battle Beast, Sabaton etc.) Not my thing, but hey... I love Volbeat, I am not judging!

Epilogue: Looking forward to in 2018

Let's start with Rapture - Paroxysm of Hatred because it's already been released and it's great, manic deathrash that warms my heart so go ahead and listen to it. I was looking forward to it so it technically counts.

Wolf: Haven't heard a title yet but I will jump the gun and say that this is going to make my top 3 of the year because Wolf IS the best heavy metal band of the past many years with a fucking beautiful and very consistent discography and because in Niklas (and Simon and Anders and Richard) I trust.

Sacral Rage: Their debut album made my top Greek metal release ever list and I am pretty sure they still haven't peaked. I very much trust these guys to deliver top notch metal that is totally old school in the heart but will never be confined to any retro-trends or blind imitation or scene rules. I know for a fact they hate that and I also know for a fact that there is a long, mighty epic song coming this way that has me salivating at the description.

Speaking of Sacral Rage, Coroner is expected to record a new album. Now I do not know if this will be released or even finished in 2018 because they are taking it slow (which I can appreciate, fuck deadlines, esp. when it comes to art) but it might be released 2018, so it goes without saying that this album is a HUGE fucking deal for me. Hell, for METAL.

The almighty Sadus are finally returning to action. New riffs given as a tease suggest a return to their more rabid roots... Saliva meet shirt. Others that MIGHT release something this year and that is a wonderful thing:

Trallery: The Spaniards from Mallorca are already in the studio recording the successor to 2016's Spiritless. You may remember that their debut Catalepsy is one of my favorite albums of 2013 and also my favorite Spanish metal album. So, this is a big deal for me.

Nekromantheon: The top release of 2012 in my opinion belongs to them, the Norwegians have a flawless discography so far, being one of the most convincing thrash metal bands out there, picking up the thread left by albums like Hell Awaits/Reing in Blood, Schizophrenia, Power and Pain, Seven Churches etc and weaving their own patch of dark thrash territory. It's been 6 years since Rise, Vulcan Spectre. It's about time they released their third album. They have some "new killer songs" as they say but we'll have to wait for the new Obliteration first, their old-school death metal alter ego. Which is not a bad thing actually!

Dark Angel: They are supposed to be working on new material. Not much else is known. Maybe they will finish it this year. Maybe not. They might take their sweet time or they might just drop a bombshell out of nowhere. In any case, I am anticipating this album very much.

Psychotic WaltzThe prog gods are back together and in the studio. Working sloooowly but hopefully surely towards their new masterpiece. I say masterpiece without even listening to a single note, because this bands has released 4 excellent albums and I trust them to keep the streak going. This is the least probable to see a 2018 release but I will be mentioning them every year till I get the year right (and then say "told you so" because I am a douche like that)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Best of 2017, Part II: 5+1 albums more.

Following part I, my top 5 albums for 2017 post (spoiler: Condor, Antichrist, Vulture, Sons of Apollo and Droid), here are some albums that really rocked my socks off in the past year and they are definite candidates for the final best of 2017 list that will be coming anytime in the next decade, when I will (probably) have made up my mind for good. Since I have not made up my mind for good, I will list these in alphabetical order cause any hierarchical placement would change each day and well, fuck that.

Blazon Stone - Down in the Dark

(Stormspell Records)

Blazon Stone is the child of Cederick Forsberg, a very talented individual and multi-instrumentalist (also behind Rocka Rollas and Cloven Altar and more). Ced LOVES Running Wild so Ced formed Blazon Stone trying to capture some of that Rolf magic that the Captain himself seems to have lost.

And to be honest, Ced's work feels much more alive than Rolf's last 4-6 albums. I always thought that in the debut (Return to Port Royal, he wasn't being subtle about his intentions :)) everything was fine except for the inspiration in the songwriting. Album by album Ced seemed to get closer to the holy grail of conjuring up that special stuff and last year, he has come the closest. The fact that Erik (who could be Ced's brother...they share the same surname and facial features!) sounds like a younger, cleaner version of Rolf helps a lot.

Not only there are some very nice, memorable melodies to be found here but the overall album is oozing energy, helped by the hyperspeed approach on guitars, which is that element that helps a lot to give it a character of its own. Blazon Stone is definitely a Running Wild clone band but this clone here has taken a life of its own! More importantly, this album provides what Running Wild lacks: passion and love for the music (and way better album covers for that matter). While Rolf seems to be phoning it in or at least not treating his music with the amount of attention and respect it deserves, this young man here really puts his heart into it - and it shows.

I think Cederick never meant to take this band so far but only planned for this to be a fun project for him. Since then, a lot of people have embraced Blazon Stone and demanded more.

Bottom line: This is a great heavy and speed/power album that does Running Wild's legacy justice with the added twist - or bonus if you will! - of more speed and youthful energy. Europower metal fans should also give this a listen. In the list it goes! Perhaps Rolf should give Cederick a call...

Cannabis Corpse - Left Hand Pass

(Season of Mist)

Cannabis Corpse is another band I am very fond of. For one thing, I always appreciate bands that don't take themselves too seriously in regards to their image. When these bands also write good music then they immediately go into my "very fond of" list. So, Cannabis Corpse writes good music. If you haven't given them a chance you will actually be surprised at how good they actually are. Their biggest problem is that people just don't take them seriously because "weed and death metal title puns, how serious can they be?" but holy shit people: Cannabis Corpse delivers a-ma-zing old school death metal (my kind of death metal).

Forget blasts and brutality for the sake of brutality, forget the same song played ten times in the album. Here be riffs, here be breaks, here be inspiration. And fuck it, some hilarious titles (Left Hand Pass? The 420th Crusade?), lyrics and album covers. Quite frankly, I think the combination is awesome. And just like in 2014, when Cannibal Corpse had also released an album in the same year, I enjoyed Cannabis Corpse more. Well, haven't really listened to Cannibal Corpse yet, so I could be off in that respect. In any case, you listen to this one and if you haven't got a clue about the band, you must listen to Tubes of the Resinated as well, which is my fave from them.

Doomocracy - Visions and Creatures of Imagination

(Steel Gallery Records)

My favorite Greek release of the year for sure and one of the best overall. If you remember from a few years earlier, the Doomocracy debut got into my list on merit of its great songwriting that might have harkened a bit too much to the masters it worshipped but did so beautifully. This time around they really stepped up their game on every level and outidid themselves. You can still understand that Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass are very dear and important to them but they have certainly started shaping their own sound and style, one that brings together not just the epic doom element of the aforementioned gods but also elements of US Power, prog/power and all through a magnificent sound production, courtesy of the legendary mr. Morris of Morrissound Studios fame.

Hellripper - Coagulating Darkness

(Barbarian Wrath)

There is a comment on the youtube above that wraps it up nicely: "Mc Bain's stealing here, he's stealing there... But the hand is quicker than the ear (and charming like hell). I'm totally enthused. One listening and it's on my list of the top-10 of '17. "

James McBain is the man behind this project, a Scottish fellow with a keen ear for what makes ultra enjoyable speed metal with black and motorhead rock n roll flourishes. The Hit the Lights variation opener immediately had me sold. Tribute, theft, who gives a shit really? I just wanted to play that again and again. This is not the most original album. It is DEFINITELY one of the most enjoyable albums and the fact I spun the fuck out of it in the single month it got under my radar says it all.

Don't think too much about it, enjoy!

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

(Southern Lord)

This year's metal sweetheart of the mainstream press. To be honest that works against them because fuck the mainstream press, you know? But Power Trip is the real deal. They had already made their mark in the underground with their debut Manifest Decimation (2013), which should be a required listen if you liked Nightmare Logic.

I am guessing Southern Lord or whoever, invested in Power Trip hence the heavy promotion of their sophomore effort and frankly I am OK with that, since I would rather see Power Trip and their kick ass album in 2017 lists than pretentious shit like Liturgica or gimmicky shit like Batushka that also had mainstream ignoramuses singing their praises.

Anyway, on this album they are a bit tamer than their their debut and this includes the production and the vocals but they still deliver the punch magnificently. And their strong point is they are fucking fun without sacrificing the "crossover thrash flirting with death metal overtones" cred. Basically, I think expectations will determine your listening experience: If you expect this album to dwarf every other modern thrash release of the past years you will be very disappointed because it really isn't THAT special. If you expect a jolly good thrash album with attitude, you're in for a treat.

Weird brainfart shit: I see Kory Clarke's face in my head when I hear the Executioner's Tax verse. Not complaining.

Bonus thoughts:

Since I promised in last week's post that I would namedrop Sanctuary and Mastodon, here are some thoughts about 2017:

This was a poor year for mainstream metal. My most listened to releases were all from the underground. Mastodon (there, name dropped) is the only high-profile name in the list (the sloppy list you haven't seen yet), I did not enjoy Kreator or Overkill (not that it was bad, I just hit my threshold for the same album after 4 releases, same thing happened with Kreator on Phantom Antichrist), Sepultura was much better than anything I've heard before from the Max-less years but I still preferred Cavalera Conspiracy, which I thought was much better than what most people thought *shrug*. Arch Enemy make my teeth rot with all their sugary choruses amidst those riffs and vocals. Really, shame about the riffs, some of them were pretty sweet only to be shat upon by some lame europower chorus or some growling whisper telling you to believe in yourself and the universe will reward you or some shit.

Most damning thing of all though is that Inception, the remixed version of the 1986 Sanctuary demo (the one that got Dave Mustaine to produce their debut) is by far the best thing I've heard this year in terms of how much it got my blood boiling with metal frenziness. A bittersweet reminder that the glorious, the REALLY glorious metal era is gone. Don't get me wrong, I love what Gojira is doing for example and there is still plenty of good metal out there - but the bottom 25 of the top 50 of 1987 would easily make the best of 2017 list. We are now in that phase, where mediocre to good stuff is dominating the landscape and the rare truly exceptional albums are extremely difficult to locate.

A sad point but I am fairly certain that like every year, I will actually discover the good albums (i.e., the ones I will like a lot) in the years to come. Will let you know of course.

We're not done with 2017, not by a longshot! Keep an eye for the next post, coming soon-ish as well! More hot names such as Evil Invaders, Witherfall, Necrytis and DeadHead!("who?")

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Volbeat - (V for Vic, Nov. 2013)

Μέχρι πολύ πρόσφατα είχα μαύρα μεσάνυχτα για τους Volbeat. Δεν ήξερα ότι είναι Δανοί και δεν ήξερα ότι είναι από τις πιο επιτυχημένες εμπορικά μπάντες αυτή τη στιγμή, με την άνεση να παίζουν headliners στα μεγαλύτερα φεστιβάλ της Ευρώπης με λαοθάλασσες από κάτω. Για μένα ήταν μια από αυτές τις Wacken μπάντες που ακούνε μόνο οι Γερμανοί, αν με εννοείτε. Αγνώστων λοιπών στοιχείων. Φέτος όμως έπεσα πάνω στο Room 24 από το νέο τους δίσκο και έκανα την καλή γιατί συμμετείχε ο Ένας, ο Βασιλεύς, που είχε να ηχογραφήσει από το 2007. Και προς μεγάλη μου έκπληξη άκουσα ένα ωραιότατο μέταλ άσμα, με τον King Diamond φυσικά να το ανεβάζει συγκινητικά αλλά και με έναν τύπο στα φωνητικά που μου έκανε πολύ θετική εντύπωση. Λατρεία σε Hetfield, στην φάση του Matt Barlow (“on this special winter day-AH!”). Ενθουσιάστηκα, οπότε είπα να δούμε τι λένε και αυτοί οι Volbeat γενικώς.

Κατέβασα παράνομα λοιπόν το φετινό “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” με το ωραίο εξώφυλλο και έδωσα προσοχή. Αυτό που άκουσα είχε δύο όψεις. Η μία από αυτές με ενθουσίασε σε βαθμό βλακείας, 5 κομματάρες καραπιασάρικου metal. Η άλλη όψη όμως είχε κάτι που με ξένισε εδώ κι εκεί. Όταν ανέφερα σε μια online θρασοπαρέα το τελευταίο μου κόλλημα (άπειρα spins, όχι αστεία) ένα φιλαράκι μου πόσταρε την εικόνα με τον Fry του Futurama (“not sure if serious or trolling”) μαζί με το σχόλιο «μα αυτοί είναι οι Nickelback της Ευρώπης!» (δεν είναι btw). Καταραμένο όνομα, ξενερώνει και τον πιο καλοπροαίρετο, πιο αντικούκου πεθαίνεις. Μην συνεχίσω, Nickelback ρε παιδί μου. Και αυτοί οι Volbeat έχουν και heavy pop/rock Nickelback κομμάτια ανάμεσα στα καραμέταλ. To ένα μάλιστα το έκαναν και videoclip, έτσι, για να πιάσουν το #6 στην Αμερική και να τους σιχαθείς εσύ.

Αδύνατο να πάρεις μυρωδιά ότι η ίδια μπάντα, στο ίδιο δίσκο ακούγεται υπερcool στο Doc Holiday ή το Hangman’s Bodycount. Ούτε το rockabilly παίρνεις χαμπάρι, ούτε τα punk overtones, όπως στο Black Bart. «Σιγά μωρέ, άκου Social Distortion του ’92 να δεις ποιοι τα έπαιζαν αυτά και ποιους έχουν ξεσηκώσει»,είπε ο ψαγμένος πάνκης φίλος. Άκουσα. Εύστοχο ήταν απόλυτα το σχόλιο παρότι ανεπαρκές να περιγράψει πλήρως τους Volbeat. Πολύ americana, Johnny Cash, Elvis σαν αρώματα σε όλο το songwriting. Western θεματολογία και noir σκηνικά και metal καταστάσεις, όλα μαζί. Αχταρμάς καθόλου όμως, γιατί ο ήχος τους, οι κιθάρες τους και ειδικά η φωνή του ηγέτη Michael Poulsen (φωνή/κιθάρα/συνθέσεις/στίχοι) είναι χαρακτηριστικότα. Και για πολύ κόσμο (και δεν μιλάμε για pop κοινό), εθιστικότατα. Hetfield μέχρι παρεξηγήσεως είπαμε αλλά τον μπολιάζει με έναν Elvis αλλά και Danzig τρόπο, με τις εκφορές των “yeah!” και τις καταλήξεις “-ah!” να σε κάνουν να τον λατρέψεις ή να τον αντιπαθήσεις ανάλογα πώς την βλέπει ο καθένας. Εγώ προφανώς γουστάρω με τα χίλια αλλά στις κουβέντες εδώ κι εκεί, όσοι δεν γουστάρανε μου ανέφεραν ότι τους εκνεύριζε πολύ «το στυλάκι του». Πάσο.

Το θέμα είναι ότι η λογική λέει ότι θα έπρεπε να είναι και στην Ελλάδα τεράστιοι,όπως και έξω. Το κοινό που δεν μασάει από mainstream φιλικότητα (δεν είναι φλώροι τα παιδιά – απλώς ακίνδυνοι) φυσικά υπάρχει. Εν πάση περιπτώσει, εγώ τους τελευταίους μήνες ακούω μανιωδώς Volbeat, έχω πάρει σβάρνα ανάποδα την δισκογραφία (είμαι στον τρίτο!) και έχω πέσει πάνω σε άφθονες κομματάρες καθώς και σε άπειρα ονόματα που κάνουν περασά από τους δίσκους ή στην σκηνή: Mille Petrozza, Hank Sherman και Michael Denner (οι axemen των Mercyful Fate), ο KING, ο Barney των Napalm Death γαβγίζει στο Evelyn. Δεν είναι τυχαίο. Σκαλίζοντας το παρελθόν του Poulsen ανακάλυψα τους ντεθάδες Dominus και τις extreme metal αφετηρίες του.

Πολλά μπορούν να γραφτούν ακόμα για τους Volbeat και απορώ ειλικρινά που δεν έχουν γραφτεί τόσα χρόνια αλλά ίσως τελικά η συνύπαρξη ποπ κατεύθυνσης να αποτελεί ξενερωτική τροχοπέδη. Εγώ πάλι γκαρίζω στο αμάξι «wake up baby-AH!”, οπότε όλα γίνονται. Μπορώ να πω με σιγουριά όμως ότι αποτελούν θαυμάσιο δούρειο ίππο για να μπάσετε κόσμο στο σύμπαν του metal. Δίπλα στην καραμέλα του Maybellenne i Hofteholder θα γλιστρίσεις και την μπριζολίτσα του 7 Shots (έπος). Εν τέλει, παίρνοντας θάρρος από τον Γιοβανίτη που βάζει στα top της χρονιάς του Evanescence – και όντας σε πλεονεκτικότερη θέση (ο King δεν συμμετέχει όπου να’ναι, αυτό καρφώστε το) – αυτό για την ώρα κοιτάει σεβαστικά μόνο τους Suicidal Tendencies φέτος.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Dungeon Awards for Best Metal Performance of 2017

Sub-heading: 5 albums that I really liked and used a pompous title to get your attention. No awards to be found here. Still better than the Grammies though.

Best of lists have become a real pain in the ass. I've adopted every approach imaginable: Give a list of 20 albums and say nothing else about them. Give a list of 20 albums and talk a lot about them. Talk a little about them. Give a huge fucking list and say nothing. This year I wanted to do the huge fucking list AND say something. About every item on the list.

But then, after contemplating the idiocy of posting a gigantic thing that nobody will read (10 pages and it's still halfway done...), I decided to break things up and do a series of posts about 2017 and music that I liked.

A definite best of 2017 list is not coming. It's too soon. TOO SOON. I am still digesting things from the past EIGHT years for fuck's sake. I spent more time listening to Warfect than Power Trip this year, understand? So, staying true to my futile insistence that it really should be around March of the following year that we talk about the best of the year, I'll now present the 5 albums that have had the honour and privilege to entertain me the most out of any other album released in 2017. You can think of these as the candidates for the Dungeon Awards for best metal performance. Or something.

(link in the title of the album)

Condor - Unstoppable Power

(High Roller Records)

Condor from Norway are part of the Kolbotn Thrashers Union, a circle of bands that includes Nekromantheon and Obliteration but even more telling, they belong in the company of such artistic connoisseurs as Deathhammer, Infernö and Toxik Death, the spawns of Aura Noir and Fenriz's Darkthrone. Thrash/death/speed metal bands, from young peeps who seem to have missed the 90s and 00s and just channel 80s extreme metal through the Fenriz filter of acceptable traits. Not sure if there is an actual place they meet and hang around or anything like that but I always imagine young metalheads hanging by the words of Fenriz and swearing loyalty to the axioms of true metal (death to triggered drums and digital productions and all that). In any case, Condor might just be the youngest of the bunch, formed in 2009, from a couple of 15 year old school kids. Now, aged 26 (I believe), they have matured (meaning they can now grow a true 80s mustache) and honed their vision and have quite possibly released my favorite album of 2017.

If you are aware of the Norwegian names mentioned above (and you should) then you are already aware of what kind of thrash to expect: dirty, fast, rabid, outrageously sung thrash metal that plants both feet firmly in the 80s and has a special fondness for early Destruction, Possessed and the like! Condor gets it and they produce music that doesn't just hit the right nostalgia buttons, they write excellent songs with fantastic riffs and choruses to kill people to. I've spun the shit out of Unstoppable Power and grated my vocal chords trying to emulate Christoffer's addictive way of screaming "YOU ARE EMBRACED BY THE E-VUHL!" (note it's not "evil", it's "evuhl", you may refer to Evil Dead by Death for the proper pronounciation) Props for the absolutely appropriate production. Now, I think it's high time Nekromantheon came forward for 2018...

Antichrist - Sinful Birth

(I Hate)

Fans of Nekromantheon, Deathhammer, Condor and generally, fans of whatever I am praising on the album above (Condor that is) should also pay Antichrist's Sinful Birth a visit. This was up until the last minute the most serious opponent of Condor for the title of album of the year. I guess, when I actually write the actual list we'll all find out together which one it is. But I digress. 

Antichrist came to my attention in 2011 when they released Forbidden World. At the time, there were still few bands doing the dirty heavy/thrash thing with rabid vocals, so the album not only stood out, it quickly became an underground classic. So, it was only reasonable that the expectations were quite high for Sinful Birth and the fact it took them 6 years to release their sophomore effort only added to the anticipation. Let me put it plainly: This album is awesome. Seriously awesome. The mix of rabid thrash, Celtic Frost and Bathory vibes with epic heavy metal (think D666 - Wildfire) is addictive, showcased in great songwriting, great riffs and solos with many unexpected turns. The beginning is kinda monolithic but during the course of the album, after Under the Cross and especially with The Black Pharaoh (one of my favorite songs this year), the surprising twists and turns are more abundant. Think Celtic Frost giving their way to epic heavy metal melodic solos, seamlessly combined as if that is the most natural thing. Again, vocals are one of the highlights of the band and I'll confess Mr. Steken is one of the reasons the band scores high in the cult-o-meter. Outrageously good.

Vulture - The Guilottine

(High Roller Records)

TL;DR: METAL, blah blah, true 80s speed blah blah: Fuck all that: a good tune is a good tune is a good tune. These bastards write fantastic riffs and songs. Not songs that will stick to your brain upon first listen but songs that will slowly make you crave for more and more and more. Fans of 80s heavy metal, speed metal or thrash metal, pay attention.

Vulture gets it. Vulture loves the good metal. And I love Vulture. They have extremely fantastic vocals for my tastes, ie. vocals that SCREAM METAL. Imagine Mille (Pleasure to Kill) and Paul Baloff incorporating Cyriis-type of banshee-cries. I don't know about you but that description alone makes my mouth water. If you follow me, you know that I consider indifferent vocals the plague of modern metal and especially of modern thrash bands, so I always have an ear for the extraordinary. If that extraordinary delivers THE METAL, then I'm sold!

The other great aspect of the band is of course the music and riffs. They combine seamlessly heavy, speed and thrash metal, in equal measures, the key word here being seamlessly. Exodus (BONDED BY BLOOD EXODUS - understand?) and Kreator (up to Terrible Certainty) are the main foundations for their thrashing but it's the heavy and speed elements they throw in the mix (and those vocals) that really make the recipe work.  I love everything about the video as well. It is skating on the edge of the razor between true 80s cringe-worthiness and naivette and "true 80s FUCK YOU - METAL IS ALL" with exemplary comfort and self-sarcasm to the point of falling in love with them. I fell in love with them. I think I fell in love with them the moment they did the choreographed guitar pointing, exactly like Flotsam and Jetsam from that 1985 TV gig (a masterpiece, see 1:20)

Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony

(InsideOut Music)

And now for something completely different:
TL;DR: If you love Dream Theater of the Awake/Falling Into Infinity/Scenes from a Memory era - and you miss them and have not burnt yourself out in the "prog metal" scene of the past 20 years, by all means fucking go for it. This is THE SHIT - and Bumblefoot OWNS YOU (and Petrucci with incredible ease). Most exciting Portnoy release since LTE 2.

LONG RANT I wrote on my facebook:
Long rant follows because I've seen very mixed reactions and I've seen very dismissive reactions, particularly from prog rock/metal fans and mediums.

I have no idea what the problem is. They cite "indifferent songwriting" or "cheesy AOR/hard rock disguised as prog" but, with respect, what.the.fuck.

Scratch that. I am a guy who fell in love with Dream Theater in 1994, became a fanboy for a few years and broke it off in disgust around the Six Degrees album (liked that one but have had my fill years ago) and I was always one of those people who loved them DESPITE their vocals. I never got into the whole prog metal scene that worshipped on their feet (Psychotic Waltz being the only other progressive metal band I could die for). I love the LTE albums. I love Symphony X, Ayreon (had a phase with both of them, nothing excessive though) and the odd album here and there.

What I loved in Dream Theater was that in their peak (which is OBVIOUSLY Awake to me) they had the unique combination of skills, fantasy, passion for playing and "controlled jamming" (I just invented that shit term), a band that you would put the headphones on and know that you count on them to have a music trip with equal admiration for the skill and finesse and the songwriting. Exciting stuff.

I have missed that feeling and urge for almost two decades. Dream Theater and all their clones sounded uninspired (with some exceptions naturally), the cheese became too much (the cheese and The Cheese himself) and Jordan Rudess BORED THE FUCK OUT OF ME. The only thing that really fulfilled my desire for what I speak of in the above paragraph is watching Steve Vai concerts. Seriously.

Enter Portnoy's departure and his gazillion projects. Some good, some boring, never something as exciting as Acid Rain or The Mirror. Still, the man is one of my favorite peeps in the music world cause he is just... interesting when he speaks about music. I think I identify with his knack for writing TL;DR shit. (see?)

And then this project. First time in SO MANY YEARS that I got excited for an upcoming album. Why? Because this time RON FUCKING BUMBLEFOOT THAL would be involved.

I am a HUGE Bumblefoot fan, I am talking his solo albums, not "he knows how to shred and he was cool in GnR". I mean spinning the shit out of 9.11 or Uncool or Normal. The man is seriously one brilliant musician/guitarist/singer and YES ASSHOLES, songwriter! And now he would get to work FINALLY in a band with musicians of his caliber.

So, couple those two cats with Billy Sheehan and his monster tone, enter Derek Sherinian (100 times more exciting than Jordan Rudess) with his A-MA-ZING, vibrant sound and ideas (main composer along with Mike) and put Jeff Scott Soto on top, you get a supergroup that WORKS. ALL the bad reviews dismiss this as "another supergroup that failed the expectations". Well, my expectations were all met and then some. Brilliant songs, brilliant musicianship, brilliant sound production.

So, is there anything wrong here? Why yes! The name of the band. Cheesiest shit ever. Oh, and if you don't like catchy choruses with hooks that belong in hard rock groups like Talisman or perhaps Adrenaline Mob but really, anyone who has spent time listening to James LaBrie has no excuses whatsoever. Dream Theater fanboys who praised albums like the past two DT albums have even less excuses (that's right, they have a negative amount of excuses).

Final word: you can ignore all the above shit and just play God of the Sun and Labyrinth and decide for yourself.

Personally, I played and still play the fuck out of this. And Bumblefoot is THE MAN.

Droid - Terrestrial Mutations

(Nightbreaker Productions)

Droid are Canadians and in my mind they are the true Voivod children, as opposed to Vektor who are very wrongfully dubbed a Voivod clone band. Droid are definitely not Voivod clones either. You will hear a lot of Coroner here and Vektor must have played a part in the overall sound too, or maybe I am too much of a fanboy and hear them everywhere (naah...) but this is just the beginning. Droid are labelled as progressive thrash/speed metal on the Metal Archives but seriously, this does not even begin to cover it. Consider that they cover a lot of ground that Voivod has covered, which if you know Voivod means a LOT. I am not talking just Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross here (which is no small feat in itself), they also have definite 90s references (dare I say grungey?) and a surprisingly catchy way of writing, which makes them intensely interesting.

The 80s, 90s and the 10s somehow meet here in an album that has proven itself over and over the past months. You will hear influences from various other sources of the 90s and a refreshingly open mind for the genre they are serving (again, take that label with a grain of salt). Most of all you will hear catchy songs that I can't shake the thought that they should appeal to both tech-thrashers and fans of late 80s, early 90s alternative bands, while at the same time remaining old school in a warm and fuzzy way. Feels like this is a band that could have been the next hip thing, only thankfully they haven't (yet?).

Kudos to the production values of the album too, organic sounds that serve the music vision well. Looking very much forward to hearing more from this band in the future.

Some thoughts...

This was a very good year for the underground, old-school, speed/heavy/thrash/deathrash metal scene, the one that flourishes around Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden leading the pack). There has been an explosion of releases from that genre and all of them sound at least decent, which is a two-edged sword: on one hand it is nice to see a scene being so alive, on the other hand along with quantity comes the drop in quality (this is an axiom of life) - we are on the verge of hitting that point where even the description of the band's music will bring on the feeling of total indifference. Happened with thrash back in 1990-91, happened with power metal and prog metal around '99 (earlier for some) and has happened again for thrash metal in the 00s before Vektor slapped everyone around and told them to shape up or else. It's certain to happen again with every scene, retro or new and my beloved speed/thrash (dirty or not) scene will be no exception. Not before giving us some real gems though (like every other scene mentioned).

I am glad to present at least 3 releases that not only got the feeling, the vibe of the time, the sheer rabid metal frenziness right (that alone scores a lot of points for me when I hit play), not only that but, and this is the reason to be glad, they also wrote great songs AND have vocals that makes them stand out.

So, congratulations Condor, Antichrist and Vulture, you get my top 3 spots just for that. Hellripper and Evil Invaders are also sure to make my final list, just not sure in what spot exactly. An added bonus to picking the 3 bands for the top spot is that I've had enough of diatribes and long-winded analyses of "the state of metal" by people who love talking about metal more than actually listening to it. I've grown VERY tired of that and honestly wish they would just shut the fuck up already. I think they are on the same level with mainstream publications like pitchfork or Rolling Stone, in the sense of how much stock I put in their opinion. That is, precisely zero. Perfectly sure my top 3 spots will do nothing for them and that is quite the relief. So, if you are looking for the next Gojira in the above list or any other list coming soon, I can tell you right away that this is not the list you are looking for, move along. But you should check out Code Orange (they are in my to-listen-to pile) which made hipster media wet and the one clip I sampled reminded me of Gojira meets Nails meets Pig Destroyer or something like that, so if those names float your boat (and they should, no irony here) check Forever out.

So, as I realize that I sound more and more like a close-minded, bitter, old metalhead, I will close this post here. In the next episode, more name-dropping (Mastodon! Sanctuary! Cannabis Corpse!) and album suggestions. Watch this space. Or don't, I am shit at keeping consistent deadlines. Er, happy new year?