Oy-oy!!! It's the J-Man and Abigail here with our Top 20 albums of the year! Well, my Top 20 albums of the year, Abi doesn't really listen to music yet. I did try her with a copy of Led Zeppelin IV but that went down like a fart in church. Still, there's plenty time for that yet.
Musically, it's been a canny year with some brutal Death/Black/Groove Metal coming to the fore as well as some old friends returning with the best albums they've done in what seems like forever. It's not been easy to get this list sorted, but I managed to get there in the end. First off, I would like to give a mention to The Cult, Gwen Stefani, Laura Mvula and Tarja Turunen who, although their albums didn't make the cut, did release music which had it's charms and I enjoyed a lot more than I would have in the past.
So, without further ado, let's get cracking. I'm not doing the "Alan Freeman Music" this year so you'll have to do that yourselves...
20: Meshuggah - The Violent Sleep Of Reason.
Not an album which was blogged, but an album which makes the cut due to it being an excellent slab of extremity mixed with the avant-garde and some progressive elements. Off-kilter riffs and oddly-timed drum beats are usually a recipe for disaster but this band nail it.
19: Deftones - Gore
It's a waste of time calling them Nu-Metal these days as they've long outgrown that tag. Since the mid 00's, they've been striding down the road of big riffs and soundscapes and crooning vocals and this album is no exception. Creative tension between guitarist Stephen Carpenter and vocalist Chino Moreno paid off on this album with descriptions calling it "Morrissey vocals and Meshuggah guitars". It's an accurate enough description but don't take my word for it, give it a listen.
18: Bon Jovi - This House Is Not For Sale
Regular readers of this blog may very well remember that last year, I gave the previous Bon Jovi album "Burning Bridges" the reviewing equivalent of a severe beating down a back alley before fucking off with it's wallet for good measure. So it may have came as a surprise to see me review this album. Well, it was a definite improvement. Yes, the youthful drive and exuberance that was present on the likes of 'Slippery When Wet' and 'New Jersey' may not be as plentiful these days (no pun intended) but that didn't stop them from making an album which despite having the odd cheesy moment, still had enough on there to remind us that they could still do a decent tune.
17: Malevolentia - Republique
Black Metal from France which went down a treat. In a genre which is known for gimmicks and controversy as much as it is for the music, it is a relief to hear something like this which managed to straddle both traditional raw Black Metal values whilst maintaining a decent production. Oppressive, atmospheric, certainly an album that everyone - not just Black Metal fans - can enjoy.
16: Entombed A.D - Dead Dawn
Essentially Entombed but with the "A.D" added to avoid potential legal issues, it's a hark back to when their brand of metal was Death but without the insipid "'n' Roll" at the end of it. Indeed, it was a lot better than the Entombed album with the fucking dog on the front cover, but I digress. A full-on meat and potatoes Death Metal album which really hits the spot.
15: The Beast Of Nod - Arrival
Only an E.P, but shows enough promise to make us anticipate the debut album, which should be out in 2017 according to the bands Facebook page. An old-school vibe which brought to mind Morbid Angel before they wrote shit like 'Radikult'. Some excellent guitar work and touches of Groove among the Death, this acts as a great stop-gap until the debut. Please hurry up and release it. Thanks.
14: Hatebreed - The Concrete Confessional
Another band who I skipped over back in the day because the album I heard at the time ("Perseverence" in 2002) didn't float my boat, it came as a surprise to learn of this one. I gave it a listen and with it's inclusion of chugging guitars, thumping drums and drill sergeant vocals, it soon found a place in my heart. This band are continuing the work of the likes of Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick Of It All and bands of that ilk, keeping the hardcore flag flying.
13: Systemhouse33 - Regression
Excellent Groove Metal from India, a place not known for producing such music. Hopefully this will all change, these guys deserve to be well known. Showing a poise, groove and musical dexterity better than most Western bands, these guys don't let up for a second. When you see this band live, you know it'll go off in the pit.
12: Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake
Thrash legends Testament release their best album in years. Containing both the best bits of their dalliances with Death Metal among their traditional Thrash, it's a reminder that this band should have been bigger than what they were. Alas, a rushed album ("Souls Of Black") and a shit attempt to go commercial ("The Ritual") put the brakes on that. Despite releasing some decent but not really headline-grabbing albums, the band release this. It's everything you'd want in a Testament album.
11: Anaal Nathrakh - The Whole Of The Law
If we're honest, Anaal Nathrakh are pretty much a "one album" band, in the sense that they subscribe to the old "if it isn't broke then don't fix it" method of operation. Still, what they do is provide us with the finest mix of Black Metal, Industrial Metal and anything else that makes an unholy, ungodly fucking racket. Not too shabby and one to break the ice at parties.
10: Metallica - Hardwired...To Self Destruct
I never expected this - a GOOD Metallica album after twenty-five years! Whilst the band have firmly cemented their place in the stratosphere, the last few years have been a bit lean, creatively-wise. "Metallica" was a decent enough hard rock album, but after that? Merely average to awful with too many indications that the band were happy enough living on past glories. "Death Magnetic" changed all that by being a step in the right direction, but this album managed to get them to their destination! James Hetfield sounds the best he's sounded in years - and there are not many of those goddawful YEAH-UH!!! vocal tics that have permeated his work over the years. The album may be slightly too long but it is still a great album.
9) Unhoped - Sonic Violence
Remember when the so-called "Thrash Revival" was nothing more than bands wearing hi-top trainers, tight jeans and reheating old Vio-lence/Exodus/Nuclear Assault/Testamment/D.R.I riffs and moves? Pepperidge Farm fucking remembers. So God bless these guys for releasing an album which not only pays tribute to the Thrash Gods of old, also manages to have enough of their own personality and ideas in there. Excellent musicianship and production make for one awesome album.
8) Clawhammer Abortion - Slaughter Campaign
Some old-school Grind which should certainly please fans of the genre. Tremendous. Whilst the somewhat old-school vibe may not be to everyone's taste, it certainly holds its own in a genre where an eye-catching name can be as important as the music.
7) Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder
6) Raging Speedhorn - Lost Ritual
Another surprise as I had no idea this band had reformed! I knew that they played Damnation a few years back, but I didn't know they were recording new material. This is a return to form album which reminds me of the lazy, hazy days of the bands heyday - 2002, to be precise. Their formula hasn't changed much but that shouldn't matter to fans of the band. If you've heard Raging Speedhorn before, you know exactly what you're getting here.
5) Cradle Of Filth - Dusk And Her Embrace (The Original Sin)
Despite being released this year, this album was actually recorded in 1995 but record company bullshit prevented it's release. Most of the songs on here would be re-recorded and released on 1996 album "Dusk And Her Embrace" but the songs appear here as originally recorded. The overall sound isn't too different to the re-recording, aside from minor lyric changes, arrangement changes and stuff like that. Which means that it's a cracking album, just like the re-recording!
4) Megadeth - Dystopia
This truly is the best comeback since Lazarus rolled a six and took another turn...for too long, Megadeth were in a rut. Since 1994's "Youthanasia", they'd produced albums which had the odd highlight but were for the most part, flat and uninspired. Except for "Risk" which was just shit. This album here is quality in every way. The Dave Mustaine sneer is back and although there were parts of this where the lyrics seemed a little too "Fox News", it didn't really dent what is otherwise a fantastic record.
3) Discharge - End Of Days
If you like your punk to be bright, breezy, full of dick and fart jokes and on the soundtrack of a teen comedy movie, then stay the fuck away from this album. Seriously. Sounding like a fucking war, it is chock-bastard-full of the finest D-Beat in a long time. No surprise as the band invented that genre! This band were well known for their anti-war stance and this album manages to get some fine anti-war anthems going. It's so good, it (almost) makes us forget about that shit Glam album they made!
2) Kommando - Distroyer/Iron Goat Triumph
A band who are on a mission to bring "the violence" back to gigs, this album seems like a great way to go about it. A mad cross between Black Metal and Crust Punk, it conjures up images of intense pit action at the live show with some sonic madness to match. And the cover of a gun-toting goat fucking rules as well!
1) Brujeria - Pocho Aztlan
Everyone's favourite supergroup containing the best musicians of Extreme Metal who like to pretend they're Mexican druglords who smoke crack and worship Satan are back with their best album since "Raza Odiada". Whilst there is more of a Hardcore/Groove style compared to the Deathgrind of old, this is one album that grabs you by the cojones and refuses to let go. This is my album of the year as, quite frankly, it's fucking superb. I can recommend it anytime,,,
And that's my list. Feel free to sling some arrows my way if you disagree with any of my selections. In the meantime, you all have a great time and enjoy whichever event you celebrate round about this time of year. See you soon :)
Peace, Love And Protein Shakes.