END OF THE YEAR LISTS: BEST THRASH OF 2018 (CHART + PLAYLIST)

As a longtime fan of thrash metal, I think I have the capacity, and also a bit of authority, to express an overall opinion about the modern evolution of this genre of music, which as we know emerged and reached its peak between the 80’s and the 90’s. Analyzing the thrash scene from this general point of view I can say that if not for a small group of emerging bands the general picture is not particularly exciting. If on one hand it is surprising to observe how there are still many new bands that decide to orientate their efforts to this special kind of music, on the other hand it’s impossible to hide the fact that in many cases the multitude of albums which are published are quite weak both in terms of emotions and freshness of the sound.

Anyhow, at the end of the year it’s not difficult to save a number of records that distinguished themselves from the mass. In this sense, going through the list of bands that are provided in this article may still be that exciting and funny ride as only thrash metal is capable to offer to its wide family of fans.

As a final comment, the bands that are featured in this selection further confirms the phenomenon that was introduced earlier this year in the pages of the blog: among the best thrash metal albums that have been published worldwide, we have an increasing number of records that are released by European bands. This phenomenon has become so regular that we can no longer subscribe it to a simple coincidence!

Before starting with the chart, let me just say that there is now a special palylist on Spotify which collects all the best songs from the albums that are featured in this article. Enjoy!



#10) Wrath, “Rage”

American thrash metal veterans Wrath are active since 1982. They published their first three LPs between 1986 and 1990, and the last two studio records after 2013.

There are music bands that have gathered less celebrity and fame than they deserved. Wrath, from Chicago, are among these ones. Born in the golden age of thrash, they soon moved away from the standard canons of the genre and started playing what was later defined as technical thrash metal, a sub-genre of conventional thrash that places greater emphasis on complex songwriting and instrumental parts. However, Wrath didn’t manage to reach the relevance of other bands that were playing the same style of metal, like Watchtower, Mekong Delta and Coroner, and in the end they were relegated to a seconday role in the history of thrash. The fact that they released only 5 albums throughout their long career hasn’t contributed to increase the fan base, in particular outside the U.S., but everyone who had the opportunity to discover Wrath’s ,music typically appreciate the passion, the creativity and the quality of their works.

In 2018 the American formation has released a new album, called Rage, which basically produces the same emotions that you could enjoy if it was possible to prepare a cocktail of music blending together some of the most beautiful songs in the history of metal, from Megadeth to Faith No More. And if this may appear a little anachronistic, the dedication and the attention to the details that have been put by Wrath in the recording of the album managed somehow to give coherence and significance to all of the songs of the LP.

Evidently this is not the album that will guarantee to Wrath the success that they never achieved in the past, but Rage is still a very good and fully enjoyable thrash metal record that the fans of the genre will appreciate without any difficulty.



#9) Gama Bomb, “Speed Between the Lines”

Gama Bomb, from Dublin in Northern Ireland, are active since 2002 and they have released to date six full lenght studio albums.

In music there are things that you like or you hate, without half measures. In the specific case of thrash music, one thing which has always had particular importance for me is the “seriousness” of the vocal part, which I like compact, “mature” and sufficiently angry. Consequently I’m not a huge fan of the vocalizations derived from the heavy metal tradition: when these are applied to thrash metal it seems to me that the songs lose most of their value. Gama Bomb, from Northern Ireland, is a thrash band that has always injected a big dose of humor in their songs and which features a crazy and eclectic singer like Phylly Byrne who’s absolutely in line with the image of the band, and who often linges in those high pitch shouts that I was introducing before.

Nevertheless, despite there is something which precludes me of being fully captured by the style of thrash played by Gama Bomb, on the other side it’s absolutely impossible to remain cold or skeptical in front of a music that’s characterized by such an impressive amount of energy, fury, and which is also gifted by so many killer riffs that other bands could build up an entire discography with the ideas that have been fitted together in Gama Bomb’s new record.

Speed Between the Lines, their new LP, will drive crazy all the lovers of hyperspeedy thrash: twelve songs, less than 35 minutes of total duration and a sonic tightness that’s quite unique in today scene. For all the others, the LP can represent a curious and enjoyable excursion in an area of metal that’s not only extravagant and crazy, but which shows also a consistency and a sound density that are worthy of great attention.



#8) Tantara, “Sum of Forces”

Tantara is a thrash metal band from Norway, active since 2009 and started as a “talent show” project. The band’s discography features two full-lenght studio albums and one EP.

Tantara, from Norway, was formed almost ten years ago in the context of a talent show. Since then they had to face some problems with record labels and also multiple changes in the line-up, but they eventually managed to release two full-lenght albums: their 2012’s debut LP named Based on Evil, and their 2018’s new LP named Sum of Forces.

The music played by Tantara is a kind of thrash metal that’s deeply inspired by the legacy style of Bay Area metal (Testament, Metallica, …) and this approach is totally confirmed by their newest release. The music played by these guys is basically a tribute to the classic thrash that emerged between the 80s and 90s and, in this respect, Sum of Forces doesn’t offer any particular element of innovation except for the inclusion in their songs of multiple melodic sections and the presence of an interesting 10 minutes long instrumental song.

The fact that Tantara plays a style of metal that’s so close and reminiscent of the masters of thrash, however, doesn’t mean that their music is not valid or enjoyable. With their crushing riffs, the headbanging rhythms and the intriguing guitar solos, the four horsemen from Norway have in fact managed to pump new life into a genre of music that could be seen by many as dated, if not out of time. Sum of Forces represents a very good and solid LP of old-school thrash metal, made and designed for the diehard fans of the genre, but which has all what’s necessary to be be appreciated by all the lovers of energetic and powerful music.



#7) Anesthesia, “Humans”

Anesthesia is an American metal band which plays melodic and mid-paced thrash metal. They have released so far five LPs.

Anesthesia is a unsigned and independent thrash metal band from Albuquerqe, in New Mexico (about which it’s also quite difficult to find any good picture on the web). Formed in 1998, they have released to date four studio LPs. Their most recent release, Humans, arrives three years after their previous record and this is also the shortest time-gap in their discography between two consecutive albums. Not a highly prolific formation, thus, but at least we can appreciate the fact that the band seems to spend a relatively high effort for composing and recording songs that result varied and generally different one from the other.

The style of thrash that is played by Anesthesia lingers on moderately slow rhythms. In their songs, the melodic component results absolutely predominant over the more aggressive and furious aspects of conventional thrash. In general terms their sound is reminiscent of the early 90s and in many sections of the album you feel like Chuck Billy from Testament is singing over Metallica‘s Black Album songs. The overall result, however, is absolutely interesting because all the various sources of inspiration have been mixed with a certain amount of originality.

In the end, despite being a relatively minor figure in contemporary thrash scene, Anesthesia have perfectioned their characteristic style of metal which made them achieve their deserved presence in this list. And if you’re one of those who prefer melodic and mid-paced thrash songs, compared to the typical furious and brutal ones that you have in this genre of music, Humans will provide you with a good selection of new tracks to enjoy.



#6) Angelus Apatrida, “Cabaret De La Guillotine”

Angelus Apatrida is a thrash metal band formed in 2000 in Albacete, Spain. To date, they have released six full-lenght studio albums.

Born at the dawn of the new millennium, Spanish band Angelus Apatrida have progressively evolved their style from the heavy & power metal of their first works towards a kind of music that’s decidedly closer to classic Bay Area thrash, enriched here and there by various and interesting influences coming from other styles of metal. In all phases of their career, however, they have always mainfested the will to celebrate the the masters of the past rather than chasing the different trends of the moment.

Angelus Apatrida’s latest album, Cabaret de la Guillotine, is reminiscent in many parts of the early works of Testament, and this is certainly not a bad comparison for a band that today seems totally focused on restoring the luster of classic thrash. But what’s even more important is that Cabaret de la Guillotine results one of the best albums of their discography, in particular for the impressive number of tight, furios and enjoyable riffs that are packed in every song of the LP, together with the introduction of many nice melodic sections. And despite the album is definitely derivative of a lot of different things we have already heard in the last thirty years of metal, this record won’t disappoint all the big family of the lovers of old-school thrash.



#5) Artillery, “The Face of Fear”

Artillery is a Danish thrash metal band. After releasing three full-length albums, they disbanded in 1991 and reunited seven years later, only to disband once again in 2000. Artillery reformed again in 2007 and are still together today.

Artillery, from Denmark, is another of those formations whose tormented history may have precluded the achievement of a success comparable with the effort they’ve made to develop their style of music. In their third reincarnation since their initial formation in 1982, Artillery still continue to play the same brilliant mix of thrash and speed metal that they have been offering to their fans across their long career. And although today this style of music is certainly less “trendy” than how it was thirty-five years ago, their songs still manifest the positive and energetic spirit that we have always appreciated in their songs.

The Face of Fear, which is Artillery’s new LP, is the fifth full lenght release after their latest reformation in 2008, and the ninth of their whole discography. Five albums in less than ten years is definitely a good sign of vitality for a band of metal veterans as they are, especially because the overall quality of their work is still quite good. From a musical point of view, The Face of Fear is characterized by an enjoyable and well balanced mix of fierce and fast thrash riffs and hyper-technical heavy metal moments. The recipe is then enriched by many references, in some cases real tributes, to melodies or riffs that are nowadays part of the collective memory of heavy metal.

With their new LP, Artillery keep providing all fans of thrash and heavy metal with another collection of genuine and solid song. Surely the brilliance of their early years has now a little attenuated, but the experience of listening to one of their records remains always a very rewarding experience.



#4) Tornado, “Committment to Excellence”

Tornado is a thrash metal formation consisting of members coming from US and northern Europe. The band is active since 2007 and their discography features three LPs.

There are records that we appreciate because they make us discover something new and unespected, while there are others that we love because they allow us to jump back in time, and feel young. These are the albums which remind us of something beautiful that we used to listen many years ago, something that has been part of our life. Tornado‘s Commitment to Excellence belongs definitely to this second category of records. This is the kind of music that cannot reach the peaks of quality and value of the most experimental and innovative albums. Nevertheless, we find ourself listening them again and again, if only for the nice feeling we have when we’re back in that special comfort zone where music follows patterns that are already known to us, with no surprises.

Commitment to Excellence is the third record from Tornado, a relatively unconventional formation with roots that are scattered between northern Europe and the United States. The LP offers to the large family of thrash fans a thrilling collection of classic old-school songs enriched by a few and sparse inserts of groove and crossover. Basically it’s like having System of a Down playing tunes from the early works of Anthrax and Slayer. Nothing particularly original, but it’s damn fun and enjoyable. Anyway, for sure it’s not the originality the focus and the goal of Tornado’s music.

In summary, Commitment to Excellence is a record full of references to the most exciting moments of thrash metal, and between a bunch of catchy songs and a few missteps, the album shines for immediacy and overall enjoyability, two characteristics that made it achieve a prestigious place in this “end of the year” ranking.



#3) Tonic Breed, “Install Memory”

Tonic Breed, from Norway, are active since more than ten years and they have released so far two LPs. In 2018 the band published a new EP, “Install Memory”, as an anticipation of a forthcoming full-lenght work.

Tonic Breed is an interesting thrash quartet from Norway which was formed twelve years ago and that has released so far a couple of appreciated studio LP. Since the date of publication of their last full-lenght record (2014’s Outsold) the line-up of Tonic Breed went through a number of changes and today only half of the members of the initial formation are still part of the band. Probably for the purpose of testing the skills and cohesion of the new team, Tonic Breed have recorded this year the EP Install Memory, the first of their career, which contains a handful of new tracks plus a curios and eccentric cover of Mummy Dust by Ghost and a couple of live tracks.

Install Memory substantially confirms the orientation of Tonic Breed towards the typical American style of thrash, enriched with a few inserts from groove and heavy metal (you can consider the early works by Metallica as a good reference for their sound). The performance of the new members of the band (lead guitarist Jørgen Abrahamsen and drummer Ole Danielsen) is absolutely fine, although it emerges from the EP that the band’s true driving force comes from Patrik Svendsen and Rudi Golimo, the architects of the catchy and engaging riffs that we find on the album.

Svendsen and Golimo carry on their simple but effective approach to metal, with a style that’s deeply rooted in the golden age of American thrash but which still results enough genuine and effective to be appreciated by both new and old fans. In the end, Install Memory pushes up the expectations for a new full-length record from the band and this, I would say, is probably the best result that Tonic Breed could achieve with their new EP.



#2) Warfield, “Wrecking Command”

Warfield is a German thrash metal trio that debuted in 2018 with their first LP, “Wrecking Command”. Previously, the band released an EP and a demo-

German metal trio Warfield may be considered as newcomers in the metal arena: although the band was formed almost six years ago, they arrived only in 2018 to the important milestone of the debut LP. Wrecking Command, the firts full-lenght release from the band, follows an initial EP that was published 4 years ago and which anticipated to the fans their direct and essential sytle of music.

Warfield don’t shine for innovation: the band basically offers another interpretation of “teutonic” thrash metal, a genre which has seen in the last thirty years really many important references from which they could take inspiration. Anyway, we’re not dealing here with a mere exercise in style because these guys are absolutely prepared on the fundamentals of the genre and they have very clear ideas about what they want to achieve with their music. Wrecking Command proceeds straight, implacable, at medium-high speed and without any real moment of slow down, from the first to the last second of the record. This is an intentional and resolute metal attack, with no compromises. When you enter the whirling spiral of their sound, even the separation between the different songs tends to fade and the album becomes, in the end, like a single, uniform, monolitic and uninterrupted sequence of thrash riffs. Is this a negative aspect? Not at all! When the level of riffing is as good as we have here it becomes exciting and “restorative” to be carried away from such a solid and energetic stream of distorted guitars.

Warfield don’t mainfest any willingness to surprise their listeners with special effects or to impress music critics and fans with particular stylistic innovations. If you are looking for the band that will revolutionize the future of metal, then you have to look somewhere else. But if what you need is an healty dose of superb and precise teutonic attack, Wrecking Command will be your perfect companion.



BEST THRASH ALBUM OF 2018

Pripjat, “Chain Reaction”

Pripjat is a thrash metal quartet based in Germany, which takes its name from the Ukrainian “Prypjat”, a ghost town near the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Kyiv. The band’s discography consists of two LPs.

Sometimes it’s surprising to see how some bands are able, in a relatively short time, to acquire a maturity of style and an awareness of their capacities that many other formations reach only after many years of activity, if they gain it at all.

Pripjat, from Germany, entered the metal scene three years ago with a really interesting debut album, named Sons of Tschernobyl. In 2018 they released a follow-on LP, Chain Reaction, which confirms and further improves all the positive elements that were appreciated in their first record. The music played by Pripjat is a kind of thrash which apparently follows the standard references of the genre, but which in reality defines a peculiar approach where energy and adrenaline are supported by phenomenal songwriting skills. As a result, in Chain Reaction we can really appreciate how the hardness of the thrash and a general sense of distrust towards society are conveyed in songs of a brilliance and an effectiveness that appear, today, out of the ordinary. And it’s no coincidence, thus, that since the first time I listened to the album I get the feeling that I was in front of a really important record. Chain Reaction unleashes an uncontrolled charge of energy and adrenaline, but at the same time the average level of the songs is absolutely good, with a few particularly exciting tracks which, in the end, make the album to stand out from the rest of the contenders.

When comparing their new LP with the band’s debut album we may recognize a clear and positive evolution in both the style and the overall quality of their music. As a matter of fact three years of intense touring have helped the band to refine and increase not only the capacity to write effective and fresh thrash songs, but also to improve the way they play their music.

From a purely stylistic point of view, the music composed by the Pripjat is somehow reminiscent of Havok, in particular as regards the overall sound, the hypnotic and sharp bass lines, tthe speed and the articulation of the riffs, and of course the peculiar singing style. Beyond the easy comparisons with the other masters of thrash metal, however, this is a band that has all the potentials to become itself a model for other bands.

Pripjat is a band to be followed with great attention and we can really expect great things from them in the near future.



As already anticipated in the opening lines of the page, you may enjoy the best songs from these bands in a special playlist that I’ve created on Spotify: BEST THRASH OF 2018. Listen to it and spread the word!


Additionaly, my recommendation is to follow the playlist THRASH METAL FEAST, which is frequently updated with new songs from brand new albums.



END OF THE YEAR LISTS: BEST ROCK OF 2018 (CHART + PLAYLIST)

Rock never disappoints. It may seem like a miracle that in the age of trap and Autotune we can still enjoy beautiful records of pure and healthy rock and roll, but that’s fortunately the case. This year, in particular, we had so many good albums that I felt the need to extend the list to the best fifteen records instead of the classical Top Ten chart. Nonetheless, in the end there were still a number of good LPs that didn’t enter the chart, and I had to mention them in a small appendix that you can find at the bottom of this long article.

There is so much good music in this post that it makes no sense to waste your time with other introductory notes. Before you jump into the list, however, let me just say that there’s now a special playlist on Spotify where I have put together all the best songs from the albums that are presented in this article: 40 songs in total, for more than two hours and thirty minutes of exciting music.

Enjoy the reading, listen to the music, and spread the word!



#15) Alien Sex Fiend, “Possessed”

(Gothic Rock / Deathrock)
Alien Sex Fiend are an English gothic rock band, formed in London, England in 1982. The current lineup of the band consists of Nik Fiend and Mrs. Fiend.

Visionary and experimental music, when it brings inside the spark of innovation, becomes a timeless work of art and, consequently, it’s always actual and contemporary. It’s now more than 35 years than Nik Fiend and Mrs. Fiend started playing their unique recipe of dark and industrial gothic rock under the name of Alien Sex Fiend, but the music of their last album is still fresh and communicative as few other things that we’ve heard this year. Possessed, their new LP, arrived eight years after their previous publication, but we’re evidently in the presence of that special and precious category of artists who enter the recording studio only when they have 
in their hands first-class material to manipulate.

For those who aren’t familiar with the music of Alien Sex Fiend, we’re talking about a band that has published so far something like 13 studio LPs, 6 live records, and that have been included in more than fifteen compilations. Surely their fame reached its peak back in the 80s, but their influence is still present in modern music through many followers.

It was about 25 years ago when Alien Sex Fiend has definitely taken the shape of a duo, but today Possessed still features all the basic elements of their particular approach to gothic rock. The new album, in particular, shows a special attention of the two musicians towards obsessive rhythms and hypnotic repetitions. The simplicity but the effectiveness of the rhythmic component is probably the aspect that impressed me the most in their new LP. In many parts of the album you feel like being in a dark and isolated hall of a disco pub, with pulses and beats arriving muffled by layers of walls, while disturbing sounds, distorted guitars and pieces of phrases fill the space around you. Something like a discomforting nightmare that however has something absolutely fascinating.

In short: that’s an impressive and brilliant collection of music that proves once more how true class never ages. Not suitable for all tastes, but absolutely unique and intriguing.



#14) Modern Space, “Flip for It”

(Indie Rock / Alt Rock)
Modern Space is a five piece band out of Toronto, Canada. They play fast, fun, energetic indie alternative rock.

The world of indie rock is characterized by talented bands who struggle to find the limelight and other formations, much more fortunate, that are able, or lucky, to intercept the magic mixture of creativity and taste for the melody that meets the taste of large masses of listeners. Modern Space, from Canada, seem to belong to this second group of bands if we consider that in the relatively short time span of only 4 years they have already gained a good recognition both in their Country and abroad.

Their style may be described as a light and melodic version of indie with influences from alternative rock: one of the most immediate references for their sound is given by The Strokes, from which they managed to imitate the ability to compose sticky, catchy and “pop banging” riffs and choruses.

Modern Space’s new album, called Flip For It, offers an absolutely enjoyable collection of songs that are made to dance, to have fun outside or to shake your head while driving the car. This is “cheerful rock and roll”, without any desire to reach particular depths of expression or to use the music for transmitting any universal message. But when the premises are so clear and the music is so catchy, you can easily forget to search for any element of innovation, even because the absence of any tangible deviation from the canons doesn’t mean that the music of Modern Space is flat and anonymous. On the contrary, the band shows an impressive ability to vary rhythms, melodies and themes among the different songs of the LP, whilst maintaining the same level of enjoyability and catchyness across the whole record. And sometimes is definitely healthy and liberating to leave aside all the complicated things and indulge in pure and simple catchy rock.



#13) Basement, “Beside Myself”

(Alt Rock / Melodic Hardcore)
Basement are an English rock band formed in 2009 in Ipswich, Suffolk, England. They have released to date four full-lenght LPs.

In the last ten years, British rock band Basement has gained increased attention for having released a bunch of interesting records, and it’s no secret that these guys candidated themselves to become the European representatives of that kind of melodic rock that is played by many famous formations on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. This is why the announcement of a new album by the band, on August 2018, was received with great attention. And when their new LP, named Beside Myself, was released on last October, all the expectations were definitely confirmed.

One of the elements that has been always remarkable in Basement’s music is the brilliant balance that they manage to keep between anger and melancholy. This characteristic seems further enhanced in their new work and in fact most of the songs result at the same time energetic and deeply intimate. The rhythms are generally high and the songs are short and compact: you won’t find in their songs any accessory element that’s been introduced for the sake of prolonging the running time. Incipit, melodic section, catchy riff with anthemic chorus, bridge, and conclusion. Nothing more than that, but extremely effective and enjoyable to hear.

Beside Myself signs also the passage of the band to a major record label. With their new LP, Basement have left formally the world of independent music and this has certainly given more brilliance to their work, making every individual song of the new record a sort of masterpieces of “communicative effectiveness”. Probably something has been lost in terms of originality and spirit of experimentation, but the overall balance, in my opionion, is positive. Many years and tours have passed from their impressive first two albums (2011′ I Wish I Could Stay Here and 2012’s Colourmeinkindness) and today, as a matter of fact, these guys look for confirmations rather than surprises.



#12) Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, “Hope Downs”

(Indie Rock)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (often summarized as RBCF) is an Australian indie rock band, formed in Melbourne in 2013. After two EPs they have published in 2018 their first full-lenght studio LP.

After a couple of really interesting EPs, Australian indie rock band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever arrived this year to the release of their first LP, named Hope Downs, which is an extremely promising work from the Melbourne quintet. The release notes say that many of the band members had played so far in a number of local garage and rock bands, garning a relatively good reputation in the Australian underground scene. And it’s not by chance, therefore, that Hope Downs shows a band which is fully aware of their possibilities and surprisingly (given their age) characterized by with a mature and well-defined musical style.

The genre of music played by RCBF is not particularly original or innovative, but the band has undoubtedly the gift of knowing how to instill interest and enjoyability in all of their songs. The tracks of Hope Downs arrive one after the other like a single flow of simple but effective indie rock tunes. There are no avant-garde ambitions in their music, rather we enjoy a solid collection of genuine and catchy songs, with the minimum necessary quantity of distortions to get the interest of indie music fans, but which never result so heavy and introspective to keep away the casual listener.

Many have compared RCBF to a softer and more commercial version of the early years of R.E.M., and the comparison if far from being wrong. These guys, however, seem to have all what’s necessary to develop and consolidate a style of music that won’t require, in the future, too many comparisons with the sacred monsters of rock.



#11) Alkaline Trio, “Is This Thing Cursed?”

(Punk Rock)
Alkaline Trio (sometimes abbreviated in Alk3) is an American rock band from McHenry, Illinois. Formed in 1996, they have released so far nine full-lenght records.

With the exception of a few but still relevant cases, traditionally American punk bands have always favored the melodic and popular aspects of this genre of music compared to the more controversial and rebellious ones. In this context the American rock band Alkaline Trio, from Illinois, represents another important member of that large family of bands which have contributed to the success of the so called “pop-punk”, a special version of rock that has become universally known mostly thanks to bands like Green Day and Blink-182.

Alkaline Trio’s last album, named Is This Thing Cursed?, is the ninth of their discography and it interrupts a five-year gap since their previous studio LP. The first impact of the album is absolutely positive if you like glossy rock with catchy choruses, and in this respect the new material is definitely reminiscent of what the band has done in the last twenty years, which is definitely a good thing if you don’t look for innovation but you just look for a new collection of good pop-punk melodic rock songs.

Anyway, when the recipe is simple and the ingredients are always the same, finding the way to compose and offer another set of exciting songs requires  a big dose of creative skills and inspiration, something that the American band has never struggled to find. In this respect, the collateral experiences that some of the members of the band have tried in the last few years may have contributed to give new life to their creative vein. But whatever the reason, the only thing that matters is that the Alkaline guys are back on track, with the same feeling and energy of the past.



#10) Audrey Horne, “Blackout”

(Hard Rock / Heavy Metal)
Audrey Horne is a hard rock band from Bergen, Norway. The band took its name from Sherilyn Fenn’s character in the cult TV series Twin Peaks.

Norwegian band Audrey Horne is one of those formations that have clearly established what their models are, what music they want to play, and they just continue to refine and improve their style album after album. With their last LP, named Blackout, they arrived to the remarkable result of six albums in thirtheen years of career, all of them dedicated to carrying forward the banner of their special style of hard rock.

The music played by Audrey Horne is deeply rooted into the legacy of 70s classic rock, enriched with the insertion of melodic elements of heavy-metal derivation. The songs are generally enjoyable and also extremely accessible, plenty of anthemic choruses, catchy riffs and triumphant guitars. There’s nothing original and innovative in Blackout, but for those looking for a good and healty dose of rocking energy the album gives absolutely satisfaction. It’s really like being in a rock’n’roll party: at some point it’s no longer important if you’re listening to trendy and modern music or rather old-school heavy rock, what really matters is the pulsating rhythm in your head and the electricity that runs through your veins.

Sometimes it’s nice to let ourselves be carried away by such retro music as Audrey Horne’s. We can forget that we have grown up, that our kids polarize our spare time and that there are a couple of bills on the table that must be still paid. In these moments, if there’s the right song and we close our eyes, we may find ourselves running again with our small cars along the streets of the city, at night, with rock music playing loud from our low-fi stereo systems and the wind blowing our hairs.



#9) Cancer Bats, “The Spark That Moves”

(Hardcore Punk)
Cancer Bats are a Canadian hardcore punk band from Toronto, Ontario. They are active since 2003 and have released six studio albums.

The heaviest entry of this chart is one of those album which lays on the thin border between rock and metal. The spirit with which it was recorded and published, however, is definitely “rock” and that’s is one of the reasons why, in the end, the LP by Cancer Bats has found its place in this chart. The Spark That Moves arrived absolutely by surprise and without any warning on April 2018; the band later explained that they were tired of waiting and decided at one point to drop the LP all at once, deliberatly choosing to skip the traditional lead ups and teaser singles.

Cancer Bats are a well-known Canadian band that have achieved a certain notoriety during the last fifteen years thanks to their intriguing and effective mix of hardcore punk and crossover. Since the beginning of their career the group has released their LPs with a good regularity and in 2018, three years from the previous album, they released the sixth record of their interesting discography.

Cancer Bats owe much of their success to the particular style of music that they managed to craft and refine with the years, which consists of a base of hardcore enriched with many elements of southern rock and metalcore. The band, however, has always shown the ability and the willingness to evolve their sound and keep it fresh at each stage of their career. In this respect, one of the key elements of The Spark That Moves is how it’s founded on vast and caried catalogue of musical expressions and the songs, although marked by and equal and impressive level of sonic violence, result so varied and also different one from the other that the experience of going through the record in one single shot is definitely rewarding and exciting.

The music of Cancer Bats doesn’t want to be cool or trendy and it’s not surprising that their videos show random people eating pizza or cars drifting in the snow. But the beauty and violence of their riffs is so genuine and visceral that their songs never disappoint.



#8) Ash, “Islands”

(Indie Rock / Pop Rock)
Ash are a Northern Irish rock band, formed in Downpatrick in 1992. They have released so far eight full-lenght studio albums.

Northern Irish band Ash has been around for over 25 years in the world of rock. Between highs and lows, the band has released so far 8 full-lenght albums spanning through alternative, punk and britpop (even if the band, for obvious reasons, han never felt comfortable with this last association). Their last LP, Islands, aims without any hesitation towards the direction of an easy to listen version of indie rock, enriched here and there by splashes of pop music.

Beyond the relative and physiological variations of style from album to album, however, in its essence their music has been extremely consistent across their releases: quick-setting and catchy rock and roll. Accordingly, Ash’s new work features a new enjoyable collection of songs that are extremely engaging and funny to listen to.

If their sound is substantially a consolidation of what we heard from them to date, there are also a few elements of innovation that allow their music to remain sufficiently modern and appreciable. Compared to their previous works, today the band lingers a little more on intimate and introspective pieces, but we still have in the LP a good handful of those ferocious and happy songs from which we can extract our daily dose of rock energy.



#7) Tonight Alive, “Underworld”

(Alt Rock / Pop Rock)
Tonight Alive is an Australian rock band from Sydney, Australia. In January 2018 Tonight Alive have releases their fourth LP, “Underworld”

Remained only four members after that guitarist Whakaio Taahi quit on October 2’17, the Australians alternative rockers Tonight Alive went quickly back to the studio to compose and publish a new LP, Underworld. The new album follows the three previous good records that the band from Sidney released since their formation, approximately ten years ago. And despite it was published at the very beginning of the year, Underworld has resisted many fierce contenders and it eventually maintained his position within the best rock records of 2018.

The music played by Tonight Alive demonstrates that it’s absolutely possible to play simple and catchy rock, which may still result exciting and interesting. The songs of Underworld are in fact clearly oriented to mainstream radio and big audiences, but without necessarily having to compromise the quality of the songs.

From a musical point of view, because of their style of music Tonight Alive have been often compared to tAmerican pop-rock band Paramore, although with their latest works the Australian band has tried, and somehow succeeded, to develop their own and unique sound. This is particulary evident from the relevant use of the electronic inserts, which have acquired an important role in the development of Tonight Alive’s new songs.

The presence of this record in the final chart at the end of the year thus testifies that alongside conceptual and articulated albums, occasionally it is absolutely healthy to launch in the music player a sequence of easygoing, direct and energetic songs like those offered today by Tonight Alive, provided that the quality of the music is of the same level of the adrenaline that you want to get trhough it.



#6) Titus Andronicus, “A Productive Cough”

(Folk Rock, Indie Rock)
Singer and guitarist Patrick Stickles, leader and founder of American indie rock band Titus Andronicus. Since their formation in 2005, the band has released 5 LPs.

There are times when you need to change, restarting from the scratch. For indie rock band Titus Andronicus this moment coincided with the writing and publication of their fifth studio album, A Productive Cough. Started as an irriverent, raw and genuine punk rock act, Patrick Stickles has guided his band through many different areas of the indie rock world and today, after the last sharp turn, they started playing what we could actually define as folk-rock or “bar-room rock”, as it was also said by someone. The rusult, however, is extremely good.

A Productive Cough reminds us how beautiful are folk acoustic ballads, and how exciting is pure and simple rock music, without too many embellishments or refinements. Two guitars, one bass, drums, simple and cantabile melodies, nice and catchy choruses inspired by popular and street music. This music was stripped down of all that’s superfluous and brought back to its primordial significance: an element of communion and sharing of emotions among different people.

The abum never exceeds in any direction: seven songs – one is a Bob Dylan’s cover – for a little more than 45 minutes of total duration. Fast, simple, essential to the bone, and extremely enjoyable to listen in many different occasions.

On the other hand it’s clear that an album like A Productive Cough can’t leave everyone equally convinced, especially those who were expecting a much more complex and articulated record. But the fans of the band know that beyond the punk and rough surface of their music, Titus Andronicus have always concealed a second level of interpretation. Today, with their new album, they have clearly decided to take a beneficial break and abandom themselves to the desire of playing music and give emotions in the most direct way possible, like a rolling stone.



#5) Jeff Rosenstock, “POST-“

(Punk Rock / Indie Rock)
Jeff Rosenstock  is an American musician and songwriter from Long Island, United States. He was the lead singer of the ska punk band The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, the musical collective Bomb the Music Industry! and the indie rock band Kudrow. After the breakup of Bomb the Music Industry!, he began a solo career.

Let’s start with a recommendation: if you have never listened to POST-, which is the latest album by American rocker Jeff Rosenstock, you should go immediately to the album’s bandcamp page and download it for free (or maybe make a donation). The album was in fact produced by Rosenstock’s free/donation-based digital label called Quote Unquote Records. Go and take it, and then come back here for the review.

Jeff Rosenstock is an american rocker from Long Island who’s playing punk since a couple of decades. He started singing in a few relatively influential local bands such as The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry!and Kudrow. After the breakup of Bomb the Music Industry!, in 2013, Rosenstock eventually embarked in a solo career and released to date three full-length albums. The last one, POST-, was published on January 1st, 2018 and – as arleady highlighted – it was made available for free download.

There could be many ways to describe Rosenstock’s music and his latest album. Surely we could start mentioning the punk roots of his sound and then continue with the description of the individual pieces. We could focus in particular on the track called USA, which is undoubtedly the most important and significantof the album, with its 7 and a half minutes of pure rage and despair. But what I will say, instead, is that POST- is an album full of contradictions, definitely not homogeneous, but really because of these inconsistencies it looks the best representation of the world in which we live today. It didn’t happen to me since a long time to listen to an album and feel like being a part of it. POST- is genuine, raw, contradictory, but this is music that speaks to you as a friend, with songs that become more engaging each time you listen to them.

There are highs and lows among the ten tracks of the record. The structure of the LP is also completely out of the standard: there are two masterpieces that open and close the album, which are also the longests tracks of the record. And in the middle we can enjoy an handful of quick and effective sketches of punk rock, flowing fluidly one after the other. Crazy? Brilliant? It’s up to you to decide, anyway it works.

I believe that the music produced by Jeff Rosenstock is the truest version of punk rock that is in circulation today. This is not the kind of street punk which tries to imitate the atmospheres of the 70s, and not even the ska-punk which has been so succesful in the last years. But this music speaks from the heart. Compliments.



#4) Starcrawler, “Starcrawler”

(Hard Rock)
Starcrawler is an American rock band formed in 2015. They have released their debut and self-titled LP in January 2018.

The moment I started to assemble this final chart for 2018 I realized that the very first positions were all occupied by famous groups with already many albums and many successes behind them. I was starting to worry about the fact that there were no emerging groups in the top positions, but then I rememberd of Starcrawler and their impressive debut album.

Starcrawler is a band of very young rockers from California who met and started playing music in High School. In an extremely short time – at least compared to what’s generally the case for every rock band – they managed to polarize the attention of fans, critics and even a number of old glories of rock of the caliber of Ryan Adams and Elthon John, who also contributed to promote their music. When a band reaches fame and attention in this explosive way there is always the risk that the musical aspect remains in the background. And in this case it would be really a shame because this self-title debut LP provides the listener with an impressive sequence of solid and exciting rock songs.

From a musical point of view, much of the beauty of the record comes from the natural way in which multiple influences were blended together to form something definitely new, and fresh. There is also a persistent flavour of garage rock that permeates the LP, and this provides a nice feeling of immediacy and roughness to many of the tracks of the album.

Coming back to the overall phenomenon that has been generated around Starcrawler, it’s evident that this kind of success can not be for pure chance. The turning point will be given by the forthcoming works. We will understand if the creativity and the special touch that these young rockers demonstrated in their debut album were only the result of a quick sparkling of fire or, on the contrary, they will become one of the most important rock groups of the next decades.



#3) Hot Snakes, “Jericho Sirens”

(Post Hardcore / Garage Rock / Indie Rock)
Guitarist and singer John Reis formed the Hot Snakes in 1999 in San Diego, California, together with guitarist Rick Froberg. The band released three albums between 2000 and 2004, and then a fourth LP in 2018.

There is a particular emotion every time we come across to the new album from a band that has spent so much time in silence. Jericho Sirens, the fourth and latest LP by Hot Snakes, arrives fourteen years after their previous release. And as only the exceptional records can do, the new album looks so strong and vigorous that it has really the capacity to excite both the old fans of the Californian band and also those new generation of listeners who just got in touch with the scratchy sounds of indie rock and post-hardcore.

The line-up of the band is basically the same of their early works, and this for sure helps. But what’s really remained unchanged is their rebellious spirit and also the musical creativity they manifest with their songs. To some extent one could feel that all the time which separates their two last records has passed – musically speaking – in a flash. And that’s for sure the result of all the effort and committment that the band has dedicated to the making of Jericho Sirens. Nothing here is improvised, there are no gap fillers and we don’t have the impression to be in front of a mere commercial operation. I feel here the genuine desire to switch on for one more time that spark of light that illuminated the rock scene during a few, but intense, years at the beginning of the new century.

The ten tracks of Jericho Sirens are strongly based on that intriguing mix of garage rock, post-hardcore and indie rock that the band consolidated with their first three albums. The rhythms are always sustained, John Reis and Rick Froberg hit hard on their guitars from the first to the last minute of the album. Such blast of energy, however, is not a barrage fire. The shots are chirurgical: all the instruments play strong and compact, the energy is directed in one single direction and the balance between dissonance and melody reaches in some passages the absolute perfection. As expected the lyrics are generally polemical and negative: the guys from San Diego are not here to tell us that life is easy and beautiful. But what we hear is not a cry of abandonment and despair, it is rather a scream of rage and disgust towards mediocrity, something that pushes you to react rather than to give up.

This is perhaps the secret of Hot Snakes: they have the ability to combine a genuine protest towards the system with a sharp, essential and effective musical assault, something which goes straight to the point without dispersing any beat with unnecessary nuances or music frills.



#2) Cloud Nothings, Last Building Burning

(Indie Rock / Post Hardcore)
Dylan Baldi is the singer, guitarist and leader of indie rock masters Cloud Nothings. The band started in 2009 as Baldi’s solo project but it soon became a full formation with other permanent members.

There are bands that represent the essence and the spirit of rock. Among these I surely include Cloud Nothings, the spectacular indie rock from Ohio. I follow this band with particular attention since their 2014 album, Here and Nowhere Else, and from then I’ve always felt a natural attraction for their music and I’ve literally fallen in love with many of the intense and profound songs they wrote. I’ve always found their approach to music as the perfect paradigm and synthesis of rock and roll in modern times. Their songs manifest the urgency of communicating something strong, and the musical language they’ve built in order to transmit their feelings is raw, immediate, dissonant and full of contradictions as is our life nowadays. No frills, no masks, a kind of music that is stripped of all what’s superfluous but that, in doing so, shows a monstrous and impressive substance. I feel that Cloud Nothings have achieved the perfect synthesis between the immediacy of punk, the aggressiveness of alternative rock, the melodies of power pop, the research and experimentation of avant-garde music, and the the angularities of noise rock. Their sound is the point where all these different ways of interpreting modern rock eventually meet together, and their albums are gifted by a sense of spontaneity and naturalness that makes everything alive and exciting.

Last Building Burning is the new LP released by Cloud Nothings, the fifth of their discography. The publication notes say that the album was recorded in only eight days in a studio located in a border town of Texas. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the album offers such intense feelings of immediacy and spontaneity. Don’t expect the balance and the crystalline perfection of those over-produced albums where clear sounds and catchy melodies are tuned and refined up to the smallest details. Instead, prepare yourself for rough sounds and a genuine flow of electric anger, with songs that point straight and without hesitations at the heart of music, at the essence of rock.

Last Building Burning is yet another great record by a fantastic band. The album has no false steps and every song is a little gem. There are of course some tracks that shine with a particular light of beauty. I can mention the song In Shame, perhaps the most melodic, fast and accessible song of the LP, one of those tracks that you want to listen again and again everytime it ends. On the other end of the music spectrum there is Dissolution, a song that produces in my mind the image of Dylan Baldi and his bandmates that are hitting hard on their instruments with rage, fury and passion, until at some point they find themselves blocked on a single note, a chord that they cannot leave for some magic spell, and they are unable to move forward into the song until the drums eventually arrive to wake them up and then, as a response, they embark on a three minutes psychedelic trip which results in one of the most exciting song finals that the band has ever composed to date.

In more general terms, if we compare Last Building Burning with the band’s more recent releases we see many confirmations and a few elements of difference. The confirmations mainly regard their general approach to music and songwriting, which includes the immediate and “urgent” style that I mentioned above. Among the differences we can highlight a more evident recourse to gloomy and disheartened tones, both for the music and the lyrics. But, in the end, this is just another evidence that their music doesn’t only reflect the current state of rock music, but the more general situation of our society.



BEST ROCK ALBUM OF 2018

Turbonegro, “Rocknroll Machine”

(Punk Rock / Hard Rock)
Turbonegro is a Norwegian rock band, initially active from 1989 to 1998, and then reformed in 2002. Their style combines glam rock, punk rock and hard rock into a style the band describes as, “deathpunk.”

Given the recent explosion of the rock and metal scene in the Scandinavian countries, today it may seem natural that among the best records that are coming out every year there are lots of bands from Sweden, Finland and Norway. Back in the 90’s, however, there was a relatively unique and exceptional case of a crazy band from Oslo, named Turbonegro, which got the attention of fans and critics with a series of incredible albums. Their style was so special and original that people had to coin a new name for it: “deathpunk”. Surprisingly, however, their fame remained limited to the underground world of punk rock and metal, without reaching that universal celebrity that they would have deserved. From a certain point of view, however, we could be selfishly grateful to the band for not achieving a larger success, because we know how strong can be the process of sterilization that typically occurs with mainstream music. Surely they weren’t facilitated by the exaggerated and extravagant image they gave to themselves, including the crazy titles of their albums. At least for this single aspect, however, the guys from Norway seem to have made some progress and in fact, today, instead of Ass Cobra or Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives we see them out with a definitely more moderate name for an album: Rocknroll Machine.

Turbonegro’s new LP interrupts a period of silence of six years from their previous record. To be honest, when I became aware of their new publication I had initially mixed reactions. But from the first moment that Rocknroll Machine was launched through the speakers of my music system, I realized that all my concerns were totally unjustified. This is really one of the few bands that gives no attention to trends and fashions, and which still play a straight and genuine version of rock with no needs for additives or unnecessary elements of “modernity”.

Musically speaking, Rocknroll Machine is basic divided in two parts. The first half of the LP looks like a tribute to classic hard rock (think of AC DC), while the second group of songs is more reminescent of the signature “deathpunk” style that the band consolidated in their early years. In both the two sections, however, there is the same impressive charge of musical energy, direct and effective as only the best music can be. This is 
timeless rock and roll, with no frills, easygoing and high voltage. Just play it loudly and enjoy the 40 minutes ride.

But the question is: what’s the difference between a good record and the best rock album of the year? Easy: when you see your whole family (wife, teenage guy plus kid) singing the antemic choruses of a record every single time it runs on the stereo, the answer is there in front of you.



Other notable rock releases of 2018:

  • Tales from the Backseat, the debut studio album by Irish indie rock band The Academic
  • Cleave, the fifteenth studio album by Northern Irish alt rock legends Therapy?
  • [Untitled], the seventh studio album by American post hardcore band mewithoutYou
  • Always Ascending, the fifth studio album by Scottish indie rock band Franz Ferdinand
  • Master Volume, the second studio album by Canadian punk rock band The Dirty Nil
  • Snares Like a Haircut, the fourth studio album by American noise rock duo No Age
  • The Free Life, the third studio album by English hard rock band Turbowolf
  • Peace and Love, the ninth studio album by American punk band Swingin’ Utters
  • Reiði, the second studio album by English indie and grunge band Black Foxxes
  • Vide Noir, the third studio album by American rock band Lord Huron


As already anticipated, you may enjoy all the best songs from these bands in a single and breathtaking compilation: BEST ROCK OF 2018. Now Playing on Spotify!


AMERICAN PRIMITIVE GUITAR, the definitive collection

American Primitive Guitar is a fingerstyle guitar musical style originated in the United States in the late 1950s when John Fahey started to compose and record his famous and beautiful avant-garde and neo-classical compositions. Before John Fahey, country fingerpicking techniques were used primarily to accompany vocals, but from that moment on such musical technique began to acquire its own validity also in the context of purely instrumental compositions. Since then many other artists have contributed to the success of this fascinating music style, mixing together elements of country, folk and blues.

 

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John Fahey (1939 – 2001) was an American fingerstyle guitarist and composer who played the steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument. His style has been greatly influential and has been described as the foundation of American Primitive Guitar.

 

Inspired by a number of great works that I had the pleasure to listen in the recent times (including the beautiful new LP by Gwenifer Raymond which I reviewed a few weeks ago) I decided to create and start curating a new playlist on Spotify, fully dedicated to this unique and beautiful style of music. At the moment of its launch, the playlist already presents more than 3 hours of the best of American Primitive Guitar, including artists of the caliber of Jack Rose, Daniel Bachman, Mark Fosson, Glenn Jones, Leo Kottke and Michael Gulezian. All tracks have been carefully selected and arranged so that the playlist can be enjoyed both in sequential order and using the shuffle.

Listen to it and follow the playlist because new tracks are expected to be included, both from new artists and the historical masters of the genre.

Enjoy, and spread the word!

 


 

BEAUTIFUL PIANO

It started as a simple place where to collect nice and delicate pieces for piano, and in a short time it has become one of my favorite playlists for the moments when I need to disconnect from the thousand thoughts on what I have done and what I have to do. That’s the magic of music.

Beatiful Piano is the playlist I manage on Spotify for celebrating the beauty of piano. All the tracks have been “handpicked” one by one over the years, and it’s impressive for me to recognize that today the playlist exceeds four and a half hours in duration. The rule that I gave myself to update Beautiful Piano is simple: no compromises on quality. The playlist features only the best songs, whether these are from new artists or legends of modern classical or electro acoustic music. Compared to many other playlists that are circulating on Spotify there will probably be less frequent updates, but on the other hand I want to provide my listeners with only the best and “forward thinking” piano music.

Enjoy it, follow it, spread the word.

 

 


 

THE BLACKBIRD / THE BEST BLACK METAL OF 2018 (August 2018) + Ranked Chart & Two Spotify Playlists

August, the peak of summer (at least here in the northern emisphere), the season of the year dominated by sun and light. In order to pursue one of those dramatic contrasts that make our days more interesting, I decided today to enter the darkest and mournful of the music genres: black metal.

Everyone who has the habit, for delight or work, to follow sistematically the new releases in the world of music, will have already noticed how black metal, despite being definitely one of the most “extreme” types of music, is actually one of the genres of metal that is characterized by the largest number of publications. There is no single friday without the release of a handful of new LPs of black metal, from all over the world. There are many reasons behind this phenomenon, and one is certainly related to the fact that to play and compose black music is relatively simple, at least respect to other kinds of metal. In general terms you need much less tools (i.e. money) and skills to start playing black metal, think for example at the comparison with progressive metal or technical death metal. For young musicians it is relatively simple and immediate to be together in  yourself in a basement, or in in an amateur rehearsal room, and start playing a sequence of chords with the tremolo technique and then, in very short time, to have your own black metal piece. And then there is the fascination fof the occult, the dark themes, or the ancient legends.

To find among the hundreds of records that are released every month those which are truly worthy of our attention is certainly a non-trivial operation. And that’s why, in the end, the artists who manage to stand out among the mass of lower quality bands are typically those who manage to infuse some truly personal and unique element in this kind of music. And that’s why, in the list that I’m presenting to you today, there are many records that even if based on a black metal “framework”, often diverge towards particular and innovative directions.

Enjoy the reading, listen to the music presented for each album, and at the end of the list you can access two different black metal playlists that I’m managing and updating on Spotify. And don’t forget to comment if you feel I missed some very important album in the list.


 

 

#1) Shining, “Varg Utan Flock”

Black Metal

 

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Shining is a Swedish black metal band formed in 1996 by Niklas Kvarforth in Halmstad, Sweden. Kvarforth is the main composer and vocalist of the band and started the band when he was only twelve. “Varg Utan Flock” is the tenth album in the band’s discography.

Shining, from Sweden, are one of the most regular and longeve bands in black metal. For about twenty years they have released a new album with a cadence of two or three years, and almost every time their records maintain the same structure of six songs including one instrumental track (which is in most of the cases the fifth song of the album). Their release of 2018, Varg Utan Flock, is no exception and presents almost the same winning formula of their previous albums: an interesting version of depressive and experimental black metal which incorporates many elements from thrash and other intriguing inserts from jazz and rock.

The music of Shining has been always influcenced by the the strong and controversial personality of its founder, the guitarist and vocalist Niklas Kvarforth, a man who has often claimed to suffer from mental illnes and whose inner torments have been always part of the creative process. And you can really feel the genius but also the issues of Kvarforth’s complex mental processes in the music he composed for the album.

From a musical point of view, one of the elements that makes this album particularly enjoyable is the brilliant alternation of different moments, in particular the alternation between furious sections and slower and more expressive moments. The result is an album that is quite unique for the way it is at the same time extremely “black” and brutal, but still accessible also for those who are not completely familiar with the genre.


 

 

#2) Primordial, “Exile Amongst the Ruins”

Celtic Folk & Black Metal

 

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Active since 1993, Primordial was originally a cover band but rapidly became one of the most influential formations of celtic black metal. “Exile Amongst the Ruins” is the ninth album of their discography.

Exile Amongst the Ruins, the last album from the Irish celtic black metal legends Primordial, presumably this year holds the record of the album that has been stationing for more time in my music player. And that’s not by chance. Although there have been other songs and records that gave me even more intense and memorable emotions, in the end a few records demonstrated to be longeve and adaptable to different situations as the last beautiful work from Primordial. The band doesn’t need too many introductions: as a matter of fact they’re playing their music since twentyfive years, and generally with excellent results. One of the characteristics they have shown during all of this time, and which is confirmed in their most recent release, his the capacity to blend together all the elements of their style into a mix that results always well-balanced. And this is the secret that gives their LPs such an impressive longevity: it is the average value of their music which stands well above the mass. This doesn’t mean that there arn’t songs more exciting than others, and in their last LP in fact we have a couple of phenomenal tracks (“To Hell or the Hangman” is absolutely my favorite). The fact is that Primordial just don’t know how to write bad or meaningless songs, and you can listen on repeat their discs for hours and hours. The style of music of the band is an extremely melodic version of black metal, enriched with doomy atmospheres as well as folk and celtic elements. With the years their music has been every time more focused and perfectioned. And today they have crafted an album where every piece is at the right place, you couldn’t imagine anything different from what you’re listening. The instrumental parts, in particular, deserve a special mention: probably you won’t listen anything more haunting, absorbing and fascinating than the melodic riffs that are fitted in this very good LP.


 

 

#3) Hoth, “Astral Necromancy”

Melodic & Atmospheric Black Metal

 

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Hoth is the name of the icy planet in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” and this is not a coincidence since the American band started making music based of the Star Wars saga. Their new album, “Astral Necromancy”, is the the third LP since their formation in 2011.

Every so often you come across a record that exceeds your initial expectations and this was the case for me with Astral Necromancy, the newest LP from the American metal band Hoth. I admit that my knowledge of the band was superficial and this album, which is the third in the band’s discography, came for me as a great surprise. Hoth plays a truly inspired and engaging atmospheric black metal, which is full of interesting melodic and harmonic elements and which is graced by light notes of gothic and power metal. The duo of musicians who are behind this project show a remarkable maturity and confidence in developing their musical style, which manages to escape easy tags and etiquettes whilst maintaining a certain coherence throughout the album. The release notes mention the fact that Astral Necromancy is the product of three intense years of writing and composition, in which “all songs were reworked and rearranged until they reached the perfection“. Beyond any possible discussion wheter the eleven tracks of the album are really perfect or not, what we can say for sure is that the result of such patient work of refinement and consolidation proved to be very effective. Astral Necromancy is a very solid and thrilling album of modern atmospheric black metal as a matter of fact there are no gaps in both the intensity and quality of the music across all the eleven tracks of the LP.


 

 

#4) Varathron, “Patriarchs of Evil”

Black Metal

 

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Hellenic black metal band Varathron are celebrating 30 years in the scene. Their last album, “Patriachs Of Evil” is the sixth LP of their discography

Varathron is a well-known black metal group from Greece, arrived nowadays at the threshold of thirty years of an interesting career. And as often happens in music, the most historical and mature groups are those that show the most evident desire to keep their sound fresh and also the greater desire to innovate. Patriarchs of Evil, their new record, offers to us the possibility to embark on a dark and disturbing journey into the world of the occultism, mystery and timeless legends. With their relatively soft and melodic version of black metal, the eight tracks composed by the Greek line-up are characterized by an satisfying level of quality and also offer a good variety of styles and atmospheres. 


 

 

#5) Zeal & Ardor, “Stranger Fruit”

Avant-garde Black Metal

 

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Zeal & Ardor is an avant-garde metal musical project started and led by Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss-American musician. Formed in 2013, the band mixes sounds of negro spirituals with black metal. “Stranger Fruit” is the third album of the band’s discography.

Avant-garde is a challenging genre of music that typically you want to take at little doses. Stranger Fruit, the new album from the brilliant mind of Swiss-American artist Manuel Gagneux, shows that there are still pleasant exceptions to the rule. The LP in fact manages to combine the experimental spirit and the desire to break the canons – which are indeed typical of this form of music – with an accessibility and enjoyability of listening that instead are rare qualities for a record of avant-garde metal. The music offered in the second album by Zeal & Ardor, Gagneux’s music project that has now become a full-fledged band, mixes with courage and skill the sonic elements typical of black metal with ritual songs, sacred and profane hymns, atmospheric elements and noise rock inserts, still succeeding in giving a good consistency to the entire record. The singing style and the thematic consistency that permeate the pieces provide a further element of homogeneity and implements a true conceptual thread guiding the listener throughout the sixteen chapters of this hallucinated journey with the dead and the dying. We are far away from those “extreme” albums that may intrigue you for a couple of listens but which then remain invariably buried by the dust. Stranger Fruit represents the output of a talented artist with is a clear vision; this is avant-garde music gifted by a sense of “musicality” which, fortunately, still remains the central element of the work.


 

 

#6) Dimmu Borgir, “Eonian”

Symphonic Black Metal

 

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Dimmu Borgir is a Norwegian symphonic black metal band from Oslo, Norway, formed in 1993. “Eonian” is their thenth album and, for many critics, it shouldn’t be considered as a proper black metal album but rather a melodic symphonic metal LP. I really don’t care about that, I just like this album!

It has been quite a long time before than Dimmu Borgir released a new album, and we can say that it was definitely worth to wait all these years. Eonian, the latest LP from the Norwegian black metal masters, is their first original studio album in nearly 8 years following 2010’s LP Abrahadabra. The reception of this new work has been mixed… many critics and fans have in fact argued over the atmospheres farly “positive” that permeate the songs of the record. Really this new record moves away enough from the cliché of the dark and demonic album that you would expected from this kind of formation. I believe, however, that these nordic metalheads, once arrived at the important result of the tenth album of their discography, and given also the difficulties they encountered to make this new work, have absolutely the right to direct their music wherever they like, as long as the change is the result of a genuine evolution of style and not a mere choice for higher commercial returns. As a matter of fact, it it’s true that the symphonic elements of the songs have lost the “evil” and evocative spirit of the past, but at the same time the new album remains fierce and sanguine, and it also presents a stylistic and compositional consistency that’s absolutely worthy of our respect.


 

 

#7) Harakiri For The Sky, “Arson”

Post-Black Metal

 

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Harakiri for the Sky is an Austrian band formed in Salzburg and Vienna in 2011. They have released so far four studio albums.

Harakiri for the Sky is a very interesting band from Austria. Initially started as a studio project with only two members playing all the instruments, the band eventually became a full fledged formation ready for the stage. Year after year, and thanks to a bunch of good albums released since their formation in 2011, this group of post-black metallers is now getting increasing attentions from both fans and critics. In 2018 the band has published a new full-lenght album, Arson, the fourth in their discography. Arson absolutely confirms the good things that were said about the band in the past years and it also presents a few important elements of innovation in their sound, in particular in the way the conventional elements of this genre of music – which is basically a bridge between black metal and post metal – are sometimes elaborated in a more personal and somehow unortodox way. There is for example an increased recourse to more melodic, harmoniuous and clean sections than what the band was used to do in their early and more rough works. As a result, Arson feels more accessible than the typical post-black metal album, but without losing too much in terms of intensity and melancholy.


 

 

#8) Arkona, “Khram”

Folk Black Metal

 

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Arkona is a Russian folk metal band, formed in 2002. “Khram” is the eighteth album of their discography.

In recent times it seems to me that evey new record coming from Russia has something magical and mystical. And the new work by Arkona, the Moscow-based black metal formation, it’s no exception. Khram, the latest full-lenght record in the band’s long discography, it is a concentrate of dark atmospheres and pagan music, with songs that manage to leave a mark of gloom in the listener’s soul. One of the building blocks of the album is clearly the third track of the LP, Tseluya zhizn’, an epic work of more than seventeen minutes after which nothing to hyoui will seem the same than before. I listened to the song during a running workout in the late evening, I was alone in the dark, moving into the streets of my city with the music playing loud in my headphones. My heart was beating as fast as if I were running away from a pagan rite, the atmosphere turned black and my breath was heavier than usual. And the that follow don’t dissolve the tension accumulated by this incredible song, rather they amplify its effects with tremendous beauty. 


 

 

 

#9) Watain, “Trident Wolf Eclipse”

Black Metal

 

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Watain are a Swedish black metal band from Uppsala, formed in 1998. The band have become (in)famous for their live shows which involve pyrotechnics, candles, Satanic rituals, animal carcasses, and blood. “Trident Wolf Eclipse” is their sixth album.

Watain is an historic Swedish trio which has been playing black metal for over twenty years, in general with good fortunes. In their new release, Trident Wolf Eclipse, the band seems to have given up on pursuing the musical evolution towards the more progressive version of black metal which characterized their controversial 2013 album The Wild Hunt, returning to a classic version of black metal. Despite this clear step backwards, the new album from Watain is still interesting, quite varied in its songs, but – most important – supported by incessant and brutal rhythms.


 

 

#10) Summoning, “With Doom We Come”

Epic & Atmospheric Black Metal

 

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Summoning is an Austrian black metal band based in Vienna, formed in 1993. The band has never performed live and has consistently maintained that they have no interest in ever doing so. Their latest album “With Doom We Come” is the eighteth full-lenght album of their discography.

Summoning is a legendary duo of atmospheric black metal artists from Austria. Since the day of their formation, back in 1993, they have released eight full-lenght albums but, more importantly, they have cemented a family of passionate and loyal supporters. The music from Summoning is quite easy to recognize: programmed drums, layers of keyboards, medium to slow rhythms, and epic walls of guitars with atmospheric elements. The last album from the band, With Doom We Come, for better or for worse seems to carry forward the same approach of the previous releases but, in the end, it seems to lack the brilliance of the most successful albums of their career. For a band that structures their songs around a single riff, much of the beauty of their production depends on how much inspired are the musical motifs on top of which the tracks are built and how these musical elements manage to generate memorable soundscapes. And Summoning’s new album, although it offers a solid black metal experience, seems to miss something of the atmospheres of their previous works. It still remains, however, among the finest black metal productions we have listened so far in 2018.


 

If you arrived down at the bottom of this long article I assume you enjoyed the reading and could be interested in listening to more black metal music.

Here there are two different playlists that I created on Spotify. The first is called SOULS OF BLACK and it’s collecting all the best black metal songs as soon as they are published. It is the primary black metal compilation that is associated with the blog.

 

The second playlist, named LOVE & PAIN, is dedicated to the sub-genre of atmospheric black metal.  Follow the playlists and check them periodically because both are updated with new tracks.


 

 

 

BEST ELECTRO POP OF 2018 (Episode 2, July 2018)

Now that we are at the height of summer it’s time to refresh our charts with the best albums of the year. Today we speak of the glittering world of electro pop; here we could enjoy a couple of new interesting entries after the first episode that was published a few months ago.

Let’s discover the updated list of the best electro pop albums of 2018. And, as usual, you’ll find at the end of the article the link to my Electro Pop playlist on Spotify.


 

#1) “HELLO WORLD” by SKYGGE

 

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Benoit Carré is a French singer, composer, musician and actor. He has written songs for some of France’s biggest stars, and in the recent times he collaborated with Sony’s Computer Science Laboratories in Paris to produce the pioneering album “Hello World”, which he released under the pseudonym of SKYGGE (“Shadow” in Danish)

Hello World, the experimental work by SKYGGE, was fully reviewed in a dedicated post when the album entered the Best New Music section of the blog. The album is the result of a research project in which scientists were looking for algorithms to capture and reproduce the concept of musical “style”. After a number of initial prototypes, a first group of electronic music artists joined the research team and at some point they took control of the process, and the scientific project became a music project. These artists were invited and coordinated by Benoit Carré (aka SKYGGE) and their work became the beautiful Hello World. The album is based on the idea to feed computer machines with sounds and melodies selected by every artist as input. Deep learning algorithms are then applied in order to allow the artificial intelligence module to elaborate and refine musical elements that are stylistically similar to the initial ones, but “new”.  From a musical point of view, the album is strongly influenced by European electronic music and in the end it results in an excellent collection of modern and forward thinking electronic tracks. And it’s not by chance that after many months, the album is still a the top of the electro pop chart.


 

#2) “EXORCISM” by Jenny Wilson

 

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Jenny Wilson is a Swedish singer-songwriter. She founded and played with First Floor Power until 2004, when she left the band to go solo. Since then she has released five LPs.

Exorcism, which is the fifth and newest LP released by Swedish Pop artist Jenny Wilson, tells in music the terrible story of a sexual assault that the songwriter experienced a few years ago while clubbing. This element by itself could guarantee for the album a deeper element of analysis and interpretation with respect to the typical electro-pop album, but the reality is that the feelings of tension, disturbance and anguish that are spread all-over the tracks of the record are evident and may be perceived even by the casual listener who doesn’t know the full story which is behind the album. The artist, however, managed to tell her painful story without ever making the music monotonous, didascalic and depressing. On the contrary, Exorcism features a collection of extremely interesting, varied and intriguing songs that disseminate their load of insecurity and alienation in an absolutely subtle way and, because of that, the result is extremely sharp and effective.


 

#3) “ANYWHERE BUT HERE” by Pola Rise

 

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Polish singer and composer Pola Rise Paulina Miłosz, working under the pseudonym of Pola Rise, appeared for the first time musically in 2014. Since then she has performed with various artists and in 1038 she released her first solo album, “Anywhere But Here”.

Anywhere But Here is the debut album from a new electro pop artist from Poland, Paulina Miłosz, who operates under the stage name of Pola Rise. She published a number of singles from 2014 and eventually got a record deal with Warner Music Poland, which supported the publication of her full lenght work. Her style of electronic music oscillates between pieces of clear experimental nature with notes of avant-garde, and more delicate and catchy songs, which in my opnion are also the ones that better highlight the qualities of this young artist. Anywhere But Here is particularly interesting because of the way in which it is able to give that “indie” feeling to a set of songs that, in their essence, result quite linear and without any particular dynamic development. The album offers the listener a nice collection of musical sketches, interesting and enjoyable to hear, gifted by a “light” touch make them the perfect companion for many moments of our days.


 

#4) “I CAN FEEL YOU CREEP INTO MY PRIVATE LIFE” by tUnE-YaRdS

 

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tUnE-yArDs is the music project of New England native Merrill Garbus and bassist Nate Brenner. tUnE-yArDs have released this year the fourth LP, which interrupts a period of 4 years since their previous full-lenght work.

Merrill Garbus, the US singer and songwriter who operates under the moniker of tUnE-YaRdS, never showed so far any lack of creativity and inventiveness. Indeed, from the beginning of her career she has maintained a minimalist approach to the choice of instruments and music styles almost as if she had the fear of covering, with an excess of effects and instruments, the essence of the motifs and the ideas which she was transforming into music. And if this approach may have precluded her the largest audiences, she still managed to leave her mark within the indie scene of the last decade. In tUnE-YaRdS‘ last album, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, longtime collaborator Nate Brenner has become an official member of the project, and the duo confirms more or less the same approach of Garbus’ previous releases. Electronic hypnotic beats remain in fact the baseline over which we enjoy Garbus’ eclectic and thrilling vocal lines. The musical performance is not always up to the experimental ambitions of the duo, but where their desire to explore new paths for music manages to find an adequate sonic vehicle, their songs succeed in offering us a very pleasant escape from the monotony of our routines.


 

#5) “BORN BACKWARDS” by Sequin

 

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Since 2013 Sequin has become the solo project of Portuguese singer Ana Miró. Her first album “Penelope” was released in April 2014. In 2018 Sequin released “Born Backwards”, her sophomore album, produced by Xinobi.

Sequin is the solo project of Ana Miró, a Portuguese singer and electronic producer who has been also the lead vocalist for other two music projects (Jibóia and Heats). In Sequin’s bandcamp page the music composed by Ana Miró is desdribed as “electro pop” and “naive electro”. I believe however that these tags, by themselves, don’t reflect in full the special feeling that emerges from the delicate and intriguing songs of Born Backwards, which is the second album of original songs from Miró, after her debut work Penelope. The sytle of Sequin may be described as a minimalistic version of Bat For Lashes, with evident influences from both pop and club music. The most relevant characteristic of the album is for sure the warm and engaging voice of Ana Miró, who gives depth and charm to the simple and catchy electronic rhythms of her songs.


 

If you liked this article, you will for sure enjoy “ELECTRO POP“, the playlist I created on Spotify with the best and latest Electro Pop, Synth Pop, and Indie Electronic. Follow it, enjoy it, and spread the word!

 

 


 

 

 

 

BEST GROOVE METAL OF 2018: The Top Albums so far (July 2018) + SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

Groove Metal is a genre with high potentials but which also exposes the bands who play it to some risks because of the impressive number of masterpieces that have been published in the last thirty years. Luckily 2018 seems definitely a good one for this kind of music and, as a matter of fact, in the first part of the year we have already encountered a good number of interesting albums.

Groove Metal (also known as Post-Thrash or Neo-Thrash) is a subgenre of heavy metal music. At its core, groove metal takes the intensity and sonic qualities of thrash metal and plays them at mid-tempo, with most bands making only occasional forays into fast tempo. (from Wikipedia)

Let’s see in the following which have been the Groove Metal releases in the first half of 2018. You’ll find here both consolidated and well-known formations like Machine Head and Accu§er, but also a bunch of newcomers of the metal scene, which is definitely a good sign for the future of this genre.

At the end of the article I’ve included the link to the Spotify Playlist which includes all the best Groove Metal songs released in the last couple of years. Enjoy!


 

#1) “Tū”  by Alien Weaponry

 

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Alien Weaponry is a three-piece teenage thrash metal band from Waipu, New Zealand, formed in 2010 by brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong. The band consists of Lewis de Jong (guitar and vocals), Henry de Jong (drums), and Ethan Trembath (bass guitar).

Alien Weaponry represents one of those young bands that occasionally arrive in the world of metal and that, with courage and a little unconsciousness, mark the beginning of a new musical direction. This groove metal band was formed in Auckland, in New Zealand, by the two brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong together, which later incorporated in the band bassist Ethan Trembath. Despite their young age, Alien Weaponry have quickly achieved worldwide recognition and some of their songs became “viral”, with the videos quickly hitting a huge number of views on social medias. The characteristic which made them stand out from the mass is the infusion of the Maori culture in the grooving and heavy sounds of their music, an element which gives their songs a strong sounding tribal feeling.

After releasing their early works across different media, in 2018 the band eventually published their debut LP, entitled , The album is in that delicate point of equilibrium between what’s cool and what may become naive. The idea to insert elements from the Maori tradition follows the trend – established many years ago – of incorporating folk and tribal elements with heavy metal: there is a wide discography that we can take as example, and there are also a few records that have literally marked the history of metal (“Roots Bloody Roots” from Sepultura, just to mention one). There is always the risk, however, to make something which seems curious and intriguing when you hear the first song, but which may easily become naive and boring when you find it applied to every single track of the album. Fortunately, however, this isn’t the case with Alien Weaponry. The marriage between the Maori tradition and groove metal seems to work fine and it’s not boring even in the long run. This is one of those fortunate cases where the “folk” tradition which is taken as inspiration fits very well with the spirit of heavy metal: there is the energy, the pride, the masculine vigor, lots of muscles and the warrior spirit. And the utilisation of the Mauri language within the lyrics makes the songs instantly sticking into the memory of the listener. Good work, this is really one of the best debut albums of the year.

Tū is available for streaming on Bandcamp and Spotify.


 

#2) “THE MASTERY” by Accu§er

 

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Accuser is Frank Thoms on Vocals and Guitars, Dennis Rybakowski on Guitars, Frank Kimpel on Bass and Olli Fechner on Drums. After a split-up occurred in 1996, the band reformed in 2008 and since then they have released five LPs.

Accu§er, from Germany, started many years ago as one of the many metal bands inspired by Bay-Area thrash metal sytle. Over the years, album after album, they developed however a more particular and personal sound influenced by many elements of groove metal. With their latest work, The Mastery, they have now reached the important number of 11 full-lenght discs released since their debut work in 1987. The music produced by Accu§er has never been dull or low quality, and this is absolutely confirmed in their new album, which offers a solid collection of thrash & groove tracks. The thrash components many times take over the groove ones and in this respect the new record of the German band seems to bring back the listeners at the beginning of their musical career, which is absolutely not a negative element in my perspective. The only limit of The Mastery, pheraps, is that it’s very hard to find a real spark of novelty or a particular element of innovation. Therefore, despite the excellent production and the uncontained energy and fury of the songs, the overall longevity of the album is somehow compromised by a lack of enough variety.

The Mastery is available for streaming on Bancamp and Spotify.


 

#3) “JUNGLE ROT” by Jungle Rot

 

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Wisconsin-based metal band Jungle Rot went through many changes in the line-up across their 26 years of career. Today Jungle Rot consists of Dave Matrise (vocals and guitars), James Genenz (bass) and Geoff Bub (guitars).

Midwest metal band Jungle Rot has achieved over the years a fair good reputation in the world of death metal and for this reason it may seem strange to see their latest album reviewed among the best groove publications of the year. It is undoubted, however, that although the songs of their new self-titled LP maintain many of the characteristics of death, in the end the style played today by the American band is definitely closer to a slightly brutal and faster version of groove rather than pure and canonic death metal. Their riffs are essential, linear, explosive and they often recall the early works from Sepultura. But what’s really important, in my opinion, is that the groovy-infused death metal played today by Jungle Rot it is absolutely valid and totally engaging. The only flaw that I can report on their last record is pheraps some lack of homogeneity among the songs. The first part of the album is breathtaking and the songs hit you in the face like a truck launched at full speed without control; in the second half of the LP, unfortunately, the quality of the songs does not remain at the same level and it somehow breaks the atmosphere that was generated in the first part of the record.

The album is availble on Spotify.


 

#4) “FURY” by Ektomorf

 

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Ektomorf was founded in 1993 in Hungary by Zoltán “Zoli/Zotya” Farkas. In the actual line-up Zoli/Zotya (vocals and rhythm guitar) is the only remaining founder member. The band is completed by Szebasztián Simon (lead guitar), Zahorán Csaba (bass) and Dániel Szabó (drums).

There are hundreds of metal bands that are inspired by some legendary group of the past. Ektomorf, a groove & thrash band from Hungary, seem to have applied this process of imitation so deeply that all of their music seems inspired not just to a generic style, not even to a single band, but really to a specific and well-identified album, which is the iconic album Chaos A.D. by Sepultura. The masterpiece from the Brazilian band was released in 1993, which – coincidentally? – is the year of foundation of the Hungarian group. As a matter of fact, inside most of the songs composed and performed by the band since their formation, including their new and thirteenth LP Fury, we find basically all the possible permutations of the riffs and rhytms which we enjoyed in the legendary Sepultura’s album. The interesting thing, however, is that the final result is still good! For sure these guys will not be rewarded for their inventiveness and innovation, but if you look for an album of solid groove metal, you won’t be absolutely disappointed.

Fury is available for streaming on Spotify.


 

#5) “LEGION: XX” by Burn The Priest

 

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Back in 1998, Burn the Priest was the first incarnation of the band that later became Lamb of God. This year the band has re-named as their original act to release the cover album “Legion: XX”. Today Lamb of God consists of John Campbell (bass), Chris Adler (drums), Randy Blythe (vocals), Mark Morton (lead guitar) and Willie Adler (rhythm guitar)

It’s always complicated to express a clear judgement in front of a cover album: the value of the product is affected in fact by the quality of the original material and the “differential” contribution that should be put by the performing artists. In general I tend to appreciate the most those bands who manage to select a song where it’s possible to highlight some “universal” feature of the starting material, something which eventually goes beyond the intrinsic characteristics of the original genre of music, a peculiar element of the reference song which emerges even from the more dramatic and incredible transformation that can be made on it: this may be a particular unforgettable melody, a catchy and intriguing riff or any other feature which is clearly recognizable regardless of the conversion that is operated onto the original score. In this respect, the new cover album by Lamb of God, who are here operating under their original name of Burn the Priest, doesn’t shine or impress for the originality or any particular concept behind the selection and the interpretation of songs that were performed in Legion: XX. The guiding principle in this case was bascically to have some fun in reinterpreting a bunch of songs from the most diverse origins, with no particular link if just the fact that most of the tracks contributed – at different levels – to support the musical growth of the these American metal titans. Anyway, at a more basic and elementary level this is still a nice collection of nice metal tunes, played with skill and precision, and also relatively interesting to hear if you’re familiar with the original versions. A few tracks manage to stand over the average level and have the potential to be part of many different metal playlists. The covers from Ministry and Melvins, in this respect, are among the best songs of the collection.

The album is available for streaming on Spotify.


 

#6) “CATHARSIS” by Machine Head

 

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American metal band Machine Head was formed in 1991 by vocalist/rhythm guitarist Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce, who departed from the band in 2013. Today the band is composed by Robb Flynn, Dave McClain (drums), Phil Demmel (guitars) and Jared MacEachern (bass).

Almost 25 years have passed, but I can remember exactly the emotions that I felt the first time I listened to Machine Head in the radio of my car. It was the song Davidian, the opening track of their incredible debut album, Burn My Eyes. After the very first time I heard the song I said to myself: “this music has never existed before, and it’s damn good!” I was totally right because the history of metal says that with their debut LP Machine Head were bringing a new way of composing and interpreting metal. They were also showing to the world the courage to define a different way of transmitting their anger towards the flaws in our society. In a recent interview I heard the leader of the band saying that today he couldn’t be in condition to compose an album like Burn My Eyes, for the simple reason that his life has changed (for the better, evidently) and the temper and the fury on which the songs of his first record were born are no longer part of his creative process. The problem of Machine Head, however, is that instead of evolving their sound and a style to be more suited to this new stage of maturity, the group began to turn in circles between the groove/thrash approach of their early phases (a genre that they actually contribute to define) and a sort of nu-metal, mid-tempo songs which in true honesty lack any real element of interest . The last album of the band, Catharsis, doesn’t bring any element of innovation in the path taken by the band, and with the exception of a couple of relatively more enjoyable tracks, I presume that this album will be quickly forgotten. As the undisputed masters of groove metal I couldn’t exclude Machine Head from this chart. It’s a bit sad, though, to see them here at the bottom of the ranking.

Chatarsis can be streamed from Spotify.


 

As anticipated at the beginning of the article I maintain a Spotify Playlist that is fully dedicated to Groove Metal. “GROOVE METAL FEAST” is updated periodically with new tracks and it offers more than 2 hours and half with the best songs released in the last couple of years. Listen to it, follow it, and spread the word!


 

BEST THRASH METAL OF 2018 (June 2018): The Top 5 Albums + Spotify Playlist “Thrash Metal Feast”

CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST WITH THE BEST THRASH METAL OF 2018! TEN BANDS AND A DEDICATED PLAYLIST!



Everyone feels a special link with a particular genre of music, and despite there are new styles and trends which appear regularly on the scene, there will be always those songs that, although not innovative or revolutionary, still manage to awaken special emotions. In my case, I will be always emotionally connected with thrash metal. Clearly it’s because this kind of music has been the soundtrack of my teenage phase, but there are also the unique rhythms and dynamics, the rebel spirit, the speed, the energy. And everytime I discover that there is a new release for thrash, I found myself waiting for the opportunity to listen to it with particular trepidation.

This year, however, was not particularly happy for thrash metal and in true honesty it wasn’t easy to identify five records to be mentioned as the best of all. Apart from a couple of interesting publications, I feel that the first half of 2018 has been relatively weak. We shall remain optimistic for the continuation of the year… in the meantime let’s see which are the five records that deserved to be part of this prestigious ranking.

At the end of the list you’ll find a widget which provides the access to the Spotify playlist named “Thrash Metal Feast”. This includes the best thrash metal songs of the past 18 months. Follow it because it’s being updated frequently with new songs.

Finally, if you arrived here through a search engine, don’t forget to check the metal section of the blog for other charts and, potentially, even updates of the chart you’re navigating today. Enjoy!


#1) Chain Reaction by Pripjat

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“Pripjat” are named after a ghost town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Northern Ukraine. The band was formed in Cologne, Germany, back in 2011. They have released two albums: “Sons of Tschernobyl”, the debut LP of 2014, and the new record “Chain Reaction”, relased in 2018.

Pripjat, from Germany, entered the metal scene three years ago with a really interesting debut album, named Sons of Tschernobyl. In 2018 they released a follow-on LP, Chain Reaction, which confirms and improves all the positive elements that we appreciated in their first record. The music played by Pripjat is a kind of thrash which doens’t make any particular effort to differentiate itself from the standard references of the genre, but which is performed with great passion, adrenaline and precision. The album unleashes an incredible charge of energy and adrenaline and the average level of the songs is definitely good, with a few really exciting tracks which make the album to stand out from the rest of the contenders. As anticipated, we observe a positive evolution in the style and quality of their music when compared to the debut record, and as a matter of fact three years of intense touring have helped the band to refine and increase both their songwriting and playing skills. Pripjat is a band to be followed with great attention, we can expect great things from them in the future.

The last album can be streamed from here.


#2) Cabaret De La Guillotine by Angelus Apatrida

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Angelus Apatrida, from Spain, are active since the year 2000 and they have published so far 6 full-lenght albums and a number of other publications such as EPs, split albums and compiliations. “Cabaret de la Guillotine”, their latest release,  arrived three years after their previous LP.

Born at the dawn of the new millennium, Spanish band Angelus Apatrida has progressively evolved its own style from the heavy & power metal of their first works to a kind of metal that’s decidedly more in line with the classic Bay Area thrash, enriched here and there by various and interesting inserts and influences coming from other styles of metal. But whatever the specific genre they played in their albums, Angelus Apatrida have always shown the will celebrate the the masters of the past rather than chasing the different trends of the moment. Their latest album, just to make an example,  is reminiscent in many parts of the early works of Testament, and this is certainly not a bad comparison for a band that today devotes heart and soul to thrash metal. Cabaret de la Guillotine, which is the newest LP released by the band, is definitely one of the best albums they released so far, in particular for the impressive number of tight, furios and enjoyable riffs that are packed in every song. The album doesn’t shine for originality and it’s definitely derivative of many different thinghs we have heard in the last thirty years of metal, but nevertheless it will please many of the lovers of old-school thrash metal.

The new album from Angelus Apatrida is available here for streaming.


#3) All Men Shall Fall by Kill Ritual

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Kill Ritual, from California in the United States of America, have shown since their formation an almost disconcerting regularity in the publication of a new album after about two years from the previous one. “All Men Shall Fall”, released this year, is the fourth of their discography.

In the relatively short timespan since their formation in 2010, Kill Ritual have already published four long-play records, with the last one, All Men Shall Fall, released in March 2018. The band was formed initally by members of Imagika, Dark Angel and Eldritch, but today only ex-Imagika guitarist Steve Rice still remains from the original formation. Kill Ritual have established themselves as a a sort of “revival band” which plays a mix of old-school thrash with major inserts of power and heavy metal. The results are not always exciting and the magic of reviving a musical genre like classical thrash-power is not achieved in all the tracks that are present in the album. There are however some pretty exciting moments in the LP and a couple of songs deserve for sure an higher attention and, as usual, will be included in our metal mixtapes.

All Men Shall Fall is available for streaming here.


#4) Aura Noire (S/T)

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Aura Noir, from Oslo in Norway, are active since 1993. In 25 years of career they have released many albums including 6 full-lenght records. Their last LP, the self-titled “Aura Noir”, interrupts a period of silence of six years since their previous release.

Aura Noir, from Norway, are active since more than two decades and during this timespan they have basically kept playing the same mixture of thrash and black metal with which they moved the first steps into metal. The sound of the band is thus essentially remained unchanged, if only for a natural but limited slowdown of the rhythms and a relatively lower brutality. Their last effort, the self-titled Aura Noire, makes no effort to appear as a “modern” record in order to appeal the young generations of metalheads. Starting from the arrangements – dry and rough – up to the way the songs are structured and performed, everything in the album is substiantally a tribute to the particular genre of metal that the band has developed during the initial stages of their musical journey. In this respect, Aura Noire is certainly a genuine and uncompromising album, the fruit of the passion of three musicians who continue to dedicate themselves to their favorite genre of metal. On the other side, however, it may be perceived in a few sections a note of fatigue, perhaps some form of renovation in their music would not hurt the overall result.

Aura Noir may be streamed from here.


#5) Propaganda by Destractive

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Destractive, from Helsinki in Finland, are active since 2007 and have published a bunch of demo tapes before their debut LP, the 2018’s album “Propaganda”

Destractive is a quintet of Finnish metallers who started playing and recording their music as back as 10 years ago, but who eventually released their debut full-lenght album only this year. Their first LP, named Propaganda, features a particular version of thrash metal that is characterized by furious and dynamic rhythms that are sometimes extremely close to death metal. As a debut album we can assume that most of the songs in this LP leverage the extensive background and experience they built during the last decade, and in fact – although we don’t find anything incredibly original – the album is enjoyable and quite interesting to hear. The sections of the songs where the thrash elements prevail over the death metal ones are in my opinion the most successful of the album.

The album may be downloaded for free from their bandcamp page.


As promised, this is the Spotify’s playlist Thrash Metal Feast, which features the best and newest tracks of thrash metal. Enjoy and follow it to stay updated with new songs as soon as they’re released.


THE DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER: The Softer Side of Stoner Music

Stoner music is typically associated with heavily distorted guitars and mighty bass sounds. There are some rare moments, however, in which our favorite artists abandon the heavy and scratchy sounds to give us glimpses of desolate landscapes and delicate moments of poignant poetry.

I’ve collected in a Spotify playlist some of the most contemplative and intimate songs that were produced in recent years by the most famous artists of stoner music. You’ll find here musicians of the caliber of John Garcia, Brant Bjork, Truckfighters, All Them Witches, and many others.

Enjoy this collection of songs and follow the playlist because this is expected to grow with time as soon as new gems are discovered. And don’t forget to recommend new songs if you feel that I missed some major contribution to the playlist. Enjoy!

 


 

 

LISTENING WITH THE EYES CLOSED: THE BEST PROGRESSIVE AND PSYCHEDELIC ROCK OF 2018 (June 2018) + Spotify Playlist

There are many definitions that have been associated in the last decades to progressive and psychedelic rock. One of best, in my opinion, is the one which says that this is music composed and performed to be “listened”, and not for dancing. And in fact I like to place prog rock and punk rock in the extreme sides of a scale which see many other styles in the middle (indie, alternative, …): on one hand we have a kind of sophisticated music, plenty of details and with spasmodic attention to the quality of sound, which has the effect of making you travel with the eyes closed; on the other extreme we have a raw and more immediate style of rock that awakens our natural instincts to jump, dance, and free the inner energy, something that has the capacity to interrupt everything you’re doing in that specific moment and which can give you real moments of musical euphoria.

This article is dedicated to the first of the two genres of music I introduced before. You’ll find here a group of albums that will make you dream and fly over distand, magic and sometimes “stoned” worlds. This is the list of the best progressive and pshychedelic rock we heard so far in 2018. Enjoy this chart, and browse to the end of the page to find a link to the Progressive Rock playlist that I’ve created on Spotify to collect the best songs that have been released in the last couple of years.


 

 

#1) “Vortex” by Toundra

 

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Toundra, from Madrid in Spain, plays a special kind of instrumental rock which moves from progressive rock to post metal. The band is active since 2017 and they have released so far five long-play albums and one split record.

Instrumental rock is a challenging genre of music and, in general, you love it or hate it. But when you find yourself in front of such an intense and passionate work like Vortex, which is the last album by Toundra, even the most skeptical could be captured and impressed by the quality of the music composed and performed by this Spanish band. Ther new record, which is the fifth of their interesting discography, develops over long and articulated infrastructures of sounds, full of atmospheric sections and changes of rhytms, along with many other elements that keep your attention awake, something which is not trivial when there is no voice to guide you along the music. But what does makes this record special? Well, it’s basically the talent that these guys show on every song of the album when it’s time to create stunning cinematic passages and breathtaking “walls of sound”. In these sections of their songs, the band manage to capture completely the listener’s attention: whatever you are doing while listening to Vortex, there will be many of these moment where the music gets you away from the real world and you’ll find yourself projected into dark and gloomy caverns, or bright landscapes of light… at least until the sonic tension will be dissolved in a moment of relative tranquility and you will be again in condition to focus on your routines. Believe me, this is a really strong record from a band which has not yet achieved the fame they deserve.


 

 

#2) “III” by Weedpecker

 

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Weedpecker, from Poland, are a psychedelic stoner rock band active since 2012. These musicians have never tried to hide their reverence and affection for “mind alteration”, something which is immediately and unmistakably evident in their music. “III”, their latest records, is the third LP entry in their discography.

Weedpecker are a relatively new psychedelic stoner band from Poland. In the relatively short timespan of six years since their formation the band has already released three full-lenght LPs, all of them of absolute value. The last one, named III  – as the position that the album has in the discography of the band – is a joyful ride through desert soundscapes burned by the sun. There are many different influences in their sound but these guys from Warsav still managed to maintain a unique style and direction in their music, which may be summarized as a dirty and fuzzed version of stoner rock. A couple of songs of the album (Embrace and Liquid Sky) may be considered real masterpieces of this particular style of music. 


 

 

#3) “Legend of the Seagullmen” (S/T)

 

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“Legend of the Seagullmen” is the debut full-length by the cinematic, psychedelic rock supergroup which features, among the others, Mastodon’s guitarist Brent Hinds and Tool’s drummer Danny Carey.

The publication of the self-titled debut album by the rock supergroup Legend of the Seagullmen was certainly one of the most anticipated events in music of the first months of 2018. Expectations for this release were so high because of the unique composition of the formation: Tool’s Danny Carey on drums, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds on guitar, director Jimmy Hayward on guitar, David Dreyer on vocals, Zappa Meets Zappa’s Peter Griffin on bass, and Chris DiGiovanni on synth. The first tracks that were shared on the media also contributed to fuel the hype and everything was ready for a total success. When the album was eventually released and I had the possibility to listen ot it with more calm and attention, the opinion I made waas that of an interesting and – to some extent – “bold” record, but in the end the overall value of the work was a little lower than the masterpiece that I was expecting at the beginning. The album is all impregnated with the music of the past: from its “concept-album” structure to many other stylistic choices that are clearly inspired to the legacy of the seventies (in many moments it seems really to listen to Led Zeppelin). Legend of the Seagullmen acquires a greater sense if it is interpreted as a tribute to the music of the great masters of rock, rather than a “genre destroying album” as it was presented by the PR. There are very nice songs, interesting atmospheres, plenty of classic and psychedelic rock, but nothing really fresh and revolutionary as it was initially promised.


 

 

#4) “AKULA” (S/T)

 

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Akula, from Ohio in the United States of America, is a relatively new formation and their self-titled album is their debut LP. The band plays a dynamic and variegated style of rock which incorporates many influences from prog, stoner and sludge.

It’s not easy to find many details about Akula, this new band from Ohio, in the U.S., which dropped an intriguing album of psychedelic rock mixed with sludge and post-metal. The material included in this homonymous debut LP is extremely interesting and provide the listener with an absolutely innovative approach to this kind of music. Some elements of their songs, such as the clean vocal sections, are absolutely brilliant and in some moments create a very special contrast with the hardness of the guitars. The album consists of only 4 tracks – very long – and it’s basically divided in two sections: a radio-friendly first half with the most accessible music, and a more experimental second part where the band plays with more articulated rhythms and more dissonant and atmospheric sounds.


 

 

#5) “La Muerta” by Subsignal

 

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Subsignal, from Germany, was initially created as a side project of Arno Menses and Markus Steffen, respectively the singer and guitarist of German progressive thrash group Sieges Even, which was disbanded one year after the formation of the new band. “La Muerta” is the fifth LP from Subsignal.

Started as a side project, Subsignal have today arrived at the release of their fifth LP. La Muerta, the latest album from the German rock band, won’t be a masterpiece of prog rock but it’s still characterized by a number of features which makes it a solid and valid representative of the current scene of progressive rock. On of the most appreciable aspects of the record is the stylistic choice to compose the album as a sequence of relatively short pieces – short when compared to the average lenght of prog rock songs –  which makes the record easy to listen, enjoyable and extremely varied from the beginning to the end. All the constituting elements of prog are present (layers of keyboard, guitar solos, virtuosisms, …), but there is an overarching drift towards pop-rock which on one side adds freshness and accessibility to the songs, but on the other it often takes away the depth and complexity that we would have expected from the new album from the band.


 

 

#6) “Andromeda” by Undercover Rabbis

 

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Undercover Rabbis are a three-piece heavy rock band influenced by post-rock and doom. Active since 2006, they released this year an interesting small EP with 6 very good tracks of genuine psychedelic music.

Undercover Rabbis is the name of an American trio of musicians which play an intriguing mix of progressive, post-rock and sludge. The band has already released a few interesting works and this year, in the early days of January, they dropped a new EP, called Andromeda. The EP, which has however a duration of more than 40 minutes, confirms the capacity of this band to generate beautiful musical atmospheres that oscillate between moments of experimentation, almost psychedelic, and other sections that are definitely more rough and intense. The rhythms are extremely slow, but the sound is never obsessive and in these songs you feel always a vein of optimism and positivity. In summary, this long-EP / small-LP is definitely enjoyable to hear and quite characteristic because of the many influences that are merged together. The last tracks of the record, in particular, are those which I appreciated the most.


 

 

#7) “Repeater” by King Buffalo

 

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King Buffalo is a psychedelic trio in the classic format of bass, drums, and guitar. Formed in September of 2013, these rockers have relased two long-play records and a bunch of other interesting publications.

King Buffalo is a trio of extremely talended psychedelic rockers from New York, in the U.S. Three years after their formation in 2013 the band released their first full-lenght work, Orion, which gained in short time a relevant consideration, initially limited to the underground scene but which rapidly expanded to an international audience. These musicians play in fact a beautiful kind of psychedelic rock with many elements from blues, stoner and sludge. Early in 2018 the band published a short EP with three tracks, named Repeater, that in some way may be seen as an extension of the previous album. The title track, in particular, is an hypnotic and psychic anthem which grows along 13 minutes of pure musical beauty.


 

As anticipated, it’s possible to enjoy all the best progressive and psychedelic rock songs of the last couple of years (including most of those that were introducted in the article) by listening to “YELLOW EYES”, the playlist that I made on Spotify and which is frequently updated with new tracks. Access it through the widget and follow it!


 

 

THE BEST OF INDIE ROCK IN 2018: THE TOP TEN ALBUMS / Episode 2 (January – May) + Spotify Playlist

There have been a couple of very good rock releases in the last few months and it became necessary to update the list of The Best Indie Rock albums of the year. The first edition of the chart was published in this blog on February 2018, this second edition updates the chart by ranking all the best LPs that were released in the first four months of the year. The current update features six new entries, i.e. Editors, Franz Ferdinand, Hot Snakes, Lord Huron, Titus Andronicus and Turbowolf. As you will see, two of these bands immediately reached the top of the list!

We shall of course expect many other albums arriving in the coming months, but I believe that this chart starts to be  representative of this year’s indie rock scene. At this time of the year, indie rock charts in 2017 were dominate by Japandroids, Cloud Nothings and Kasabian. In comparison, we can say that the average level of quality for 2018 is definitely comparable, if not even higher, than that of last year.

Before moving on with the list, let me just remind you that all current and previous year successes for Indie Rock are featured in my Spotify playlist INDIE INSIDE, which is updated frequently with new exciting and intriguing singles. Follow the playlist to stay updated wiht the best and latest successes in Indie Rock.

 

And now, let me introduce you with….

 

The Top Ten Indie Rock Albums of 2018 (so far)

 


 

#1) “Jericho Sirens” by Hot Snakes

 

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Guitarists John Reis (in foreground) and Rick Froberg founded the post hardcore band Hot Snakes in 1998, but the formation was disbanded in 2005 after three succesfull and acclaimed LPs. The band reunited in 2011 and “Jericho Sirens” is the first full-lenght album published after the reunion.

Jericho Sirens, the fourth and latest LP by US band Hot Snakes, arrived fourteen years after their previous release. But listening to the album one could possibly think that such a long timespan has passed – musically speaking – in a flash. The energy and the emotions that are emanated in the ten new tracks of the band is in fact based on that intriguing mix of garage rock and hardcore that the Hot Snakes consolidated with their first three albums. The rhythm is always sustained, John Reis and Rick Froberg hit hard on their guitars from the first to the last minute of the album. The emotional charge released by the songs, however, hit you in a surgical way: all the instruments play strong and compact, and the balance between dissonances and melodies reaches in some passages the absolute perfection. The music in Jericho Sirens transmits and make you feel all the effort and committment that the band has dedicated to the album. Nothing here is approximated and we’re far from a purely commercial operation, which is something that someong might have been expected after so many years of inactivity. Good for us, and there is also the feeling that this record will remain among the main positions of the ranking until the end of the year.


 

#2) “A Productive Cough” by Titus Andronicus

 

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Singer and guitarist Patrick Stickles is the leader and founder of Titus Andronicus, the American punk/indie rock band formed in New Jersey in 2005. “A Productive Cough”, released this year, is the fifth album in the discography of the band and, with the exectpion of Patrick Stickles, has been played by a completely renewed formation with respect to the previous records.

Started as an irriverent, raw and genuine punk rock formation from New Jersey, the creative vein of the leader Patrick Stickles has brought the band Titus Andronicus to explore many different areas of the indie world arriving, with something like a sharp fracture, to offer in their last album a sort of folk rock with an almost-totally-acoustic “barroom rock”, and when listening to their new songs you can visually imagine these musicians unleashing their passion for music through old and new rock motifs. A Productive Cough, the new album from Titus Andronicus, reminds us of how bexciting may be, sometimes, to listen to pure and simple rock music without too many embellishments or refinements made in the recording studio. Two guitars, one bass, drums, simple and cantabile melodies, engaging choruses inspired by popular and street music. In other words: music stripped down of all that is superfluous, brought back to its primordial stage, an element of communion and sharing of emotions


 

#3) “Tales from the Backseat” by The Academic

 

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The Academic is an indie rock band from Westmeath, in Ireland. “Tales from the Backseat” is their debut LP and follows the viral succes of their single “Bear Claws”, that garnered interests from media in July of 2017.

The Academic is one of those bands that owe part of their success to the fact that one of their videos became viral. This was the video of their single Bear Claws, shared on the summer of 2017, which used the delay of a live stream on Facebook to create a musical loop where new instruments where gradually added on every loop, one after the other. However, listening to Tales from the Backseat, which is the debut LP that the Irish band released at the beginning of 2018, we recognize that their skills go far beyond the capacity to make interesting videos. The music played by this quartet of rockers is in fact a very pleasant and cheerful kind of indie rock and the album collects a number of of light-hearted songs that are very enjoyable to hear.


 

#4) “The Free Life” by Turbowolf

 

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Turbowolf is a rock band founded in Bristol, UK, whose music has been always difficult to categorise because of the diverse influences which are contained in their songs: rock & roll, psychedelia, heavy metal, punk rock and electronica. Their new album, “The Free Life”, is the third of their discography.

The Free Life, which is the third and latest album by Bristol indie rock band Turbowolf, continues in that action of shake and revolution of modern rock which these English musicians have already started with their two previous records. Since the beginning of their activity, about ten years ago, the band has educated its fanbase to expect everything from their songs. With a winning recipe that basically can be defined as the result that you get by mixing together a thousand of different rock ingredients (indie, alternative, pshychorock, garage….), the merit of these rockers has been to maintain always a good taste for the final product. One of their secrets, as a matter of fact, is the capacity to write and play brilliant riffs, interesting melodies and, as already said, to put in the mix a relevant component of innovation and creativity. Their new LP contains the right balance of frenzied rhythms and slower pieces, with a thousand different ideas to enrich the songs. The album maybe lacks only a particularly catchy songs, or an infectious riff, the type of things that you can’t hide from your mind after you hear it. This could have been the icing on the cake for an album which remains, in any case, a solid and valid example of contemporary rock and roll.


 

#5) “Snares like a Haircut” by No Age

 

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Guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Allen Spunt are the two musicians behind No Age, a noise rock band from Los Angeles, California. The duo has released the fourth studio LP in the discography of the band.

No Age, the two-person rock band from California, in the U.S., have always demonstrated the gift of knowing how to mix together the rough sounds of noise rock with a style that remains melodic and accessible. And although their music showed some higs and lows from one album to another, each one of their records resulted always enjoyable and interesting to hear. One of the comments in one of their Youtube videos says: “No Age have yet to release a bad record,” and it’s really the truth. Snares Like A Haircut, their new and fifth LP, definitely confirms what has been said so far. The record arrived five years after their last album, An Object, which gave the duo quite an unexpected success. Compared to the previous albums, their new work reduces a little the minimalist approach and – from a musical point of view – their songs have benefited from this shift in style, which looks like the genuine result of an improved maturity (it must be said that both the two artists became fathers before the new album) rather than a maneuver to enlarge their audience.


 

#6) “Always Ascending” by Franz Ferdinand

 

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Five years after their previous LP and with a renewed line-up, Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand have released this year the new album “Always Ascending”, which is the fifth studio LP of their discography.

I need to be honest: at the beginning of the year I wouldn’t put a bet on the new album by Franz Ferdinand, especially after listening to the first singles that the band shared before the release of the record. Their musical history gave me the idea that the band had already started their descending parable: after the first albums, extremely enjoyable and original, the band seemed to lack a clear musical direction and basically lost between the inability to keep writing the kind of fresh and catchy songs of their beginning, and the desire to elevate their music to something more authoritative than the easygoing kind of indie rock of their debut. Unlike my expectations, however, the Scottish group surprised me – and many other music fans, I presume – with a really good record, Always Ascending, which is full of brilliant and immediate songs as we didn’t hear for many years from them. The style of Franz Ferdinand today is strongly marked by electronic elements and their presence within the indie rock category may be questioned by someone. Beyond the tags, however, we finally have a good album that’s enjoyable to listen from the beginning to the end, and with a couple of really remarkable moments. Good job, and welcome back!


 

#7) “Vide Noir” by Lord Huron

 

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Ben Schneider, the leader of the American indie band Lord Huron. “Vide Noir” is the third studio LP released by the band since their debut in 2012.

Vide Noir, the new album by U.S. band Lord Huron, represents the transition of the band to a major record label and, at the same time, it introduces a series of changes to the sound with respect to their previous two records. From the indie folk of their beginning the band has shifted their style towards a darker and more malinchonic version of indie rock. On one side we must appreciate the will of Ben Schneider, who is the founder and bandleader of Lord Huron, to follow his musical inclination despite the wider success which he probably could have achieved so far by imitating that happier and cheerful style of American folk that you typically hear on Spotify and on the radio. On the other hand, however, the “anti-pop” operation that was conducted by the band for the new LP had the collateral effect of over-filling the songs with reverberations, psychedelic sounds, unnecessary distortions, which together with a constant prevalence of the bass over the other instruments, in many sections basically erase all the intrinsinc delicacy of the songs. Taken individually, however, most of the songs on Vide Noir emanate style and inspiration on every note and every chord. The melodic lines which are drawn by the bass guitar are extremely captivating and especially in the pieces with the more sustained rhythms we can really enjoy the intrinsic value of these songs. It would be interesting to listen to the same tunes but played with a more essential style, ideally with an all-acoustic instrumentation. I’m sure that the music would benefit by removing all the unnecessary layer of frills and pseudo-psychedelic effects that are put atop.


 

#8) “Offerings” by Typhoon

 

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Typhoon, from the United States, made their debut in the indie rock scene with a self-titled LP, released in the same year of their formation (2005). This year tha band has published the fourth full-lenght album of their discography, “Offerings”.

Typhoon is an indie rock band from Oregon, in the United States. The correct wording should be “ensemble” rather than “band”, given that it features eleven members. Because of such a peculiar line-up, which includes two violinist and two trumpeters as stable members, it’s quite disconcerting to discover that the music recorded into their last album, Offerings, is so delicate, light, almost whispered. The atmospheres that we find in the 14 tracks of the album are extremely melancholic, often dark, as the band is showing a sense of suffered abandonment against the difficulties and problems of the real life. Where we would have expected an explosion of sounds we find contained tones, elegant songs and – sometimes – a certain lack of strenght. Taken singularly, however, most of the fourteen pieces of the album are profound and touching songs and they all show a great care for the details and also an overall sense of delicacy and passion.


 

#9) “What’s laid down” by Physical Plant

 

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Inserisci una Physical Plant gained popularity in Sarasota, Florida, as one of the most talented live acts in town. After many years of underground activity they arrived to the publication of a full-length debut album, “What’s laid down”.

The second debut LP to be featured in this chart comes from Florida and has been released by Physical Plant, an indie-psychedelic rock band which arrived however to the important stage of the first full-lenght studio album after many years of  underground and local activity in the New College of Sarasota, their city of origin. As it happens with most of the debut works, the album collects the songs composed and perfectioned during the many years of apprenticeship and training in clubs and recording studios. As a result, the LP features an impressive number of styles and it’s plenty of interesting ideas. There is also a good balance between the enjoyability of some of the tracks and the overarching approach of the these guys that are clearly willing to compose articulated and relatively complex songs. From a musical point of view, their style is basically the combination of indie-folk with psychedelic rock, but in many pieces of the album you would really find some problem to tag properly their music. Anyway, what’s important is that the work made so far by the band has been definitely positive and they deserve to be mentioned in the chart. At the same time I believe they’re ready to challenge wider audiences and make their music more easy to be discovered by the casual listener.


 

#10) “Violence” by Editors

 

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English band The Editors was founded in 2012 and reached critical acclaim and mainstream success with their second album “An End Has a Start” (2007), which went straight to number 1 in the UK album charts. In 2018 the band released their new LP “Violence”, which is the sixth of their discography (photo by Rahi Rezvani)

Editors is one of those few bands which – born as an independent act – have managed to achieve the dream of many millions of sales, sold-out tours, and multiple awards. For this category of bands the release of a new album is always associated with high expectations, but also with a certain amount of skepticism. As a matter of fact it is the common though which says that the creative vein of a band can not be completely immune to the weight of the music business, and the history of music is full of rock band that, as they have conquered a greater success, have lost year by year those characteristics that made their sound so unique, catchy and characteristic. Listening to the songs of Violence, which is the new studio album by the Editors, I would say that some of these concerns are confirmed. On one hand it’s evident the band’s willingness to move further into the territory of electro-rock, and hence the collaboration with artists of the caliber of Blank Mass (a musician who’s been always at the opposite end of the concept of mainstream). On the other hand, however, there is a tangible poverty of musical writing which presents, practically on all the songs of the album, the same linear and easy-listening four-stroke structure, with extremely basic and far from exciting chord progressions. The result is that the songs of the album flow gently and quietly, they are perfect as a background for when we drive, work or prepare the table for dinner. The album is plenty of elegant, stylish and somehow easygoing musical motifs that fill the environment with beautiful sounds, but which rarely make us divert our attention from what we’re doing in that moment. Only occasionally we’re engaged by some more brilliant and intriguing musical ideas and it is in these few moments that the band demonstrate that it’s still possible, under certain conditions, to have together enjoyability, accessibility but also excellent value of the music. This is the case, for example, of the title track of the album which is one of the few sublime moments of the LPs.


 

GOING FORWARD: the generation of artists who are writing the future of Jazz.

There are many contemporary albums which seem only to re-propose, maybe with some minimal variant, sound and styles and musical dynamics that are nowadays very well established and consolidated. Fortunately, however, we have also a new generation of musicians who are able to bring new life into Jazz music.

I’m presenting in this article seven representatives of the new generation of composers: a group of artists that with the freshness of new ideas and a musical language that owes so much to rock and other genres, are basically rewriting the rules of Jazz. You will find in this list a few already established Jazz musicians along with new promises. In both cases, however, these are free spirits of music: a family of authors who demonstrated the capacity to look beyond the established boundaries of the genre. This is Foward Thinking Jazz at its best.

 


Wollny

 

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German award-winning jazz pianist Michael Wollny

I have to admit that Michael Wollny, along with Tigran and a few other pianists of the same generation, is one of the young jazz talents that I appreciate the most. He’s one of those musicians who manage to combine an “ancient” sensibility with that rebellious and revolutionary spirit that allow his music to progress towards the future. I have loved all the records that Wollny has released in the recent years, until the last fabulosu album Oslo, realized together with Christian Weber and Eric Schaefer. Recorded in just three days, the album is full of freshness and passion, and it immortalizes the German artist in one of the most brilliant phases of his career.


Randalu

 

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Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu

Kristjan Randalu was born in Estonia but he developed his talent for piano studying first in Germany and then in London and in the United States. His first Jazz projects dates back to 2002 but he gained attention at the beginning ot this decade by playing the piano with Tunisian singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef. This year Randalu has released a beautiful album for EMC, Absence, with support from guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Markku Ounaskari. In this record he shows a unique ability to brilliantly mix together elements of Jazz improvisation, avant-garde and classical music influences.


Gray

 

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English musician Tony Gray is anything but a novice in the Jazz scene. He is in fact today a world-renowned bass player and one of the most talented musicians of our times. He showed his skills and unique technique by playing with artists of the caliber of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Mike Stern, Hiromi, Zakir Hussain, Branford Marsalis and John McLaughlin. This year he released the beautiful solo album Unknown Angels, which stands out for the expressive maturity achieved by the artist. It is as if Tony Gray had  reached the point where the confidence in the instrument and the compositional ability make him free to generate pure music, warm and vibrant, without unnecessary superstructures.


Marcus

 

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French double-bass player Pierre Marcus.

Pierre Marcus is is certainly one of the most interesting bass players that have appeared in the jazz scene of the last decade. He approached the music with the electric bass playing reggae, funk and rock before really getting interested in jazz. As a jazz double-bass player, however, he has already published a number of interesting albums since 2012. In 2015 he founded his own quartet with Baptiste Herbin (sax), Fred Perreard (piano) and Thomas Delor (drums), with whom he relased this year his new and latest record: Pyrodance.


Panossian

 

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French pianist and trio leader Rémi Panossian

Rémi Panossian is one of those musicians who grew up on bread and music. He started playing piano at an early age and showed a great talent both as a pianist and as a trio leader, gaining not only the attention of a wider audience, but also critical acclaim and international awards. After touring the world with his trio, in 2018 the Frenc jazzist decided to reveal himself in a more intimate album of solo piano. The LP, named DO, is ull of surprises and features extremely different moments: intimate and reflective tracks, aggressive songs with frenzied rhythms, and intriguing covers of classic pieces.


Cambien

 

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Belgian jazz musician and improviser Jonas Cambien

Belgian pianist Jonas Cambien is active on the Jazz scene since he moved to Oslo in 2008. He leads his own trio, which released its new album in 2018, We Must Mustn’t We, which is the result of a beautiful intersection between the art of improvisation and a compositional versatility that seems today out of the ordinary. Jonas Cambien is also known for using prepared piano and extended techniques as well as analog synthesizers and electronics in his music.


Hamasyan

 

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Tigran Hamasyan is one of the most creative and appreciated artists of his generation.

Many things we wrote last year about Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan and his wonderful LP  An Ancient Observer. I had also the possibility to see him live in Roma and my appreciation for this young genius of music has further increased. In 2018 Tigran released the EP For Gyumri, which is somehow the follow-on of last year’s masterpiece. The album is named as a tribute to his hometown of Gyumri, where he was born in 1987 before relocating with his family to Los Angeles in 2003.


 

If you enjoyed this article, I recommend to hear and follow the playlist that I’m managing on Spotify dedicated to Forward Thinking Jazz. It’s updated frequently with new tracks. Enjoy!

 


 

 

 

 

SOUNDSCAPES, when music designs the sound

 

One of the important things about the synthesizer was that it came without any baggage. A piano comes with a whole history of music…when you play an instrument that does not have any such historical background you are designing sound basically. You’re designing a new instrument. That’s what a synthesizer is essentially. It’s a constantly unfinished instrument. You finish it when you tweak it, and play around with it, and decide how to use it. (Brian Eno)

 


 

There is a special sub-genre of ambient music that is fully focused to the creation of sounds and landscapes, with minimal if no emphasis at all on melody, rhythm and harmony. For those who are new to this style of music, the experience can be alienating and even a bit disturbing. But under the right conditions, and with a bit of preparation, this kind of music can give very strong emotions, such as to take your breath away.

Many artists are nowadays dedicated to ambient music, everyone with his own approach and characteristics. I’m collecting the best pieces that were released in the recent times into a special playlist of mine, named SOUNDSCAPES. As many of the playlist released and managed by this blog, this is a living compilation that will be frequently updated with new tracks.

At the moment of its publication, the playlist features about 2 hours of sonic landscapes from both veterans of ambient music and a few new artists who have recently appeared on the music scene. Enjoy the playlist, follow it, and visit it regularly to check for new songs.

 

 


 

Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting (Brian Eno)

 


 

PIANO JAZZ, when the music flows between black & white keys

 

The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument’s combined melodic and harmonic capabilities. For this reason it is an important tool of jazz musicians and composers for teaching and learning jazz theory and set arrangement, regardless of their main instrument. (cit. Wikipedia)

 


 

When speaking about the history of jazz piano, we should remember that the piano is a unique instrument. It can play melody, harmony and bass, making it capable of functioning as both an accompanying, as well as a lead instrument. Apart from that, it is a magnificent solo instrument. If that’s not enough we can also see that as jazz piano music developed, the rhythm possibilities improved enormously, making this instrument sound like a full orchestra. (cit. Piano Play It, the History of Jazz Piano)

 


 

“Jazz” and “Piano” are always present among the most frequent terms which usually bring new visitors into this blog. This is because of a few appreciated posts that I dedicated in the recent past to this particular sub-genre of music, and also a succesful mixtape that was shared last year with some of the best tracks of 2017.

 

Indeed, the combination of piano and jazz brings with it all the elements of success. When the wide dynamic of timbres given by the piano meets with the class and inspiration of the most talented artists, the result is something that often transcends the boundaries of jazz and becomes an universal testimony of art and beauty.

To celebrate and enjoy the most exciting and brethtaking works for piano I have started to collect in a dedicated compilation all the best songs of the moment. The playlist, which is simply called PIANO JAZZ, will be updated periodically with new tracks, as it already happens for all the playlists that are managed by this blog.


 

At the moment of its publication, the playlist features brand new tracks by Brad Mehldau‘s new LP After Bach, Tigran Hamasyan‘s recent EP For Gyumri, and Rémi Panossian‘s new collection of pieces for piano named DO. Together with these artists, we have other masters of Jazz of the caliber of Omer Klein, Jan Lundgren, Michael Wollny and Cameron Graves.

I’m sure that this playlist will be appreciated by Jazz fans but also by every music lover. As already said, good music has always the capacity to become universal and a gift for every single person who has the capacity to open his soul and free his mind.

 

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American pianist and composer Brad Mehldau released on March 9, 2018 the album After Bach, which comprises the recordings of four preludes and one fugue from J.S. Bach, each followed by an “After Bach” piece written by Mehldau and inspired by the corresponding Bach’s song.

 

 

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Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan released on February 16, 2018 the EP For Gyumri, which is the ideal companion to his beautiful previous LP An Ancient Observer.

 

 

 

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After touring the world with his trio, Frenc jazzist Rémi Panossian decided to reveal himself in a more intimate album of solo piano. The LP, named DO, was released on February 2018.

 


 

BEAUTIFUL PIANO, The Playlist

In my continuous and uninterrupted search for the most evocative and emotional pieces of music, I often find myself writing down in the margin of a notebook the title of a particular piece that has captured my attention more than the others. At night, at home, while I work on a report that I have to present at work on the next day or simply try to stay up-to-date on the main events of the day, I let the same melodies flow through my headphones. And this is how many of my playlists are born.

One of the collection of pieces that in the recent times is giving me the greatest satisfaction also in terms of listeners and comments is by far the one entitled Beautiful Piano, the playlist in which I select the best pieces for piano that are recorded and release by famous artists or young music promises. Beautiful Piano is upated regularly with new pieces, but there are special moments when the compilation reaches a state of maturity and a magical moment of equilibrium among the pieces. This is one of these particular situations, and I’m here to stop the time for a short juncture and capture this beautiful collection of music which will resume anyway soon its natural evolution and transformation.

Among the artists who contributed in recent times to the playlist we have:

  • Feico Deutekom, a jazz musician whose latest project (Feico Solo) is a piano album with music of Philip Glass, David Lang, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Douwe Eisenga, John Adams, Arvo Pӓrt, Nils Frahm, Clint Mansell and Max Richter.
  • Luca Ciut, an Italian film music composer who has recently released his second album, called Per Me Solo Per Me, Per Te Solo, where he plays delicate piano solo tracks influenced by composers such as Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter.
  •  Tigran Hamasyan, a genius of modern music, a pianist who manages to merge potent jazz improvisation with the rich folkloric music of his native Armenia. Tigran has recently released a new beautiful EP, called For Gyumri, that has already populated many different playlist of mine.
  • Remi Panossian, another young jazz musician who plays with his trio but who has been regularly performing solo since his debut. His last work for solo piano, Do, is an inexhaustible source of sweetness and melodies.
  • Akira Kosemura, the Japanes musician who has given us so many beautiful tiny and delicate pieces for piano that bascially no playlist of this kind would make sense without his presence.

There are many other great artists included in the collection, you will discover them by simply launching the playlist and enjoying the music. Let the magic of piano illuminate your soul, or bring a caress of comfort on some particularly complicated day.


 

If you enjoyed the playlist and its commentary, you may be interested in reading these other posts that were published recently in the blog: