Category Archives: Heavy Metal

The HMO Top Albums of 2017

Twelve whole months of your human time have passed. An entire year of metal releases that have all been building up to one thing: The HMO Top Albums of 2017!

And what a year it was. I reckon the overall standard in this year’s list is the highest since I started doing these, with albums in the lower reaches that would have ranked higher in a less competitive year. Consequently, there was also a bunch of very deserving albums that just missed the cut:

Formicarius – Black Mass Ritual, Contaminated – Final Man, Power Trip – Nightmare Logic, Full Of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy, Vampire – With Primeval Force, Demon Head – Thunder In The Fields, Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

All of these were favourites of mine that would very likely have made the list any other year and I’d heartily recommend all of them. But there can be only ten…

NUMBER TEN: Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep

The black metal duo returned with this powerful and deceptively simple set of cold, bleak, groovy and progressive black metal hymns. Following frontman Satyr’s recovery from illness, the album was heralded as “day one of a new chapter”.  But it’s no reinvention, just the sound of a band knuckling down with fresh dedication and commitment.

NUMBER NINE: The Obsessed – Sacred

Doom icon Wino returns with a new lineup of his old band The Obsessed and an album that lives up to their classics of old. Hefty biker doom riffs with ace songwriting, soulful maturity and vintage musicianship. Wino’s voice and guitar slinging are as badass as ever. He sings “I was born with my heart on my sleeve” and, 56 years later, he’s still wearing it well.

NUMBER EIGHT: Artificial Brain – Infrared Horizon

No AOTY list would be complete without some death metal in space and this year’s guttural cosmic travellers are Long Island’s Artificial Brain. Post-humanity, cyborgs ponder life and their predecessors and the wonderfully ambient blend of tech death, beautiful dissonance and filthy vocals suits the theme perfectly. Also… might be the only album in my collection that features the word “urinals”.

NUMBER SEVEN: The King Is Blind – We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer

The King Is Blind make the HMO Top Ten for the second year in a row. No mean feat. This sequel to their debut album Our Father, brings that album’s biblical tale into the modern day with harrowing results. The UK headbangers bash out an intelligent, raging and monolithic slab of metal that fuses a whole bunch of styles into a crushing, grooving whole. It grows in stature with each listen.

NUMBER SIX: Immolation – Atonement

No big back-story, concept or narrative to talk about here. Just straight-up quality death metal from a veteran act that’s still hungry. As with other releases this year, it’s definitely got a whiff of the end-times about it. But instead of dishing out the political rage, Immolation deal out a restrained, ominous and dark indictment of our times. Crushing, twisted, authoritative and destructive from beginning to end.

NUMBER FIVE: Midnight – Sweet Death And Ecstasy

Hooded demon Athenar returns with his third full-length album of black thrash hooliganism. No zeitgeist-y vibes here: just Satan, shagging and Venom-worship. But there’s a lot of creativity crammed into this album’s short running time and its bookended by two epics that push the band’s stylistic (long)boat out: swashbuckling, scything mid-tempo metal that invokes the legends of old… the legends of Ye Olde Bathory and Manowar. It’s that good.

NUMBER FOUR: Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay

The loved-or-loathed British institution continues a late-career renaissance that finds them tipping the balance firmly in the loved direction. Themed around the Victorian obsession with death, Cryptoriana… is a darkly fabulous romp of hard-hitting gothic metal delivered with expertise and passion. It’s atmospheric, cinematic, galloptastic and just tons of fun with a vocal turn from Dani Filth that cements his place as the veritable metal legend that he is.

NUMBER THREE: Memoriam – For The Fallen

Featuring ex-members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction, Memoriam were formed as a tribute to Bolt Thrower’s late drummer Martin ‘Kiddie’ Kearns and what a tribute it is: crusty, primitive old-school death metal with a sense of tragedy and loss. But it’s not a total downer, there’s enough carnage here to please Bolt Thrower fans. Vocalist Karl Willetts performs with charisma and heart while the band unleashes the kind of filthy, strafing riffage that’s guaranteed to have you running for cover.

NUMBER TWO: Paradise Lost – Medusa

2015’s The Plague Within was a welcome return to growlier death/doom fare but I don’t think anyone could have expected Paradise Lost to dredge the depths of misery like they have with this near-flawless album of gothic gloom. Anthemic hooks, crusty riffing, mournful harmonies and a fearless vocal performance from Nick Holmes put Medusa right up there with the band’s best work. No small feat, considering the number of innovative and essential albums that make up this legendary band’s discography.

NUMBER ONE: Akercocke – Renaissance In Extremis

The great comeback of 2017 was the return of these much-missed British Satanists with their most progressive, personal and accessible album to date. But the blackened malevolence of old remains and the fact that this album could well lure fans of more classic fare into a more extreme musical realm suggests these suave Londoners are still doing the devil’s work. The eclectic variety, complex structures and dreamy introspection make for a fascinating, rewarding listen and the intense, dynamic, neck-snapping skill of the band’s performance is the stuff of metal gods.

HMO TOP ALBUMS BY YEAR

2017: Akercocke – Renaissance In Extremis

2016: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

2015: My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery

2014: Voices – London

Advertisements

New Songs From Watain, Saxon, Portal and Tribulation

There have been a few new tracks premiered online recently and a few are from upcoming albums that I’ve reported on but didn’t have any music available to share at the time. So I thought I’d share them here now! Let me know what you think and, if you’ve heard any good new tracks yourself, please share in the comments.

Watain – Nuclear Alchemy

As statements of intent go, Watain’s new song and video takes some beating. They’ll never admit it but this comes across like they’re trying very hard to make up for their disappointing previous album The Wild Hunt with bile, chaos, blood, fire, explosions and a liberal sprinkling of evil. Their new album Trident Wolf Eclipse (due Jan 2018) will reveal if they’re overcompensating or not but this track is undeniably exciting.

Saxon – Thunderbolt

The HMO-faves introduce their upcoming album with the title track and it’s the kind of heavy and hooky Euro-metal that they’re known for now. The Accept-esque backing vocals are the only mildly surprising feature. I’m not so sure about those. But Saxon always pick safe, solid singles to promote their new albums and this is no exception. Choose from a bewilderingly-expensive selection of PledgeMusic offers here.

Portal – Phreqs

I’ve only got a couple of Portal albums and I have mixed feelings about them, veering from indifferent to enthralled. Sometimes in a single sitting. Sometimes in the course of a single song! I’m sure these weirdos wouldn’t want it any other way. Their new song Phreqs from upcoming album Ion (due Jan 2018) continues this tradition. A smothering swarm of buzzy bee riffs that’s fascinating and sickening all at once. I’m surprised they’re not aiming for the Xmas No. 1 with this, to be honest.

Tribulation – The Lament

I really enjoyed Tribulation’s last album and have been looking forward to more from them but new track The Lament is a bit underwhelming. The production is fantastic but there’s no real song in there and the riffs and melodies all sound a bit stock to my ears. Hopefully the album will have more substance.

Buying Round-Up: New Albums, Reissues, Box Sets and Vinyl!

Not done a collection post for a while so I thought I’d share some highlights from the last couple of months’ buying activity.

I might as well start with the most recent purchases. The big new one is Iron Maiden’s latest live album The Book Of Souls – Live Chapter. I love how the packaging matches the deluxe book format of the studio album, the two together make a lovely set. Musically, this is the most excited I’ve been about a Maiden live release for a while too: the cream of their last album, some really well chosen oldies that fit in well with the new stuff and a great job on the production and mixing.

I’m also very pleased to finally have a copy of The Obsessed’s S/T debut album. This is the only one of their albums that I’m missing in my collection so I’m well-chuffed to finally have a copy… and with a ton of ace bonus tracks too. And while I was picking that up I treated myself to Saxon’s 10 Years Of Denim & Leather too. This is a CD/DVD repackaging of the Greatest Hits Live! album and video so nothing new for me here. But it’s a nice package and… it’s Saxon innit.

Got two massively enjoyable box sets recently too. Whitesnake’s 1987 30th Anniversary Edition is superb value, stuffed with goodies, handsome booklets and loads of bonus tracks. The best of which is the 87 Evolutions disc which is worth the price of admission on its own: a fascinating insight into the early versions of each song and the progression from the initial writing sessions to the finished article. The only (minor) let down is the perfunctory DVD doc on the making of the album.

And I also got folk overload from the new Pentangle set The Albums: 1968-1972 which is one of the best things I’ve bought this year. Superb albums from a genuine supergroup, great sound, gazillions of wonderful bonus tracks and a lovely booklet too. I previously had The Time Has Come box set, which is good, but I much prefer hearing the albums as they were and this new set is a revelation. Can’t stop listening to it.

On the extreme metal front, I picked up the very limited CD edition of the new The King Is Blind album We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer and got a nice note from the singer Steve Tovey too! He’s a good lad. The new Satyricon album Deep Calleth Upon Deep was a must-buy and is another fine release from the black metal veterans. And, after picking up the recent Holy Terror box set that I posted about recently, I decided to round it off by finally picking up Guardians Of The Netherworld: A Tribute to Keith Deen. This collection of demo and live tracks makes for an excellent archive release and a wonderful memorial to the band’s late vocalist.

I’ve not been buying much vinyl lately but I’m very pleased to have grabbed the new vinyl edition of Paradise Lost’s Live At The Roundhouse. Recorded at the band’s 25th Anniversary show in London, this 2013 live album was originally released through the Abbey Road Live website but was a bit too pricey for my liking. This new live set is much better value and a lovely addition to my PL collection. I’m chuffed to finally have a copy and the set list is awesome!

Hope you enjoyed this look through these new additions to the HMO Vault! All of these releases come with the HMO goodness guarantee. Get involved.

Holy Terror – Blood Of The Saints (Song)

Here’s some obscure and fantastic 80s thrash for you! A lively and infectious banger from Holy Terror’s 1987 debut album Terror And Submission.

The whole album is superb, a ripping combination of thrash and speed metal. The band already has a unique sound but there are plenty of enjoyable, familiar elements: Megadeth’s fretboard mayhem, Exodus’ violence and the high-speed catchiness of classic Accept and early Helloween.

Terror And Submission has recently been reissued by Dissonance Productions as a standalone vinyl edition or as part of the 4CD/DVD boxset Total Terror which is the version I picked up recently. It’s an essential set that contains every album these overlooked L.A. thrashers ever released (Terror And Submission, 1988’s Mind Wars, 2006’s El Revengo and Live Terror). It also comes with a DVD with the Judas Reward promo vid and live sets from Milwaukee, Chicago and Anaheim. A phenomenally great value set at around £20.

I already had this album and Mind Wars as part of an older double-CD set on Candlelight Records. Unfortunately, that edition had mis-labelled CDs and a mastering glitch on Judas Reward, which put me off spending much time with the albums. So I’m totally delighted with Dissonance Productions’ new, fixed and remastered collection and look forward to finally giving Holy Terror the attention they deserve.

[Holy Terror – Blood Of The Saints]

A MUST-BUY

Lady Death – New Tribulation EP To Be Released In Dec 2017

A double-whammy of release news from the excellent Swedish band Tribulation. January 26th 2018 will see the release of a new full-length album entitled Down Below. And, if you just can’t wait that long for new Tribulation music, then they will be releasing a brand new 7” EP on December 22nd 2017 called Lady Death.

The EP, their first release with new drummer Oscar Leander, will include album track Lady Death and also a B-Side track called Skärselden. The artwork is also from Tribulation’s guitarist Jonathan Hultén and is pretty nifty. You can pre-order the usual rainbow varieties of vinyl colours from the label website here or the band’s own merch site here.

The band’s last album The Children Of The Night was one of the better, more durable releases of recent years so it’s exciting to have the band back. My only question is… I’ve seen a few bands do this recently… since when did one A-Side track and one B-Side track constitute an EP? Answers in the comments please.

Dokken – Tooth And Nail (Review)

Dokken – Tooth And Nail (1984)

When their debut album Breaking The Chains stiffed in the US, Dokken’s record deal with Elektra was on thin ice. Backs against the wall, the band would have to fight Tooth And Nail (see what they did there?) to keep their rokken roll dream alive. But when they should have been forming a united front, the band members were fighting among themselves. Producer Tom Werman decided early on that he’d had enough and the band had to complete the record the only way they could. Separately. Guitars, drums and bass were finished up with Roy Thomas Baker during the day, while frontman Don Dokken recorded alone with Michael Wagener during the night.

Fortunately the struggling, warring band had some top notch material to draw from. Superb L.A. glam meets Ozzy/Scorpions-style Euro metal. A lush and ominous guitar intro leads into the superb thrashabout title track. Just Got Lucky and Into The Fire have humungous raunchy hooks. Alone Again is classy manfeels and When Heaven Comes Down is a heavy, stately centrepiece.

Back Cover – Rock Candy Reissue

And, amazingly, considering the fractious nature of the album’s creation, it’s the raw, live vibe and delivery that is the real magic on Tooth And Nail. There’s a moment in Heartless Heart where a drum and vocal bridge suddenly explodes into harmonised arena rock heaven. It sounds like a band playing the gig of their lives, having their moment of world-beating peak performance flow. George Lynch firing off godly guitar licks left, right and centre and Don, aloof and weedy on the debut album, now generating massive sparks of excitement with committed and charismatic ease. Tearing it up in the daytime, burning it down at night, straight to the top… Tooth And Nail is the sound of a band fighting for their lives and winning heroically.

HMO RATING: 5 out of 5

[Dokken – Heartless Heart]