Category Archives: Listening/Mini-Reviews

It’s 2018 and the Priest is back!

Happy New Year everyone! What better way to get the 2018 HMO ball rolling than with some brand spanking new music? So here’s the new Judas Priest single Lightning Strike from their upcoming album Firepower.

You’ll no doubt have heard this already, so what do you think? I’ve listened to it a few times now and I’m pretty impressed. The co-production from Andy Sneap and the returning Tom Allom is a tremendous improvement over the previous album, the disappointing Redeemer Of Souls. Boaby Halford sounds totally rejuvenated too and signs with grit and power. It’s just got that classic Screaming For Vengeance era classic Priest vibe to it.

Whether the rest of the album lives up to the promise is another thing entirely but, based on the quality of this Lightning Strike, I’m way more excited about the release of Firepower than I expected to be.

Firepower is due out on 9th March 2018 and can be pre-ordered here.

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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 that 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

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.

Vampire – With Primeval Force (Review)

This has become a surprise favourite in recent weeks. I had suspected it would be a middling retro genre effort but Vampire have totally surpassed my expectations with their second album With Primeval Force. It’s not original and doesn’t linger in the mind after listening so it doesn’t quite have the makings of a classic… but it’s still one of most enjoyable albums I’ve heard so far this year. And if the band continues in this promising vein, hellish greatness awaits. The ghoulish vocals and melodic riffs bring to mind Tribulation’s album from last year, the myth and magic vibe recalls Dissection and the savage thrash and bash reminds me of Teutonic terrors like Kreator. In fact, if you thought Kreator’s Gods Of Violence album from earlier in the year was a shade too polished then this will be right up your street.

Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract

Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract (1993)

I’m not sure I could have picked a less Easter-y album to listen to tonight. Then again, I’m fairly sure that vast swathes of my music collection aren’t exactly appropriate for most religious holidays. There’s never a bad time to listen to Thy Mighty Contract though. It’s brilliant early black metal with remarkably restrained and melodic riffs, impassioned warrior shouts and dark force. It’s often pleasingly dreary and gothic in a Paradise Lost/My Dying Bride vein and it has that influential and unique sun-baked atmosphere that Greek black metal has become known for. It’s atmospheric, accessible and totally classic: a great entry point for anyone new to the genre and an eternal favourite for long-time devotees.

[Rotting Christ – The Fourth Knight Of Revelation]

Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom EP (Review)

Dead Congregation - Sombre Doom (2016)
Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom (2016)

Fans of 2014’s excellent Promulgation of the Fall would have been hoping for more than just two tracks from these Greek death metallers this year but their new EP Sombre Doom satisfies with quality over quantity. Opening with a howling dead wind of feedback, the first track Redemptive Immolation is grave and doom-laden with a thick, dark atmosphere. After the oppressive opener, the up-tempo battering of Wind’s Bane comes as a relief but is still rich in ghostly gloom and haunting guitar. The songs and riffs aren’t the most original but Sombre Doom is all about the vibe and the execution: this reeks of rain, death, evil and graveyards. Proper death metal if you ask me, and one of the best EPs of the year.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

2016-12-28-14-59-16

Danzig – Skeletons (Review)

Glenn sees your "Dad-bod" and raises you a "Danz-bod"
Glenn sees your “Dad-bod” and raises you a “Danz-bod”

The covers albums is almost always a dodgy proposition but I couldn’t help but hold out some hope for Danzig’s Skeletons. Partly because… Glenn F. Danzig! But also cause I knew the Evil Elvis was going to choose some interesting material to put through the metal wringer. And it’s the choice of material that saves Skeletons from being a total stinker. The performances are pretty ropey: flat vocals, lifeless drums and relentless guitar squealies along with a flabby sound that’s devoid of dynamics. There are dicey renditions of Sabbath’s N.I.B, Aerosmith’s Lord of the Thighs and ZZ Top’s Rough Boy, while a surprising choice, sounds like your drunken Dad commandeering the microphone at a wedding. Dad, stop! But Danzig gets bonus points for doing all these tracks his own way and, when you’ve got Glenn M. F. Danzig doing The Everly Brothers’ Crying in the Rain, it’s hard not to get a kick out of that… however much it sounds like the karaoke of your darkest fears. It’s worth having Skeletons just for that and its opening trio of tunes: Dave Allan and the Arrows’ Devil’s Angels is bashed out in delightfully Misfits-y style; the obscure soundtrack curio Satan (Theme from Satan’s Sadists) is brilliant and tailor-made for Glenn – “I was born mean, by the time I was 12 I was killing, killing for Satan”; and his cover of Elvis’ Let Yourself Go is a stomping taster for his planned Elvis EP. It’s definitely for fans-only but, for them, it’s a flawed-but-loveable glimpse into the great Fonzig’s interesting and eclectic influences. And if you’re not singing “I was borrrrn mean…” in the shower every day after hearing this, you’re a better man than me.

HMO Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Danzig – Satan (Theme from Satan’s Sadists)