Category Archives: Lists

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

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The HMO Top 5 Songs of 2016

No new releases to speak of today so here’s some bonus fun: the HMO Top 5 Songs of 2016. These are the five songs that stood out and stuck in my mind the most, and the ones that I think will most remind me of 2016 when I look back.

Abbath – To War! (from Abbath)

A classic black metal rampage that could have come straight off Immortal’s essential Sons of Northern Darkness album. And the opening riff! Total genius.

Akercocke – Inner Sanctum (from Speed Kills VII)

The return of the legendary Akercocke was proof that 2016 wasn’t all bad. Just classic Ak through and through, raising my excitement for their 2017 comeback album to fever pitch.

Gojira – Stranded (from Magma)

Magma wasn’t a totally consistent release but it made my Top 10 albums on the strength of some especially brilliant songs. And this audaciously simple instant-classic was the best of the lot.

Anaal Nathrakh – Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion (from The Whole of the Law)

The chorus of the year right here. Enjoy it cause the rest of the track is insanely violent. But with a title like that, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

But the HMO Song of the Year 2016 award goes to…

The King is Blind – Mesmeric Furnace (from Our Father)

This is a deep cut and we’re firmly in goosebump territory here. This track just oozes class. Epic, euphoric, monolithic, climatic. THIS is how you close an album.

And that rounds up 2016 for HMO. Thanks for reading and best wishes to you all for 2017!

The HMO Top Albums of 2016

Roll out the red carpet! Let the champagne flow! Yes, it’s time for the HMO Top Albums of 2016.

As always, there were some really good albums that just missed the cut: Marillion’s F.E.A.R. Megadeth’s Dystopia, Winterfylleth’s The Dark Hereafter, Eternal Champion’s The Armor of Ire, Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire and Vektor’s Terminal Redux to name just a few. They’re all great albums that are totally worth your time and money.

But… there can be only ten!

THE HMO TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016

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NUMBER TEN: Gojira – Magma

The French band’s sixth album Magma found them simplifying and streamlining their challenging and hard-hitting tech-groove. Tunes like Silvera and Stranded are memorable and thrilling with genuine crossover appeal. And it’s a grower with an emotional resonance that earned many repeat listens… and a place in the top ten.

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NUMBER NINE: The Wounded Kings – Visions in Bone

The Wounded Kings make their second appearance in the yearly HMO Top 10 with this impressive slab of doom. Sadly, it looks like it will be their last as the band split shortly after its release. But they went out in style. This is a mature and accomplished album with great performances. Massive riffs, classic soloing and chilling vocals from returning vocalist George Birch.

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NUMBER EIGHT: Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith

No surprises on the black metal duo’s seventh album. Just riffs. Layers of riffs. Infinite riffs. Thrashing, icy and breathtaking riffs. And a big long album title! Bloodshed Across the etc… is a transcendent experience: the cosmic maelstrom of riffs and the hypnotic croaking vocals of Dagon producing an immersive, gripping and mystical listening experience. Oh, and did I mention there are riffs?

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NUMBER SEVEN: Blood Incantation – Starspawn

Gloriously old-fashioned death metal right down to the AAD symbol detail on the back cover. This harks right back to the genre’s grimy, primitive glory days: labyrinthine Demilch-style riffing and gonzo Trey Azagthoth soloing. But the band put their own extraterrestrial stamp on the style, giving the cavernous riffing an otherworldly quality through inventive use of effects and interludes. A remarkable debut.

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NUMBER SIX: Abbath – Abbath

Few black metal legends command as much goodwill and affection as the former Immortal frontman. And, based on the quality of his self-titled solo debut, that looks unlikely to change. This is an icy and militant statement of intent from the ousted singer/guitarist. Epic tales of legend and war, served up with his inimitably grim vocals and a veritable battlefield of inventive riffs. An epic triumph and one of the year’s most flat-out entertaining records.

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NUMBER FIVE: Cobalt – Slow Forever

Cobalt pulled off a hat-trick of impressive feats with Slow Forever. They managed to successfully replace a key member (Charlie Fell coming in to replace departed vocalist Phil McSorley), they managed to satisfyingly follow up their faultless, classic 2009 album Gin, and they also managed to release a double-album with no filler on it. Fucking show-offs! Literate, raging, savage black metal with a dusty, sunbaked hint of Americana.

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NUMBER FOUR: The King is Blind – Our Father

Released in January, this impressive and manly melting pot of extreme metal was the album to beat for most of the year. And it managed to secure the number four spot: no mean feat for a debut album in such a strong year as this. Our Father has a thoughtful, esoteric concept served up with a varied and cathartic total metal drubbing. And if their new track Throne of Skulls is anything to go by, there’s still plenty more where this came from.

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NUMBER THREE: Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law

This is a total nightmare merry-go-round of screeching, howling, screaming, mechanistic black metal. It’s a terrifying aural assault, but the impossibly versatile vocalist Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L!) serves up melodic hooks to die for on tracks like Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion, In Flagrante Delicto and Extravaganza! The most enjoyable migraine you’ll ever get.

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NUMBER TWO: Mithras – On Strange Loops

Death-metal-in-space! Seems to be a thing this year. But whereas Blood Incantation’s Starspawn went for the primitive old-school approach, On Strange Loops is visionary and progressive. It’s blasting and intense with sublime musicianship, but the real winner here is the writing and arrangement of the album. You just know a ton of thought and care went into this. There’s so much depth, the songs flow together beautifully and… my god… it’s full of hooks!

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NUMBER ONE: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

Everyone can blather on about influences, genres, their old style, their new style and so on. But the fact is that whatever Darkthrone do, they sound like Darkthrone. On Arctic Thunder they sound even MORE like Darkthrone. This is raw and vital. A raging thunder of pure, unadulterated metal, blackened by a chill arctic wind of frosty misanthropy. Cohesive, consistent, fucks not given. The best Darkthrone-style band in the world at their best. And there’s nothing better than that.

HMO TOP ALBUMS BY YEAR

2016: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

2015: My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery

2014: Voices – London

The HMO Guide to Akercocke

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Akercocke is out of the cage! The reunited satanic extreme metallers’ UK tour is underway at last, with the mighty The King is Blind in support. It’s easily the must-see gig of the year. I can’t wait to see them next week and, because I’m taking EvaOverload along, I decided to put together a beginner’s guide to the Ak on Spotify for her. And now I’ve decided to share it with you. Praise Beelzebub!

Although Spotify playlists have no limits I decided to keep my selection within a CD running time, coming in at 69mins. Akercocke’s debut album The Rape of the Bastard Nazarene is unavailable on Spotify so, sadly, I couldn’t include any of those early tracks. But the upside to that was that it made things a bit easier: even though I was only left with four studio albums to pick from, it was still a pretty tricky endeavour. Some crucial tracks like Horns of Baphomet, Praise the Name of Satan, My Apterous Angel and Seduced couldn’t make the grade. And the often lengthy nature of their songs made it tricky to stick within the time limit too.

So calling this the Best of Akercocke is a little bit of a stretch but I reckon it’s a great introduction for newbies. Even those normally reluctant to dive into such extreme waters will find much to enjoy here. There are flaying shredders like Of Menstrual Blood and Semen and Becoming the Adversary but there is also plenty of melody in tracks like A Skin for Dancing In and Axiom.  The epic, proggy side of Ak is given an airing in the classic Leviathan and the sublime Shelter From the Sand (Rush fans should check that one out). The Dark Inside and Son of the Morning show off the band’s euphoric stylistic range, the power of the riff compels you in Verdelet and Enraptured By Evil is just a flat-out battering. It’s all brilliant, essential stuff.

Here’s the track listing for those without Spotify. Hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think. You’ll be wearing a suit and summoning the Antichrist before you know it. And if you become a convert there’s still time to catch the band on their UK tour. Tell them HMO sent you.

  1. Of Mentrual Blood and Semen
  2. A Skin for Dancing In (from The Goat of Mendes)
  3. Leviathan
  4. Enraptured By Evil
  5. Son of the Morning
  6. Becoming the Adversary (from Choronzon)
  7. Verdelet
  8. Shelter from the Sand
  9. The Penance (from Words That Go Unspoken)
  10. Axiom
  11. The Dark Inside (from Antichrist)

List: Five From the Boneyard

I’ve been dipping in and out of Julian Cope’s entertaining book Copendium and came across his concept of the “boneyard” position. Basically, the boneyard is the penultimate placing on an album. Cope reasons that, if a band is stuck with a filler track it has to use, it will be placed in the album’s boneyard where it’s more likely to be overlooked. It got me thinking. So, for a fun experiment, I’ve picked five albums at random to see if this concept holds up. I’m going to take a look at each one and decided if its penultimate track belongs in… THE BONEYARD!

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UFO – A Fool in Love (from the album No Heavy Petting)

Here’s some mid-70s UFO, by the short-lived line-up with Danny Peyronel on keys. It’s most notable for its opening tracks Natural Thing and I’m a Loser. The rest of the album, while good, doesn’t quite live up to the classic opening. But the album’s B-Side features a couple of great deep cuts in the moody On with the Action and the cosmic ballad Martian Landscape. Our penultimate track, A Fool in Love, is lost between those two. It isn’t awful but it’s a bit of a throwaway and I feel like it’s been buried between those two epics for a reason. Boneyard? YES

[UFO – A Fool in Love]

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AC/DC – Love Hungry Man (Highway to Hell)

Hmm… obviously a classic album but what about track nine, Love Hungry Man? Is this anyone’s idea of a classic AC/DC track? It does sport a great chorus but it’s a bit laid-back and lazy otherwise and the bass fills sound like a desperate attempt to liven up a dull tune. Far from a disaster but definitely not one of Acca Dacca’s shining moments either. How about we avoid offending the band’s adoring legions and call this the “least-good” song here? Boneyard? YES

[AC/DC – Love Hungry Man]

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Black Sabbath – I (Dehumanizer)

Dehumanizer was a lumbering, colossus of an album from the reformed Mob Rules lineup. It’s not held in the same esteem as that album or its predecessor Heaven and Hell but I’ve always thought it a rewarding album-for-life. So get it up ye. And its penultimate track I is one of the best songs Dio Sabbath ever put out. Pure invigorating metal bravado. Black Sabbath smashing faces in… but with a smile. Boneyard? NO

[Black Sabbath – I]

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Iron Maiden – 2 AM (The X Factor)

Maiden’s first album with Blaze Bayley has some under-rated gems but is also quite heavy-going and joyless. I had thought the penultimate track here was The Unbeliever, one of my favourites from the album, but it turns out it’s actually 2 AM: a track I had forgotten existed. Doesn’t bode well does it? It’s one of the least flabby tracks which is good but the lyrics are absolute shite: a brainless, artless mid-life crisis from a band that is supposed to be cleverer than this. Boneyard? YES

[Iron Maiden – 2 AM]

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Megadeth – How the Story Ends (Endgame)

This 2009 album is still the pinnacle of modern Megadeth and one of the greatest albums of the ’00s. How the Story Ends (odd title for a penultimate track?) is a sturdy anthemic chugger that, along with the raging Headcrusher, helps recover Endgame after a slight mid-album lull. The riffs are a bit stock by Mustaine standards but it’s a catchy, engaging tune that adds to the album. Boneyard? NO

[Megadeth – How the Story Ends]

So, the boneyards have it… but only just. It’s close enough that another random selection might have went the other way. Obviously, the concept relies on there being a filler track in the first place (and the artist being self-aware enough to know that a given track is sub-par). Also, for the sake of discussion, Cope applies the concept chiefly to vinyl but does the boneyard concept apply equally to albums designed for CD or Spotify?

Hope you enjoyed this. Let me know what you think about the boneyard position and my examples. Got any good examples of your own? Or exceptions? Chip in below.

List: Top Five Bodily Functions in Rock

It’s time for the HMOverlord’s Top Five tracks with bodily functions! I’m not entirely sure that “tracks with bodily functions” is considered a genre…  in fact, I’m not entirely sure these tracks are given any sort of consideration at all. So, here’s my Top Five. I’m absolutely sure you have your own favourites.

Chip in with yours in the comments section! This post is sure to become the internet’s go-to page for anyone seeking information on this criminally ignored… thing.

Want any gas?

NUMBER FIVE: Metallica – Die, Die My Darling (at 0:00)

I’m going to start with a gentle one. Right at the start of Metallica’s humdrum cover of The Misfits’ classic, James Hetfield lets out a little burp. I like this one cause it’s subtle and possibly an accident. However, it should be noted that, even if it was an accident, at some point a decision was made to leave it in. No doubt this involved a heated round-table discussion with their management, Bob Rock and a therapist.

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NUMBER FOUR: Aerosmith –Get a Grip (at 0:00)

I always thought this track’s rich, airy burp came at the end of Eat the Rich. It made more sense at the end of a song about eating. But Spotify puts this fruity belch right at the start of Get a Grip. Both songs are a bit ropey, but the burp, courtesy of Steven Tyler’s cavernous mouth, is top notch. A good burp to use if you want to liven up a mix-tape. Trust me.

TRIGGER WARNING: Clowns, shitting

NUMBER THREE: Mr. Bungle – Slowly Going Deaf (at 5:51)

The bizarre music on Mr. Bungle’s debut always sounded to me like someone channel hopping through radio stations. But there can’t be a radio station that broadcasts the sound of someone running to the loo for a very farty and watery shite. Can there? Radio 1?

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NUMBER TWO: Carnivore – Jack Daniel’s and Pizza (at 0:00)

The only track in the Top Five that consists solely of bodily functions. To be more precise: vomiting. The guy gets to from the door to the toilet bowl in record time. It sounds staged. Nevertheless, it was a bold way to open their album Retaliation and signalled their intention to offend. An intention that was driven home later in the album with the track Jesus Hitler.

We have a winner!

NUMBER ONE: Treblinka – Cadaverous Odour (at 5:16)

It should surprise no-one that Treblinka’s Crawling in Vomits demo would feature the sound of someone losing their lunch. Carnivore’s barfing session sounded like a fake but you can always rely on black metal for authenticity. The vomiting here is all too real. This TRVE KVLT boaking wins top place in the list.

Now it’s time to puke your favourite examples into the comments. Commence!