Tag Archives: CDs

CD Haul: Danzig, Avatarium, Sólstafir and more!

Friday was a big new release day with a few new albums I’ve been looking forward to… so I had a bit of a buying extravaganza!

First up was the new Danzig album Black Laden Crown. I’ve been reading quite a lot of people talking about how “surprisingly good” this one is. Well, given that Deth Red Sabaoth was excellent, I’m one of the few people that thought Skeletons was good fun and… it’s GLENN F. DANZIG(!) I can’t say I’m all that surprised that this is good. The only thing that was causing me any doubt was the rather shite artwork. And even then, I’ve grown mysteriously fond of the fiery John Travolta on the back. Anyway, this is dark, moody and doomy with some killer grooves and riffs. Surprisingly good!

Next up, the new Avatarium album Hurricanes And Halos. This band has become a modern favourite of mine and, although it’s not fully sunk in yet, this album sounds like an interesting progression of their style. They’ve now dropped pretty much all of the Dehumanizer heft of the debut and gone full Uriah Heep, with tons of driving Hammond, heavy psychedelia and eeeasy livin’. Loads of stellar playing topped off with Jennie-Ann Smith’s wonderful voice.

I headed back from the record store happy and then remembered that the new Sólstafir album Berdreyminn was out too. So, I immediately rushed back out to Fopp to pick that up! It’s a lovely box set with umm… trinkets… and (more importantly) bonus tracks. It sounds like it’s going to be another winner from them, although it’ll take a few listens to fully reveal itself. Seems a bit more rocking than Ótta but still sweeping and lush. Not totally grabbing me yet though, more listens required.

While we’re on the subject of new arrivals I had a couple of cool releases delivered just a couple of days ago too. Hear No Evil have put out this new expanded remaster of the last (for now anyway) Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album Stranger In Us All. This has always been a big gap in the collection so it’s great to finally have a copy.

And I also got this very exciting new Tygers Of Pan Tang box set The MCA Years which features the band’s NWOBHM-era albums (two of which star Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake axe legend John Sykes) and a bonus disc/booklet too. I’ve got a few albums on vinyl already but it’s nice to get the rest of the bands old albums. And there’s plenty of extra tracks and BBC stuff here to sweeten the deal. Caroline and Cherry Red both seem to have had the same idea to box up old NWOBHM albums lately. I heartily approve. Here are all the ones I’ve bought so far (I think this is all of them so far but let me know if I’ve missed any. They seem to be coming thick and fast!)

NWOBHM Galore! All the box sets I’ve picked up so far.

Well, that’s the lot. This was a great week of buying for me with three albums here that could all realistically appear on my AOTY list. I’m off to do some listening!

Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom EP

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.

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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

Blaze – Silicon Messiah

Blaze - Silicon Messiah (2000)
Blaze – Silicon Messiah (2000)

I loved Blaze Bayley in Wolfsbane but because I didn’t enjoy his stint in Maiden I never really thought of him as a “metal” guy. To me, he was at this best when he was painting the town red and lighting up the night with a little kiss. That was the Blaze I liked. So when his first post-Maiden outing Silicon Messiah proved to be a dark, very-metal affair I just passed on it. Not his forte.

I was wrong. Sixteen years later, spurred on by reading positive reviews and the return of Wolfsbane, I have added Silicon Messiah to my collection. It’s remarkably good. A proper underdog album if ever there was one. It’s downbeat, dystopian drop-D riffing is definitely of its time (think Brutal Planet, Magica etc…) and the opening tracks raise a worry that it’s all going to be a bit samey. But the album soon lightens up. Born as a Stranger, the galloping The Brave and Man on the Edge-esque The Launch are all extremely enjoyable, anthemic power metal tracks. The album just gets better and better as it rolls on and culminates wonderfully in Stare at the Sun: a gripping, goosebump-inducing epic. And, although tracks like The Hunger are chuggier and samier, their slower pace gives Blaze room to emote. He’s massively likeable throughout, delivering a vocal performance full of character and commitment.

So double dumb-ass on me for writing the man off. Turns out he is very-metal after all. He even manages to show Iron Maiden a thing or two with this anthemic and addictive album. It’s thoughtful and well-executed, topped off with a great vocal performance of considerable charm and charisma. That’s the Blaze I like.

[Blaze – Born as a Stranger]

15th Ann. Edition (w/ 3 bonus tracks) from blazebayley.net
15th Anniversary Edition (w/ 3 bonus tracks) from Blaze’s site

New Releases – 4th November 2016

It’s Christmas! Well not really, but you’d think it was for all the Christmas albums clogging up the new release schedule today. But I’m going to assume that you’re not feeling overly festive yet, so let’s take a gawp at today’s rock and metal highlights instead. Less Santa, more Satan.

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Haw. Listen to me. I’m not over-compensating for ANYTHING!

Vader – The Empire

We had Testament last week and, once more, today’s big metal release is a thrasher. Albeit a growly deathy one. Vader are a Polish institution but I’m honestly not overly familiar with their career. This album was preceded by an EP Iron Times earlier in 2016 and I thought that was good fun with great riffs so I’ll definitely be looking into this. And I noticed there’s a 2CD version of The Empire on the band’s website with the Iron Times disc as a bonus. So that’s a cheap way to get both if you haven’t picked the EP up already.

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It’s life Jim…

Dark Tranquility – Atoma

Another long-running band that I’ve never got into. I have sampled their stuff but I’ve just never heard anything of theirs that floated my boat. A listen to their new track Forward Momentum didn’t change my mind either. Obviously, if you love this band and the Swedish melodeath thing then just ignore grumpy old me. There’s a deluxe edition of this with an extra disc and extra songs so go for that one and get yer money’s worth.

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I’ve been going postively Ga-Ga trying to think of a caption for this. Stumped. Any ideas?

Queen – Queen on Air: The Complete BBC Sessions

Very welcome set of Queen’s Beeb performances. Lots of the good, good early stuff in here which makes this as metal as any other album out this week. Fucking Ogre Battle! There’s a 2CD set and a 3LP set but if you’re a complete saddo there’s also a 6CD set which has another disc of live tracks (including HMO favourite Father to Son) and three CDs of archival interviews. THREE WHOLE CDs! That’s a bit much really but… I’m a complete saddo. I pre-ordered this ages ago.

Ouch! This is sharp... I could hurt someone with this!
Ouch! This is sharp… I could hurt someone with this!

Cirith Ungol – Paradise Lost

An exciting day for Cirith Ungol devotees. The trad metallers’ long-lost fourth album is back: the masters have been found and given a spit and polish by good old Metal Blade. The album has a reputation as being a bit ropey, but we are assured that it deserves a reappraisal. Well, if you fancy giving this some reappraisal…ing then now is the time. Got to be worth having for that Elric cover alone, surely?

Punch the one in the middle Rock!
Just hit the one in the middle, Rock!

Glenn Hughes – Resonate

I used to be all about Glenn Hughes’ solo work but I started to drift away around the time where he started doing Black Country Communion and never really got back on board after that. But now he’s solo again I’m a wee bit curious to hear what he’s up to. I’ve probably got enough Hughes albums to scratch this particular itch but new track Too Long Gone was pretty decent so I’ll give this a few listens on Spotify and see if it… uhh… resonates.

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Fucking magic scales? I asked for one of them gun chairs!!

HammerFall – Built to Last

Unlike their beloved cheese, HammerFall are built to last: ten albums and nearly twenty years under their leather belts. Given that I lean firmly Manowar-d I should probably like HammerFall but it’s all a bit too by-the-numbers for my liking.

Elsewhere, we have the return of poor Bon Jovi with This House is Not for Sale. The band still rudderless without their spiritual leader, Alec John Such. I managed to kick my problematic Jovi addiction a few albums back and I doubt this new album will change that. Bring back Alec! And there’s even more classic rawk from the Graham Bonnet Band with The Book and Motley Crue, who are giving themselves a grand send off with the live DVD/CD The End. Bye bye. And to round things off, the Nuclear War Now! label release Evil Shall Prevail, a plush collection of Black Witchery’s brutal black metal demos and early releases. The press release promises that listeners will find themselves “completely surrounded by the molten sea of the apocalypse.” Ah, so I did manage to fit in something Christmassy after all! I’m off for a Gingerbread muffin then. See you next week.

New Releases – 28th October 2016

Mighty HMOverlord, we summon thee. Tell us what’s oot the day. Oh, alright then.

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Rejected album titles: Team Cobra, The Asp Squad and Mamba Men.

Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake

It’s hard to believe it’s been four whole years since Testament’s last album Dark Roots of the Earth. Remember when taking four years to make an album was big news? Anyway, the Bay Area thrashers are back, with one of 2016’s most hotly-anticipated albums and a froth of rave reviews. I have to confess I blow a bit hot and cold with Testament: not a huge fan. But I thought the last album was pretty decent so I’ll definitely give this a listen at least. See what the fuss is about.

The Strictly judges had never seen anything like it
The Strictly judges had never seen anything like it

Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law

Birmingham’s industrial/black/grind aggro merchants return with their new album The Whole of the Law. I’m very excited to hear this, I was listening to a new track Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion this week and it was absolutely outstanding. Corrosive white noise that could strip paint but absurdly memorable with it. Not just angry buggers then, but talented angry buggers. If they can keep that quality up for a whole album then this should be well worth shouting about.

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Turned out that touching, and eating, people’s cookies was a hanging offence in some states.

Love/Hate – Before the Blackout

Love/Hate’s debut album Blackout in the Red Room was easily one of the best albums to come out of the whole LA glam scene: big balls, genuine sleaze and a glorious mix of stupid and clever. If you don’t have it, you really should get it. And if you do have it, you’ll be intrigued by this collection of their pre-debut demos. Don’t recognise most of the song titles here so it’s hard to say if these are songs that were subsequently ditched or if they’re familiar songs that were just retooled for the album. Probably a bit of both. Buy Japanese for extra tunes.

Where did they come from, these vinyl hoards?
Where did they come from, these vinyl hoards?

Saxon – The Vinyl Hoard

Saxon (via Demon Music Group) follow up their recent Eagles and Dragons vinyl set with this set of live albums. The new disc titles like Dogs of War Tour 1995 are a little misleading: what you’re getting here is the complete Eagle Has Landed II and III albums and the audio of the Rocksound Festival show from 2006 (taken from the To Hell and Back Again DVD). So it’s not all quite as new as it might initially appear but all these recordings are making their vinyl debuts here so it’s still an enticing set for vinyl collectors.

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Literally the most metal release this week

Public Image Ltd – Metal Box and Album (Deluxe Editions)

Two fancy deluxe editions of the classic PiL albums in CD or vinyl sets. These look wonderful and are chock full of extras and bonus tracks. The packaging is very attractive but… £40-50 each is just a little bit prohibitive for a casual fan like me. About £130 each if you want the vinyl! If I was more into them, I’d probably be all over these. As it stands I’ll just gaze on in wonder. Hopefully they’ll just appear in the New Year sales. I’m sure the shiny Metal Box will shift fast though, but I could be wrong… I could be right.

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IKEA’s new shelving unit GÖTH proved less than popular

My Dying Bride – Meisterwerk III

My Dying Bride’s compilation series expanded and brought up to date. Curiously, although there are lots of listings for this, I couldn’t find any mention of it on the official sites. Hmmm… It looks like a decent introductory affair with a selection of rarities but die-hards might prefer the rarity-filled 5CD set A Harvest of Dread which is due out in December.

In other news, we’ve got incredibly evil vinyl reissues from Mercyful Fate (Dead Again and Into the Unknown) and Cradle of Filth (From the Cradle to Enslave EP on spooky blood red vinyl). Just in time for Halloween! Elsewhere, Quartz follow up some well-received comeback gigs with a new album Fear No Evil, out on High Roller Records on CD and vinyl. One for NWOBHM fans that. New Orleans sludge gods Crowbar release The Serpent Only Lies and last, but certainly not least, Black Sabbath release The Ultimate Collection. Not just the latest in a long line of Sabbath comps: it’s the ULTIMATE wan. Oooh.

That’s all the highlights this week. Hope there’s stuff here that’ll float your boat. If there’s anything else you fancy, let me know and… happy hunting!

New Releases – 21st October 2016

New music is happening. Today! Here’s my selection of the highlights… mostly metal but with some other HMO-approved stuff thrown in for good measure too.

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The leopard enjoyed one last walk before being made into an outrageous pair of trousers.

Hanoi Rocks – Strange Boys Box

Five classic Hanoi Rocks albums lovingly reckapaged and reboxed in a CD (or vinyl) set. Not sure whether these are remastered or not and there aren’t any bonus tracks, which would have been nice. Still, looks like a cheap way of getting a batch of the Finns’ albums for a decent price. I’ve got all these albums on vinyl but I would like CD editions so I’m pretty into this. It’s got all the albums from Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes… through to Back to Mystery City and the live album All Those Wasted Years. It’s missing Two Steps From the Move but Rock Candy did a great 2CD set of that recently anyway (with actual bonus tracks!) But basically, anyone that doesn’t have these albums must get involved and get involved NOW.

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Hold up! I think I’ve left the oven on.

Khemmis – Hunted

This US doom outfit made a big splash last year with their debut album Absolution. I thought it had real promise (and outrageously good artwork) but I was put off by their inappropriate penchant for shouty “core” vocals. Here they are again with album number two, another awesome album cover and another heap of critical praise. Reckon I’ll give this a listen and just hope they’ve cut out all the drill sergeant stuff.

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Now I’m going to jam my thumb up his arse and that’ll REALLY piss him off!

Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill (20th Anniversary Edition)

20 years, eh? Feel old yet? The Pantera anniversary editions keep coming. This album doesn’t enjoy quite the same reverence as the previous three but it should. A great album with classic tracks like Floods and Drag the Waters and there’s a darker, sludgier edge to this album that I love. Bonus disc comes with a mix of mixes, new mixes, early mixes and Mixy McMixface. Oh, and there’s a couple of live tracks too.

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Regular Bob Ross viewers saw it as a cry for help.

Dead Congregation – Sombre Doom EP

For all it’s obsessed with kicking the bucket, death metal has been enjoying rude health in recent years. And these Greeks have been a big part of that with 2014’s excellent Promulgation of the Fall. Their latest release Sombre Doom is out on the band’s own Martyrdoom Productions and, to be honest, I don’t really know much about it or have much to say about it other than “yes please”. It’s certainly not been getting the coverage it deserves. Possibly because EPs aren’t as sexy as albums but then you can’t beat a good death metal EP! Just ask Autopsy.

Stranded in reality. Saddled with debt.
Stranded in reality. Saddled with debt.

Ian Hunter – Stranded in Reality

I read that Ian Hunter’s new box set is not a music industry creation: it was created by fans. That means his fans created a 28CD/2DVD box set that will include about 19 CDs of studio albums and live albums that they probably already own. Because they’re fans. That leaves them 9 CDs and 2 DVDs that they don’t already own, and a nice book. This will cost them £250. Daft buggers! Come back music industry, all is forgiven!

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Sulu. Open hailing frequ… fuck it. Fire proton torpedoes!

Mithras – On Strange Loops

Another notable death metal release, from England this time. I’m totally unfamiliar with this band (maybe because this is their first new album in 10 years) but there’s quite a buzz about On Strange Loops so I’ll definitely be checking it out. I say “death metal” but, supposedly, this is genre-defying stuff. Like Morbid Angel in space or something. And I noticed there’s a nice download bundle of their albums (including this one) available on their bandcamp page too.

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Yog-Sothoth’s hot temper and unwieldy claws ruined yet another matchstick Church model

Demoncy – Faustian Dawn

Demoncy were one of the original US black metal acts in the early-to-mid nineties, along with the likes of Von. Here’s a reissue of their first album from the label Nuclear War Now! Productions. By all accounts, this album hasn’t been served very well by previous editions so this new one will offer the best sound to date. Remixed and remastered by Ixithra himself. Surely not!

Elsewhere, Gillan’s stellar output from Mr. Universe through to Magic gets a loving vinyl box release in The Vinyl Collection 1979-1982. I’m happy with my CD copies but if you’re a vinyl buff and are new to the band, this is a brilliant run of albums. The great man in peak form with musicians to match. Continuing a good week for death metal fans, there’s also Obituary’s Ten Thousand Ways to Die. Seems like one of those titles that must have been done before: if not by a death metal band then surely by Steven Seagal? This EP has a couple of new tunes and a big batch of live tracks too so plenty for fans to enjoy here. There’s also a big release from Korn today with The Serenity of Suffering and retro glammers can enjoy Kix’s Can’t Stop the Show: The Return of Kix on CD/DVD too. I’ll avoid that because cause I’m worried Body Talk is on it. Last time I heard that tune, it took weeks to get it out my head. Maybe months. “She talks body talk, music I can see. She talks body talk… body talk” Aarrghhh it’s happening again!

And that’s the lot this week. A good, and possibly extremely expensive, day for lovers of box sets and/or death metal. Let me know if I’ve missed anything incredibly awesome and, until next Friday… happy hunting!