Tag Archives: Debut Albums

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

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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

The Obsessed Announce New Reissue of S/T Debut

Some exciting reissue news courtesy of Relapse Records. The self-titled debut album from doom legends The Obsessed is set for a remastered re-release on November 17th 2017. It was originally released in 1990 and, despite occasional reissues here and there, has been out-of-print for years.

It’s a big gap in my collection and one of those albums that I periodically consider shelling out for online. So this reissue is hugely welcome and a must-buy for me. And, as if the album reissue wasn’t good enough on its own, it will also come with previously unreleased bonus tracks, including a live set as well as the highly sought-after Concrete Cancer demo. It will also feature expanded artwork, never-before-seen photos, and extended liner notes from frontman Scott “Wino” Weinrich.

The classic band recently returned with their fantastic new album Sacred and this reissue just seals the deal on an excellent year for fans of Wino and doom metal.

The Obsessed will be available on 2CD, LP, 2LP, and digital formats via Relapse Records. Physical bundles and digital pre-orders are available via Relapse Records here and streaming services at this location.

UPCOMING ALBUMS: Cradle Of Filth, Enslaved, Samael and more

It’s time for another nosey through the release schedule. Here’s a selection of some upcoming albums that are taking my fancy.

Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay

I’m properly out of touch with Cradle Of Filth’s career but their newer material has been getting a lot of praise and I’m in a Filth-y mood lately so it’s about time I got bally well caught up. Good timing too as their latest album is due on September 22nd 2017 and their new track Heartbreak And Séance is an insanely likeable taster. I wasn’t expecting to be looking forward to this one so much.

Enslaved – E

New Enslaved albums are always noteable but I’ve not been totally diverted by any of their albums since Vertebrae (which I totally love). I’ve bought all the subsequent releases but I tend not to get much more out of them than a couple of good tracks. I hope that Es are indeed good and this album bucks that trend but, on the basis of new track Storm Son, I’m not expecting much.

Samael – Hegemony

I’m new to this band and I’ve only heard their (superb) earlier material. I gather their style has come a long way since then so wasn’t sure what to expect from their current stuff. The new track Angel Of Wrath has got me right onboard though. A bit like modern Satyricon, it seems uninteresting initially and then BAM. I’m hooked. And the more I hear it the more I like it.

Fleurety – The White Death

The avant-garde Norweirdos return with their first album in an age. Fleurety feature former members of Mayhem and Dødheimsgard while Czral-Michael Eide of Virus/Aura Noir is now in the band too. If that’s not enough to get your attention, check out new song Lament Of The Optimist. Compelling, eccentric, addictive stuff. Release date: 27th October.

Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing

Unfamiliar with this band’s music but know their name from their connection with Blood Incantation, whose album Starspawn made my Top 10 last year. And it seems like Spectral Voice’s debut album (released on 13th October) might be this year’s equivalent: filthy, guttural, otherworldy death metal. My kind of thing.

Europe – Walk The Earth

The Swedes are one of a dwindling number of classic rock acts that I still give a fuck about. The last album War Of Kings was a pretty sterling effort with a few monster tunes. And the new single has the epic feel of that album’s best stuff so I’m up for this. It’s out on 20th October and the digibook features a bonus documentary on DVD.

And that’s quite enough for one post. There are other exciting albums due but I’ll hold off on those until there are songs available to sample.

Venom Inc. – Avé (Review)

While the actual Venom continue under the leadership of infamous bassist/vocalist Conrad ‘Cronos’ Lant, the return of the band’s classic guitarist Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn and drummer Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray as Venom Inc. has caused quite a stir. Surely two thirds of the band’s massively influential and legendary formation is better than one? And to cap it all off, the band has been rounded out appropriately and authentically with Prime Evil-era bassist/vocalist Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan. It’s an exciting unit and the band has been going down a storm touring a classic Venom set. But playing live oldies is a no-brainer. Now the real test comes as the band offer up their first new material with their debut album Avé.

Venom Inc. perform like heroic metal veterans throughout. Mantas in particularly impressive form, peeling out genuinely thrilling guitar solos like it’s a piece of piss. They’re too seasoned to play with the filthy, bulldozer energy of old but as gutsy, trad metal goes much of this is hard to beat. It’s also hard to stick with. Songs like Avé Satanas and Preacher Man are average songs stretched way beyond their breaking point and, while it works better as an album track than as a single, Dein Fleisch causes a hefty lull at a crucial point.

With those three totally removed Avé could have been easily and massively improved, while coming in at the golden running time of 40min too. Ace biker metal tracks like Forged In Hell and The Evil Dead would get old heads banging again and raging thrashers like Metal We Bleed and Time To Die would give young Venom-worshipping upstarts like Midnight a run for their money too. But, as a complete listening experience, Avé is overlong, uneven and frustrating: the two thirds of Venom Inc. proving that it is possible to ‘ave too much of a good thing.

HMO Rating: 3 out of 5

Possession – Exorkizein (Review)

Following an impressive demo and mini-album, I was expecting to be more impressed by Possession’s debut full-length album. The Belgians dish out impressively clear and concise black/death with plenty of evil atmosphere but they never really lift themselves out of the solid zone. Despite some strong riffs, the songs in the first half all blur into one. Exorkizein gradually improves, and is at its best in its closing stages with tracks like In Vain and Take the Oath being standouts. Possession have an appealing Watain-like delivery and catchiness but there’s not enough of that band’s threatening audacity and ambition here. Exorkizein is far from execrable but not exactly exciting either.

New Releases – 12th May 2017

It’s time, once again, for my weekly perusal of the new release schedules. I’m trying to streamline these posts a bit so, just to clarify, this is just my own personal picks from the day’s release schedules. I try to stick to albums that I genuinely think I might buy or at least listen to at some point. When I can be bothered I’ll throw in some albums that I think are notable even if they’re not my cup of tea.

Candlemass – Dark Are The Veils Of Death

Two rare and previously unreleased tracks from a 1987 rehearsal for their essential album Nightfall? OK that’ll be must-buy of the week then. This limited 7″ vinyl, is part of the ongoing Peaceville 30th anniversary celebrations and ties in with the 30th anniversary of Nightfall too. I’ll basically buy most anything that has Candlemass written on it so this is a no-brainer.

Wormwitch – Strike Mortal Soil

Every week needs some CanCon (it’s a legal requirement) so here’s the debut album from Wormwitch. If I’m being totally honest, the only reason this stood out to me is cause the cover is so thoroughly metal but then I checked out some songs and this is a very intriguing debut: black metal with a big filthy dose of rock n’ roll thrown in and some tasty riffs.

Ensnared – Dysangelium

Here’s another debut album, this time of the Swedish death metal variety. Hard to say based on one listen but this is promising stuff. Ensnared has a way with a riff. There’s some really sharp and inventive writing on this and it has an authentically murky and old-school death metal vibe. Fans of bands like Dead Congregation should give this a go.

Harem Scarem – United

I was just gonna include this as another CanCon joke but then I went and checked out the track Here Today, Gone Tomorrow and… hey! This is pretty good! I’ve been finding a lot of the older classic rock bands getting increasingly dicey so it’s nice to hear some slick melodic rock that actually delivers the goods. So, come on Canucks, what have I been missing out on and where should I start?

Elsewhere Sabbath Assembly’s Rites Of Passage should appeal to fans of female-fronted, psychedelic occult rock. I’m maybe just being too impatient but I don’t really get the appeal. It makes me all bored and twitchy. Fans of beery blues rock ala old Whitesnake or Bad Company might enjoy Second Skin, the second album (see what they did there?) from Snakecharmer. Warrant are back with Louder Harder Faster which, going by the title-track, sounds like it might be decent, anthemic 80s raunch. And while we’re in the 80s there are also Rock Candy remasters of two Lillian Axe albums, their S/T debut and Love & War. Not very familiar with them at all but both these albums seem well-liked and hard-to-find so these look like worthwhile reissues.

And that’s about it. Chip in if there’s anything I’ve missed and I’ll tell you whether a) I’ve made a terrible error b) couldn’t be arsed including it or c) I genuinely don’t have a scooby who/what you’re talking about.

Until next week, happy hunting!