5 Albums that kicked me in the teeth this year.

Ouch my poor teeth.

These albums have all kept me occupied in some way, shape, or form over the past 9 months. They were comfort in my time of need, need in my time of comfort, a distraction in a time of boredom, and made listening to music every day all the more interesting.

I listen to a lot of Metal as you will be able to tell, but fear not, although I am a Metalhead, I’m also a softy. It may not make much sense, but it seemed they made me like a sponge, only one that’s already cleaned your dishes.. so to speak.

NinjaSpy – Pi Nature

This album dropped into my lap one day early in the year and seemingly came out of nowhere. “Who the hell is this ridiculous trio screaming and yelling, and skanking through my headphones?” NinjaSpy. A Triad in Blood. Three brothers from the Vancouver area, discovered by GGGarth Richardson who proceeded to record their first Full Length album and release it to the unwitting masses, most of whom still haven’t heard of the band. They are unsigned as far as I know and I had the pleasure of enjoying their show at the Annex Wreck Room this summer for North by Northeast Festival. They rocked out to about 20 of us all gawking at them while hanging off the bar, which probably made them feel like Zoo animals. Sorry guys if we made you feel uncomfortable, but you still played as if the place was packed so all the power to you. The album itself is a blend of Hardcore, Punk, Ska, Rock & Metal, which to me is a recipe for brilliance. I urge everyone who can stand a bit of shouting and yelling to check out this band, you may just re-evaluate your existence.

Protest the Hero – Fortress

They came, they saw, they conquored, and they built their own palace with this album. Whitby’s Protest the Hero are winning an audience left, right, and centre in the metal community, and their latest installment is no different than their previous trend-setting concept album “Kezia”. They have come a long way since their days of small town Punk Rock shows (some of which I may have attended, although I’m never quite sure) This album starts off with a bang and is unrelenting for the entire duration of the record. If you want a full-on sonic assault of Melodic and Technical Metal you’ve come to the right place. This album has “timeless” written all over it, and I’m already spotting some copy cat bands coming out of the woodwork. I personally can’t wait for their next album, because I’ve pretty much worn this one out by repeated listens.

Meshuggah – Obzen

The masters are back. Meshuggah, arguably the greatest true Metal band in the world right now. They’ve turned it up a notch with this latest album, easily their most accessible effort yet. This album comes on the heals of the ambitious concept album “Catch 33” which was by and large one single composition, abstractly split up, and a very demanding listen. Now listening to Meshuggah at all for any extended period of time is a challenge to almost any listener, but “Obzen” has some familiarity to it. For one, the songs are shorter and faster. It keeps a pretty steady pace for most of the record, and if you’re familiar with the band, there’s is nearly nothing to disappoint in my opinion. Meshuggah is a pleasure and a challenge to listen to and understand, and if you’re looking for very heavy music, with very complex composition, look no further. There’s something to be said for creating music with the sole purpose of being complex, some do it masterfully, some attempt it and fail miserably. One must know where to draw the line, and that line is Meshuggah.

Sikth – Death of a Dead Day

Sikth, dead before I even knew you. I found out about this band as they were announcing their break-up. This left me like a deer in headlights, unable to form a coherent sentence, as I tried to describe the band to my colleagues. “There’s um these guys, they’re… I can’t believe… how did I not know… what’s happening to me!?!” It was a dire situation, and consulation was sought. Conveniently enough, news of their demise caused a deep depression in me, a depression followed by inspiration, one that was only counter-balanced by listening to their album “Death of a Dead Day” every single day for a week or two straight. This provided me with the momentum I needed to bring meaning back into my life and reason to live another day, as their break-up nearly crushed my soul and spirit outright, like it would any casual listener I’m sure. The band (from the UK), blends Technical, syncopated riffing, with dualing vocals (they have two singers), and a Progressive/Theatrical nature, not seen since… ever! This band blew me away with their technicality and musical maturity, and also with their sonicly-crushing metal storm. My only regret is never being able to see them live. Maybe some day.

Misery Signals – Controller

This one capped off my summer nicely. Produced by eccentric-puppet master Devin Townsend, this album straight-up kicked me in the face.. hard. I couldn’t get enough of it. People would tell me to stop playing this album so much. I really don’t know why I liked it as much as I did? It wasn’t like anything else I was normally found listening to. It had this kind of polished, driven, focused vibe to it. Like the band never had any doubt about what they were creating when they were doing this record. The songs were crushing, intricate, and melodic. The vocals were tough, powerful, focused and clear. You can hear every word that comes out of the singer’s mouth. I could really latch onto the lyrics and it would motivate me when I listened to it. It just simply made me feel good to put on this record. I feel this album is leaps and bounds better than their previous effort “Mirrors”, which wasn’t bad by any means but did not turn out nearly as well as this record did. It could be the influence of Devin that has this band pulling out it’s best. That combination looks like a perfect match and I hope the band will go back to Devin again in the future. This album is as real as Metal gets and if you’re open to honesty and stripping away metal cliches then this is worth checking out. I highly recommend.

Now go out and listen to all of these albums, or you will be forever ignorant of their mastery.

Splurge,

Jon

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Album Review – Metallica – Death Magnetic

And to kick things off I can’t think of a better place to start than the latest offering by our very own, aptly-labeled “Biggest Metal Band on the Planet” Metallica. (FYI they currently rule the Billboard charts in the #1 position)

Now the build-up to this album got fairly intense on the web, with the band posting clips from the studio online quite often, thus providing plenty of fodder for the haters and non-haters alike to stew over and speculate until the album was finally leaked and shat upon accordingly by most.

Now I’m no huge Metallica fan by any stretch of the imagination (The first album I heard was …And Justice for All… in 1995) but after repeated listens, it automatically dethrones their previous album St. Anger simply by the fact that I am able to put up with it for the entire record. (I managed to sit through about 4 and a half songs of St. Anger before changing the tune in disgust.) St. Anger’s biggest downfall was the drum sounds, hands down. This album, although slightly better, continues the crappy drum tone and manages to crank it up and over-compress the shit out of them to boot, so as to make them sound a lot worse than they ever could acoustically, bravo guys, I commend you for having the most peaked-out album of the year.

But that is where most of my criticism stops.

This album showcases Metallica back on form and more unified than they have been since their glory days in the 80’s. They brought the Thrash back into their sound and appear much more united with Rob Trujillo in the group (Thank God Bob Rock isn’t playing bass on this.) However, one can argue that lack of originality in this type of record for Metallica. They’ve done this type of album before, yes, but it seems like they’re reaching out to their “old school fans” and saying, “Hey don’t forget, we can still rip your f***ing face off!”

Each song is very epic and lengthy starting with “This Was Just Your Life” which builds from a dark-broody beginning to a blistering Punk-beat-driven chorus.

James seems to have found his knack again with his lyrics, no need to vent the demons of his alcoholism any longer, which I am thankful for. James I’m glad you’re a better person, but please don’t use your records as self-help seminars. Dare I say, St. Anger was technically “Emo” for this fact. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand St. Anger, because there was so much negativity and despair in the making of that album that I feel like I’m experiencing the same emotions every time I put it on. Hey, at least it translated well to record.

Next up “The End of the Line”. Classic Metallica, fairly run-of -the mill stuff here, good riffs, cool structure, nuff said.

Track 3 “Broken, Beat & Scarred”. This one contains one of my favourite riffs on the album (actually I might go home later and try and figure it out), takes a little while to build up to it but by the first minute it’s in your face. This is another song with Metallica emulating their 80’s Thrash form, however James has matured nicely with the writing of his vocals since he was a young lad, all criticism aside about the condition of his vocal chords, he can actually form nicely coherent vocal melodies and lyrics as a good singer should.

“The Day That Never Comes” Rock Radio hit #1! This one reminds me a lot of “One” but has a catchier chorus. Decent song, I’m sure you’ll all hear this one eventually so I’ll keep it short.

“All Nightmare Long”. This tracks just kills it, one of the best on the record. At this point in the album you start to see where things are headed and this one clocking in at about 8 Minutes takes you on a pretty intense metal journey. Yay Metallica are a metal band again!

“Cyanide”. I heard a live version of this song before it was released and the album version was pretty much to a T. This one is fairly typical Metallica, not very bad, not very good, it’s love/hate.

“The Unforgiven III”. Not my favourite track. I’m not sure if I’m into the Unforgiven sequels that don’t really have anything to do with the original, musically-speaking. Couldn’t you have just called this song like “These Days” or “Suffocating” or “Depression” or “Blame all the bad shit in life on my devilish behavior song”, this one’s a whole bunch of meh.

“The Judas Kiss”. And the kick-ass-ness hath returned! Another awesome metal song. Seriously, just go listen to it.

“Suicide & Redemption” is an instrumental Metal Jam song. It’s a bit of a break from the rest of the record and James’ vocals but nothing really to write home about. It’s no “Call of Ktulu” I’ll tell you that much.

And Finally, “My Apocalypse”. The album ends on a strong note with this track and I always seem to have parts of this song stuck in my head after I finish listening. It does totally sound like “Battery” & “Master of Puppets” rolled into one song though. Just sayin’.

I was pleasantly surprised by this album, as I was thinking I’d never give Metallica another chance after the past 5 years or so of output I’ve heard from this crew. But they’ve proven my assumptions wrong. And I’m glad they did cause I probably would of torn them a new one in this review. Not that anyone is reading these yet anyways 😉

Until next time,

\\m//

– JonnyBasement