Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best albums of 2015

Listed in no particular order.
Listen to Best of 2015 METAL by Kristyan on @AppleMusic.
Listen to Best of 2015 by Kristyan on @AppleMusic.

Alabama Shakes - sound and color
Lead single 'Don't wanna fight no more' captures the essence of their sound - groovy guitar, funky bass and a soulful vocal line to sing along with. Brittany Howard's old soul vocals is the best blues voice going around right now and it is just what the world needs to be listening to. 'Gimme all your love' is another nightlight. It is a album that everyone should pay attention to. Highly recommended.

Gary Clarke Jnr - the story of sonny boy slim
The opener, 'the healing', is one of the best songs of 2015 - in a year when we sorely needed it. There's some gorgeous guitar work before the second half of the album leaves behind the blues for a more Neo-soul vibe, helped in no part by the gospel singers employed for backing vocals. Not the follow up everyone was expecting after so long but still a great talent who will continue to surprise and grow. Recommended.

Soulfly - archangel 
Max sold his soul to metal long ago and comes roaring back after a couple of average albums (including the disappointing Cavelera Conspiracy disc - Pandemoneium). The tracks 'Archangel' and 'Sodomites' standout for being groovy with massive choruses. If you've checked out on what Max has been doing, it is time to re-engage. Recommended.

Faith No More - sol Invictis 
Oh man did they nail this. After the reunion tour fell away they got on with the business of recapturing what made FNM so vital and they came through in a big way. Lead single 'motherfucker' is perfectly irreverent and a great set opener, led more by Roddy's vocals than Mike's, and sets the tone for another classic FNM album - there's plenty of genre bending, between ballads and punk rockers like 'superhero'. Highly recommended.

Dallas Frasca - LoveArmy
I first saw Dallas at Bluesfest in 2009 as she rocked one of the smaller tents. Six years later this album captures both the blues and groove of her older work with a few poppier moments and a lead single, 'success is the best revenge' that you can stomp the dance floor to. Should've been bigger. Check out this and 'you are beautiful'. Then tell a friend. Recommended.

Muse - drones
If you've heard 'psycho' and 'mercy' you know what's happening here. No dub step influences, few grandiose attempts to sound like Queen. Muse at their rockin, hook laden, sweet harmony, guitar heavy best. Best album since 'blackholes...' Like Soulfly, if you fell out of love with them over the last couple of albums then it is time to go back and hang out for the tour. Not convinced? Download 'reapers'. Recommended.

Parkway Drive - ire
To think they were a metal core band! Whilst Bring Me the Horizon have gone off into a far more pop-rock territory, Parkway have gotten 'poppier' and 'rockier' without losing any of their heaviness, this is the best metal album in Australia by the best metal band. There isn't a endless stream of breakdowns, they continue the song writing evolution that started with Deep Blue, now with strings, slower tempos and a bit of melody. This might sound scary to the older fans, but it completely works and adds a lot of colour and shade to their sound. Just look at the song titles! 'Destroyer', 'vice grip', 'crushed', 'bottom feeder'. Probably my favourite metal album this year. Highly recommended.

Lamb of God - VII Sturm Und Drang
They sound like LoG. The lyrics are the highlight as Randy draws in his imprisonment in Prague on songs like 'still echoes' and '512'. Heavy, groovy and then surprising melodic on the ballad! Yes, Randy actually sings on an epic metal ballad that should be part of their live set. Great to see them try something new. It won't work for everyone but it was the biggest surprise and one that worked for me. Recommended. 

Hollywood Vampires
Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry convince Brain Johnston to sing Whole Lotta Love and School's Out. What's not to like? Recommended if you like rock n roll. You won't get it if you don't.

Fear Factory - genexus
Early reviews compared this to Digimortal and Transgression (the two worse FF albums) but it turned out to be closer to Obsolete. Plenty of groove, some melodic keys to go with the contrasting Burton C Bell vocals. 'Soulhacker' is a standout FF track, in the tradition of Replica and Edgecrusher. Fits well in their cannon, better than the Dino-less albums at the very least. Won't convince you if you're not a fan. Recommended.

Iron Maiden - book of souls
Wow. Even at this stage Iron Maiden still evolve. They've never rested on their laurels when it comes to new material and, whilst this one took 5 years, there's still some new sounds for the band to discover. The double album is bookended by two Bruce epics - the opener 'if eternity should fail' is brilliant, the closer 'empire of the clouds' is um, long. At 18 minutes it is probably 7 minutes too long despite the interesting story he tells in the lyrics. Elsewhere, 'speed of light' is an old school Iron Maiden single (with cowbell) and there's still plenty of head banging and singing to be done on 'death or glory', 'boo of souls' and the epic 'the red and the black'. However it is bloody long and I'm not sure how many get into the second disc. Still a better album than most are capable of. Recommended.

Also worth listening to: Chris Cornell - higher truth, Ryan Adams - 1989, Courtney Barnett - sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit, Teenage Time Killers, Metal Allegence, 

Special mentions - Daniel Johns 'talk' and Bring Me The Horizon 'that's the spirit'. Kudos to both for having the courage to do what they want to do with their sound. It's just not for me. Some of it is great but ultimately I know Daniel Johns is way more gifted than a soul-influenced (Chet faker?), beats heavy album shows. Start with 'preach' and then go from there. Turn it back up to eleven next time. For BMTH, I hope they continue to grow and be massive for the sake of British rock music. Removing the heavy elements though has lost me.

Monday, December 28, 2015


The last real outlaw. 

For 40 years Motörhead set the standard for rock n roll. 100% pure rock n roll. Their early albums fell in with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal but they were way more than those flash in the pan bands, and had nothing in common with Maiden, Priest or Def Leppard. Whilst the initial line up would flame out, Lemmy was always at the center of it or more particularly, positioned stage right - bass across his shoulder and chin angled up to growl into the microphone. Warts and all.

He's the last outlaw because at no stage has Lemmy given a hoot what others thought of him. The warts remained despite being offered plenty to remove them. They flirted with the mainstream thanks to Ace of Spades, appearances on The Young Ones and various mainstream music shows, but they never wavered from doing what Lemmy wanted. He drank a bottle of jack before hitting the stage and usually a bottle while he was up there. And really, until he was well into his 60s, he never slowed down. While AC/DC have released 3 albums since 2000, Motörhead have recorded and toured behind 8 new albums this millennium alone, each of them dipped in the vibes of Chuck Berry, the blues and a healthy shot of punk rock attitude. 

Their war pig mascot has adored almost every one of their 23 studio albums and combined with their typeface is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of heavy metal in the world. There is far more to this band than that. And far more to the man.

The documentary Lemmy (2010) captured both the legacy and lifestyle of the man himself. Whilst it was mostly a tribute to exactly how badarse he was, there are moments tinged with sadness (he sits alone playing machines in the Rainbow, his difficulties being a largely absent father) but the man himself regrets nothing. He apologizes for even less. 

I had the experience of seeing Motörhead at the forum in 2007. He stepped onto stage in his cowboy hat and boots and leered into the microphone - "we are Motörhead and we play rock n roll". And for 90 minutes they played new stuff, 90s stuff, and ended with Killed By Death, Ace of Spades and Overkill. They pulled out their acoustic number, Whorehouse Blues, too with Lemmy on harmonica.

Lemmy's legacy spreads beyond just Motörhead. He inspired others for 40 years. At his 50th birthday the house band was 4 dudes known as The Lemmys, whose day job was being Metallica. He's worked with Slash numerous times, helped out Dave Grohl on his probot project and wrote a Grammy winner for Ozzy Osbourne. Hell he wrote ballads for Ozzy, far away from the usual thunder of Chase is Better Than  The Catch, Killed By Death and Iron Fist. He's covered Whiplash, God Save The Queen, Louie Louie and Stand By Your Man. 

He was rock n roll. And rock n roll isn't the same without him. To quote the film Airheads - "who would win in a wrestling match - Lemmy or God?
Trick question. Lemmy is God"

Rest in ... Who are we kidding? He's gonna still be louder than everything else.

40 years of Motörhead playlist on Apple Music