Album of 2008 – Preview

2008 will hence forth be known as Two Thousand And Great. What a year. Wales won a Grand Slam, the Red Wings got the Stanley Cup back, Man United made it three European Cups. Barack Obama won the US Presidential Election. All of these were truly earth shattering events. Oh, and the third greatest lie ever told actually became truth – Chinese Democracy finally arrived.

As usual, my first post is an overview of my feelings of loads of different albums in general before I post my top 10. This is a longer list than I first anticipated doing, because instead of just being pigeonholed as a metalhead, I thought I’d do some albums you might not have expected me to listen to. As per my usual rules, this list does not include live albums or greatest hits/essential collections released this year, the album simply had to be full of new original material and released in the 2008 calendar year. This also means that re-released and or re-mixed material doesn’t count (e.g. Exodus’s latest album).

I’m sure as you go through this, I sound like a hypocrite, saying some bands should experiment, and others should go back to a previous style or something. But that is, of course, a matter of opinion. Some bands conjure up certain sounds, images and thoughts to me and I think they should stick to them…it’s that kinda thing. So please don’t kill me =]

3 Doors Down – 3 Doors Down
3DS have come a long way since their 2002 smash album Away from the Sun. Seventeen Days (called so because of how long it took to make the album) was that typical “difficult third album”, but they came away from it a stronger band really. Starting in a similar manor to their previous album, the heavy stuff comes rolling out first, “Train” is perfect video package material. “Citizen/Soldier” is a very different track thanks to it’s song subject and unique drum introduction that works very well. This album’s “Here Without You” is “It’s Not My Time” and I’m surprised it didn’t make that big an impression on US Rock Radio, where their previous records have excelled.

AC/DC – Black Ice
For the first time in 8 years, AC/DC decided to throw something out there to see what we felt about it. If you didn’t like AC/DC before, this album will definitely not change your opinions. AC/DC did the smart thing here and played to their strengths, getting them down to a homing missile straight for their fans. They have changed it up a little bit, slowing down some of the songs that certainly I would have expected to be mid-tempo, and it works. There’s not a lot else to say other than it’s AC/DC. I like them. Therefore I think this is a good album.

Alkaline Trio – Agony & Irony
Alkaline Trio’s brand of alternative rock is probably nearer pop-punk than anything else really. I understand that their previous effort was not best received with the die hards, and this album probably won’t do them any favours either, but I really like it. It’s very melodic, with some very good musicianship and some very catchy songs that have received airplay event on my local rock radio (that’s Nation Radio for all those who don’t know what 106.7 is in their car stereos around south Wales =]).

Airbourne – Runnin’ Wild
This album has flirted with the eligibility rules because it initially dropped last year, but no-one outside of Australia heard it until Roadrunner released it in February everywhere else. Airbourne are AC/DC for the 2000s really. They have incredibly similar styles and very catchy hooks, that made the title track one of my most played this year.

Avantasia – The Scarecrow
I wrote in 2006 that this was due last year, but actually only got pushed back until January 2008. Tobias Sammet brings in the all-star cast for this one, featuring such luminaries as Roy “The Beast” Khan (Kamelot), Eric “Sing” Singer (KISS), Rudolph “Sting” Schenker (Scorpions), Jorn Lande, Michael “Power Metal Legend” Kiske (Helloween) and some guy called Alice Cooper. I’d like to say that my favourite track is one that would surprise you, but it isn’t – it is the one with Roy Khan in it, although Alice Cooper’s appearance in “The Toy Master” (a song that wouldn’t be out of place on one of his back catalogue) runs it mighty close. Despite being the closing track in the album order, “Lost in Space” was the single and an excellent song to get people to understand the story.

Ayreon – 01011001
If you want someone to write a concept album with, there’s an A5 sheet of people’s names and numbers you keep. Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the ridiculously talented Dutchman, is one name high-up on the list. Where as previous effort, the Human Equation (one of my favourite albums) had a prominent role for Dream Theater pipeist James LaBrie, the vocals are spread out amongst more power metal faves, including singers from Blind Guardian, Pain of Salvation, Evergrey as well as my favourite hot auburn haired starlet, Simone Simons from Epica. When an album starts with an awesome 10-minute epic, you know it isn’t gonna mess you around, and starts as it means to go on. The album title is a binary number by the way and is a reference to the story within the album.

Black Stone Cherry – Folklore and Superstition
Black Stone Cherry are a Southern US rock band that try to capture the spirit of classic US rock bands from the South like Lynyrd Skynyrd (who themselves got some deserved attention this year, but only after Kid Rock sampled “Sweet Home Alabama” and it stormed up the charts), the Allman Brothers band among others. BSC are basically what I imagine Skynyrd would be doing if they formed right now, which is probably a good thing. This is a pretty good album in fairness, some good mid-tempo rockers there with the ballads.

Black Tide – Light from Above
I still don’t know how old the lead singer is, nor do I care. It’s refreshing to hear kids who appreciate the art of metal like I do, and that’s part of Black Tide’s success. These kids play like its 1988 not 2008 with a style you’d hear on RPM not MP3. I’m still not quite sure what to make of their cover of Metallica’s “Hit the Lights”, but “Shockwave”, “Let Me” and “Warriors of Time” are great thrashing ditties. I know the band are going through puberty at the moment which is evident at the changing line-up, both visually and figuratively, but these guys have a chance of getting a lot of respect from people if they stick to their guns and go for it.

Bullet for My Valentine – Scream Aim Fire
I used to dis Bullet. A lot. An awful lot. “Emo-core garbage” is what I used to call them. Some of their fans still need what Dave Mustaine refers to as “Rock Star 101”, but the second effort from the band is vastly superior to their previous album. Several great moments to choose from here, but my favourite is probably the guest turn from Welsh music scene legend Benji from Skindred’s appearance on “Take It Out on Me”. “Waking the Demon” is a great track too, and “Say Goodnight” is a very nice acoustic-style track that sounds better when heard unplugged as one of the bonuses. Pleasant surprise this one.

Circle II Circle – Delusions of Grandeur
Some of you know that I thought CIIC nailed their third album. It was absolutely great. In retrospect, I dunno how I missed it out of my albums of 2006! Zak Stevens dumped the old management and got a new team in that let him do his thing, and I was promised “this is the real CIIC”. Can I have the old one back? This album I just don’t get a feel for. I heard some reviews state that the drums sound much better on this album than Burden of Truth, but I found no real difference between them. “Every Last Thing” features the counterpoint vocals that Zak made famous in Savatage and have made an appearance on all of his records since, as a result it’s probably the album’s highlight.

Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
Ah yes. I have actually listened to this one, and I just didn’t like it. I know Coldplay are going to run away with just about every other Album of 2008 poll you’re going to read, but I found this album to be uninspired, cold and just generally “bleh”. I’m sure for many this is their cup of tea and this album will win all kinds of awards, but honestly, it’s nothing special.

Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
Video game soundtracks are powerful. I’ve probably said that before. But it needs saying again. You hear a certain theme of music as you approach an important or significant event in a game, you can’t get it out of your head for a while. “Lights and Music” was in FIFA 09 and it’s quality synth beat stuck in my head for days. “Lights and Music” is just a sample fo what Cut Copy can do and In Ghost Colours is a sweet record from the Australians that is not something I expected from a synth-driven alternative band (I’m looking at you Enter Shitari. Remember them?)

Disturbed – Indestructible
If we were doing the album countdown on just times played, Disturbed would be somewhere off in the sunset. When the new version of “Perfect Insanity” first appeared sometime early this year, I couldn’t believe it. It was the Disturbed I always wanted to hear, a marriage of all their first three works. “Haunted” stands out, because the lyrics struck me at a time this year when sub-consciously, I thought it described my opinions of people and events. Lots of heavy stuff here, my only disappointment was that “Darkness” from Believe remains the band’s only track to deviate from their formula. Their cover of “Midlife Crisis” by Faith No More is outstanding as well if you can get a hold of it.

DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown
Obviously DF didn’t get my message after Inhuman Rampage that their act got old. The artwork and album name is the funniest since Intravenous de Milo (“HELLO CLEVELAND!”) and the album displays the best song writing from the band since Sonic Firestorm. However, it’s not quite as good as SF was. I’m sure the album will have or has gone down fantastically with the Guitar Hero generation who only care about how many notes you can play per nano-second. There are moments that lead you to believe the band has got the formula right again, and then others where I’m shaking my head in disbelief. If you liked the third album, it’s more of the same.

Edguy – Tinnitus Sanctus
As if Tobi Sammet didn’t have enough on his plate this year with the Avantastia album, Edguy then drop a new album on me. This is what I wanted from Edguy after Rocket Ride disappointed me some what. The album opener is a proper rock song that was missing from the previous album, and whilst Tobi’s trademark tongue-in-cheek lyrics make appearances in some songs, there’s enough here that the funny tracks actually get good laughs as the “serious” tracks are good enough to make you appreciate the band.

Evergrey – Torn
Had ProgPowerUKIII not been cancelled this year (the first victim of the new deadly breakfast cereal – the Kredit Krunch?), it’s likely I would have been raving about these guys as they were due to appear as one of the major acts. Evergrey are a Swedish power metal band, which brings about typical cliches, but they take the formula laid down by their countrymen and marry it with a more American progressive style, which makes for particularly beautiful listening on some of the slower songs. The heavy stuff here is the highlight, the opening track “Broken Wings” really demonstrates what the band is all about. This album is great for those who want to get into the band. Have a listen and work your way backwards in their discography.

Extreme – Saudades de Rock
Big hit in the late 80s, early 90s, biggest known song is a power ballad, broke up and reunited this year with some high expectations. Sound familiar? Extreme were an amazing hard rock band who’s second album was a massive hit in 1990-1991, with “More Than Words” probably being a song that kids smooched to at school discos. The latest album is perhaps my biggest disappointment of the year. Beyond the first track, maybe the first two, there is nothing here to listen to. The band attempts a Queen impersonation for the rest of the album that’s quite off-putting and is a crying shame, because the band’s best moments were when they decided to mix melody with ripping guitar lines.

Firewind – The Premonition
Hold the front page: Firewind In Band Stablity Shocker! The first album from Gus G with the same line-up as the previous is what you would expect from the Greek metallers. Their cover of “Maniac” from Flashdance is unique and actually the way a song like that should be performed by a heavy metal band. The songs released as singles are definitely the strongest of the album, but not by a long margin, there’s certainly some very good songs in there, and I just hope Gus keeps the line-up for a third attempt!

Funeral for a Friend – Memory and Humanity
I didn’t even know that Funeral did something between this and the last album of theirs I have, Hours. I understand their last album didn’t go down too well and was a little too progressive for those fans who prefer their previous guise. Many fans will be pleased to hear that this album seems to be the natural successor to Hours, with that balance of riffs, melody and screams. The clean vocals sound very good on this one too and it’s great to see some local boys doing music I actually like for a change!

Gavin Rossdale – WANDERlust
To a lot of people he’s best known as Mr. Gwen Stefani, but I knew him under his previous guise as front man for grunge-style band Bush. You may remember Rossdale contributed “Adrenaline” to the xXx soundtrack back in 2002, which has appeared in God knows how many YouTube desire/tribute videos since. This album is definitely one for a long road trip or an extended sit-down, as it goes through a variety of motions and styles, like a musical journey. I didn’t expect much from this one, but it was really quite a fascinating listen.

Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy
15 years, God knows how many producers and band members, millions hooked on the anticipation, Dr. Pepper laughs, then wham. It’s finally here. To nobody’s surprise, the Chinese didn’t like it, and banned the album. Like many, I believe this isn’t G’n’R of their late-80s early-90s heyday, but rather Axl Rose & friends. The title track gets barely any US airplay, which is a shame because it’s one of the stronger tracks here. The slower songs, such as “Sorry” are good ballads too. It’s just when you wrote fuckin “November Rain”, you hold the standard up pretty high, and Chinese Democracy simply doesn’t reach it.

Iced Earth – The Crucible of Man
Framing Armageddon was one of my favourite albums of 2007, and the final part of the Something Wicked saga sees the return of Mr. Matt Barlow to the fore of Iced Earth. Barlow also voiced Pyramaze’s new effort, which I will talk about later. I don’t like this album at all. Ripper took Iced Earth by the horns, and I know all the “true” IE fans bitch about Barlow being the real voice and stuff, but really, this album has weak songwriting and no notable performances from any musician on it. At least you could point to a track on Framing and say “Hey, Ripper’s got an awesome set of pipes” or something. Barlow has a tremendous voice when he wants it to be, but when he doesn’t use it, as I have said before, he just sounds like Paul Stanley. Such a contrast from my third favourite album from last year.

Jack Johnson – Sleep Through the Static
In Between Dreams was a soundtrack from a special part of my life: the summer of 2005, a time I will look back with fond affection even when I’m in a rocking chair. Jack Johnson’s surf rock is a result of inspirations from all sorts of different artists and generations, and generally it’s a good mix. The singles are probably the strongest tracks here, and whilst not as a good as IBD was, this album is a good pick-up for those who want to understand what Mr. Johnson is really all about.

Jet Black Stare – In This Life
Totally honest, didn’t know who these guys were until SummerSlam and they did the theme. Fantastic little ditty to open the album was “Ready to Roll”, a real honest-to-goodness rock and roll song that would be perfect to do as the lyrics say “top down, I push it to the floor”. The rest of the album drifts between songs like this, and slower paced ballads that are pulled off quite well. First half seems to be better than the second half of the album, but this was a genuine surprise.

Joe Satriani – Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock
Now gathering more attention for his lawsuit against Coldplay (who worded their statement as a basic “you couldn’t write this, fuck you” to a guitar icon), Satch actually released an album this year. I don’t think it’s as strong as Super Collossal was really. Satch continues to experiment and do new things, whilst doing some things the same (there’s a song dedicated to his wife Rubina, which is a theme that has appeared in songs before). I don’t think there’s a song that really stands out and defines the album though, which is a shame, because all of Satch’s previous album had this quality. Still pretty good though.

Jon Oliva’s Pain – Global Warning
It was a tough start to 2008 for my friends in JOP, losing influential producer Greg Marchak (who provides inspiration for the beautiful “O to G”), but Jon and the gang didn’t let it phase them. A truly magnificent piece of work, and JOP’s best release yet. One of the few albums that have had my attention all year round, it touches on everything, from Beatles-esque magic (“Firefly”), Savatage-style crunch (“You Never Know”) to experimental craziness (“Master”). But, like just about everything Jon Oliva does, it works. I’m not just saying this because I have met the great man, but this album is excellent. If you didn’t like JOP before, or think the name sounds dreadful, this album probably won’t change your mind, but if you want top-notch musicianship with some variations in the style of rock and roll, go for it.

Judas Priest – Nostradamus
Priest have been working on this one for a fair bit and it’s fair to say they almost went on an Iron Maiden-like route with this one, with more progressive structures in their compositions opposed to the more straight forward heavy metal we have come to expect to the metal Gods. I did think Priest were one band who could pull off a project of this calibre, but, it fell short of many’s expectations, including my own. It got wound up in it’s own hype and I think, for once, Priest over did it. I hear they planning to play most/all of the album on the Priest Feast tour with Megadeth and Testament, which may change my opinion somewhat, but I doubt it.

Kevin Rudolf – In the City
This came completely out of left field. I do like hip-hop and RnB, but only *good* stuff. Rudolf has managed to perfectly combine some good rock with some good RnB (Nas makes a guest appearance on one track for example, Lil’ Wayne appeared on the album’s biggest hit thus far “Let it Rock”), you can get some brilliantly catchy stuff. I only caught this because I heard “Let it Rock” on someone’s MySpace (remember that?) page and thought “this doesn’t sound bad”.

Metallica – Death Magnetic
When I heard Rick Rubin was working on this one, I thought “Blimey, Metallica do care”. When I read the track listing, some of you will remember my MSN personal message being “The Unforgiven III? Come on Metallica!”. When I listened to the album, I took all of my criticism back. The album is just what I wanted. A mix between the heaviness and intricacy of the riffs that …And Justice for All exploited so perfectly, and the melodic displays from Load. I can’t believe the album is only 10 songs long, which is the only disappointment. The first Metallica instrumental in 20+ years is a fine example of how the band still functions. However, proving some things don’t change, Kirk Hammett still hasn’t played a good solo since 1984. This is going to be up there with the best of them this year mind, because unlike St. Anger, this feels like a proper Metallica album (ahem, screw you Bob Rock =]).

Motorhead – Motorizer
Motorhead have released records for so long now, you can’t imagine heavy metal without the iconic act. Motorizer is more of the same from Motorhead, except louder, faster and stronger. For many bands I’d probably criticise them for just “turning up to eleven”, but in Motorhead’s case, this is what they have done for years and it’s how they operate. And if you disagree, Lemmy will just turn up and kick your arse. “Rock Out” is probably the anthemic track here that will end up getting played on future Motorhead tours, so it’s the one to look out for.

Nickelback – Dark Horse
Nickelback have been Roadrunner’s cashcow for almost a decade, it’s their success (along with Slipknot’s) that has bankrolled the label and enabled them to sign…”better” artists like Megadeth and Dream Theater. This album is their last for RR before they head over to LiveNation. The last album, which was first released three friggin years ago (and Rockstar only got big earlier this year) had some really good moments, particularly the opening track which had this awesome drum intro. I wondered why this album wasn’t getting the radio airplay and it’s actually because they went the heavy route, and it’s actually surprisingly decent. I expected to hate this album but it was actually quite good.

The Offspring – Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace
This is another album people have waited an eternity for. After the Offspring took a shot at Guns N’ Roses by almost naming this album Chinese Democracy, it really failed to deliver. The opinion on this one has been split down the middle, but I just didn’t like it. It didn’t seem like the Offspring of old, they seemed just washed up. As much as I hate Coldplay, the similarities between both Offspring’s and their song’s “Fix You” is remarkable. “Hammerhead”, the first single, was great. Everything else? Not so much.

Opeth – Watershed
You can always rely on Mikael Åkerfeldt for some good, solid, heavy metal. I wasn’t really into Opeth when their last effort, the magnificent Ghost of Perdition came out in 2005, but this is just sheer brilliance. How Mikael can go from the sheer beauty of the ballad “Coil”, to the ferocious riffs and heavy grunts in “Lotus Eater” is just incredible. The bonus edition of the album includes a cover of “Would?” by the mighty Alice in Chains and is worth at least a download if you’re a fan of either great bands.

P.O.D. – When Angels and Serpents Dance
P.O.D. were one of the bastions of nu-metal back in the day. Most people will probably remember the words to “Alive” if it came on the TV or the radio. In-between this album and 2001’s Satellite, their biggest song was probably “Sleeping Awake” from the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack. P.O.D. have gone the Saliva route and really not changed their styles much, that’s partly as a result of the return of their old guitarist, Marcos Curiel. The band will probably never reach the heights of the early 2000s, but their still there, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Pendulum – In Silico
I never liked Pendulum. I always thought they were one of those trance bands that chavs always played. I certainly felt this was the case with their earlier stuff. I was listening to Radio 1 one day in my car when “Granite” came on, and was shocked that I liked a Pendulum song. I got a listen of their album and was pleasantly surprised at the shift in style. There’s still from trancey stuff on there for the old school fans, but there was some dance-rock stuff on there that I really quite liked.

Pyramaze – Immortal
This is quality power metal. Really, it’s because Matt Barlow is on here and doesn’t seem bored. Barlow’s return to metal was initially with Pyramaze and I believe this album was recorded in late-2007, before Matt re-joined Iced Earth. I liked Pyramaze’s previous vocalist, Lance King, who since leaving, did the quality Avian album with my hero Junior then disappeared. I thought “Legacy in a Rhyme” was the highlight of the album, but it’s certainly worth a listen if you’re a fan of Barlow’s earlier work with Iced Earth.

Rage – Carved in Stone
Rage, not to be confused with the better known Rage Against the Machine, are a very underrated German heavy metal band who have been around for donkeys years. I was listening to a recording of the brilliant MetalCast podcast when they had a cut from this new album. It got me interested and I was very happy with the album I listened to. I hear it’s also one of the band’s strongest in a while, with the tracks “Carved in Stone” and “Gentle Murders” being the strongest. Not a lot else to say other than I really liked it.

Rise Against – Appeal to Reason
Trying to explain to people outside my age why Rise Against are so well-known by just about everyone I know is rather difficult. I know their last album didn’t go down brilliantly, but this album is the band at their socio-political best. First single, “Re-Education” sums up neatly what the band is all about. It’s seriously great. If you didn’t like their last album, this one will pull you back in to the Chicago-based icons.

Rev Theory – Light It Up
For a guy who claims that “I’m not that interested in wrestling as I once was”, I’m not doing a good job of convincing anyone am I? The highlight of Rev Theory’s year must be the use of “Light It Up” as the WrestleMania XXIV theme in March/April, which got me interested when the album came out. It’s stronger than your usual wrestling theme song fare, with “Ten Years” being a dramatic power ballad that worked quite well, besides the big two songs of “Light It Up” and “Hell Yeah”, the video for the latter featured former WWE diva and Playboy cover model, Ashley Massaro.

Saliva – Cinco Diablo
This is probably the last album to be released this year and make this list, Saliva still remain that band that takes me back to countless nights dreaming up storylines in my wrestling-obsessed days. My criticism last year was that they were stuck in a time-warp, so when I listened to this one I didn’t expect very much at all. “Family Reunion” will probably be the Royal Rumble theme song, it’s a marriage of their previous hits “Click Click Boom” and “Ladies and Gentlemen” (or the music from the BBC HD ad, which is something I can’t quite get over!). There is some deviation from the usual Saliva formula towards the end of this record, which provides some welcome experimentation for the band and it works quite well.

Saving Abel – Saving Abel
“Addicted” was one of the bigger rock songs on US pop radio this year, and I was interested to see if this band could do anything better. Sadly they couldn’t. The songs tend to follow the formula of an acoustic opening, more guitars, some good vocal work, and then more guitar wankery before the end. “Addicted” is a great song, but besides, there’s not a lot here.

Sevendust – Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow
I’ve been a Sevendust fan for donkey’s years and “Seasons” was one of my favourite albums of 2005 (but it ranked behind Kamelot and Nevermore’s magnum opuses, which is nothing to complain about). The highlight of this album was the turn of American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry, who guests on “The Past”. It’s a really great song, along with the following song “Prodigical Son”. But besides that, there wasn’t a lot else there that I really liked. It was another album I found difficult to really dip into and enjoy I’m afraid.

Shinedown – The Sound of Madness
Shinedown have had some…urm…line-up issues in the past couple of years, with this album having a Handful of Rain style credits and actual performances on the record (look up the Wiki for it. I wrote bits of it!). Saying that, this album was great. “Devour” is a great hard rock song with a fantastic intro and chorus, “Crow and The Butterfly” is a fantastic introspective song, although the highlight for me was the beautiful “Second Chance”. The pre-chorus, thanks to Brett Smith’s vocal delivery, is just brilliant.

Staind – The Illusion of Progress
Staind are like a lot of bands I have listed here. Got big in the nu-metal days, but have been forced to re-invent themselves to keep up with the times. Staind’s best moments were in the slower songs, relying on Aaron Lewis’s delivery of the big notes (see their biggest hit “Outside”). This latest album is more of the same from the band, with “Believe” (unfortunately or fortunately depending on where you sit, not a Savatage cover), but a song with an acoustic opening that builds to a crescendo of noise at the end. Pretty decent though.

Testament – The Formation of Damnation
When legendary bands tend to reunite, it often falls apart shortly afterwards because egos aren’t kept in check. Testament seems to have ignored that script. After an incredible reunion tour with Alex Skolnick a few years back, this is the resulting album. To say it’s heavy is an understatement. This is what thrash metal in 2008 should be sounding like! This is Testament with a vigour and swagger that they haven’t had for almost 20 years (probably since they toured with Savatage in the late 80s, which is no coincidence). Granted, not every track is a classic, but, most are splendid thrash metal platters that more than deserve your attention. This is a front-runner folks.

Theory of a Deadman – Scars and Souvenirs
Theory of a Deadman, for those that don’t know, are Canadian rockers who got signed to Roadrunner as a result of Chad Kroeger from Nickelback. As a result, the two bands are quite similar. The first single, “Bad Girlfriend” is the highlight of this album; it builds on the band’s first two albums with some post-grunge guitars and good vocals on-top of a “meh” guitar solo. If you Nickelback, seriously, these guys demand a listen. If you don’t like post-grunge, forget it, and move onto something else.

Trapt – Only Through the Pain
I remember informing everyone about Trapt’s greatness back before their first album came out (thanks to my Chicagoland buddies Kyle & Jeremy for the recommendation!), yet after the release of their second album a couple of year’s back, the momentum fell flat. I went into this one with mixed expectations, but I went away feeling quite happy with the result. The band attempt to mix it up a little, and “Black Rose” in particular was a resounding success (it’s similar to a set of lyrics I wrote about 4 years ago called “Wilted Rose”, which might explain why I like it). It’s their strongest album yet if you ask me.

Trivium – Sh?gun
Is there a band today that completely splits fanbases quite like Trivium do? You either love the Floridian based metallers, or you despise them. I’ve seen them live twice, and their last album was my fifth favourite in 2006. Sh?gun is a marriage of the more straight up metal that they tried on the Crusade with a return of the screamy vo-kills from the first two albums thrown in. When used in moderation, it works to the band’s advantage. The screamy vocals don’t work on “Kirisute Gomen” for example, but on “Into the Mouth of Hell We March”, I think they do. This is not an album that will convince you that they are living up to the hype of the new Metallica, but, it is a strong follow-up to their last effort and a favourite of mine.

Warrel Dane – Praises to the War Machine
Dane’s first solo album despite being around for almost 20 years probably makes up for the fact a new Nevermore album is nowhere in sight. Musically, it bares no resemblance to his previous band, Sanctuary (trivia fact: their second album was produced by Dave Mustaine), but more like a radio friendly album much like Nevermore’s more recent works. That sounds a bit strange…radio friendly Nevermore. But, there’s a lot more catchy hooks in there and some great vocal work from the man himself.

Weezer – Weezer (Red Album)
I genuinely didn’t expect another Weezer album to come along for donkey’s years, then “Pork and Beans” appeared and I was pleasantly surprised. Make Believe was a good album, but it did not compare to the absolutely incredible Blue Album of over a decade earlier. However, this is definitely the strongest Weezer album of recent times. I especially like the nods that Rivers Cuomo put in “Heart Songs” to bands like Quiet Riot and Slayer. Some of the more heavy Weezer stuff bares little resemblance to the latter, but it’s still some catchy rock. One complaint: the fact that there’s about 5 different versions of the album and not one of them has all of the songs recorded for the album, which is bloody ridiculous.


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