Top 20 albums of 2019

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Well here we are, another year and another heaping pile of albums by new bands, old bands and everyone else in between. However, lets see what made my top 20 of the year! Now I know this year I have really slacked on getting reviews out which is why a lot of these albums I have not reviewed. That doesn’t mean I have been listening though and boy have I been listening this year. Lets see who made it!

 

                                              20. Fatal Curse: Breaking The Trance

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                                   19. Babylon Shakes: Exile to the Velveteen Lounge

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                                                             18. Enforcer: Zenith

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                                                      17. Tanith: In Another Time

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                                                    16. Crazy Lixx: Forever Wild

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                                                  15. Leathurbitch: Into The Night

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                                                  14. Tora Tora: Bastards of Beale

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                                                               13. Solicitor: S/T e.p

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                                                          12. Paladin: Ascension

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                                            11. Bewitcher: Under The Witching Cross

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                                                       10. Asomvel: World Shaker

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                                                      9. Duel: Valley Of Shadows

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                                                      8. War Cloud: State of Shock

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                                                        7. Spillage: Blood of Angels

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                                                   6. Diamond Head: Coffin Train

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                                                      5. Airbourne: Boneshaker

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                                                 4. The Rods: Brotherhood of Metal

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                                                 3. Toxic Holocaust: Primal Future

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                                                     2. Riot City: Burn The Night

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                                                                    1. Angel: Risen

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The return of Angel has kind of been happening for the past few years. However, with an official album under the name in years this one definitely spent the most time on my stereo the past few months. It also ranks as one of my favorite Angel releases with so many catchy and hook driven tracks.

 

Many notable inclusions this year were also:

Satan: Cruel Magic

Traveler: S/T

Treatment: Power Crazy

Fortune: II

and many many others, here’s to 2020 and a new decade of great music!

Album Review-Airbourne: BoneShaker “Aussie Pub rock lives on!”

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Airbourne are and always have been the modern equivalent to ACDC in their peak prime. In the live circuit especially, these boys have prevailed since their debut “Running Wild” way back in 2007. Now we are in 2019, twelve years later with album number five entitled “BoneShaker”. Up to this point Airbourne have kept their Aussie sound in full tact with more polish from record to record with “Breaking Outta Hell” being sonically a very hard hitting album. However, with this new album, they decide to go a way more raw route.

It would be foolish to describe song by song as they are all pure sex, drugs and rock n roll but the sound is definitely a lot more organic with the band virtually sounding like they are recording live in a  garage. The guitars aren’t necessarily boosted in the mix and are running almost along side the bass and drums a lot of the time. The solo’s are still great as ever but they cut like chainsaws throughout the album more roughly than I think they have on any other release and I love it. Some of my favorites are the title track, the scorching “Burnout The Nitro” and the heavy grooving “Weapon Of War” among pretty much every other song. They still remain as consistent as they ever have

Airbourne are at their core pure simplicity and if you didn’t enjoy them before you sure as hell wont enjoy them now. While they are trudging repeated grounds they are at the same time keeping the four to the floor rock n roll sound of the old days alive in spades and this record shows it with warts and all. The more organic sound definitely makes this record stand out a bit more as it sounds almost like it could have been an independent release and from this band it sounds just as good as their more polished work. 8 out of 10 check it out!

Gillan: The best post Deep Purple project

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Ian Gillan has been one of my favorite vocalists from his performances with Deep Purple and his short stint with Black Sabbath alone. However, after leaving Purple he went through the motions eventually forming the Ian Gillan band playing jazz/fusion in the mid to late seventies and finally forming a super group of sorts simply titled “Gillan” in 1978. Gillan’s classic lineup consisted of underrated guitar player Bernie Torme, Bass juggernaut John McCoy, Colin Towns on keys and Mick Underwood on drums. The band with a slightly different lineup recorded an album that was not widely available simply known as “The Japanese Album” in 1979 before a slight lineup shift and songs being reworked finally ending up on the first classic album “Mr. Universe”

 

Image result for gillan mr universe“Mr. Universe” was NWOBHM before it even exploded. This album took what was good about about the sound Gillan had in Purple and gave it more balls than ever. While the album isn’t quite “metal” per say, it is great British Hard Rock. Opening with the brooding and epic keyboard instrumental “Second Sight”, the album launches into its proper first track with the neck breaking “Secret of the Dance” which is incredibly fast and tight and shows how gritty Ians vocals can be but also how melodic they are especially in the chorus. The album continues with the catchy mid paced “She Tears Me Down” and then another fast tune titled “Roller” which is another go for the throat tune. The title track is incredibly epic and builds quite well with some impressive soloing from Torme. :Vengeance” is a good almost boogie rock tune with a lot more blues influence to it as well as “Puget Sound” and “Dead Of Night”. Up next is possibly my all time favorite Gillan track “Message In A Bottle” which is another breakneck tune but the real highlights are the ways Ian Gillan spit out his lyrics and Mccoys commanding bass really shines here and shows how underrated his thick tight playing is. Ending the album is the ballad like “Street Fighting Man” which an equally epic song and another favorite of mine. Overall this album could just be called Gillans greatest hits because it is that good definitely a great start for the band and personally my favorite album by them.

 

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Perhaps Gillan hit their peak was their second record “Glory Road”. After gaining a huge following in the growing hard rock revival in the turn of 1980, the band quickly released this album which also included a “for Gillan fans only” mini album featuring some jam tracks which was a cool inclusion. However, this album like its predecessor is pure grade A British Hard Rock but definitely shows a bit more of a metal side to the band. This is definitely apparent with opener “Unchain Your Brain” which is a no nonsense fast rocker. Torme’s guitar feels a bit sharper on this record and the production is slightly slicker and my favorite track on the album “Are You Sure” features some awesome guitar and keyboard riffs blending its definitely very well written. There are so many great tracks like the epic “On The Rocks”, the classic “No Easy Way” and even the super Bluesy “If You Believe Me” which solidify this album being another classic. The album thrived in the more underground but unfortunately didn’t break in America (shocker) but that didn’t stop the Gillan train from rolling on.

 

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While the album cover is a bit  aliening, the album is anything but. This could very well be the most visceral album Gillan did. The title track opens up being a great fist pumping hard rocker that is equal heavy and catchy. “Night Ride Out of Phoenix” is a badass mid paced bluesy rocker as well. “(The Ballad Of) The Lucitania Express” is such a fast tune that almost sounds impossible to play the riff is just so unbelievably fast and really makes this tune because its crazy fast but still very precise at being what it wants to be. “New Orleans” is a great cover that feels equal parts Hard Rock and 50’s rock n roll. There are other great tunes like “Bite The Bullet” and “Sacre Bleu” but the best song has to be the dryly comedic “No Laughing In Heaven” with such entertaining lyrics and a great bumpy rhythm that makes it such a blast to listen to. Unfortunately this would be the last album Torme would be a part of but equal talent in the for of former White Spirit guitarist Janick Gers would join for the bands final recordings.

 

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Gillans fifth album would be an interesting one as it would be a double album splitting studio tracks and the other being a collection of well recorded live tracks which is a real treat. The studio tracks include the terrific melodic yet rocking “Reckless” as well as the grooving “I’ll Rip Your Spine Out” and the terrific foot stomping “Hadely Bop Bop”. The band is definitely in top form here and the studio side definitely feels the most polished the band has sounded yet with more melodic touches on the songs as well. However, it still feels incredibly Gillan and Gers more than holds his own. He isn’t as much as a gung ho player as much as Bernie but he is solid and his solo’s are very precise. The live side shows recordings from the 81 reading festival and one track with Torme performing from the Rainbow theater. Definitely a well worth it package for Gillan fans.

 

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Magic was released in 1982 and ended Gillan’s discography pretty much perfectly. The band sounds the best on record than they ever have. Now while Magic is not my favorite it is still a damn good and should have launched the band higher than they achieved. Opening with the gritty and fast “Whats The Matter” right into the groovy “Bluesy Blue Sea” which both alone make the album worth a purchase, the album stays consistent with mid paced and fast rockers all the way through. “Caught In A Trap” and “Your So Right” are perfect pop rock songs and are the closest the band goes to that kind of sound and they pull it off perfectly. However the main event is the epic progressive ripper “Demon Driver” which has a lot of twists and turns and always keeps your attention and Ian’s almost creepy like vocals sell the song especially the intro amazingly. The album ends with a badass cover of “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder and a short reprise of “Demon Driver” as Gillan set off into the sun.

Ian Gillan had to get nodes removed from his vocal chords shortly after the end of the tour and dissolved the band at this point from inner tensions due to money as well as other difficulties. Gillan himself shortly joined Black Sabbath and then came back to the reformation of the Mk II lineup of Purple while some members such as McCoy and Torme stuck to doing projects here and there while Gers became part of Iron Maiden nearly ten years afterwards. While we will most likely never see a Gillan reunion especially after Torme’s passing, these albums represent a band full of excellent musicians that need to be rediscovered for their sheer staying power and “magic” that each release holds still. Gillan for me will always be the one band when everyone talks about Rainbow or Whitesnake, as the best Post Purple project by any member of that band.

Album Review- Diamond Head: The Coffin Train

 

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When Diamond Head released their self titled comeback in 2016, it was a major success. Not only was the album received with praise, partially bringing the band back to their roots, but it also brought them back into relevance in the metal world. As soon as it hit, the band went on a massive touring spree where I was lucky to see them twice on. However, I was really curious about where they would go from here as their self titled really was homing in on the classic DH sound with some touches of progression here and there. “How could this sound eventually mature?” I really wondered. Well their next album entitled The Coffin Train is finally here to show exactly where they ended up.

The album opens thunderously with the furious banger “Belly Of The Beast” which is a logical continuation of the 2016 album. This song is a total callback to their NWOBHM heydays or at least Tatlers since he is the sole original member. Rasmus’ voice sounds honestly even better on this album overall and this song shows how much more comfortable he has gotten being the new and my personal favorite voice of the band. It is almost too strong of an opener with the band giving it all they’ve got. Up next is another heavy number entitled “The Messenger” with a nice build into a heavy main riff that really sets a good groove. The chorus on this song is also really catchy. The title track definitely shows the proggier elements the band hinted to on songs in the past with a build to an epic end that I really like. The next two tracks “Shades Of Black” and “The Sleeper” are structured in a similar way showing this more dark and almost grungier sound the band is going for akin to a band like Soundgarden. It almost is a 180 turnaround from the last release which may put some hardcore fans off. However it works in the bands favor as it doesn’t show them do the same album twice and keeps things fresh. Speaking of the track “The Sleeper”, it is definitely one of the highlights in the middle part of the album with a very nice structure containing this orchestral backing that really beefs up the sound. It eventually ends in an explosion of fiery fretwork by Mr. Tatler which never gets old. Up next is another callback tune entitled “Death By Design” and is another absolute banger with that catchy chorus as well as simpler yet always solid riffing. “Serrated Love” is next and gives us a little bit of more foot stomping hard rock that has a bit more of a modern sound to it but still works pretty well. Up next is “The Phoenix” which definitely is another hard hitter with some nice acoustics opening the song. I really like how this song chugs along with Rasmus having this almost distortion to his voice it really works for this heavy grooving tune. Finally we end with “Until We Burn” which is a softer tune but still definitely fits in with the overall more modernized darker sound on the album. It is a fitting end to the album and definitely has a good feel to it.

Overall, This album while not being a typical Diamond Head album, is still pretty damn good. The band adds a darker and more complex rhythm based formula here that I feel works for what they were going for. It has it’s moments that may remind fans of the classic “Lightning Of The Nations” sound but definitely an overall package you have to go into with more of an open mind. It is definitely heavy and shows a solid core of musicians writing a solid collection of songs that won’t leave my stereo anytime soon, but don’t expect a nostalgia ride, this is definitely Diamond Head on a different level and I really enjoy it. Highly recommended.