Best Of 2012: Our Top 10 Albums List


So here we are. We have almost made it through 2012. Today could be our last day if the Mayan calendar is correct and the world is due to end tomorrow, 21st December but fingers crossed we still have a little more time to enjoy some more great music.

Way back in April we posted our first 4 month round-up of our favourite albums of the year to date. This was followed up 4 months later with another list in August and as promised, here we are 4 months later at the end of the year ready to share some more top picks of the past 4 months as well as our Top 10 albums of 2012 list.

So here we go!
First off, here is a selection of new releases that we have been enjoying since our last post in August:

ZZ Top – La Futura
Soundgarden – King Animal
Feed The Rhino – The Burning Sons
Bury Tomorrow – The Union Of Crowns
Katatonia – Dead End Kings
The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
While She Sleeps – This Is The Six
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
NOFX – NOFX
The Killers – Battle Born
Mumford & Sons – Babel
Down – Down IV Part I
Devin Townsend – Epicloud
Muse – The 2nd Law
Lower Than Atlantis – Changing Tune
Bob Mould – Silver Age
Coheed And Cambria – The Afterman
Hooded Menace – Effigies Of Evil
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Kiss – Monster
Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas
Enslaved – RIITIIR
Pig Destroyer – Book Burner
Fear Factory – The Industrialist
Blood On The Dance Floor – Anthem Of The Outcast
Family – Portrait
Black Country Communion – Afterglow
And You Will Kow Us By The Trail Of Dead – Lost Songs
alt J – An Awesome Wave
Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension
The Rolling Stones – GRRR
Rolo Tomassi – Astraea
Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Call Me No One – Last Parade
Focus – X

So after much deliberation and discussion we have managed to reach a decision on our top 10 albums of 2012. Take a look and leave a comment with your top 10 list.

(In no order)
Soundgarden – King Animal

Enslaved – RIITIIR
Black Country Communion – Afterglow
Rush – Clockwork Angels
Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Tank – War Nation
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
Anathema – Weather Systems
Black Breath – Sentenced To Life
Bob Mould – Silver Age

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Album Review: Soundgarden ‘King Animal’


king-animal

Soundgarden – King Animal
Genre: Rock
Label: Republic Records

Soundgarden, perhaps known as “that band that did Black Hole Sun”, left a big mark in rock music worldwide in the 90s in the rise and peak of grunge fascination. Although the band did get caught up in the whole Seattle grunge scene, along with the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees, etc., Soundgarden had a big southern rock and metallic influence with their dirty approach to rock music.

Despite starting in 1984, it was only in 1991 that they experienced international success with undeniably great “Badmotorfinger”, and furthered that success with the fan favourite album “Superunknown” in 1994. Both albums launched the band to the front of music magazines around the globe, and gave the world rock anthems like Jesus Christ PoseRusty CageSpoonman and Fell On Black Days. However, the follow-up album, “Down On The Upside”, didn’t quite live up to the standards of the previous two albums, although achieving Platinum sales in the US, Canada and Australia. Tension in the band and clashes for future motives and directions of the music then culminated in their break-up in 1997.

This led to a series of new projects for each member; the most popular being vocalist Chris Cornell with Audioslave and his solo career. Guitarist Kim Thayil went an underground route, working with the likes of punk legend Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl’s collaborative project Probot and even featured on the Sunn O))) and Boris album “Altar”. Bassist Ben Shepard worked with another grunge idol Mark Lanegan and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, while drummer Matt Cameron momentarily joined The Smashing Pumpkins and eventually joining Pearl Jam full time.

Many years later, this leads us to now. In 2010, the guys decided to put past disputes aside and have reunited to give us their sixth album, finally releasing a new album “King Animal” in 2012. As expected, pressure is always on for a band that has built its own legacy and popularity worldwide, left and to return well over a decade with new material… and Soundgarden has done well.

The first track and single, Been Away Too Long, a title well chosen, starts the album in fourth gear and borrows a huge influence from Led Zeppelin with its guitar-driven sound and Chris Cornell’s signature raspy, old-school rock voice has aged a little, sounding a little coarser, but this only adds to the atmosphere. None-State Actor starts with a skipping and sliding bass, sounding a lot like something you might expect from a psychedelic stoner band, and is a lot more prominent in the overall mix than the guitar. There’s also the use of an organ keys and the good ol’ cowbell, furthering the old rock’n’roll vibes.

By Crooked Steps returns to a heavier sound that Soundgarden were known for before and features perhaps the most memorable riff; highlighting Thayil’s pretty intricate guitar within overlapping layers. It’s the nearest to their old song that you get on the album, and it’s great! On the other hand, the following track A Thousand Days Before is cleaner, and again its the skipping guitar lines that steal the show; however the rest of it can be a little forgettable.

Unfortunately this is the case for a few songs on the album, either due to forgettable lyrics/vocals and predictable song structures – something that Soundgarden had previously been known for being experimental in. Blood On The Valley turns out to be the prime example of this; just being a tad monotonous with its slow jam approach, and while it is relaxing it is ultimately skippable too. However, sixth track Bones Of Birds turns it around completely, despite being another slow song. The slightly distorted, lethargic guitars along with Cornell’s vocals creates a nice mellow yet thoughtful atmosphere that really grabs your attention without trying.

Taree continues the ballad section of the album, but dips back to the same dryness of  Blood On The Valley, which is disappointing considering the heavy feel of Bones Of Birds. Thankfully, Attrition picks up the pace of the album again with a seductive ZZ Top-like groove, Cornell’s vocals floating soothingly over the top of the driving instrumental. Black Saturday sees the band mostly acoustic, and it hooks you in with opening’s bongos and lines “Promise something / Kill me right away if I start to get slow / Don’t remember / How to separate the worm from the apple / Don’t wait ’til tomorrow”. Although the subject matter sounds dark, the delivery of it feels nothing but enlightening; easily making up for the previous dud tracks.

Then Halfway There is probably the most up-beat sounding song on the album, especially with lines like “Sometimes when you’re shooting an arrow it can fly across the sky so proud”. The guitar tone that appeared on their hit Black Hole Sun also emerges on this track, which works well with the reminiscent feel of the track. Tenth track Worse Dreams opens with low guitar sweeps as a lead drones on top; soon drums and the bass comes in with Cornell coming in last, slowly swelling into big rockin’ chorus. The track just has a real playful feel to it.

Eyelid’s Mouth starts off mellow with guitar effects and a jamming drum, before the the guitar settles into a lead groove backed by the bass, with backing vocals supporting Cornell on “Who let the water run down / Who let the river run dry” – making the track brooding yet enjoyable. The final track, Rowing, stands out in comparison with the rest of the album and an odd choice for a closer: the drums have an electronic yet live feel to them, with a low, fast-rolling bass (in very short bursts) but the vocal melody resonates the blues – it’s almost as if the band are prisoners working on building a railway in the warm sun. The track then fades out the same as it started, leaving you unsure of what you’ve just heard.

Overall, this seems like the lighter direction that Cornell had been fighting for towards their break-up all those years ago, because this album in comparison to the likes of “Badmotorfinger” and “Superunknown” is a big shift to a more mainstream sound; but it isn’t the bad thing. Yes, Soundgarden seem to have lost the grit and edge that made their music so impossible to turn down on “King Animal”, but they’ve proven that they can master the the more softer aesthetics of rock music just as well. Perhaps this is just a sign of the band warming up and cracking their knuckles for the future.

As I said, some tracks do come across as a bit linear and boring, but overall the album is pretty good as a whole. The experimental side is lacking, and again, it isn’t as heavy as some of their earlier material, but it’s a promising return for Soundgarden and certain tracks more than make up for the forgettable. For 13 years of being apart, this is a pretty solid release.

6.5/10
Favourite tracks: Black SaturdayBy Crooked StepsBones Of Birds.

Review by Rich Reviewz

Album Review: Deftones ‘Koi No Yokan’


Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Genre: Alternative Rock/Metal
Label: Reprise

Deftones, a name that has undeniably made its way into the life of a fan of rock or metal in general, for better or for worse. Going through the band’s history would require an essay twice as long as this review will be with all the rumours, addictions and the additions of members as years passed. All you need to know is that Deftones are known for never making the same album twice: constantly evolving their sound into something else with every release… is “Koi No Yokan” a step in another direction again? Yes.

It felt an age since Deftones released anything new, but it’s only been over two years when they released “Diamond Eyes”. Two years prior to the 2010 release, a horrible car accident left bassist Chi Cheung in a coma, and instead of putting their talents to rest  the band continued (while garnering moral and financial support for Chi and his family) with the help of Quicksand bassist Sergio Verga, who makes his second album with Deftones via “Koi No Yokan”. However, music is the business here…

To put it bluntly, Deftones have really managed to pull some astonishing feats on this album. Several songs sound like short soundtracks to crumbling of old statues that have finally fallen from time or stars ploughing into cities that have stood through thousands of years of civilisations; like nature the resetting of a score. Then others are some of the most sincere love ballads with a punch that you’ve heard in years. The overall sound is titanic, huge, colossal and any other synonyms for ‘big’ I haven’t included: it’s just massive.

What’s different? Well, Stef’s toned down the obvious Meshuggah-influenced riffs that appeared often in “Diamond Eyes” and has leaned back to style of the hard-hitters on “Saturday Night Wrist”, and it seems that Sergio’s presence is a lot more prominent too, and that his role in the band is a lot more relaxed and creative. Probably the most surprising thing in consideration of the overall sound is that Chino rarely screams on this album – possibly cementing it as the most vocally clean album in their discography to date. Otherwise, Abe and Frank provide their usual attributes to the sound, the former giving his standard powerful and catchy drums while the latter adds keys and moments of ambience to the mix.

Opener Swerve City starts at full pace – no soft introduction, no build-up, just a guitar riff that inspires nothing but high jumps immediately, but then smoothly transcends into an almost drive-at-night soundtrack with its smooth flow and Chino’s alluring vocals. The track just prepares you for what to expect for the rest of the album. Romantic Dreams has an old school alt rock feel, not far from the likes of their favourites Jawbox, and teasingly progresses into one of the catchiest choruses that Deftones have ever penned; which will no doubt have audiences at live performances weeping along to “I’m hypnotised by your name / I wish this night would never end”. Just a powerful track so early into the album that makes you wonder how can they possibly keep the it up.

Leathers starts of softly with some tingling ambience between a clean guitar notes and keys, almost promising a break from the energy of the first two tracks, but then the whole band jumps in and throws a heavy slab of aggressive riffs and generally one of the more metal sounding moments on the album, before dropping into a melodic chorus with the haunting “Shedding your skin / Showing your texture / Time to let everything inside show”. The song could easily have fitted in on “Saturday Night Wrist” too.

Next is Poltergeist, which opens with claps and a rumbling bassline, letting you know that you can expect the same high energy as the previous tracks. In fact, this track feels like it would be at home on “White Pony”, despite the polyrhythmic style of the guitar at parts. Entombed however is the first time where the band mellows out, reminiscing the mood and style of Sextape (from “Diamond Eyes”) with its seductive melody and eloquent chorus, featuring a nice play between synth-keys and drums during the outro.

Sixth track Graphic Nature returns to the aggressive style ,with jarring and slightly disjointed guitars, yet the melody is plentiful. Tempest is the first track to reach to over the 6-minute mark, filled with those driving-through-the-night feeling riffs while mystical lyrics flow over the top, especially with the chorus haunting “Turning in circles / Caught is a stasis / The ancient arrival / Cut to the end”. It’s just hypnotic in its delivery and oddly soothing even with the distorted guitars.

Gauze is yet another track that charges in with aggression as Chino sings warning messages over the top, but there’s no simpler way to describe the following track Rosemary other than if there was a song to describe the beauty of the Universe, this would be it. The sound is on such a grand scale that it feels like it weighs more than the Earth, which peaks with the enormous chorus of “Time shifting / We discover the entry / To other planes”, playing heavily on atmosphere.

Goon Squad, though starting with soft scrapes across clean chords, is full of spiteful aggression – especially with Chino’s opening line “I carve my name across your town when I’m set” and the later “Before we get down you should prepare your heart strings / To cut all the ties and watch the trends begin”. Final track What Happened To You? provides a smooth ending to the album, sounding like a hybrid between the styles of “Saturday Night Wrist” and “Diamond Eyes”, and Sergio’s bassline embeds itself into your memory, as Stef’s guitar sounds more complimentary than being the focus to the overall sound (which isn’t a complaint).

In the end, this may be the most consistently pleasing album since “White Pony”. Every track is memorable and addictive, and there’s nothing that spoils the album or seems out of place in the slightest. Instrumentally, Deftones have tightened the screws since the fairly rough “Diamond Eyes”, and it feels like the band may have been keeping their best riffs and grooves during the last ten years and saved them up for this album alone.

There’s no reason for the hardcore Deftones fan to be disappointed by this. In hindsight, after listening to this album, you might just question what they’ve been doing during the previous few releases, and not because they’re bad, but because you wonder why this album is so much more satisfying than the last few.

It’s been worth the wait.

9.3/10
Favourite tracks: Romantic DreamsRosemary, Leathers, Goon Squad.

Review by Rich Reviewz