Tag Archives: thrash

The Top Albums of 2023 – Part 2!

Continuing on with our top albums of the year, let’s go through the next 20!

80: Tidal Wave – The Lord Knows

Time for some glorious sludgy/stoner/doom rock. The second album from the Swedish band build and improve on their debut in every aspect. From the excellent riffing to the perfectly fitting vocals to the overall feel of it, the band have really nailed their sound with this one. And, of course, it’s chocked full of incredible tracks.

It’s got a heavier edge compared to a lot of music around its genre, too. It’s like if Queens of the Stone Age and Black Label Society had a beautiful, high baby. It got a very deserving 9/10 From us, and I cannot wait to hear more from this band in the future. If you’re into the sludgy stuff, you may wanna check this out!

Listen to: End of the Line, Marijuana Trench and By Order of the King

79: Darius Rucker – Carolyn’s Boy

The country star has come a long way since fronting Hootie and the Blowfish. He’s arguably become a bigger name since, and this album really solidifies that concept and his sound and position in the music scene. This is a damn good country album. It’s got a very early 2000s country feel to it. Sure, it gets a bit ‘old man yells at clouds’ at times with its lyrics, but that’s practically expected now from any non-new country artist. And there’s still a lot of genuine emotion throughout the release, too. There are plenty of incredible ballads just as much as there are more upbeat stadium-country songs.

Eight solo albums in and Darius is still showing us how incredible his songwriting ability truly is. I gave him a 9/10 when I first reviewed it and after listening back through the album yet again, I definitely agree with that score!

Listen to: Beers & Sunshine, Fires Don’t Start Themselves and Same Beer Different Problem

78: Extreme – Six

One of the biggest names in 90s rock returned this year with their first new album in a decade and a half. The hype was pretty massive for the album, especially after the first couple of singles were released. So, why is it this low on the list? Two words: ‘BEAUTIFUL GIRLS’. I can’t remember the last time one track ruined the credibility of an album quite so much as that song. It’s god awful.

Having said that, there are some all-time great Extreme tracks on this album. I’d put the first three tracks up there with any other popular Extreme song, either. Tracks like ‘SAVE ME’ and ‘THICKER THAN BLOOD’ are also awesome. It’s really the slower tracks that let this album down, trying to still recapture their ‘More than Words’ success, to varying quality. And yeah, fuck ‘Beautiful Girls’. Bad pop tripe.

So yes, a rather mixed bag of a release, which is why it sits lower than it could have. But still, a good half the album is awesome, and if you’re a fan of the band or their style, you need to check it out! It got an 8.5 from me, and I stand by that pretty heartily!


77: Jelly Roll – Whitsitt Chapel

Though Mr Roll has been around for a few years now, 2023 has very much his breakout year. While a lot of that has been due to his Corey Taylor/Spencer Charnes level of features on other artists’ songs, this album is also a huge part of that. Drawing together his love of country, rock and hip hop into a beautiful blend of music is always risky, but it’s pulled off very well here. And, unlike a lot of country this year, it’s not too long! 13 tracks is perfect.

There is a lot to love here for fans of any of the genres I listed above. And whether it’s Brantley Gilbert, Yelawolf or the incredible Lainey Wilson, the guest’s he has throughout are a perfect fit for his style and the songs. And there is so much variety throughout that it never once gets boring or a slog. This is very much a breakout album, and easily deserves the 8.5 it got from us, if not more! I cannot wait to hear where he goes next!

Listen to: Halfway to Hell, The Lost and Save Me

76: The Black Skeleton – The Rear View

This band have such an interesting and unique blend of styles, it’s impossible to categorize them as anything other than simply ‘rock’. 80s pop rock? Check. 90s Alice In Chains-like grunge? Check. Red Hot Chili Peppers? Check. Stadium rock ballads? Check. And yet, throughout all of that, it still all sounds distinctly like the same band.

I stand by everything I said in my review. The whole album is packed full of incredible, different songs, so as a musician fan (which I’m sure you are if you’re here), you should check this out. The first on this list to get a 9.5/10 and for good reason!

Listen to: Swear, The Rear View and Puppy Run

75: When Rivers Meet – Aces Are High

Some more swaggering bluesy country rock now, this time a married duo out of Essex. As I’m sure you’ll be aware by now, if it’s on this list, it’s a great album! However, the fact that the band can get this much sound from just the two of them is insanely impressive. And the combination of sounds and genres is infectiously enjoyable. Both their vocals are top notch throughout and play off each other perfectly, too.

If you’re into country or rock at all, this is definitely the album for you. And the fact that it’s 10 tight, fourish minute tracks means that it really is all killer and no filler. The band have gone from strength to strength the last few years or so, and this album has really cemented them as a powerhouse in the scene. We gave it a very deserving 9/10, and they’re another band that I can’t wait to see get even bigger in the years to come!

Listen to: Seen It All Before, Golden and Perfect Stranger

74: Arch Blade – Kill the Witch

Time for some more modern NWOBHM-style music, and I for one can’t get enough of the resurgence of the sound recently. At least in the UK and US, anyhow! Plus, they’ve only been together for four years now, so for the band to be putting out this high quality of music, especially as a debut album, is impressive to see.

The band do their sound very well. I know a couple of the members have been around the scene for a good few years now, but the talent of them to come together to make this level of music is undeniable. If you’re into Iron Maiden or Painkiller-era Judas Priest, this album feels like it’s created for you. Whether it’s slower, cleaner stuff or a more thrashy pace, they do it all so well. It was another deserving 9/10 from us!

Listen to: Kill the Witch, House of Dreams, Factory of Sin

73: Rancid – Tomorrow Never Comes

It pains me to put this band so low. I fucking LOVE Rancid. One of the many sounds of my childhood. And their first album in six years is a good one. Hence why it’s on this list. I’d honestly put the title track up their with their greatest hits. I’ve had it on a lot since it’s release. However, the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to that lofty height, in my opinion.

Having said that, it’s still a Rancid album, so it’s still awesome. They are one of the modern kings of punk for a reason, and the album has the perfect mixture of fun and attitude to it. As an album as a whole it’s amazing, I think I’m just disappointed still that so many of the tracks are under two-minutes. But still, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you listen. It came out on the busiest week of the year for music and still got an 8.5/10 from me, so that should say a lot! There isn’t much punk on this list (SPOILER), so if you’re into the genre, listen to this!

Listen to: Tomorrow Never Comes, Devil in Disguise and Drop Dead Inn

72: Nothing But Thieves – Dead Club City

I did not expect to love this album as much as I do. I’d never really given the band a chance before, having seen them on Reading and Leeds line-ups and that was about it, so figured they weren’t very ‘rock’. Arguably, they aren’t. But, on the other hand, they are more-so than I had thought coming in. And, regardless, this is a great album. I’ve described it before as how I wish Twenty One Pilots had evolved, and I stand by that comment whole-heartly. It’s electro-infused pop rock, and it’s awesome.

I know this album and style overall certainly isn’t for everyone. However, it’s a solid album and more than deserves to make it onto this list. It’s full of great tracks that pretty much all vary, making for an interesting, fun listen. And there’s enough rock in here to keep everyone but the die-hard metalheads happy, I’m sure. It was an easy 8.5 from us, but it may be even higher now!

Listen to: Welcome to the DCC, Keeping You Around and Pop the Balloon

71: HARDBALL – Self-Titled

A rare modern grunge album now, and a damn good one at that. The band are the perfect blend of Nirvana and Seether, for the most part. I say that because the longer the album goes on, the heavier it gets. There are not only hints of metal, but of doom, which is a lot of fun and really interesting merged with grunge. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I really loved listening to it and have checked it out multiple times since it was first released. We gave it a whopping 9.5/10 in our review. But honestly, being someone who was raised on Nirvana from an early age, it’s hard to deny how not only great this album is but hopefully how important to the genre it will be moving forward!

Listen to: Just a Tree, Chili and Talk to Me

70: Electric Boys – Grand Explosivos

Goddamn, I love this band. They deserve to be so much bigger than they are. The funky bluesy rock Swedes proved that yet again with another incredible release. They’ve been one of the most consistently great 80s bands in terms of releases since their reunion in 2009, and this may be the best of them yet. Every track is a lot of fun, it’s 35 minutes of bouncy, swaggering awesomeness. They’re an effortlessly cool band, even at their age, and should be absolutely massive. It got a 9/10 from us, and I’ve not stopped listening to it since September.

Listen to: When Live Treats you Funky, Domestic Blitz and The Great Believer

69: Liv Sin – KaliYung

Time to boarder on power metal now, this album being a very epic heavy metal offering. It’s got a very European style to the sound (which makes sense given that they’re Swedish), giving off a blend of Doro, Powerwolf and Scorpions. And honestly, the heavier bits are where the album shines the most. The big riffs and screams are INCREDIBLE and won me over to this band on their last release, building on it perfectly with this one.

The album is chocked full of amazing songs, there not being a bad one on it. Much like a lot of this list, I really wish I could put this higher up. It’s an amazing release and really feels like the culmination of what they’ve done until this point. It got an 8.5/10 from us way back in January when we reviewed it. However, I’d easily push it up to a 9 now, as I still listen to a lot of it now, months later.

Listen to: King of Fools, Virus and Forget My Name

68: Miara – Hungering Inside

Somehow it’s been a little while since we’ve gotten this heavy on this list. However, this year has really been a resurgence of my love of melodeath/metalcore, and this album is one of the big reasons for that. Yet another phenomenal debut album on this list, the Italian band have found their sound immediately and performed it incredibly well. They’re one of my favourite new heavy finds of the year, and I think they’re going to be massive sooner rather than later if this release is anything to go by. It was another VERY easy 9/10 from us! Check this out immediately!

Listen to: Hungering Inside, The Gate of Hell and My Will Dominates

67: Green Lung – This Heathen Land

One of the rare entries onto this list that I didn’t write myself, rather my wonderful fiancé Jade did. However, seeing how much she loved it and being a fan of stonery, doomy rock, I checked it out and fully agree with her! It has maybe the best song they’ve done as an opener, channelling the best of Ghost energy. The rest of the album has more of a traditional, slightly heavier sound to it, but there are still elements of Ghost throughout that I love. It’s like theatrical stoner/doom, and I honestly can’t get enough.

Jade gave this album a 9/10 and I feel inclined to agree with her. It’s a solid album from front to back, and their sound is perfected from their previous releases. The band are a staple of the UK stoner rock scene, but I feel this album is set to catapult them across the globe!

Listen to: The Forest Church, Maxine (Witch Queen) and The Ancient Ways

66: Lauren Morrow – People Talk

I first discovered Lauren at the Long Road back in 2022. I became a big fan after that and was pretty hyped for this release. It didn’t at all disappoint, either. It’s the perfect chilled-out, old-school country album. Think a slower, more emotion-filled Dolly Parton. It’s very similar to Cam, who is easily one of my favourite artists of the year.

If you like your slower, more stripped-back country/folk music, this is the album for you. I gave it a 9.5/10 when I reviewed it back in March, and fully stand by that score today!

Listen to: It’s You, Looking for Trouble and Leona

65: King Abyss – Snake Oil

Thrash time, and this time a band from the same city as us, which is always exciting! These guys have had one hell of a year, and this album is very much a testament to that. It is an incredibly impressive thrash/death album. The riffing is incredible, the screams heavy and the production thankfully great. And, it’s so refreshing to hear a slower track like ‘Distain’ on a modern trash record. So many bands go balls-to-the-wall through, while this is a dark, Slayer-like masterpiece. we gave it an easy 9/10, and it’s one of the best heavy debuts of the year!

Listen to: Distain, Eyes Always Watching and Weapons of Mass Destruction

64: Degenerator – The Abyssal Throne

Maybe the most recent album on this list, being released only last month. It’s a masterpiece of atmospheric prog rock, though. It transitions from quieter, Tool-like parts to fuzzy desert rock to moody 2000s post-grunge with ease, the sounds surprisingly made for each other here. It may sound cheesy, but honestly this album is an experience. It’s made to be listened to in full while sat in a dark room on your own. I should know, I tried it. It’s one of the most atmospheric albums I’ve heard, end of, and honestly most of it isn’t even that proggy. It’s dark, brooding alt rock, and I love it. No matter what music you like, stop what you’re doing (wait, no, read our content first, of course) and listen to this album! We gave it a very easy 9/10.

Listen to: Finality, Hiraeth and The Day that Never Comes

63: Krashkarma – Falling to Pieces

More awesome metalcore, and this time from an insanely talented duo. It’s an incredible feat to write and perform all this between them both, especially when it’s all rather technical and insanely well written. There is plenty of heaviness throughout, while the melodic nature of the genre makes for a pretty catchy nature throughout. It’s equal parts In This Moment, Static X and bands like Fit for a King or Wage War.

For those of you into the more accessible side of heavy music, this is definitely for you. The duo have been going for a while now but this is my favourite release from them yet. I gave it an 8.5 when I first reviewed it but it’s easily gone up now!

Listen to: Falling to Pieces, Survive the Afterlife and Shut Up

62: Theory of a Deadman – Dinosaur

What a return to form this album is. After a rather badly received and generally poor previous release, Theory are back with a vengeance with Dinorsaur. For a start, the band return to their original heavier radio-rock sound, and the album is just packed full of great tracks. And it was nice to hear the return of their tongue-in-cheek more lighthearted bitchy songwriting on a few of the tracks, like ‘sick’. Sure, some of it is a tad cringy, but I feel like that’s kinda the point.

I was a big fan of this band in my teens and hearing them get back to this sound and quality just makes me happy. Sure, we gave it a 7.5, but it’s my list and I can do what I want, so it’s here! It’s a good album, I’d highly recommend checking it out!

We saw them live too! Check out our review of it here!

Listen to: Dinosaur, Medusa (Stone) and Ambulance

61: Evile – The Unknown

The final entry in this week’s part is more amazing UK thrash. When the band reformed a few years back, I was massively excited as I was a big fan as a kid. I have to admit their return album didn’t do a whole lot for me. This however… fuck, it’s a damn good metal album. The band almost step away from the genre for parts of this, it all having more of a doom/sludgy metal vibe. It’s a really cool sound and a phenomenal evolution. And yet there is still plenty of fast paced stuff too for the thrash fans!

If you’re a fan of the band, or of thrash, sludge or death metal, this album is a must for you to check out. It got an easy 9/10 from me back when it was released, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since!

Listen to: The Unknown, When Mortal Coils Shed and At Mirror’s Speech

New Music Mondays: Matchbox Twenty, Immortal and More!

A more relaxed but still awesome week for New Music Mondays this week. From black metal to country, we cover a bit of everything. Check it out!

Matchbox Twenty: Where the Light Goes

The US pop-rock megastars are back with their first album in over a decade. I was going to say the band achieved the most success in the back end of the 90s, but surprisingly, though their debut is still HUGE and certified diamond in the US alone, every album has charted pretty amazingly. What do you expect, after helping out on that Santana song?

In terms of the music itself, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a band in the genre after doing this nearly three decades later. It reminds me of Train or even Stereophonics, pop-inspired softer rock with plenty of big choruses, great hooks and minimal attention to much else. Some tracks even give off U2 or Phil Collins vibes at times, too. Tracks like ‘Wild Dogs’, ‘Warm Blood’ and the title track are all personal highlight tracks.

It’s a good album and a fantastic return after far too long between new music. Not a bad track on it, though it might have been nice to have been a bit faster or upbeat at times! 7.5/10

Immortal: War Against All

The legendary Black metal band return with their 10th album this last week. The wall of sound, blast beats and questionable mixing decisions that have become such a staple of the genre they helped define and are all very much present here from the offset. As with most black metal stuff, I feel like I’d have to see it live to truly ‘get’ it. Everyone in the band is clearly talented and there’s some sick riffs throughout. ‘Thunders of Darkness’ is a particular highlight, still. However, it doesn’t do much to interest me and seems a lot of the same stuff. 4.5/10

The Dirty Nil: Free Rein to Passions

The Canadian rock trio seem very hard to pin down in terms of genres. Most places are calling them hard rock or even Punk rock. However, the opening riff of the album on the utter phenomenal ‘Celebration’ is heavy as fuck and has enough pinch harmonics to make Zakk Wylde jizz his pants. It definitely gets a little more pop/punk through the album on tracks like ‘Nicer Guy’ or ‘Land of Clover’ (though there’s another sick bridge riff in the latter).

It reminds me of Neck Deep, My Chemical Romance and even Dinosaur Pile-up; somehow being a combination of all three. It’s a really great album without a bad track on it. All three previously mentioned tracka are big highlights, as is ‘Stupid Jobs’. The band definitely have a new fan in me! 8/10

AJJ: Disposable Everything

Punk/alt/folk rockers AJJ return with their eighth album. It starts on an absolute banger with ‘Strawberry (Probably)’ the album slows up a fair bit. Most of it is very chilled and folky, though surprisingly ‘I Hate Rock n’Roll’ is great, and ‘Death Machine’ is easily the best track on the album. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re into their particular brand of noise I feel like they are top notch. They are creative (if a little weird) with their lyric writing and the music behind it is well done. 7.5/10

Whythre: Impregnate My Hate

Owen: By all accounts Whythre have been a staple of the Seattle metal scene since 2016, and listening to their newest release it’s easy to see why. Impregnate my Hate is a 9-track heavy hitting album
with massive influences taken from both melodic death metal and thrash.

The title track takes the lead with thrash influences and the group have openly said this naturally occurred during the wiring of the song so they chose to lean into it to the benefit of the track. Throughout the album the band deliver heavy melodic riffs, some brutal vocals from frontman Adam Chambers, as well as some synth and orchestral backing to fill out their sound. Thematically the message of the album focuses on the missteps of modern society and where we are heading, something we can all relate too in the current climate. Chambers has attributed some inspiration of this theme to a 1980’s Sci-Fi series ‘V’. While he already had most of the lyrics penned, after a friend introduced him to the series he found some strong similarity in the themes he was exploring.

Standout tracks include the title track as well as the 4th song of the album, ‘Scorpions of Sinai’. From the intense opening to the fast mid sections through to its abrupt end, this track is a highlight of the bands
skill of blending synth melodies with their own death metal sound. 8/10

Melonie Cannon: A Tribute to Vern Gosdin

Pretty much the only country album I could find for this week. Gutting, I know! However, it’s a great album, so that pretty much makes up for it, right?

The 13-track album is filled with guest slots and collaborations, but the tracks that are just Melonie are just as good as the others! ‘Right in the Wrong Direction’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album, a short, sweet, poweful number. However, anything is better with Cody Jinks, and ‘Set ‘Em Up, Joe’ is no exception. His voice is amazing and works perfectly alongside Melonie.

Overall it’s a good, chilled out country album. If you’re into the more relaxed, traditional, even easy-listening country stuff, you’ll love this! 7.5/10

Metal Church: Congregation of Annihilation

The thrash pioneers themselves put out their 13th album, and showed the world that they very much still have it. Following the horrific passing of long time vocalist and to a lot of people the face of the band, Mike Howe, it would have been easy to call it a day. However, having recruited Ross the Boss vocalist Marc Lopes, the pressure was on for Marc and the rest of the band. Previous album Damned if you Do was pretty well received upon its release, so would this release live up to that?

Incredible riffs, solid drums, insane solos and powerful, catchy vocals. What more could you possibly want? Marc does an incredible job on vocals, it fitting in perfectly with the bands sound. it’s 10-tracks and 45 minutes of awesomeness and it’s so hard to pick highlights. The opener and ‘Me the Nothing’ are my personal favourites, but it’s close. A statement that Metal Church will not be stopped, and honestly one of the top metal releases of the year so far. It’s so nice to hear! 8.5/10

Mesarthrim: Arrival

Owen: Anonymous Australian duo, Mesarthim, released their newest offering this week. The 8-track album, named Arrival, promises to take you on a journey through the cosmos utilising the bands unique sound. Black Metal underpins each track and the pair pull this off really well. It’s easy to forget you are only listening to two people as their sound is so

For me the real standout moments come when things slow down. The ambient electronic sounds that form the cosmological aspect of the album. It’s these moments that elevate the album and into a cinematic journey through the stars for the listener. Known for their less than conformist views on naming conventions, Arrival is split
into 7 parts. These parts vary greatly in duration but the transitions between tracks are natural as the tracks blend into each other. Track 8 however, titled ‘Type IV’, is a continuation of their 2016 epic ‘Type III’. Referencing the Kardashev scale, this closing track is a journey all of its own. The pair have done really well to make this final track work
in both the concept of this album and the work done back in 2016. It doesn’t feel out of place or just tacked on the end, which would have been an easy pitfall in less capable hands.

This is truly an experience to listen to, and one I would recommend to anyone. 8.5/10

Check out similar music here.

Dealing With Demons Vol. II: How Does Devildriver ‘s New Release Compare to its Predecessor?

Californian groove metallers Devildriver are back with their tenth studio album on Friday, and a follow up to 2020’s Vol. I. I have to admit, though I like the music I have heard from the band, I can’t say that I’ve checked out much. The odd song here and there as opposed to a full album. That all changes today, and boy am I excited. I love all things groove, thrash and melodeath, so let’s dive right in!

The album opens with a slow build into a fantastic, heavy, sludgy riff. It’s Devildriver to a T and I love it. Dez’s awesome scream comes in over the awesome verse riff and amazing drumming. It gives off heavy 2000s Machine Head vibes, which I cannot complain about at all. The chorus doesn’t change the formula all too much, but still manages to be pretty catchy and memorable. There’s an awesome guitar solo in the middle too, even if it is a little brief for my liking. A pretty simple structure to open but it was a good choice and a good track. Great riffs, overall great playing and some amazing vocals.

‘Mantra’ keeps the heaviness going with the evil opening riff. It leads to another full-on, heavy verse. The riffing is really excellent, a massive highlight of the album as a whole, to be honest. The chorus is great and crushing, it all being brutal so far. The bridge/breakdown riff is also AWESOME. It’s another simple structured track but I loved this. It makes our playlist.

Check out similar music here!

‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ again opens on a great, heavy riff. The drums are the real highlight of this track, between the double-pedal and cymbal work, it’s all amazing. Davier Pérez is a pretty underrated player! I like them adding some dynamics for a moment with the stripped-back, clean vocalled parts between the verses and choruses. It broke things up nicely, especially when so far the whole album has been a violent punch to the nose. It’s another fantastic chorus and ear-worm; it’ll be stuck in my head for days to come. Another great track and another highlight of the album.

The quieter start to ‘Summoning’ was a nice change of pace. It also led to another fantastic, evil, groovy riff. The slow chug of the verses was awesome, and again the drumming is top notch. The chorus has a bit of a power metal edge to it, much like Parkway Drive’s last couple of albums. It’s a massively fun track and another that makes the playlist!

‘Through the Depths’ is another slower opener, the clean chord progression reminding me a lot of ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. It then hits into a huge riff that is just pure black metal, before easing off a little into melodeath. The track also has just a touch of the chaotic energy channelled by the likes of Tallah, though that may just be me. It drops back down to the cleaner chord progression for an outro too, which was a very nice touch!

‘Bloodbath’, and the rest of the tracks, for that matter, are more of the same. That isn’t a complaint at all, there are some fantastic riffs, melodies and moments throughout the four tracks. It simply means that there isn’t a huge amount of variety for me to write about in my review, so I’d end up repeating things and it’d get boring. Again, I shall repeat, all are fantastic tracks if you are into the sort of noise that Devildriver produce. And ‘This Relationship, Broken’ is one hell of a closing track.

Overall: This was a great heavy album! If you’re into Devildriver, or groove/thrash/melodeath in general, this will be right up your street. I have to admit, I was hoping for slightly more diversity in the music, it felt like a one note album at times, but maybe that was because of how close they are to Machine Head and how spoilt we have been by them over the years. This is a great album in its own right and has definitely gotten me into Devildriver more!

The Score: 7.5/10

New Music Mondays: Elder, High Command and More!

For the first time in the year plus of New Music Mondays, we’ve finally reached a week where I’m not particularly familiar with any of the bands on the list. Six almost completely unknown bands put out albums, so I’m excited to dive in and hopefully find some new great bands to be obsessed with!

Elder: Innate Passage

There are two types of prog music. There’s the ever changing, constant insanity of bands like Rush or Iron Maiden’s epics, throwing in different riffs and parts every couple of minutes. Then there’s the type that stretch an entire riff out for a solid ten minutes and squeeze every last drop out of the same concept before moving onto the next. This is an example of the latter.

Time for me to feel and sound like a hypocrite. While I typically like it when bands play around with the same riff and get different sounds out of it all. But five one-riff tracks spanning 54 minutes is a little too much for even me. The talent of the band is clearly on full display and very high, it just got a little too much and repetitive for me. Ironically, ‘Endless Return’ was a highlight track of the album, though! The clean riff is awesome and it builds perfectly for over two minutes into the great heaviness. 5/10 I’d not stick it on optionally much, but I also wouldn’t skip a track!

High Command: Eclipse of the Duel Moons

I’ve not heard an album open on such a punch to the teeth since Vugar Display of Power. The title track is a tour de force of power and aggression. Also, this band were one of the few I’d heard the name of previously, but I don’t know why I didn’t know they were crossover thrash. I had a lighter sound in mind, but I’m very glad they sounded like this instead.

Again, it’s a collection of incredibly talented musicians making great tracks together. The slower, proggy awesomeness that is ‘Imposing Hammers of Cold Sorcery’ is a definite highlight, as is the similarly paced ‘Chamber of Agony’. It turns out, although I do like balls-to-the-wall thrash too, I clearly enjoy it when the bands do things a little different and create some dynamics in their tracks, even just for parts of it. I love ‘In the Court of the Dragon, but ‘Shadow of the Abattoir’ is my favourite track on the album. ‘The Four Horsemen’ is one of my favourite Metallica tracks because it combines both thrash and slower elements together masterfully. It’s the same with these tracks.

I don’t want to crap on the other tracks though, the faster, thrash tracks are also amazing. This is a damn good album, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re into the heavier side of metal. 7.5/10, good stuff.

Finnegan’s Hell: One Finger Salute

Described as Sweden’s answer to The Pogues, as well as being the leading light in the New of Swedish Celtic Punk movement (something that I didn’t know existed but will have to check out more of now), the band return with their fourth album. It’s about exactly what you’d expect from the genre, and a lot of fun.

The anthemic, straight-to-the-point title track is a clear highlight. The opener is also great, some of the vocal melody even reminding me of some more recent Bruce Dickinson stuff. ‘I’ll Make it Up to You’ is also typical Celtic punk awesomeness. It’s honestly nice that after two albums of proggier writing, we have an album that’s ten tracks and only 25 minutes long. Heck, only one song clocks in at over three minutes. It was the perfect pallet clenser.

I’ve always loved the genre, and this is a great album to add to it. It’s packed full of great, fun tracks and in no way overstays its welcome. I feel like this band would be a lot of fun to see live, especially playing a few of these tracks! 7/10

Black Paisley: Human Nature

The latest band to put out an album into the rather saturated NWOCR scene, Black Paisley still put out a damn good album for their fourth release. The Swedes are clearly good songwriters, with tracks like ‘Not Alone’, ‘Mojo’ and ‘World’s Turning’ all being great. It’s a good album and the band definitely deserve more recognition, especially over here where the NWOCR movement has taken over half of the underground scene.

However, there is so much ‘classic rock’ out there these days and we’ve covered so much of it over the last year and a half that I’m starting to get rather burnt out from it. Like there are a lot of bands in the scene that do things different and mix up the formula in their own way, think Ward XVI or Mason Hill or South of Salem, that I LOVE> But it just means that straight-up classic rock doesn’t do much for me currently. I’ll probably come back around and absolutely love this album in the new year, and I’m definitely going to be listening to it again and checking out their older stuff. However, for now I’ll give it a 6.5/10. Sorry guys.

The Riven: Peace and Conflict

When this album started I was very tempted to write some extended version of ‘see above’. However I’ll be damned, this band really won me over, and quickly! ‘The Taker’ is a fantastic, high-energy anthem while slower tracks like ‘Sorceress of the Sky’ are amazing and show off great versatility from the band. Plus, who cannot be impressed by the sheer brilliance of musicianship on display in ‘La Puerta del Tiempo’?

It’s nothing mindblowing, but it’s a damn good hard rock album and one I’ll definitely be listening to some more. 7/10

Mother Vulture: Mother Knows Best

Another band that I knew pretty much by name only, thanks to being on festival bills I’d been to or toured with other bands I’ve checked out. However I had never had the chance to check them out properly. I regret that massively. This was fucking awesome.

A fuzzy, desert/indie rock take on classic rock, this was amazing from start to finish. From the anthemic opening track to other radio-rock bangers like ‘Honey’ and ‘Shifting Sands’, this album is made to be played hard and loud in front of thousands of screaming fans. I named those three tracks while, in honesty, the whole album is its own highlight. Whether you’re into rock, indie or metal, check this out, as you will for sure find something to love. These guys blend all of it together masterfully with this album, and honestly, if given the right marketing, it could and should catapult them into the stratosphere. 9/10 CHECK THIS OUT.

Derby Alt Fest 2022

Derby Alt Fest is the biggest metal festival to hit Derby city in maybe ever, we just had to cover it, right? Go and check out the line-up now if you haven’t already, it’s insane. Liam has put on one hell of a bill for everyone this year at the famous, already nearing packed-out Hairy Dog, and we’re here to give you a taste of what to expect!


‘Thrash Thursday’, as it has been dubbed, plays host to six of the very best in the genre in the UK scene right now. From Elyrean, Helgrind and our good friends at Thrasherwolf, it’s a damn strong opening to the day and the festival. We managed to get a few words from the frontman of the latter band, sharing his thoughts on the festival:

“Hi wolvers! Dan from Thrasherwolf here! Just to say we can’t wait to bring the pack down to ALT FEST and get some good old-fashioned violence started! We hope you’re ready for the carnage that night because you won’t be leaving the same way you came in! 🤘😝🐺

The evening then continues on its brutal ways with All Consumed and Hellfekted. Both are fantastic bands which you have to see live to get the full brunt of their energy and force. Then we reach the headliner of the evening, the mighty Cage Fight. The band have gone from strength to strength in the last few months since dropping their monster of a debut album, and this writer in particular cannot wait to be in the pit for them! They’re all worth the price of admission alone, and we still have two days left!

Check out us talk about the album here.


The more alternative day on the wonderfully odd Dacara. The band bring their big hooks and huge guitar tones to the Dog to open up a stellar day of music. Medusa Touch bring an air of old-school, NWOBHM sound to the proceedings while WarlocK A.D. bring the power metal in spectacular fashion.

Then we reach possibly the most interesting band on the line-up, Luna Kiss. They are the lightest on the bill by quite a margin, being the only real rock band on the bill. Despite that, the band seem more than excited to be playing:

“Wil here from Luna Kiss. We’re stoked to be playing on the bill at this years Alt festival at the Hairy Dog. We’ve got a beast of a set planned and it’s going to be a good ’en’”

They are going to be a band not to be missed, and I’m curious to see how the crowd will react!

The insane local boys, Raised by Owls, are up afterwards, sharing their own brand of craziness and heaviness with the attendees. The guys have been going years at this point and have perfectly honed their craft with a show that should definitely not be missed.

Then we reach the awesome headliners of the evening, the death metal legends at this point themselves, Evil Scarecrow. The comedic, heavy band are possibly the biggest to ever grace the Alt Fest stage, and always bring with them one hell of a stage show to entertain their audience with. Not to mention, their songs are incredible, and they are all at the top of the game at what they do.

We managed to get a few words from the band too about their sure to be legendary set:

“Evil Scarecrow are so excited to be back at The Hairy Dog for the first time in a long time and looking forward to be returning back since the big room was opened. So get them crab claws, karate moves and robotic dancing at the ready as we look forward to seeing you all on the Friday night!”


The final day is packed full of incredible bands, with a whole afternoon and evening of great music. OATHS bring the heavy straight away with some great deathcore while Past the Fall are set to follow them with their own brand of brutality. The crushing heaviness continues with the likes of Beyond Extinction, Worship the Sacrifice and Hounds before Abduction give us a more black metal tint.

Inhuman Nature bring it back to the thrash sound again but with an extreme edge while Monasteries look to blast everyone away with their heaviness and insane talent. Fairly local band The Five Hundred return to blow the roof off the Dog as they always do, while crowd favourites Osiah pile on more insane brutality to the proceedings.

Then we reach the headliner and final band of the festival, the incredible Martyr Defiled. What more could you ask for? They are the perfect way to close out a heavy festival. Huge, heavy, at the top of their game and ready to put on an insane show to a roaring crowd. This is going to be a fantastic set, I’m sure, and one that I cannot wait to see!

We also managed to get a quick interview with the organiser and Unearthed main-man Liam about the festival, which you can check out below!

How did you decide on the bands?

Alt fest has always been as alternative as I can make it. It used to be a lot more difficult when I had just one day to smash as many genres as we could into it but now, we can really experiment. For this year I’ve based it on Thrash Thursday, Alternative Friday, and Heavy Saturday, so then I built it around that model.

How long does it take to plan an event like this and how many people are involved?

Planning pretty much starts when the previous year finishes, you look at what went well and what might have not and then begin building from there, looking at potential headliners and then opening applications and seeing who’s about. I have to shout out my guy Harry who I run Unearthed with, he’s not only helped structure the line up with me this year but also done all the graphics internally, and also everyone at The Hairy Dog, for continuing to allow me to put as many bands as physically possible on over the weekend and looking after us all.

What’s the history of Derby Alt Fest?

I actually started it as a standalone in 2016 to go along with my old bands EP release show, and it really just spiralled from that. I’ve tried to make it bigger and better every year and to not only bring bands back who have become fest favourites but also bring bigger bands who have never played. Were now in the sixth year of the event.

What can we expect at the festival this year?

Every day is going to be different. The style of bands make the shows great as standalones as well as forming into the three-day weekend. Thursday we have Cage Fight who are just rising at a rapid rate, and after just smashing Bloodstock second stage I can’t wait to see them destroy the Dog. Friday really is mental thinking about it, EVIL SCARECROW. I’ve seen this band on huge stages in the past and it’s going to be an incredible show. The Saturday is just going to be flat out brutal from start to finish. Headlined by Martyr Defiled.

New Music Mondays: Electric Callboy, Behemoth and More!

Another huge week of New Music Mondays, with everything from metalcore to… well… The Proclaimers. Now that I have your attention, let’s dive into it!

Electric Callboy: Tekkno

The band that have taken 2022 by storm with the growing anticipation of this album thanks to their singles. We loved all of them and just had to review the album fully. You can check it out, alongside our review for it, here.

Behemoth: Opvs Contra Natvram

I’ve tried for years now to get into Behemoth, and it’s just not happened. I have heard tit may happen if I see them live. I feel like it must do, because this album did nothing for me. Those who read these regularly know that I don’t really get black metal, and it turns out big, well produced black metal still isn’t my thing. Sorry to any Behemoth fans out there, I know you’re quite the devoted lot. I really tried, listening to the entire album in one sitting. It just seemed like noise; I couldn’t pick out a highlight track. 3/10… please don’t cancel me…

Clutch: Sunrise on Slaughter Beach

Now, this is more my sort of speed. The stoner rock band have been consistently great for years now, and this is no exception. From the opener, ‘Red Alert’, the tone and quality of the album is set and it doesn’t waiver at all. I don’t understand how this band aren’t bigger than they are, given how fantastic tracks like ‘Slaughter Beach’ and ‘Nosferatu Madre’ are. Hopefully tracks like the ones I just named will finally help push them to greater heights.

If you are into blues or stoner rock at all I can guarantee you’ll love this, and it’s maybe one of the best albums the band themselves have done so far. Each track is amazing, it’s had to pick specific highlights. 8.5/10

Marco Mendoza: New Direction

Yep, we’ve been busy this week and given you TWO full reviews of albums before Monday. Aren’t we good? Check out our review of the awesome new Marco Mendoza album here.

The Devil Wears Prada: Colour Decay

In a world where bands that have been around for a while (especially in the metalcore scene) either go lighter and more pop or heavier after complaints from fans, The Devil Wears Prada laughed, flipped them of and said ‘we’ll do both’. I remember checking out the ZII EP last year and while none of this is quite as heavy as ‘Nightfall’, it’s still a heavy album. ‘Watchtower’ and ‘Exhibition’ for the most part might as well be deathcore tracks. But then at the same time we have plenty of clean vocals and tracks like ‘Salt’ and ‘Broken’. It’s an amazingly diverse album, and both sides of the coin are very good.

From the riffs to the INSANE breakdowns and both types of vocals, it’s all amazing. This is the best I’ve heard the band sound in years and is up there with some of my favourite work by them. This album will be on a lot in the Griffiths household over the next few weeks and months, as it really does have something for nearly every emotion. Another 9/10. A solid week so far!

The Mars Volta: Self-Titled

A complete change of pace now as we get to the US prog rock band’s seventh album. I have a confession to make; I don’t think I’ve heard a track by the band before. I know the name but have at least never gone out of my way to check them out. So I guess where better to start than with the band’s first album in a decade, since their breakup and recent reformation.

They’re weird… but I kinda dig it. It took me a couple of tracks to get into the groove with them, but by the time ‘Graveyard Love’ finished I was all in. The remind me of a darker Scissor Sisters, giving me a big nostalgia kick as I loved that band as a kid. While some of it isn’t typically the sort of thing we’d cover or that I’d like too much, there is enough awesome upbeat stuff to keep me entertained. Tracks like ‘No Case Gain’ and ‘Equus 3’ are strangely awesome. It’s not all for me, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed or turn it off if the album was on again at some point. 6.5/10

The Proclaimers: Dentures Out

Yes, they haven’t just done ‘500 Miles’ and that song from Shrek. They do in fact now have 12 studio albums, and I have to say, this new one is fantastic. The opening and title track is one of my is one of the best soft rock songs I’ve heard in years. ‘Feast Your Eyes’ is a fantastic, epic ballad with a good point and seniment behind it. And ‘Praise’ is almost a surfer rock track with that riff. There is plenty of great stuff to sink your teeth into here if you like it softer and, while there could have been another faster track or two, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be listening to it again! A surprisingly great album from a band I’m sure most haven’t listened to in years. 7.5/10

No Devotion: No Oblivion

This was not at all what I was expecting. Given the name and album artwork, I was thinking I was in for heavy, not alt/indie. While I’m sure it’s great to the band’s fans, I wasn’t too into it. There was some fun, catchy synth and some interesting vocals, but I felt this was a bit of a slog to get through. I feel like/hope it’ll grow on me as they are all very clearly talented musicians and songwriters and I feel like I should get it, but I currently do not. 4/10 at a push, I’m sorry.

Starcrawler: She Said

This bands image doesn’t quite fit with their sound. From their artwork and pictures, I went into this expecting glam. This was not glam. I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed. It wasn’t bad by any stretch, built I’d have preferred glam or NWOCR over the punk/old school rock I got. It is interesting to hear an American indie tinge to the British punk rock sound, but I found it didn’t do much to hold my attention. Having said that, ‘Stranded”s chorus did seem vaguely familiar, and it was a definite highlight of the album. Not a bad album by any stretch and I feel like it might grow on me with another couple of listens., it just didn’t catch my attention immediately. 6/10

Sinnery: Black Bile

This is right up my street. Heavy-ass death/thrash metal, filled with big fast riffs that will break your neck after the full 50-minute album. Having never heard of them before, ‘The Burning’ was as fantastic introduction to them as any. Between the huge riffs, hardcore screams, gang vocals and filthy lows, it’s a highlight for sure. However, the album goes HARD for its entire run, giving the world some of the best the genre has to offer in 2022. ‘Sever’ and ‘Bleak’ are also highlights of a very strong album. I honestly feel like they are the second coming of Slayer, they are that good and heavy. I can see them getting the same cult following, and I am definitely going to be in there in it! 8.5/10

Somehow Jo: Scales and Details

Tool’s crazier child are back with their third studio album. Heck, just the two fantastic opening tracks, ‘Fata Morgana’ and ‘Freind’, channel so many different styles and genres it’s insane. From prog to folk to death metal to whatever the hell people classify SOAD as, there is something for everyone. Both are insanely impressive track and easily make the playlist, and there’s another seven tracks still!

I have to say though, every track had me hooked from start to finish. This was a damn good album full of some of the best playing I have heard in a LONG time. I have not a single negative thing I can say about the album, and I am desperate to see the band live now. Check this out if you are into any sort of music at all, you won’t be disappointed! 8.5/10

Dead City Ruins: Shockwave

This is what I was expecting Starcrawler. Just good old-fashioned hard/sleaze rock. I’ve been a fan of the band for a few years now after checking them ahead of a HRH (They unfortunately didn’t end up playing) and after the album being postponed a little, I’m excited to finally hear it.

It’s really good. Unfortunately, you’re wanting me to write more than that, aren’t you? Fine… It’s honestly as good as anything the rest of the NWOCR scene is putting out at the minute, and that’s saying something as the scene is currently at its peak. Opening track ‘Preacher’ feels like a fan-favourite live right off the bat and the album honestly doesn’t slip on quality afterwards. ‘Vision’ is another huge highlight. ‘Madness’ and ‘Speed Machine’ are both also awesome. ‘Rain’ gives me Alice in Chains vibes in the best way, and also makes the playlist with a bunch of other stuff on this album.

I honestly cannot say enough good things about this album. It’s the best they’ve put out so far and may be one of my favourite albums of the year. CHECK THIS OUT! 9.5/10

New Music Mondays: State Champs, Misery Index and More!

A slightly slower week this week, with no absolutely massive releases or a huge amount of albums out. But still, there was some great new music from the rock and metal world released this week, with six new albums out. Let’s check them out!

STATE CHAMPS: Kings of the New Age

New Yorkian pop-punkers State Champs put out their fourth album last Friday. I have to admit I know the name and have probably heard a track or two, but I never really got much into the modern wave of pop-punk.

However, having said that, this is a pretty damn good album. It’s a little heavier than traditional pop punk, but I also thinks it adds a more anthemic feel to it all. It’s arena pop-punk, and I am shocked it’s taken me this long to listen to it. Obviously the singles are all amazing, but there isn’t a bad track on the album really. I need to check out more from this band and genre ASAP, I think! 8/10

Misery Index: Complete Control

The Maryland based death metal band put out a DAMN heavy death metal album last week. And it’s great. Before Overtone I would never have even attempted to listen to this album, but it’s opened my eyes to a lot of fantastic death metal, this included. The riffs are brutal, crushing awesomeness and the gang vocals means that a few of the tracks are even pretty catchy. Just check out ‘Infiltrators’, it perfectly encapsulates the bands sound and attitude in just two short minutes. Great stuff! 8/10

Cage Fight: Self-Titled

The new band seem to go by so many different labels, be it punk, thrash, metalcore. Either the latter or metalic hardcore is probably the closest to their sound. Either way, it’s fucking fantastic. From the first track of the album I was hooked, and I stayed hooked throughout. I love that we are starting to get more and more female screamers these days as they are showing they can do it just as good as the guys. I also have to gush over just as smooth the transitions between the tracks are. At times I didn’t realise a new song had started until like 30 seconds in. It’s the sign of a great album as it flows perfectly. I was going to say the first X amount of tracks were fantastic, but honestly it just kept rolling with great track after great track! This is a ridiculously strong debut album and they have found a new fan in me! Not a bad track on the album and damn, I need to see them live soon! 9/10

Moon Tooth: Phototroph

The Prog Metallers have been around for a decade now, constantly wowing audiences with their talent and songwriting skill. That continues with Phototroph. Their new music may be their best yet. The guitaring in the opener and ‘Deathwish Blues’ is a technical masterclass, combining both lead and rhythm together perfectly. There are times even the vocals somehow sounds both completely separate from the instrumentation but also the perfect accompaniment. ‘O My Isle’ may be my favourite of the bunch, combining light, catchy sounds with a pretty heavy riff. Another band that I need to check out more of! 8.5/10

Visions of Atlantis: Pirates

It’s like if Nightwish and Alestorm had a lovechild. Symphonic metal about pirates is something I never knew I needed until now, and yet also I’m surprised there isn’t more of. All of it is great, but ‘Master the Hurricane’ is on a level of its own. Unquestionably epic from the string-heavy opening to the massive closing riff, it is how you do symphonic/power metal at its very best. A highlight on an album that also includes the likes of ‘Wild Elysium ‘ is an impressive feat and should hopefully set Visions of Atlantis up to be the next big thing in the sub-genre. 7.5/10

Check out our Powerwolf review here.

Morgue Supplier: Inevitability

If anyone was here last week, you know what’s coming here. It’s death metal. What more do you expect. Granted, this had slightly more groove to it than the typical blast beat and ‘AHHHHH’, but it still didn’t do a great deal for me. As such, I don’t feel qualified to give scores to death metal, as I am just not going to like it enough to give it a good rating, no matter how good at the sub-genre the band is. I’mma give it a 4/10 and hope that works!

Thrasherwolf: ‘every time I’d be greeted with the “James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine’s illegitimate love child” thing!’

Thrasherwolf are, if you couldn’t have guessed it, a thrash band from the UK. The band have been tearing through the underground scene the last couple of years and created a real buzz around themselves, with their debut album definitely helping! We managed to sit down with them just after Derby ALTFEST to talk about the gig, their music and their future!

How was Derby ALTFEST?

Derby ALTFEST was a fantastic event and the crowd were absolutely mental, we had the absolute pleasure to open the event and even though we were the openers there was still a really decent crowd waiting for us. Even got the pleasure of going up on stage with Devestator and doing backing vocals with our Tri-fecta brother Liam from Hellfekted on Devestators cover of “Venom’s – Countess Bathory”! Such a brilliant festival and Liam Barlow our manager and head of Unearthed Music as well as Harry Warren from Beyond Your Design both did a bang up job making sure it all went ahead and all went off without a hitch, for that they both deserve a massive round of a applause. Its only going to get bigger and better next year so people would be fools to miss it!

What’s it been like getting back to gigging after so long being away from it? 

Its honestly been such a relief to get back gigging, shaking off the rust has been an arduous task and having a tour come up sooner than we could shake all the rust off was tough but ultimately one of the best things we have ever done. The Tri-fecta tour forced us to be good, forced us to pull out the big guns and really get tight! There was certainly no more rust after that tour let me tell you! Lockdown may have hurt gigging opportunities but what it really did was give bands the opportunity (whether they’d taken it or not) to work on their online social presence which has only helped us in the long run especially upon our gigging return knowing we had a strong a loyal fan base through our social media coming through into gigs and seeing them in person.

How would you describe your sound?

We’ve been told we sound like quite a few bands that strangely enough could or even could not be called influences, for instance there are times people tell us we sound like a British Kreator whilst the most recent one described us as a dead ringer for venom! Then at most London gigs, every time I’d be greeted with the “James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine’s illegitimate love child” thing which is more than flattering haha
Overall I’d say our sound Is technically old school thrash with modern thrash cross over elements, we deal in all types of Thrash but doesn’t mean we wont be heading in a particular direction later on.

What was it like releasing an album over lockdown and not being able to tour it?

Strangely enough as a band just starting out releasing an album over lockdown was more of a blessing rather than hindrance as it gave us the time to be able to focus on the finer details such as building our online presence on our socials and the careful planning of the PR campaign we had set in place while working with “Imperative PR and MetalMoose/MetalCoffeePR” both of which were a big help in helping us really spread the word about the new album. Not being able to have an album release show or tour it did suck though.

Was the album written and recorded pre-lockdown?

The album itself was written in parts a number of years ago and recorded the year just before Covid hit, I tend to write a lot more than I really should, we currently have 40+ new song guides from which to pick our next few albums from… won’t stop me writing even more though! We were lucky to have everything pretty much ready before the world went to shit.

Are you working on new material yet or still just savouring finally playing the album?

Album 2 is already in the works to be recorded and TRUST ME its gonna be mad! Gonna take everything we are good at and everything people loved from the second album and just times that by a hundred!

If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be?

We are already collaborating with the artists we love in Hellfekted and Blacklist, the other members of the Tri-fecta. Other than our Tri-fecta brothers the ultimate dream would be collabing or touring with Kreator. The Ultimate thrash gods!

If you could have written one song, what would it be?

If I could have picked a song I wish was written by us it would be Kreator’s ‘Enemy of God’, love that song to death…I definitely wouldn’t have written the son anywhere near as good though. Kreator are god tier!

Anything to plug? Website, socials, future gigs etc?

We’d love to give shout-outs to the legends that are our management Unearthed Music and the legend that is Liam Barlow as well as our Tri-fecta brothers, all the guys from Hellfketed and Blacklist and also give huge shout-outs to the other bands we have loved sharing the stage with: Devastator, Beyond Your Design, Enquire Within, Dethonator, Detoxen, Bangover, 1000 Scars and so many more. Thank you everyone we have ever worked with who have helped us on the way. Other than that we’d like to ask everyone reading to please like our Facebook and Insta pages and please follow us on Spotify and Bandcamp and help yourself to the tasty merch we have on there as well as keep up with the exciting new merch we have coming! Join our pack today and see you at Thrashchester!

Did you enjoy our interview? Keep up to date on all of them from our Facebook page here.

Arrows in Words from the Sky: Can Robb Flynn and friends regain the fans’ favour after a turbulent few years?

Machine Head has put out some of my favourite music of this millennium, having an almost unmatched run of form in their album output between Through the Ashes of Empires and Bloodstone and Diamonds. However, since the latter album, they have dropped rather dramatically in quality, with 2018s Catharsis being widely shunned by fans due to the change in style and lyric writing. This has also carried over into their singles; from 2016 to now I have found myself cringing at at least a couple of the lyrics in each of them (especially ‘Do or Die’s attempt at calling out his own fanbase) and gone is the epic-lengthed, modern thrash feel of it all, instead stripping back and becoming more basic and lighter, favouring commercial success over quality. However, having not checked out their new EP before this review, I have seen a LOT of people saying it is their best work since The Blackening. A HUGE statement to make, given the quality of Locust and Bloodstone, as well as Blackening itself. I had little hopes for this EP when it was announced and had pretty much given up on Machine Head since Phil Demmel wasn’t allowed to write anymore so left, but these statements have at least piqued my interest. I shall waffle no more; let’s get into the review!

I guess it could be considered the lead single from the EP as it is the one getting pushed the hardest on social media, but ‘Become the Firestorm’ opens it up. Straight away we get a huge drum roll as the guitars slide down into a crazy fast riff reminiscent of ‘In Comes the Flood’. Robb’s powerful scream is immediately present too, the one thing that I can still praise the man to no end for, his voice is fantastic and perfect for this sort of music. It stays pretty heavy and fast throughout the verse, a pretty decent guitar riff and blisteringly quick drums fill out the sound pretty well behind Robb’s surprisingly not cringy lyrics, even if they are a little cliché. We get some pretty interesting backing vocals in the chorus, being a lot more highlighted than they used to be, and Robb’s repeated line makes it pretty catchy. Not the best chorus they have done by a long stretch, but not bad! We get a sick trebled guitar riff coming out of the second chorus as the song slows down, a great bridge that could lead to either a breakdown or guitar solo. It’s the first one. We get an awesome slow breakdown, having an almost nu-metal feel to it with the high notes mixed in there. Robb’s vocals are present throughout most of it, only adding to the heaviness. However, it does lack a little of the emotion that I feel like he used to be so good at injecting into them. Coming out of the breakdown we get a great harmonised guitar riff/solo, showing off their Iron Maiden influence that they like to do pretty often. It then suddenly speeds up into a blistering solo from both Robb and Wacław Kiełtyka, this definitely giving off the Blackening vibes that I have so far not heard. Both guys did fantastically, it being the highlight of the song by far as the music changed just enough multiple times behind the soloing to keep it interesting and give them something new to work with. We get a final double chorus to close things out, a rather needless key change coming out of nowhere for the second half of it. However, it didn’t take too much away from a pretty decent track overall. Playlisted!

‘Rotten’ opens on another big few notes before dropping back down for just a massive-sounding guitar riff and vocals for the verse. It builds pretty perfectly throughout the verse, the lyrics being dark but fitting to the mood, all leading to it dropping out for the last line and sounding awesome. We’re then hit by a surprisingly steady but still heavy riff for a few seconds before it speeds up a fair bit for a brief chorus. It’s again pretty catchy, even if it is simple and far too short in this writer’s humble opinion. It almost gives off punk vibes instead of metal. We get a great little bass solo riff for a bar or two coming out the second chorus before in comes a HEAVY slow guitar riff and maybe one of Robb’s best growls to date, low and powerful. I loved it. It stays crazy heavy with the slow breakdown riff and some heavy screams from Robb before his cleaner singing voice comes in for the second half, sounding great and adding some nice dynamics into it. Another guitar solo comes a little sudden and out of nowhere, but is still pretty quick and technical, again fitting the music behind it pretty well. It wasn’t quite as good as the previous song’s I don’t think, though. We get a nice return of the riff to act as an outro/final chorus, going on a little too long in my opinion, but then again it does fade out so it makes sense, I guess. It’s at least pretty slow and heavy, reminding me of the Davidian outro in that respect. While not as good as the first song, it was still good and I’ll definitely be listening to it again in the coming weeks.

The title track and closing track of the EP is a ballad. Just wanted to put that out there before we got any further with this. Make of that what you will, Machine Head has done some great softer, slower songs before, but they’re usually at least coupled with either some heaviness or so basic that it’s just Robb with some simple backing behind him. This is not that, for the most part. Robb’s vocals come in pretty quick over a nice, clean guitar riff, but his vocals have some pretty interesting, VERY nu-metal/post-grunge effects over the top that I don’t think was necessarily needed. It drops into a pretty nice, distorted guitar riff for the second verse, the effect being taken off the vocals and making it sound a lot better. Robb’s cleans sound better than ever, too. The chorus is kind of nothing, there isn’t too much to it and there is little variation between it and the verses, to the point where I struggled to distinguish the two parts before the song title line being sung. However, the use of backing vocals and harmonies through this are fantastic, adding an epic feel to it all and making me want to hear if they can pull it off live. The pretty heavy riff after the second chorus was fantastic, especially with the whispered vocals and all of the harmonics from the guitars. The lower whispered/growled vocals that join in were awesome too, giving it an almost evil, demonic feel to it, maybe my favourite part of the song. We get a slower, very fitting guitar solo after the breakdown, it being filled with emotion and maybe my favourite on the album, it had a little bit of everything. That crazy low scream from Wacław is back afterward, blowing my mind again as we head into another breakdown. This is heavier than I was expecting from a ballad. However, just as I type that, the song drops out to just clean vocals and a very simple guitar riff, turning light faster than a Poppy song. It turns out it is part of a dynamic double chorus, the second half being distorted guitars again before the clean opening riff takes us home again. This was fantastic, and just this song alone deserves a fair amount of the praise it has been given. Easily playlisted.

Overall: I fall somewhere in the middle with this EP. It was definitely better than anything since Bloodstone, but I wouldn’t put it up there with The Blackening by any stretch. The first two songs felt like a band unsure, trying to find themselves again after a couple of failed style changes and the fans wanting them to stick to the same formula. They were good but felt a tad forced at times. However, that closer was a banger and honestly one of the best slower songs the band has ever produced. I’m interested to see where the band goes from here, as if they build on this for a full-length album in the future, I feel like I’d definitely enjoy it. Just please, Robb, no more rapping or posturing, you’re better than that.

The Score: 6.5/10

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